Friday, October 06, 2006


What right have politicians to dictate to women what they should wear? As the hijab is worn by many Muslim women as a sign of modesty, I don't imagine that Jack Straw's comments would go down well with their menfolk either. Asking them to wear less? What a perve, they will say!

Whatever one's views are on religious clothing (or on religion) defending the right of people to wear it should be a basic libertarian issue. Politicians should butt the hell out.

15 comments:

David Duff said...

But does that mean we're not even allowed to voice an opinion on the subject?

I must confess that I would lack the nerve, myself, to say anything other than, "Lovely, dear" when the little 'Memsahib' shows off the new rayon overall she has bought for herself to do the dusting. And let's be honest, you ladies are murderous in your behind-the-hand comments on the fashion choices of other members of the sisterhood.

So us chaps just want the freedom to opine that ladies dressed head to toe in black are probably very ugly and possibly rather smelly and we don't like it. So there!

Paddy Garcia said...

Well said Liz, but tell me how does this square with your views on porn for example? Dont you think that liberterianism and cultural sensitivities are rather mutually exclusive? Either let it all hang out and fuck anyone who suggests otherwise or be culturally sensitive as far as dress and behaviour are concerned?

Liz said...

Paddy - this has nothing to do with porn. My point is that people can do what they like, they can wear a hijab or very little if they so choose. Quite simple and very consistent with my other views!

How are they 'mutually exclusive'? Muslim women are not demanding that everyone wears the hijab or even 'dresses modestly' - just that they be allowed to as a symbol of their faith. There is no contradiction at all.

David, you miss the point. It is fine for people to have an opinion on how someone else's clothes look - but a politician making a public announcement on the matter, targetting Muslim women especially, is a slightly different thing then you just personally finding the look unnattractive.

kris said...

Dear La Femme

I saw this and thought of you and your "funny side of the sex trade" thoughts

http://society.guardian.co.uk/crimeandpunishment/story/0,8150,1491732,00.html

BTW, so what if jack wants to shake it up.

Liz said...

Yes, and that story is really representative of every woman's experience in prostitution (not). Using extreme examples to back an argument really is disingenous. I know better, for example, than to use examples of botched late abortions to argue against that procedure. Yes, I women who have worked in prostitution who have been abused, but others have not been. You would also find sites (one of which is in my toolbar) that disputes your assertion that they are all victims. What you linked to was an example of outright slavery and force, something that is not the average experience of all or even most women in that profession. I will add that forced labour upon migrant workers happens in other industries, so does debted labour.

What you posted was totally off topic, this thread was about Muslim women. Go and fuel the fire of your bleeding heart on the rad fem blogs, but please don't come back and troll here unless you have something to say about the actual subject. Knowing your bigotry from your blog I'm not surprised you agree with Straw on Muslim women either. Kind of fits in with your whole patronising mentality, doesn't it? If women cannot consent to sex how can they consent to wearing a hijab?

The 'funny side of the sex trade' was not my idea either - it was a comedy on channel 5 if I recall. Please get it straight.

Liz said...

No doubt 'Kris' will come back and add some sarcastic response to the above. I'm not going to censor any legitimate views, but posts that contain little apart from personalised abuse (as has been the case with some of his previous remarks) won't be welcome. He doesn't have to come here if he finds my views or my arguments not up to scratch. I could go and comment on his anti Muslim blog I wanted, but I have better things to do with my time.

Marie said...

I don't quite see Kris's point. Is he arguing that some things should not be joked about, or that fictitious media that portrays the sex industry in a positive or amusing light be censored? Whatever one's views are on the issue, to promote any kind of censorship (even self censorship) is a dangerous route.

kris said...

I would be intrigued to hear from you which bits of my blog are "anti-muslim".

In the meantime, I clearly recall your posting at length about po-faced feminists who couldn't lighten up about women who, you said, gladly participate in the sex industry.

Above, you've said: "Kind of fits in with your whole patronising mentality, doesn't it? If women cannot consent to sex how can they consent to wearing a hijab?"

I think you've made a point- kind of: I did not say that women NEVER consent to sex. I have and do say that women do not "consent" to work in the sex industry- as any supposed consent is given with their arm held up behind thir backs.

Equally, Muslim women may indeed be making a statement with their choice of head-dress. That statement by its very nature is not one of women's equality with men.

Liz, you remind me of some of the so called Muslim leaders on this and other subjects. Whether it is Jack asking Burkha ladies if they wouldn't mind removing the same in face to face conversation or cartoons, or the Pope etc: it appears only Muslims can question and everyone can dance around your and their touchy-ness.

I use the word touchy rather than sensitive because your past responses, like those of many of the so called Muslim Leaders, is so disproportionate, that it only serves to shut down any conversation on the matter as blasphemous- unless it tallies with the "approved" point of view.

Opening up a debate as Jack has done is not "blasphemous", does not "target Muslim women" and is not "anti-Muslim".

BTW, I'm still intrigued to hear which bits of what I have said, in any forum, are "anti-Muslim"- oh yeah, it's always nice to hear "why" i.e your reasoning why hearing your explanations. This would be a move forward from your current sweeping assumptions and name calling approach.

Liz said...

Kris, you do bang the war drums quite a lot, for one. Many Muslims in this country alienated by British foreign policy, the war on terror is perceived by some of them to be a war on Muslims. You seem to show no understanding as to why people in the Muslim community feel alienated.

You also make the comment 'when in Rome do as....' which implies that Muslims should be intergrated by dropping their distinctive culture.
Perhaps you meant this about religious extremists - but even religious extremists deserve freedom of speech. I am sure you would not deny the homophobes of the Christian right freedom of speech, so why not 'Bin liners pawns' as you put it? It does look as if you are targetting extremists of just one religion. True, there may be terrorists among them. But curtailing freedom of speech will just drive these ideas underground.
Bear in mind that Xian fundies are not above using extremist tactics either such as death threats. They may not make their own bombs but it is a quantative difference, not qualitive.

You make generalisations about women (both women in the sex industry and Muslim women!) that do not tally with the reality of either.

1. I acknowlege the fact that many women who work in the sex industry do so under very unfavourable conditions, and that abuse and force does occur. Nonetheless, women do it for all kinds of reasons. Some students work in it to help pay their way through college as it pays better than working as a cleaner (I've known of a few such examples). It may not have been ideal, but they did consent. I have known others who do it simply because they like the money, and yes, they were quite aware of the choice they were making and participated quite freely. Their arms were not behind their backs. Please go to my sidebar and check the IUSW link. You will find women on there who do not tally with your view of them all as victims and would be offended by your patronising standpoint (and the rad fems who I strongly criticise). What you basically seem to be saying is that you cannot conceive of any decent woman doing such a thing out of choice, hence they all must be forced. But they are not all forced. So I wish you'd just be upfront and tell me you think the buying and selling of sex is immoral whatever the case. I would have far less of a problem with this position as it is at least more honest (for example I do not hide that my opposition to abortion is on moral grounds). You could say my attitude to the sex industry is 'amoral' as I think sexual morality (providing it is consensual) is a personal affair, it is not absolute.

If you hold the view that the sex industry itself is a symbol of gender inequality and somehow reproduces it (and hence this is where your objection stems from) this still does not mean that all women within it are coerced. Besides this, you could make the argument that in a society with a gender imbalance all or most sex acts are unequal and therefore consent is mitigated as they are not of a mutual or equal transaction. At least the lesbian seperatists were consistent as they made it an ethos never to sleep with men full stop due to their holding this view.


2. Muslim women are making a statement by wearing the veil. It may not be one of gender equality but it is not necessarily one of oppression either.
The reasons are many and complex.
Some do so for cultural reasons. There are many Muslim women who wear the veil and do not seem in any way oppressed or downtrodden. Many do so freely from any influence of their families.

Much of the time it is simply a sign of religious belief, a show of it if you will (pretty much like Christians wearing the crucifix or Jewish men wearing a scullcap). You may make the argument that ALL religious symbols are symbols of oppression, but I don't see why the hijab in particular should be singled out, else it just looks like Muslim bashing. What would you say about Christian nuns wearing the veil, or the dress of Amish women?

While I have my own sexual mores I do recognise cultural differences, as Paddy questioned me about. Perhaps Muslim women could well make criticisms of our culture and the way women's bodies are always on display (in Muslim countries it is the opposite). An accquaintance of a friend of mine, for example, believed that men spoke to her more as an equal when she wore the hijab in university than when she did not, as they were not diverted by any sexual display. Naturally I would not advocate this as desirable for all women, and I don't think she was recommending it for all women either. This was just how she felt personally.

Perhaps Muslim women reject liberation on the Western model because they do not regard wearing less as being true liberation. But I think more than anything else it is a sign of religious belief. The headscarf get's attention as it is an ostentatious item of religious clothing. And the attention is unwarranted and largely a result of the change of climate since 9/11 (there was never such attention paid to it before this). There has been a backlash against Muslims which I feel you do subscribe to somewhat on your blog (which was why I made my earlier accusation). The vast majority of Muslim women have nothing to do with terrorism, so why the focus on their clothes? Somewhat like the ban on the hijab in French schools, where they felt unjustly discriminated against.

So it comes down to this - whether it is women who choose to participate in the sex industry or Muslim women choosing to wear the hijab it is ultimately their choice. Neither may be 'symbols of sexual equality' but it really isn't for me to decide what other women should and shouldn't do with their lives, providing they are not hurting anyone.

I used to hold the view that the headscarf was a sign of oppression - but my experience since then has made my view far more nuanced - as not all women wearing it feel oppressed - very often the opposite!

kris said...

Liz oh Liz, thank you for your many comments on my couple of points:-

On closer examination of my blog you will see that the "When in Rome" point was made to me by a Muslim female friend;

I said noting about "decent" women. That is your moral judgment-not mine.

Liz said: "So I wish you'd just be upfront and tell me you think the buying and selling of sex is immoral whatever the case".

I think the buying and selling of sex is wrong: it does noting to assist either party.

Liz said: "...but I don't see why the hijab in particular should be singled out, else it just looks like Muslim bashing. What would you say about Christian nuns wearing the veil, or the dress of Amish women?"

Because Amish men AND women- along with catholic nuns and priests both adopt traditional clothing: it's not a case of one rule for the boys and another for the girls.

Liz said"..."There has been a backlash against Muslims which I feel you do subscribe to somewhat on your blog (which was why I made my earlier accusation)".

If that is in relation to the Rome point above, I've answered that it was my Muslim friend's point. Is there any other bit that you find anti-Muslim- or was that it?

I went to SOAS and loved every minute of my time there. It was also an eye opener. Some Muslim friends had the "when in Rome" attitude and are more British than anyone else I know. Other Muslim women where big advocates of the hijab- FOR OTHER PEOPLE- not themselves of course. Others wore the hijab and considered them to be fashion statements (some with Gucci cloth etc).

None of my SOAS classmates, or indeed anyone I saw on campus on the entire University of London "campus" ever wore a burkha.

Jack did make it clear he was talking about the full, eyes and face covered burkha. Fair enough- let's have a conversation about why it's worn?

I don't see what the problem with having that conversation is? The SOAS classmates were happy to chat. I think it is the white, hand-wringing, angst-ridden, middle-class English that are the main ones with the "problem" with that discussion- other than, of course Abu Issa-Jerk and the rest of the self-appointed spokesmen for their small followings.

BTW, I don't think I've ever been called a bleeding heart before! My heart bleeds for no one.

kris said...

Ah, I think I've spotted your other "anti-muslim" objection. I did call home grown and oter islamo-terrorists "Bin-liner's little pawns". Again- their choice, not mine.

I think most people get that comment is not directed at the Muslim community as a whole.

Liz said...

Kris - thanks for saying you think the buying and selling of sex is wrong (i.e immoral). That is a legitimate opinion. I simply take my stand because I feel sexual morality is a personal matter and down to the people concerned, providing it's consensual. I guess we will agree to differ.

Muslims - I think you'll find that some men wear traditional clothing as well, I've seen quite a few in skullcaps and even Arabic style clothes. Most religions have sexual double standards in other ways. There is not anything in Islam itself that is more sexist than, say, in Christianity. It is only fundamentalists who interpret it in an extreme way, and this goes for fundies of all faiths.

There is nothing wrong with the issue of the hijab being discussed (as to why it is worn) but Straw's pronouncements were seen as being prescriptive as he is a powerful politician (who has been largely responsible for foreign policy too). The recent wars have been against Muslim countries, and as I pointed out the 'war on terror'(which you subscribe to) is seen by some as a war against Muslims. Foreign policy leaves a lot to be desired. Your blog talks against Muslim extremism (not the extremism of other religions) without looking at the roots behind it - it doesn't come from nowhere. Perhaps this is not 'anti Muslim' per se, but it does seem that you single out Muslim extremism. I put it in a flippant way and I'm sorry, but that's what I was getting at. I don't object to debating about the war either.

As to the full burkha and why that is worn - I can only guess that it would be because somebody is extremely religious. It is a very ostentatious symbol and on some level I can see why it may make some people uncomfortable but then various people are uncomfortable with all kinds of clothing. The 'hoodie' issue, although different, was due to people fearing it because it obscures features. Slightly similiar with why the full burkha may make some people uncomfortable. I have never spoken to anyone who wears it, although I have seen women wearing it. So without speaking to them I wouldn't want to presume on their motives for wearing it, save for the obvious one of deeply held religious views. At the end of the day Britain is a multicultural society and this issue was not so much manifest prior to recently. It should be quite possible for cultures to interact and live side by side, being equal but respecting cultural differences. Divisions are excacerbated when people unneccesarily draw attention to these issues - and why did Straw feel the need to draw attention to it now, in the current climate?

Providing that they don't prescribe it for other people there shouldn't really be a problem with it. If Straw feels more comfortable asking the women to lower the face covering and they don't object I don't suppose there really is or should be a problem there. It only became an issue after his column was published. It is partly the timing of the whole thing - a lot of people are getting tired of Muslim stories, with all the attention given it is little wonder that some Muslims feel under siege.

You mention the pope's remarks _ I'll grant that the reaction to them was disproportionate, as with the Danish cartoons (I posted on it around the time). But his comments as they stood were very open to misrepresentation and he worded them in a clumsy way, to say the least. He should have known better. As with the cartoons. I felt the magazine did have the right to publish them - but was it really such a good idea? They were provocative cartoons designed to offend, and there is an argument to made that they could have been construed as racist. Having said that there is no way I was in favour of the scrapping of the Berlin opera on the grounds that it 'may have offended' - that is caving in to a similiar mentality that enabled the Sikh play to be called off.

Liz said...

"I think most people get that comment is not directed at the Muslim community as a whole."

So did I, I recognised that you were talking about terrorists. The issue I was getting at is that you don't seem to address the roots of this problem - which are more than just the 'evil ideology' that Tony Blair talks about.

kris said...

Dear Liz

Yes, I single out Muslim extremism. Why not? Can you think of other terrorists in operation at the moment? I can't- but rest assured, if and when the IRA kick off again, I'll be the first one to have a go on my blog.

What are the "roots of the porblem"? I invite you to read my posting on Kris' Stoke Newington: Exploding Jihadis and the Existentialist Dilemma.

I'm sorry, you're going to flip- but the roots are not in "foreign policy"; they are the same criminological roots as the Preddie boys killing of Damilola Taylor. It is about saddos trying to grasp some control and power to their pathetic little lives. It's not about foregin policy in the case of the islamo-fascists and, in the case of the boys who murdered the man in Hackney last week, it is not about architecture. People pull triggers- not buildings or foreign policy.

kris said...

It was Cllr Luke Akehurst of Hackney who said a "debate was needed" why, given the new build of the Evergreen estate, the murder in Hackney neverthless took place.