Headscarf Trees in the Misogyny Forest

Meaning, of course, missing the former for the latter.

This thread is a perfect example of why I don’t tend to read comment threads (or, frankly, comment all that often on them). The comments by Ms. Benli, the article summarizing them and the commentary offered by Jill are great. They’re about the forest. The forest is misogyny. The forest is a worldwide patriarchal culture that includes a wide and diverse collection of trees used to oppress women.

Mandating that women can’t leave the house without a headscarf is the native tree in some parts of this forest. It grows nice in the soil there.

Insisting that women cannot participate fully in society while wearing the headscarf of their own volition is the native tree in another part of this overgrown forest. It grows in soil that depends on rigidly enforced secularism, and apparently, in this case is was planted by Ataturk along with some other, much prettier trees.

The point is that these legal decisions are not in polar opposition to one another. They are parallel and serve, ultimately, the same purpose. Women do not have the same options that men do. Women have to choose between religious beliefs and economic, academic or personal advancement. Women’s clothing becomes constantly subject to public scrutiny.

And what are the commenters over there talking about? Whether or not it’s possible for a woman to ever make an informed choice to wear a hijab (or niqab, or any form of veil/covering connected with Islam). Their sense of being “conflicted” over whether they should argue in support of a woman’s right to wear whatever she chooses, a woman’s right to practice her religion according to her own interpretation. The suggestion that this kind of thing is okay, because getting rid of a fundamentalist focus allowed all this other positive forward-movement back in the 20s and 30s–and okay, maybe some of it ended up being kinda controlling and misogynistic, but you can’t really blame anyone for that, can you?

Read the part in that account where she mentions that a university rector forced several women to uncover their heads in front of him before he would sign the papers to let them transfer out of the school he was no longer going to allow them to attend. Tell me that’s not an act designed to do nothing but assert power over these women. Tell me that has anything to do with something other than shaming these women, getting off on their humiliation, violating their sense of wholeness.

I heard this weekend of a friend of a friend who is marrying into a religion that mandates that she wear skirts. My immediate reaction was horror–it doesn’t take any clarification (I don’t even know exactly what religion it is) for me to know that this is a woman who will live under strict control. And the skirt is the symbol of her oppression. Probably a long, loose skirt, not too revealing, nothing that might arouse temptation in pure, innocent men. I’m conflicted about whether this implies I should throw out the long, loose skirts I have in my closet. There are four or five, and I love them, but now that I’m aware that it’s really all about patriarchal authority, I must not be making this choice freely and without coercion.

I’ve also been thinking about attending weddings simply in order to rip the veils off brides, or splash paint all over those virgin-white gowns, or physically preventing women from walking down the aisle with their fathers. I’d only be doing them a favour, showing them how they’ve been brainwashed by the patriarchy, how they were embracing the very symbols of their own oppression. Sure, initially they may accuse me of assaulting them, but later, I’d likely be inundated with thank-you cards, greeted as a liberator and told about just how good it feels to suddenly have the ability to make decisions outside of the realm of oppressive influence.

I didn’t get very far in that thread. Maybe it gets better. But off the top? Condescending, paternalistic, and Islamophobic. I’m confident many of them would have plenty to say to me about how it’s just not possible to reconcile my Christianity with my feminism, as well.

At which point I would like to have a discussion about how it’s far more difficult to reconcile my faith with my penchant for sarcasm, but nobody ever seems to want to talk to me about that.

(no preview time, be nice to me)


One thought on “Headscarf Trees in the Misogyny Forest

  1. Saturday Blogwhoring

    by matttbastard
    Ok, so I missed the midweek linkfarm–my apologies once again.  Feel free to sock it to me one time in comments.  Oh, and go show the one Melissa M. some love–that teaspoon don’t shine itself, dig?
    Stageleft: Affirmat…

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