Cultures of Honor

Janice Fiamengo is an author, editor, and Professor of English at the University of Ottawa.


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Recognizing and resolving these incoherencies eventually enabled her to leave her husband, resist the outrage of her family, and distance herself from the women’s groups that sought her non-white presence on their boards as ideological cover. She remarried, completed a Master’s thesis, and became a tough-minded advocate of gender equality and freedom.

Like most real-life stories, Aruna’s is not a seamless narrative of progress from darkness into light, and she and her co-author have resisted the temptation to smooth over her own faults and failures, including her guilt at neglecting her children and the anti-Semitism that was a reflex part of her beliefs before she immigrated. The result is that the reader of Unworthy Creature believes in Aruna and appreciates her humor, self-irony, and savvy. After years of being told she was “unworthy” and stupid, she has clearly relished the chance to step forward as an authority on her life and culture.

For this she has faced the predictable criticism: from members of her own community embarrassed by her frankness, and by white liberals shocked by her apostasy. As Kay and Papp make clear in the discussions that frame Aruna’s story, official silence about honor-based misogyny has made it difficult to address openly the cultural norms that led to the deaths of such women as Aqsa Parvez in greater Toronto and the Shafia girls and their stepmother in Kingston, Ontario, all of whom were killed to save their families from embarrassment. Papp has made it the project of her later life to end media squeamishness about honor violence and to convince people “that it is not racist to admit that some harmful social behaviours are rooted in cultural traditions.”

This is no small task. We live in a culture in which fear of offending and the desire to appear tolerant are dominant values, and in which books such as this one tell a discomfiting story for media and political elites. One can only hope that such a shocking and well-crafted account, which Barbara Kay in her characteristically limpid prose has rendered both readable and compelling, will play a part in the turning of the tide.

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  • Schlomotion

    Ms. Fiamengo should really disclose that she keeps giving glowing reviews to authors that are all from the same media company as herself, PJ Media. This is a conflict of interest and should be shameful to someone like herself who is a college professor. Whenever one of these book reviews comes out, all you have to do is cross-reference the name of the author with PJ Media. So far and invariably, Ms. Fiamengo is being showcased by PJ Media so that she can showcase other people from PJ Media. It is intellectually inc.estuous to be reviewing authors who all are all coworkers at the same company as you and not disclosing that fact. This stands out as as gross an act as plagiarism, and while we unfortunately expect that from bloggers, it cannot stand in book publication and review, nor can writing your own glowing review, nor can writing a glowing review for your friend at work.

    • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nLNn2YflwNs Roger

      And you really should disclose the positive reviews you issue are for the same kind of authors also.

      Why don't you give a list of authors you agree with? Trista Parsi is one of your kind of people, isn't he?

      • Schlomotion

        No. Actually. I never heard of him until you mentioned him 40 times. And actually, now that I look it up, I see that it is Trita Parsi. I'm not actually up on all the pantheon of Swedish Iranians like you are. I also place very little stock in the credibility of politicians and pundits my own age or younger, unlike you who are pushing 50 and perpetually age 14.

        • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nLNn2YflwNs Roger

          Yawn….. sure. And you have any credibility why?

    • C.Geber

      What rubbish. What a gross act of finger-wagging nonsense. Disclosure? Conflict of interest? Reviews are not some kind of consumer report. Who or what would the disclosure protect? What would it look like? Something like: "This reviewer often reviews books written by authors who have been published by the same media company as the reviewer. The reader of the review may deduce that the reviewer and the author(s) share a political outlook. The reader is not required to read the review, nor to agree with the opinion or the political outlook it expresses. No review carries a warranty of disinterest. The fact that the reviewer may be employed by a university, does not provide an implied warranty of disinterest. The reader of the review assumes the risk of being persuaded to purchase a book, or to take an opinion from the review as a result of the persuasiveness of the reviewer's expressed opinion."
      As for reviewing a friend's work – happens all the time. In fact, it is not considered fair practice to give a book to a reviewer known to be hostile personally to the author of the book. That hostility should be declared – if the review is hostile. Absent personal animosity, any book is fair game for reviewing by experts in the same field, or know-nothings, persons of similar opinions and interests, people of opposing opinions and interests, by-line pundits or Joe Schmo.

      • Schlomotion

        Reviews are not some kind of consumer report? Oh no? The disclosure protects the integrity of the author from accusation that his work has not been peer-reviewed, but rather passed off to a promoter from his same company to ensure that the book would receive favorable reviews, or get read at all for that matter. In fact, one can observe the cycling of authors on Frontpage, plugging their book one week and getting a favorable review the next week, writing a favorable one the following week, strenuously quoting the book as a source mid-week. The disclosure protects the readership from being duped by a team of shills, or Shillman Fellows as it were, into accepting an intellectual wooden nickel.

        The disclosure would look like this: "This reviewer works for the same media company as the author of the book she is reviewing. She is paid to write this review, and if it were disfavorable, it would not have been published." Of course, we can infer all of this for ourselves. As a former publisher of a magazine I gladly advertised my own creative content therein, but never stooped to give it a favorable review, or a favorable review to content issued from the same label by my partners and affiliates. That's just obnoxious.

        Reviewing a friend's work makes perfect sense, if you are forthright about it and state as much. No. This reviewer, and this publication/website prefer to let you accept the counterfeit or figure it out for yourself. This is indeed like watching you vigorously defend plagiarism. You are vigorously defending a faux-peer review that is just like insider trading.

        • C.Geber

          Consumer report?
          Peer review?
          Plagiarism?
          Insider trading?
          Are all these concepts now to be redefined in order to make the expression of conservative opinion on other conservatives a dishonest, if not criminal, exercise? Newspeak.
          Please tell me what "is" is, again?

          • Schlomotion

            Firstly, these are not conservative, but neoconservative opinions you are defending.
            Secondly, it really is pathetic that so-called conservatives have to crawl into the sympathy pit, endorsing all kinds of intellectual dishonesty and counterfeiting simply to fit in with the mainstream of actual conservative opinion. No. Claiming to be persecuted is strictly the realm of Likud-style conservatives trying to insinuate themselves into WASP conservatism.

            Nothing needs to be redefined except perhaps "integrity" because of this marvel of insider reviewing.

          • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nLNn2YflwNs Roger

            Are you a 'neo-troll' since troll just doesn't go far enough?

            That, and we can pretend it means anything we want, "neo" is so convenient that way.

            Should we let you crawl into a sympathy pit?

    • C.Geber

      Really, wouldn’t it be simpler to state your disagreement with the substance of the review and the book? Why not actually explain why you disagree that cultures of honor are cruel? Tell us where the authors and reviewer get it wrong substantively? Or are you so worried that pointing out the horrors of certain societies is the "neocon" pretext to send the country to war, that you have to dance about flapping specious rulebooks to impugn the integrity of a cabal of writers – essentially on the basis that they share a negative view of enslavement of women. Or perhaps you are among those paleo-conservatives who believe that when it comes to women, the Taliban run a very tight ship? (To borrow from Boris Johnson, or someone.)

      • Schlomotion

        It would be simpler, but my goal is not to be simpler. My goal is to describe the fundamental flaws of the structure, aims, and methods of an organization that I disagree with. I too hold a negative view on the enslavement of women. That doesn't mean I would attend a lecture that was plagiarized, or a lecture with the pretext of showing Muslim inferiority so that people will feel better about going to war. I don't like global warming, but that doesn't mean I would vote for Al Gore or want him in charge of a green economy Ponzi scheme, or listen to Ira Einhorn on Earth Day. Merely debating the arguments presented and the reviews presented by the authors is to accept that they are duly operating in good faith and with academic integrity, not simply making good arguments. A man about to get the electric chair makes excellent arguments, but how did he get in the chair?

        Academic Ponzi schemes are just as bad as financial Ponzi schemes. Why are you asking me to pardon a cabal and overlook the crooked means by which they achieve a pulpit for social criticism?

        • C.Geber

          So I was correct. I might have guessed you are a warmist. Warmists apply exactly the same tactics to demonize "deniers" : impugn their good faith as means of dismissing what is actually been said, and do so because the cause is more important than fact.
          Now we have Ponzi schemes. "Academic" ones at that. Worse than financial ones! And plagiarism, again.
          You are perfectly free to read or not to read anything you wish. You don't like the sermon? Leave the church. And who asked you to pardon anyone? The defendants, their guilt and the dock they stand in are all entirely your invention. A drama in your mind. Go ahead – lock up the prisoners in those cramped grey cells.

          • Schlomotion

            It is not my problem if because of ideology, you are on the wrong side of global warming and of breathing. That doesn't make me a "warmist." It makes you an energy lobbyist. That's your prerogative, if you want to dismiss tree rings and ice core samples and atmospheric data because you prefer Israel and oil to air and temperature.

            You are mighty quick to use Ernst Zundel's and David Duke's argument against me though. Accusing me of being in a cabal of denial-accusers to take the heat off of this unscrupulous group of writers glad-handing one another's work as insider promoters from the same company.

            You are also quick to banish me from the "church" of huckstering islamophobic authors. However, the church also runs bus ads all over major cities, attacks college campuses, infiltrates talk radio, and slanders candidates. The best way to leave this particular church is to dismantle it.

          • C.Geber

            "Dismantle"? Are we still in the realm of metaphor? Or are you entering the world of violence?
            If metaphorical, what does "dismantle" mean? Step by step – veil by veil – you come closer to revealing your naked despotism. Not pretty.

          • Schlomotion

            Not violently, but actually, such as how the PTL Club was dismantled after accounting fraud, books taken from shelves like Kaavya Viswanathan's. Shuttered like a boiler room bust. 501(c)(3) nonprofit statuses revoked for inurement. Open discussion in the press of bias and suppression. Cataloguing of the peer review fraud with source watchgroups. Association of repeat offenders with their networks for easy reference and vetting of guest speakers.

  • PAthena

    I'm glad that Aruna Papp has finally made public that the term "Multiculturalism" was invented by Pierre Elliot Trudeau. H invented it to deal with the situation in Quebec, with the Parti Quebecois campaigning for the separation of Quebec from Canada, French Canada vs. English Canada. Trudeau replied that Canada is a "multicultural" nation." He did not mean the nonsense that has since been used to justify the moral relativism that Aruna Papp describes, that all cultures are morally equal.

  • Stuart Parsons

    PLease stop insulting Schlomotion. !4 indeed ! He can't be a day over 4.

  • Ghostwriter

    And again,Schlomotion continues his run as FPM's village idiot.