Last night, I watched Big Fat Gypsy Weddings. It's not a show I would normally indulge in, but I was convinced by the other half to sit down and gawk at the lives of Irish Travellers. Needless to say, as I'm blogging about it, it provoked a reaction - particularly regarding the lot of women in that culture.
Over at Property is Theft, I've explained in much more depth why I'm opposed to the political doctrine of multiculturalism. In short, I don't believe that the basic rights of all human beings can be subverted or waved away on the grounds of culture, any more than you can justify hating an entire people for their racial or religious identity. It's a simple matter of applying your principles consistently and universally, which unfortunately is lost on considerable swathes of the left.
Returning to the programme, what particularly pissed me off - beyond the overall subservience of the women to the men - was the practice of "grabbing." In essence, it's a gypsy courtship ritual whereby the bloke wins the woman by stealing a kiss from her. If this sounds romantic, bear in mind that it is perfectly acceptable to punch her or overpower her to get that kiss. In other words, the whole issue of free will (for the woman at least) is null and void. They exist to be "grabbed," to marry, have kids, and slave over their homestead, and their entire life is geared towards that goal.
There are no two ways about it. This is utterly abhorrent, and reduces the woman to a posession with no rights of her own. The results of which includes a domestic violence rate of 61-81%, far above the 25% among women in Britain more broadly.
Commenting on it in the show, one of the lads who was out "grabbing" tried to justify it on the grounds of culture. There were, he said, practices in other cultures that they thought were outrageous. But, in his words, "who are we to judge?" The only problem is that this is the kind of attitude that traps people in such cultures in that web of violence and repression.
You can see where it comes from. On the other side of the coin, racists and bigots will use such facts as "proof" that such a race or culture is "inferior" or "backward." People are, naturally, uneasy about being seen as on the same level as the cranks who complain to the Daily Mail because gypsy encampments are affecting property prices. But, the wish to not be seen as racists means that they simply hold their noses and look away in the face of some truly disgusting practices.
The fact is that such things don't make any race or culture "inferior." It simply means that some of the attitudes which prevail within that culture are indefensible and need to be eradicated. Such open misogyny was aonce a staple of western culture, lest we forget, and the fact that a strong womens' rights movement raised peoples' consciousness and made it unacceptable hasn't left us without a culture or an identity (however one defines it). It has simply meant that said culture is no longer as openly and explicitly patriarchal. And this can only be viewed as a good thing.
The fact is that it doesn't matter what culture you're talking about. Whether it's "grabbing," or "honour" killing, or female genital mutilation, we cannot excuse such things on the grounds that "it's their culture." We cannot look away with a cowardly exclamation of "who are we to judge."
Of course, this doesn't justify bigotry. But equally, we should be wary of the "saintly" attitude of middle class lefties, seeking their own beatification by "intervening" to help "unfortunates." In any situation, it is the oppressed who must liberate themselves. That said, there is nothing wrong with others expressing solidarity with their situation and opening up debate to break down the wall of silence.
Everybody has the right to their own cultures and traditions - just not at the expense of basic, universal freedom and equality.