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Cheers - AE

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

A reply to Sue.

In the comments here Sue took issue with my opposition to burqa bans, especially in the case of the woman in Italy, although my opposition is to bans and bansturbation in general and banning particular garments worn by a particular group is just a small part of that. Since Blogger comments is playing silly buggers at the moment and doesn't want to let me post a reply I'll do it here. Besides, it deserves a fuller reply than a quick comment anyway.

Sue said:
Did you read the rest of the article on the woman in Italy?

"A husband has vowed to keep his wife indoors after she became the first woman in Italy to be fined for wearing a burka in public".

You're telling me that you condone the fact that this misogynistic little git should be allowed to rule his wife in such a way?

The only way to ensure that women aren't being ill treated by men like this, is to outlaw this sort of covering.

I have known a couple of girls who were forced by the males in their families to wear these ghastly things.
Of course I read it all and of course I don't condone that. But consider a few points.

Number one, the Novara ban has got fuck all to do with female emancipation. Note the use of a law from the 70s, which I suspect means it was designed with the Red Brigade in mind more than anything else. Don't think that this was about how women are treated because it was just about making sure people are showing their faces for the cops and CCTV, and we're not talking here about individual premises like banks or shops asking for faces to on show - which obviously should be their choice, and anyone who doesn't like it should bank/shop/whatever elsewhere - but a whole town. Giving them the benefit of the doubt that it's not the usual anti-muzzie dog-whistle stuff then in theory my freedom to walk around there in a crash helmet would be similarly restricted. Why should I not wear a crash helmet if I want to? Why should Top Gear not be allowed to go there and film something with The Stig in it? So, with all that in mind does the ban increase or decrease freedom?

Point two, if women end up being confined to the house because the men in the family won't let them out - which is fucking appalling, it should go without saying - and that this in turn is because their veils are banned, has the ban worked to increase or decrease their freedom? In that situation however well intentioned the ban it would have made things worse. Better the poor girls are out and about with bags on their heads where they are more likely to be exposed to the idea of greater individual freedom, which might then tempt some to leave their men and chuck the veils away. However, that can't happen if well intentioned bans on their clothing simply lead to them not going out instead. Again, with that in mind is the effect of the ban more freedom or less freedom?

Third, and as I said in the post itself, how the hell does telling women what they may not wear make the state any better, any less oppressive, and any less misogynistic than their medieval brained menfolk? A ban assumes that none of those women are capable of making their own choice in the matter and makes the decision for all of them. Isn't that hugely fucking patronising? If a law was passed banning men from growing a beard without a moustache on the grounds that it looks a bit silly I'd want to fucking shoot someone for assuming that the vast majority of us couldn't fucking reach that conclusion on my own.

Finally, and along similar lines, a ban assumes that no women have made a free choice to wear a veil. Yes, you could say that a woman who has chosen for herself to wear a veil is deluded or brainwashed, but what if she's actually secular and just burns really easily? Or is just very shy or intensely private? Unlikely perhaps but my point is that a woman might have her own reasons for wearing it, and if so who is anyone else to say she must not? Beside, similar thoughts have crossed my mind about high heeled shoes. Most women wear them and personally I think they're all fucking nuts. Should we ban high heels because of what they can do to women's feet and knock on effects on posture, not to mention the increased risk of twisting an ankle and the way they hamper the ability, sorry the freedom ;-) to run? And while we're at it maybe we should ban pencil skirts for the same reason. Again, are women more free or less free if we do that? And if the answer is less free how does that not apply to the various veils as well? And going back to the previous point what does that say about our attitude to women and their ability to think for themselves if collectively we make that decision for them?

What I'm for is for women to be wear whatever the fuck they like, whether that's a tent with an eye height letter box or a swimming costume that covers no more than a first class stamp. I agree with you about some of the male attitudes surrounding the veil and about what it stands for, but to ban women from choosing either one - and while we might not like it the fact is that some women do choose the tent option for themselves - is as patronising, misogynistic and wrong as forcing them to wear the damn thing. Where that happens there is probably scope for intervention without resorting to a ban since threats, intimidation and physical violence has likely been used to force the women into the veils. All of those are wrong but are also already illegal, so why not use existing laws to prosecute and lock up the bastards responsible? Incidentally, if the Italians don't look at doing the same thing for the woman who's going to be housebound now then that just goes to show that they never really gave a shit about her freedom in the first place. Same goes for anywhere else it happens (and if burqa bans are widespread it'll happen a lot).

Banning burqas and veils makes us more like that which we hate, which should be reason enough not to do it, but on top of that it's damaging those we want to help. At best all a ban does is take away a choice and restrict the freedom of those women who have decided for themselves to wear what we don't like. At worst it indirectly develops even less freedom and even more mistreatment.


JuliaM said...

I think - as I said over at Al Jahom's - that husbands keeping them indoors as a result of this ban will suit a certain type of feminist right down to the ground...

Sue said...

I agree with you entirely, everyone should be allowed to be free to do as they please, as long as it doesn't harm anyone.

What would happen if you walked around in a balaclava in London (the type that burglars wear with holes cut our for eyes and mouth)?

I just think that there has to somewhere for people to escape oppression. If not in the West, where?

We have opened the doors to Islam but in doing so we have not helped anybody.

We've allowed them to bring their barbaric ways (honour killings, female mutilation, paedophilia, bigamy) to our shores and as a consequence, everybody has less freedom now.

It's also about integration. If I were to move to Dubai, I would be expected to conform to their customs.

This whole "Islamic fiasco" has caused nothing but hatred and misery for everyone, including moderate Muslims.

Angry Exile said...

Sue, if I walked around central London with a balaclava I expect I'd be stopped by the police, possibly even shot. Yet there's no law against my walking around in a balaclava in central London, and if stopped I'd be demanding an apology assuming I was still capable of speech or breath. I might even get my camera out to remind them that I can do that too. Actually I have walked around London wearing a balaclava without any problems - it was fucking cold and I had a shaved head. It was also a less paranoid time though. But plenty of people go round wearing crash helmets. Why should a woman who chooses to be - as distinct from one who is made to be - veiled be treated any different?

"I just think that there has to somewhere for people to escape oppression. If not in the West, where?"
True. In the West we have reacted to the madmen by becoming mad ourselves. We have chosen to ditch freedom for security in the name or resisting people who hate freedom. We have not been true to ourselves and now there is not only nowhere that is free (probably never has been really) but likely nowhere that is not getting less free. It's not religious madmen in planes we have to thank for that but our own fear of them and the religion they claimed to be acting for.

On the subject of honour killings, paedophilia, female genital mutilation and bigamy, none of those are unique to Islam or even necessarily common in Islam. Common in certain Islamic societies, yes, but generally they were doing that before Islam reached them and old Mo's pre-pubescent wife (which would have been common in Europe at the time too) providing them with an excuse. It's hardly a defining characteristic of the whole religion any more than alternating between gay bashing and fucking altar boys is representative of the world's 2 billion Catholics.

"It's also about integration. If I were to move to Dubai, I would be expected to conform to their customs."
I'm all for integration and 'when in Oz do as the Aussies do' etc. But that must be a personal choice when in a country that has any pretence of being a free society. By definition you can't force integration and be a free country, particularly by banning things. There are certainly problems with people from some societies integrating in Western nations, though how much of that is due to their original society and how much to their religion is up for debate (I reckon many of the awkward minority wouldn't be any different if they were Buddhists), but banning things won't help in the slightest. We've certainly been way too accommodating by providing hand outs and language assistance etc., and that hasn't helped as it removes a major incentive for your average migrant to integrate. But suddenly going to the other end of the spectrum and passing laws just to make things harder isn't helpful either.

The bottom line is this: bans are not about increasing freedom because they take away your ability to do something. They make as much sense as fucking for virginity.

Sue said...

I do understand your point of view but a line has to be drawn somewhere and that starts with protecting people who are really oppressed.

In a society, we have to try to live in peace and harmony or all hell breaks loose. There have to be rules for the good of the "whole". Allowing everybody to do as they please, just doesn't work.

Angry Exile said...

"... a line has to be drawn somewhere and that starts with protecting people who are really oppressed."

Agreed, but by drawing that line in a place where you also prevent people making a positive choice that harms no-one else you become an oppressor yourself. Imagine a purely secular society but where, as I suggested earlier, high heels and pencil skirts were being considered for a ban to prevent twisted ankles and to make it easier for women to exercise their freedom to run around all the time. Imagine a man telling you that it's all for your own good. Has a blow been struck against the oppression of women by taking away the need to conform to fashion that may act against their interests and physical well being? Or have you simply oppressed every woman in the entire country by removing her opportunity to decide? Obviously if someone is being forced into stilettos by means of violence or the threat of it that's wrong, but is that a reason to restrict the decisions of millions of other women? In such a situation existing laws will have been broken already. Let's use 'em.

"In a society, we have to try to live in peace and harmony or all hell breaks loose. There have to be rules for the good of the "whole". Allowing everybody to do as they please, just doesn't work."

I'm in a slight state of shock from reading that. Christ, Sue, are you running a temperature? Did someone force you to write it? Should we send paramedics or cops? That's the sort of thing I expect to hear from my trendy Fitzroy lefty mates. It's the sort of thing I imagine runs through Gordon Brown's mind a dozen times a day (and nearly as often through Cameron's and Clegg's). "The good of the whole" is a battle cry for socialists the world over. It and phrases a lot like it have been used by Marx and Lenin and most or all who came after them.

I'm sure you don't mean it in the same kind of way - at least I bloody hope not - but look, the place where that kind of thinking leads is not one in which I think you'd be very happy. Yes, there need to be laws, but these should be about protecting individual liberties, not attempt to achieve good "for the whole". Let me give you an example: the law says you may not take my property against my will, which is protecting my liberty to do what I want with it. But the same law says I may not use my property to take the property of others because it's protecting their individual liberties too. The good of the whole is in fact being served, but it starts with protecting individuals. However, when someone or a group of someones believe they know what's best for everybody then you get things like the smoking ban, and they'll tell you at every opportunity that they brought it in for the good of the whole.

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