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Being and becoming

A commenter pointed out a storify in a comment and I took a look at it. What I saw made me curious about the person behind it so I looked at her Twitter and that led me to her blog. Her most recent post there is titled So, What’s It Like Being a White Muslim, Anyway? The title is symptomatic of the post itself.

It’s a stupid title, because Islam is not officially unwhite, and because it represents a category mistake. It’s getting to be a boring trope to point out that Islam is not a race, but all the same, it’s not, even though it’s true that Muslims are often treated as a despised racial group. Islam is not a race and “White” is not a religion.

Ok but one gets what she means. Islam is not in fact a race but Muslims are mostly de facto non-white; a Muslim who is white is usually a convert or possibly a child of converts; there are social and political issues one can talk about. Yes. But one can talk about them well, or one can talk about them badly. This blogger, who calls herself Ms Muslamic and The Hijabinist, does not talk about them well.

I can divide my life neatly into two phases: the phase where I was Average Cis White Girl and the phase where I became Hijab-Wearing Muslim Woman.

Does it jump out at you the way it jumped out at me? It’s just one, introductory sentence, but she replicates it repeatedly – the thing that jumped out at me.

She didn’t stop being Cis or White when she converted to Islam. Why does she oppose Cis White Girl to Hijab-Wearing Muslim Woman? Why isn’t it Cis White Girl as opposed to Cis White Hijab-Wearing Muslim Woman? (I won’t quibble with girl/woman, since at least the chronology matches.)

The replications:

As a White cis woman I’d experienced misogyny and sexism, but the way I get treated now is considerably worse than anything I encountered back then…

This transition was made worse by the fact that Cis White Feminism does not (in general) support or respect Muslim women. When I converted, I went overnight from having Cis White Feminism speak for my experience and respect my input to having that exact same feminism ignore me, marginalise me, silence me and patronise me. I stopped being an intelligent, independent person who was welcomed into the global sisterhood and started being a rescue project for Orientalist feminist do-gooders. The change was jarring. But thankfully when I got pushed out to the margins I discovered a whole bunch of other people who had also been pushed to the margins by mainstream feminism and we bonded on twitter and now it’s awesome. So you can keep your Mean Girls Cis White Feminism because it’s not helping me anyway.

I’m not asking for some kind of special treatment or implying that I somehow have it worse than other people. Fighting oppression is not a zero-sum game. You can recognise that my experience has been difficult and painful in a number of ways without also implying that the experience of Muslim PoC is less worthy of attention. Nobody deserves to be dehumanised by society as a whole. Nobody deserves to live in fear because of their religion. Likewise I think I can say “Hey, being a White Muslim has its own particular set of complicated problems” without implying that I’m more important than women of colour, trans women, women with disabilities or other women pushed to the margins of mainstream Cis White Feminism.

What’s she doing with this? I think she’s trying to make the case that feminism isn’t intersectional enough…except of course for feminism that is intersectional enough, which would be feminism that isn’t “White” or “Cis”…and it’s actually somewhat tricky to find any feminism that is explicitly officially White, though it’s less tricky to find feminism that’s explicitly officially Cis. But still, one gets the idea, not least because it’s an idea that’s been around as long as second-wave feminism has – that a lot of the most visible feminism tends to be middle-class and all that goes with it, and thus not very good at addressing class and race and the other ways people are marginalized. (Funny though that the blogger doesn’t include “straight” or “heterosexual” among her axes of marginalization. I wonder why that is; I wonder if it was conscious.)

One gets the idea, but it’s still a very tendentious, and in my view unfair, binary. It loads the dice.

Another thing about that first sentence I cited.

I can divide my life neatly into two phases: the phase where I was Average Cis White Girl and the phase where I became Hijab-Wearing Muslim Woman.

“Became” is an odd word to use. One doesn’t just “become” a Muslim, the way a girl becomes a woman over time. One decides to be a Muslim; one converts, in short, to Islam. It’s not passive, it’s active. It’s not something that happens to you, it’s something you make up your mind to do. That’s all the more the case with the “Hijab-Wearing” bit. She’s in the UK, so she’s not in a place where the hijab is forced on all Muslim women.

Obviously all this is more or less peripheral; my real objection to her post is the usual one: that it treats criticism of Islam as racism and thus taboo, while I think Islam should be wide open to criticism along with all other religions, because religions are systems of ideas that make massive claims on people. But the rhetoric of this move is interesting.

Comments

  1. Shatterface says

    Usually when someone says they were once a white cis woman I expect them to announce they’re now a white trans male. This is kinda like saying I used to be a two legged woman now I’m a woman with two legs but also a Muslim.

    When I converted, I went overnight from having Cis White Feminism speak for my experience and respect my input to having that exact same feminism ignore me, marginalise me, silence me and patronise me

    She’s going to love the inclusivity and empowerment of a hijab wearing Muslim then.

    Converts are like recovering alcoholics and ex-smokers: they tend to become parodies of people who don’t drink and don’t smoke. Sounds more like she converted as a ‘Fuck you!’ gesture: she doesn’t have a great deal to say about the faith itself, just about the fashion accessories.

  2. says

    There’s a paragraph in there where she says it’s private, it’s none of your business (her reasons for converting)…and yet she is in fact making it public, by blogging (and tweeting and Storifying) about it, so no it’s not private. Not a very careful thinker overall.

  3. Shatterface says

    “Became” is an odd word to use. One doesn’t just “become” a Muslim, the way a girl becomes a woman over time. One decides to be a Muslim; one converts, in short, to Islam. It’s not passive, it’s active

    Temporal lobe epilepsy or schizophrenia can induce religious ‘epiphanies’. That would explain how she could divide her life ‘neatly’ into before and after conversion without a messy transitional period of soul searching and ‘spiritual awakening’ in between.

    Or she could be exaggerating the difference for effect.

  4. Shatterface says

    I mentioned on another thread that I think what we’re seeing here and elsewhere is a mutation of the ‘Feminazi’ trope now being targeted at feminism by people nominally on the Left.

    The adoption of anti-colonial analogies by feminists – women’s bodies being colonised by men, etc. – seems to have been twisted by some to the point where a dedication to anti-colonialism trumps actual feminism.

  5. anjvs says

    I’ve followed her on twitter for a long time, and she often writes about how people are read: we read gender, age, sexuality, race, ability, class, intelligence, etc into people as soon as we see them. She’s talked about how the way she is read in those axes has changed since she converted. The fact of her hijab often causes people to read her differently than she is.

    And quibbling with the word ‘becam’ seems unnecessary. We also say ‘I became a vegetarian.’ Becoming can represent an active, conscious choice.

  6. rnilsson says

    One can also “become” addicted, but the question of agency often plays some part in that drama too.

  7. says

    anjvs – maybe the fact of her hijab does cause people to read her differently from the way she is, but that’s rather the point of the hijab after all. It’s not neutral or empty of meaning; it’s loaded with meaning; that’s why there is so much enforcement of it. I’m afraid I think it’s pretty stupid to choose to wear it while meaning the opposite of what it (seems to) say – to choose to wear it against the grain. It means what it means. If I go out in public wearing a swastika, it would be stupid of me to be surprised when people read me as endorsing Nazism.

  8. Katherine Woo says

    Her biggest category error is failing to see how she went from liberal-derived politics to the far right and then wonders why people on the left are not interested in listening to her.

    The hijab is a symbol of inegalitarian sexual mores. A person who dons it has rejected a core, non-negotiable aspect of liberalism and more leftwing thought.

    Liberals and leftists may disagree on what constitutes equality, but we all reject a notion of systemic inequality being acceptable. Islam is rife with systemic inequality, with the hijab being the most glaring everyday symbol. For gender, the Quran has numerous irreconcilable-with-liberalism commandments on inheritance rights of women, the weight of our testimony, and most troublingly, the explicit allowance of sexual slavery.

    If she adopted a racist garment as explicit as the hijab is misogynistic, we would not even need to have this discussion. Her status as an automatic denizen of the far right would be deemed self-evident. It just shows how low gender equality is in the leftwing political order that a woman can reject it and then still plausibly play to various liberal or leftwing sentiments. To me it rings as hollow as homophobes complaining marriage equality tramples on their ‘freedom of speech’ or whatever.

    ***

    As a decidedly non-white-non-white, I see North Africans, Arabs, Iranians, Afghanis, Turks, and Caucasian as white as any European, whiter even than some Southern Europeans. Ophelia made a thoughtful remark in noting they are “de facto non-white”. Historically ethnographic classification did consider the peoples of the Middle East and North Africa to be in the same general class as Europeans, but European racists obviously did not in effect (i.e. de facto non-white).

  9. says

    Wow. Y’all are truly special.

    Speculating that someone must be mentally ill to have converted because they used a common idiom? Ableist and disgusting.

    Comparing the hijab to the symbol of a genocidal regime? Nasty. Do you say the same thing about Orthodox Jewish women who cover their hair, or just Muslims?

    Deciding someone is aligned with the far right because they wear a symbol you think is sexist? Faugh. If any of you read Hijabinist you’d know how untrue that is. Then again, I don’t attack nuns, Amish, Quaker, Muslim, Sikh, Catholic or any other believer just for wearing a religious headcovering, nor assume that I know their politics or that their politics are determined by their religious choices.

    This is supposed to be “free thought blogs” but what I’m seeing here is pure reactionary garbage and self-aggrandizing backpatting at how ideologically pure you are and others aren’t. I’ll listen to Hijabinist over this crap any day.

  10. says

    Mentally ill? Where did you get that?

    And no, don’t worry, I can see that she considers herself to be on the left, but the point is that it’s delusional to think that wearing hijab is leftwing.

  11. Jeska says

    You people aren’t too bright are you? It’s obvious that she mentioned her cis status to give a clearer image of how seemingly “normal” (obviously a hetronormative, anglo-centric, view of “normality”) she was prior to her conversion. After her conversion, her religion becomes a larger part of her identity which is why she drops the other terms (which were intentionally superfluous anyways) and refers to her attire instead.
    Saying that, anyone who believes that you can’t “become” a Muslim obviously isn’t living in the real world. It doesn’t take a logician to understand why such a statement makes sense.

    So long as this random blogger isn’t going about trying to forcibly convert others, it really isn’t her job to provide all that much detail on why she chose Islam. She clearly didn’t think it relevant at the time and I’m inclined to agree.

  12. Katherine Woo says

    I don’t attack nuns, Amish, Quaker, Muslim, Sikh, Catholic or any other believer just for wearing a religious headcovering, nor assume that I know their politics or that their politics are determined by their religious choices.

    This passage is pretty much defines what religious privilege looks like. Religious symbols of inequality are proudly ‘off-limits’ to some leftists…because religion.

    Elizabeth if you want to come back and actually lay out a case of how the hijab is not fundamentally inegalitarian and rooted in misogynistic sexual mores, then please do so. But unless you take up an actual argument, all you offered was a big steaming bowl of whataboutery (a word I can thank the Guardian readership for teaching me).

  13. says

    @ 14 – no, it’s not obvious. “Cis” isn’t just another word for ‘how seemingly “normal”’ one is. Anyway you go on to say the word was “intentionally superfluous” and that was my point.

  14. Nikki says

    One doesn’t just “become” a Muslim, the way a girl becomes a woman over time. One decides to be a Muslim; one converts, in short, to Islam. It’s not passive, it’s active. It’s not something that happens to you, it’s something you make up your mind to do.”

    I actually feel that this is a silly thing to quibble about. “Become” is an appropriate word to use. The act of converting to Islam–or any other faith for that matter–isn’t something that’s done in a second. You have to spend some time learning about the faith. What else would you suggest?

    If she adopted a racist garment as explicit as the hijab is misogynistic, we would not even need to have this discussion. Her status as an automatic denizen of the far right would be deemed self-evident. It just shows how low gender equality is in the leftwing political order that a woman can reject it and then still plausibly play to various liberal or leftwing sentiments. To me it rings as hollow as homophobes complaining marriage equality tramples on their ‘freedom of speech’ or whatever.

    What in the hell. Who are you to decide what her political orientation is? Feminism is about making the choice to do and be what you want–whether that’s being a woman devoted to her career, a stay-at-home mom of 4, or, YES, a convert to Islam. Just because YOU don’t like the hijab doesn’t mean you get to decide for her what her identity is.

    Also, comparing a hijab to a swastika is just gross. Y’all should be ashamed of yourselves. A hijab =/= symbol of genocide.

  15. says

    People are pitching huge fits on Twitter and Facebook because I compared wearing the hijab and pretending it doesn’t say anything with wearing a swastika and pretending it doesn’t say anything. Ok, make it a yellow star then.

    Except that’s not a great parallel, because no one is forced to wear a yellow star today, or beaten up or killed for not wearing one today. Women are beaten up or killed for not wearing the hijab today. I think it’s sinister for women who have the good fortune not to be vulnerable to that risk, to start wearing the hijab and pretend it has no baggage of that kind. It has baggage. It’s not just a religious garment that people can wear or not wear, as they choose.

  16. John Morales says

    Jeska @14:

    You people aren’t too bright are you? […] Saying that, anyone who believes that you can’t “become” a Muslim obviously isn’t living in the real world. It doesn’t take a logician to understand why such a statement makes sense.

    Presumably, this vacuous retort refers to Ophelia’s clarification that ““Became” is an odd word to use. One doesn’t just “become” a Muslim, the way a girl becomes a woman over time. One decides to be a Muslim; one converts, in short, to Islam. It’s not passive, it’s active. It’s not something that happens to you, it’s something you make up your mind to do.”

    (It makes sense, but there is more than one sense in which it can be applied, and Ophelia draws a clear distinction which to which you are ostensibly purblind)

    It’s obvious that she mentioned her cis status to give a clearer image of how seemingly “normal” (obviously a hetronormative, anglo-centric, view of “normality”) she was prior to her conversion.

    Leaving aside how normal a person who converts to a particularly primitive and regressive type of thinking may have been, surely you don’t imagine she has lost her cis status post-conversion!

    So long as this random blogger isn’t going about trying to forcibly convert others, it really isn’t her job to provide all that much detail on why she chose Islam. She clearly didn’t think it relevant at the time and I’m inclined to agree.

    You may concur that why someone would choose to adopt a magical worldview wherein they become an inferior, subject creature both within and without that worldview is irrelevant, but I don’t.

    (She has less power over her own affairs than do the men in her life, if she is true to her professed faith)

  17. jagwired says

    Nobody deserves to live in fear because of their religion.

    This sentence is from Ms Muslamic’s post and it gave me pause. Shouldn’t it be obvious to her (as a woman) that a great deal of undeserved fear could be derived directly from her religion? What if she wasn’t an “Average Cis White Girl” living in the UK, with the freedom to remove her Hijab any fucking time she pleased? What about all the other people that live in fear because of her or others preferred religion?

  18. Katherine Woo says

    Ophelia, I find it refreshing to see a public feminist like yourself who is not buckling to the outrage machine. You are being brave in saying what needs to be said.

    Unfortunately the absurd spectacle of many a self-described feminists fervently defending a misogynistic symbol is why I simply cannot stomach calling myself a feminist anymore.

  19. says

    see. None of you can or will defend attacking a Muslim woman for doing something Orthodox Jewish women also do. You’ll just misuse the term privilege and continue comparing the hijab to the swastika as if that is defensible and not grossly disrespectful to victims of genocide. You’re grotesque.

  20. says

    Ms. Benson, you’ve written a blog post facially deconstructing another blog post (on changes in perception of the author once the author began wearing hijab) that boils down to simply not liking her tone or the quality of her writing. If you “don’t understand” a blog post or think it’s poorly written, you could always comment on it on the author’s blog and engage in a dialogue with them, a dialogue that might lead to refined ideas of mutual benefit. Yet, you chose not to. You chose to write your own, incredibly thin, blog post, here, thereby avoiding any interaction with the original author.

    You say @ 17 that it’s “sinister” for women to wear hijab and pretend it has no baggage, but Hijabinist makes no such point.

    The most reasonable and disappointing inference from this set of facts is that you needed content for this blog, quickly, you saw a post somewhere that you could take up something resembling a contrary position to for a few paragraphs, and you jumped on it. You’re right, at the end, to admit that your ‘criticisms’ are all “more or less peripheral”, since your post does not address Hijabinist’s discussion of the interweaving of race and religion in people’s reactions to her as white Muslim.

    The other reasonable and disappointing inference is that Hijabinist’s post made you uncomfortable. Do you have a knee-jerk reaction that muslims can’t or shouldn’t be white? That could be racist bias talking. Let’s talk about that content, if you want to have an interesting discussion about racial perceptions and Islam. There’s a lot in Hijabinist’s post, and you’ve simply ignored it. Why?

  21. Draconaes says

    Elizabeth McClellan @21

    To nitpick, there is a difference between comparing and equating. Also, I don’t believe anyone has actually compared the hijab to the swastika here. Ophelia compared, in her words, “wearing the hijab and pretending it doesn’t say anything with wearing a swastika and pretending it doesn’t say anything”.

    “Wearing the hijab and pretending it doesn’t say anything” =/= “the hijab”
    “Wearing a swastika and pretending it doesn’t say anything” =/= “the swastika”

    She is comparing actions, not symbols/objects. Hopefully that clears up some confusion.

  22. H2s says

    Hm. I live in Tower Hamlets, which has more than its fair share of white Muslim converts.
    The vast majority are girls who convert because they fell in love with a Muslim man,
    I see that we are supposed to pretend that we don’t know this, and not react in the standard way which is “What a stupid girl, giving up her freedom and identity for a silly youthful idea of love. Duh.” It’s basically impossible not to think that’s, because the number of white women who convert for any other reason is basically zero.

    My sister works occasionally in a battered women’s shelter. White Muslim converts are massively over represented. Are we supposed to pretend that isn’t true?

  23. Nepenthe says

    Fine Elizabeth. I find it horrifying when Orthodox Jewish women buy into the ideas about how they are unclean and wear head coverings. If an Orthodox Jewish women who follows the laws of niddah claims to be a feminist or a progressive, I would criticize her. I’m sure Ms. Benson would do the same.

    Happy?

  24. Graham Mullan says

    I remember a friend, about forty years ago, who married an Iranian man. At that time these matters were not as well known in the UK as they are now. Some, who knew her and also had experience of Muslim countries were horrified and tried to warn her how different her life would become. She did not listen, but a few years later, she returned chastened and divorced (civil, UK). I suppose in this respect her experience equates to that described above by H2s except that theirs happened in London and my friend’s happened in Tehran. This was IIRC before Khomeni returned from Paris.

  25. Katherine Woo says

    Elizabeth, I find Orthodox Jewish misogyny just as reprehensible. Since Orthodox Jews are probably less than one-half of 1% of all humanity, forgive us for focusing on the world’s second largest religion instead. Now that at least two of us here have humored your purity test, can you actually make the direct defense of the hijab I requested earlier?

  26. says

    ^ #25 It could easily be that white patriarchy makes victims of mainstream (non-Muslim) DV are less likely to go to the shelter, or even observation bias makes it less likely to notice when it is “normal” women getting there. I mean, you have anecdote not data and your observation is a victim of bias.

    The whole discussion reeks of Islamophobia. Atheists treating Islam as if it was a monolithical evil religion. In the case of Christians, occidentals are more likely to admit/be aware that Christians come in all flavors and shapes. Like, if I see someone wearing a cross, I don’t downright assume it is a creationist who wants to move evolution out of all schools and also believes in homosexual conversion therapy. Why can’t we give this benefit to people who are Muslim? Please note that Ophelia is the one who just decided that the Hijab is a misogynistic symbol. But this seems to say more about Ophelia having a partial view of Islam as a religion with only extremists and no moderates.

    Also, it is a shame to me as an Atheist that someone can get away with comparing converting to a religion to Temporal lobe epilepsy or Schizophrenia and not get called out at all.

  27. Emma Lou Grey says

    (Funny though that the blogger doesn’t include “straight” or “heterosexual” among her axes of marginalization. I wonder why that is; I wonder if it was conscious.)

    Your comment here about wondering if it was conscious implies that her decisions were born from some manner of mental problem. If that’s what you mean, then that’s an utterly appalling thing to say, amongst other things. If that isn’t what you meant, please clarify.

    I think the biggest problem here is that you can’t seem to grasp that there are Muslim women that don’t feel oppressed, and you and others like you, refuse to acknowledge that.

  28. freemage says

    I would be no less critical of a cis white woman who wanted to be considered a feminist and leftist after joining the Quiverfull movement. I don’t care why they joined, or what motivated them. What I see is that they are openly supporting a system that oppresses and shames women. The only real difference between the two is one of visibility–a hijab-wearing Muslim woman is recognizable immediately, at a distance; a Quiverfull mother isn’t going to be obvious unless she actually starts talking about her faith or the belief structures that surround it.

    And yes, this does mean that the former is going to get targeted in a way that the latter won’t–intersectionality teaches us that predators and oppressors inherently go for those they perceive to be weakest or most vulnerable. And yes, some of the author’s complaints in that column are valid, too. She says she’s been accused of ‘appropriation’, for instance, and that would be a flatly ignorant accusation to make–she hasn’t appropriated the symbol of misogyny, she’s adopted it.

    The hijab is a ‘moderate’ symbol of oppression, but it is one, and there’s no reason for the author to get a pass because it is less powerful than the swastika.

  29. says

    Please note that Ophelia is the one who just decided that the Hijab is a misogynistic symbol. But this seems to say more about Ophelia having a partial view of Islam as a religion with only extremists and no moderates.

    Not at all. You seem to be assuming that all Muslim women wear the hijab, but “moderates” (I would prefer to call them liberals or secular democrats [e.g. Tehmina Kazi]) are much less likely to wear the hijab, let alone see it as obligatory.

    I haven’t “just decided” that the hijab is a misogynistic symbol. I’m not the one person on earth who thinks that.

    Moderates, secularists, liberals, democrats tend to be the ones who resist the pressure to “cover up” while the fundamentalists are the ones who apply the pressure. It’s always bizarre (or worse) to see “Western” liberals siding with the latter rather than the former.

  30. S Mukherjee says

    @Nikki: “Feminism is about making the choice to do and be what you want … ”

    No, no it is not. Feminism is about fighting institutionalised, entrenched discrimination against women in almost all levels of society, and in every society. Feminism is about making people recognise the full human status of women. You can’t make stupid, harmful choices and then claim that it is totally righteous because of feminism.

  31. Andrea Harris says

    I want to know just one thing: are any of you Concerned Ones who are so worried about Fatihah’s choice of headwear actually going to address her directly about it? Or are you going to continue to talk about her as if she were a stupid child and not a grown human being with access to the internet who can see everything you say?

    Really, this whole conversation is the most egregious display of rudeness I’ve seen on the internet in a long time, and I’ve been on the internet for a very long time indeed. Simply disgraceful.

  32. Sassafras says

    It’s obvious that she mentioned her cis status to give a clearer image of how seemingly “normal” (obviously a hetronormative, anglo-centric, view of “normality”) she was prior to her conversion.

    Considering that the entire point of cis as a descriptor was to challenge the idea that non-trans people are “normal” while trans people are freaks, using cis as a synonym for “normal” is completely misguided at best. I can’t speak for all trans people but I’d certainly love it if cis folks would fucking stop using our terminology just to make themselves look socially aware while ignoring our actual needs.

  33. says

    ^ That. That is certainly what it looked like to me – just throwing in the word as a marker for intersectional and right-on and yes socially aware, then going on to talk as if being Muslim meant not being cis.

  34. says

    “Except that’s not a great parallel, because no one is forced to wear a yellow star today, or beaten up or killed for not wearing one today. Women are beaten up or killed for not wearing the hijab today. I think it’s sinister for women who have the good fortune not to be vulnerable to that risk, to start wearing the hijab and pretend it has no baggage of that kind. It has baggage. It’s not just a religious garment that people can wear or not wear, as they choose.”

    I don’t get this – at all. Are you saying that because some women are forced to wear Hijab (of various kinds) that women and girls that have the choice to cover or not should not do so?

    If you want everyone to be responsible for the “baggage” of the hijab, you might want to consider that outlawing the hijab also has baggage – also weighs on the political message that covering might convey.

    http://sinmantyx.wordpress.com/2012/06/19/so-should-we-outlaw-covering-or-not-covering-cause-we-have-to-outlaw-something-right/

    Or perhaps, we could stop blaming women who cover for theocratic Islamic oppression. That’s a choice we have. But, you know, blaming women IS a pretty popular thing.

    I think you’re wrong on this one.

  35. says

    @ 34 and everyone else who said that – what’s this business about talking to the author of a post instead of blogging about the post? Since when is that a rule? Bloggers write about other people’s blog posts; that’s normal; it’s not aberrant.

    And did the blogger talk to “Cis White Feminists” before she trashed them? Not that she mentioned.

  36. says

    @ 38

    Yes, that’s what I’m saying. Yes I think women should not choose to wear the hijab, for the reason you suggest. Even more, I think they should not sing the praises of the “choice” while ignoring the realities about women who don’t get the choice.

    I don’t know why you mention banning; saying people should not do something does not equal saying it should be banned.

    Yes I know you think I’m wrong on this one; I’ve seen a few tweets on the subject.

  37. noxiousnan says

    Sidra Vitale @ 23, the only way that you could reasonably come up with the inferences that you did would be if you had never read Ophelia Benson’s blog before. Now that you’re here, why don’t you stick around for awhile, or if not, at least dispense with the silly notion you can reasonably assume the intent of others with such little evidence.

  38. Katherine Woo says

    @Andrea Harris (34)

    Or are you going to continue to talk about her as if she were a stupid child and not a grown human being with access to the internet who can see everything you say?

    Unless Ophelia is nefariously blocking her, I would guess she is free to post here. You seem to have found your way here without any difficulties.

    FTB appears to allow anyone to post without preemptive moderation. I wonder what portion of the post critical of the Hijabanist would survive moderation by Shakesville, for example. And at her personal blog, we would be totally at her mercy.

    Really, this whole conversation is the most egregious display of rudeness I’ve seen on the internet in a long time, and I’ve been on the internet for a very long time indeed. Simply disgraceful.

    Lol. Then for all your vaunted experience on the Interwebs, you must never visit Yahoo, youtube, Facebook, Reddit, the Guardian, Slate, DailyKos,….

  39. Katherine Woo says

    @Emma Lou Grey (30)

    I think the biggest problem here is that you can’t seem to grasp that there are Muslim women that don’t feel oppressed, and you and others like you, refuse to acknowledge that.

    If that is how you see us, albeit speaking only for myself, then you are woefully off the mark.

    First of all, your post implies that if one can successfully indoctrinate a woman into misogyny, and she does not overtly feel oppressed, then all is hunky dory. That is sick and antithetical to feminism as S Mukherjee pointed out quite nicely.

    In turn I criticize the hijab to give support to those women who either actively or privately have misgiving about such a blatant instrument of sexual inegalitarianism. I speak for the underdog defying centuries of Islamic misogyny and the inane presumption in Western discourse that religions are due some mindless, automatic ‘respect.’

    What astounds me about people like you is how you swallow these conservative, or I should say, reactionary, apologetics hook, line, and sinker. Frankly it is like you simply want the easiest out you can manage, so you can go back to your privilege unmolested by accusations of ‘Islamophobia’ and the like.

  40. says

    @41: I’m not obligated to review the history of a blog or the body of work of a blogger before commenting on an individual blog post. If you want to try to hold me to that requirement then you must also hold Ms. Benson to it and require her to do the same before commenting on the Hijabinist’s post on being a white muslim. What you are engaging in instead is a silencing tactic, by asserting that I must have some arbitrary credential set out by you before I am allowed to engage in debate. I refuse to recognize your right to tell me whether I can engage in debate in the public sphere.

    @39: Ms. Benson, I asked that question about engaging with the Hijabinist because you ask “what does she mean?”, as if you want to know the answer to that question. Yet you ask it where you won’t get an answer other than the one you put in her mouth.

    —-

    I count 9 paragraphs in this post, not counting quotes of the Hijabinist’s original post. The first is introductory. The second criticizes the title and claims boredom with a trope. The third implies that you have to talk well in order to be allowed to talk at all (the same fundamental tactic @ 41 tried on me – that if you don’t talk right or have the right education, for some arbitrary definition of right, then your argument can be ignored). The fourth and fifth take offense at the Hijabinist’s shorthand for being a member of all the right privileged majorities (save gender). The sixth attributes an argument to the Hijabinist and attempts rebuttal. The seventh (tendentious) complains about tone, and the eighth, about verb choice (“became”). The last paragraph admits the entire blog post is tangential and implicitly attributes another argument to the Hijabinist to attempt its rebuttal.

    What I see, broken down like this paragraph by paragraph, are multiple tactics used to silence feminists all the time, being used in this instance to attempt to silence a discussion on race. Interesting move.

  41. John Morales says

    [meta]

    Sidra Vitale @44:

    What I see, broken down like this paragraph by paragraph, are multiple tactics used to silence feminists all the time, being used in this instance to attempt to silence a discussion on race. Interesting move.

    A singularly ineffectual set of silencing tactics, then, since you certainly haven’t been silenced.

    (Almost as if they were, um, ‘criticism’, instead of “silencing tactics”)

  42. says

    Damn. Busted. Sidra Vitale got me: that’s what I’m doing here, what I’ve always been doing: using every tactic I can think of (asking rhetorical questions, disputing claims, analyzing language and arguments) to silence feminists. Yup. That’s me all right.

  43. Asma says

    So, I am a muslim convert and I wear hijab. I am also a feminist. I am cisgendered, but not heterosexual.
    I am not white, but converting to islam and deciding to wear hijab definitely had a big impact on how I am perceived in terms of race. So I went to read Hijabinist’s blogpost and thought I was gonna find it interesting.

    I didn’t find it that interesting, and I found it flawed in many ways. I agree with you about the “white cis girl” thing, and more importantly I agree with you about the “becoming” thing. Indeed, converting to islam is a decision, and wearing hijab is even more so, but her whole article avoids this and it is as if the conversion and the hijab are just things that happened to her. Several things in her article seemed unconvincing to me. And so reading your blogpost, Ophelia, I felt like I agreed with pretty much all of what you said. That’s because you didn’t say much of what you meant, and I hadn’t understood what you implied.

    Now, the comments section is a different matter, where you got much more explicit and said very stupid things. I am extremely shocked by many statements here.
    No, the hijab doesn’t have a single meaning. It has many different meanings. The meaning of the hijab is the meaning each hijab-wearing woman decides to give it. It can have different meanings for one hijab-wearing woman, simultaneously or through different times of her life. It is YOUR decision to reduce it to a symbol of oppression and discrimination.
    Not every woman who wears hijab considers it an obligatory religious prescription. I do not consider a muslim woman who doesn’t wear hijab a “bad muslim”, do not think that she will go to hell. as a feminist, I consider it a woman’s freedom of choice to decide exactly how much she wants to cover or show, and what she wants to wear. and I am far from being the only hijab-wearing muslim woman who is entirely convinced of this.
    I wear hijab because I feel good in it, because I feel comfortable wearing it.

    skirts, garter-belts, lipstick, high heels, are also things that women wear, that society says men are not supposed to wear. any such item is a “symbol of sexist oppression”. but the idea wouldn’t come to your mind to question the mental health or intelligence or coherence of a woman wearing lipstick who calls herself a feminist. women choose to wear whatever they wanna wear for many different reasons. judging a woman on what she is wearing instead of what she says, thinks, writes, is very sexist.

    my mom was kicked out from high school when she was a teenager because she wore trousers to school, at a time when girls weren’t allowed to wear anything but skirts. that was one context in which wearing skirts was the norm, and wearing trousers was subversive. today, some women feel like wearing skirts and high heels is an act of empowerment and freedom, because some men harass women in the street for dressing “too sexy”. so today, in some contexts, wearing a skirt and high heels instead of trousers and flats is subversive and emancipatory. some other women feel like dressing in very unsexy clothes, not wearing make up, etc, is a way for them to refuse to cater to the male gaze. in a context where women are constantly asked by the fashion and beauty industry to conform to a model of beauty, to spend more money and time and energy on their appearance than anything else, this is also a strategy of subversion and resistance.
    so depending on her specific context, what each woman decides to wear is a way to resist and respond to sexism. dressing as a man, dressing sexy, dressing like she doesn’t care, dressing “modest”, wearing hijab… any of these can be subversion and resistance to a sexist order, a misogynist control of women’s bodies.

    stop assuming you know what the hijab means. you don’t. it is a piece of clothing, not a symbol of an ideology.

    and no, not all white converts to islam did so after falling in love with a Muslim man. if you wanna be saying that they are a majority, please come up with statistics and a source for them, not anecdotes about how your sister saw many white muslim converts in the battered women’s shelter where she works.

  44. Katherine Woo says

    Opheila, even more underhandedly you ‘silence feminists’ by freely allowing people to post here and openly criticize you. ; )

  45. says

    Asma – I have to leave so I can’t reply to your whole comment right now – but I just want to point out that I don’t write all the comments. I didn’t say anything about white converts doing so after falling for a Muslim man. That was someone else.

  46. Emma Lou Grey says

    Please do continue to speak for other people without their consent, I’m sure they will really appreciate it. I don’t just ‘swallow’ anything, oddly enough some of us actually speak to the marginalised women you’re using as your personal rescue mission. We ask them questions and value their opinions, rather than dismiss them as delusional and oppressed. Clearly that’s a foreign practice to you.

    Muslim women, women of colour, Asian women both east and south, trans women, women from all margins and branches in feminism shout at white feminists, because we don’t seem to give a toss how they might feel, or bother to ask. I’d be bloody annoyed too if I were in their position. Perhaps if you stopped for a moment to consider TALKING TO THEM, (if they’d even want to bother now, which would be completely understandable if not) you might learn something.

  47. Asma says

    yes Ophelia, I know it wasn’t you who made that awfully sexist comment about how white women converts to islam mostly do so after falling in love with muslim men.

    but you did make a bunch of awful comments about how women shouldn’t wear a hijab because that means condoning a misogynist ideology, and how a woman who wears a hijab and calls herself a feminist must be stupid.

    then you compared wearing a hijab and claiming to not condone misogyny,
    to wearing a swastika and claiming to not condone nazi crimes.

    as if a headscarf was a sign, a symbol, with only one meaning. and as if islam was a political ideology.
    but they aren’t. the headscarf is a piece of clothing, and islam is a religion.
    I hope you will take time to answer me when you come back. I would like to hear your arguments.

  48. karmacat says

    So, Asma, what is the purpose of your hijab? What is the purpose of the hijab for other women? Why don’t Muslim men wear veils?

  49. says

    @46: Ms. Benson, it can’t be that surprising that you as a feminist would use the same tools that have been used to try to silence your feminist voice, to try to silence a voice that disturbs you, can it? We’re all steeping in patriarchy.

  50. karmacat says

    I did a bit more research on the hijab. It is connected to modesty. The problem with emphasizing modesty is that on the flip side, it makes people’s bodies shameful and ultimately makes sex shameful. Reading about the hijab, there is an emphasis on hiding women from “men’s eyes.” Only a woman’s husband and her male relatives can see her without a hijab. This ultimately leads to women being seen as ” tainted” if she is seen by another man. It implies that men can’t help themselves if they see women in “immodest” clothes. Men can and should be responsible for their own actions.

    To Sidra Vitale: criticism is not silencing. You can keep saying Ms. Benson is silencing other women. But in the end it just makes me think that you have no clue what it is like to be silenced and that you don’t know how to argue well

  51. Katherine Woo says

    @Emma Lou Grey (50)

    Perhaps if you stopped for a moment to consider TALKING TO THEM, (if they’d even want to bother now, which would be completely understandable if not) you might learn something.

    I have listened and heard the rhetoric about how ‘liberating’ the hijab is, the sexist babble about how men cannot control themselves, the unctuous apologetics on how separate can be equal in eyes of Allah, the spin on what the Quran does and does not mandate, etc.

    It is all empty religious apologetics for sexual inequality and misogyny, and I reject it on PRINCIPLE, not because I ignored their views.

    Frankly you seem so guilt ridden and eager beaver to “value” a person’s opinion, that you have lost the ability to even critically analyze what they are saying. They are The Other and you will not judge (because that would be…racist).

    And for all your self-righteous posturing, I highly doubt you are ‘all ears’ when a white Christian evangelical is defending whatever reactionary misogynistic bullshit they are up to.

    And by the way, I am not white. I am a Korean-American. I know “Woo” is such a common European surname you were bound to be confused. Anyway I am sorry I am not a good little moral relativist and have the outrageous audacity to push back against misogynistic traditions.

  52. Katherine Woo says

    in a context where women are constantly asked by the fashion and beauty industry to conform to a model of beauty, to spend more money and time and energy on their appearance than anything else,

    Note the word you chose: “asked.” Not ‘commanded,’ not ‘ordered,’ not ‘do this or burn in hell,’ but “asked”.

    The fashionistas and plastic surgeons can ‘ask’ me to do whatever they want in a free society and I am free to ignore them. At least they have the decency to not cast it as some divinely-mandated duty with my immortal soul hanging the balance. I might have to date the PC guy instead of the Apple guy, boo hoo.

    Dressing exactly like a patriarchal religion tells you to is not some edgy “subversion and resistance to a sexist order.” It is either a farcical attempt at rebellion or unconscious surrender to misogyny.

    I suppose if women started foot-binding again in China, you would see it as a ‘brave protest against capitalist exploitation of female labor.’

    What ever ‘meaning’ you impart to the hijab, men do not wear hijab in Islam, ever. Whatever rhetoric you spew about ‘choice’ it will not erase the laws, rapes, acid attacks, murders, and social threats that accompany the hijab, nijab, etc. all around the world.

    Frankly I think you are complicit with a violent, misogynistic evil.

  53. Asma says

    karmacat : as I said previously, the purpose of my hijab is that I feel comfortable in it. that I feel good in it.
    as I also said before, the purpose of the hijab for other women can not be generalized. each of them has their own reason for wearing it.
    why don’t muslim men wear veils? well, why don’t men wear high heel shoes? why don’t men wear mini-skirts? why don’t men wear garterbelts?
    it is indeed a problem and i also addressed that issue in my comment : any piece of clothing that is socially acceptable worn by women and not by men, or vice versa, is indeed sexist. but i don’t think this can be limited to muslim headscarf. look at your outfit, i am certain that it has some gendered elements.
    i am goodwilled, so i am answering your questions, but i am certainly disliking the tone you are addressing me with, as if i owe you an explanation, disclosure of intimate things, as if i owe you justification for what i wear or don’t wear, as if i am responsible for all the sexism in the world because of what i am wearing.
    when you see a man who says he is against sexism and he wears a tie, do you get all suspicious and ask him why does he wear a tie? and why do other men wear ties? and why don’t women wear ties?

    well, your research on the hijab doesn’t seem to be enough to cover actual reality.
    i don’t believe bodies are shameful. i don’t believe sex is shameful. i don’t believe a woman is “tainted” if she is seen by another man. i do not believe a man’s sexual desire is irrepressible and he can’t help himself when he sees a woman in “immodest clothes”. i believe men can and should be responsible for their own actions. i do not believe a woman has any responsibility in preventing sexual violence against herself by dressing or acting a certain way. and i know many, many muslim women who wear hijab and agree with me on each of these things.

    the reality of people is not in a textbook. if you want to know how an individual person sees life, ask them. don’t assume that their religion and religious practice determines everything about them and their worldview. religion is not a single monolithic ideology. this is where you are all very mistaken. you think a phenomenon as vast, huge as religion can be reduced to stupid brainwashed irrational followers of one single dogmatic interpretation of an old book. you are despising and alienating billions of believers, you think you are the only “free” “thinking” people. someone who believes in God and is religious is not necessarily less free in their thinking than y’all are.

    instead of making this kind of research on the hijab, karmacat, maybe you should meet actual people and realize there is more to life than books. religion is to be understood as diverse, it is how individual people understand and practise it, not a rigid monolithic theoretical ideology.

    there are many, many, many interpretations of the one verse of the Qur’an that mentions covering. some interpret that the hijab is not compulsory and decide not to wear it. some interpret that the hijab is not compulsory but decide to wear it anyway. some interpret that the hijab is compulsory but decide not to wear it. some interpret that the hijab is compulsory and decide to wear it. then some decide to impose the hijab on others : the women in their family, or all the women in their country. in doing so, they decide to overlook other verses in the Qur’an that say “no coercion in religion”, and things like that. among the people who think that hijab is compulsory, and the women who think it isn’t but still decide to wear it, there also is a diversity of interpretation as to what exactly should the hijab cover, and how it should be. if you are looking for a book to tell you why some muslim women wear hijab, you are not getting the point. the Qur’an is not going to tell you why your neighbor wears a colorful headscarf with tight jeans and heels, and your other neighbor wears a black veil that covers her face except for her eyes and flows down to her feet, and also wears gloves to cover her hands. i am not saying either of these women is more feminist than the other, by the way, and this is not rhetoric, i sincerely don’t know.

    people : patriarchy existed way before the Qur’an was revealed. all times, all places, there has always been a control by men of women’s bodies and including what they wear. a woman wearing a headscarf, in terms of conforming to “sexist oppression”, is comparable to a woman shaving her legs, a woman wearing make up, a woman wearing a skirt. every single choice that a woman makes regarding her body, what she wears, what she doesn’t wear, what she shaves, what she doesn’t shave, whether she resorts to prostitution, whether she sends naked picture of herself to a guy, whether she has sex with multiple partners, whether she has sex with only one man, whether she has sex with no men at all, whether she has a baby, whether she doesn’t have a baby, etc, is related to patriarchy. the relation is more nuanced and complex than either emancipation or submission to patriarchy. all the things we do with our bodies are choices rooted in fear, survival, oppression, the male gaze, seduction, sexual violence, trauma… we never have infinite, unlimited options. our choices are always strategies, determined by patriarchal context.

    what i find very, very suspicious is : why you choose to single out religions, and specifically why you choose to single out islam and the hijab.

  54. Katherine Woo says

    why don’t muslim men wear veils? well, why don’t men wear high heel shoes? why don’t men wear mini-skirts? why don’t men wear garterbelts?

    Just stop with that inane comparison.

    Of all those articles of clothing, only one has a wide-spread, normalized interpretation of being a moral requirement rooted in divine will, sometimes enforced by law.

    Of all those articles of clothing, only one has a lengthy history of being enforced with violence.

    It is the hijab, deal with it.

    what i find very, very suspicious is : why you choose to single out religions, and specifically why you choose to single out islam and the hijab.

    Now you are just playing the victim.

    Islam is the second largest religion in the world with 40 or 50 countries that declare Islam as the basis of their law. No other ideology has such a widespread, instantly visible symbol of misogyny. The Orthodox Jews, Amish, and other groups may be just as bad, but they are trivial in numbers compared to Islamic doctrines that mandate or strongly push a headcovering for women. Two major Islamic states mandate it by law. There is no parallel with other religions, so stop pretending you are being ‘singled out.’

    Also no other symbol of inegalitarian sexual mores being so vigorously defended by supposed feminists. If this were white Christians doing the same thing, we would not even be having this conversation. It would be that self-evident that critics were legitimately targeting misogyny.

    As for why religion? I mean, seriously. Religion is the only force that can make otherwise good people do evil and have them honestly believe they are doing the right thing. And frankly, my dear, Q.E.D.

  55. Asma says

    Katherine Woo,

    will you tell me you never shaved your legs? never wore lipstick? never wore a skirt? never wore high-heels? never wore garterbelts? if you did any of these things, why did you?
    now, why don’t most men around you do any of these things? don’t you think the social pressure is strong enough that most men can’t even consider doing any of these things, and those who do would be shamed out of it, or beaten up out of it, pretty quickly?
    you think you are “free” to ignore fashion and plastic surgeons, but this is not what it is about. gendered social norms are coercion. they are very, very strong. they use shame, violence, threat, rape, and law.

    nobody ordered me, commanded me to wear hijab, nor told me i’d burn in hell if i didn’t. nobody even asked me to. i did it out of my own free will and so did all the women around me who do.
    actually, i also know many women who decided to wear it and then decided to stop wearing it and have not
    suffered any bad consequences for it. i know many women who are in social circles where most women wear it, and they don’t suffer a social pressure to wear it. i know many women who wear hijab and are very, very strongly convinced that any person who tries to pressure a woman into wearing hijab is a sexist asshole. the women i know are not exceptions.

    but i know many women who have suffered bad consequences from wearing hijab : not finding a job, losing friends, being rejected by family (yes, even muslim families), being beat up in the street by strangers yelling “go back to your country you Muslim whore”, getting death threats, being denied health care by doctors, being refused service in a restaurant, being denied access to university, etc.

    in the “free country” where i live, any woman is as “free” to ignore any sexist asshole who would tell her that she’ll go to hell if she doesn’t cover up, as you are “free” to ignore sexist assholes who tell you to go on a diet and buy a bikini. except the diet and bikini discourses have more money, more power to back em up. in the “free country” where i live, a lot of high Muslim representatives say that the hijab is not compulsory.

    you talk about “laws, rapes, acid attacks, murders, and social threats that accompany the hijab, nijab, etc. all around the world”.
    in many, many countries, including muslim countries, there are or have been laws AGAINST hijab, that PROHIBIT wearing it, and violence or threat of violence AGAINST women who wear it.

    DECIDING NOT TO WEAR it, or DECIDING TO WEAR it, are not in any way being complicit of violence that COERCES into wearing or not wearing it…
    it is as if you said that getting married amounts to being complicit of forced marriage… marriage is indeed a patriarchal and sexist institution, but many feminists get married for many different reasons. being a feminist does not require 100% purity and refusing to participate in anything that might be related to patriarchy. patriarchy is EVERYWHERE. it is all around us, in everything we do. one individual can’t escape patriarchy. as a collective movement, the goal of feminism is to destroy it, but it is pointless to blame or despise individual women for being inside patriarchy.

    what if “dressing exactly like a patriarchal religion tells you to” just happens to be “dressing exactly how the fuck i feel like dressing” ??? should i force myself not to because other women don’t want to dress this way??? do you realize that no woman dresses “exactly like islam tells them to”, precisely because the Qur’an only mentions hijab very briefly, and does not mention “exactly how” women should dress, so that actually gives a wide freedom of interpretation. if you see 500 different hijabis dressed 500 different ways, which one of them dresses “exactly like islam tells her to”?

    i don’t see “subversion and resistance to a sexist order” as edgy. it is survival, everyday strategies of survival, that ALL women are forced into. you can continue to be as sarcastic as you want, Katherine. i don’t think you understand what i am saying. or maybe you are deliberately making fun of me because you don’t have better ways to answer my points…

  56. Asma says

    Katherine, the way you debate is extremely violent and insulting, and yes, silencing. i am not “playing the victim”. your tone is very aggressive. please speak to me respectfully, as i have spoken to you.

    as i said before, the “free country” i live in had a law that forbade women wear trousers for a looooong time. my mother was kicked out from school for refusing to wear skirts.

    the hijab doesn’t have the same meaning in Saudi Arabia as it does in France.
    if a Saudi woman decided to wear a skirt to school, it would be resistance. the hijab is compulsory in Saudi Arabia. but in France, the hijab is prohibited in schools. and just 50 years ago, the skirt was compulsory in France. if a Saudi woman had worn a skirt to school 50 years ago, would that make her complicit of oppression in France? seriously?

    and your definition of violence is very restricted. yes, the norm that women should shave legs is enforced with enough threat and enough social pressure that i know very, very few women who would go out in a skirt with hairy legs. shame is violence.

    the country i live in never had any law that forces me to wear hijab, or any real violence inflicted on women who don’t. many muslim majority countries never did either, and some of them actually had veil bans – including Iran, Tunisia, Turkey…

    i don’t even know how to argue with you if you think a Muslim woman who wears a piece of clothing on her head in Spain is complicit to the oppression of women who are forced to wear the burqa in Afghanistan. it doesn’t make any sense.
    i don’t know, it’s as absurd as saying someone who chooses to have sex is complicit with rape…
    the problem with violence and coercion and oppression is violence and coercion and oppression, not a piece of fabric…

  57. says

    “What ever ‘meaning’ you impart to the hijab, men do not wear hijab in Islam, ever. Whatever rhetoric you spew about ‘choice’ it will not erase the laws, rapes, acid attacks, murders, and social threats that accompany the hijab, nijab, etc. all around the world.

    Frankly I think you are complicit with a violent, misogynistic evil.”

    ffs

    1) There are religious dress codes for men as well as women – just not as well-publicized and do not involve covering your face.

    2) Some women and girls absolutely have a choice in whether to wear hijab. My student told me about how she tried to wear niqab and decided against it because it was annoying. Another student did not wear hijab during her first years in college, and then decided to start doing so for reasons of person religious feelings. These women know a HELL of a lot more about enduring oppression, the fear of rape and murder, and extreme social expectations than I suspect you do. One of my students worked very hard, working as a translator and filling out paperwork, to transport a relative from a Somali refugee camp. The idea that she is somehow “complicit” in the misogynistic social ills of some parts of the Muslim world because she wears a scarf on her head is outrageous.

    One of my colleagues, who died of cancer a few years ago, was a pioneer as a woman in High Energy physics. She was also a devote Catholic, was a sister in a religious order, and constantly wore a golden cross.

    Do you want a long list of the BULLSHIT the Catholic church pulls and how much suffering they inflict on the world? Would you take her to task for being complicit in the misogynistic murderous crap of the Catholic Church?

    How dare you wear a hat!! Magnelene Laundries! Magnelene Laundries!!

    I get the idea that we should take our own groups to task for the crap that they do; but why on earth would you take someone to task for wearing hijab as if doing so not only puts responsibility on them for the imperfections of their own communities, but of people half way around the world as well?!

    You wear hijab = responsible for acid attacks ?!!?

    What the ever-loving…aoewihg;afjvnaoireyf;anf;oifdvu[aoiehr;ajngpoizgf;oiahf

    I’m going to go play Civ 5.

    PS: I brought up the hijab being banned, Ophelia, because it makes just as much sense that because it is imposed on some that it shouldn’t be warn; as it does to wear it specifically because it is being banned in some countries and sectors and women in hijab are being discriminated against and face prejudice.

    I’m going to go pretend I’m Dido and go crush Russia with elephants.

  58. Katherine Woo says

    Katherine, the way you debate is extremely violent…

    No, throwing acid in someone’s face for not wearing the veil is “violent.”

    Gang raping a woman teach her a ‘lesson’ for not covering up is “violent.”

    Murdering “The Whore [who] Lived Like a German”* is “violent.”

    *actual quote in regard to an ‘honor’ murder

    Words on a computer screen that do not in any way wish violence upon you, but are rather just criticism: not violent.

    But then again…

    and your definition of violence is very restricted

    Yeah, again, I restrict my definition of “violence” to actual violence. As some one who lived through the L.A. Riots growing up, I am funny like that.

    I guess if pointed criticism from a competing worldview on the Internet is “violence” in your book, then you must have lived an exceptionally sheltered life.

    i don’t even know how to argue with you if you think a Muslim woman who wears a piece of clothing on her head in Spain is complicit to the oppression of women who are forced to wear the burqa in Afghanistan. it doesn’t make any sense.

    I am sure you have never heard of global consciousness or invoked globalized interconnectedness in any other situation. It remains a completely unknown concept to you. /s

    please speak to me respectfully, as i have spoken to you.

    But you are not respectful. You are simply passive aggressive most of the time, sometime overtly aggressive like below.

    what if “dressing exactly like a patriarchal religion tells you to” just happens to be “dressing exactly how the fuck i feel like dressing” ???

    I am glad you wrote this, because it exposes all your whataboutery and recriminations in one fell swoop.

    You do not “just happen” to wear hijab. It is part of a a norm established with Mohammed’s wives and endorsed by the Quran according to most Muslims. You are so ridiculously insincere you would have us believe it is just some happy coincidence that after 1400 years you and other ‘free’ Muslim women chose to put a cloth around your head just so. You did so because that specific norm of female ‘modesty’ was placed there by misogynists in your religion long before either of us was born.

    Traditional head coverings for women in Christian societies were rooted in the same sort of misogyny as Islam, so you get no relief there.

    Korea used to have this fucked up burqa-esque outfit for upper class women I saw in an old book, that fortunately went the way of the Dodo. In any case, it was an obvious product of intense Confucian misogyny.

    Nuns in Catholicism, Buddhism, and Shinto wear hijab-esque head coverings, and all those religions are institutionally misogynistic (Buddhism at least as practiced in Confucian Asia).

    Women with hairloss might wear a headscarf in ‘unusual’ situations (i.e. not while working), but that is in response to a specific impetus. I have never seen such a woman wear it like a hijab, moreover.

    The fact is no lay women anywhere but Muslim women choose to habitually wear a hijab-like head covering. It just does not happen in any major societies, although I am sure someone will chime in with some obscure example.

    I live the Pacific Northwest. When I see atheist, polyamorous hipsters male or female wearing a hijab, I will accept it is really just a value neutral garment deep down. Until then it is hate garment symbolizing the millennia of women crushed under the boot of patriarchy and continuing to be subject to (actual) “violence” as religious fascists enforce it as a moral obligation.

  59. Katherine Woo says

    These women know a HELL of a lot more about enduring oppression, the fear of rape and murder, and extreme social expectations than I suspect you do.

    I grew in urban Los Angeles in the 80’s and early 90’s, the child of immigrants who fled the Park dictatorship. My mother was a mix of Christian zeal and ‘proper’ Korean wife, with my elder brother of course as the male golden child. So spare me your grossly ignorant assumptions.

    Would you take her to task for being complicit in the misogynistic murderous crap of the Catholic Church?

    Why are the apologist for Islamic misogyny like you so certain that I must have some double standard ferreted away somewhere?

    Yes, I would have criticized her. She was part of the physical, moral, and monetary support structure of the Catholic Church was she not? The child rape scandal with untold thousands of shattered lives was raging while she was wearing her crucifix, right? The AIDS crisis was raging in Catholic parts of Africa while she wore her crucifix, right?

    I mean if every Catholic voted with their feet over the child rape, abortion rights, birth control, LGBT persecution, etc. it would crush the church’s influence.

    I am so sorry for the “outrageous” suggestion that our individual moral choices have broader consequences beyond ourselves. Validating the hijab in any circumstance provides physical and moral support for the norm as a whole. That norm is enforced with horrific violence around teh world, including in Western Muslim communities. How you cowards turn a blind eye to that because some privileged, safe, secure Muslim women assure you it was a ‘free choice’ is beyond me.

    Ex-Muslim women have explained this far better than I have. But I suppose if you listened to them, you would not be fuming at me.

  60. says

    Oh – you’re an American?

    You know where I’m going with that right?

    Also – what the hell is wrong with us? Saying we are skeptics or part of the atheist movement? You know what horrible associations that has?

    Making members of a group – of literally millions of people – personally responsible for the whole is not okay.

    What? You think that not wearing hijab will magically end misogyny and stop child marriage?

    Or, maybe, wake up and realize that focusing on policing women’s clothing and forwarding an antagonistic and myopic view of hijabi is counter-productive to those aims?

    And yes, I have discussed this issue with former Muslims, current Muslims, and secular hijabi.

  61. Katherine Woo says

    Oh – you’re an American? You know where I’m going with that right?

    Yes, to a shallow false equivalency that compares the arbitrary nationality into which I was born to a grown adult continuing to adhere to a specific belief system.

    For your next trick, Islam will magically morph into a race. I have seen this act before.

    Ultimately you either reject a symbols of misogyny, regardless of the excuses trotted out in its defense, or you accommodate it. Misogyny is an insidious prejudice precisely because women become its defenders and enforcers in ways that have no parallel in racism or anti-LGBT prejudices. How women like you are so blind to this reality and thus credulously accept narratives from people with vested cultural and religious interests is beyond me.

    Ultimately the façade of tolerance you value over gender equality is revealed by the fact that you personally would never adopt hijab outside of conversion to islam. If the garment were so benign and value-free, you have no reason to not consider it an option in your daily dress. But we both know you are no more likely to wear hijab when you wake up tomorrow than I am. It is a value-laden garment whose pedigree ends with acid attacks, rape, and murder. That is what “policing women’s clothing” really looks like.

  62. Emma Lou Grey says

    Katherine,

    Firstly – as to your surname. Oddly enough, I didn’t want to make any assumptions about it, because for all I know, you could have married into the name. Your first name is very western, so I am sure you can see how I wouldn’t want to make massive assumptions because your surname is Woo. That would be stupid. You’re a Korean American, now I know because you TOLD me.

    Secondly, I’m an atheist, and fairly relaxed about it. My atheism applies to ME. I am certainly not arrogant enough to actively pick at people’s life decisions relating to religion, I don’t LIKE religion, but as a white British woman, I recognise that my own freedom to be an atheist, also extends to other people’s religious freedom. Some atheists feel the need to mock or openly challenge anyone who ISN’T an atheist in favour of making them feel stupid and unenlightened. All that does, is serve to alienate people. If I am confronted with someone directed right at me religion wise, I simply explain I am not interested, say I’m an atheist, and if perhaps the person concerned would like me to go into more detail with that, I’m happy to do so. I grew up in a city with a MASSIVE Muslim population, none of this is alien to me.

    Stop speaking for people who haven’t asked you to do so, and in case you come back with something along the lines of, ‘not all Muslim women can or are allowed to speak for themselves’, yes, people are aware of that. I am aware of that. Activism for that happens elsewhere, because that’s not actually the issue in this particular instance. The issue, is that a white Muslim women spoke up about what it is like to be her, and now she’s dealing with the fallout with that, because some other women don’t like it. She asked for awareness to be made on this, so this is why people are here to challenge the vitriol.

    You don’t have to like it, but you certainly don’t get to pontificate how wrong you think she is, and how wrong wearing a hijab is, to everyone and think they should agree with your views.

  63. Jeska says

    Sassafras @36 made a valid point about Hijabinist’s use of the term “cis” in her blog which I actually kind of agree with. It probably was a a little misguided on her part but an attempt at showing that she wasn’t someone who could be seen as noticeably different to what are considered by many to be Western norms prior to her conversion was the point of its use. Though I do still think that the fact that she drops the term later on is important (for reasons mentioned earlier), as I didn’t write her article, I can’t/won’t defend the use of the word any further than that. I totally understand why someone might take your point of view on the matter.

    Unfortunately, no-one else who responded to my previous post seems to have said anything worth responding to (unless I’ve missed a post that actually had something to say, in which case – sorry!). John Morales @ 19 actually seems to have responded to my question “You people aren’t too bright, are you?” with a post that says “No, no we’re not”.

  64. Katherine Woo says

    You don’t have to like it, but you certainly don’t get to pontificate how wrong you think she is, and how wrong wearing a hijab is, to everyone and think they should agree with your views.

    Actually I have a right to criticize anything I wish, a right you exercise in attacking by criticism (which is also telling me de facto to agree with your views). The woman in question created a publicly-visible blog and yet you are comically aghast that it drew public criticism.

    Your claim is as ridiculous as the ominous accusations that Opehlia is “silencing” women by offering criticism of her own and allowing debate to flow unimpeded here.

    The fact you imply I have some obligation to keep silent on the misogyny is see inherent to the hijab is just a chilling indicator of how much religious privilege and political correctness have compromised feminist ideals on gender equality.

    so I am sure you can see how I wouldn’t want to make massive assumptions because your surname is Woo.

    Can a white person be named Woo, of course. But for you to consider it a “massive” assumption is just laughable. I would hazard that 99% of the people in the world named Woo are ethnic Northeastern Asians.

    The fact you find 99-to-1 odds a “massive” leap of faith speaks volumes about why you are so timid and accommodating in the face of a longstanding symbol of sexual inequality. You are so worried about offending some outlier case that you basically disengage your critical faculties.

  65. Emma Lou Grey says

    You’re a real trip.

    All I’m really seeing from you is blahblahblah hatred blahblahblah HIJABS ARE EVIL blahblahblah.

    I’m also very amused at my supposedly being timid, just because I happen to think considering the choices of Muslim women, might be a good idea. But you know, that’s fine because you seem to have an issue with seeing past the end of your own nose. I could get very unpleasant and nasty, and start to display as much derision towards you as you have done here throughout your comments, but what’s the point? I am actually quite far from timid, perhaps you’ve confused timid with considerate? There is no point in losing my composure here.

    Either way, I’d like to point out that any assumption made about anything or anyone, is massive. You have no idea just how much that assumption can derail everything. That much is evident from your comments.

    I wish you a very happy new year.

  66. Andrea Harris says

    Unless Ophelia is nefariously blocking her, I would guess she is free to post here. You seem to have found your way here without any difficulties.

    Gosh, I can’t imagine why she hasn’t come here and joined in on this friendly convo about how she’s a duped fool.

    I live the Pacific Northwest. When I see atheist, polyamorous hipsters male or female wearing a hijab, I will accept it is really just a value neutral garment deep down. Until then it is hate garment symbolizing the millennia of women crushed under the boot of patriarchy and continuing to be subject to (actual) “violence” as religious fascists enforce it as a moral obligation.

    Yup, this acid bath sure is nice and warm.

    Anyway, this whole conversation is giving me flashbacks to the most boring parts of 2003, so I’m done with it.

    By the way, your “preview” is broken.

  67. ildi says

    Then again, I don’t attack nuns, Amish, Quaker, Muslim, Sikh, Catholic or any other believer just for wearing a religious headcovering, nor assume that I know their politics or that their politics are determined by their religious choices.

    Well, if a woman wrote a blog post about converting to Catholicism and becoming a nun and that wearing a wimple is just a thing, you haters, then I would have to call BS. It’s one thing to dress modestly, but certain clothing is worn specifically to make a religious statement. If I saw a woman wearing a wimple, I would be pretty safe in assuming that she is celibate (unless it’s Halloween). I’d also wonder why any woman would choose Catholicism as the version of Christianity to convert to, and what rationalizations are involved in considering themselves a feminist in the process. I mean, there’s always the Episcopalians if you like the rituals…

    Brother Jed and Sister Cindy used to make the campus rounds preaching hell-fire and damnation and Miss Cindy would wear heavy full-length long-sleeved dresses in the heat of a southern spring, and that wasn’t as a fashion statement. I’m sure it was her ‘choice’ to invite heat stroke. I know everybody wants to be thought of as a precious unique little snowflake, but it’s just not true. Humans are fairly predictable within a relatively narrow range. Otherwise counseling and cold readings wouldn’t have any success rate.

  68. says

    “Ultimately the façade of tolerance you value over gender equality is revealed by the fact that you personally would never adopt hijab outside of conversion to islam. If the garment were so benign and value-free, you have no reason to not consider it an option in your daily dress.”

    Well – that’s ironic.

    At any rate, I also think that high-heels, body hair removal and make-up are inherently misogynistic, as well as being forced to wear a shirt on hot days and covering while nursing, but don’t spend an inordinate amount of my day policing other women’s personal choices about how much of their body to show the world.

    Of course the garment is not value-free. Nothing is value-free. Depending on who is wearing it and why, it can be all sorts of problematic and loaded. However, you’ve gone a lot further than just saying – hey, not a big fan of the head-scarf thing.

    I live in an area where several, very distinct, Muslim populations live and visit; from extremely rich Wahabis Saudis to Somali refugees, as well as professionals from various parts of the world. I used to live near Dearborn. The highest ranking Muslims elected official represents a region very close to me. He happens to be liberal – pro-choice, pro-gay marriage, pro-labor, etc.

    You live in a cosmopolitan city. Have you interacted with any Muslim communities?

    Perhaps it is because I’ve taught hundreds of female students science and physics, and have a sense of which women have actually internalized misogynistic concepts of being less-than and incapable; and have seen first-hand how the prejudices against hijabi negatively affect young aspiring professional women in their studies that I feel the need to confront you.

    That is the frame I’m considering this issue from. I see any sort of rhetoric that further pushes my students to the fringes as inflicting real harm to them.

    Your rhetoric is harmful and counterproductive; and smacks of victim blaming. Many women who risk their lives for women’s rights are hijabi by choice or custom; yet you blame them for their own oppression because they wear an article of clothing you don’t like.

  69. John Morales says

    M. A. Melby @73:

    Perhaps it is because I’ve taught hundreds of female students science and physics, and have a sense of which women have actually internalized misogynistic concepts of being less-than and incapable; and have seen first-hand how the prejudices against hijabi negatively affect young aspiring professional women in their studies that I feel the need to confront you.

    That is the frame I’m considering this issue from. I see any sort of rhetoric that further pushes my students to the fringes as inflicting real harm to them.

    Your rhetoric is harmful and counterproductive; and smacks of victim blaming. Many women who risk their lives for women’s rights are hijabi by choice or custom; yet you blame them for their own oppression because they wear an article of clothing you don’t like.

    Stating facts is not assigning blame: if they deliberately choose it knowing it will negatively affect them, then if they are rational they must consider the importance of it exceeds the negative effects.

    [meta]

    Also, “smacks of victim blaming”?
    You are characterising them as blameless victims when you speak about discussing their status as hijabi, whereas others characterise them as people with agency.

    Also, “prejudices against hijabi”? What — you have opinions, but others have prejudices?

  70. says

    What negative effects? Being a little warm in the summer? Being able to use a flip-phone hand’s free?

    The niqab is impractical, but most traditional head-coverings are not. And yes, many women wear similar head-covering that don’t have religious significance. I have myself occasionally, because my hair is very thin.

    My student’s houses get routinely vandalized because they are Muslim; most people assume someone wearing hijab is Muslim, especially if they are not white. So yes, there is prejudice against hijabi. That’s the type of crap I’m talking about.

    If you are including those effects as “negative effects” that they should consider when they “deliberately choose” to wear hijab as part of their agency – that doesn’t “smack of victim blaming”: it is classic victim blaming.

  71. John Morales says

    M. A. Melby @76:

    What negative effects? Being a little warm in the summer? Being able to use a flip-phone hand’s free?

    Well, any kind, since it was a general claim — but you specifically refer to its wearers as victims because of prejudice against it, so there’s one for starters.

    My student’s houses get routinely vandalized because they are Muslim; most people assume someone wearing hijab is Muslim, especially if they are not white. So yes, there is prejudice against hijabi. That’s the type of crap I’m talking about.

    But that’s not what Katherine has done, though perceived prejudice was your claimed justification for confronting her.

    If you are including those effects as “negative effects” that they should consider when they “deliberately choose” to wear hijab as part of their agency – that doesn’t “smack of victim blaming”: it is classic victim blaming.

    You can call it whatever you wish, but it remains an unchallenged proposition, the truth of which is not disputed.

  72. Asma says

    wow seriously this thread is going nowhere…
    i can’t believe the amount of bigotry and hatred disguised as “free thought”, “liberalism” and “women’s rights”…

    Katherine Woo, don’t make assumptions about how i “must have lived an exceptionally sheltered life” just because i say the way you debate is violent.
    yes, the way one uses words can be more or less respectful, more or less violent.
    you use words in a certain way that i find violent. you don’t know anything about my life and the violence i have survived.

    it is very indecent of you to start bringing up gangrape and acid attacks to belittle what i say when i say the way you debate is violent and disrespectful.
    this is not a competition. nobody here condones the fact of raping a woman for any reason, or attacking a woman with acid for any reason.

    in the country where i live, women are being arrested, denied access to healthcare, denied acess to schools, to professional training, discriminated at work, harassed, threatened and beaten up in the streets just for wearing hijab. Marwa Sherbini was stabbed to death because she was wearing hijab.
    so there is violence in the world to FORCE women to wear hijabs, and there is violence in the world to PREVENT women from wearing hijab.

    you still haven’t answered my arguments.
    do you consider a woman who gets married to a man, for whatever reason she pleases, to be complicit with domestic violence, forced marriage, etc? marriage is and has always been a patriarchal, misogynistic institution. a white dress represents misogynist understanding of virginity, a wedding ring represents ownership of a woman by a man… the fact that the father takes his daughter down the aisle and “gives” her to her husband, is a strong patriarchal symbol. the fact that the daughter bears father’s name and then takes husband’s name is strongly patriarchal.
    but you don’t get all offended by every woman who decides to get married, telling her she is upholding a patriarchal misogynist institution etc.

    symbols can be re-signified. if a woman who wears hijab tells you she is strongly opposed to any kind of violence against women, and is actively fighting violence perpetrated against women in the name of islam, and she is a feminist in the same way that you are, supports equality for gay people and straight people, supports transgendered people’s rights, doesn’t support any kind of persecution of atheists, supports sexual freedom for women to have sex with whomever they please whenever and however they want, but she wants to wear hijab for her own, personal reasons, what business do you have telling her she shouldn’t???
    if a woman who wears hijab actively and vocally fights for women’s rights to NOT wear hijab if they don’t want to, how is she complicit?

    this debate is absurd…

  73. ildi says

    do you consider a woman who gets married to a man, for whatever reason she pleases, to be complicit with domestic violence, forced marriage, etc? marriage is and has always been a patriarchal, misogynistic institution. a white dress represents misogynist understanding of virginity, a wedding ring represents ownership of a woman by a man… the fact that the father takes his daughter down the aisle and “gives” her to her husband, is a strong patriarchal symbol. the fact that the daughter bears father’s name and then takes husband’s name is strongly patriarchal.
    but you don’t get all offended by every woman who decides to get married, telling her she is upholding a patriarchal misogynist institution etc.

    The difference is that I don’t see marriage per se as being a negative institution. Otherwise, I don’t think gays would be falling over themselves trying to get legally married. The patriarchal trappings of marriage do bother me, especially the “who gives this woman away” claptrap, and that less women are keeping their name when they get married. I also find it particularly distressing that some young women of my acquaintance would consider it a sign of disrespect if the man they propose to marry didn’t ask for the father’s permission first. WTF? In general, though, I think marriages are trending toward partnerships rather than “head of the household and helpmeet.” I personally don’t see any intrinsic benefit to religion, though.

    symbols can be re-signified. if a woman who wears hijab tells you she is strongly opposed to any kind of violence against women, and is actively fighting violence perpetrated against women in the name of islam, and she is a feminist in the same way that you are, supports equality for gay people and straight people, supports transgendered people’s rights, doesn’t support any kind of persecution of atheists, supports sexual freedom for women to have sex with whomever they please whenever and however they want, but she wants to wear hijab for her own, personal reasons, what business do you have telling her she shouldn’t???

    This is not an example of a symbol being re-signified. A woman wearing a hijab (in a country where is it not required by culture or religious edict) specifically wants others to know that she is Muslim, and that she is modest for religious reasons. (Funny how much lower the percentage of Muslim men who wear the trappings of religious modesty when they move to another country!) My personal experience with the religious who feel it necessary in a secular society to wear clothing or objects that show their religious affiliation is that they tend to be on the conservative/fundamentalist spectrum. Wearing the hajib is still the symbol of religious modesty; nothing is being re-signified. You’re not asking for the symbolism to be re-signified, you’re asking for it to be ignored. I firmly believe in people’s rights to wear what they want, but they need to also accept people’s judgments based on that (NOT, however, any violence based on that).

    I used to watch What Not to Wear on a regular basis; one of the big themes was women who said that people should look past their attire and see who they are on the inside. I’m sorry, but what you wear on the outside IS a big part of who you are on the inside; it’s bizarre to me to think otherwise. If the impression people are getting about you don’t match who you are, then maybe some wardrobe adjustments are in order. Some symbols cannot be re-signified; Brad Paisley can sing all he wants that he only wears his confederate flag shirt because he’s a Skynyrd fan. The swastika will never again be an Indian religious symbol in our lifetimes.

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