Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Nuclear Proliferation: A-Okay If You Don't Stone Women?

On The Daily Show tonight, Jon Stewart made the claim that a major reason why the rest of the world doesn't want Iran to have nuclear weapons is because they stone women for adultery.

To which I say, "Really?"

Um, no. It's because the international community is against nuclear proliferation. Full stop. If you want additional reasons, there's the fact that Iran's president is frequently bellicose in his rhetoric.

If you want to criticize Iran, fine. But to suggest a connection between opposition to Iran's nuclear programme and the stoning of women is facetious. In fact, I resent such suggestion because it implies that world leaders are more committed to human rights than they actually are. Which is not to say that world leaders are never motivated by a concern for human rights, but let's not pretend that they don't engage in cold geopolitical calculus.

The argument also assumes that there needs to be a reason to oppose Iran acquiring nuclear weapons besides: nuclear proliferation = bad. That kind of blasé attitude towards nuclear proliferation is rather disturbing.

Moreover, Stewart's piece was titled "You're Not Helping," and directly followed an excellent skit about the Florida minister behind burn-the-Koran-day, implying that Iran sentencing women to death by stoning makes it harder to oppose Islamophobia. This perpetuates a particularly annoying line of right-wing argument. That is, people who villainize Muslims really just care about women. In fact, they care about women more than the lefty hypocrites who speak out against the bigotry aimed at Muslims!

They don't care about women. They appropriate the suffering of women to mask their xenophobia, nativism, and racism. We know this, because when it comes to supporting women in their own back yard, they don't. "What are you complaining about? You have it better than women in Iran!"

It's a lot easier to criticize the murderous misogyny of a foreign government than it is to confront sexism in your own community, often perpetuated by people you know and like, if not by your own words and actions. Or on your own show.*

*although some have claimed that there is evidence that the Daily Show took Jezebel's suggestion that it had a sexist environment seriously, these claims are based on speculation and conjecture, since the only public response from the show was notably defensive. 

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