I recently heard from a Canadian school psychologist who lives in Toronto and who has dual citizenship in Canada and the United States. He was “dismayed,” outraged, saddened, and puzzled, and wanted me to explain to him how a feminist academic could have “hijacked a feminist conference in Quebec to express her feelings about how American foreign policy was totally responsible for the events of 9/11.” Ever since then, Brooks Masterton has written to this particular academic every 9/11 about her “lack of compassion for the victims” and about her hypocrisy, given that she,
Uses the freedoms she has in Canada as well as public funding to express outrageous ideas. I long ago asked her to consider how she would be received in Afghanistan if she pontificated about feminism and the need for female freedoms against male domination in all aspects of life. She would not survive for a week. While I defend her right to an opinion, I detest the way she goes about making her points and the extremely disrespectful, provocative and poisonous comments she makes. I am near retirement… but I still get angry enough to write to her every September to reminder her that she cannot make these comments without expecting to be called to account by others. I do believe that all that is needed for evil to triumph is for good men to stay silent.
Good women too, dear Dr. Masterton.
Well, he had come to the right woman and to the right feminist. It so happens that I am actually, although only slightly, familiar with Sunera Thobani’s so-called work. In 2006, I had been invited to keynote an international feminist conference at Cambridge University but was soon disinvited. Therefore, my critique of the multi-culturally relativist and postcolonial feminist academy’s tragic failure to take a stand against Islamic gender apartheid coupled with its sacrifice of universal human rights and its essentially racist obsession with anti-racism rather than with sexism was never heard in England.
A year later, I was asked to rebut a 2007 attack that Thobani at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, had launched against American feminists, myself included. She titled her piece: “White Wars: Western Feminism and the ‘War on Terror.’” The Britain-based journal Feminist Theory published it but then approached me as well as two other feminists (Zillah Eisenstein and Judith Butler) for a response. I was the only one who agreed to respond. Here was a potential forum for what I might have said in Cambridge as well as my response to Thobani’s attack.
Writing this rebuttal was not easy. I had to accept more than twenty demands for changes from the politically correct feminist editorial board. For example, I was not allowed to write about “Islamic imperialism” or to name Cambridge as the university that had disinvited me. I was also prevented from writing “people of olive, brown, black, yellow, and red skins’” because, the editors insisted, that could be perceived as “racist.” My attacker Thobani could write about “whiteness,” but I was only allowed to write “different ethnicities” as if skin colors do not exist or mentioning their obvious existence is, by definition, somehow “racist.” However, to their credit (and at the insistence of some British academic Jews), they did publish what I wrote. Perhaps 100 people read it. If so, not a single one ever wrote to me.
I have just reviewed what I wrote four years ago. It has withstood the test of time. What I say may be applied to every pro-Islamist, anti-American, anti-Caucasian, and anti-Israeli academic. I have just updated this piece ever-so-slightly.
Masterton and I both plan to send this piece to Tanzanian-born Sunera Thobani on 9/11.
My Response to a Critic
by Phyllis Chesler
I thank the editors for allowing me to comment upon this article by Sunera Thobani, which appears in this issue of Feminist Theory.
Thobani’s article condemns me and two other American feminist scholars (Judith Butler and Zillah Eisenstein) as racially “superior” white women who collaborate with the “imperial imaginary” and with “colonialism.” Thobani also condemns us for daring to present “whiteness” as “vulnerable.” She mocks the alleged “racial paranoia of imperial subjects” (that’s us), claiming that in our work we three experience our own “imperial” aggression as a form of victimization which then allows us to justify the aggression as self-defence.
One might wonder why I am taking the time to respond to this inflammatory article. There are four reasons. First, her diatribe is typical but has rarely been answered in the pages of a feminist academic journal. Second, I could not allow her condemnation of three Jewish feminist theorists to pass unchallenged. Third, I had recently been invited to deliver a keynote address at a distinguished British university as part of an international feminist conference. When I raised questions about security and about the utter absence of kindred spirits, and despite the fact that I had stressed that neither factor would keep me away – I was summarily disinvited. These feminists have invited me to lecture alone at some future date, but not within the context of an international conference. (They were only covering their legal backsides because they never did invite me.) I therefore decided that responding to Thobani might be one way to be “heard” in the UK and in international feminist circles. Finally, I felt it was important to explain how Thobani’s paper (and so many others like it) is the written equivalent of what happens today on campuses when genuine dissent or non-politically correct feminist speech dares appear.