Is there irony in feminist support for Muslim women?

I’m thinking that one reason that Muslim women must be so completely clothed is so that men do not think of them as FEMALE. They must not be considered as objects of affection or attraction to the opposite sex. So they cover every part of themselves. And at the same time, I understand that some feminist positions argue for the liberation of Muslim women from the confines of these oppressive standards. But isn’t there a paradox here in that such a position entails the support of a standard that permits women to be viewed as objects of affection and attraction, and don’t many feminists REJECT the notion that women should be seen as sexual objects? This may be hazy, but maybe you see what I’m getting at. Any thoughts on this?

Your OP is based on false assumptions.

The covering up part I would imagine only plays a small part in why feminists support Muslim women.

A larger part may be the cultural oppression such as genital mutilation, a raped woman is the guilty party, a woman cannot be a witness. And much more out there treating women as a class below men. But I do not think thats just “Muslim” I think it may be cultural.

Hijab is a more complicated subject that most Westerners make it out to be.

It is intellectually based on a surprising foundation- that women are inherently very sexual and that their sexuality ought to be contained in public (in practice, it is mostly based of tribal customs far older than Islam). Some women do] find it to be liberating. They say professionally they can be seen on their own merits- not just as a sex object. A female doctor in hijab is seen as a doctor- not as a fat doctor or a pretty doctor or a doctor with bad taste in clothes. They appreciate being able to walk down the street without having to worry about how they look to every random stranger they meet. And they enjoy not being constantly sexualized. They like the fact that they don’t have to worry about “fat days” or “bad hair days” and all the other distracting crap women have to deal with. Some also find it to be a radical statment of their faith in a world that is marginalizing their culture and religion.

So yes, it is a repressive practice. But it is not entirely negative. There are some good things to be found in (optional, or course) veiling.

We must also remember that we do some degree of veiling ourselves. If I show up to a job interview without pantyhose, I’m not going to get the job. What are pantyhose? fake legs ritually applied to real legs to desexualize them. If I show up to work with my nipples showing through my shirt, the boss is going to have a talk to me about proper undergarments. What are bras (for small-breasted people, at least)? Things we put on so that our breasts don’t appear breast-shaped and so that nobody thinks about our nipples.

It’s so that other men do not view your woman as female. After all, as a woman she will want to seduce men–that is just the way women are. Hiding your safe isn’t done to make people not think that it isn’t a SAFE–but rather so that people won’t be enticed by it.

It’s not a paradox that feminists want women to be able to dress as they please.

Exactly. It has never ceased to astonish me that people cannot grasp that Muslim women wear their coverings willingly. Feminists should fight for that right, as should anyone who believes in freedom of choice.

It’s such a smug, condescending attitude-- that we must recuse these people from their own culture. The American Man’s Burden.

I’ve always imagined a contingent of women from an Amazon tribe coming to the US to try to convince American women that we’ve been oppressed and degraded into always covering our breasts in public. (I wonder what they’d think of high heels?)

I’ll buy that they can, not that they always do wear them willingly.

Even assuming the premises of the OP were true (and several other posters have already raised some legitimate issues with that) a feminist argument would be that Islamic dress is a case of blaming women for a male attitude. A case of saying “you need to cover yourself so you won’t tempt me” as opposed to “you need to cover yourself because I can’t control myself.”

Well, hell, I’m not wearing my bra with complete willingness. My culture demands that my nipples not be obvious, and to be sexually attractive, it is necessary not to have droopy tits. But if I had my druthers, I’d burn the damn things and flop about to my heart’s content. Nor do I like wearing business clothing. I’d prefer to stay in my pajamas. However, I would face societal sanctions if I did not dress appropriately or cover myself in a fashion my culture deems “modest.”

I had a friend in highschool whose religious faith forbade her from wearing pants. She did admit to me she’d like the comfort and freedom that pants afford, but feared what her parents, church friends and the like would say. Her “culture” had different standards of modesty. She may not have wanted to wear a dress all the time, but she did want the approval of those around her.

Yeah, sure, there are always rebels. But if you’ve been raised that a certain action or style of dress is immodest, you’re likely gonna believe it. If all your friends are wearing it, so will you. If you’re a religious person and believe that God wants you to do something, do it you will.

We are (mildly) shocked by those topless Amazonian women, who, in turn, would probably feel sorry for American women having to wear blouses in the summer heat. We are somewhat dissaproving of women who flout this convention-- a woman who wears too low-cut a blouse, or who flashes people.

I wouldn’t call it “veiling,” but many (I would say most) cultures have standards for decency and dress - including our own.
However, if we fail to conform, the consequences aren’t that extreme. Should I show up in a bikini at work - my boss would probably fire me. If I walk around the street naked, I might get arrested and fined. Those are relatively minor inconveniences. Also, they’re carried out by proper authorities. (Should anyone other than a police officer attempt to do anything other than ridicule me while I’m wandering around on those streets, they’re going to be in more trouble than I am. The officer her or himself is going to be very limited in what they do, too.)

The consequences of not wearing the burqa (perfectly) have included injury and death at the hands of pretty much anyone.

Minor fine v. death is a difference that I don’t feel hypocritical about.

your assumption that Muslim women willingly wear the hajib in all cases is most interesting.

And I also am not a big fan of religious and morality police. Those authorities often exist to make sure the women wear their veils and burqas (and don’t go out of the house alone and so on), and I think it’s a different animal from social mores against going braless.

That’s not how I read Lissa’s post, I guess I missed the “in all cases” part.

What I object to is the opposite assumption (which is very common, IME, and visible in the OP) that no women wear it willingly.

Of course most women here dress as they want to dress. They dress as they were taught to dress by their mothers. Anyone have evidence to the contra?

Is anyone proposing that the Religious Police in London or New York would beat a woman without a full gown? No? Odd I see lots of women dressed in the local style in those places.

If they are not forced to dress that way, why do they do it? Well, brain-control waves are a possibility I suppose, but the simplest explanation is that they prefer to dress that way.

People in Saudi Arabia dress differently from those in South Beach. It is not such a hard concept to grasp, is it?

I’m sure some women wear it willingly, others don’t. The fact that some wear it willingly doesn’t make it a bit less oppressive for those who don’t.

Yeah, Paul, except in Saudi you DO have asshole religious police who do horrible things like block girls from exiting a burning school because their dress is inappropriate for street wear. Is there anything CLOSE, I mean, within MILES of that kind of shit in South Beach or anywhere else in the Western world?

Didn’t think so.

You changed the subject, I say again, most Muslim women dress the way they want to dress.

(Now to move onto the new subjects you raised…)

The people who prevented the girls from leaving the school claimed to be members of the Committee. The Committee has denied that; not that I necessarily believe them.

Horrible things happening in and near South Beach? From an Islamic point of view (not mine) let’s just start with shipping off old people to die in homes because their families refuse to care for them. We can then move onto the courts ordering the end of life-sustaining treatments for sick people. We could then comment on wide-spread drug use … yaddy yaddy.

So if it is OK for us to tell them how to do things, I suppose you would let them tell you how to live your life?

Excuse me, I have to go to bed now. Also, please excuse the items I mentioned as being negative in American society. I mealy was pointing out what some of my pointy-head co-workers would have said if asked this question.

The opinions expressed in the preceding post do not necessarily represent those of Paul in Saudi, the Commissioner or Major League Baseball.

Well, thank you. I believe you have made my point that a person under wraps has no visible sexuality, beyond signifying female. It is also clear that removing those wraps provides more cues as to the attractiveness, and maybe availability, of the person. And there are many American women, many in the service of what they call “womens’ issues,” who are in favor of having these women be more free to remove those wraps. And ironically, that in turn causes these women to become more sexualized. And the sexualization of women is something that is a “women’s issue,” and something that many women are against. There’s a bit of a contradiction there. Maybe irony.
You folks go right ahead and discuss the other matters. Thanks.