Posted in: Islamic Gender & Religious Apartheid, Motherhood & Custody
Published on Jul 29, 2016 by Dr. Bob Brannon
A Tribute to My Work
Tribute To My Work
On July 30, 2016, I spoke for NOMAS (The National Organization of Men Against Sexism). My colleague and friend, Dr. Bob Brannon, invited me. When I agreed—he wined and dined me at Petrossian where I gingerly sampled the caviar and fois gras but had the safer vegetable pate. The vodka was chilled and arrived in a tall and graceful flute glass.
Bob is a retired professor of sociology at Brooklyn College and a NOMAS co-founder. He serves on the Men’s Studies Association and is NOMAS’s Pornography and Prostitution Task Group leader. Bob is also the NYS-NOW Task Force Co-Chair on Trafficking, Pornography and Prostitution.
His Introduction, below, is the kindest, and most comprehensive review of my work ever done in so short a time. May Bob Brannon be blessed a thousand-fold! And I want that Wonder Woman statue which he brought to signify who I am! You may see her in this photo.
Introduction of Dr. Phyllis Chesler
Dr. Robert Brannon
August 29, 2016
I first saw Dr. Phyllis Chesler at my first national psychologists’ convention, in Miami in 1970, 46 years ago, when feminism was erupting on the landscape across America. A young and determined Phyllis Chesler, in boots, long black hair flowing, strode to the plenary podium of the American Psychological Association, to demand of A.P.A. “one million dollars, in reparations, to women abused by the mental health profession”; or, to create and fund “A shelter, for run-away wives.”
I had no idea at that time how this fiery, “unstoppable-force,” radical feminist had come to this remarkably combative consciousness, what events, what “clicks,” had so sharpened her awareness of women’s status within patriarchy. I knew nothing then of her shattering early-married experience, as a captive, powerless bride in remote Islamic Kabul, Afghanistan. If you have not already read her award-winning recent book “An American Bride in Kabul,” you have a rich treat in store.
The next year, Dr. Chesler rocked psychology once again, with evidence that numerous male psychotherapists, around New York City in particular, were sexually exploiting young female patients. This would eventually lead to changes in APA policies, and to changes in state laws.
In 1972 Dr. Chesler published her sensational, explosive best-seller, Women And Madness . She was the first feminist scholar to boldly confront the patriarchal world of clinical psychology and psycho-therapy, exposing the profound contempt for women which then pervaded clinical practice. Her courageous and brilliant book has been translated into many languages, and is today in every major library in the world, among the most famous and successful books of all time.
Over the next 40 years - often with little institutional support - Phyllis Chesler has become the most fiercely independent, productive, multi-issue, feminist thinker and writer since Elizabeth Cady Stanton. She has addressed a wide range of women’s and gender issues, in books like: Mothers on Trial: the Battle for Children & Custody; Letters to a Young Feminist; Sacred Bond; About Men; and "Woman's Inhumanity to Woman". In Patriarchy: Notes of an Expert Witness, she writes of the invisible women in hospital-prisons, of Mary Beth Whitehead, and the alleged-murderer, Eileen Wuornos. As her friend Andrea Dworkin said: “Phyllis Chesler stands up for real women in trouble, in pain, hurt by patriarchy’s cruel domination.”
There is another deep and essential vein in Phyllis Chesler’s work, which must be noted, and many of us feel, should be celebrated. We regrettably live in a time, in a climate in America., when some American Jews seem vaguely chagrined, seemingly almost embarrassed by their Jewish ancestry, in light of the massive unpopularity, in some circles, of the state of Israel. Thus they join the chorus of the many who harshly condemn Israel, for each real or perceived infraction, brazenly denouncing the Jewish state as “fascist.”
Phyllis Chesler is among the few feminist intellectuals, thinkers, and authors who have always proudly maintained their identity as religious Jews, and have never chosen to broadly-disparange Israel, to curry favor with those who despise it. In her powerful book, "The New Anti-Semitism", she perceptively examines the international scope and complexity of anti-Semitism today, with so many illuminating correspondences to racism. Dr. Chesler has of course also struggled for women’s equality within religious Judaism, as described in her brave and defiant book, Women of the Wall: Claiming Sacred Ground at Jeruselum’s Holy Site. She has also been a plaintiff in a legendary lawsuit against the state of Israel and the rabbinate, ongoing for 27 years.
Especially important, and foreshadowing her talk to NOMAS today, Phyllis Chesler has become one of the world’s leading voices against the endemic violence against women throughout boyh the West and in the Islamic world. Having suffered herself, as a young bride, from the cruel woman-abusing norms of that world, she has a deep empathy for the suffering of Muslin, Hindu, & Sikh women across much of Asia and Africa today. Her large & active web site (www.Phyllis-Chesler.com) is a vital source of information about crimes against women in the Islamic world. She has published four research studies of so-called honor killings, and is working on a fifth. She has submitted affidavits on behalf of those in flight from “honor-based” violence, in search of political asylum.
And in one of her most controversial books, "The Death of Feminism," Dr. Chesler challenged the many leftists, and sister-feminists, who choose to ignore and give a de-facto ‘free-pass’ to the hideous and rampant gender-apartheid in the Islamic world.
These and other strong stances have gained Phyllis Chesler many detractors. I compared her earlier to Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a comparison which fits in many ways.
Few remember today that, after founding and launching 2nd wave feminism, in Seneca Falls NY in 1848, Elizabeth Stanton was almost expelled from the feminist suffrage movement 48 years later, in 1896, unwelcome in the eyes of many even to attend its national conference. Her sin? She was too politically radical for the movement to accept. She had dared to openly challenge patriarchal Christianity. And so too, Dr. Phyllis Chesler, a founding mother of 2nd wave feminism, has been disparaged by some in recent years, marginalized and excluded from some feminist public events, for being too radical; for caring too deeply about hideous, endemic violence against women in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and in the West. For refusing to blame and demonize Israel for all the world’s evils.
Anyone who takes strong and principled stands, who stands in the harsh glare of truth, and casts a sharp shadow, will acquire many enemies. But, Phyllis Chesler has inspired a large and unshakable base of admirers. As you may guess, I am proud to be one of those. So join me now, in welcoming one of the great thinkers and feminist leaders of our time, Phyllis Chesler.
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