This is the first in a series of posts I’d like to dedicate to my experiences with the veil.
I don’t like people who, when greeted with the word “Islam,” immediately start spouting off about pedophilia and compulsory veiling. I want these folk to stop and think, maybe even read up on the Quran a bit. And I certainly don’t want this post to contribute to this sort of hysteria.
Having said that, us “Western whores” really ought to keep an eye on the veiling debates, especially if we call ourselves feminist. If River of Baghdad Burning is forced to wear a scarf, because she fears for her life in the “free” Iraq, something is wrong with this picture.
Of course, the “real Muslims” will jump in and tell us that, hey, we ought to mind our own business, River will learn to love the scarf if she’s a “real Muslim” like them, and isn’t it about time we stopped being hookers and converted anyway? On the other hand, the handmaidens of “liberty,” the Ann Coulters of the world, will tell us that River’s situation is simply more proof of the fact that Muslims ought to be exterminated. The minute you engage in this debate, you’ve lost.
Rational dialogue breaks down within nanoseconds the minute the veil and its implications are introduced, and both the Islamofascists and Islamophobes are equally responsible. I have written about the false dichotomies inherent in this kind of discourse, and believe they stand true today. Moreover, as the latest conflict in the Middle East rages on, and as the latest terror plot comes to light, there is a greater need for the reactionaries to further define and dehumanize the Other. The veil is extremely handy in this, because of how visual it is.
If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard and/or read something stupid said about the veil, I’d be able to make rent this month and invest in a nice new wallet. These are some of the generic arguments out there:
a) The veil is evil and oppressive and AAAAAAAH
b) The veil is the greatest thing since sliced bread
c) The veil prevents rape [WTF? Buy a can of mace, moron]
d) Only Muslims wear the veil
e) Only “true” Muslims wear the veil
f) Only “extremist” Muslims wear the veil
g) There is NO WAY that a woman in a veil could be considered attractive [Riiight. Want to see how many lascivious messages I got on Flick when I posted a couple of pictures of myself in an Orthodox scarf?]
h) There is only ONE right way to wear the veil [insert style of choice here] and everyone who doesn’t do it MY way is a misquided idiot/nasty whore
i) You can go on being a two-bit whore, but MY woman will be veiled [woman as chattel, anyone?]
j) A woman is a precious pearl [i.e. pretty, soulless object] and the veil is her gift-wrapping [*vomiting, etc*]
Intelligent discussion does occur. Rarely. In this post, a Western feminist complains about some women’s desire to appear invisible. And here a Sunni Muslim woman discusses the annoying fact that people will automatically label you “anti-Western” if you put a piece of cloth on your head.
Behind these words, even more complicated topics loom. The bombs dropping on living flesh are real. Women who get beaten up and harrassed, either for wearing or not wearing the veil, are also real. The threats, the bullying, the intimidation and war, they’re all connected to each other. They occur on separate battlefields, but they all have the distinct flavour of a world in the throes of madness.
I’m tired of this bullshit. I’m tired of otherwise bright young women who believe that they have to choose between being in a society with compulsory veiling or being “Carrie Bradshaw.” I’m tired of hearing about the crap going on in Turkey, and then seeing the issue co-opted by every single self-serving lunatic out there.
As a formerly practicing Ukrainian Orthodox, I have donned my share of scarves, both inside the church and outside. My experiences have taught me that for as long as the patriarchal hijacking of femininity exists, religious communities will not be able to move forward.
I was sexually harrassed while wearing the scarf. When I spoke about my experiences on a missionary Orthodox forum populated by a large number of priests, I was told that “a young woman with real purity in her heart would never have invited that sort of attention.” I said screw it to the scarf, and screw it to the Orthodox church a few months after that.
I think intelligent women and men of all persuasions and all fashions ought to be building their own forums and communities. Only this way can we escape being co-opted by the Religious Police, be they the Qaradawis or the Coulters of this world. Only this way can we finally start wearing what we want, when we want to. And hey, who knows, maybe being thought of as human beings will be next.
Who’s with me?