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Posted in: Feminism, Arts, Film & Culture

Published on Mar 05, 2010 by Phyllis Chesler

Written for Pajamas Media

The Goddess That Failed


For years now, newly arrived refugees have been contacting me. They write to tell me that they've lost nearly everybody they once knew. Their whole world is gone now. Some whisper over the phone. Others write long letters. They ask me how I've managed.

I am talking about ideological refugees from feminism, leftism, gay liberation, socialism, and progressivism.

Yesterday, I received a letter from someone in Berkeley. She tells me that, earlier this week, she was "overjoyed to see the feisty Tikvah students on the steps of Sproul Plaza giving out Israeli flags and t-shirts and dancing in circles," and how afterwards, some "went to confront the theatre of the absurd, enacting the checkpoints." Referring to the feminist movement in Berkeley, she asks: "Could you ever have believed it? From anti-patriarchy to pro-Hamas in a few decades?" Her letter continues:

That you exist and are doing this work means a great deal to me. So far, I have found ONE new friend who comes from the same Jewish lesbian feminist cultural lineage of the 1970s. Neither of us has many friends from the old days we can comfortably talk to anymore, although I still try. I thought I had the smartest bunch of women assembled for a lifetime but I was wrong.

Last night a friend of forty years came to visit me. She is especially dear to me because she is among a handful of people from that era with whom I can still talk. At best, the rest are frozen in amber, as they perpetually relive their own, long-ago moment in the sun. They have not evolved in history, they are relics; or, they have kept doing the same thing over and over again, thinking the same thoughts, focusing on the same issues. At worse, they have become Stalinized and "Palestinianized." In either case, no honest conversation between us is possible. In 2005, five years ago (!), I wrote about this in The Death of Feminism; I doubt that many feminists read it.

Please understand: I am a sentimental and sociable woman and for such reasons, I might have continued to talk to the useful idiots who routinely demonize Israel and America, romanticize jihad and the Islamic Veil, and slander freedom fighters as "fascist Islamophobes." Luckily, they condemned me. After years of kissing up, they shunned me, attacked my work, sullied my reputation—or they simply "disappeared" that work from their collective memories. They did not invite me to speak at conferences or at memorial services for feminists whom I'd once loved and with whom I'd worked for years. These conferences and funerals were all being filmed for the archives — and my fine feminist comrades needed to create a "revisionist" history, one in which no Zionists, no American patriots, no defenders of Western civilization could appear.

It was an excellent education. I am grateful to them for it. But now, there is no going back. I understand that we were never "friends," only "fellow travelers." When I departed from and dared to criticize the Party Line, I no longer existed.

Am I ready to write my own personal Darkness at Noon? (By the great Arthur Koestler) Or The God That Failed? (By Ignazio Silone, Richard Wright, Andre Gide, Louis Fischer, Stephen Spender, and Koestler). Perhaps — but not quite. I have not stopped being the kind of feminist I've always been. Many others who call themselves feminists interpret that word far differently than I do.

But, there are major feminist exceptions and they include all those feminists who work for womens' health and against pornography, prostitution, and trafficking, and who "staff" all the violence against women areas. Even here though, the fate of Western civilization is far from their minds. They are in the trenches, drowning in female blood, and they do not look up to see the jihadists coming, nor can they desert their posts long enough to survey the distant trenches that overflow with Muslim female blood, Muslim gay blood, infidel blood. They are also connected, for reasons of sentimentality and funding, to the less saintly, more "mean girl" kind of feminists.

A friend wants to give me a seventieth birthday party later this year. First, I said "I won't come." She persisted and asked me for a guest list which spanned the last fifty years. I remained poignantly silent. Said she: "If you don't give me a guest list I'll start inviting…" and she named twenty people, none of whom I wish to see in an intimate, social setting ever again in this lifetime.

This sobered me right up. This is not me. Indeed, I've changed. Hallelujah!

I now understand that when political intimates betray their own ideals in a way that endangers real people, destroys real lives — this cannot be glossed over. There is no going back. There is only a war to fight. Totalitarianism either stands or it falls. Barbarism is defeated or it overcomes civilization. Either Western values (which include human rights, women's rights, religious tolerance, freedom of speech, etc.) prevail or they are lost.


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