In her chapter "Is Multiculturalism Bad for Women?"1, Susan Okin sets out to deal with the following issue (as she puts it):
... what should be done when the claims of minority cultures or religions clash with the norm of gender equality that is at least formally endorsed by liberal states....?
Okin explains the problem as follows:
Most cultures are suffused with practices and ideologies concerning gender. Suppose, then, that a culture endorses and facilitates the control of men over women in various ways (even if informally, in the private sphere of domestic life). Suppose, too, that there are fairly clear disparities in power between the sexes, such that the more powerful, male members are those who are generally in a position to determine and articulate the group's beliefs, practices, and interests. Under such conditions, group rights are potentially, and in many cases actually, antifeminist. They substantially limit the capacities of women and girls of that culture to live with human dignity equal to that of men and boys, and to live as freely chosen lives as they can (page 12).
Okin's conclusion is as follows:
In the case of a more patriarchal minority culture in the context of a less patriachal majority culture, no argument can be made on the basis of self-respect or freedom that the female members of the culture have a clear interest in its preservation. Indeed, they might be much better off if the culture into which they were born were either to become extinct (so that its members would become integrated into the less sexist surrounding culture) or, preferably, to be encouraged to alter itself so as to reinforce the equality of women -- at least to the degree to which this value is upheld in the majority culture.
The issue, then, is the compatibility, or otherwise, of Feminism and Multiculturalism. Although I have my own views on Multiculturalism, which are based on my unusual background, experiences and knowledge, I want to concentrate, here, on deconstructing Okin's anti-male bias, as she travels from the problem, as she formulates it, to her conclusion.
Okin defines "Feminism" as follows:
... the belief that women should not be disadvantaged by their sex, that they should be recognized as having human dignity equal to that of men, and that they should have the opportunity to live as fulfilling and as freely chosen lives as men can (page10).
That is a totally inadequate definition, and it leaves many things (e.g. terms such as "disadvantaged", "dignity", and "fulfilling") open to interpretation, and Feminists always do this sort of interpretation without taking into account Men's Rights and Men's Issues -- treating men as if they have no problems but only privileges, which is mere propaganda, based on a stereotype.
Later on in her chapter, Okin slips in a totally different (but much more common) definition of "Feminism":
feminists -- everyone, that is, who endorses the moral equality of men and women.... (page 11)
This definition is a typical Feminist lie. Feminists know nothing and care less about men's issues, rights and problems, so they do not have any way of objectively comparing men's situations with women's situations in order to establish what "equality" would even mean. So any statement to the effect that Feminists endorse "equality" or "equity" between men and women is mere meaningless, handwaving propaganda.
A more adequate definition of "Feminism" is the following:
The application of the "victim of oppression" model to women.
This definition includes an implicit explanation for the universal Feminist refusal to look at anything from a male point of view -- men are simply assumed to be the all-powerful, privileged oppressors, and any mention of the fact that men are disadvantaged in many ways, compared to women, is regarded by Feminists as an attack on women and their holy victimhood.
The main issues
Even in stating the issue, Okin has already perpetrated a lie. So-called "liberal states" do not endorse gender equality; all they endorse is Feminism, which is almost the polar opposite. Even though they may state that they endorse gender equality, such states typically do nothing to advance Men's Rights in areas where men are disadvantaged, relative to women. For example, the US State Department has an Office of Global Women's Issues, but no Office of Global Men's Issues. No doubt the US State Department would say that men have no need for an Office of Global Men's Issues, but they have never researched the issue, and therefore have no rational grounds for saying that. In fact, the belief in Feminist ideology that caused the US State Department to set up an Office of Global Women's Issues in the first place excludes the possibility that those same believers would seriously consider setting up an Office of Global Men's Issues, because Feminism sees men as benefiting from the so-called "Patriarchy" -- at women's expense.
One of the issues which the Office of Global Women's Issues focuses on is violence against women (but not violence against men, of course). Meanwhile, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been accused of battering her husband, Bill Clinton, when he was US President! And the USA is famous for having a Violence Against Women Act, but no Violence Against Men Act. Meanwhile, the evidence is overwhelming that women commit slightly more violence against men than men do against women. Of course, more men than women get arrested and convicted for domestic violence, because women are taught by Feminist publicity campaigns to complain about it, the police are taught by Feminist indoctrination to arrest men for it, and the courts are taught by Feminist indoctrination to treat men harshly when they are accused of violence against women -- but no one encourages men to report domestic violence by women, which the police and courts often don't take seriously, anyway.
Since Okin misunderstands the issue, she is not in a position to assess minority cultures or religions, which may well, in fact, endorse gender equality more than liberal states do.
It is simplistic for Okin to talk in terms of "the control of men over women", which is not so much objectively present in any particular society as -- instead -- a bedrock assumption in the mind of some Feminists. Typically, Feminists say that such practices as female circumcision are an instance of "the control of men over women", but they are somehow unable to see that, logically, male circumcision must, therefore, be an instance of the control of women over men. My impression is that societies which practise female circumcision also tend to practice male circumcision (which constitutes gender equality), whereas in the USA (probably under Jewish influence), male circumcision is practised, but female circumcision is illegal!
Similar considerations apply to Okin's hypothesis about "disparities in power between the sexes, such that the more powerful, male members are those who are generally in a position to determine and articulate the group's beliefs, practices, and interests". Let us assume that the subculture group's spokesman is a male. That tells us nothing about how decisions about various topics are made within that group. Okin will obviously just assume that men do all the talking and deciding on all topics in such groups, but anyone (like myself) who has actually married into Third World cultures and knows their languages is aware that that is not likely to be the case. There may be a division of labour as to which types of decisions the women's views carry more weight in and which types of decisions the men's views carry more weight in -- but that is a different matter entirely.
In the passage quoted above, Okin goes on to say:
Under such conditions, group rights are potentially, and in many cases actually, antifeminist. They substantially limit the capacities of women and girls of that culture to live with human dignity equal to that of men and boys, and to live as freely chosen lives as they can.
As far as the first sentence (above) is concerned, I will certainly concede that many minority groups in Western countries have a culture which is relatively Antifeminist, compared to that of the majority culture. However, Okin produces no factual evidence to support her second sentence above, and it therefore can convince only the already convinced Feminist believers. As I have already stated, Feminists (including Okin) never think to look at the World from a male perspective, and so they are unable to see the aspects of the lives of men and boys which might be said by outsiders to lack "human dignity", nor are Feminists able to see the ways in which the lives of men and boys are constrained. As far as "human dignity" is concerned, moreover, I incline to the view that everyone on Earth considers that their life is dignified -- except for the clinically depressed, who can suffer from that illness even in the most luxurious conditions, as far as I am aware. One only has to mention words such as "boy soldiers", "conscription", "the Draft", "street gangs", "prison", etc., to see that a woman in a harem could be considered to have vastly more choice in her life than do many males of her culture.
Another aspect of Okin's typical Feminist purblindness about, and lack of empathy, for men is her statement that:
The more a culture requires or expects of women in the domestic sphere, the less opportunity they have of achieving equality with men in either sphere.
Again, Okin provides no evidence to support this further, sweeping generalisation, and so there is no reason to believe her. It does seem probable that, the more women have to do in the domestic sphere, the less they are likely to be able to do outside it. However, it seems counter-intuitive to say that doing more in the domestic sphere would give women less power in that same sphere. If the husband is away all day at work, for example, and the wife does all the budgetting, child-minding, shopping, cooking, cleaning and food-gathering, then she will inevitably be making a lot of decisions to do with the children and the household which the husband may not even know about at the time -- let alone have the time or energy to direct or countermand.
It is typical of Okin's one-sided propaganda that she declares polygamy to be a "problem", without bothering to investigate the issue properly, or (Heaven forbid!) from a male's point of view. She quotes the views of some unnamed reporters, who had interviewed an unstated number of wives in polygamous households, but it appears that the main problem was that French housing did not cater for such large families, which resulted in overcrowding and friction within the families! I certainly agree that polygamous families should be provided with appropriate housing, but that is a separate issue from polygamy itself. Another problem was that the French government did not recognise more than one of the wives as a legal wife. That, too, was a problem with French law, and not with polygamy!
Okin does not bother to argue against polygamy in any half-way intelligent manner. For her, it suffices that some Feminists dislike it. In fact, it is incontrovertible that men generally have greater sex-drives than women. Moreover, women go through monthly cycles which often affect their mood and their desire for sex. Pregnancy, menopause and menstruation are likely to diminish the desire for and/or appropriateness of sexual intercourse, for many couples. Meanwhile, the man still has his constant sex-drive, and it is appropriate that he should see polygamy as one possible solution to that problem. In the West, everything is governed by what suits women -- that's called "equality".
On pages 13 to 17 of her chapter, Okin briefly discusses several features of various (mostly unspecified) cultures which she considers are anti-female. These features can be variously characterised in several ways: some of these cultural features may be unjustifiable, others are trivial, others are misleadingly described, others crucially do not consider the male point of view, and still others have counterparts in anti-male features of those same cultures. There seems to be little point in discussing them one by one, since Feminists can/could readily point to other alleged examples from the vast Feminist literature on female victimhood.
Okin does not even consider the ways that majority and minority cultures treat men, which may be arguably worse (in many or all cases) than the way that they treat women. Therefore the very premises of her argument are undercut. There is no evidence that the liberal democracies which Okin admired even understand -- let alone practise -- equality between men and women, so they are in no position to preach equality to minority cultures. Feminists just apply the term equality/equity to all of their policy-goals willy-nilly, and the MUC (Media-University Complex) backs them up, in its usual totalitarian way. It is extremely sexist and discriminatory to ask the question: "Is Multiculturalism Bad for Women?", without also asking the question: "Is Multiculturalism Bad for Men?". Since Okin showed no interest in the latter question, we can conclude that she was a discriminatory sexist, and that her views are therefore irrelevant to a moral approach to Multiculturalism.
1 Susan Moller Okin et al. Is Multiculturalism Bad for Women?, Princeton University Press, 1999, pp 9-24.