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Sunday, January 22, 2006

an unease

There is an interesting post at Sir Humphreys about The Netherlands banning the burqa. Topics like this make me feel very uneasy. I don't like the implications of either side at all.

If my brain was working I'd think about it and comment on my thoughts.

Ah, but it's partially in the name of protecting the *rights* of these women, since it's so *demeaning* to have to wear these things.

Yes, we shall liberate you. By force and against your will if necessary. Because we are The West, and we know best!

Before anyone pulls the "moral relativism" card on me, let me state for the record, that there are some acts which are, simply put, barbaric and unacceptable no matter what the culture. However, wearing a burqa ain't one of 'em.
I'm not sure about this one. I don't like the banning of anything. But I can't say that banning the burqa is a bad idea.

A few comments:
I don't like the banning of clothes particularly for the "scares old people and little kids" reason. The world is scary. Deal with it.

I know that many women are forced to wear the burqa because they are "possessions". I don't like that. But I am not sure banning the burqa will help with that. Perhaps the possesions will be better hidden.

I know about the view that the burqa are not "clothes" but a means to make the wearer invisible and to exert control over the woman. Many times that is the exact same reason I wear the clothes that I wear:

a) to hide parts of me that society thinks should be hidden even though I disagree
b) to make myself invisible - v
c) because society wants to force me to conform and be invisible - i'm thinking uniforms and corporate dress. Even at social functions you can be made to feel very uncomfortable if you don't wear what you "should."

I could argue with myself here. On the one hand symbols shouldn't matter, but on the other hand most people are dense and unevolved and symbols matter a great deal.

Also barbarism is relative.
The banning of certain clothes, making certain rules is a tough one. Intellectually, I'm very much against it.

What I think would be useful to the cuurent discussion is to "not worry" about the solution - whatever that might be, but to explore the questions in more depth.

The more I look into this, the more the Burqa seems to be around control and oppression. Women, when given the choice, don't wish to wear them. That, after a lifetime of conditioning.

Maybe I'm wrong. I haven't found much to the contrary. So putting aside the solution, is the Burqa actually helping to perpetuate mans control over women in incredibly sexist societies?
"Before anyone pulls the "moral relativism" card on me, let me state for the record, that there are some acts which are, simply put, barbaric and unacceptable no matter what the culture. However, wearing a burqa ain't one of 'em."

Hah! That's like a double dog dare. With all due respect David, maybe you are just a mild moral relativist. Stoning and genital mutilation might be unacceptable, but treating women like slaves (can't drive, limited education, told what to wear, no property rights, told who to marry etc) is just an issue of live and let live?

I understand your point, but what if being told what to wear is far more significant a factor in the continued oppression of women than your initial assessment?

I guess I'm guilty of the same thing I'm accusing you of, because I have no strong desire to condone the use of military force to change Iran and Saudi Arabia. However, I'm willing to look like a bit of an idiot making the leap of logic, because I am beginning to suspect this Burqa business is actually more significant than I realised.

So how far does my personal moral relativism extend if I'm not going to save Iranian women (yet?)? Initially, I am willing to extend the benefits of living in a fairly egalitarian society to all its members.

It means I'm prepared to look at different ways to ensure women get the same benefits, including the highly distasteful idea of banning the burqa.

It seems better than giving "cultural respect" to slavers that treat women as possessions, and are willing to kill their own family members if love (and sex as a natural outcome of love) gets in the way of family "honour".

However, chances are we can come up with a better solution and then we can all be happy (except extremist Muslim males living in NZ).
ZT: Don't put words in my mouth :)

That being said, egalitarianism is fine, as long as it's not forced at the point of a gun. You live in a (semi) free nation there, no one can be "forced" to do anything.

You present a false dichotomy. Saying it's beyond the pale to outlaw a particular article of clothing is not tantamount to forgiving slave trading or honor killings.

What about conservative christian families that require their daughters to wear dresses below the knees? There are some who would consider that discriminatory and repressive. What about Jewish families that require their sons to wear yarmulkes? What about Jehovahs Witnesses that don't allow their kids to attend celebrations?

Remember, the force of law is not behind anyone's requirement to wear a burqa or not. If a woman rebelled against it, the law would be on her side, not on the side of her husband or father.

Egalitarianism is an interesting principle to discuss, but people are not "equal". All people are different, and while certain aspects of certain cultures may be considered "superior" to other cultures, forcing your culture on others is not the way to get people to go along willingly. The culture in which you live did not arise by decree. It arose by the accumulated behaviors tacitly agreed upon by many many people.

I could probably write more on this, but my head hurts now, and I'm not sure how much of this is bollocks and how much sounds reasonably intelligent...
Hi David. I wasn't trying to go as far as putting words in your mouth. My apologies. I also may not have made it clear: I am not in favour of banning the burqa (yet?).

I am still trying to work out to what degree the control of women in Iran and Saudi Arabia "arose by the accumulated behaviors tacitly agreed upon by many many people" and wondering if women are included in that tacit approval.

Were slaves tacitly approving their treatment in early America?

Who are we to judge slavers, if they treat them reasonably well? For that matter, if they do not?

More to the point (because I don't want to go down the moral relativism debate on Iran), is what behaviour is acceptable in OUR society? This I think becomes the germaine issue.

I am not convinced Burqa wearers are free to decide what they want to wear. I am not convinced we should allow it (and I'm not talking about banning here, this is more a general call to identify a problem and brainstorm a solution). Much along the lines that I am all for ending physical abuse against children, but disagree that dropping s59 and effectively criminalising physical discipline (a smack) is the best solution.
David, conservative Christians who force their daughters to wear skirts below the knee would not kill their daughters if they failed to obey. Yet this is the situation that many Muslim girs, in Western countries, live with everyday. Going to the police is useless, they apparently do not help.

From Dhimmi Watch

When Somali-born Dutch MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali took part in a television programme about Islamic Sharia law in 2003, she ended up contributing much more than her opinion on Islam and its treatment of women. A young woman from a Muslim family told the programme makers she was in fear of her life from her relatives who hit her and called her a whore for wanting to go out with her friends and wearing western clothes. Hirsi Ali listened to her story, then took the young woman to the police, only to be told: “We can’t help you. There are so many girls like you and this is not police work.”

It is not usually a politician’s job to look after threatened Muslim girls either, but that is what Ayaan Hirsi Ali did. She took the girl into her own home for nearly a year, enabling her to finish higher education. “She encouraged me every day,” says her protégée, who now has a job and her own flat. “Because of her I am stronger. It’s very difficult and dangerous for women from my community to speak out. Ayaan does that for us. We need her.”

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, 36, believes passionately that showing Europeans what goes on in some Muslim homes in our midst will kick-start a process of emancipation. “If only people, including those in Britain, were aware of the sheer number of girls living in terror,” she says. “Just going outside without your father or your brother’s permission can lead to your being taken to the home country of your parents and being shot dead. You can be forced into marriage with someone who’s going to rape you every night. You will conceive children year after year when you don’t want to be pregnant.”...

And outlawing the burqa will prevent that?
Probably not. But treating the Burqa as a trivial issue not worth interfering with, may not be the right approach either.

As I said earlier, before we can discuss solutions, we have to work through the argument to see if we have a problem. The discussion is pointless if some believe that wearing a Brurqa is no big deal, and if that's what women are wearing, its ibviously because they *want* to wear it...

..or is every-one on the same page as me now?
wow...lots of typos...I blame my keyboard...and the coffee I cleaned it with.
David, my post was more in response to you saying : "Remember, the force of law is not behind anyone's requirement to wear a burqa or not. If a woman rebelled against it, the law would be on her side, not on the side of her husband or father." Basically, that's not how it works.
Looks like your move Suze :-)

I am distracted and not really thinking properly about this (see post I may make) but here goes.

I don't know enough about it to make an informed comment. Yes it is all very well reading stuff about the issue but how likely is it that the ordinary burqa wearing woman is represented by all these comments. I'd guess it would be the rebellious women (equivalent to the "feminists" perhaps?) that are represented by the comments.

If I understood the issue better I might be able to comment on whether banning the burqa would give women greater freedom and control or whether the symbolism of hte burqa would just shift to something else. Presumably the men might still control what the women wear. It just may be something other than a burqa.

Oh and interesting aside. Some of my work colleagues are/have been working on projects in The UAE and Afghanistan. They found the large groups of burqa clad young women quite interesting...especially when it came to how they ate in public. Apparently you scoop the food under the veil but hamburgers are rather difficult to manage! Fingers crossed that I don't get sent there. Alcohol consumption and outrageous dressing etc would be quite difficult.
the symbolism of the burqa

There appears to be some confusion over just what a 'burqa' is. We are not talking about the modest clothes the Koran dictates such as a headscarf and robe of some sort - we are talking about garments specifically designed to prevent any glimpse of a womans face, skin or body shape. From descriptions by western woman who have tried to wear them in daily life, they remove all ability to see obstacles, move around, and gracefully handle hot & humid weather. They are, in short, intentionally designed to repress women and keep them leashed to their men.
Thought about commenting. Started writing a comment. Erased it. Done with this thread. I too easily forget what I've said numerous times before.

1) I believe what I believe;
2) My stating my opinion is not going to change yours;
3) I have no need to change your opinion;
4) If I try to change your opinion, one or both of us may become frustrated;
5) I bow out of this discussion.
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