Unless you've been living under a rock for the past month or so, you've probably noticed that the campaign season has kicked into overdrive. One of the critical voting blocks being targeted by Democrats are women. The airwaves are clogged and mailboxes stuffed with the message that the crusty old white men who comprise the GOP are engaged in a "war on women." Their goal? To blast American women back into the Stone Age by refusing to subsidize their birth control and their abortions.
This is the crisis facing the modern American feminist. Evil Mitt Romney and his conservative cohorts want to oppress the Sandra Flukes of the world by making it a little bit more inconvenient to engage in federally-subsidized, consequence-free sex, a little bit more difficult to terminate the lives of their unborn children. Meanwhile, half a world away, a 14-year-old Pakistani girl, Malala Yousafzai, is fighting for her life after being shot in the head for defying the Taliban by speaking up for women's education. For daring to suggest that women should be allowed to participate fully in society, including pursuing an education and career, she was tracked down and shot by Taliban militants who vow to finish the job if their first assassination attempt is unsuccessful.
This is the terrifying reality facing women across the Muslim world, yet amidst the hubbub of Election 2012 this story is barely making the news cycle. Planned Parenthood is too busy ginning up panic over the prospect of a Romney-Ryan victory in November, and Code Pink is preoccupied with their campaign to "wage peace, not war" with a despotic and dangerous Iran. For some strange reason, American feminists don't seem all that bothered by the fact that in many countries Muslim women are treated as second-class citizens – mere chattels in a male-dominated society. They are divorced with impunity, routinely abused, killed for breaches of honor, beaten for being in the company of men who are not their husbands, and in some cases subjected to excruciatingly painful and humiliating genital mutilation. They are shot on their school buses while their friends and classmates look on in fear and horror.
By comparison, American women are the freest, most empowered women on the face of the planet. They are CEOs, professional athletes, government officials, political pundits. They are also snarky bloggettes who make a living fabricating misogynistic bogies out of thin air. Instead of directing their time and energy to issues that could use their support and attention – like the plight of women suffering under the boot of Muslim extremism – the majority of American feminists choose to focus on comparatively petty concerns. They want Uncle Sam to force their employer to pay for their birth control. They want abortion on demand and subsidized by the U.S. taxpayer.
But what they don't want is to appear xenophobic, or anti-Muslim, or anti-Progressive. To speak out too strongly against Islam's treatment of women would be to confound the anti-American narrative that characterizes the far-left end of our political spectrum. If the Taliban are shooting young girls in Pakistan, it must somehow be America's fault. The result of our bullish imperialism, our bellicose foreign policy. Never the fruits of a religion that places little to no value on the lives of women.
Muslim women deserve better. They need better. To whom much is given, much is required, and American women have been given quite a lot. They have a voice. They can speak without fear of reprisal. Instead of wasting this privilege on President Obama's manufactured "war on women," they should use it to draw attention to the plight of women who aren't free to speak up for themselves and who are daily being denied fundamental human rights.
Ken Connor is an attorney and co-author of Sinful Silence: When Christians Neglect Their Civic Duty. He is also chairman of the Center for a Just Society.
Publication date: October 16, 2012