In these origins lie the day's basic fallacy: that womanhood is an international -- global -- political state of being; that there is a universal female political condition, which urges, a la Marx, "Women of the world, unite!" Against what? The common foe -- men.
As with Marxism itself, for such a sisterhood to coalesce, even on paper or in elite committees and multinational organizations, the profound cultural and religious differences that shape and guide people's lives have to be minimized, denied or actually destroyed. In real life, however, culture and religion will out, as they did on this year's International Women's Day.
In post-U.S. Iraq, Reuters reported on the International Women's Day activities of "about two dozen" women -- a brave handful -- who demonstrated in Baghdad against new, sharia-based legislation now before Iraq's parliament. Known as the Ja'afari Law after an early Shiite imam, the legislation would allow Iraq's Shiite Islamic clergy to control marriage, divorce and inheritance. Among other things, this would permit marriage between a man and a 9-year-old girl, according to the marital example of Islam's prophet Mohammed. Indeed, by the Gregorian calendar, as The Associated Press pointed out, such legislation would apply to girls who are 8 years and 8 months old. (The Islamic calendar year is 10 or 11 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar year.)
Guess who has approved of this child rape legislation -- some den of social outcasts? No, the ministers of Iraq's cabinet. They preside, of course, over a government created in large measure by great expenditures of U.S. blood and treasure. The draft law now awaits a parliamentary vote.
The Baghdad protesters shouted: "On this day of women, women of Iraq are in mourning." At least two dozen of them are, anyway. But more than Iraq's women should be in mourning. After all, child rape -- not to mention marital rape and discriminatory divorce and inheritance practices also legalized in the draft legislation -- shouldn't be defined as "women's" issues alone. If they are so pigeon-holed, by feminist implication, the modification of "male" behavior will ameliorate all. What these women are protesting, however, aren't men or the "patriarchy" generally, but rather the brutal impact of Islam and its law on women, on children, on the family itself -- the basis of civilization. It is here, in the treatment of the weak and the young, of motherhood, marriage and childhood, where core, existential differences between Islam and most of the world's religions and cultures emerge. They are obscured as "women's" issues.