Feminist Philosophers

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Feminism and 9/11 October 4, 2007

As part of the Carnival, I linked to a post asking why there isn’t more feminist writing about 9/11. But I wasn’t sure what such writing would actually be– sure, there are plenty of feminist things to say about the ways that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have been justified, and about their effects on women. Lots of feminist things to say about the way that Islam has been demonised as monolothically anti-woman, and so-on. But specifically about 9/11? I drew a blank. Susan Faludi didn’t, in part because immediately after the event she was told that “this sure pushes feminism off the map!”. In her new book, she argues that the crisis of 9/11 has served as a way of pushing women back into traditional domesticity. She also ties it into American history and national mythology:

Our foundational drama as a society was apposite, a profound exposure to just such assaults, murderous homeland incursions by dark-skinned, non-Christian combatants under the flag of no recognized nation,” she writes. “September 11 was aimed at our cultural solar plexus precisely because it was an ‘unthinkable’ occurrence for a nation that once could think of little else. It was not, in fact, an inconceivable event; it was the characteristic and formative American ordeal, the primal injury of which we could not speak, the shard of memory stuck in our throats. Our ancestors had already found a war on terror, a very long war, and we have lived with its scars ever since.

Interesting and important arguments, though as Rebecca Traister at Salon notes things are complicated by the rise of women to certain positions of power during the same time (Condoleeza Rice, Katie Couric). And as Patricia Cohen of the New York Times notes, invasion narratives are hardly unique to the US psyche. Though I haven’t read the book, I’m a little troubled by all this talk of “our” founding narrative as one of being light-skinned people invaded by dark-skinned ones. Aside from the fact that this really gets the facts wrong about who invaded whom (which needn’t prevent it from being a myth that we believe), very few Americans have family histories that go back to those narratives. Most of us are more likely to identify with narratives of immigration or slavery, surely. Still, interesting and thought-provoking stuff.

 

 
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