FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Women, Girls, and the War on Terror

Christine Delphy is a French feminist. She founded the journal Nouvelles questions féministes (New Feminist Issues) with Simone de Beauvoir in 1977 and is a key proponent of the branch of feminism known as material feminism. This type of feminism is one that utilizes a Marxian class analysis to inform the role of women in capitalist society. Instead of the lukewarm and individualist feminism prevalent in the United States (and present in other Western nations including France), this approach challenges the essentially biologist emphasis of the mainstream movement and makes class and race a fundamental part of its analysis of women’s oppression and resistance.

In recent years, she has been an outspoken opponent of the racist laws against Arabs and Muslims in France, especially those that are aimed specifically at women and girls. Foremost among these laws are those forbidding girls to wear the hijab in France’s public schools. Besides calling out these laws for the tools of oppression they are, Delphy has recently published a text that examines the language and structure of the US-led global war on terrorism, France’s role as willing accomplice in most of its aspects, and the nature of the French republic’s insistence on secularism, at least when it comes to the Muslim religion. In the course of these discussions, the nature of colonialism and its aftermath are also discussed. So are racism in France and the French power structure’s continued treatment of “second and third generation” immigrants as something less than French citizens—mostly because of their heritage and skin tone.9781781688809-48930db95a97e34184c2a1f6218f99d6

To begin the book, which is titled Separate and Dominate: Feminism and Racism After the War on Terror, Delphy discusses the concept of the Other. The essential point of this discussion is one that not only goes to the root of the concept; it takes that root and cracks open the seed from which it came. The Other exists, writes Delphy, because of a total lack of reciprocity in regards to those that determine who the Other is. In other words, the Other exists solely and only because of its lack of power in relation to the part of those who dominate. In other words, the role of the Other cannot be turned around to create a situation where the dominant groups (the Ones) become the Other. This is because the very definition of what defines the Other is based in its subordination to the Ones. The Other can be based on race, gender, sexuality or class; it can be any combination of these, and it is always subordinate to the Ones, because it is the master groups that have created the definitions of race, class, gender and so on. The subversion of this matrix is the only way to ending it. Delphy underlines her argument by pointing out that our understanding of the Other is a purely Western invention and is part of the sociology of colonialism.

The shortest essay in this collection is titled “War without End.” It was written after the US invaded Afghanistan and challenges the war’s entire rationale. By attacking “terrorism,” writes Delphy, Washington is providing itself with a rationale for never-ending war, since the war itself will create more of those fighters the West calls terrorists. This argument is well-worn by now; almost fourteen years after those first planes attacked the mountains populated by the Pashtun in 2001. Ina subsequent essay, the author discusses the rationale belatedly put forth by George Bush and company that the war on Afghanistan was for the liberation of the Afghan women. While Delphy notes that the liberation of women is always desirable, she pointedly argues that imperial war cannot achieve that goal. The discussion that ensues is a valuable and insightful look at the language of western empire in the twenty-first century and the contradictions of white feminism.

The book’s final essay, titled “Anti-sexism or Anti –Racism” is an insightful and well-crafted discussion of every idea presented earlier in the text. By once again utilizing the battle in France over banning the wearing of the hijab as both a metaphor for more fundamental differences and as the crucial element in the debate it creates, Delphy rips apart the hypocrisy of French society—including the so-called Left—in its defense of the oppression of Arabs and Muslims in the name of secularism. Insisting essentially that this secularism relies on intolerance no different than that practiced by fundamentalist religion, she elucidates the need for a true feminism and radical critique that defies the structures of domination, not one that reinforces them. Certain to challenge her English-speaking readers as much as she challenges her readers in French, Christine Delpy’s text is an important addition to the discussion around religion, racialism, and the aftermath of colonialism.

More articles by:

Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. His latest offering is a pamphlet titled Capitalism: Is the Problem.  He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

July 17, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Trump & The Big Bad Bugs
Robert Hunziker
Trump Kills Science – Nature Strikes Back
John Grant
The Politics of Cruelty
Kenneth Surin
Calculated Buffoonery: Trump in the UK
Jim Kavanagh
Fighting Fake Stories: The New Yorker, Israel and Obama
Daniel Falcone
Chomsky on the Trump NATO Ruse
W. T. Whitney
Oil Underground in Neuquén, Argentina – and a New US Military Base There
Doug Rawlings
Ken Burns’ “The Vietnam War” was Nominated for an Emmy, Does It Deserve It?
Rajan Menon
The United States of Inequality
Thomas Knapp
Have Mueller and Rosenstein Finally Gone Too Far?
Cesar Chelala
An Insatiable Salesman
Dean Baker
Truth, Trump and the Washington Post
Mel Gurtov
Human Rights Trumped
Binoy Kampmark
Putin’s Football Gambit: How the World Cup Paid Off
July 16, 2018
Sheldon Richman
Trump Turns to Gaza as Middle East Deal of the Century Collapses
Charles Pierson
Kirstjen Nielsen Just Wants to Protect You
Brett Wilkins
The Lydda Death March and the Israeli State of Denial
Patrick Cockburn
Trump Knows That the US Can Exercise More Power in a UK Weakened by Brexit
Robert Fisk
The Fisherman of Sarajevo Told Tales Past Wars and Wars to Come
Gary Leupp
When Did Russia Become an Adversary?
Uri Avnery
“Not Enough!”
Dave Lindorff
Undermining Trump-Putin Summit Means Promoting War
Manuel E. Yepe
World Trade War Has Begun
Binoy Kampmark
Trump Stomps Britain
Wim Laven
The Best Deals are the Deals that Develop Peace
Kary Love
Can We Learn from Heinrich Himmler’s Daughter? Should We?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Franklin Lamb, Requiescat in Pace
Weekend Edition
July 13, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Brian Cloughley
Lessons That Should Have Been Learned From NATO’s Destruction of Libya
Paul Street
Time to Stop Playing “Simon Says” with James Madison and Alexander Hamilton
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: In the Land of Formula and Honey
Aidan O'Brien
Ireland’s Intellectuals Bow to the Queen of Chaos 
Michael Collins
The Affirmative Action Silo
Andrew Levine
Tipping Points
Geoff Dutton
Fair and Balanced Opinion at the New York Times
Ajamu Baraka
Cultural and Ideological Struggle in the US: a Final Comment on Ocasio-Cortez
David Rosen
The New McCarthyism: Is the Electric Chair Next for the Left?
Ken Levy
The McConnell Rule: Nasty, Brutish, and Unconstitutional
George Wuerthner
The Awful Truth About the Hammonds
Robert Fisk
Will Those Killed by NATO 19 Years Ago in Serbia Ever Get Justice?
Robert Hunziker
Three Climatic Monsters with Asteroid Impact
Ramzy Baroud
Europe’s Iron Curtain: The Refugee Crisis is about to Worsen
Nick Pemberton
A Letter For Scarlett JoManDaughter
Marilyn Garson
Netanyahu’s War on Transcendence 
Patrick Cockburn
Is ISIS About to Lose Its Last Stronghold in Syria?
Joseph Grosso
The Invisible Class: Workers in America
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail