Another great interview by Maia Caron - and while I'm talking about Ophelia Benson, I seriously recommend her book, co-authored with Jeremy Stangroom, Does God Hate Women?
I read this punchy little book recently, and could not stop turning the pages. I stayed up until I'd finished it. Apart from anything else, it's an excellent corrective to the many broad-brush defences of traditional Islam that you'll encounter. For example, the authors dig deep down into the Muslim literature to contest glib defences of Muhammad's marriage to Aisha when she was a very young girl. In doing so, they make Karen Armstrong's sentimentalised account look evasive, unscholarly, and intellectually dishonest. Likewise, they painstakingly destroy the easy claim, and associated specious arguments, that Islam has no causal connection to female genital mutilation. They explain the problem with indiscriminately throwing around a silencing term such as "Islamophobia."
These are all tough subjects to write about clearly and honestly, during a tense period in community relations in most Western countries, but the authors approach them with a pleasing intellectual rigour. As their example reinforces, we should not shy away from unpalatable truths in the name of social harmony - it's dishonest and, in the long run, not likely to be productive.
Back to the interview, here's a good sample:
[...] groups are not people; groups don’t suffer, groups aren’t conscious, groups don’t have feelings. It is the individuals who make up the groups who are and have and do all that – and each one does it separately, one at a time. The feelings of all those individuals do not add up to one big feeling that the group has – they remain separate. That’s not a reason for people to act as selfishly as possible, but it sure as hell is a reason for people to remember that group prosperity does not automatically translate to happiness for every individual in the group. The same of course applies to families. People who focus all their concern on groups or families or ‘communities’ risk simply forgetting that some members of groups have more power than others, some have different interests and needs from others, some see the world differently from others. How this cashes out in practice is of course that the men of a particular ‘community’ are taken to represent the whole community when in fact the women of that community may have radically different wants and needs from the men.