Adele Wilde-Blavatsky responds

I’ve just published Adele Wilde-Blavatsky’s response to The Feminist Wire’s “Collective Response” to her article (also for The Feminist Wire) on the hijab and the hoodie. Don’t miss it. The “Collective Response” and the actions of The Feminist Wire – especially in summarily booting Wilde-Blavatsky from TFW – are a stinking outrage.

The “Collective Response” said, among other things,

What we do find deeply problematic, however, is the questioning of women’s choice to wear the niqab and the presumption that this decision is rooted in a “false consciousness.”

Wilde-Blavastky replied (but the Feminist Wire booted her out instead of publishing it, so I have the privilege of publishing it instead)

This is not a presumption, there is significant empirical evidence from Muslim women bearing witness to a deeply oppressive patriarchal culture and religious practice which entails being brainwashed and forced to wear the hijab and burqa from a young age and being severely punished for not doing so.  Women have been tortured and murdered for not wearing these clothes.  However, you only refer to the Muslim women who have the freedom to exercise choice. What about the millions of Muslim women who don’t? Are their voices and experiences not relevant in this debate at all? Is the fear of Islamaphobia so intense that it cannot accommodate the voices of Muslim and non-Muslim women who want to see the hijab banned?

In some circles, yes it clearly is.


  1. says

    Defending a woman’s right to wear the hijab is a bit like defending a slave’s right to wear leg-irons. There are many situations where theoretically someone could be in that situation voluntarily but the reasonable presumption must be that they are not. Without this presumption we could end up defending all sorts of supposed rights: the right of swimmers to drown, the right of citizens to be mugged, the right of the poor to starve…

  2. says

    1) I think it’s very important to distinguish between customs and practices that deserve condemnation and customs and practices that should be banned. FGM for minor children should be both condemned and legally prohibited, as child abuse. The wearing of any sort of clothing by adult women needs a more nuanced treatment. I absolutely condemn the wearing of the burqa and niqab and hijab as a sign of the subjugation of women. It’s problematic to specify and implement legal bans of such things – I think that public dress should be a completely secular matter, regulated only for the purpose of health and safety. (Yes, I do think that people should be able to go about naked in public if they so choose.)

    2) I think it’s also important to distinguish among the hijab, niqab, and burka. I think the hijab (which allows complete exposure of the face) falls into a normal range of cultural practice (even if we disagree with the practice). If we want to legally control the hijab, we also need to regulate against ultrafundamentalist Christian head-covering practices, not to mention ultra-Orthodox Jewish women wearing wigs. As for the niqab and burqa, the principle of secularism requires that religious practice have neither positive nor negative special treatment – in practical terms, I think this would permit women on the street to wear anything they choose, but be subject to the normal identity requirements – eg to show their faces when required, and also health requirements – eg for doctors to bare their arms for surgical scrubbing.


  1. […] her argument and point out its flaws.  Instead of engaging the author in a respectful manner, feminists chose to censor what they perceived as an inappropriate attack on the Muslim community. Some of us who tried to […]

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