Sucking Beyond the Telling of it

The British Labour Party have been in power since 1997. The main advantage of this appears to be that the Conservatives no longer seem that scary. The Tories have taken to attacking the British Labour Party from the left or at least the centre (there’s really not that much room on the right). Tony Blair and co. have certainly done their best to ensure that even people who want a mildly social democratic government have realised that the British Labour Party are not going to deliver.

So they’ve responded to the fact that everyone hates them with attacks on brown people. In particular Jack Straw had the following to say in his local paper about women who wear veils over their faces:*

All this was about a year ago. It was not the first time I had conducted an interview with someone in a full veil, but this particular encounter, though very polite and respectful on both sides, got me thinking.

In part, this was because of the apparent incongruity between the signals which indicate common bonds – the entirely English accent, the couples’ education (wholly in the UK) – and the fact of the veil.

Above all, it was because I felt uncomfortable about talking to someone “face-to-face” who I could not see.

So I decided that I wouldn’t just sit there the next time a lady turned up to see me in a full veil, and I haven’t.

[...]

I thought it may be hard going when I made my request for face-to-face interviews in these circumstances.

However, I can’t recall a single occasion when a lady has refused to lift her veil; most seem relieved I have asked.

[...]

Would she, however, think hard about what I said – in particular about my concern that wearing the full veil was bound to make better, positive relations between the two communities more difficult.

It was such a visible statement of separation and of difference

I mention not just to point out again the vile racism that supposedly left-wing polticians will stoop to. But because I think it demonstrates really well the point Rachel was making in her post Bikinis and Burkas – that demands that women cover themselves, and demands that women uncover themselves, are both ways men claim ownership over women’s bodies (she also had some excellent points about how the discourse around these issues enable imperialism to hide itself and you should go read her whole post).

Jack Straw feels entitled to women’s faces. he believes that if a woman comes to his office asking for help, he is a better judge than her about what she should wear, and that he is well within his rights to demand that she dress in the way he wishes to.**

* To be clear while Jack Straw is obviously a troglogdyte he isn’t quite so stunningly ignorant as our own Bob Clarkson – he does appear to know the difference between a head scarf and facial veil.

** Can I just randomly mention that I hate George Galloway? Because I do. It’s not just that he’s part of the current push in Britain to restrict abortion rights. It’s that his comment on these eventscontroversy could be summarised as:

George Galloway, the Respect MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, called on Mr Straw to resign, saying he was effectively asking women “to wear less”.

Lets be clear you misogynist moron – the problem isn’t with asking women to wear more less, it’s men demanding that women dress for them in the first place.

This entry posted in Feminism, sexism, etc, Race, racism and related issues. Bookmark the permalink. 

40 Responses to Sucking Beyond the Telling of it

  1. 1
    RonF says:

    So they’ve responded to the fact that everyone hates them with attacks on brown people. In particular Jack Straw had the following to say in his local paper about women who wear veils over their faces:

    Could someone tell me what the connection is between these two sentences? Is the writer under the apprehension that all Moslems are “brown”?

  2. 2
    Seattle Male says:

    Jack Straw’s statement was not even remotely racist.

    Why are you in denial about the obvious?

  3. 3
    Chris says:

    I think you have the wrong end of the stick here. People read other people’s faces when talking to each other, it does aid in communication (and people also tend to lip read to some extent). Covering your face does make communication less effective, its almost like internet communication where a comment meant in jest can be taken wrongly because you can’t see how the person saying it was “performing” at the time, even the use of smilies indicates that expression is key.

    He did not demand she remove the veil, he did not ask her to strip, merely asked her to remove it, she made the choice.

    Now most girls / women I know enjoy wearing revealing clothing (personally I would have them clothed a little more but thats not my choice), they dress for themselves, society and to “impress” others. This is human nature, men dress up in suits, they look smart and give a certain air, men don’t dress up in bikinis because imo they look silly. Women have greater choice here in what society will allow, I was walking along the road once (it was cold, so face mask up to eyes, hat down to eyes, big jacket) and was stopped by the police, people crossed the road to avoid me… my clothing made a statement irrespective of my wishes to make or not make that statement.

    Now Islam does not force the Burkah nor the veil on womem, nor did Jack Straw force them to remove it. People can only be coerced as far as they wish to be coerced, at some point you make a choice and go with it.

    Personal responsibility and choices are what the world is about, we can’t make choices for others, we can attempt to move them, we can threaten them however in the end the choice is still theirs. If a man had been asked to remove his veil this would be a non-issue, lets not compare this to a turban etc as these do not block los to the face.

    Thank you.

  4. 4
    Robert says:

    If I move to Pakistan and insist on maintaining my own cultural traditions and Western lifestyle without making substantial concessions to the mores and folkways of my adoptive land, I will quickly be in social and probably legal trouble – and you would, I imagine, be among the people condemning me for cultural insensitivity.

    But when someone from Pakistan comes to the West and is expected to make the same basic “When in Rome” adjustments, it’s “vile racism”?

    Vile racism is white men raping black women on country roads because nobody cares what happens to blacks.

    Vile racism is barring people of the wrong color from using public facilities, hemming their rights to free movement with bogus laws and blocking their ability to engage in things as simple as a drive in the country by making the environment physically dangerous for them.

    Vile racism is inventing BS voting tests to prevent people of the wrong race from exercising their right to the franchise.

    The equation of the incredible insults suffered by people oppressed by racism, with a commonsense statement that one particular tradition of an immigrant population isn’t very compatible with social intercourse in the West, is absurd.

  5. 5
    maureen says:

    Just one additional fact – Jack Straw is deaf. It is not a complete hearing loss but severe damage to the eardrum when he was caught by the blast of an IRA bomb years ago.

    If you go back to the original piece in the Lancashire Evening Telegraph you will see that his very carefully worded piece concentrated on a specific set of circumstances – a person coming to her local MP’s “surgery”, which most often happens when that person if facing a difficult and intractable problem and no other office or person has been able to help.

    This was about a request not a demand and about a time when it is important for the listener fully to grasp the facts and the feelings of the other person. Even the flimsiest piece of cloth distorts sound. Lip-reading helps the listener to understand, even for people whose hearing is perfect and who don’t realise they are doing it!

    Think again, Maia.

  6. 6
    b says:

    Galloway’s summary is absurd. I can’t even begin to understand how someone would parse the situation in that way.

    That said, what Straw said raises an interesting question–what role should culture play? As Robert said, if you go to Pakistan and act and dress Western, you’ll be harassed (I experienced that firsthand in Egypt–it’s really quite dramatic and upsetting and makes any purely verbal request or demand pale in comparison).

    Should “when in Rome” apply to costume? Clearly some cultures are just better than others about actions (regardless of its failings, the West does not condone honor killings, brazen public physical harassment, imprisonment in the home, and the like), but how far does that superiority extend, and how far should it be pushed, against the values of multiculturalism?

    I think there’s some value to hewing to local cultures in terms of dress, as long as that dress doesn’t restrict one’s activities (the hijab is fine, and can be quite stylish, the burka is not and really cannot). It ought to be akin to the distinctions between business attire and casual clothes. This value, however, should not be enforced by coercion–you wear the hijab in Pakistan or Egypt because you want to fit in, or don’t because you don’t, and the reverse in England, just like you wear a suit some places and a t-shirt in other places. These choices set you up to be judged, as do all aspects of your personal appearance, but not threatened or attacked.

  7. 7
    Dei says:

    Maureen, I’ve listened to Jack Straw’s defence on this from the get go as I’m resident in the UK and at NO point did he mention that he couldn’t hear and so was dependent on lip-reading. Had he said so, then he could have made an argument that he had nothing against wearing veils (an argument he has *not* made) but in his particular case, he needed to be able to lip-read in order to understand a person. What he has said from the get-go is that he started asking women to unveil not because he didn’t understand them, but because he did not feel comfortable. Now he may be deaf, he may not be deaf, but I trust a person to understand what they need and be able to make a case for it — particularly when that person is a powerful politician and he hasn’t made that argument.

    Robert, I would say that Maia’s point — with which I agree unreservedly — is that we’re not actually much better than those we condemn. Currently, the difference is that in one place, women get flack for wearing too little and in another they get flack for wearing too much. They are one and the same attitude, the notion that others should have the right to determine what a woman wears. And if we claim that attitude is not part of our liberal culture (well, I’m speaking for the U.K. here) then we had better stop with it. True, there isn’t *yet* an official religious police like in Afghanistan making sure everyone adheres to the letter of public mores, but we have here louts ripping veils off women, insulting them, people feeling entitled to be rude, to stare, to refuse service to — a social attitude that constitutes unchecked (hell, encouraged) public harassment.

    The watchword of the day may be integration, but I fail utterly to see how that can happen with a society that is becoming increasingly hostile to one. Unveiling won’t bring instant acceptance either: this is all happening against a backdrop of increased suspicion of and hostility to well, I would say Muslims, but in this country, it’s associated with south Asians and so it’s directed against Indians, Pakistanis, Afghanis and people who look Arab. It’s disgusting that official policy is increasingly friendly to such racism.

  8. 8
    Maia says:

    Maureen if Jack Straw is hearing imparied enough that he can’t understand people with (and he gave no indication in the original piece that he was). Then I’m sure there are facilities within the British parliamentary system to provide him with everything he needs so he can still do clinic work with people, no matter how they communicate.

    I find the demand that women comply to his will particularly repulsive because, of the position he is in. In this situation Jack Straw is the one with power he is the MP, he has the resources, and he is also supposed to be serving the constitutents. You are arguing that they should accomodate him, not the other way round.

    If I move to Pakistan and insist on maintaining my own cultural traditions and Western lifestyle without making substantial concessions to the mores and folkways of my adoptive land, I will quickly be in social and probably legal trouble – and you would, I imagine, be among the people condemning me for cultural insensitivity.

  9. 9
    Amba says:

    But when someone from Pakistan comes to the West and is expected to make the same basic “When in Rome” adjustments, it’s “vile racism”

    What Robert has missed, (and what Jill, R. Mildred et al also missed), is that the burqa/niqab is not traditional Pakistani dress – in the 70s and 80s, British Pakistani women would wear the salwar kameez, with a dupatta to cover the hair. A South Asian Muslim woman who adopts the niqab has abandoned her own traditions in favour of an austere, bellicose, version of Islam that has been propagated throughout the Muslim world with the aid of Saudi petro-dollars. Frankly, I find the burqa brouhaha in the feminist blogosphere bizarre – niqabis are about as likely to be sympathetic to feminism as Lady Lydia’s Victorian fetishists. By the way, in case anyone wants to throw any ‘ignorant whitey’ comments at me, I’m South Asian, so don’t waste your breath.

  10. 10
    RonF says:

    b said:

    As Robert said, if you go to Pakistan and act and dress Western, you’ll be harassed (I experienced that firsthand in Egypt–it’s really quite dramatic and upsetting and makes any purely verbal request or demand pale in comparison).

    In this context I’m curious as to what your gender is – I’m wondering if males who act/dress Western are harassed.

    Amba:

    “salwar kameez, with a dupatta ”

    What are the physical characteristics of these articles? I’m trying to picture them in my mind.

  11. 11
    Amba says:

    This is what a salwar kameez looks like. The dupatta is the scarf; a devout woman will use it to cover her hair, although she probably won’t take the trouble to hide every strand. I think it’s a fairly woman-friendly garment; it’s comfortable, and it doesn’t restrict your movement at all.

  12. 12
    RonF says:

    Thanks! Now that I know what it’s called, I can say that I’ve certainly seen a number of women in those at various points in my life.

  13. 13
    maureen says:

    If Jack Straw had gone on about his hearing loss that would have been special pleading and would have drawn attention away from a discussion which we in the UK probably need to have with eachother. Besides, he prefers not to draw attention to it and that I respect.

    So what are we discussing? There has been a marked rush towards wearing the niqab among young women, the majority of whom seem to be of south Asian descent, most of whose familes have been here for generations. Their mothers did not cover, nor their grandmothers, nor anyone else as far as we can tell. They are adopting a form of dress which is no part of their own cultural tradition.

    I am not a scholar here but am told by people I trust there is nothing in the Qu’uran or in the Hadith which prescribes this form of dress. It is, though, traditional dress in the Arabian peninsula where until very recently women did not go out to work, did not do business with strangers – even their MPs – and relied upon the men in the family to handle such matters – whether for convenience or from oppression is a matter for discussion elsewhere.

    So, if it is not part of their cultural heritage and it is not religiously prescribed, except by a tiny minority with whom the other followers of Islam greatly disagree what is it about?

    To me – and I am right in the middle of it all – it looks very much like a political statement and one for which some are now claiming the protection of the laws against religious dicrimination. Do you remember the punk style of dress? The parallels are close.

    If it is not political then we are entitled to ask why it is happening and who if anyone is promoting the relatively sudden change.

    Many of the Muslims who came to this country found it difficult to adjust to a society which placed great store by speaking directly, looking someone full in the face and engaging in robust discourse. It still does. The first generation has learned to cope in such a society and, for the most part, cope well. Now their grand-daughters seem to be rebelling against the elders in the family but indirectly – by claiming that we white people are oppressing them while at the same time claiming all the advantages of a society where women are doing rather well in the equality stakes.

    It is the perceived element of dishonesty in all this which rankles rather than anything I have noticed of religious discrimination, racism or misogyny. My perceptions may be incorrect but either way we need to have the discussion. We certainly don’t need people to tell us what we are allowed to discuss.

    And yes, Amba, shalwar kameez dupatta is an attractive form of dress in which to be comfortable and to operate successfully in the UK right now. Many of us choose to dress that way from time to time. It is generally agreed that it also fully meets the injunction about modest dress.

  14. 14
    Sarah says:

    “I seriously doubt that anyone would be in favor of an American woman being forced to remove her top while visiting certain Indonesian islands, despite that being the norm there.”

    Well, no. But this is not about visitors – no one is saying that Pakistani or other women visiting the UK shouldn’t dress as they please. We are talking about British citizens who are permanent residents here and taking part in the democratic process by consulting with their MP. Nor were they *forced* to remove anything, though I agree that the power imbalance might make a polite request seem more like coercion.

    Not to mention that if they actually were visting from Pakistan, they probably wouldn’t be wearing the niqab at all, as it is not actually commonly worn there!

    If I did move to live in a culture where topless was the norm, and expected to be integrated and accepted into that culture, then possibly I would go topless. In fact I’d probably feel perfectly happy with it if all the other women were topless too and it was just a normal everday thing, though of course I wouldn’t dream of walking down the street topless in the UK. But that’s not because I think it’s inherently bad and shameful, just that is very much not the cultural norm.

    Also I’m sure it doesn’t need to be pointed out that covering your breasts does not impede communication in the same way that covering your face does. And it is hardly an excessive burden on women, when in most social situations, especially relatively formal ones, men are equally expected to wear clothing that covers their chest.

  15. 15
    Seattle Male says:

    Maia,
    Let’s go back to the manner in which Jack Straw set the whole discussion — in terms of his own personal response.

    So two questions for you:
    1. Have you ever been in the immediate presence of a veiled woman?
    2. What was your reaction?

    My own reaction was shock and disquiet. Of course I had seen pictures — but pictures don’t do justice to the insult to personhood imposed by the veil. There is something about being in the presence of a being who is both there and not there which I found deeply unsettling.

    A culture which expects its women to remain as blank presences without individuality is, to me, repulsive. I cannot put it less strongly. While the individuals in that culture may not be enemies, a culture which suppresses women — and let’s not get into the nonsense that the veil is a matter of respect — in such a manner is indeed at least an adversary of all that I value.

    (And no, that is neither “sexist” nor “racist,” accusations which you seem to throw out with casual abandon. I am in late middle age and I have come to terms with my own attitudes and long ago threw out guilt as an appropriate response.)

    So let’s get personal, as Jack Straw bravely did.

    Consider your own reaction to encountering a man — even a slight, small man of no possible physical threat — wearing a ski mask in a public setting. Can you honestly suggest that you, Maia, would not have a profound and adverse response?

  16. 16
    22state says:

    Living in civil society requires mutual accomodation. That’s why fundamentalists of any ideology are so threatening. Therefore, just as we demand that others make some modifications or changes in religiously based dress, I think it is perfectly appropriate to ask someone you are communicating with to speak face to face. He wasn’t asking her to unveil or take off her hijab, she was being asked to expose her face to facilitate communication.

    We require similar accomodation by others, veiled women should be no different (e.g. removal of male religious headgear that won’t accomodate hardhats or the choice of shaving or wearing beard-nets for food service workers or those who work in operating rooms, etc…). An accomodation such as removing face coverings in educational settings (to facilitate group communication) and when ID is requested (e.g. at the department store when they check your ID against your credit card) seems to me to be respectful of people’s beliefs without requiring society to re-organize itself to address each and every peculiarity. After all, for example, if one wishes to keep kosher, one doesn’t expect every restaurant and work-place kitchenette to meet kashrut. One learns various accommodation strategies and society tries to help out (e.g. airline meals, and kosher labels on almost every food product). It isn’t without friction, but it allows people of every background to work together in civil society.

    Also, employers who have jobs which require specific clothing (e.g. assembly line work) or activites (e.g. lots of stairs) should be free to demand that even religious women wear (appropriately concealing) clothing which conforms to safety and/or legitimate business needs. For example, don’t apply to be a waitress at Hooters if you wear hijab and expect accomodation (Hooters won a lawsuit about requiring the outfit).

  17. 17
    Robert says:

    Would you force a woman who was uncomfortable — whether for religious, political, or vanity reasons — to remove her top to fit in with the norm if she lived there?

    Force? No.

    Would you force a non-Western culture to employ a Western woman who refused to follow local norms?

  18. 18
    Robert says:

    OK. Would you force a politician to meet with a veiled woman?

  19. 19
    Seattle Male says:

    Bean,

    Should a woman politician be required to meet with a single individual (or a group, to take it a step further) of men who are wearing ski masks?

    I assume you will say yes.

  20. 20
    Robert says:

    Why do you get to determine which group customs are legitimate? Your knowledge of others’ traditions is the final arbiter? Seems a bit, what’s the word…something-centric.

  21. 21
    Robert says:

    I suggested that you were pretending to be the final arbiter because you asserted that your lack of knowledge of such a group meant that the comparison was invalid. The definition of privilege, there – I don’t know about it, so it must not exist.

    The SAS, among other military special forces groups, wear ski masks. The IRA used to wear them all the time. Admittedly, those groups don’t go around meeting with politicians very often.

    So forget about the real groups that do use ski masks, and just engage the freakin’ hypothetical. What if some member of a ski-mask-advocating group wanted to meet with the Home Secretary? Ought he meet with them? Is he being bigoted if he declines? Should the voters punish him?

    Do, in other words, your fine principles hold up to the general case? Or just to the cases where privileged-victim groups are having their oxes gored?

  22. 22
    Ampersand says:

    Seattle-Male and Robert, I have to agree with Bean: The ski-mask argument is idiotic. You’re wasting everyone’s time with this line of discussion.

  23. 23
    Robert says:

    Then how about addressing the substantive points raised by critics of the original post? Fine, the ski mask analogy is idiotic. But it’s what’s getting answered. Left unaddressed (or addressed at the “nuh unh!” level but not argued):

    * Chris’ point that veils impede communication.
    * My point about the necessity to adapt to host cultures.
    * My point about the moral imbecility of equating Straw’s preference to see faces with the history of real racism.
    * Amba’s point about the niqab not being part of any historical tradition.
    * SM’s point about the eradication of individuality.

    And probably some others.

  24. 24
    Robert says:

    OK, let’s leave it lie then. I have no desire to quarrel with you.

  25. 25
    Chris says:

    I have been told by various women in positions of authority (generally not women in general though for some reason) that they would not interview / be in a room alone with me. This is not due to me being violent etc this is simply because I am a 6’4″ tall, well built male (and this was actually stated as the reason, they don’t feel comfortable so instead I am expected to have 2 interviewers / helpers). Similarly working at a University residence, I was told not to enter a single girl’s room alone (again we were told its ok for girls/women/small guys to do so but big guys should always be accompanied or have multiple residents in when we visit).

    Now personally I see this as silly, I do not resort to violence unless threatened, however my physical presence does make people worry. So to minimise the inconvenience of others I have to make allowances. Similarly when its cold I like to wear my polar buff (great name for a neck / face covering btw!) and hat, of course this basically means that I am completely faceless to the world and rather threatening (or rather imposing). Again I have to make allowances like taking these down/off before entering buildings / around policemen.

    The thing about society is that we live together, in an ideal world everyone would always do the right thing, we would be judged based on who we are not what we wear, how we act in public etc. However society is not ideal, we have to minimise our differences to fit into the mould that society requires to function. Think of a drunken friday/ saturday night… frankly the drunk fighting and sex appauls me, however society says its alright and these people have a right to get drunk. However I can expect these people to be sober on Monday and doing their job correctly.

    The veil is a non-western society device, it does impede communication and does create distance (which it is designed to do). While we have to be accomodating to some extent of cultures we must also expect that people will conform to the minimum standards we ask of our society (so veilless security photos for example) and also that people will not react badly if they encounter something outside of their sphere of confidence. Jack Straw prefers not to have the veil as western society does not tend to use them, he asked the women to come within his circle, they voluntarily left theirs making communication easier. Life is about compromises not about everyone getting their own way 100% of the time, or even 95% of the time.

  26. 26
    Seattle Male says:

    To characterize Straw’s remark as “… men demanding that women dress for
    them….” would be hilarious parody of the worst in pseudo-liberalism
    if issues of racism, sexism and integration (of Moslems into European
    society ) were not such deadly serious matters.

    •••

    My ski mask analaogy is by no means idiotic. It’s a very good question. Nor is it racist. etc. Don’t make me barf. I think it is sick and presumptious for people to use accustions of “racism” whenever they cannot answer a question. Bean refuses to address it because s/he cannot. I notice that Maia has also not answered my question about her own personal response to the veil so I invite anyone else to:

    “So two questions for you:
    1. Have you ever been in the immediate presence of a veiled woman?
    2. What was your reaction?”

    (And when I wrote “veiled” I meant the most extreme version with at most the eyes visble.)

    •••

    I realized my politics are far to the right of the people here but I would ask you to get over your ownprejudice and fear and deal directly with my questions.

  27. 27
    Jake Squid says:

    I would ask you to get over your ownprejudice and fear and deal directly with my questions.

    Well, that’s a very effective way of communicating your wish to have a valuable discussion with folks who have different views than your own.

  28. 28
    nik says:

    I don’t understand why people are sticking up for veil wearers. These women are not feminists. They have views on sex segregation and sex roles that are absolutely vile. I think Jack Straw has every right to refuse to talk to someone wearing a veil. It’s absolutely offensive to refuse to let someone look at your face because you are a man. You’d take great pleasure in ripping apart the sort of rape-myths use to justify this if they were being presented in any other context.

  29. 29
    RonF says:

    I have been told by various women in positions of authority (generally not women in general though for some reason) that they would not interview / be in a room alone with me. This is not due to me being violent etc this is simply because I am a 6′4″ tall, well built male (and this was actually stated as the reason, they don’t feel comfortable so instead I am expected to have 2 interviewers / helpers). Similarly working at a University residence, I was told not to enter a single girl’s room alone (again we were told its ok for girls/women/small guys to do so but big guys should always be accompanied or have multiple residents in when we visit).

    And nobody thinks that this is blatant discrimination? Based on your size, no less, which is obviously not something under your control?

  30. 30
    RonF says:

    Re: the ski mask analogy, why is it ridiculous?

    First, why does it have to be on the basis of being required by a specific religion? If someone says “It’s against my spiritual beliefs to have people look upon my face”, why does this need validation by some organized religion to be legitimate? Do people not have the right to express their individual spiritual beliefs?

    Second, it seems to me that you’re projecting stereotypes on the black ski mask, but for the sake of argument let’s change it from a ski mask to some other face covering. It could be a black silk handkerchief (along the lines that Michael Jackson has taken to wearing) along with a black silk do-rag. Would it be discrimination for a politician to say “I’m not comfortable in meeting with you unless you take that off?”

  31. 31
    Bolshevichka says:

    I think there’s a distinction between what Straw said, which in a vacuum is perfectly reasonable, and the context in which he said it – he was trying to look hard to line up with John “anti-immigration” Reid for the deputy leadership contest within the Labour party.

    As a socialist feminist I defend anyone’s right to practice their religion and wear whatever the hell they like. But I find it pretty disturbing that few feminists in this country have spoken a word about the sexist ideology underpinning the veil in the aftermath of Straw’s comments, and that much of the left have taken a “defend the veil” stance wholly uncritical of it.

    Not to mention the fact that those socialists who go on about a women’s right to wear what she likes in Britain, with regard to Muslim women veiling, are the same people who never have a thing to say about the right of women to wear what they like in Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Iran or Iraq. They’re the socialists who are gung-ho behind the Islamist “resistance” in Iraq, and who, on “anti-imperialist” grounds will never criticise the Iranian regime.

  32. 32
    Chris says:

    Bean, truly a great comment imo…

    [i]many of these women are not feminists. So what? If a woman is not feminist she doesn’t deserve rights?[/i]

    Seriously WTF? When did anyone in this comments thread say Women don’t deserve rights? People are fighting for equality (as iirc Feminists are) then she has the right to wear the veil, he has the right to ask her to remove it and the pair compromise somewhere they both feel comfortable… thats how society works, compromise.

    As for looking outside a Western/ Colonialist PoV well shucks, I thought this occurred in a Western country, under Western Laws between a Western man and a Western woman (not an immigrant => British born => British Citizen => British => Western). We might be looking at this wrongly however you have to consider that Britain has a population of 60Million, 1.5 Million are Muslim (roughly). Now I may be wrong but you cannot make laws to suit a minority over the rights of the majority. Here we have a minority (and a minority within a minority) making a huge hoo ha over a simple request offered by a partiall deaf minister to make it easier to understand the points being made… Mountains, mole hills and some conversion comes to mind.

    I have lived in the Middle East (Kuwait, Katar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates), Westerners don’t always fit in, they don’t always take the local customs to heart but in general they do try and respect the local customs and not upset too many people (very few bikini’s for example walking down the high street, or indeed pig based foods). Now this may be a rough generalisation but the minority does need to work with the majority to find a compromise both are happy with.

  33. 33
    Chris says:

    All Women? All People. (lets not forget that men can’t dress anyway they feel like either).

    Men afaik don’t dictate what women can wear, I have never seen a man force a woman to wear, or not wear clothing of their choice in the UK. We have public decency laws but those apply to both sexes. Women have a choice as to what to wear, and often a greater choice than men. Some of their options might be considered “sexy”, “provocative” etc however thats the problem you have when your views interact with those of other people.

    I would disagree that asking a person to do something and giving them an out with no consequences is the same as forcing them into a particular choice. Also there is a difference between yelling at someone in the street and asking politely, the first is human nature and is exemplified by children. People pick on whats different / interesting, its human nature and its what people do. People look at overweight people and think “fat”, they look at skinny people and think “eat a sammich”, they look at x and think y… its what people do. Some people voice this, others don”t however it is not the same as having a polite conversation. For example, people might yell “lose weight”, or a doctor might say “have you considered losing weight”, one can be classed as an insult (if you deign to give it that much interest) while the other is a polite enquiry.

    Yeah western culture does try and assimilate others, its what made Britain the country it is today, English itself is an assimilation, its a germanic language with a latin vocabulary. I think what you ideally want is a society that is composed of separate communities that interact in a small way and appear cohesive… what we have instead is a melting pot of opinions, prejudices and views. There is a “British Culture” (though I have heard it put that a yoghurt has more culture), when you become British you adopt part of that and add to it. Sure there are people who don’t, and there are those that resist the changes however for the most part Western society is inclusive and does try to alter itself to support other views however it must remember (and appear) to still support the majority, society is a glacier and change is meltwater, the latter may move the glacier but it does so slowly.

  34. 34
    Chris says:

    It is a fair comparison, I have been on the end of it for a long time, quite frankly thought most “abusive” language is hardly offensive or abusive, I can’t say it really bothers me.

    Which part was ignorant and bigotted? I would actually be interested to hear, as far as I can see I was looking at this from my pov so ignorance is not an appropriate term, indeed Western culture does assimilate, yoghurt does have culture and English is a germanic language with a latin based vocabulary. Ohh and Meltwater does move glaciers (or rather speeds up their movement really).

    AS for bigotted I am interested, I did not express hatred or condemnation of a group, I have not shouted down other views, indeed I have been trying to make the point that this has multiple view points so this issue has been blown out of all proportion based on a comment which from its speaker’s pov was harmless and designed to aid the situation.

  35. 35
    RonF says:

    bean:

    As for these women being feminist — first, yeah, it’s true, many of these women are not feminists. So what? If a woman is not feminist she doesn’t deserve rights? But beyond that, there are a significant number of Islamic Feminists who would adamently disagree with you. But seeing their point of view would mean looking at the world from outside the Western/Colonialist framework.

    The first part of your post was a response to something I said. Was this paragraph also intended to be a response to me? Because I never commented on anything like this.

  36. 36
    Seattle Male says:

    “…the minority does need to work with the majority to find a compromise both are happy with.”

    Uh…not if the minority is dark-skinned and can exploit the guilt of western liberals to get its way by screaming ‘racism’ and ‘bigotrty.’

  37. 37
    Jake Squid says:

    Uh…not if the minority is dark-skinned and can exploit the guilt of western liberals to get its way by screaming ‘racism’ and ‘bigotrty.’

    Oh, good. That isn’t a stereotypical racist statement. No, no. Not at all.

  38. 39
    cicely says:

    Jill has written a great post over at Feministe – very informative and also a good reminder of how important it is not to make assumptions about why women do what they do in pursuit of their own freedom. The post is titled ‘ Thoughts on the headscarf ffrom those who know better than I do.’

    http://www.feministe.us/blog/

  39. 40
    RonF says:

    I read the posting at Feministe. Actually, what drew my attention the most was the part about women who wear this headgear by choice in order to attain certain objectives. On the one hand you can consider that they are forced to wear this headgear anyway in order to get rights and privileges from their families that women from our own culture can get without such actions. On the other hand, it is quite intelligent and creative of them to do so and in doing so are forcing their families to take a second look at how Islam can be interpreted when freed of what seem to be some pre-Islamic traditions that people used Islam to reinforce.