cover image Is Multiculturalism Bad for Women?

Is Multiculturalism Bad for Women?

Susan Moller Okin. Princeton University Press, $22.95 (146pp) ISBN 978-0-691-00432-7

A buzzword for political correctness, multiculturalism--with its implications of ethnocentrism and group rights--has, inevitably, become a shibboleth. Feminist theorist and Stanford political science professor Okin assesses what adhering to sanctioned cultural practices (such as female genital mutilation, polygamy, child marriage and forced illiteracy) can and does mean for women. She argues that women are subjected to derogatory treatment in all cultures--majority and minority--although majority liberal thought often presumes a level of equality and egalitarianism between the sexes that is frequently absent in minority cultures. Proponents of cultural integrity (including in religious practice) ignore this fact, Okin asserts, elevating group rights over individual rights, to the detriment of women. This collection offers succinct, compelling and intelligent arguments on both sides, notably from a diverse group of ""respondents"" to Okin's views--among them Katha Pollitt, columnist for the Nation; Azizah Y. al-Hibri, professor of law, founder of KARAMAH: Muslim Women Lawyers for Human Rights and expert on Islamic jurisprudence; and multicultural theorist and philosophy professor Will Kymlicka. ""A Plea for Difficulty,"" an essay by Martha Nussbaum, a professor of law and ethics at the University of Chicago, sums up the complexity of the issues. (Oct.)