The Failure of Progressive-Left Feminism

The western progressive-left has betrayed the Jewish people.

Anyone who follows the Long Arab War Against the Jews should clearly understand that the western left has deserted its Jewish friends and constituency.  Furthermore, in doing so, the western left has trampled its core values.  It is has, as a movement, betrayed the Jews of the Middle East, women of the Middle East, and Gay people there.

This is not a matter of conjecture or speculation, but of historical fact.

As the progressive-left has accepted anti-Semitic anti-Zionism as part of its larger coalition it has also refused to condemn the oppression of Jews, the oppression of Gay people, and the oppression of women throughout the Arab-Muslim world.

The western-left, of course, has many interrelated factions.  There is the LGBT movement.  There is the anti-war movement.  There is environmentalism and the various movements for social justice for ethnic minorities within western countries.  And, of course, there is feminism.

In 1963, Betty Friedan wrote The Feminine Mystique.  She described “the problem that has no name,” which was the system of female oppression in the United States at that time.  The problem that had no name was the general assumption in American culture that women were meant to be housewives and mothers, but not actors in the public sphere.

The 1960s saw the rise of what is generally referred to as Second Wave Feminism.  First Wave Feminism – the feminism of the nineteenth-century – was about the franchise.  It was about securing political rights.  Second Wave Feminism was about identity and securing social liberation.

As part of the larger western counterculture and rising New Left, the women’s rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s joined with the rest of the movement for universal human rights to support human decency, social justice, and freedom throughout the world.  The point throughout all of those fights was to secure human justice.

Times have clearly changed, however.  The progressive-left no longer stands for universal human rights and progressive-left feminism no longer cares for the well-being of women outside of the liberal-secular west.  White western feminists will fight like hell for the rights of women in the United States and Canada and Europe and Israel and Australia, but they simply do not care about the well-being of women in the part of the world that most oppresses women, the world dominated by Muslim governments and cultures.

If feminism in the west has faltered, which it most certainly has, it is because it has utterly failed to stand up for women where women are most persecuted.  Throughout the Muslim Middle East women are forced into potato sacks and western feminists tell us that this is “freedom.”  Women are sold into slavery and subject to honor killings and, yet, this is ignored by western contemporary feminism.  Progressive-left feminists refuse to stand up for women in the Arab-Muslim Middle East because doing so directly conflicts with the ideal of multiculturalism.

The conflict between universal human rights and the ideal of multiculturalism is at the very heart of the western-left conversation, yet it remains organic and almost entirely implied, and multiculturalism has won out, in the end.  The progressive-left, including the feminist-left, has thrown universal human rights directly into the toilet because it ultimately chose the multicultural ideal, which is entirely inconsistent with its central values.

This being the case, western feminists, with few exceptions, cannot bring themselves to condemn the treatment of women throughout the Arab-Muslim world – or the treatment of Gay people there or the treatment of the Christian minority there or the treatment of Jewish people there – because to do so is seen as a violation of multiculturalism.  Who are we, after all, as the beneficiaries of white western imperialism to condemn the cultural practices of our alleged victims?

And this is why, to be frank, that I no longer care about maintaining politically correct feminist terminology.  If the feminist-left will not stand up for women in the Middle East then just why should I care about using language that is grounded in sensitivity toward that movement?

In my recent TOI piece entitled, The Pussitude of Progressive-Left Jews, Ops and Blogs editor, Miriam Hershlag, apparently found it offensive and changed the title to something else.  I do not blame Miriam.  Hershlag is trapped between obnoxious participants, such as myself, and the need to maintain certain politically correct standards.

The problem is that so long as those standards are arbitrary they cannot be respected.  If people wish to maintain standards of language and respect toward women throughout the world, then they need to maintain standards of language and respect toward women throughout the world.

This goes double for newspaper editors.

When the western progressive-left stands up for women in the Middle East or stands up for Gay people in the Middle East or stands up for Jews in the Middle East, as a matter of universal human rights, then they can tell us that the word “pussitude” is unacceptable.

Until that time, however, I see no reason to give them much consideration.

If you guys want to stand up for the rights of women, then you need to do so for women who are beaten up the most, and that is not among left-liberal American Jews such as myself.

About the Author
Mike Lumish is a PhD in American history from the Pennsylvania State University and has taught at PSU, San Francisco State University, and the City College of San Francisco. He regularly publishes on the Arab-Israel conflict at the Times of Israel and at his own blog, Israel Thrives ( He has in recent years given conference papers on American cultural and intellectual history at The International Society for the History of Behavioral and Social Sciences in Dublin, Ireland, as well as at the Western Historical Association in Phoenix, Arizona and the American Cultural Association in New Orleans, Louisiana. Lumish is also the founding editor of the scholarly on-line discussion forum H-1960s. He can be contacted at