Op Ed: Paternalism, Not Protection: A Feminist Reassessment of the Burqa and Niqab

June 30, 2013
By

By Aicha Marhfour

Yesterday, I opened a Facebook message from an old friend, touched that she was thinking of me after many years. But the feeling quickly turned to surprise as I read the words, “I’m thinking of wearing the niqab, so could you remove the photos of me on your page?”

Easily done. But as a moderate Muslim wary of extreme sides of the spectrum, I wanted to know more. So I typed back, asking for her reasons, pasting in a Quranic verse in expectation of her defense.

I was curious to know the reasons behind my erstwhile friend’s choice, particularly when the niqab in particular is not a religious requirement.

“The niqab is the proper hijab and jilbab,” she said, ending a long, rambling paragraph with a few barbs: “… Most people don’t know their religion and only follow the ways of those around them.”

Oh snap. That’s me put in my place!

Only, of course, it’s not. Her response had little in the way of specifics, and the argument was unsupported by any authority. I expected as much from a Facebook message.

Vagueness persists when considering the religious position of the burqa (the full-face covering and veil) and the niqab (its slightly freer sibling, where one’s eyes are shown). There is nothing in the Quran explicitly providing for a burqa or a niqab.

The root of discussion is this verse: “And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and be modest, and to display of their adornment only that which is apparent, and to draw their veils over their bosoms, and not to reveal their adornment…” (24:31)

What does apparent mean? And what’s an adornment? Schools of thought are divided on this issue – some scholars say that it means you cover your face and hands (i.e. a burqa), others interpret it more loosely, suggesting that you need to cover your ‘awrah’ (intimate parts) and possibly also your hair. Women are told to dress modestly, but there is much room for interpretation.

Each side of the argument supplements their view with extrinsic “authorities.” There is no definite provision for the burqa and niqab, which largely began as cultural imports from overseas – people simply following the ways of those around them. So why do women wear them?

I last wrote about the burqa three years ago, and while I cringe today at the superficiality of my arguments, I still stand by the idea that legislating against niqabs, burqas, and hijabs is the sort of government overreach that you read about in dystopian novels.

However, the law aside, the burqa and niqab are still troubling for women. Men and women both are told to “lower their gaze” and dress modestly in Islam, and it is largely accepted that the burqa and niqab are supplementary coverings.

Many who choose to wear them speak of being empowered, and wanting to live their lives judged as people and not bodies. This is a fine goal, and women who make the choice (freely, without pressure, I hope you’re reading this, Taliban!) should be able to live as normally as possible, without encountering discrimination or the long arm of the law.

But some of the reasoning and power dynamics behind the niqab and burqa are sketchy and worrisome. Simply put, a woman veiling all of her body is putting the burden of avoiding the male gaze on herself entirely. You may feel in some way less sexual, but all you’re doing is serving entrenched patriarchal power structures

It is a one-sided concession to a rape culture that tells women to avoid streets at night and dress in a way that is not “asking for it” — without telling men to stop attacking women. The burqa and niqab, in a roundabout way, sexualize the female form as blatantly as a naked body supposedly does. By covering absolutely everything, a woman accepts her body as a wild, roaming sexual beast that needs to be neutered and wrapped up in case of attack.

Men ostensibly can’t control themselves, so it is the lot of women to do so. The aim to desexualise by way of complete concealment ultimately has the opposite effect – a woman in a burqa or a niqab submits to the mythical unrestrained male libido without challenging it.

Men and women are told in Islam to lower their gazes. So why are people putting responsibility on a woman to push the man’s gaze away?

Women speak of the burqa and niqab in lofty terms like “empowerment.” I make the choice for me, I feel good about me, I can get on with my life as a person! But there is nothing empowering about submitting to the idea that a) men are too horny to function in the presence of a lady’s curves and undulations, and b) you must take responsibility by concealing yourself.

The burqa and the niqab, more than anything, promote shame. A woman’s body is no longer hers, it is a danger and something to be parcelled away – a word often used is “protected.”

A burqa and a niqab protect a woman against attack as much as a sign saying: ‘Dear rapists, please don’t touch!’ Women and men of all shapes and colors and sizes are subjected to sexual offenses, because rape and other sexual violence is not about desire or “asking for it,” it is about power and domination.

It also misconstrues the realities of rape – rape by strangers accounts for only 13.8 per cent of the crime. You’re more likely to be attacked by an acquaintance than by a shady man ambushing you because of how “sexy” you look.

Either way, rape is more about subduing and exerting power over a helpless body – and a burqa or niqab doesn’t suddenly inure you from that.

There is more paternalism than protection involved here. A woman may wear the burqa and niqab and trumpet loudly that it is her “choice,” but for that to be true she must also consider the underlying reasons involved.

Islam tells men and women to lower their gazes, but women covering and restricting themselves fully take responsibility for this, without challenging the males who leer and terrify. They are almost complicit in shaming their own bodies into a submission to men that is out of Islam’s bounds.

_________________________________________

imageAicha Marhfour is a writer currently based in Melbourne. She has had work published in Australia and abroad. Twitter: @aichamarhfour

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  5. James McGuigan on July 1, 2013 at 3:30 pm

    One of the historical underlying issues in human society has been the conflict between “go forth and multiply” vs the economics of “children are expensive” thus “who pays”.

    Today women have the option of being economically independent, we have a modern welfare state, DNA paternity tests, a legal obligation of economic child support, and modern contraception means the act of sex has been mostly divorced from the act of creating babies.

    Another key aspect of modern civilization is mass production and the specialization of labor. Today about 5% of our population are involved in agriculture. This means the other 95% of us have been freed up to do other things, and still not go hungry.

    Now lets got back a thousand years, and remove all these assumptions. People are poor and are mostly subsistence farmers. It is the working aged men that are considered economically active, they work the fields and produce food, and must produce enough food for all those who are economically dependent upon them. This includes their old parents, their young children and their wives. Land and economic capital is passed down through male bloodlines.

    If you are unable to support yourself, and you have nobody to support you, then you die. Marriage being about love is a maybe somewhat of a modern concept, I suspect that historically it has been driven more by economics.

    Sex randomly produces babies. There is no contraception, pregnancy tests or even paternity tests. Marriage is the promise of lifelong economic support in exchange for monogamy and virginity (the only surefire method of proving paternity before the age of DNA testing). There is no welfare state and a man does not want to raise another man’s child.

    The prohibition of sex before marriage prevents babies being born out of wedlock, which would thus become dependents of the grandparents rather than the husband. Also though the economics of scarcity, it artificially increases the value of sex and virginity (the one economic bargaining chip a woman has) to the point that it is economically worth a lifetimes worth of economic support.

    The flip side, in terms of gender equality, is that men are being forced into lifelong economic servitude, the women holding them hostage to eternal sexual frustration.

    The entire feminine economic model then hinges on leveraging this aspect of sex and virginity. The male gaze, or lack thereof, becomes a tool to socially manipulate men as a group. A woman must be protected from hungry men, but the men must remain hungry else they will not pay the price demanded.

    By fetishizing virginity, and placing such a high economic value on it, both for men and women, then rape stops being just a traumatic experience, and effectively becomes an economic death sentence. Pregnancy will not be visible for many months. She has lost her one and only economic bargaining chip, hence the rapist if caught may be forced to marry her as economic restitution. This is seen as cruel in feminist terms, where marriage is seen as being about love rather than economics.

    The woman, now unmarriageable, must remain an economic dependent upon her family for the rest of her life. In the world of arranged marriages, they must now explain that not all their unmarried daughters are virgins (and thus economically valuable). I assume this the “honor” part of honor killings.

    So whats changed in the west. Effective contraception means we can do sex without requiring a lifetimes worth of economic commitment. Paternity tests prevent economic cuckolding, and also economic abandonment without marriage. Women in the workforce mean a woman is economically independent rather than dependent upon marriage for survival. She has more options than simply selling her virginity to the highest bidder. The welfare state even provides basic housing and subsistence for single mothers, its no longer an economic death sentence. Free love and the sexual revolution means that women have (mostly) stopped using sexual frustration as a collective weapon against men and are thus (mostly) safe from uncontrolled outbursts of male sexual frustration.

  6. James McGuigan on July 1, 2013 at 3:30 pm

    One of the historical underlying issues in human society has been the conflict between “go forth and multiply” vs the economics of “children are expensive” thus “who pays”.

    Today women have the option of being economically independent, we have a modern welfare state, DNA paternity tests, a legal obligation of economic child support, and modern contraception means the act of sex has been mostly divorced from the act of creating babies.

    Another key aspect of modern civilization is mass production and the specialization of labor. Today about 5% of our population are involved in agriculture. This means the other 95% of us have been freed up to do other things, and still not go hungry.

    Now lets got back a thousand years, and remove all these assumptions. People are poor and are mostly subsistence farmers. It is the working aged men that are considered economically active, they work the fields and produce food, and must produce enough food for all those who are economically dependent upon them. This includes their old parents, their young children and their wives. Land and economic capital is passed down through male bloodlines.

    If you are unable to support yourself, and you have nobody to support you, then you die. Marriage being about love is a maybe somewhat of a modern concept, I suspect that historically it has been driven more by economics.

    Sex randomly produces babies. There is no contraception, pregnancy tests or even paternity tests. Marriage is the promise of lifelong economic support in exchange for monogamy and virginity (the only surefire method of proving paternity before the age of DNA testing). There is no welfare state and a man does not want to raise another man’s child.

    The prohibition of sex before marriage prevents babies being born out of wedlock, which would thus become dependents of the grandparents rather than the husband. Also though the economics of scarcity, it artificially increases the value of sex and virginity (the one economic bargaining chip a woman has) to the point that it is economically worth a lifetimes worth of economic support.

    The flip side, in terms of gender equality, is that men are being forced into lifelong economic servitude, the women holding them hostage to eternal sexual frustration.

    The entire feminine economic model then hinges on leveraging this aspect of sex and virginity. The male gaze, or lack thereof, becomes a tool to socially manipulate men as a group. A woman must be protected from hungry men, but the men must remain hungry else they will not pay the price demanded.

    By fetishizing virginity, and placing such a high economic value on it, both for men and women, then rape stops being just a traumatic experience, and effectively becomes an economic death sentence. Pregnancy will not be visible for many months. She has lost her one and only economic bargaining chip, hence the rapist if caught may be forced to marry her as economic restitution. This is seen as cruel in feminist terms, where marriage is seen as being about love rather than economics.

    The woman, now unmarriageable, must remain an economic dependent upon her family for the rest of her life. In the world of arranged marriages, they must now explain that not all their unmarried daughters are virgins (and thus economically valuable). I assume this the “honor” part of honor killings.

    So whats changed in the west. Effective contraception means we can do sex without requiring a lifetimes worth of economic commitment. Paternity tests prevent economic cuckolding, and also economic abandonment without marriage. Women in the workforce mean a woman is economically independent rather than dependent upon marriage for survival. She has more options than simply selling her virginity to the highest bidder. The welfare state even provides basic housing and subsistence for single mothers, its no longer an economic death sentence. Free love and the sexual revolution means that women have (mostly) stopped using sexual frustration as a collective weapon against men and are thus (mostly) safe from uncontrolled outbursts of male sexual frustration.

  7. James McGuigan on July 1, 2013 at 3:30 pm

    One of the historical underlying issues in human society has been the conflict between “go forth and multiply” vs the economics of “children are expensive” thus “who pays”.

    Today women have the option of being economically independent, we have a modern welfare state, DNA paternity tests, a legal obligation of economic child support, and modern contraception means the act of sex has been mostly divorced from the act of creating babies.

    Another key aspect of modern civilization is mass production and the specialization of labor. Today about 5% of our population are involved in agriculture. This means the other 95% of us have been freed up to do other things, and still not go hungry.

    Now lets got back a thousand years, and remove all these assumptions. People are poor and are mostly subsistence farmers. It is the working aged men that are considered economically active, they work the fields and produce food, and must produce enough food for all those who are economically dependent upon them. This includes their old parents, their young children and their wives. Land and economic capital is passed down through male bloodlines.

    If you are unable to support yourself, and you have nobody to support you, then you die. Marriage being about love is a maybe somewhat of a modern concept, I suspect that historically it has been driven more by economics.

    Sex randomly produces babies. There is no contraception, pregnancy tests or even paternity tests. Marriage is the promise of lifelong economic support in exchange for monogamy and virginity (the only surefire method of proving paternity before the age of DNA testing). There is no welfare state and a man does not want to raise another man’s child.

    The prohibition of sex before marriage prevents babies being born out of wedlock, which would thus become dependents of the grandparents rather than the husband. Also though the economics of scarcity, it artificially increases the value of sex and virginity (the one economic bargaining chip a woman has) to the point that it is economically worth a lifetimes worth of economic support.

    The flip side, in terms of gender equality, is that men are being forced into lifelong economic servitude, the women holding them hostage to eternal sexual frustration.

    The entire feminine economic model then hinges on leveraging this aspect of sex and virginity. The male gaze, or lack thereof, becomes a tool to socially manipulate men as a group. A woman must be protected from hungry men, but the men must remain hungry else they will not pay the price demanded.

    By fetishizing virginity, and placing such a high economic value on it, both for men and women, then rape stops being just a traumatic experience, and effectively becomes an economic death sentence. Pregnancy will not be visible for many months. She has lost her one and only economic bargaining chip, hence the rapist if caught may be forced to marry her as economic restitution. This is seen as cruel in feminist terms, where marriage is seen as being about love rather than economics.

    The woman, now unmarriageable, must remain an economic dependent upon her family for the rest of her life. In the world of arranged marriages, they must now explain that not all their unmarried daughters are virgins (and thus economically valuable). I assume this the “honor” part of honor killings.

    So whats changed in the west. Effective contraception means we can do sex without requiring a lifetimes worth of economic commitment. Paternity tests prevent economic cuckolding, and also economic abandonment without marriage. Women in the workforce mean a woman is economically independent rather than dependent upon marriage for survival. She has more options than simply selling her virginity to the highest bidder. The welfare state even provides basic housing and subsistence for single mothers, its no longer an economic death sentence. Free love and the sexual revolution means that women have (mostly) stopped using sexual frustration as a collective weapon against men and are thus (mostly) safe from uncontrolled outbursts of male sexual frustration.

  8. James McGuigan on July 1, 2013 at 3:30 pm

    One of the historical underlying issues in human society has been the conflict between “go forth and multiply” vs the economics of “children are expensive” thus “who pays”.

    Today women have the option of being economically independent, we have a modern welfare state, DNA paternity tests, a legal obligation of economic child support, and modern contraception means the act of sex has been mostly divorced from the act of creating babies.

    Another key aspect of modern civilization is mass production and the specialization of labor. Today about 5% of our population are involved in agriculture. This means the other 95% of us have been freed up to do other things, and still not go hungry.

    Now lets got back a thousand years, and remove all these assumptions. People are poor and are mostly subsistence farmers. It is the working aged men that are considered economically active, they work the fields and produce food, and must produce enough food for all those who are economically dependent upon them. This includes their old parents, their young children and their wives. Land and economic capital is passed down through male bloodlines.

    If you are unable to support yourself, and you have nobody to support you, then you die. Marriage being about love is a maybe somewhat of a modern concept, I suspect that historically it has been driven more by economics.

    Sex randomly produces babies. There is no contraception, pregnancy tests or even paternity tests. Marriage is the promise of lifelong economic support in exchange for monogamy and virginity (the only surefire method of proving paternity before the age of DNA testing). There is no welfare state and a man does not want to raise another man’s child.

    The prohibition of sex before marriage prevents babies being born out of wedlock, which would thus become dependents of the grandparents rather than the husband. Also though the economics of scarcity, it artificially increases the value of sex and virginity (the one economic bargaining chip a woman has) to the point that it is economically worth a lifetimes worth of economic support.

    The flip side, in terms of gender equality, is that men are being forced into lifelong economic servitude, the women holding them hostage to eternal sexual frustration.

    The entire feminine economic model then hinges on leveraging this aspect of sex and virginity. The male gaze, or lack thereof, becomes a tool to socially manipulate men as a group. A woman must be protected from hungry men, but the men must remain hungry else they will not pay the price demanded.

    By fetishizing virginity, and placing such a high economic value on it, both for men and women, then rape stops being just a traumatic experience, and effectively becomes an economic death sentence. Pregnancy will not be visible for many months. She has lost her one and only economic bargaining chip, hence the rapist if caught may be forced to marry her as economic restitution. This is seen as cruel in feminist terms, where marriage is seen as being about love rather than economics.

    The woman, now unmarriageable, must remain an economic dependent upon her family for the rest of her life. In the world of arranged marriages, they must now explain that not all their unmarried daughters are virgins (and thus economically valuable). I assume this the “honor” part of honor killings.

    So whats changed in the west. Effective contraception means we can do sex without requiring a lifetimes worth of economic commitment. Paternity tests prevent economic cuckolding, and also economic abandonment without marriage. Women in the workforce mean a woman is economically independent rather than dependent upon marriage for survival. She has more options than simply selling her virginity to the highest bidder. The welfare state even provides basic housing and subsistence for single mothers, its no longer an economic death sentence. Free love and the sexual revolution means that women have (mostly) stopped using sexual frustration as a collective weapon against men and are thus (mostly) safe from uncontrolled outbursts of male sexual frustration.

  9. Calvin Carson on July 2, 2013 at 2:51 am

    Hi. I was very enthusiatic when I saw the title of this article because I very much wanted to know what the Burka meant to an individual muslim who choose to wear it. One woman told me that she wore it because she considered her body to be a diamond and a gift she gave only to the man she loved.I thought that was a beautiful explanation.However, If felt this article didnt explain the feelings of the woman concerned but contributed to the racists arguments that “Muslim” men are all rapists and thats why women are forced to wear it.I am grateful for gaining the knowledge of where this is mentioned in the Quran.However, I feel education about rape or telling men that they shouldnt do it is not the problem because those that do it are in my opinion psychopaths who only see what they want and take it without being able to relate to the emotions or empathise with another person.I think maybe one way to tackle it would be to educate people from an early age to recognise their own feelings and emotions and by doing so, help them to recognise the same feelings in other people.The problem I think lies in the belief that men should not have feelings and these are oppressed at an early age.The only emotion a boy is allowed to express for example in physical education is anger and agression.When all other feelings are repressed and ridiculed this prevents self empathy and the ability to empathise with others.

  10. Calvin Carson on July 2, 2013 at 2:51 am

    Hi. I was very enthusiatic when I saw the title of this article because I very much wanted to know what the Burka meant to an individual muslim who choose to wear it. One woman told me that she wore it because she considered her body to be a diamond and a gift she gave only to the man she loved.I thought that was a beautiful explanation.However, If felt this article didnt explain the feelings of the woman concerned but contributed to the racists arguments that “Muslim” men are all rapists and thats why women are forced to wear it.I am grateful for gaining the knowledge of where this is mentioned in the Quran.However, I feel education about rape or telling men that they shouldnt do it is not the problem because those that do it are in my opinion psychopaths who only see what they want and take it without being able to relate to the emotions or empathise with another person.I think maybe one way to tackle it would be to educate people from an early age to recognise their own feelings and emotions and by doing so, help them to recognise the same feelings in other people.The problem I think lies in the belief that men should not have feelings and these are oppressed at an early age.The only emotion a boy is allowed to express for example in physical education is anger and agression.When all other feelings are repressed and ridiculed this prevents self empathy and the ability to empathise with others.

  11. Calvin Carson on July 2, 2013 at 2:51 am

    Hi. I was very enthusiatic when I saw the title of this article because I very much wanted to know what the Burka meant to an individual muslim who choose to wear it. One woman told me that she wore it because she considered her body to be a diamond and a gift she gave only to the man she loved.I thought that was a beautiful explanation.However, If felt this article didnt explain the feelings of the woman concerned but contributed to the racists arguments that “Muslim” men are all rapists and thats why women are forced to wear it.I am grateful for gaining the knowledge of where this is mentioned in the Quran.However, I feel education about rape or telling men that they shouldnt do it is not the problem because those that do it are in my opinion psychopaths who only see what they want and take it without being able to relate to the emotions or empathise with another person.I think maybe one way to tackle it would be to educate people from an early age to recognise their own feelings and emotions and by doing so, help them to recognise the same feelings in other people.The problem I think lies in the belief that men should not have feelings and these are oppressed at an early age.The only emotion a boy is allowed to express for example in physical education is anger and agression.When all other feelings are repressed and ridiculed this prevents self empathy and the ability to empathise with others.

  12. Calvin Carson on July 2, 2013 at 2:51 am

    Hi. I was very enthusiatic when I saw the title of this article because I very much wanted to know what the Burka meant to an individual muslim who choose to wear it. One woman told me that she wore it because she considered her body to be a diamond and a gift she gave only to the man she loved.I thought that was a beautiful explanation.However, If felt this article didnt explain the feelings of the woman concerned but contributed to the racists arguments that “Muslim” men are all rapists and thats why women are forced to wear it.I am grateful for gaining the knowledge of where this is mentioned in the Quran.However, I feel education about rape or telling men that they shouldnt do it is not the problem because those that do it are in my opinion psychopaths who only see what they want and take it without being able to relate to the emotions or empathise with another person.I think maybe one way to tackle it would be to educate people from an early age to recognise their own feelings and emotions and by doing so, help them to recognise the same feelings in other people.The problem I think lies in the belief that men should not have feelings and these are oppressed at an early age.The only emotion a boy is allowed to express for example in physical education is anger and agression.When all other feelings are repressed and ridiculed this prevents self empathy and the ability to empathise with others.

  13. Anisa on July 3, 2013 at 6:59 am

    I think it’s unfair to blame those who wear the niqab as people who are strengthening an existing power dynamic between men and women. Women and what they choose to wear are not responsible for the perceptions and actions of men.
    Following the reasoning of the writer: When a man violates a woman wearing a short skirt it is not her fault, she wasn’t asking for it or trying to lure him in, and really if we wanted to fix the problem our attention should be on the man and making him accountable for HIS actions.

    Why aren’t we applying the same to those who choose to wear the niqab? She isn’t necessarily reinforcing some idea that men are naturally “too horny to function, this is just one of many ways you can rightly or wrongly perceive the way she dresses. The article acknowledges the reasons why women choose to wear it, but I feel it then too quickly assumes that it “promotes shame”. Yet for someone else, a ‘niqabi’ could be seen as promoting pride in one’s body, respect for ones self, and essentially be looked at as an act of worship for their Creator as the friend that messaged the writer stated.
    We can’t blame women and the way they dress for our own perceptions and the consequences of them.
    And we don’t have to understand everything in relation to men.

    It is true that there is an element of the intent of protection when wearing the hijab or any other form of it. But I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. We complain that ads, TV shows and music videos are over-sexualised and give the wrong message to both men and women, allowing men to treat women like sexual objects, and letting women believe that it’s ok for men to treat them as one. When we complain about this we are saying that the way a woman dresses and behaves has an effect, that it has consequences.

    And by the way I thought feminism was about choice. Choice to be whatever you want to be, to wear what you want, the ability to have that self-autonomy removed from any societal pressures or standards on what you should be as a women and how you should behave.
    This is exactly what a women who chooses wear a niqab does. They dress how they want to, it isn’t defined by a status placed on them and her choice should be independent of the way we view her. It doesn’t make sense for anyone to say that women should be able to wear whatever they want for whatever reason but not apply that rule to those who wear the niqab.
    The article still has its focus of the problem on the woman and the way she dresses and not on the man. A man thinks he’s superior to a woman, and violates a woman because HE IS A KNOB.

  14. Anisa on July 3, 2013 at 6:59 am

    I think it’s unfair to blame those who wear the niqab as people who are strengthening an existing power dynamic between men and women. Women and what they choose to wear are not responsible for the perceptions and actions of men.
    Following the reasoning of the writer: When a man violates a woman wearing a short skirt it is not her fault, she wasn’t asking for it or trying to lure him in, and really if we wanted to fix the problem our attention should be on the man and making him accountable for HIS actions.

    Why aren’t we applying the same to those who choose to wear the niqab? She isn’t necessarily reinforcing some idea that men are naturally “too horny to function, this is just one of many ways you can rightly or wrongly perceive the way she dresses. The article acknowledges the reasons why women choose to wear it, but I feel it then too quickly assumes that it “promotes shame”. Yet for someone else, a ‘niqabi’ could be seen as promoting pride in one’s body, respect for ones self, and essentially be looked at as an act of worship for their Creator as the friend that messaged the writer stated.
    We can’t blame women and the way they dress for our own perceptions and the consequences of them.
    And we don’t have to understand everything in relation to men.

    It is true that there is an element of the intent of protection when wearing the hijab or any other form of it. But I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. We complain that ads, TV shows and music videos are over-sexualised and give the wrong message to both men and women, allowing men to treat women like sexual objects, and letting women believe that it’s ok for men to treat them as one. When we complain about this we are saying that the way a woman dresses and behaves has an effect, that it has consequences.

    And by the way I thought feminism was about choice. Choice to be whatever you want to be, to wear what you want, the ability to have that self-autonomy removed from any societal pressures or standards on what you should be as a women and how you should behave.
    This is exactly what a women who chooses wear a niqab does. They dress how they want to, it isn’t defined by a status placed on them and her choice should be independent of the way we view her. It doesn’t make sense for anyone to say that women should be able to wear whatever they want for whatever reason but not apply that rule to those who wear the niqab.
    The article still has its focus of the problem on the woman and the way she dresses and not on the man. A man thinks he’s superior to a woman, and violates a woman because HE IS A KNOB.

  15. Anisa on July 3, 2013 at 6:59 am

    I think it’s unfair to blame those who wear the niqab as people who are strengthening an existing power dynamic between men and women. Women and what they choose to wear are not responsible for the perceptions and actions of men.
    Following the reasoning of the writer: When a man violates a woman wearing a short skirt it is not her fault, she wasn’t asking for it or trying to lure him in, and really if we wanted to fix the problem our attention should be on the man and making him accountable for HIS actions.

    Why aren’t we applying the same to those who choose to wear the niqab? She isn’t necessarily reinforcing some idea that men are naturally “too horny to function, this is just one of many ways you can rightly or wrongly perceive the way she dresses. The article acknowledges the reasons why women choose to wear it, but I feel it then too quickly assumes that it “promotes shame”. Yet for someone else, a ‘niqabi’ could be seen as promoting pride in one’s body, respect for ones self, and essentially be looked at as an act of worship for their Creator as the friend that messaged the writer stated.
    We can’t blame women and the way they dress for our own perceptions and the consequences of them.
    And we don’t have to understand everything in relation to men.

    It is true that there is an element of the intent of protection when wearing the hijab or any other form of it. But I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. We complain that ads, TV shows and music videos are over-sexualised and give the wrong message to both men and women, allowing men to treat women like sexual objects, and letting women believe that it’s ok for men to treat them as one. When we complain about this we are saying that the way a woman dresses and behaves has an effect, that it has consequences.

    And by the way I thought feminism was about choice. Choice to be whatever you want to be, to wear what you want, the ability to have that self-autonomy removed from any societal pressures or standards on what you should be as a women and how you should behave.
    This is exactly what a women who chooses wear a niqab does. They dress how they want to, it isn’t defined by a status placed on them and her choice should be independent of the way we view her. It doesn’t make sense for anyone to say that women should be able to wear whatever they want for whatever reason but not apply that rule to those who wear the niqab.
    The article still has its focus of the problem on the woman and the way she dresses and not on the man. A man thinks he’s superior to a woman, and violates a woman because HE IS A KNOB.

  16. Anisa on July 3, 2013 at 6:59 am

    I think it’s unfair to blame those who wear the niqab as people who are strengthening an existing power dynamic between men and women. Women and what they choose to wear are not responsible for the perceptions and actions of men.
    Following the reasoning of the writer: When a man violates a woman wearing a short skirt it is not her fault, she wasn’t asking for it or trying to lure him in, and really if we wanted to fix the problem our attention should be on the man and making him accountable for HIS actions.

    Why aren’t we applying the same to those who choose to wear the niqab? She isn’t necessarily reinforcing some idea that men are naturally “too horny to function, this is just one of many ways you can rightly or wrongly perceive the way she dresses. The article acknowledges the reasons why women choose to wear it, but I feel it then too quickly assumes that it “promotes shame”. Yet for someone else, a ‘niqabi’ could be seen as promoting pride in one’s body, respect for ones self, and essentially be looked at as an act of worship for their Creator as the friend that messaged the writer stated.
    We can’t blame women and the way they dress for our own perceptions and the consequences of them.
    And we don’t have to understand everything in relation to men.

    It is true that there is an element of the intent of protection when wearing the hijab or any other form of it. But I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. We complain that ads, TV shows and music videos are over-sexualised and give the wrong message to both men and women, allowing men to treat women like sexual objects, and letting women believe that it’s ok for men to treat them as one. When we complain about this we are saying that the way a woman dresses and behaves has an effect, that it has consequences.

    And by the way I thought feminism was about choice. Choice to be whatever you want to be, to wear what you want, the ability to have that self-autonomy removed from any societal pressures or standards on what you should be as a women and how you should behave.
    This is exactly what a women who chooses wear a niqab does. They dress how they want to, it isn’t defined by a status placed on them and her choice should be independent of the way we view her. It doesn’t make sense for anyone to say that women should be able to wear whatever they want for whatever reason but not apply that rule to those who wear the niqab.
    The article still has its focus of the problem on the woman and the way she dresses and not on the man. A man thinks he’s superior to a woman, and violates a woman because HE IS A KNOB.

  17. Rochelle on July 10, 2013 at 2:18 pm

    “And by the way I thought feminism was about choice. Choice to be whatever you want to be, to wear what you want, the ability to have that self-autonomy removed from any societal pressures or standards on what you should be as a women and how you should behave.”

    NO NO NO

    Third wave feminism may be about ‘choice’. But feminism historically has been primarily about the social structures, norms, and process of power that set the agenda for those choices, that produce particular subjectivities, that allow for certain kinds of behaviors while diminishing and shaming others.

    Can we respect people’s ‘choices’ while still analyzing the social dynamics that produce and promote certain choices?

    This is the single greatest false dichotomy that is paralyzing the discussion of gender dynamics today, especially around religion. Contrary to popular belief, we CAN divorce our analysis of norms and practices from our evaluation of people who “choose” to embody these norms. We can simultaneously promote laws that protect people’s “choices” while critically evaluating the hidden assumptions, agendas, and systems of meaning that surround those choices. This is true for the veil, its true for pornography, its true of plastic surgery.

    Example: I buy into beauty culture — I wear high heels and put on makeup and spend money on my nails, etc. But I also recognize the patriarchy embedded in those practices. The thing is — just because I recognize the patriarchy in something doesn’t mean I can magically “snap out of it” and reorient my desires and will to my choosing. Subjectivity doesn’t work like that. So I don’t think I should be “judged” as a self-hating woman just because I make those choices. But I also recognize that we can continue to critique the NORMS not the PERSON.

    Feminism taught us that the entire idea of a “self-autonomy removed from any societal pressures” is bullshit because we are constantly being shaped by the society around us. Its not like we are given a plate of choices without any underlying power structures determining those choices.

    We can still critique the niqab without hating on the niqabi.

  18. Rochelle on July 10, 2013 at 2:18 pm

    “And by the way I thought feminism was about choice. Choice to be whatever you want to be, to wear what you want, the ability to have that self-autonomy removed from any societal pressures or standards on what you should be as a women and how you should behave.”

    NO NO NO

    Third wave feminism may be about ‘choice’. But feminism historically has been primarily about the social structures, norms, and process of power that set the agenda for those choices, that produce particular subjectivities, that allow for certain kinds of behaviors while diminishing and shaming others.

    Can we respect people’s ‘choices’ while still analyzing the social dynamics that produce and promote certain choices?

    This is the single greatest false dichotomy that is paralyzing the discussion of gender dynamics today, especially around religion. Contrary to popular belief, we CAN divorce our analysis of norms and practices from our evaluation of people who “choose” to embody these norms. We can simultaneously promote laws that protect people’s “choices” while critically evaluating the hidden assumptions, agendas, and systems of meaning that surround those choices. This is true for the veil, its true for pornography, its true of plastic surgery.

    Example: I buy into beauty culture — I wear high heels and put on makeup and spend money on my nails, etc. But I also recognize the patriarchy embedded in those practices. The thing is — just because I recognize the patriarchy in something doesn’t mean I can magically “snap out of it” and reorient my desires and will to my choosing. Subjectivity doesn’t work like that. So I don’t think I should be “judged” as a self-hating woman just because I make those choices. But I also recognize that we can continue to critique the NORMS not the PERSON.

    Feminism taught us that the entire idea of a “self-autonomy removed from any societal pressures” is bullshit because we are constantly being shaped by the society around us. Its not like we are given a plate of choices without any underlying power structures determining those choices.

    We can still critique the niqab without hating on the niqabi.

  19. Rochelle on July 10, 2013 at 2:18 pm

    “And by the way I thought feminism was about choice. Choice to be whatever you want to be, to wear what you want, the ability to have that self-autonomy removed from any societal pressures or standards on what you should be as a women and how you should behave.”

    NO NO NO

    Third wave feminism may be about ‘choice’. But feminism historically has been primarily about the social structures, norms, and process of power that set the agenda for those choices, that produce particular subjectivities, that allow for certain kinds of behaviors while diminishing and shaming others.

    Can we respect people’s ‘choices’ while still analyzing the social dynamics that produce and promote certain choices?

    This is the single greatest false dichotomy that is paralyzing the discussion of gender dynamics today, especially around religion. Contrary to popular belief, we CAN divorce our analysis of norms and practices from our evaluation of people who “choose” to embody these norms. We can simultaneously promote laws that protect people’s “choices” while critically evaluating the hidden assumptions, agendas, and systems of meaning that surround those choices. This is true for the veil, its true for pornography, its true of plastic surgery.

    Example: I buy into beauty culture — I wear high heels and put on makeup and spend money on my nails, etc. But I also recognize the patriarchy embedded in those practices. The thing is — just because I recognize the patriarchy in something doesn’t mean I can magically “snap out of it” and reorient my desires and will to my choosing. Subjectivity doesn’t work like that. So I don’t think I should be “judged” as a self-hating woman just because I make those choices. But I also recognize that we can continue to critique the NORMS not the PERSON.

    Feminism taught us that the entire idea of a “self-autonomy removed from any societal pressures” is bullshit because we are constantly being shaped by the society around us. Its not like we are given a plate of choices without any underlying power structures determining those choices.

    We can still critique the niqab without hating on the niqabi.

  20. Rochelle on July 10, 2013 at 2:18 pm

    “And by the way I thought feminism was about choice. Choice to be whatever you want to be, to wear what you want, the ability to have that self-autonomy removed from any societal pressures or standards on what you should be as a women and how you should behave.”

    NO NO NO

    Third wave feminism may be about ‘choice’. But feminism historically has been primarily about the social structures, norms, and process of power that set the agenda for those choices, that produce particular subjectivities, that allow for certain kinds of behaviors while diminishing and shaming others.

    Can we respect people’s ‘choices’ while still analyzing the social dynamics that produce and promote certain choices?

    This is the single greatest false dichotomy that is paralyzing the discussion of gender dynamics today, especially around religion. Contrary to popular belief, we CAN divorce our analysis of norms and practices from our evaluation of people who “choose” to embody these norms. We can simultaneously promote laws that protect people’s “choices” while critically evaluating the hidden assumptions, agendas, and systems of meaning that surround those choices. This is true for the veil, its true for pornography, its true of plastic surgery.

    Example: I buy into beauty culture — I wear high heels and put on makeup and spend money on my nails, etc. But I also recognize the patriarchy embedded in those practices. The thing is — just because I recognize the patriarchy in something doesn’t mean I can magically “snap out of it” and reorient my desires and will to my choosing. Subjectivity doesn’t work like that. So I don’t think I should be “judged” as a self-hating woman just because I make those choices. But I also recognize that we can continue to critique the NORMS not the PERSON.

    Feminism taught us that the entire idea of a “self-autonomy removed from any societal pressures” is bullshit because we are constantly being shaped by the society around us. Its not like we are given a plate of choices without any underlying power structures determining those choices.

    We can still critique the niqab without hating on the niqabi.

  21. Margaret on July 11, 2013 at 10:12 am

    Interesting essay. I especially like the inclusion of the verse the idea of covering up comes from.

    “and to draw their veils over their bosoms, and not to reveal their adornment…”(24:31)

    This part does suggest to me that the idea was more about covering certain body parts – and not one’s entire self.

    As far as the argument that people have a ‘choice’ about what they wear – people do like to fit into a group. If a woman wanted to cover her self, she may gravitate to that – women who want to show nearly everything, find people who share that way of being.

    Not that long ago in Western society, it was some big deal to say the word ‘leg’, (let alone show ones leg) – for women. But not for men. I think the ideal situation would be that women and men covered themselves to a similar extent – that women were not the ‘sex class’ – that it not be issue of women revealing or covering. I would like to see people (men & women) dressed in a reasonable way – to cover from the sun, perhaps, to be comfortable.

    Actually – the people of India have it figured out. “A salwar kameez is a type of dress worn by both women and men in northern South and Central Asia.” http://www.indianclothingart.com/Salwar-Kameez-c37.html

    I think people from other cultures, including the US, would do well to take note. This was the traditional men’s dress and the women adopted it. I expect it took some bold women to get it started. The bloomer movement in the 1800′s US was somewhat similar – but never took off on a large scale. Now we have the unisex blue jean type look – but as the woman noted above – many still buy into the ‘beauty culture’.

    It really is up to the women – but it is also up to the culture. I was influenced by 70s feminism to feel that I did not have to do the beauty culture thing – for which I am profoundly grateful. I don’t like the idea of spending lots of time grooming. I don’t like the whole primping mentality, I don’t like make-up (unless I want to dress up as a clown), I don’t like the idea of wearing uncomfortable shoes and revealing clothes. I would not like the idea of feeling like I had to totally cover up myself, either.

    I would like for our culture to understand the paternalism behind the group choices. I would like for women to have the self-respect necessary to feel free to not reveal for revealing sake or to cover for covering sake. To be free to be seen as one is – without make-up, without dyes, without constantly putting a show or having to hide.

  22. Margaret on July 11, 2013 at 10:12 am

    Interesting essay. I especially like the inclusion of the verse the idea of covering up comes from.

    “and to draw their veils over their bosoms, and not to reveal their adornment…”(24:31)

    This part does suggest to me that the idea was more about covering certain body parts – and not one’s entire self.

    As far as the argument that people have a ‘choice’ about what they wear – people do like to fit into a group. If a woman wanted to cover her self, she may gravitate to that – women who want to show nearly everything, find people who share that way of being.

    Not that long ago in Western society, it was some big deal to say the word ‘leg’, (let alone show ones leg) – for women. But not for men. I think the ideal situation would be that women and men covered themselves to a similar extent – that women were not the ‘sex class’ – that it not be issue of women revealing or covering. I would like to see people (men & women) dressed in a reasonable way – to cover from the sun, perhaps, to be comfortable.

    Actually – the people of India have it figured out. “A salwar kameez is a type of dress worn by both women and men in northern South and Central Asia.” http://www.indianclothingart.com/Salwar-Kameez-c37.html

    I think people from other cultures, including the US, would do well to take note. This was the traditional men’s dress and the women adopted it. I expect it took some bold women to get it started. The bloomer movement in the 1800′s US was somewhat similar – but never took off on a large scale. Now we have the unisex blue jean type look – but as the woman noted above – many still buy into the ‘beauty culture’.

    It really is up to the women – but it is also up to the culture. I was influenced by 70s feminism to feel that I did not have to do the beauty culture thing – for which I am profoundly grateful. I don’t like the idea of spending lots of time grooming. I don’t like the whole primping mentality, I don’t like make-up (unless I want to dress up as a clown), I don’t like the idea of wearing uncomfortable shoes and revealing clothes. I would not like the idea of feeling like I had to totally cover up myself, either.

    I would like for our culture to understand the paternalism behind the group choices. I would like for women to have the self-respect necessary to feel free to not reveal for revealing sake or to cover for covering sake. To be free to be seen as one is – without make-up, without dyes, without constantly putting a show or having to hide.

  23. Margaret on July 11, 2013 at 10:12 am

    Interesting essay. I especially like the inclusion of the verse the idea of covering up comes from.

    “and to draw their veils over their bosoms, and not to reveal their adornment…”(24:31)

    This part does suggest to me that the idea was more about covering certain body parts – and not one’s entire self.

    As far as the argument that people have a ‘choice’ about what they wear – people do like to fit into a group. If a woman wanted to cover her self, she may gravitate to that – women who want to show nearly everything, find people who share that way of being.

    Not that long ago in Western society, it was some big deal to say the word ‘leg’, (let alone show ones leg) – for women. But not for men. I think the ideal situation would be that women and men covered themselves to a similar extent – that women were not the ‘sex class’ – that it not be issue of women revealing or covering. I would like to see people (men & women) dressed in a reasonable way – to cover from the sun, perhaps, to be comfortable.

    Actually – the people of India have it figured out. “A salwar kameez is a type of dress worn by both women and men in northern South and Central Asia.” http://www.indianclothingart.com/Salwar-Kameez-c37.html

    I think people from other cultures, including the US, would do well to take note. This was the traditional men’s dress and the women adopted it. I expect it took some bold women to get it started. The bloomer movement in the 1800′s US was somewhat similar – but never took off on a large scale. Now we have the unisex blue jean type look – but as the woman noted above – many still buy into the ‘beauty culture’.

    It really is up to the women – but it is also up to the culture. I was influenced by 70s feminism to feel that I did not have to do the beauty culture thing – for which I am profoundly grateful. I don’t like the idea of spending lots of time grooming. I don’t like the whole primping mentality, I don’t like make-up (unless I want to dress up as a clown), I don’t like the idea of wearing uncomfortable shoes and revealing clothes. I would not like the idea of feeling like I had to totally cover up myself, either.

    I would like for our culture to understand the paternalism behind the group choices. I would like for women to have the self-respect necessary to feel free to not reveal for revealing sake or to cover for covering sake. To be free to be seen as one is – without make-up, without dyes, without constantly putting a show or having to hide.

  24. Margaret on July 11, 2013 at 10:12 am

    Interesting essay. I especially like the inclusion of the verse the idea of covering up comes from.

    “and to draw their veils over their bosoms, and not to reveal their adornment…”(24:31)

    This part does suggest to me that the idea was more about covering certain body parts – and not one’s entire self.

    As far as the argument that people have a ‘choice’ about what they wear – people do like to fit into a group. If a woman wanted to cover her self, she may gravitate to that – women who want to show nearly everything, find people who share that way of being.

    Not that long ago in Western society, it was some big deal to say the word ‘leg’, (let alone show ones leg) – for women. But not for men. I think the ideal situation would be that women and men covered themselves to a similar extent – that women were not the ‘sex class’ – that it not be issue of women revealing or covering. I would like to see people (men & women) dressed in a reasonable way – to cover from the sun, perhaps, to be comfortable.

    Actually – the people of India have it figured out. “A salwar kameez is a type of dress worn by both women and men in northern South and Central Asia.” http://www.indianclothingart.com/Salwar-Kameez-c37.html

    I think people from other cultures, including the US, would do well to take note. This was the traditional men’s dress and the women adopted it. I expect it took some bold women to get it started. The bloomer movement in the 1800′s US was somewhat similar – but never took off on a large scale. Now we have the unisex blue jean type look – but as the woman noted above – many still buy into the ‘beauty culture’.

    It really is up to the women – but it is also up to the culture. I was influenced by 70s feminism to feel that I did not have to do the beauty culture thing – for which I am profoundly grateful. I don’t like the idea of spending lots of time grooming. I don’t like the whole primping mentality, I don’t like make-up (unless I want to dress up as a clown), I don’t like the idea of wearing uncomfortable shoes and revealing clothes. I would not like the idea of feeling like I had to totally cover up myself, either.

    I would like for our culture to understand the paternalism behind the group choices. I would like for women to have the self-respect necessary to feel free to not reveal for revealing sake or to cover for covering sake. To be free to be seen as one is – without make-up, without dyes, without constantly putting a show or having to hide.

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