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The Death of Feminism: What's Next in the Struggle for Women's Freedom Hardcover – October 13, 2005

3.8 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Chesler, an active member of the women's movement for four decades, makes a serious charge against her sisters: she feels they have abandoned their commitment to freedom and feminist values, and "become cowardly herd animals and grim totalitarian thinkers." Chesler (Women and Madness) takes liberal feminists to task for not speaking out against what she sees as the most important threat to Western freedom: Islamic terrorism. She has penned a cross between a cri de coeur and a deeply rhetorical polemic that makes scores of provocative points, but because of sometimes offhanded scholarship (e.g., listing unsourced news items as research), a proclivity for overgeneralizing and an anecdotal approach to arguing, will probably fail to win over readers who don't already agree with her. Her sense of urgency leads her to paint, with broad strokes, a frightening portrait of current U.S. academic and political culture: the campuses, she says, have "bred a new and diabolical McCarthyism" spearheaded by leftists and approvingly quotes a feminist scholar saying that "women's studies has become... the most retrograde of disciplines" because of its single-minded reliance on postmodern theory. As in her last book, The New Anti-Semitism, Chesler raises important issues, but her style will alienate the very people she means to reach. (Nov. 5)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"Chesler aims a loud wake-up call at her fellow feminists, charging that while feminism is not exactly dead, it is failing, suffering from the disease of politically correct passivity....A fierce polemic, filled with vigorous arguments and distressing human stories."--Kirkus
"[Chesler] has penned a cross between a cri de coeur and a deeply rhetorical polemic that makes scores of provocative points....As in her last book, The New Anti-Semitism, Chesler raises important issues."--Publishers Weekly
"It is clear from [Chesler's] harrowing story why she has taken up with such fervor the cause of women's rights in the Muslim world.... Important."--Middle East Quarterly
"To read Phyllis Chesler is to encounter one of the most challenging and original minds in the world today. Every Chesler book takes on the conventional wisdoms and political correctness with verve and insight. The Death of Feminism is a tour de force, combining personal experience, brilliant analysis, and heart-felt advocacy. Chesler demonstrates how anti-Israel bigotry, which has already damaged the credibility of many human rights organizations, is now endangering feminism. A must read."--Alan Dershowitz, author of The Case For Peace: How the Arab-Israeli Conflict Can Be Resolved

"In The Death of Feminism Phyllis Chesler explores a system of ‘Islamic gender apartheid’ both East and West and throughout the world now. At first it seems simple, then it grows more complex and involuntary and eventually becomes diabolic in its curtailment of every woman’s human rights. She knows whereof she speaks: in a chapter entitled ‘My Afghan Captivity’ Phyllis describes how she herself was held hostage to reactionary custom as a young bride. Had her pregnancy been known she would never have escaped. But she survived, and in telling her story she is sounding a warning to the West which, in the fullness of multi-cultural relativism, it ignores to its peril."--Kate Millett, author of Sexual Politics and Flying
"Phyllis Chesler brings an eloquent and righteous anger to bear against Western feminists for their dual habit of overlooking the plight of Muslim women and blaming Israel, by far the Middle East’s most feminist country, for the woes of that region. Chesler’s focus on this topic, it turns out, is informed by an intensely personal experience; in The Death of Feminism she reveals her nightmare as a young wife in Afghanistan in 1961. That event, it turns out, was a crucible vital both to her general intellectual development and to the making of this powerful book."--Daniel Pipes, author of Militant Islam Reaches America and In the Path of God: Islam and Political Power

"Phyllis Chesler has lived a fascinating, engaged, and passionate life. In this book she has written about two worlds she knows intimately: feminism and Islam. Her text is about the latter's war against women and the former's war against itself. If you read this book, it will change the way you think about both."--David Horowitz, author of Unholy Alliance: Radical Islam and the American Left

"With passionate eloquence, one of the founders of modern feminism indicts Western feminists for their indifference to the plight of women oppressed under reactionary Islam. The Death of Feminism is a fearless act of truth-telling."--David Frum, co-author of An End to Evil: How to Win the War on Terror

"Phyllis Chesler supplies what has been conspicuously lacking since 9/11: a call to women to defend their equality and dignity as human beings against a foe that short-sighted advocates of political correctness have given a pass--despite its obvious threat to them. Here, she speaks out fearlessly, passionately, and profoundly against the dehumanization of women that is institutionalized in Islamic Sharia law and manifested in innumerable ways in Islamic societies--as well as among Muslim immigrants to Western countries. This book should not be missed by any feminist, but not only feminists: Chesler sounds a call that every man and woman in the Western world should heed before it's too late."--Robert Spencer, author of Islam Unveiled and Onward Muslim Soldiers

"With great talent and in a vivid style, Phyllis Chesler observes every aspect of today's American culture, politics, and society through a feminist lens. This enlightening picture unveils the most dramatic domestic and international problems of our times, including that of Islamic gender apartheid, analyzed by a politically incorrect and daring lover of truth."--Bat Ye'or, pioneering researcher on dhimmitude and author of Eurabia (2005) and Islam and Dhimmitude (2001)

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan; Stated 1st Edition edition (November 5, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1403968985
  • ISBN-13: 978-1403968982
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.8 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,413,886 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Alyssa A. Lappen VINE VOICE on November 17, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Full disclosure: I helped research the contents of chapter 7, concerning the effects of Islamic treatment of women in the West. I will confine my comments to the rest of this book.

In chapter four, Phyllis Chesler tells the story of her captivity in Kabul as the wife of an Afghan national. Although an Orthodox Jewish American girl, she married her college sweetheart in the summer of 1961 in New York state. He just happened to be a Muslim. In telling her story, she hopes to "help other westerners understand and empathize with Muslim and Arab women (and men) who are increasingly being held hostage to barbarous and reactionary customs."

This is not only a laudable feminist goal, the story that Chesler tells is a compelling one. When she returned from her captivity in Afghanistan on December 21, 1961, she literally kissed the ground at Idewild (now Kennedy) Airport. When she had landed in Kabul as Ali's new foreign, American and Jewish bride, officials confiscated her passport, which she never saw again. Upon her arrival, her westernized husband "simply became another person." He barely spoke to her, and treated her with annoyed embarrassment, coldness and distance.

Ali had never mentioned that his father was polygamous. But upon arrival in Kabul, Chesler was consigned to live with Ali's mother Aishah, or "Beebee Jan" (Dear Lady), whom his father had long since abandoned for his third wife. There came a time when Chesler was no longer allowed to slip out of her house unattended. She immediately went to the American Embassy, right next to the family compound. When she could not produce her passport, the Marines would escort her home, telling her that as "the wife of an Afghan national" she was no longer entitled to American protection.
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Format: Hardcover
Chesler's no nonsense style is articulate, clear and free of the cliche-isms that mar a lot of feminist discourse. This important book personalizes the plight of women's status in the Islamic culture and shames a lot of western feminists for tunnel vision and indifference to this issue.

The story of her personal captivity (1961) as a wife in the family of a high status clan in Afghanistan is compelling both as a genesis of her feminist ideals and in understanding her sympathetic compassion that leads her to speaking out on this subject now. I appreciate that she neither belabors this frightening episode nor displays her views as an ongoing vendetta. Even more, I like her healthy balance and attempts at rapprochement across the political spectrum for the greater good. We could use more of that!

There is much to add to this subject. For example, Chesler touches on Muslim women who are speaking out. But to do it justice that's a subject of another book. This one is packed with enough to read it twice and I highly recommend you do!
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Format: Hardcover
Phyllis Chesler begins this book by explaining that feminists "have mounted brave and determined battles against rape, incest, domestic violence, economic and professional inequality, and local `cultural' practices such as honor killings, dowry burnings, female genital mutilation, and the global trafficking in women and children." That's a big accomplishment.

Nevertheless, there is a problem. In recent times, many feminists have become "morally blind to the clear and present danger of Islamic gender apartheid." And some are now more interested in (or obsessed with) supporting very repressive anti-American and anti-Zionist Islamic terrorists than they are in supporting feminist causes.

We see a surprising number of so-called feminists oppose those who tell the truth about Islamists, often calling such people "McCarthyists" and accusing them of silencing "free speech" and "academic freedom." However, as Chesler points out, while free speech and academic freedom are important, "professors are also supposed to teach the difference between the truth and a lie. The earth is round, not flat." I agree. The issue is not academic freedom; scholars now have the freedom to pursue the topics they choose. The issue is academic standards. And it seems that the pro-Islamists are the ones who are most guilty of silencing their political foes and restricting academic freedom.

The author says that there are social reasons for some women to be especially susceptible to pressure here. Namely, many girls learn at an early age that they need to be "nice" to have friends. And these "girls learn how to express themselves carefully, minimally, falsely, passively, cleverly, and indirectly as the best way to stay alive both psychologically and socially.
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Format: Hardcover
I was born and raised as a Muslim woman in Egypt and I salute Dr. Chesler's accurate and sensitive portayal of Muslim culture. Muslim women can read this book with an open mind. I believe that it helps greatly to see our culture from the eyes of an outsider. I dissagree with the comments made by the Egyptian lady who wrote a previous comment. We cannot just dismiss Dr. Chesler's great research and observations just because she is not Muslim or because she supports Israel. That would be very narrow minded and self defeating. We all come from different backgrounds and have our biases. But what we must face as Middle Eastern woman is the fact that in the Muslim world women are suffering and have challenges to overcome. We don't have to emulate the West 100%, but we certainly can support human rights and equality for our oppressed sisters back in the old culture. We cannot just reject and attack such a valuable book on the basis that it was written by someone you dissagree with politically or religiously. The stakes are too high and our culture needs the help of educated Arabs. The built in anger in Muslim families is causing turmoil in Muslim society that has no peace. This anger is the result of oppression of women. It is not only Muslim women who suffer as a result, it is men too and thus the whole family and society. I appreciate Dr. Chelser's insights. She reminded me of many things about my culture that I have burried in my memory years ago. Even though Egypt is not exacly like Afghanistan, but I saw the similarities. Thank you
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