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Does feminism mean anything anymore?

American women’s groups are notably silent about Iran’s brutality against women

A protester holds an artistic depiction of Mahsa Amini outside the Iranian embassy in Bucharest, Romania, on Oct. 1. Associated Press/Photo by Vadim Ghirda

Does feminism mean anything anymore?

Twenty-two-year-old Mahsa Amini was killed in Iranian police custody after being arrested by the “morality police” for incorrectly wearing her hijab in public. It was the last straw for many Iranian women, who have been abused, harassed, and held captive to an oppressive regime that squashes their freedom to live without fear. Though police deny any wrongdoing (blaming her death on “sudden heart failure”), women transported with Amini said she was beaten inside the police van.

Rather than cower in fear, thousands across the country have taken to the streets, sparking an unprecedented uprising led by women, who are risking their lives by burning the hijab, cutting their hair, and speaking out in protest against a government that terrorizes them daily.

On this side of the ocean, Western feminists were relatively (and strangely) quiet. Those who call restrictions on abortion in the United States “oppressive” had little to say about the true persecution of women. In Iran, women can’t even choose their own wardrobe. The main issues displayed on the front page of the National Organization for Women’s website are reproductive justice, LGBTQIA, racial justice, and the Equal Rights Amendment.

In Iran, you can be killed for being gay or a woman in the wrong place at the wrong time. There’s no such thing as “racial justice” in a country that legally discriminates against women for wearing pants and sends people to government-run “re-education centers” when they do anything the morality police deems problematic. Reports say nearly every woman has been “re-educated” about modesty at some point.

While American feminists cry on the steps of the Supreme Court over narrowing restrictions on the ability to kill children in the womb, Iranian women (who have no right to abortion) are standing in the streets begging for revolution so they can live in their own communities without fear.

As Christians, we are obligated to vocally support the plight of these women. This isn’t the time to watch regrettably from afar, wishing things were different. Our fellow humans require our prayers, love, and support for the God-given rights they deserve. The Psalms say that “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne”—and this is what the God of Justice wants for all people. Mahsa Amini was a beloved image bearer and her unjust killing beckons Christians who will stand for the dignity of her life and the lives of others facing the same possibility.

American women’s rights activists have no idea what it means in today’s world to be oppressed or what it would look like to truly risk something for freedom.

While the American Women’s March website proclaims they plan to “end white supremacy” in America, defined in ideological terms, women in Iran are begging for laws to criminalize domestic violence and to stop children from being forced into marriage. They live in a country that hands down lighter sentences on men for killing their wives and daughters than for murdering a man, and where women can be sentenced to 24 years in jail for protesting the hijab. They are attacked with acid, forced to separate by gender in public spaces and have few rights to property or economic benefits in the case of widowhood.

This isn’t the way God intended women to live. But where is the outcry from American feminists? Where are the marches, online campaigns, and vast displays of support for our fellow women? In the midst of these protests by courageous Iranian women, 60 Minutes reporter Leslie Stahl donned a head covering in her televised interview with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi. The symbolism of capitulating to the very rule that got Amini killed made a mockery of the entire situation.

Thankfully, CNN reporter Christine Amanpour refused to do the same, forfeiting her scheduled interview with Raisi, who “made it clear that the interview would not happen if I did not wear a headscarf” as a “matter of respect” for “the situation in Iran.” She did not comply, sending a powerful message to Raisi that she does not stand for this kind of oppressive rule. But this was merely one act of solidarity, and we need so many more.

American women’s rights activists have no idea what it means in today’s world to be oppressed or what it would look like to truly risk something for freedom. If they were really concerned with women’s rights, their first priority would be in countries like Iran and Saudi Arabia. While it’s true, there are women’s issues to stand for here in the United States, they pale in comparison to those faced by our sisters overseas.

As American women, we know freedom without fear, and we should use those freedoms to speak for our sisters overseas right now. Christians must stand for the rights of women and people across the world, boldly declaring that every human being possesses dignity and deserves freedom from tyranny.

Ericka Andersen

Ericka Andersen is a freelance writer and mother of two living in Indianapolis. She is the author of Leaving Cloud 9 and Reason to Return: Why Women Need the Church & the Church Needs Women. Ericka hosts the Worth Your Time podcast. She has been published in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Christianity Today, USA Today, and more.

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