I came into my feminist destiny in 1967, both as an academic and as an activist. Our original feminist vision was radical and transformative. We believed in universal human rights. We envisioned multicultural diversity but we were not multicultural relativists. We called out misogyny when we saw it and did not exempt a rapist, a wife-beater, or a pedophile because he was poor (his victims were also usually poor); or a man of color (his victims were often people of color); or because he had an abused childhood (so had his victims).
Like other American radical feminists, I was active in the civil-rights and anti-war movements. Unlike other feminists, I had “once lived in a harem in Afghanistan.” This is the opening line of my book, An American Bride in Kabul. Quite unexpectedly, I lived in a polygamous household in very posh purdah—which meant I was not allowed out without a male escort. Quite surprisingly, my father-in-law had three wives and 21 children—facts my Westernized husband failed to mention during our long American college courtship.
When I was 20, I saw Afghan women stumbling around in burqas—sensory-deprivation isolation chambers, ambulatory body bags. These ghosts were forced to sit at the back of the bus. This was long before the Taliban arose. I remembered that sight even when I critiqued American sexism, racism, homophobia—and imperial overreach.
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