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Hoodie and hijab are not the same

A few days ago, Adele Wilde-Blavatsky wrote ‘To Be Anti-Racist Is To Be Feminist: The Hoodie and the Hijab Are Not Equals‘ on The Feminist Wire. In response, 77 feminists wrote an open letter accusing Adele of racism and Islamophobia (surprise, surprise). Both Adele’s original article and the open letter are no longer available on The Feminist Wire (but can be found via the links above) due to an ‘appeal to legal action’.

In support of Adele, we sent in the following statement that was published on portside.org:

We extend our full solidarity to Adele Wilde-Blavatsky for such a clear and rare analysis from feminists in Europe and North America, in which women’s resistance to the Muslim Right -including by resisting all forms of fundamentalist veiling – is made visible and honoured, rather than sacrificed on the altar of anti racism and anti imperialism’.

* Marieme Helie Lucas, sociologist, Algeria, founder and former international coordinator of the international solidarity network Women Living Under Muslim Laws ( wluml), coordinator Secularism Is A Women’s Issue
* Fatou Sow, Researcher, Senegal, international coordinator, Women Living Under Muslim Laws
* Maryam Namazie, Spokesperson, One Law for All and Equal Rights Now – Organisation against Women’s Discrimination in Iran, Iran/UK
* Karima Bennoune, Professor of Law, Rutgers University, U S A
* Khawar Mumtaz, Shirkat Gah, Pakistan

Of course a lot more can and must be said on this important matter and we all plan to write more in the coming days but we wanted to get something out quickly in support of Adele hence the brief statement above.

You’re welcome to register your support in the comments section below since The Feminist Wire has shut down any discussion on the matter.

Meredith Tax of Centre for Secular Spaces has already written something on this. She says:

…Clearly this is meant to end the discussion. Why discuss anything with someone who is racism incarnate – as is shown by her “questioning of women’s choice to wear the niqab.”

Are all women who question this choice racist by definition? What about women in Iran who risk jail for being “mal- hijab?” What about Muslim women in Nigeria who want to wear their traditional head-wraps rather than the burquas being pushed by Saudi-financed mullahs? Do these women have agency? Or do women have agency only when they wear the veil?

Feminists should be encouraging discussion of such questions rather than trying to shut it down.

Khawar Mumtaz writes:

In the US, I am told, an “authentic” Muslim woman is the one who is in some form of hijab or veil. The rest, I suppose, are fakes or pretenders. Talk about stereo-typing! And coming from feminists is alarming.

Alarming indeed.

Comments

  1. Suzy says

    As a woman of Muslim background I want to express my support for Adele and horror at the mob like mentality of her detractors whose modus operandi and accusations of ‘Islamophobia’ and ‘racism’ replicate the kind of mode that patriarchal bigots use whenever aspects of Islamic culture or belief touching on misogyny are criticised or debated.

  2. Riptide says

    I *do* so wish legal action hadn’t been threatened (although I seriously wonder whether said threat of ‘legal action’ was in accordance with Islamic law rather than that of the relevant national polity), or that The Feminist Wire had shown a bit of backbone and stood up for the right to publish controversial speech.

    For the record, though, I didn’t find anything particularly controversial in the article mirrored SIAWI.org. Men have written many similar things without the call of ‘racism’ or ‘cultural imperialism’. But I’m reminded of a passage in “Does God Hate Women,” where Ophelia dissects intra-feminist ‘critique’ of some (women) feminists’ own critiques of female genital mutilation. Many feminists, and liberals generally, seem all too eager to consume their own in their rush to appear anti-imperialist (and thus to accept the worst kind of patriarchal thuggery).

    I stand with Adele, with Maryam and Ophelia, with Ayaan Hirsi Ali and so many more.

  3. smrnda says

    The problem is that, between respecting human rights and respecting other cultures, people seem to lean to hard on the latter one, as if ‘cultures’ rather than individuals had rights. ‘Cultures’ have rights the way that nations are ‘great nations’ – at the expense of the people living in them.

    I think it might also be a kind of Western liberal fetish for cultural ‘authenticity.’

    • Tony says

      Yes.
      This.
      A hundred times.
      I’m sick of how we must all “be respectful of other cultures and traditions”. If those cultures and traditions trample on human rights, they don’t deserve respect (for that matter, I’m not completely certain ‘cultures and traditions’ should get respect; I reserve respect for people).

  4. smrnda says

    Just to add, I am very left-wing myself but I just note that many people who are otherwise very adamant that people should be free to make their own choices seem to romanticize the idea of living in a culture where cultural norms permeate all your decision-making.

  5. A. Noyd says

    Isn’t it convenient how the trappings of patriarchy can so easily be rewritten into women’s liberation? One needs only to find a few women to bring up how they chose to conform and then attack any critics as bigots.

  6. says

    A local shopping mall tried to ban people wearing hoodies about 5 years ago. I think they stopped when various shops started to complain that they were loosing customers. It caused a certain amount of rumpus in the local press, but that was nothing to what would have happened if they had tried to ban the hijab!

  7. ginseng says

    From the open letter:

    “Wilde-Blavatsky writes, “The hijab, which is discriminatory and rooted in men’s desire to control women’s appearance and sexuality, is not a choice for the majority of women who wear it.”

    But later they seem to have forgotten about the word “majority”:

    “To us, it is deeply troubling to be patronized by a person who insists the hijab is never a choice made of free will.”

    I wonder who made the legal threat? How can there even BE one?

  8. ned says

    I’m a Pakistani woman, and a feminist. While I found the original article kind of disappointing, I am a huge critic of hijab and niqab (having worn hijab myself for four years, by the way), and I am very irritated by the culturally relativistic nonsense coming from feminists anxious to appear anti-imperialist. There are important critiques of hijab and niqab to be made, and of how this emphasis on women’s modesty *literally* feeds into rape culture.

    It doesn’t even matter to me whether it’s a choice or not at an individual level. The point is, it’s a *wrong* choice on a structural level regardless of whether or not it’s an individual choice.

    Intersectionality is no excuse for rationalizing patriarchy. If it is, we may as well just pack up the whole feminist movement and go home, because as it is it is degenerating into libertarian individualism.

  9. marella says

    The hejab is a loathsome garment which dehumanizes women and accuses all men of being unable to control themselves. Every time I see a woman wearing it I want to go up to her and point out that the freedoms women have in my country were hard won over centuries of struggle, and now she is wantonly throwing all the sacrifices made by previous generations in their faces. Then I remind myself that it really isn’t her choice and she is far more a victim of the damned thing than I am. Then I feel sad.

    A phobia is an irrational fear, as a woman fearing Islam is entirely rational. Men should fear it too because it turns them into monsters.

  10. Martyn N Hughes says

    I wonder if these feminist’s ever stopped for a moment to consider the possibility that in their eagerness to prove their ‘anti-racism’ they have become somewhat racist themselves?

    To ignore the truth about the origins and purpose of the veil as laid out by Adele Wilde-Blavatsky in her piece ‘‘To Be Anti-Racist Is To Be Feminist: The Hoodie and the Hijab Are Not Equals‘ will do the majority of Middle Eastern women who have to wear it a disservice.

    Only free, open and fair discussion will pave way to understanding the issues faced today, not the removal of articles, a shut down of discussion and a whole lot of huffing and puffing in general.

    • Adele Wilde-B says

      Dear Maryam and all the women in your letter who have publicly supported the publication of my article and condemned the censorship and threat of legal action by TFW, thank you. My voice has been bullied and censored into silence. I am currently exploring other forums where my article can be re-published with a postscript explaining what happened at TFW afterwards. To summarise, the article was completely undermined by the majority of TFW (there were some dissenters) and I was defamed by many women online as a ‘racist’ and ‘white supremacist’. References to my mixed-race family were mocked as my using my ‘ties’ to ‘non-white bodies’ to ‘obfuscate my whiteness’. My Buddhist views were mocked. Other Muslim women or women of colour who supported and agreed with me publicly were either ignored or told they needed to read certain North American academic textbooks. The TFW Collective after publishing two responses to my article then decided (without my being present) to remove me from the editorial collective, and I was informed of this in a curt email from the Founder. I was then threatened with legal action if made any more posts that TFW members of the collective has seen and approved my article as ‘excellent’ before it was published. When I then counter-responded that I would sue them for defamation if they did not remove defamatory comment about me and my family from their website and social media. They responded by deleting both my article and their initial response, again without any consultation. This censorship and hostility is unacceptable in any open, free debate on the issue of patriarchal values and dominance in religion and in racist violence against women (and men). Thank you again for your support. I will let you know where and when the article is re-published.

  11. Fatou Sow says

    Chère Adèle,

    Je te félicite à nouveau pour ton formidable courage. Tu as vraiment raison : la capuche n’est pas le voile. Personne n’arrivera à me convaincre, moi africaine et musulmane, que le foulard et le voile islamiques sont des insignes de mon identité féminine et musulmane. Je regrette que des femmes aussi intelligentes et brillantes aient pris leur plume pour condamner tes arguments comme paroles d’une hégémonie blanche! C’est trop facile, quand de si nombreuses femmes dans le monde luttent contre ces injustices.

    Je t’encourage à continuer à écrire ton indignation contre toutes ces aliénations qui nous marquent au corps et à l’esprit. Sois assurée de mon soutien et de mon amitié.

    Fatou Sow, professeure de sociologie, coordinatrice de Women Living Under Laws

    • says

      Here’s a translation:
      Dear Adele,
      I again congratulate you on your wonderful courage. You are absolutely right: the hoodie is not the hijab. As an African Muslim woman, no one can convince me that the headscarf and the Islamic veil are signs of my female or Muslim identities. I am sorry that such brilliant women have taken up their pens to condemn your arguments as white supremacy. That is facile, when so many women in the world fight against these injustices. I urge you to continue writing to express your anger against all of these alienations that mark us in body and spirit. Please be assured of my support and my friendship.
      Fatou Sow, Professor of Sociology and Coordinator, Network of Women Living Under Muslim Laws

  12. Adele Wilde-B says

    Dear Maryam, Fatou, Ophelia, Meredith, Marieme, Karima and Khawar and all the amazing women who have offered their support this last few days, I thank you so much. Maryam, thanks for your latest post, I emailed you a couple of days ago, I do hope you got it. Please see my latest response in the HuffPost UK today. I would be interested in your thoughts and views on what I say in it too. Meredith, apologies for not seeing your website before my article was submitted for publication though. I will certainly put a link to it in the Comments section. http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/adele-tomlin/race-above-gender-when-anti-racism-becomes-anti-woman_b_1460469.html

Trackbacks

  1. […] Maryam points out, in agreement with Adele Wilde-Blavatsky, that the hoodie and the hijab are not the same. Wilde-Blavatsky published an article arguing that on the website The Feminist Wire on April 13. What I take issue with here is the equating of the hoodie and the hijab as sources of ethnic identity and pride. The hijab, which is discriminatory and rooted in men’s desire to control women’s appearance and sexuality, is not a choice for the majority of women who wear it. The hoodie, on the other hand, is a choice for everyone who wears it. The history and origin of these two items of clothing and what they represent could not be more different; like comparing the crippling footbindings of Chinese women with a `Made in China’ Nike trainer. […]

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