September 08, 2008
On Hidjabs, Sexy or Not (encore), public sexualities etc.
One of our comment leavers drew my attention to this arty by a certain Naomi Wolf, pubished in Egypt in this instance, on questioning typical Western reactions to the Hidjab and the Chador / Burqa...
An interesting article - at first I had this Naomi Wolf confused with the Canadian Leftist git of not terribly similar name, except first - and I think I would largely agree, although it perhaps too readily excuses some items.
Further comment later, must off to meeting go.
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You're thinking of Noami Klein, but this is Naomi Wolf, author of The Beauty Myth and third-wave feminist.
Posted by: Frandroid Atreides at September 8, 2008 06:24 PM
Yes, I know. I didn't want to invoke the stupid bint's name. I am not terribly familiar with Wolf (that is I had no idea she existed until now) nor "third wave feminism," so after I figured out she was not the dumb Leftist bint, I was intrigued.
Posted by: The Lounsbury at September 8, 2008 06:45 PM
yes, as Frandroid notes, she's not unknown - and I remember her for doing interviews at the time of the Beauty Myth and being quite good-looking, and it was interesting to see her writing on the hijab - appraisingly, although she's probably pulling her punches because: i) she's being printed in Egypt and she's a guest at that newspaper ii) she's trying to avoid Orientalist cliches or 'ugly /angry American' caricatures & iii) she's a well-known feminist, and feminists in Egypt are known for their anti-hijab rants, such as the lunatic (no names, but she's an Egyptian intellectual) who said "no women wore hijabs at Nasser's funeral, there was no hijab in pre-modern Egypt"... err, always sounds like Napoleonic (or Kemalist) re-imagining of a mythic past, just as much as the Islamist rhetoric imagines an unbroken chain of righteous Caliphs and strict observance of the Shar'iah until the chaos of the modern period.
Force applied in either direction, towards religious observance or repression of same, tends to have the opposite effect - see Turkey, Egypt & France, which have large muslim women populations protesting to cover themselves, and Saudi or Iran, where the flow is in the opposite direction.
Posted by: dawud at September 9, 2008 02:55 PM
Brought it up because sex is a popular subject at aqoul. Well, not really. But I always find these intersections between cultures interesting - Wolf is using the picture of a maligned minority to speak to a Western audience, and this runs the risk of condescending, noble savage like. But I can't judge that.
So, anyway. Is it true? Is it fair? Is it preferable to lax sexual codes and lax sex life? Something about a class divide too, maybe, on values? Recalling L's bit on upper class Moroccan women frolicking on beaches.
I did find it a bit rich to publish this in an Egyptian daily, considering Egypt's record on sexual harassment.
I have no idea what is "preferable" - although having lived so long in MENA and environs, I have become acclimatized.
Regarding Wolf, I find the general thrust more or less right, but her airy dismissal of some issues seems off. However it is a polemical piece to make a point, one which I suppose I agree with ex Chador.
To be a bit unfair, I found this passage amusing, I experienced it myself. I put on a shalwar kameez and a headscarf in Morocco for a trip to the bazaar. Yes, some of the warmth I encountered was probably from the novelty of seeing a Westerner so clothed - indeed, because she was bloody wearing Paki clothing from 10000 km east of where she was and looked every bit as foreign as if she wore bloody chanel. Salwar qameez.....
But to return to an item for fundamentally correct:
I do not mean to dismiss the many women leaders in the Muslim world who regard veiling as a means of controlling women. Choice is everything. But Westerners should recognize that when a woman in France or Britain chooses a veil, it is not necessarily a sign of her repression. And, more importantly, when you choose your own miniskirt and halter top — in a Western culture in which women are not so free to age, to be respected as mothers, workers or spiritual beings, and to disregard Madison Avenue — it’s worth thinking in a more nuanced way about what female freedom really means.
Which leads me to recall a recent convo with a Western female colleague who in discussing hidjab with me kept circling back to the idea it must be "forced" - fathers, husbands forcing women to put the headscarf on. It was queer, this woman who spends vast amounts on idiotically priced "fashion" could not conceive of alt. fashion drivers.
Posted by: The Lounsbury at September 9, 2008 05:44 PM
" Is it preferable to lax sexual codes and lax sex life? "
Is hijab/chador the alternative to those? It's a long time since I was in North Africa but there was a tendency for women to conform in dress and ignore the morality it was supposed to enforce. The women who rejected hijab tended to be equally principled- and self-controlled- in their sexual lives.
Posted by: Jamie at September 10, 2008 12:34 PM