Linda Sarsour speaks onstage during the Women's March on Washington on January 21, 2017 in Washington, DC. .
(photo credit: THEO WARGO/GETTY IMAGES/AFP)
In a bizarre twist of events, Linda Sarsour has become some kind of face of feminism. Her attempts to portray the hijab as a symbol of anything other than oppression are so misguided as to make even hardened liberals cringe.
But let’s examine some issues that show the bizarreness of her recent foray into misrepresenting Zionism.
“It just doesn’t make any sense for someone to say, ‘Is there room for people who support the State of Israel and do not criticize it in the movement?’ There can’t be in feminism. You either stand up for the rights of all women, including Palestinians, or none. There’s just no way around it,” the Palestinian-American activist said.
First off, Obi-Wan Kenobi would be outraged: “Only a Sith deals in absolutes,” he said.
But let’s elaborate on the fact that Sarsour is hurting the feminist movement.
She could easily be the poster child of third wave feminists’ utter failure to bring people to their cause. Feminism is a word that has come to alienate even most women. Her credibility in stating what can and cannot be included in feminism is dubious at best.
Feminism is a catch-all word for the battle for gender equality. At its core this means that there should be equality between the genders and that many differences between them are socially constructed, and can and should be changed by social action. Where the Palestinian cause fits into this I don’t know, nor have I ever heard a coherent case for it.
Arab Israelis are the women in the Arab world who enjoy the most freedom. Freedoms they enjoy thanks to liberal values and laws written by Zionists. Thus to further the Zionist cause would be to further women’s cause. Any suggestion that persecution of Palestinian women is a necessary attribute of Zionism is as insulting as it is misinformed. Feminists must be able to disagree among themselves on issues that do not concern gender equality and still remain feminists. I also find it curious that Sarsour sees no reason to mention that without Zionism, Jewish and Israeli women’s rights would not be protected. One can only speculate as to the reason for this omission.
Sarsour has such a knack for being an apologist for Islamism that she in the past found it appropriate to praise Saudi Arabia’s policies on women, she attacks true feminists and reformers of Islam, and she is so vehemently opposed to Jewish self-determination as to say there is “nothing creepier.”
All this as she claims that wearing the hijab is some kind of symbol of female liberation. This notion is as ridiculous as advocating donning a scarlet letter as a symbol of equality. I understand the motivation for wearing religious symbols, but religiously prescribed clothing that symbolizes women as property of their husbands and women’s sexual oppression is not a symbol of liberation, it is a symbol of oppression. This doesn’t mean that everyone who wears a head scarf is oppressed; the symbol’s historical connotation and religious motivation is, however, entrenched. The hijab as a symbol of liberation is as absurd as the meme “Guns don’t kill.” Sure there is poetry to it, but poetry does not make it true.
Liberals should stand up for liberal values.
Linda Sarsour should jump aboard that ship, and not be an apologist for Islamists and jihadists, or mix Israel-hatred into the battle for gender equality. Feminism needs all the support it can get, and alienating adherents of enlightenment ideals worldwide is beyond counterproductive.
Daniel Azaria is a master’s student in Political Science and Political Communications at Tel Aviv University.