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A college bans face coverings womens rights vs security vs multiculturalism?

(120 Posts)
msrisotto Tue 10-Sep-13 19:09:30

This old chestnut but I'm posting as I can see two sides to this and am interested in other people's thoughts.
Here's a (non DM) link

I guess i felt that if Muslim women wanted to wear it then of course they should, i wouldn't appreciate being told what i should and shouldn't wear but then when I read stuff like this: The illusion of choice I get even more confused.

My opinions so far:
1. We should stop judging women on what they wear
2. A security risk is a security risk so maybe this measure was justified
3. Does the hijab represent the control of society over the freedom of women that has taken deep roots in their psyche, which has altered their perception to accept it as their identity. By calling hijab their identity, women reduce their worth to a piece of cloth, bringing entire focus on their bodies. This is no different from using a woman’s naked body to sell products. The blatant sexualisation of body in both cases perceives women nothing more than source of temptation, pleasure and sin. ( c+p from the second link).
4. Forgive my ignorance but is the face covering a religious or cultural issue? I don't believe in sanctioning discrimination under religious rules.

I do not wish for this to become any kind of racist, bun fighting, non sensible discussion. Looking forward to your thoughts.

grimbletart Sat 21-Sep-13 19:40:28

Gosh: years ago it was very unusual to see a Muslim woman in a niqab.
Now the wearing of it seems much increased. I don't think the answer is simply that there are now more Muslims in the UK than there were two decades ago (which would explain an increase in total numbers wearing then niqab). I get the impression that it is a proportional increase i.e. a higher percentage wearing it.

Am I right or am I imagining it? If I am right, can you explain why a higher proportion of women are now wearing it?

This is not intended to be a provocative question. I would really like your opinion on the reason behind the choice and why a higher proportion are making that choice.

ButThereAgain Sat 21-Sep-13 18:27:00

I agree with that comment from Goth about the dehumanising and dangerous character of this debate, speaking as it does about Muslim women but not to Muslim women.

crescentmoon Sat 21-Sep-13 18:08:45

sorry reposting as its an interesting image...

and since im posting again anyway, heres an interesting article on the problem men have with women and their bodies... 'from miley cyrus to banning veils...'

interesting to note the similarities between the rhetoric of freeing muslim women by banning the niqab with the lyrics from the misogynistic Blurred Lines song where Robin Thicke sings 'just let me liberate you...'.

FloraFox Sat 21-Sep-13 18:06:02

But Of course no all concepts of choice are capitalist libertarian. But I would not assume that when a person says they are respecting a choice that this results from feminist perspective as opposed to capitalist libertarianism. This could only be seen through further discussion, particularly of feminism and faith or culture and whether the decision is a radical, challenging stance (which I would be interested to hear more about) as opposed to either consumerist choices or conforming with cultural expectations.

crescentmoon Sat 21-Sep-13 17:59:46

i think this cartoon sums up the different viewpoints...

"I'm posting on this thread because no other Muslim women are and I find the way we are spoken about, but so rarely to, to be dehumanising, sinister and dangerous."

not been in this section often of late gosh, glad your here posting.

ButThereAgain Sat 21-Sep-13 17:20:09

I think it would be wrong to see a feminist respect for the culturally and religiously informed choices of Muslim women as an example of "choice feminism," with its roots in capitalist libertarianism. I'd imagine that is is something like a precise opposite of that. "Capitalist libertarianism" is an extreme example of viewing individuals in isolation, abstraction, from the social and cultural practices that in fact help to define them. It seeks to view individuals as abstract freely choosing entities, completely distinct from the social and cultural forces that shape their identities

Opposed to that is any kind of perception of people as being essentially socially embedded, partially defined by their membership of a group -- in a manner that is either oppressive or liberating depending on the nature of the social relationships they inhabit.

(Non-libertarian) feminism states one sort of social embeddedness of individuals: we are shaped by socially constituted gender roles and we achieve liberation by transforming them. But equally, an approach that embraces women's partial self-definition in terms of a rich culture of faith is a brake on libertarianism: individuals can't be viewed, in isolation from a heritage, as abstract enactors of some illusory realm of pure choice -- they achieve self-realisation (as well as suffer frustration) through their embeddedness within cultural practices.

There is a point of intersection between feminism and faith where both our status as women and a status as practitioners of a particular faith can be examined as sources of both constraint and self-realisation. That is a mile away from a preoccupation with facile notions of choice.

Oh, and a third form of embeddedness is within the racial/ethnic boxes that society's prevailing categorisations set out for us. We live in a society where certain groups are "other" because of of the orientalist lens through which non-European cultures are viewed. The conscious choice to wear a niqab or not can be a radical, challenging stance taken towards that particular set of social relations, -- something very different from the consumerist choices honoured by libertarianism.

ButThereAgain Sat 21-Sep-13 16:27:29

I couldn't believe how hard John Humphreys on Radio 4's Today programme was pushing Jeremy Hunt for some sort of controversy-feeding quote on the issue (non-issue!) of NHS health professionals wearing the niqab. Hunt kept on refusing to say anything quotable, and repeated that it wasn't a political discussion, just something for employers to address as necessary, but Humphreys was clearly after a "Minister wants to ban veil" type of headline. I'm just astonished how the responsible parts of the media are quite happy to manufacture a problem where there is none.

FloraFox Sat 21-Sep-13 16:26:38

Gosh I don't think the "media fixation" is not worthy of closer inspection but (a) it's not what the OP is about and (b) you ask a question which no-one here can answer, you don't put a viewpoint to be discussed.

Google =/= discussion. But hey, you've probably killed the possibility of anyone else expressing a view here. Job done?

SinisterSal Sat 21-Sep-13 16:25:14

GoshAnne I'm trying to follow this thread and not contributing because I know nothing about the issue. I'd like to though. Your posts are coming across like you know and won't tell ! It's frustrating, looking in.
The questions you posed above - what's your own take on them?

GoshAnneGorilla Sat 21-Sep-13 16:08:42

Flora - but they are important questions and key to exactly why this "debate" seems to get so much media airtime.

I am stunned that this media fixation is not seen as worthy of closer inspection.

Also not wanting to do all your googling for you, particularly as you've been very dismissive of my contributions so far, does not equate to not wanting to discuss something.

FloraFox Sat 21-Sep-13 15:16:55

Who could answer your question about why this is such an oft-held debate? Who could answer your question about why niqab gets such a strong reaction from non-Muslim men?

You "know" wrongly about issues of orientalism and post-colonialism being dismissed as irrelevant. It seems highly relevant to the issue of western feminists' views on veils. It wouldn't address why Muslim feminists would choose to wear a veil however. You're clearly not interested in discussing it though, which is a shame.

GoshAnneGorilla Sat 21-Sep-13 15:00:36

Flora - I asked way, way upthread exactly why is this such an oft held debate, particularly in the mainstream media, particularly as such a small number of women wear niqab. That question was ignored.

I asked why niqab particularly seems to get such a strong negative reaction from non-Muslim men, noting the experiences of niqab wearing wearing who had received attacks and abuse from such men. That question was also ignored.

I really don't care what brand of feminism you subscribe to, it doesn't work as a trump card with me. I know full well that if I bring in extremely relevant issues of orientalism and post-colonialism they will be dismissed as irrelevant to feminism, as usually happens around here.

If you want to read lots about Muslim women I am not stopping you, but to expect me to tailor my arguments to fit your frames of analysis is nonsense. You seem completely unaware of the power dynamics you are trying to impose on the conversation.

FloraFox Sat 21-Sep-13 14:09:43

Gosh the evidence of your rudeness is your own posts. Do you not see how it is rude in a discussion to tell someone you don't know what their motivations for posting are, especially when you are imputing negative motivations? Saying someone is posting from faux concern is rude. Saying someone is posting because they don't want you here is rude. You are making massive and unreasonable assumptions about the motivations of posters.

It also makes you look like you can't engage in the actual discussion other than repeating "choice". I don't subscribe to the concept of choice feminism. I think it is a consumerist notion with its roots in capitalist libertarianism. Where a woman who is a feminist wants to make a choice that appears to conflict with certain aspects of feminism, it is helpful to discuss this. I have discussed this with Muslim friends in real life. The people I know who were born and grew up in countries where women cover their face wear no scarf or veil when out of their home countries. They tell me covering is cultural, not religious. They also tell me (from several countries) that the rise of the veil in the last few decades comes from the outreach of Saudi funded Muslim teaching. I realise the people I know are expressing their own views and not representing Muslims generally. They are all well educated but not necessarily feminists and not Saudi. I'm interested to hear views from women who are feminists and wear a veil. "It's their choice and mind your own business" is a pretty poor response.

To be clear, I don't want you to go away. I would like you to stop trying to determine the motivations of the other posters - it is insulting even if you don't mean it to be. I would ideally like to read some view points on Muslim feminism, modesty, the role of culture and the impact of Muslim identity and politicisation.

GoshAnneGorilla Sat 21-Sep-13 12:36:22

Lovecat - you keep putting your own spin on these women's actions. They would see niqab as keeping their face private, not as "dehumanising" their features.

You are taking away their words and their reasonings and substituting your own. Why? What makes you think your reasons and your perceptions concerning their bodily automy is superior?

GoshAnneGorilla Sat 21-Sep-13 12:29:06

Lovecat - pointing out that this debate is motivated by faux concern is rude?

Lovecat Sat 21-Sep-13 11:54:25

And I think you must be misreading my posts - I have been asking questions, trying to understand, not seeking to prescribe or indeed proscribe. As I said in my first post here, what people freely choose to wear is their own business, there just seems to be this elephant in the room of the purpose of covering, which implies that men are uncontrollable monsters who can't be trusted and it's somehow the women's job to police that. Which is both unfair and sexist.

Telling people to mind their own business in the context of a debate is pretty rude, btw.

Lovecat Sat 21-Sep-13 11:46:53

Thanks for answering. I still don't see it as an equivalent though, because a beard still allows others to see the expression on your face, your features are still recogniseable, it's not a mask that dehumanises your features and makes you a clone of every other niqabi.

Besides, if the men I see in the company of their niqabi-clad sisters are anything to go by, they seem to favour an Amish-style chin beard that does nothing to cover them from view...

GoshAnneGorilla Sat 21-Sep-13 10:37:49

Flora - but the entire issue is choice. I also see that you've just indicated my entire comment is somehow insulting, without providing any evidence of this. This means you can completely dismiss what I say without paying attention to it.

You basically don't want me here, unless I am willing to submit to your viewpoint as to what the correct analysis is. Yet, this discussion is meant to somehow be to the benefit of Muslim women?

You would all be better off minding your own business since you all show repeatedly that you aren't even slightly concerned about Muslim women, just about convincing them that you know better then they do.

Lovecat - Islamically men are encouraged to have beards, that's their face covering. As for niqab, for those who wear it, it is seen as as a practice in itself, worn for many reasons and to them it is modest, regardless of the reactions of others. I think going down the road of prescribing what dress is or isn't "attention seeking" is extremely dubious.

Lovecat Sat 21-Sep-13 10:19:34

I don't think what I said was 'carping' hmm if it was my comment you were referring to, GoshAnne. I was asking a genuine question about the concept of Modesty. In a country where it's the norm to cover, niqab goes unremarked and serves its purpose. In the UK where it is largely an unusual sight, it does the opposite and draws the eye. If the object of the exercise is not to draw the male gaze, long sleeved tops and loose jeans or joggers would serve. As I said, muslim women I know view face covering as 'look what a good Muslim I am' showboating.

As 'the only Muslim woman on the thread' (fwiw I'm sure I saw another Muslim woman on here earlier saying why she hated the veil but hey ho), could you please answer my question about male modesty and why men don't cover their faces? I'm genuinely interested.

FloraFox Sat 21-Sep-13 02:01:15

^. This is insulting.

Perhaps they want to engage in a bit of feminist analysis that goes beyond "it's their choice".

GoshAnneGorilla Sat 21-Sep-13 01:10:00

Flora - how am I being insulting?

The crux of this entire debate is about choice - the O.P was inspired by a ban e.g eliminating choice, this is all about choice.

I've written at length about the impact this "debate" has, what bans lead to (increased violence against visibly Muslim women) and have also raised the issue of exactly why is it that niqab seems to inspire such a violent male response.

Yet you accuse me of being repetitive.

I think as is often the case on these threads, people want to disparage Muslim women without any Muslim women getting in the way. Then they can congratulate themselves on their superior knowledge and how deluded these women are.

FloraFox Sat 21-Sep-13 00:37:45

Gosh why don't you present the Islamic/Muslin feminist perspective on the niqab or any veil for that matter instead of just repeating "choice" and being insulting?

GoshAnneGorilla Fri 20-Sep-13 23:16:37

Happyuk - no niqab is not a recent development, various forms of face covering have existed throughout history and that includes Islamic societies.

MsRisotto - I am familiar with the FWR section and post here regularly, thanks, but there frequently comes a point any any discussion when you reach an impasse.

You want a feminist discussion but you're using an analysis I find extremely narrow, also having been on many, many of these debates on MN none of these arguments are new to me.

I'm posting on this thread because no other Muslim women are and I find the way we are spoken about, but so rarely to, to be dehumanising, sinister and dangerous.

Flora - I am well aware of there being more then one school of feminist thought. Does Islamic/Muslim feminism ring any bells for you?

happyuk Fri 20-Sep-13 22:32:42

My (admittedly male) perspective on modern liberal thinking on women’s rights: it’s okay to wear the niqab because a woman’s right to choose what to wear is paramount. Except women who choose to go topless in newspapers and magazines because they are clearly being exploited. Women suppressed in the name of a patriarchal culture: good. Women who make very good money through smart use of their genetic good fortune: bad.

My view is that women should wear whatever the hell they like, within the limits of common decency. But there is no sacred right to cover your face at airport security, in examination rooms, or in court.

And that's whether you try it on with a balaclava, a niqab, a crash helmet, or a Guy Fawkes fright-mask. We need common sense. Blanket bans encroach on freedoms. But there is nothing Islamophobic in asking someone to show their face at a check-in desk. Neither is there anything in the Koran demanding the wearing of the niqab.

The niqab is a relatively recent development designed to keep women "in their place." In many Muslim countries free from fundamentalism many Muslims don’t even accept that it is a religious duty to cover their hair, let alone their face.

FloraFox Fri 20-Sep-13 19:58:42

Gosh it's not a question of dismissing any choice a woman makes that you don't approve of. It's a question of analysing choices and factors that influence choices (particularly sexism) through the lens of feminist critical thought.

There is more than one school of feminist thought. Certainly some people who would call themselves feminists believe that any choice a woman makes is a feminist choice and the purpose of feminism is to provide women with the ability to make any choice (which always makes me think of this:,1398/ )

What about feminists who do not believe this? Is it not allowed to discuss patriarchy and sexism on any other basis?

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