Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a harsh critic of Islam’s treatment of women,
said Wednesday that modern American feminism is focused on “trivial
bullshit” and needs to be reclaimed.
Speaking at the Independent Women’s Forum Women of Valor dinner,
where she received an award for courage, Hirsi Ali reminded her audience
of how far feminism has strayed from its original purpose.
“I want you to remember that once upon a time, feminists fought for
the access — basic right — access of girls to education,” she said.
Hirsi Ali — who despite the harsh words she said, spoke softly,
almost timidly — told the story of a fight between her mother and father
when she was about 11 years old. Her mother wanted to take her and her
sister out of school because education would lead them to rebel against
their family and “bring shame upon us.” Her father responded by saying,
“If you take my girls out of school, I am going to curse you and you are
going to burn in hell.”
Taken out of context, Hirsi Ali said, one might side with her
mother, but in reality, she said it was her father that allowed her to
be educated and helped make her what she is today.
“That’s what feminists used to fight for — the access for girls to
education,” Hirsi Ali said. “They used to fight for the recognition of
girls as fellow human beings and recognition of their personal liberty.”
She spoke of growing up in Somalia, where women aren’t allowed to
leave the house without asking permission from a male guardian and need
to be accompanied by a male guardian.
“If something wrong were to happen to me, and where I come from that
happened all the time — you were groped, you were harassed, you were
raped — you had no recourse because you weren’t supposed to be where you
were,” Hirsi Ali said. “You were married off as a child and you had to
obey the person that you were married to, it was just your luck.”
“Feminists in this country and in the West fought against that and won the battle,” she added.
But now, Hirsi Ali said, feminism has taken that victory and squandered it.
“What we are now doing with the victory, and I agree with you if you
condemn that and I condemn whole-heartedly the trivial bullshit it is to
go after a man who makes a scientific breakthrough and all that we as
women — organized women — do is to fret about his shirt?” Hirsi Ali
said, referring to the controversy generated by the shirt featuring
cartoons of scantily-clad women worn by the scientist who helped land a
robot on a comet. “We must reclaim and retake feminism from our fellow
But, Hirsi Ali said, we should not throw away feminism, because that
would be like throwing away the civil rights movement. Instead, feminism
needs to fight the real war on women: Radical Islam and other parts of
the world where women don’t even have the right to an education or to
leave their home without a male guardian.