More On: Feminism
Wow!!! It's a good question.
Culture is important. It's the main way that society moves forward or backward. This is most clear when we look at how women are treated. Over time, the Judeo-Christian culture, or perhaps a better word is "civilization," has given rise to laws, language, and material wealth that have made women's status much higher.
But not everyone has benefited from this progress.
There are still hundreds of millions of people who live in cultures, like Islam, that assume women are weaker than men. Before not too long ago, these two cultures, the Western and the Islamic, were mostly separate. But that's about to change. That's for sure.
Many men who moved to the West, especially Europe, from the Middle East, South Asia, and other parts of Africa brought with them a different set of values. In 2015 alone, more than a million people came. There will be more.
As a result, crimes like groping, stalking, assault, and rape against girls and women have gone up sharply. The culture of the people who did these crimes is very different from that of the people who were hurt by them.
Let me be clear: not all immigrant men, or even most, attack women sexually or think it's okay to do so. However, it would be a terrible mistake to deny that the attackers' values are very different from those of the West. In the West, women are free and have control over their sexuality. How religious a woman is and how she acts or doesn't act sexually depends on what she wants. The other way of thinking about women is that they are either things (their value depends on whether or not they are virgins) or prostitutes if they act "immodestly" in public (wearing a short skirt for example).
I don't think these sets of values can live together. The question is whose set of values will win out. Unfortunately, this is still not clear.
The way things are going in Europe right now is very troubling. Not only do Muslim women in Europe face a lot of oppression in many ways, but Muslim men are also harassing non-Muslim women. This is a dangerous trend.
One would think that this clear misogyny would upset Western feminists in the United States and Europe a lot. But, with only a few exceptions, it doesn't look like this is the case.
Many Western feminists have a kind of moral confusion in which they say that women are oppressed everywhere and that this oppression is "exactly the same" everywhere, including in the West, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Iran.
I think this shows too much moral relativism and a lack of knowledge about Sharia law. Women's lives in the West aren't perfect, but can anyone really deny that they have more freedom and opportunities in the U.S., France, and Finland than they do in Iran, Pakistan, or Saudi Arabia?
Other feminists have also said that non-Western women don't need to be "saved" and that saying they "need" help from Western feminists is an insult to non-Western women and shows that Western feminists think less of them.
From a practical point of view, I think that any effort to help Muslim women, whether they live in the West or under Islamic governments, should be supported. Every attempt to get these governments to change laws that aren't fair should be backed.
Feminists and female leaders in the West have a simple choice: they can either make excuses for things that can't be made excuses for, or they can ask for changes in cultures and religions that continue to oppress women.
Nothing shows this better than what happened on New Year's Eve 2015 in Cologne, Germany. During the city's traditional celebrations that night, many German women (467 at last count) said that North African and Arab men had sexually harassed or attacked them. Within two months, 73 suspects, most of whom were from North Africa, had been found. Twelve of them were linked to sexual crimes. Yet, in response to the attacks, the feminist mayor of Cologne, Henriette Reker, told women to keep their men at "arm's length." She told the women of Cologne, "Keep an arm's length" between yourself and a group of Arab men, and you will be fine.
Mayor Reker's words show how serious the problem is: we are about to have a clash of cultures. The first thing to do to solve it is to stand up for the values that have helped women succeed. Feminists need to be on the front lines of this battle with their organizations, networks, and lobbying power. Their relevance depends on it. And so does the health of a lot of women, both in the West and outside of it.