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07 July 2010 @ 08:50 pm
Hide It Under A Bushel  


When I was first introduced to this argument, I thought it sounded reasonable. And it does. Then I started thinking about it, and like most things that sound eminently reasonable at first brush, the critical holes in the whole argument became obvious and apparent.

For example, notice how men only need to cover part of their body, but women must hide nigh-unto every bit of their flesh away? Which they must do because otherwise their flesh is nasty, evil, and tempting to men -- if it wasn't, they wouldn't have to cover up.

The claim that women don't ogle men as much as men ogle women?
Holy bullshit, Batman! Sorry, you do. You can look up the studies on it. It's biological instinct inherent to the species.

The biggest problem, of course, is the idea: "It isn't about oppressing women, really!"

Being forced to hide under robes because otherwise nasty men will not behave themselves and will treat you poorly isn't a form of oppression?

Sure, that makes sense. Almost as much sense as not owning anything so criminals won't be tempted to steal from you. It's a very subtle form of not just blaming the victim, but convincing the victim that they are the ones who need to behave differently to stop someone else from behaving poorly towards them.

Yes, you can perform a verbal magic trick -- a little misdirection that quickly hides that fact -- and say, "But this is a GOOD thing, because it lets us be us and not our bodies!"

Unfortunately, the truth is that it still boils down to you treating your body as a nasty, evil, vile, tempting thing that YOU should hide from men, who don't have to do a thing to change their attitudes or behaviors towards you.

That's not oppression?
Then, lady, you don't understand oppression.

Indeed, the whole line of logic -- of hiding the body because it lets people love your "inner beauty" instead, lets you succeed on merit instead of looks, allows you to be respected as a person -- is broken because by covering yourself and hiding yourself it says your flesh IS more important than who you are, than your "inner beauty", and that you as a person are only good, important, worthwhile, or so forth when hidden away and wrapped up.

Especially--ESPECIALLY--and let me repeat this so you understand how important this is, ESPECIALLY! when you don't force your men to do the same and cover themselves so only their "inner beauty" can show, instead of allowing them to walk around uncovered.

Nor does the logic bear out in practice: covering the body to protect it from "molestation" has been found to be the best way to ensure molestation. Numerous studies of various culture groups across the globe over decades show that free societies with less clothing have less rape and greater equality, while strict societies with more clothing have more rape and less equality.

Why? Because covering up says the opposite of what you believe. It says that the flesh is most important, that it needs to be thought about, lusted after, seen. That your body is your truly defining feature, and if it shows, you are lost to it, that others can only see you for your body -- rather than despite your body.

Regardless, it still comes to this: that you are told your body is an evil, vile, tempting thing that you should hide from men whose attitudes and behaviors towards you if you aren't wrapped in cloth are perfectly acceptable. That YOU must change, not them; and change for them.

(On a personal note, from the standpoint of a pagan, covering the body the gods gave you is flat-out wrong and an insult to your creators. Which is why many pagans worship naked among the trees, and really have no qualms at all about nudity.)

dscarrondscarron on July 8th, 2010 03:19 pm (UTC)
The true defining characteristic is the enforcement. If it's a "cool fashion choice" then folks don't need purity police and beatings as enforcement. Further, an additional double-standard is that they also don't enforce said rules on outsiders - as the true purpose is to control the local woman...
Raven Daegmorgangreyorm on July 9th, 2010 01:12 am (UTC)
Indeed. What's worse is the women then make these arguments for the men, and just covering their own eyes to the dynamics of the situation.
Cerebussorceror on July 8th, 2010 04:34 pm (UTC)
I'm curious. Where did this comic come from?
Raven Daegmorgangreyorm on July 9th, 2010 01:10 am (UTC)
Honestly don't know. A friend posted it in his journal, but I don't know where he found it originally (or if he even knows the source).
sheikhjahbootysheikhjahbooty on August 1st, 2010 03:08 pm (UTC)
I'm not sure this helps.
I agree with you that forcing someone to do something under the threat of violence is oppression. It honestly boggles my mind that people don't get that.

This comic was probably drawn by an American, someone who lives under a constant threat of "be pretty or we will think less of you, consider you less competent, not give you a job you might be qualified for, and ultimately starve you." Remember that even children will answer that a pretty teacher is smarter. Under that constant threat, hijab must seem like a welcome respite. A European or Australian who can still buy modest groceries and get medical care irrespective of their job or lack of job feels that threat less keenly.

You wrote: "Numerous studies of various culture groups across the globe over decades show that free societies with less clothing have less rape and greater equality, while strict societies with more clothing have more rape and less equality."

This is fascinating! Do you have links? I would love to see them. Did they rule out other influences? Did this also hold true for the Amish (since an Amish woman would not consider herself properly dressed without a bonnet)? Did they get figures from modern times only, or did they try to get figures for times past (like 100 years ago when Christian women would typically go out with a hat or scarf on their heads)? Heck, even today women have "church hats". My wife once faced severe disapproval for wearing pants to a church. Did they find any correlation between communities with those kinds of strict dress codes and violence?

I'm actually quite fascinated with standards of what people consider to be essentially and irrefutably masculine and feminine. For example, in America (where I'm from) we consider men to be rugged and primal, and women to be gentile and civilized, and that's just the way we are in our inner nature and it can't be changed. Boys will be boys, etc. But it's obviously a lie. It's all artificial, a product of culture. In ancient Greece it was almost exactly the opposite. Men were logical and reasonable, to source of law and civilization, and women were capricious and intimately part of nature. And those gender values held for long after Greece. The Taming of the Shrew, for example, whereas modern women talk about training their men.

But the idea that excusing men of rapacious thoughts encourages rapaciousness reminds me of a study that was on the American Psychiatric Association website, but they reorganized and I lost the link, about how venting anger creates a bad habit, that of screaming and hitting things when you are angry.

Here's a Happiness Project link that says almost the same thing.

I wonder if America blew their study because we find ways to excuse men of violence here. Boys will be boys. Men are primal, and rugged, not naturally given to the constraints of society. We have the mountain man myth here, one man against the wilderness. Whereas in Japan, they surely lack that kind of primal warrior masculinity. In Japanese media, the effeminate man, (often gay) one who understands his whole nature, is often the most dangerous warrior.

I'm sure that it helps though, to label a whole group of women as: in collusion with oppressors, especially in countries that have no law for or against hijab. And should we also claim that fancy dresses and church hats are symbols of oppression? (For the record you would have my support on that. Do you know how much money they waste on those costumes?) Should we claim that Amish bonnets and babushka scarves are symbols of oppression? To a pagan, is every article of clothing a symbol of oppression? Because I'm a hippy and my attitude to clothing is, "If my butt upsets you, stop giving me these freaky hospital gowns. (I've had a lot of surgeries this year so far)" but I still wouldn't walk down the street with my willy out.

To label certain types of clothing as helping oppressors hurts our ability to have a pluralistic society.
sheikhjahbootysheikhjahbooty on August 1st, 2010 03:09 pm (UTC)
Re: I'm not sure this helps.
To see the real benefits of a pluralistic society, spend some time with Indians and Pakistanis. (If you doubt that they are one culture, pay attention to how they call each other. Anyone from the Indian subcontinent is called "desi" no matter what country they come from.)

They have their early indigenous culture, the culture from the Aryan conquests (the castes, etc.), the Muslim conquests, the British colonial era, and now increasing westernization. Whereas Americans have one standard of success and ambition (wealthy, young [or young looking], beautiful), they have several. The forest sage is just as respected as the bramin devotee, as the Muslim scholar, as the British-style civil official, as the western wealthy entrepreneur. They have so much more avenues of respect and happiness than we do.

We couldn't get Hillary elected because she wasn't sexy enough. Many Americans felt more inclined to elect the ditzy Alaskan girl for vice president. But both India and Pakistan have had female prime ministers.

My problem with this comic is in it's very first panel. "how would people look at each of them? who would be more respected and who has more chance to be molested?" The answer is neither. When you see two friends dressed differently, people who obviously have different values and standards it short circuits the part of your brain that prejudges them, so you have to treat them as individual human beings, not stereotypes without feelings. And that makes us all safer.
Raven Daegmorgangreyorm on August 1st, 2010 07:52 pm (UTC)
Re: I'm not sure this helps.
Also, you're very right about that bit regarding the first panel. The answer is indeed "neither", as how each will be treated very much depends on the culture in question and how their men have been raised to behave towards and perceive women however they might be clothed.
Raven Daegmorgangreyorm on August 1st, 2010 07:50 pm (UTC)
Re: I'm not sure this helps.
Do you have links? I would love to see them.

Not offhand, unfortunately. However, as an example, if you check the rate rapes in Europe as compared to America, and the attitudes towards sex, sexual expression, and clothing, you find their rates are lower while their attitudes are "freer".

Some people will bring up that Muslim countries have fewer rapes -- except that isn't true. They have fewer reported rapes. Rather like the 50's here, it happened, and people didn't talk about it, because the stigma of coming forward and the social judgment against any woman who "allowed" herself to be raped was severe (though IIRC it's more severe in Muslim countries, where the woman is physically punished or even killed for having "inappropriate sexual contact" with her rapist -- oh, and honor rapes and all that bullshit, too. And I'm not even going to get into female genital mutilation and how "good" that is for a woman that some of these same people push).

how venting anger creates a bad habit, that of screaming and hitting things when you are angry.

I've read a number of links and studies on the same, so I know what you're talking about. (I'd Unfortunately, they're currently buried in my site's backup database, and I off-lined my site.

To label certain types of clothing as helping oppressors hurts our ability to have a pluralistic society.

However, this isn't about labeling certain types of clothing as oppressive. It's about calling out oppressive bullshit masquerading as pluralism, using bad logic to claim that it's not (really! trust us!) being used as a vehicle of oppression but also more freeing and safer for women for a variety of mistaken reasons.