Engaging with critics


An update on that outrage-sparking post I did the other day about the putative similarity (or identity) between racism and “Islamophobia” which in the comments became also a discussion of the hijab. An update because a trackback just came in from a post by my noisiest critic, Sarah Jones, who has been being my noisiest critic on Twitter ever since I published the post. An update because she gets some things wrong, and also because I don’t disagree with her about 100% of all of everything.

From her post:

When a ruling class targets a minority class, it’s never just about religion. Religious and racial prejudice have historically walked hand in hand. I’ve been repeatedly accused of trying to argue that we can never criticize religion, and I want to make it clear that this is not a thing I have ever or will ever argue. Rather, I’m arguing that our critiques need to be historically informed. We need to understand and acknowledge that religious prejudice exists and that it is linked to racial prejudice.

Certainly. That’s why I said, in the post,

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. 

See? That’s the bit where I acknowledge it. No doubt not in the way Jones would have thought more acceptable, but nevertheless I did.

We need to understand the consequences of reducing a community to a monolithically barbaric Other.

When white liberals say that the hijab is intrinsically misogynist, that’s what they’re doing. They are calling this symbol, which is not their symbol, which is, for better or worse, associated with a racial identity they do not share, backwards. They have declared open season on anyone who wears it.

That’s the bit she got wrong. I didn’t say that. The post wasn’t even about the hijab, and in the comments, other people claimed I had said that, but I didn’t say it. We paraphrase people inaccurately sometimes – I do it too – when we’re annoyed. “vexorian” claimed I had said it, but “vexorian” was wrong.

          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.

Except that I hadn’t said that. I accepted vexorian’s way of putting it when I replied, but that was for the sake of argument.

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.

Jones has said repeatedly on Twitter that I say the hijab is intrinsically misogynist. She’s wrong; I don’t say that.

Of course I don’t think it is, any more than a woolen cap is or a muffler is or a black hoodie is.

What I do say is that it has baggage, and that that makes it dubious for feminists (for instance) to treat it as a feminist act to put it on.

I could be wrong about that, but that’s my claim. My claim is not that it’s “intrinsically” misogynist. (My claim is generally not that it’s misogynist, period, but rather that it’s sexist.)

Comments

  1. says

    The last two quotes aren’t even from my blog post, so I’m not sure why you’ve included them. You should at least properly attribute them to the correct author.

    Your statements about the hijab, and Fatihah’s decision to wear it, have been consistently offensive. You’ve routinely characterized it as a sexist garment. You ridicule her for ‘reducing herself to her headgear’ in your comments and call her screenname ‘disgusting.’

    It’s obvious to me, based on your attitude, that you don’t have any respect for her, her decision to cover, or the meaning she personally finds in wearing it. And in order to erase her agency like this, and acknowledge that wearing the hijab isn’t actually the same as announcing to the world “I am oppressing myself,” you have to engage in exactly the sort of cultural violence I criticize in my post.

    But I suppose I should be grateful you actually wrote a post, and didn’t say ‘pff’ and accuse me of being a belligerent asshole for asking you why you won’t engage with Fatihah about her decision to cover. Small blessings.

  2. says

    1. I did attribute them to the correct authors: vexorian, and me. I included them for the reasons indicated in the post: the first one shows that it was someone else who said what you have repeatedly claimed that I said, and the second one shows what I said in reply to it.

    2. No, I haven’t “routinely characterized it as a sexist garment.” You’re inventing things again. No, I did not “ridicule her for ‘reducing herself to her headgear’” – again that’s something you simply made up, and this time you even put it in quotation marks. It was someone named Asma who talked about that. You should calm down and stop making scattershot accusations.

    I really don’t care what’s obvious to you. You haven’t shown yourself to be very good at sussing things out. I do care about lies you tell about me on Twitter, but no doubt that’s just tough shit; you seem to have no intention of stopping.

    No, you shouldn’t be grateful. I don’t owe you a post (or anything else) and I don’t expect you to be grateful for my writing one. I do wish you would stop inventing things about me, but as I say…that’s probably just too bad.

  3. says

    “My claim is generally not that it’s (the hijab) misogynist, period, but rather that it’s sexist.” That’s from your latest post.

    “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.” A comment you made on your original post, implying again that the hijab is intrinsically sexist.

    “Yes I think women should not choose to wear the hijab, for the reason you suggest.” Another comment you made on your original post.

    If you dislike it when people ‘invent’ things about you, maybe stop writing things like that. Otherwise, you don’t really have a right to be upset when people take them at face value.

    It’s not at all clear that vexorian wrote the final two quotes from the way you’ve included them in your post, which is why I pointed it out. I have no idea, really, what vexorian says or hasn’t said about you unless it’s shown up in my mentions on Twitter, and I feel that the way you’ve written the post as is implies it was influenced by that user. That’s not the case.

    You also don’t bother to engage with the central thesis of my post at all, and seem to be laboring under the impression that it is entirely directed at you, which it is not.

    If this is what you call engaging with critics, I’m not impressed. I’m also not impressed by the way you’ve told me to ‘calm down,’ which I’m certain you’d call out as sexist if it were applied to you.

    As for the terrible, terrible lies (!!!!) that I’ve told about you on Twitter, you seem to be referring to the fact I said you blocked me after I tweeted about Islamophobia. You clarified that instead, you blocked me after I asked a simple question about your decision not to engage with the woman you wrote about. That, of course, got insults hurled in my direction–despite the fact I’d never directed the same level of vitriol at you.

    So, Ophelia, I’m not impressed, overall.

  4. says

    Sarah. The items you quote don’t say what you claim I said. They say different things. Less sweeping, less stupid things. Don’t tell me I don’t “have a right” to point out that you’re misrepresenting what I wrote. Of course I have a right to do that.

    I don’t care whether you’re impressed or not. I don’t respect your opinion. I wanted to set the record straight about what I did and did not say.

  5. arthur says

    Also, it was clear to me that the later quoted text.dot was from someone else. not that these posts aren’t sometimes written in haste and seem unclear.

  6. Stacy says

    If you can’t win an argument on its merits, take it personally and get indignant. That’ll learn ‘em.

    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.

    What I do say is [the hijab] has baggage, and that that makes it dubious for feminists (for instance) to treat it as a feminist act to put it on

    Any substantive rebuttal to Ophelia’s premises here?

  7. says

    arthur – Yes, true, I often rely on people to know my blogging habits and thus know that I’m quoting the person I just mentioned etc. I should no doubt spell it all out every time except that I think that would be so tedious.

    Yes I think I did say something to the effect that calling herself “Hajibinist” or whatever it is is disgusting…Probably not the best choice of word.

  8. Katherine Woo says

    How is the hijab not intrinsically misogynistic? It exist to create a different standard of sexual morality for women, by creating a burden that men do not have to adhere to. That is the unmistakable mark of patriarchy and its misogynistic core, and no apologetics are going to change that reality.

    And spare me the whataboutery. Whatever white or Western or Christian example you are just dying to ask me about, the answer is most likely “yes, that is misogynistic too.”

    You know analyzing the relative sexual egalitarianism of a rule is really not that hard. Are men and women treated the same? Yes or no.

    All this “ruling class” and “white liberals” nonsense is really just leftist political spin to distract people from that fact.

  9. Katherine Woo says

    Although my response is to something Ophelia said, my combative tone is meant solely for the hijab apologists like this Sarah and the ‘what about Orthodox Jewish women?’ types.

  10. karmacat says

    What is “cultural violence?” To me it means being “violent” against certain cultural ideas, such as feet binding, FGM. Certain ideas do have a lot of baggage, such as high heels, women shaving, and the hijab. I can acknowledge that shaving my legs means I am affected by culture. However, it seems who voluntarily wear a hajib are defensive about it. There are a few times it may be useful, but otherwise it is very much a symbol of sexism

  11. karmacat says

    I should also mention that I think the Muslim religion is sexist as well as Catholicism, orthodox Jewish religion. So if a woman is wearing it for religious reasons, then she is promoting a sexist and sometimes misogynstic religion.

  12. says

    Ophelia? Of course you’ve characterized the hijab as sexist.

    You wrote this for goodness sakes:

    “To which I murmur replies to the effect that I don’t want to see anyone marginalized or bullied, but at the same time I reserve the right to say I think the hijab is a bad, regressive, sexist custom, and why I think that.”

    And, of course, the concept of hijab has sexist baggage. I’m not sure how anyone could dispute that, and I am not disputing that.

    I just think the focus of many of the comments were way off – especially those by Woo and a few others. I think it boils down to the old conversation that atheists are used to having: are the liberals/moderates of a religion responsible for the extremists – are they on the hook for the dogma/history of the religion regardless of how they personally think and behave?

    I think it is counter-productive in a pragmatic way to say YES to that; as those within a religion are better poised to fight for reform and understand the religious mentalities that are used to justify all sorts of awful. It runs the risk of blaming people for the very oppression they are fighting against and endure – and I think that is wrong.

    The types of discussions around the hijab are even more problematic because they are focused only on the women – as if a woman who wears hijab is responsible for every bad thing that a Muslim has ever done because she covers; and JUST because she covers. No mention of the “complicit” men.

    On the other hand, I’m not buying the type of apologia that does sometimes comes out of the Muslim community – like this http://www.huffingtonpost.com/laila-alawa/i-am-not-oppressed_b_3052001.html

    I’m sure we all remember that one.

    Where a Muslim-American woman talked about how she was “not oppressed” which would have been a welcome dialog, if it wasn’t in the frame of talking about woman who was forced into a mental institution for posting a topless photo.

    *head desk*

  13. Stacy says

    @M. A. Melby #13

    I think it boils down to the old conversation that atheists are used to having: are the liberals/moderates of a religion responsible for the extremists – are they on the hook for the dogma/history of the religion regardless of how they personally think and behave?

    I think it is counter-productive in a pragmatic way to say YES to that; as those within a religion are better poised to fight for reform and understand the religious mentalities that are used to justify all sorts of awful.

    Fair point. But–

    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.

    Ophelia was referring to Muslims there. Moderate, secularist, liberal, democratic Muslim women tend to be the ones who resist the pressure to wear the hijab. When they can. When they’re not being forced to wear it or more extreme coverings.

    Still, among those moderate women there will be some who freely choose to cover up. Arguing with that choice, pointing out the anti-feminist context and symbolism of the hijab, is not Islamophobic. Just as not respecting religion does not equal despising religious people, not respecting the hijab does not equal disrespecting women who wear them.

    It runs the risk of blaming people for the very oppression they are fighting against and endure – and I think that is wrong

    Ophelia has consistently spoken out for the victims of fundamentalists of all stripes–Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu.

    I don’t see how criticizing the hijab, or the rationale of a Western woman who freely chooses to wear one, is victim blaming.

  14. Katherine Woo says

    … as if a woman who wears hijab is responsible for every bad thing that a Muslim has ever done because she covers; and JUST because she covers

    That sorts of ridiculous hyperbole just shows an inability to respond to the actual argument.

    For the record I said they were “complicit” with the specific violence directed at women in enforcing the hijab and other related garments that is not the same as saying they are “responsible”.

    And before you protest and pretend you cannot grasp the difference: a person who voted for Republican hawks in 2002 is “complicit” in the Iraq War, even if they are not “responsible” for the violence itself. Am I to believe you take serious issue with that sentence?

    No mention of the “complicit” men.

    And this is just an absurd lie. I went back to the “Being and Becoming” thread and quickly scanned the mention of Muslim men. John Morales, karmacat, and I all directly address the issue of men. Three strikes you’re out.

    Your lie is even more egregious because the violence I kept mentioning, the one that led to your hyperbole above, is overwhelmingly committed by men. Or is it news to you that men commit the majority of sexual assualts and murders in the world?

    I do not know what motivates you, fear of being seen as racist, general favoritism towards religion, bizarre conflation of this argument with justifications for the Iraq War (three people mentioned the war in the course of this argument, a very revealing attitude), etc., but a lie that ridiculous just shows how nothing resembling a real principle is behind your words.

  15. says

    “Ophelia has consistently spoken out for the victims of fundamentalists of all stripes–Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu.”

    I’m not putting Ophelia to task here as much as some of those commenting. Woo and Morales, for example. http://freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/2013/12/being-and-becoming/comment-page-1/#comment-1338735 and http://freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/2013/12/being-and-becoming/comment-page-1/#comment-1341643

  16. says

    To back up @MAMelby’s point @hijabinist did say on Twitter that there was a possibility of productive dialogue with Ophelia/others in response to the OP. However the comments on the post implying she must be mentally ill etc etc to have converted and covered were referenced as a reason why she changed her mind about that. Although at least one of those was Ophelia’s mentioning a Nazi symbol as an analogy to the hijab, godwin FTW ;-)

  17. says

    I went back to see if you were right: here are the mentions of “men” by the three people you mentioned:

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

    “Why don’t Muslim men wear veils?”

    “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.”

    “the sexist babble about how men cannot control themselves”

    “men do not wear hijab in Islam, ever.”

    You listed out atrocity after atrocity, but at no point did anyone say that Muslim men (moderate or otherwise) were *complicit* in the continuation of those atrocities. (If I missed it – show me where.) Instead, the Muslim women who wear the hijab were taken to task for the horrendous crap visited on other women mainly by (as you pointed out) men.

    Morales went as far as blaming hijabi for prejudice against them – because if they didn’t want to be treated like shit, I guess they shouldn’t wear it.

    The hijab is sexist but some of the conversations surrounding the hijab can be down-right misogynistic.

    I’ve already told you what my motivation is.

  18. John Morales says

    M. A. Melby @18:

    Morales went as far as blaming hijabi for prejudice against them – because if they didn’t want to be treated like shit, I guess they shouldn’t wear it.
    [The relevant text]:

    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.

    (A proposition you don’t care to dispute, but only to characterise)

  19. dysomniak, darwinian socialist says

    Fah, this blog has officially jumped the islamophobic shark. It’s not that none of your points are valid Ophelia, it’s just that you are completely unwilling to try to see things from the side of the people you supposedly want to liberate.

  20. Nick Gotts says

    Really, dysomniak@21,

    Didn’t you know there’s no such thing as Islamophobia? I mean, Ophelia Benson puts it in scare-quotes, which should be enough to prove that on its own! But if you need more than that, it’s obvious that since accusations of Islamophobia are sometimes used to discredit any criticism of Islam, that proves that there is never anyone who conceives of Islam as a monolith, a misogynistic, terrorist monster that’s about to swallow Europe, or anyone who criticises converts for writing posts entitled “What’s it like being a white Muslim anyway” because Islam isn’t a race*, or say they “became” a Muslim because – well, surely the reason’s obvious, and it’s quite different from me saying I “became” an atheist. In just the same way, of course, the fact that some Zionists use accusations of antisemitism to discredit any criticism of Israel means that there’s no such thing as antisemitism. Oh, and since there’s good reason to fear Islam in some circumstances, there can’t be any such thing as Islamophobia, just as no-one can possibly have a phobia of snakes, or dogs, or heights, or crowds, or cancer.

    *OK, no-one said it was, but of course it’s vitally important to stress this point at every possible opportunity, because fine upstanding UKIP and EDL supporters get accused of racism when all they’re doing is criticising Islamist extremism.

  21. brucegorton says

    To summarise how I see the argument so far:

    Ophelia:

    The Hijab is a form of dress generally adopted by a specific group within wider Islamic communities.

    In some circumstances wearing it is enforced with atrocities such as acid attacks, and generally it is encouraged by violently anti-women regimes and movements.

    Not all Muslims agree with the Hijab, in fact several Islamic states outright ban it in certain circumstances. The modern Hijab can largely be traced to the 1970s, when it was brought back to symbolise modesty, but quickly came to also represent a set of political views including Islamic nationalism and resisting ‘westernisation’ – AKA, women having rights*.

    Thus it is not unreasonable for someone to assume, given that this is the form of dress adopted by that community, to assume that someone wearing agrees with its views.

    Which is to say given this baggage, arguing that it is empowering to women is rather daft as the wearer ends up communicating a message through her dress that goes against this fairly strongly.

    Leftist response:

    And Islamophobe may agree with this! Therefore it is Islamophobia!

    And I wish I could say that was a strawman. If anything this whole discussion highlights exactly why the term Islamophobia is so completely worthless.

    *It doesn’t matter whether it is an Islamic, Hindi, communist, Animist or Christian non-westerner talking about it, when they start talking about the need to resist “Westernisation” they always mean resisting the concept of women having rights.

    Westerners have much the same population in their cultures, they just talk about how in favour they are of their “traditional western values”.

  22. S Mukherjee says

    I dunno what anyone is talking about anymore.

    In the very first post that Ophelia talked about Hijabinist, there were a couple of comments about the supposed mental health of Hijabinist, and someone chimed in with how white women convert to Islam out of luurve for Muslim men and some acquaintance of theirs married an Irani man and regretted it. Those comments were useless, offensive and stupid, and I wish Ophelia had told off these commentors then and there. But Ophelia herself did not make those comments.

  23. Decker says

    The vast majority of Christians are also non-white, but few would ever equate criticism of Christian doctrine with racism.

    Criticising hate-filled theologies has absolutely nothing to do with race.

  24. says

    M A Melby @ 13 –

    I know I said it’s sexist. Read the last line of the post.

    Let’s try for precision here, people. One word does not equal a different word. Sarah Jones has repeatedly said that *I* said that the hijab is “intrinsically misogynist.” I didn’t. I said I didn’t in the post. I did NOT say I didn’t say it’s sexist. In fact at the end of the post I said that that is what I think it is – sexist.

  25. says

    “I know I said it’s sexist. Read the last line of the post.

    Let’s try for precision here, people. One word does not equal a different word. Sarah Jones has repeatedly said that *I* said that the hijab is “intrinsically misogynist.” I didn’t. I said I didn’t in the post. I did NOT say I didn’t say it’s sexist. In fact at the end of the post I said that that is what I think it is – sexist.”

    What the fuck, Ophelia? You don’t get it both ways. You don’t get to say “The hijab is sexist!” and then get pissed when people take that statement to task. There is no fundamental difference between saying a symbol is sexist, and saying it’s intrinsically misogynist. In both instances, it’s the same sweeping generalization. You are assigning this particular symbol a specific meaning, as if it’s like a Confederate flag or a Nazi swastika–your earlier, hilarious example. Which doesn’t work for a number of reasons. Namely that a.) Hitler actually appropriated the swastika and it’s still sacred to Hindus and b.) it was specifically intended to represent hate, which the hijab was not. There are very different roots at play.

    There is nothing rational about anything you’ve posted on this subject and quite frankly, I’m tired of wasting my time on it. People are welcome to read my arguments at my blog; I analyze actual historical examples of prejudice to prove my points (which were not entirely directed at you, contrary to what you seem determined to think) and people can engage me there. I don’t see the point in engaging with someone who wilfully refuses to have a productive conversation about such an important topic.

  26. says

    Oh yes I do. I do get to point out that I said what I said and not something else. Sexist is not identical to misogynist, and the adjective “intrinsic” adds another element. You’re the one who doesn’t “get to” insist that I said X when I in fact said Y.

  27. sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d says

    You are assigning this particular symbol [the hijab] a specific meaning, as if it’s like a Confederate flag or a Nazi swastika–your earlier, hilarious example. Which doesn’t work for a number of reasons. Namely that a.) Hitler actually appropriated the swastika and it’s still sacred to Hindus and b.) it was specifically intended to represent hate, which the hijab was not. There are very different roots at play.

    But the hijab does have a very specific meaning in muslim contexts, as do the niqab, the abaya, the headscarf concealing. the hair, the headscarf concealing some of the hair and going bare-headed. It reveals which version of islam the wearer probably follows and how they interpret islam- assuming that they dress as they do from choice rather than because of legal or social coercion. In the case of someone who wears a hijab it’s likely that they interpret islam strictly and literally, particularly the bits about women being men’s possessions and women not inflaming lustful thoughts in men. That may not invariably be the case, but that’s the way to bet.

  28. Al Dente says

    Sarah Jones @27

    There is no fundamental difference between saying a symbol is sexist, and saying it’s intrinsically misogynist.

    Misogynist and sexist are not synonyms. From dictionary.com:

    mi·sog·y·nist noun
    a person who hates, dislikes, mistrusts, or mistreats women.

    sex·ist noun
    a person with sexist attitudes or behavior.

    sex·ism noun
    1. attitudes or behavior based on traditional stereotypes of sexual roles.
    2. discrimination or devaluation based on a person’s sex, as in restricted job opportunities; especially, such discrimination directed against women.

    Sarah, you’re the one who introduced the word “intrinsic” to the discussion. Ophelia never mentioned it until she replied to your accusation of using it.

  29. Al Dente says

    One can be sexist without being misogynist. I don’t believe I’m a misogynist. I don’t hate, dislike, mistrust or mistreat women. Yet only yesterday I found myself acting in a sexist manner towards a woman at a store. I didn’t realize I’d been sexist until later, when it was too late for me to apologize or otherwise make amends. I’m still a work in progress.

  30. rnilsson says

    Hah. “Intrinsic” is an English word I first came across in the data sheet for a unijunction transistor, UJT, as the parameter “intrinsic standoff ratio”. That was in the heyday of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.

    I shall now proceed to intrinsically stand off Sarah Jones’ “rationality”. Forthwith.

  31. says

    Elsa – quite likely. Sarah seems to me to be quite unscrupulous about this kind of misattribution and misrepresentation. Somebody said it, therefore she’s perfectly entitled to keep insisting that I said it.

  32. says

    “Thus it is not unreasonable for someone to assume, given that this is the form of dress adopted by that community, to assume that someone wearing agrees with its views.”

    NO.

    “It reveals which version of islam the wearer probably follows and how they interpret islam- assuming that they dress as they do from choice rather than because of legal or social coercion.”

    NO.

  33. Katherine Woo says

    It was me at the very least who said it was “intrinsically misogynistic”, regardless of whether I used that exact wording. And Ophelia should certainly not be made to answer for my words. But Sarah would rather act big by attacking Ophelia, which is why I am still waiting for an actual argument to dispute what I said rather than a bunch of leftist rhetoric and ad hominems.

    One can be sexist without being misogynistic, but the hijab remains misogynistic because the differential requirement is rooted in the sexual objectification of women that is part of a broader pattern of systemic inequality in Islam.

    The hijab cannot be looked at in a vacuum, it must be seen in the context of the Quran, Mohammed’s behavior, and sociological patterns in the Muslim world. The Quran has multiple intrinsically inegalitarian rules. As I mentioned earlier in these debates, the permission of sexual slavery is the most horrific and glaring. Mohammed’s sexual history is a disturbing read of its own. And if you really need a list of the problems with women’s status in contemporary Muslim societies, you have no legitimate place in this discussion.

    If Muslims were not ‘exotic dark skinned people in need of white leftist saviors’, and were just a white cult with these same beliefs, nothing I am saying would be controversial at all to most feminists.

  34. anne mariehovgaard says

    M. A. Melby @36
    Well of course not. When I use a word hijab, it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.

  35. sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d says

    “Thus it is not unreasonable for someone to assume, given that this is the form of dress adopted by that community, to assume that someone wearing agrees with its views.”

    NO.

    “It reveals which version of islam the wearer probably follows and how they interpret islam- assuming that they dress as they do from choice rather than because of legal or social coercion.”

    NO.

    Why not, M A. Melby?

  36. says

    Katherine, I really don’t think so – simply because inequality doesn’t always entail hatred. In a way things would be clearer if it did, but it doesn’t.

    Stoning is misogynist. The hijab isn’t necessarily.

    I might agree that the abaya and the burqa are, because they blot women out entirely, and that does seem like hatred. The way the hijab is enforced in some places is misogynist. But the thing itself? Not necessarily, I think.

  37. says

    Ophelia, I know you aren’t responding to me but when I characterized the hijab as intrinsically misogynistic but i wanted to clarify my position. I was doing it in the context of religious covering period as intrinsically misogynistic in judeo-christian traditions because of the reasons behind the covering. It’s not the covering itself, but what it represents and where it comes from – the assumption that sexuality is shameful, that women are uniquely sexual, that their bodies are dirty and tempting, etc, etc.

  38. brucegorton says

    @Katherine Woo

    I don’t think that is a fair assessment.

    I think a more fair one would be:

    If Muslims weren’t fairly routinely targeted for unjust treatment by the West’s rightwing, the portion of the left on the other side of this debate might feel more able to criticise Islam’s rightwing without fear of accidentally encouraging more of that unjust treatment.

    We all have a balance of prioritising long term ideals – such as avoiding double standards and encouraging equality, with preventing more immediate harms to people, for example that caused by leftwing criticisms becoming rightwing propaganda.

    I don’t think cultural chauvinism comes into it exactly, I think if that cult was being treated unfairly you’d see the exact same people defending it because that unfairness is their concern. We’re arguing with good people, it is just we see more harm in one course of action, they see more in another.

  39. says

    @39

    Because NO.

    Those are extreme generalizations that erase the individuality of those who wear the hijab. If you want to know how they think – their opinions on things, asking them might be a better option than assuming and judging them harshly.

  40. sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d says

    Surely the whole point of a hijab is to “erase the individuality of those who wear the hijab”, M. A. Melby? After all, it is supposed to conceal as many recognisable distinguishing features as possible.
    Given that in much of the world it is inconvenient and uncomfortable the likely reason for someone wearing it in such places is because they believe god or some other powerful force requires them to. In countries where there is legal or social coercion for women to wear hijab your claim that “If you want to know how they think – their opinions on things, asking them might be a better option”- why “judging them harshly”, incidentally?- would be valid. Equally, in such countries we would assume that women who refuse to wear hijab are likely have opinions opposed to the conventional morality of the country concerned.

  41. S Mukherjee says

    One thing I was wondering about — if the hijab is supposed to mean anything the wearer wants it to mean, then why wear a hijab? They could wear a tiara, or bandanna, or dunce cap or top hat!

    Another thing I was wondering about — why is is SO important for white muslim converts (such as Hijabinist) to wear the middle-eastern style head-cocooning scarf (which is what I imagine by hijab) as a sign of their religion? Millions of Muslim women, devout ones even, do not wear this type of hijab. For example, Malala wears a dupatta draped over her head and shoulders. That is a fairly common way of dressing in Pakistan and parts of India. In Bangladesh and some parts of India, Muslim women draw one end of the sari over their heads. So are white muslim converts ‘erasing’ the images and identities of South Asian Muslim women?

  42. says

    Elsa – understood. I agree with that. I think we’re just using “intrinsically” a bit differently.

    I think I would argue that most of the justifications for rules about special clothes that hide women’s heads are misogynist, but that in practice the ongoing custom isn’t necessarily. It can be, or not.

  43. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    MA, you know I have time for you. A LOT of it. But I think you’re seriously misguided about how symbols work. We can’t all just decide that X means Y “to me” and expect no one to say anything without querying us for our personal, subjective, intended meaning. That’s not reasonable, and I think you’d see that in a less charged context.

    No one gets to put on a fraught symbol and then pretend to be shocked, shocked!, when some of its common received meanings are received. Neither are we obligated to individually contact each and every person who writes a public article to ask what “they really mean.”

    Part of the burden of using symbols (we all do this) is knowing that other meanings attach to them. We have a responsibility to think about that, and to understand that our personal, subjective, private meaning does not negate the possibility that others with less savory intent will deploy them for more sinister purposes.

    I think you’re confusing the heck out of the private/public domains, and trying to make private rules enforceable in the public arena. I think that’s a category error.

  44. says

    S Mukherjee – yes exactly. She presents herself (on Twitter profile pic) as wearing the middle-eastern style head-cocooning scarf, but she’s in the UK. It’s not self-evident that a UK convert would automatically wear that, so there must be reasons.

    She seems to resent this claim bitterly, but the reality is that she’s saying something by wearing that kind of hijab as a convert. She’s not wearing it because she always has and all the women in her family always have, so she has reasons, and she’s saying something. And she did write a post on the subject after all; a public post.

  45. sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d says

    After all, a hijab is supposed to conceal as many recognisable distinguishing features as possible, M. A.Melby.
    What does it reveal? Mouth, nose, eyes and a few square inches of forehead or cheeks. Usually no hair at all. And someone’s height.

  46. says

    “Part of the burden of using symbols (we all do this) is knowing that other meanings attach to them. We have a responsibility to think about that, and to understand that our personal, subjective, private meaning does not negate the possibility that others with less savory intent will deploy them for more sinister purposes.”

    What’s not okay is for someone outside another’s cultural or religious context to project their own meaning onto a symbol that is not theirs. Those who wear the hijab wear it for various reasons that run a very large gambit from seeing their bodies and selves and the property of men to covering as customary fashion akin to any other type of gender-specific clothing choice.

    Many times traditional dress is a means to feel connected to someone’s family and ethnicity and has jack to do with how they feel about stuff and things beyond that.

    If someone who wears the hijab says, to them, that hijab is a dignified way of to dress, and is in contrast to the over-sexualized fashion that is popular elsewhere that they feel relegates women to a sex object. <——- a popular response.

    And someone from a culture that routinely uses female bodies and sexuality to sell shit – says – NO, if you cover you are complicit in acid attacks.

    There is something SERIOUSLY WRONG there.

    Remember this?

    http://marwarakha.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/Women-Lollipops.jpg

    Many people, many who cover, were enraged by this poster – as it characterized the hijab as a magical deterrent to unwanted attention and was inherently victim-blaming and undermined the concept of male agency.

    To project THAT idea of hijab onto other people – to make assumption about how they view their own personal choices and even reject the validity of their own self-assessments and defer instead to worn-out assumptions and prejudices that lack nuanced cultural and religious awareness – is wrong.

    Ophelia has been very blunt about her opinion. Heck, to a degree I share it and I am not upset at her. The traditional concept of hijab is based in sexism. I don't think that is even in dispute here. However, some of these comments are way out of line.

    I think that forcing women to cover their breasts in public is wrong. I think that our cultural conditioning concerning showing our breasts in public has real, very negative consequences, especially to those who are breast feeding. Trust me, I could go on about this at great lengths. I can tell you how I've personally been shunned, humiliated, and isolated for just f'ing wanting to feed my baby. It's completely bullshit.

    What if tomorrow, in my city, it was legal for anyone to not cover their breasts. Would it be okay to judge those who decided to cover anyway due to their own comfort or ideas of modesty?

    How absolutely disgusting would it be to point to a woman covering herself while breastfeeding and say she is complicit in rape and murder because her covering was indicative of the over-sexualization of women's bodies?!

    I got to step away from this before I really lose my shit. I'm sorry, but this topic really gets to me.

  47. mildlymagnificent says

    Those are extreme generalizations that erase the individuality of those who wear the hijab. If you want to know how they think – their opinions on things, asking them might be a better option than assuming and judging them harshly.

    And, for all we know, a woman wearing the hijab in a place where there are choices, however restrictive we consider them to be, might very well be taking a big, brave step away from the “obligation” within her family, neighbourhood, community to cover her face.

  48. says

    Yes, that’s true, mm. Good point.

    I don’t dispute people who just wear the hijab. I sometimes dispute people who valorize it, praise it, promote it. I think that smacks of bad faith. I think I sometimes dispute people who decide to start wearing it, or talk about doing so.

  49. says

    I have lived amongst Muslims all my life and can therefore testify that the overwhelmingly majority of Muslim women [ here in the United Kingdom ] do not even wear the hijab. This immediately gives lie to the notion that it is a symbol of patriarchy because if it is then why do not all Muslim women wear one ? [ it is actually more common amongst African Muslims than Asian Muslims so is worn more for cultural reasons than religious ones is the answer to that ] So I totally agree with the excellent point made by M A that one cannot project ones own meaning onto why another cultural reference that is outside ones own is practiced. One should instead learn from those within the particular culture or if possible as I can do look at the evidence as it actually is and not as one imagines it to be. Islam is after a religion of over a billion individuals. Muslims therefore do not all act and think the same no more than all Christians or all Jews do either

    One of the things I have noticed in my country is how many say the wearing of the hijab is against so called British values. But one must ask what exactly is it that is being referenced here ? In point of fact it is the actual item itself as much as what it supposedly represents. Yet the irony is that here in the West one can wear whatever one wants as long it covers one genitals and does not contain any offensive imagery. Which the hijab does. So whatever one thinks of it as a fashion item is completely superfluous. Yet many who know next to nothing about Islam will proffer an opinion on it primarily or exclusively on those grounds. I myself admit I do not find it very pleasing to the eye but my opinion is of zero importance here and I know it is so keep it to myself. I wonder how many of those who think the same are aware that their opinion is also of zero importance ? What someone chooses to wear is nobodys business but their own. I know it can be hard not to have an opinion on such matters but ultimately it is of no value at all. And unless you actually know why someone wears something it is unwise to pontificate on that too. As I said above I think the best way to learn about a culture is either to live within it oneself or to learn about it from those who do. It tends to keep the stereotyping and generalising in check

  50. Katherine Woo says

    If Muslims weren’t fairly routinely targeted for unjust treatment by the West’s rightwing, the portion of the left on the other side of this debate might feel more able to criticise Islam’s rightwing without fear of accidentally encouraging more of that unjust treatment.

    We all have a balance of prioritising long term ideals…

    This mindset disgusts me beyond words.

    As a Korean-American I grew up watching a racist attack on my community be condoned and/or swept under the rug, by paternalistic white leftists and certain black leftwingers in the wake of the L.A. Riots. To this day I can find people who would probably justify that violence with leftwing victimhood rhetoric or anti-Asian sentiments.

    You either have the courage of your liberal convictions or you sacrifice [less important minority] to leftwing politics. Women have more or less always come second to men of colour in voting rights, immigration, property ownership, media inclusion, etc.

    I am sick and fucking tired of this bullshit. You are betraying the liberal tradition and helping to prop up patriarchy all so you can meet some leftwing purity test, defined solely by the infantile standard of not appearing to superficially agree with the rightwing.

    ***

    This whole sick phenomenon sums up as feminist until Islam. F.U.I. – to which I say “phooey.”

  51. says

    surreptitious, please see what I said @ 54…which you probably didn’t see, because you were probably writing your comment when I posted it. It’s not wearing the hijab that I’m disputing so much as promoting the wearing of it. I do think that, ideally, women shouldn’t wear it, but I don’t go around telling anyone so. But when a woman heaps praise on the idea? Then I might write a post disagreeing.

  52. A. Noyd says

    surreptitious57 (#55)

    This immediately gives lie to the notion that it is a symbol of patriarchy because if it is then why do not all Muslim women wear one ?

    Well, that’s utter bullshit. Not all women comply with patriarchy to the same degree or in the same ways. But that doesn’t mean that hijab can be made into something other than the patriarchal institution it is.

    It’s the same deal with Western women being given away by their fathers in marriage and taking their husbands’ last names. I mean, would you say the fact not all women do that anymore gives lie to the notion that those are symbols of patriarchy? That would be ridiculous. Certainly, there are plenty of women—plenty of feminists, even—who abide by those traditions anyway, but that doesn’t mean those traditions can ever be anything but patriarchal. Not all of a woman’s choices are feminist ones.

  53. says

    A Call to Ban the Wearing of Ties

    I call on everyone to ban the wearing of ties. They’re a blatant symbol of class oppression – required, de facto, by bosses for decades. You can see men sweltering in these silly things in the summer. The dull sameness of suits and ties denies the individuality and personhood of the wearer. Speaking to a man in a tie, you don’t know if he represents himself or a company or government. Crowds of them blend together to the point that you can barely distinguish individual human beings. It can be assumed that all progressive men want an end to this absurd system of fancy dress, and that those who have a choice and still “suit up” in public are making a statement against social justice.

    Men who choose to wear ties are clearly “suits” and interested in promoting neoliberalism. They’re sending a message by their choice of attire that they stand for capitalism and neocolonialism, and should be treated accordingly. After all, they know the history of ties, and make that choice in full knowledge of their symbolism. Tieists are inherently suspicious – they wear their symbol of submission to authority around their very necks. (This is especially true of non-European men who sport colonial garb – traitors to the cause.) Those suited men who try to celebrate the wearing of a tie as an opportunity for personal expression or for any other reason in any context should be challenged at every turn.

    Until suits and ties can be legally banned, I suggest that we put the wearing of the tie front and center in every discussion of class and class oppression.

  54. sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d says

    What if tomorrow, in my city, it was legal for anyone to not cover their breasts. Would it be okay to judge those who decided to cover anyway due to their own comfort or ideas of modesty?

    There is a difference between what is legal, M. A. Melby, and what is obligatory. The hijab has a history and an ideology behind it and wearing the hijab reflects that history and ideology. Of course it’s an individual choice, but when people can make it, it’s a choice people make with knowledge of its implications. Mildlymagnificent has pointed out that the range of implications is wider than the ones we’ve considered, because we’ve been considering them in a context of social, not legal, choice and over a narrower range than there actually is. In France there have been reports of women who will not or cannot go out because of laws banning “religious coverings” which supports their point that wearing hijab sometimes may be rejection of convention.
    In the U.K. recently there has been a martyr for the opposite cause in Stephen Gough, the “naked rambler”, whose heroic/deranged campaign for the right to ramble naked regularly gets him imprisoned.

    The practical case against ties is overwhelming, SC. I only where one at funerals and when I am obliged to to get into a place and I am sufficiently eager to go in. Nevertheless, they are worn voluntarily. We can- and do- draw conclusions about their wearers from them, including the conclusion that they are the sort of people who wear a tie- often a particular tie- in particular circumstances. See the opening chapter of Evelyn Waugh’s Decline and Fall for an example of wearing the wrong tie in the wrong place.
    Why the fuss about suits, though? What about the “Nehru suit”, which is supposed not to be worn with a tie? How do we tell a suit from a jacket, trousers and waistcoat, all of which happen to be the same material of the same colour? It’s a similar problem to that presented in France, where the question of why someone wears a headscarf presumably determines its legality.

    An interesting example of the influence of dress is “straw hat day”, the day- it varied from place to place- when men- and presumably women- stopped wearing their cloth hats and put on straw hats. Wear a straw hat too early or a cloth hat too late, whatever the practicality of your dress, and you would be the subject of derision or worse. In George Gissing’s story A Life’s Morning an honest and intelligent man is driven to fraud, ignominy and eventually death because his hat is blown out of a railway train’s window and he cannot afford to buy a new one.

  55. says

    and when I am obliged to get into a place and I am sufficiently eager to go in.
    …they are worn voluntarily.

    Hm.

    Anyway, I thought the discussion was about voluntary garment choices.

    We can- and do- draw conclusions about their wearers from them

    So you agree!

  56. says

    In George Gissing’s story A Life’s Morning an honest and intelligent man is driven to fraud, ignominy and eventually death because his hat is blown out of a railway train’s window and he cannot afford to buy a new one.

    Sounds entirely reasonable.

  57. says

    Why the fuss about suits, though? What about the “Nehru suit”, which is supposed not to be worn with a tie?

    Should be banned, too, obviously. It’s frightening and disturbing to mainstream culture to have people walking around dressed as Bond villains.

    How do we tell a suit from a jacket, trousers and waistcoat, all of which happen to be the same material of the same colour?

    We can’t. When in doubt, ban.

  58. sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d says

    and when I am obliged to get into a place and I am sufficiently eager to go in.
    …they are worn voluntarily.

    Hm.

    If my desire to go somewhere outweighs my dislike of wearing a tie, I’ll wear a tie.
    It’s my choice. There are restaurants where men are obliged to wear ties. The restaurants supply ties for people who don’t have one when they arrive. However the ties are designed so that no true tie wearer would ever want to steal one.

    Anyway, I thought the discussion was about voluntary garment choices.

    Well, that is the question about hijab, SC- how voluntary is a choice made with hundreds of years of tradition, pressure and teaching behind it? Just knowing about those influences makes someone’s decision to wear hijab more voluntary than it would be if they just did it because everyone did it.

    When in doubt, ban.

    Er, no. Unless there is certainty, permit. We may regard peoples’ decisions as daft or deranged, but unless they directly affect other people they should be allowed to do them. After all, they probably think the same of our decisions. Toleration doesn’t mean letting people do what we think good, but letting people do what we do not think good.

  59. sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d says

    The hijab has a history and an ideology behind it

    Unlike women covering our breasts, which is a novel and idiosyncratic practice and purely personal choice.

    You might want to reread post 52, SC. You seem to have misunderstood M. A. Melby.

  60. brucegorton says

    @MA

    Those are extreme generalizations that erase the individuality of those who wear the hijab. If you want to know how they think – their opinions on things, asking them might be a better option than assuming and judging them harshly.

    We are noting that the garment was resurrected in the 1970s to signify sexist ideas about feminine “modesty”.

    Thus wearing the Hijab communicates acceptance of those ideas.

    That is after all, the entire point to why the damn thing exists in the first place.

    As much as one shouldn’t assume any group is of one mind on everything, one should at least take the time to note what an individual is choosing to communicate – and the Hijab is a form of clothing that does communicate things.

  61. brucegorton says

    #Katherine Woo

    I am sick and fucking tired of this bullshit. You are betraying the liberal tradition and helping to prop up patriarchy all so you can meet some leftwing purity test, defined solely by the infantile standard of not appearing to superficially agree with the rightwing.

    You’ve kind of mistaken me for someone who actually agrees with that position in the debate.

    I am largely with you on the idea that one should act with equality in mind – and not make exceptions on that. If we never act for fear that a shithead will agree with us, we never act.

    I am critical of Palestine for its human rights abuses, I am critical of Israel for its human rights abuses, and I am not so bothered if either side uses similar arguments against each other so much as the fact that they are engaging in human rights abuses.

    Further I believe compromising on principle ends up breeding double standards, which make it that much harder to argue against something when other people do it.

    We have all seen fatwa envy at work with Christians – where they say we wouldn’t dare criticise that if it was Islam – and it does have an effect on the discussion. That we do criticise that when it is Islam strips that claim of its validity and thus strengthens the position of the principles we fight for.

    But that doesn’t change the fact that I can see why some people could be highly reluctant to end up validating hate groups like the BNP. It is not about purity tests, its about not wanting to give skinheads an excuse to beat up immigrants.

  62. lurker says

    ‘I think that forcing women to cover their breasts in public is wrong.’ (M.A.Melby)
    There was a region in Southern India where lower caste women didn’t used to be allowed to cover their breasts.
    No point, just something that surprized me when I read about it. Humanity is so inventive, in bad ways.

  63. says

    If my desire to go somewhere outweighs my dislike of wearing a tie, I’ll wear a tie.
    It’s my choice.

    So, sc_alphabetsoup, you could choose not to wear it but that would restrict your freedom of movement. Some places would be off-limits for you if you chose not to wear a tie. For many people, forms of employment for which they’re qualified would similarly be unavailable to them if they didn’t agree to wear a tie. So it’s difficult to say that people in these jobs are wearing ties fully voluntarily. Men’s clothing, like women’s, is often structured by a combination of choice and personal expression, fashion, the influence of tradition, social pressure, rules, cost, and availability..

    My point is that trying to determine for each individual the degree of personal choice behind any garment or what that choice “means,” much less attributing a blanket meaning to a garment and making this a focus of discussion, is a silly waste of time. Turning a political discussion into a forum for policing people’s clothing is not only authoritarian, paternalistic, and disrespectful, but totally unconstructive for our movement or wider social goals. The progressive position should be that we oppose forcing, coercing, or requiring people to wear – or not wear – certain garments (excluding necessary uniforms and such), and that we ourselves don’t participate in policing people’s clothing through word or deed.*

    The reality for Muslims in the UK is that they’re living in a climate of terror. Much of the hostility is directed at women. Read the comments quoted here** to better understand this context. Alex Gabriel has quoted and discussed some of the racist rhetoric from Dawkins and Condell, and the connections of some of the secular and anti-Islamist organizations to conservatives and even the far Right have been set out.

    This is the context in which these campaigns are taking place. And the overwhelming message from the movement, as far as I can tell, is that we don’t care particularly about racism or the climate of terror, we only really care about segregation if it’s religiously inspired, we think Muslim women deserve some hostility and harassment for being Muslim and wearing certain clothing in public, we’re hostile to any criticism or expressions of concern about how our campaigns look to some people who are the victims of racism or anti-Muslim bigotry, those expressing criticisms should expect Twitter pilings-on with every sentence they wrote dissected and their arguments ignored or mischaracterized, we’ll close ranks in response to criticism and expect ourselves and our friends to be treated with perfect politeness, we’ll stand by quietly while one of the people responsible for harassing feminists and women in our movement joins the fray as long as the target isn’t “one of us,” as a price of participating Muslim women should expect to have their clothing made a subject of debate and to have to defend their choices to us while being shamed (while we have no such obligation), we consider feminism a white Western thing that some enlightened non-White non-Western people can join onto but to which they can’t contribute meaningfully, and we’re happy to have our campaign associated with people and organizations (and rhetoric) of the Right and far Right.

    That isn’t a message I support, and I think it’s a bad and destructive direction in which to be moving. It’s like people have forgotten all of the important lessons the movement has learned over the past few years, or forgotten that we’re a movement at all.

    *I do think vegan and animal liberation events should be allowed to ban the wearing of clothes made through the exploitation and killing of other animals. And that issue differs fundamentally in that the clothing is made from the bodies of others. But here, too, in the general context I don’t think trying to shame and police individual women’s dress is the productive approach.

    **Yes, that’s a link to Bob Pitt, who says some stupid and harmful things. The fact that I’ve long hesitated to link to that post because I didn’t want the discussion to be about that and not the content of the post is indicative of the problem.

  64. says

    Almost entirely beside the point (and tendentious in nearly every sentence), since what I took issue with wasn’t wearing hijab itself but the second level: valorizing hijab and writing about it as if it were uncomplicatedly progressive and right-on.

  65. kbplayer says

    “Iranians . . . are prohibited from wearing ties in Iran because they contribute to the spreading of western culture, according to the website of the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khameini.

    The practice stems from the 1979 Islamic revolution when the monarchy was overthrown and a unique Islamic republic was declared, in which religious clerics – headed by Ayatollah Khomeini – wielded ultimate political control.

    Neckties – and bowties – were said to be decadent, un-Islamic and viewed as “symbols of the Cross” and the oppressive West.

    Iranians were told to wear “standard Islamic garments” designed to remove ethnic and class distinctions reflected in clothing.

    Nowadays ties are still frowned on as “the influence of westernisation” on the way Iranians, especially young people, dress. ”

    So suit and tie could be revolutionary.

  66. Nick Gotts says

    I do think that, ideally, women shouldn’t wear it, but I don’t go around telling anyone so. – Opelia Benson@57

    Hilarious: the second half of the sentence directly demonstrates that the first half is false.

    I agree that it’s:

    dubious for feminists (for instance) to treat it as a feminist act to put it on. – OP

    But, as was pointed out repeatedly on the thread where this was originally said, that’s equally true of many, many things that feminist women voluntarily wear, and do, and defend in the same terms: that it’s their choice, and that women being able to exercise such choices is a key part of feminism. So why the focus on what Hijabist said, and on the hijab in general, rather than on women defending wearing heels or short skirts or lipstick, doing sex work, getting married…? The choices to criticise hijab, or those who claim wearing it as feminist, have a social context, and meanings that can’t be cast aside by an individual act or declaration, just as the hijab itself does. An important part of that context is the supposedly non-existent Islamophobia, and its racist resonances, and you can’t get rid of it just by using scare-quotes.

  67. Nick Gotts says

    @77

    the second half of the sentence directly demonstrates that the first half is false

    should be:

    the first half of the sentence directly demonstrates that the second half is false

  68. says

    Yes ok, I worded that badly. Well done. I should have said

    I do think that, ideally, women shouldn’t wear it, but I don’t go around personally telling people so.

    Why more focus on the hijab than on lipstick? Think hard. Maybe you can think of some reasons.

  69. Stacy says

    as was pointed out repeatedly on the thread where this was originally said, that’s equally true of many, many things that feminist women voluntarily wear, and do, and defend in the same terms: that it’s their choice, and that women being able to exercise such choices is a key part of feminism. So why the focus on what Hijabist said, and on the hijab in general, rather than on women defending wearing heels or short skirts or lipstick, doing sex work, getting married…?

    And for the record, feminists have argued about the wearing of heels and those other things quite a bit over the last 40 years. Duh.

  70. khms says

    Hmm. Somehow I think there’s a difference between calling the ability to choose to wear X a key part of feminism, and calling the actual wearing of X the same.

    As for the tie: I have no reason to suspect that it has historically been associated with the cross; it’s just a mutation of the neckerchief. However, it is indeed one of the many symbols of the patriarchy, and a particularly bothersome one at that. If we go about banning clothing at all (which I don’t really recommend), then I’d be happy to have the tie included. It’s perhaps indicative that the only time in my life (of about half a century) I wore it consistently for any length of time was during my time (18 months if I recall correctly) with the German Air Force (and never since) … and that a less lucky acquaintance recently characterized his taking a Microsoft course in the US as a time when he had to wear a tie. Yes, there are a lot of men who hate the damn things. There’s a reason they’re sometimes called “nooses”.

    There are many different reasons people wear particular garments. Only if there is no significant pressure to do so (or not to do so) can we start to assume anything about their reasons to do so – and we routinely do. In circles where ties are not usually worn, people with ties are often assumed to be rather conservative, and it seems a fairly safe bet, though of course not an absolute truth.

    Of course, it depends on context. If people see a young woman with a lot of makeup and revealing clothes, it makes a rather large difference in their assumptions if this is at some social function for young people, or at a street corner, even though it is entirely possible for the same woman to be seen both places – and statistically, these still seem fair bets. (I’d say it’s not the assumption that is problematic, it’s what we do about it. Where there are quite a number of different ways to do it wrong.)

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