Saturday, October 11, 2008

Naomi Wolf Puts a Bag on Her Head and Calls It Freedom

Joseph Orosco at Engage: Conversations in Philosophy, has a recent post regarding women choosing to wear bags over their heads and claiming it as a feminist act. In many ways, his post reflects what I've felt about this claim but have been unable to come up with nice words to describe my feelings. I tend to be more likely to laugh uproariously at such transparent ridiculousity. At any rate, go there, read his post. It also has a wonderful comparison between wearing the chador and learning pole dancing as feminist acts. READ IT, I say!

Joe links to a Naomi Wolf commentary which is much in need of discussion. Wolf (who, as the author of the classic The Beauty Myth, should know better! Come on, Naomi!) writes:
...many Muslim women I spoke with did not feel at all subjugated by the chador or the headscarf. On the contrary, they felt liberated from what they experienced as the intrusive, commodifying, basely sexualizing Western gaze.
This, according to Wolf, is GOOD.

Compare this to the message of The Beauty Myth: many Western women do not feel at all subjugated by the beauty requirements of cosmetic surgery and health-threatening diets. On the contrary, they feel liberated from what they experienced as the judgemental, insulting, basely de-sexualizing Western gaze. This, according to Wolf, is BAD.

A warning about Morocco from a poster at Lonely Planet says:
Word of warning for any females travelling alone or as a female-only group: the men of Marrakesh tend to voice their appreciation of the fairer sex. And when I say voice, I mean pester really; snake-like hissing, whispering Bonsoir in your ear, or general ogling (despite being covered up) - you have be [sic] warned...
(emphasis mine)Perhaps Morocco is alone in being a place where women get pestered even when covered up. I somehow doubt it.

Still, is unwanted attention “Western?” And if it happens even if a woman is covered, as in Morocco, are women “liberated” from it by covering? I think RELIEF is a better word to use in such situations than LIBERATE, and that perhaps covering oneself with a bag provides some small relief from constant harassment. Sometimes.

Having just finished reading The Beauty Myth, I would say that Wolf is slipping. In a chapter about cosmetic surgery (under the heading “Violence”), she writes that western women are forced have surgery in order to comply with the social requirement to remain beautiful (according to today’s pornalicious super-model standards). In "Hunger", she writes of how we are forced to diet ourselves sick for the same reason.

Perhaps it gives western women some relief when they surgically alter their faces and bodies, wear those fashionably sultry eye-shadows and the fashionable body-baring clothes, and shave their legs, since it prevents men from looking at them with that "look at the old hairy-legged lesbian hag in the baggy sweats" sneer-with-raised-eyebrow.

In her book, this is BAD. Women should be able to age naturally, to know themselves to be beautiful and be recognized as beautiful as individuals, rather than try to force ourselves into the beauty-myth template.

It is likely that the bagged women Ms Wolf has spoken to also feel relief that they are not harassed in the streets (sometimes) when they bag themselves. One woman Wolf spoke to said, “When I wear my headscarf or chador, people relate to me as an individual, not an object; I feel respected.” Is this respect? It sounds more like approval to me. Respect and approval are very different things.

In her commentary, this is GOOD. Women should be able to choose to hide themselves as a statement about the “Muslim attitudes toward women’s appearance and sexuality [which] are not rooted in repression, but in a strong sense of public versus private, of what is due to God and what is due to one’s husband.” Because men deciding women must wear bags except with their husbands isn’t repressive or anything, I guess. And attitudes towards women in Islam are not rooted in the belief that women are chattel or anything, I guess.[/sarcasm]

Is this any different from a surgically de-aged, dieted into frailness, dressed to fit the most recent arbitrary fashion requirements Western woman feeling as though she is respected, when most likely, she is only approved (USDA choice!) because she has squeezed herself into that template? Why is one considered a symbol of freedom and the other a symbol of patriarchy?

The last paragraph of Wolf’s commentary clears up the question of her agenda. She writes:
…when you choose your own miniskirt and halter top – in a Western culture in which women are not so free to age, to be respected as mothers, workers or spiritual beings, and to disregard Madison Avenue – it’s worth thinking in a more nuanced way about what female freedom really means.

Apparently her goal is to say that Muslim women who choose to bag themselves, and this is the MAJORITY of women in Egypt and Morocco, somehow have freedom that is greater than or equal to the freedom of Western women, who choose to wear miniskirts and halter tops or to disguise aging, all the while being disrespected as mothers, workers, and spiritual beings. I don’t see it. I don’t get it.

Is she saying Muslim women who wear bags are free to age, to be respected as mothers, workers or spiritual beings, and to disregard Madison Avenue? This after she has written, “At home, in the context of marital intimacy, Victoria’s Secret, elegant fashion, and skin care lotions abounded.” And then added a paean to the sensual dance brides are taught “as part of what makes her a wonderful wife.”

If the women Wolf spoke to feel disrespected, saying, “When I wear Western clothes, men stare at me, objectify me, or I am always measuring myself against the standards of models in magazines, which are hard to live up to – and even harder as you get older, not to mention how tiring it can be to be on display all the time.” What exactly are their choices? Put up with it or put a bag over your head? And I guess their husbands NEVER objectify them or make them feel too old, too fat, or not hot enough. I'd like to see that data.

If I feel disrespected for being a mother, for growing older without altering the evidence of my aging, for not wearing the latest haute couture from YSL or pornified fashion from JC Penney, for not trying to fit into some artificial mold, I talk about it. I find different people to hang around with. I work to change opinions. I exhibit my respectability. I teach my children about commercialism, ageism, sexism, and patriarchy. I don’t put a bag over my head and call it freedom.

There is more to discuss in Wolf’s commentary, specifically her belief that sexuality in the more modest culture of Islam is much healthier than here in the West. But that’s a different post. I’ll leave it with this for now: Again, we have an example of religious and political patriarchy protecting (or trying to protect) its child-like men from their baser instincts by keeping women under wraps. And it doesn’t even work.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

No Patriarchy in Southern Sudan - YET

I'm really tired of typing "When Patriarchy Makes the Rules." Can we just do away with the patriarchy now, please?

From MSNBC comes this tale from Juba, a town in southern Sudan. It seems several dozen women were arrested for "disturbing the peace" by wearing tight pants. Deputy Dawg, I mean Deputy Police Commissioner Raiman Lege said the trousers were just too darned tight!

The women were not charged, and were released the following day without charges (good!) after having been thrown into the back of a truck and spending the night in a Sudanese jail (bad!).

So, whose peace was disturbed? Let's see. The article mentions that south Sudan is a more liberal area than "the largely Muslim north" of Sudan. Juba is indeed in the south. The dateline of the article is quite confusing, since Juba is nowhere near Khartoum, which sits smack dab in the middle of the north, while the story location is "Juba, Khartoum." Northern Sudan is under a combination of British-style common law side-by-side with Islamic law (Sharia). Southern Sudan is nominally different, and is supposedly not required to comply with Sharia Law.

The majority of the population in southern Sudan practice animist or other indigenous religions, with small groups of both Christians and Muslims. Many citizens were angry with the arrest of the women, so one would logically want to know upon what authority the arrests were made. Is Deputy Dawg Christian or Muslim? Is there a "conquer from within" agenda among patriarchy supporters in southern Sudan? Have Sharia/patriarchy supporters infiltrated law enforcement in southern Sudan? Do some of the local religions require modest dress for women? I don't know.

If some law enforcement officials support Sharia, then the answer to "whose peace was disturbed" is: that of the child-like and impulsive Muslim men, who are, as usual, unable to control themselves at the sight of a woman's hips or legs and must be protected like babies from such a sight. If not, then perhaps the arresting officers or whoever gave the order to arrest the women has a problem with self-control and would blame women instead of their own personal failings. Either way it is fortunate that the court released the women without charges, though reprehensible that they had to spend the night in jail at all.

Still - Southern Sudan citizens, while I applaud your attempts to separate yourselves from the northern Sharia-infested legal system, your patriarchy is showing!

Photo credit: The Juba Post online

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

When Patriarchy Makes the Rules IV: Equal Opportunity

My last two posts addressed various patriarchal idiocies within specific Muslim and Jewish sects. Here, I would like to highlight a variety, well, just two for now, since this started to get pretty long, of patriarchal idiocies within various Christian sects.

On Sarah Palin:

Some group of christo-fascist freaks' blog, which also includes a section entitled "God's Hitlist [sic]":
You can’t call a woman who wants to be President a “lady”. That just ain’t gonna happen. I don’t mean to be a broken record but Sarah Palin’s gotta stay home with that poor little retard child of hers. Ain’t much else you can say about it. - Billy Bob Neck

From the same blog, having nothing to do with Sarah Palin, but I saw it and snorted tea out of my nose:
I noticed [on Conservapaedia] this astute and sobering observation concerning Hussein Obama’s birth certificate:
It’s interesting that they finally give the, so-called authentic, birth certificate number in this supposedly unfaked photo. It is 151 1961 - 010641. The reason I bring this up, and I think the REAL reason this was masked, is because numerological analysis shows something very disturbing. If you add up the three sets of digits thus:

151 + 1961 + 010641 = 12753

and then add the individual digits of the result thus:

1 + 2 + 7 + 5 + 3 = 18

the final result, 18, is the product of three sixes (3 x 6 = 18). Three sixes, or 666, sort of speaks for itself. I just thought this was interesting.

It’s not just interesting… it blows the whole Obama conspiracy wide open. Do the Demoncrats think that we wouldn’t notice that their candidate was the anti-Christ foretold in the book of Revelation? All it took was the god-given intellect of one Conservapedia reader to bust Obama’s devil-code wide open.

Yours in Christ,

Jimmy Goddard

Oh dear! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!

NOTE: I do not recommend you go to this blog. It is mostly just bizarre, and in addition to the numerology crap above, also has a post about Senator Obama being a secret Voodoo practitioner. However, it is also an anti-choice blog and has some nasty photos.


From the LA Times:
"The Palin selection is the single most dangerous event in the conscience of the Christian community in the last 10 years at least," said Doug Phillips, president of Vision Forum, a Texas-based ministry. "The unabashed, unquestioning support of Sarah Palin and all she represents marks a fundamental departure from our historic position of family priorities -- of moms being at home with young children, of moms being helpers to their husbands, the priority of being keepers of the home."

Some of the debate centers on whether the Bible allows women to serve as civil leaders. Vision Forum leaders argue that it does not. They cite passages in Genesis, Isaiah, Ephesians and elsewhere that they say establishes male headship over women and are critical of female leadership.

I'll leave it there for now since this is long. Readers be aware that I do not support McCain/Palin. I have many, many, many reasons for this (no room here to list - maybe later), though, and Gov. Palin's womanhood is most definitely NOT one of them. She can work where ever she wants as far as I'm concerned, and she has plenty of money to hire nannies and housekeepers. It would be nice, though, if she would at least publicly recognize her privilege, instead of the bogus folksy aw-shucks crap.

Monday, October 6, 2008

When Patriarchy Makes the Rules III

Who'd a thunk there would be two of these brought to my attention in one day?

My previous post was in regard to a Muslim cleric in Saudi Arabia who has decided that women wearing black bags over their heads and bodies with only a slit for their eyes is insufficient and that women should cover all but one eye.

Now I've seen this article which includes descriptions of a man breaking into a woman's apartment and violently beating her while hurling death threats for being divorced(this is old news, and one article claims there were at least six other men involved in the beating,) a young woman from Bet Shemesh attacked with pepper spray by a group of men for walking around with some boys in Jerusalem, and rocks, curses, and spit being thrown at another young woman, also from Bet Shemesh, for wearing a red shirt.

As an extra, a Jerusalem store was vandalized by groups of men several times, and finally was torched, but not completely destroyed by a man or group of men, for selling MP4 players.

The divorced woman was under suspicion from the local modesty patrol for possibly having contact with men. Her attackers stole her cell phone, possibly to try to find out who she had called.

The girl attacked with pepper spray horrified the modesty patrol by walking with a group of young men.

The girl in the red shirt was attacked because red shirts draw attention.

The MP4 players might have been purchased and used to access the internet (forbidden!) and download porn.

The store that was vandalized and burned now has signs announcing that it no longer sells MP4 players and is under rabbinical supervision.

In addition to these tales of stupidity, chattelization of women, and haredi men's inability to control themselves, this article adds that stores selling clothing considered immodest have also been vandalized by these modesty patrols whose members throw bleach or otherwise destroy the merchandise.

The photo above, if you can't read it, says the following, transcribed without histrionic capitalization, bolding, and font size:
To women and girls who pass through our neighborhood
We beg you with all our hearts
Please do not pass
Through our neighborhoods in
Immodest clothes
Modest clothes include Closed blouse with long sleeves
Long skirt, no trousers, no tight fitting clothes
Please do not disturb the sanctity of our neighborhood
And our way of life as Jews committed to G-D and his Torah

What it doesn't say is:
Our men are unable to control their impulses
They are like children
Or 19th century sexually repressed Victorian men
Who could go batshit crazy with lust
Upon viewing a woman's ankle
Or wrist
Or arm or shoulder
Or leg or even the shape of a leg
If you tempt our men in such a fashion
We will hurt you
And it will be YOUR fault.

Stupid gits.

Photo credit: Kansas City e-Star, Sebastian Scheiner

When Patriarchy Makes the Rules II

What can one do but laugh to keep from crying:

One Saudi Muslim cleric has called for women to COVER ALL BUT ONE EYE! It seems that allowing two eyes to be seen is just too seductive, or rather, it tempts women to put makeup on those eyes, making them too seductive.

Ya know, if you are a man and you see two female eyes through a slit in a black bag over a woman's head and you just can't control your lust, it is not the problem of the woman.

Ya know, women wearing black bags over their heads and bodies, as required in Saudi Arabia, has not, not, not stopped rape from being a common occurrence in that country.

I could go on and on and on about just Saudi Arabia alone, and its backassward WOMEN = PROPERTY crap. And now dude says showing two eyes is too seductive. What the fuck ever, dumbass. Learn to control yourself.

It seems that Islam, at least in this particular sect, makes children of men, unable to control their childish and barbaric impulses. And of course, it's the women's fault! Even when they're wearing black bags.

Ridiculous and sad.