ballsy (ovariesy?)
If you don't like using "ballsy" as gender-neutral, or replacing it with something gender-neutral, how about "eggsy"?
Haddad's position is too extreme and Mullins' point is not "a hilariously patronizing display of PC handwringing." Haddad claims that there is no such thing as a Muslim woman who voluntarily chooses to wear the veil, because women who do are either forced or brainwashed into wearing it. Mullins isn't denying that there are lots and lots of women who wear the veil for these reasons, she is just pointing out that the issue is more complex than that. There are plenty of women who choose to wear the veil because they see it as part of their Muslim identity. Lots of Muslim women want to wear veil, just like lots of Catholics want to wear crucifixes, lots of Jews choose to wear skull caps, lots of Mormons want to wear special undergarments, and lots of gays want to wear rainbow-colored accessories. It's unfortunate that some women are forced or brainwashed into veiling themselves. But it's ridiculous and condescending to claim that *all* veiled women are forced or brainwashed.
That doesn't sound like handing someone their ass. That excerpt -- I haven't read the whole thing -- sounds like a civil exchange between people with differing viewpoints and levels of understanding. Haddad certainly knows Muslim culture better, but Mullins's questions you quoted don't sound offensive. They sounded like inquisitive and reasonable questions about the availability of choice for Muslim women around the world, not clueless "PC handwringing."
If you've ever spent time in the Gulf States you'll understand why the women are veiled: most are fucking hideous. I wish the mingers in Seattle would throw a sheet over their heads too.
I just listened to this very interesting interview, and it was absolutely not a "slap-down" moment. There was no sense that Mullins jumped in to correct Haddad, or that she was being overly PC. Mullins' question was exactly what I wanted to ask as I was listening, because you do often hear that sentiment, of a muslim woman who chooses to wear the veil, and I really wanted to hear Haddad's response. If Mullins hadn't done what you describe as "a hilariously patronizing display of PC handwringing" then we wouldn't have gotten to hear that response. I'm glad you linked to this great interview, but your criticism of the interview is totally baffling.
Haddad should have totally slapped Mullins for real. Then Falcon Punch her in the cunt.
What a weird interpretation of this exchange. It's not a competition where someone gets "handed their ass", it's a conversation, and both make excellent points. I'm not seeing any disrespect or ass-handing here.

Also, considering this is a conversation between two women, you could leave the balls out of it and just say "gutsy", "fearless", "daring", or "courageous".

I'm thinking you had balls and asses on your mind, for some reason?

Anyway, I'm not seeing that exchange the way you are, and I've listened to and known too many strong, intelligent, educated, liberated Muslim women who live in places where the hijab isn't required describe their very feminist reasons for making that choice to treat Haddad as speaking authoritatively for all Muslim women. Even she begins to make caveats like "many of these cases" later in the exchange, because I'm sure she knows women like that as well.

She still sounds awesome, though.
I'm with the others - there is no ass-handing, Mullen does her job as an interviewer (and does it well), pointing to something that many women wearing a hijab would say.
I think part of Haddad's reply is very good - how do we speak about freedom in a repressive context - but the part about muslim women in the West punishing themselves is rather weak. It's also the only part of the exchange where any patronizing is going on.

(I think that part of the argument is pretty much on par with claiming that women who wear high heels, like porn, like anal sex etc. don't _really_ like it, but are victims of patriarchy. Within a certain brand of feminism that's a coherent argument - they'll claim that for both veil and high-heels. But coming from Dan that doesn't make any sense.)
The condescending one here is Haddad, who grants that other women can disagree with her but only if they are
a) brainwashed, or
b) too dignified to admit they really agree?
Today at work someone said they thought our meeting was at 4:15, but I said, "I don't think so, but maybe you're right." Boy, did I really hand them their ass!!! What a slap-down, no?
Sorry Dan, I agree with the majority of comments already posted- and implying that Mullins was some how out of line for "jumping in to correct her" (which is not, in my opinion, an accurate characterization of what Mullins did) is similar to saying that you would be out of line for "correcting" a generalization that a woman you were interviewing made about other women just because you're a man. Haddad's Muslim and/or Arab credentials doesn't make her opinions about all things Arab and/or Muslim above challenge by non-Arabs or non-Muslims. Particularly when she's making the claim that she knows the motivations of other women better than even they themselves do.
Wow. What's up with Dan today? Sandy vagina much?
it is impossibile to choose or not choose the veil outside of the cultural construct surrounding it. haddad is right - even if muslim women choose it in reaction to western society trying to free women from it, they're still siding with patriarchy and oppression. god does not give a fuck if he sees your hair.
@10, excellent point. There are good arguments for both sides of the examples you mention, and I can't see them ever being resolved. Some want to claim autonomy within the system, and others say we must destroy the system. I'm kind of on the side of respecting women who choose to watch porn (even if it's demeaning to women) or choose to wear the veil. I don't think anyone should have to wait for a revolution to claim their sexual or religious autonomy. I'm more pragmatic than idealistic, I suppose.
I grew up hearing this argument in my former church about women who wore long skirts for modesty even though the current style was short skirts. Bleh.

I just spent two years in Algeria. Teenage girls there veil to piss off their mothers, many of whom fought politically and physically against conservative Islam and everything the veil stands for. It's kind of funny - no brainwashing involved there. Just your typical adolescent rebelliousness.
Ask any hijabi about how "the veil prevents the natural process of courtship and flirtation" Ken, but don't be surprised if she laughs in your face, k? Plenty of girls still get hit on even when their hair is covered. Also, what about already-married women who choose to wear the veil? There are plenty of women who don't take the veil until later in life (and plenty of those do it -gasp- over the objections of their husbands! I had a professor in jut such a situation.) while controlling what a woman wears can be a method of patriarchal control (in any religion/culture) it does not reduce the article of clothing itself to only this.
Dan, read, and re-read, @ 10 again.

You do some things very well - LGBT issues, sex and relationship advice - but women's issues in the Muslim world? I kinda think you're out of your element there.
Re: 10 Exactly.

Also, defining the reasons why some women may wear the veil as 'self-punishment' and because of 'patriarchal values' is certainly condescending, but pathologizing entire cultures this way is beyond absurd.

Especially from someone who runs a website with a flash intro.
Yep. Love you, Dan, but you're wrong on this one.
Didn't Dan try this on a few weeks ago? With much the same results from the Peanut Gallery?
This could be a teaching moment.

When you are filled with hate, it's hard to see past the hate. So when you're scratching your head wondering what makes homophobes say such absurd things, remember: they can't see past the hate. Hate defines their world, and reality can't get through.

Same thing with Dan Savage. He hates Islam so much he can't see past his hate. It distorts everything for him.
The World is a PRI program, not an NPR show
It's bullshit to claim that all women who wear the veil are being consciously or subconsciously coerced into doing so. Maybe some women just feel good about dressing modestly?
@9: Gonadsy.
malwae @18: that makes so much sense. yes, of course! thanks for the eye-witness perspective.
Don't expect Dan to back down or even accept that he could have misinterpreted. That would be admitting he's not right 100 percent of the time, which he will never do.

(Nevermind that this show is from PRI, not NPR. But we won't see a correction for that, either.)

That was quite interesting. And yeah, it didn't seem like a smackdown to me.

Being Lebanese myself, the point about her writing in French first instead of Arabic makes sense.. Taboos are strong, and language is powerful - writing in French was the easy thing, so it's nice that she switched to Arabic.

Her points about veiled women were a bit too far I think - there are a lot of (often intertwined) reasons for being veiled, from fear to societal pressure to customs to culture to identity to belief. I'm sure if it were just down to the last couple of reasons, there would be much less women veiled, but it would still be a non-zero number. But the veil - mostly - is a form of societal control of women. That is true.

FYI, based on her last name, I'm pretty sure that the author is Christian - ethnically at least, as religion is pretty much an ethnic identifier in Lebanon. So she is an Arab woman but probably not a Muslim one. She certainly has guts though, starting an erotic magazine in Lebanon. I hope things go well for her. I'll have to check out that magazine next time I'm there.
Slog commenters promptly hand Savage his ass.
Joining in the chorus: love you, Dan, but you're being ridiculous
Dan, although I also don't agree with your assessment of the interview, I also think the majority of commenter here are highly ignorant to suggest that a completely independent, free-thinking woman would make a voluntary decision to completely obscure her face in public. Saying that a woman might do it as a way of showing "Muslim Identity" is just another way of saying that they're wearing it because if they don't, their god will punish them. That's not an independent decision.

Unfortunately, there's a significant portion of the left that automatically associates all things about Muslims as being "good," "innocent," and "oppressed," while all things associated with Christianity or Judaism as "bad," "guilty," and, most importantly, "aggressor." Most of the comm enters here are following that logic to the letter.
@33, not to get in to the finer points of the Koran, but one may surely express identity (even religious identity) without doing it mainly, solely, simply, or actually out of fear of one's deity of choice. More importantly, it isn't clear what religiously related decisions might be understood as "independent" given your position.

As to Dan's original post, I'm not sure I've ever seen a more bizarre reading of, well, anything, really.
@34 So if not for fear of punishment (from her god, her husband, government, or whoever), what then could a possible reason be why a woman could truly desire to cover her entire face from the world entirely of her own free will? I have honestly never heard a possible explanation.

In fact, although I initially thought Dan misinterpreted the tone of the interview, after listening to the whole thing I now believe he has it dead-on. By stating unequivocally that the idea that Muslim women willingly wear the veil is a myth, Haddad directly interfered with the current meme that most on the left are trying to percolate regarding this issue. Mullins very obviously tried to get her to backtrack that statement, which Haddad (who is a greater authority on the topic than Mullins or any of us) refused to do. Both Haddad and Dan are correct.

Thanks for having the courage to stick your neck out and be proven wrong and - most importantly - for signing your real name to your views. While you are openly a provocateur, your critics can only be equally provocative while veiling their real names under a kind of Burka of anonymity. The courageous of the world accept that fact that they have to take their licks when they sign their name to their work. Do not be discouraged by the anonymous caterwauling emanating from the nickel seats. You are doing fine; the occasional knee jerk reaction notwithstanding. It's not as if we expected you to never misjudge, misunderstand or grandly overstate.

You're welcome
Many of the arguments used by Haddad against the existence of liberated women choosing the veil are the same ones used by overeager feminists against the existence of empowered women in sex work: you have been brainwashed, it's subconscious self-punishment, you have sided with the patriarchy.
Similar arguments were levied against women who, after the women's rights progress of the 20's-70's, chose to stay home with the kids.

Unfortunately, most veiled women are not in communities where they can live safely and be treated with the same respect regardless of whether or not they go veiled. That is not free. Haddad, I think, is emphasizing that while some women claim to choose the veil, the overwhelming majority either cannot make that choice (society is overtly oppressive) or they are somewhat less free than they claim in the making of it (more subtle, but still pervasive pressures).
@33: i see all 3 monotheisms as related, flawed, patriarchal and oppressive. that is not to say that there aren't good things in these 3 religions (or is it 1?), but none of these are unique insights unavailable to hindus, buddhists, or ethical atheists.

if christianity has any virtue over judaism or islam, it is practical incorporation of a female diety, the virgin mary. and her veneration is fraught with problems, too. like the virgin part.
I suspect that many who are condemning Haddad's statements are basing their statements upon their experiences and observations of women in this country who choose to veil themselves. Let's keep in mind that for women of vairous faiths with the cultural customs of veiling and modesty, in the US it is truly their choice to observe this custom (in many instances a choice that carries over from the traditions instilled upon them from childhood, behavioral conditioning at its finest)--they will not endure harrassment on the street or from the government if they choose not to be veiled, although they may well endure this from their family and community. I would wager that Haddad has a bit more experience with women in countries in which the cultural pressures are much different. Not having been to those countires, and not having had the relationships with these women, not having had the conversations with these woman that it is reasonable to expect that Haddad has had, I am more inclined to accept her assessment than someone who has little more exposure than I.

I couldn't find the rest of the transcripts of the interview, so I can't speak to the accuracy of Dan's assessment. However, I have never perceived Mr. Savage of being overly concerned with women's isues of equality on any country, never considered Dan to be a feminist, so I fail to see any reason to see his assessment of this interview as flawed or biased. The man is a journalist, and he called another journalist out on some bullshit. And Mullin's opening in this exerpt was some straight bullshit.
While Haddad does have a point--that if women are going to get beaten up or ostracized for not wearing the veil, then the veil is forced on them--I find her take more patronizing than Mullins'. All Mullins is saying is that SOME women in the Arab world might prefer the veil, and it makes sense that there would be at least a few. After all, there are Muslim women in the U.S. who are free to refuse the veil but prefer to wear it.

Once the world sees plenty of free, liberated women who wear the veil by choice, then we will all stop seeing the veil as a sign of oppression.
So if not for fear of punishment (from her god, her husband, government, or whoever), what then could a possible reason be why a woman could truly desire to cover her entire face from the world entirely of her own free will? I have honestly never heard a possible explanation.

There was a very good one given just a few comments up, @18. It's pretty apparent that your politics are blinding you to perspectives different from your own. You've already made up your mind, and so you see a valid question -- "But what about those women we've met who have the freedom to not do it and still choose to?" -- as political ideology (a "meme" the left is "trying to percolate"). Your comment @33 similarly misreads the discussion with its insistence that a significant portion of the left, including most commenters here, see Muslims as innocent and Christians as aggressors. It's ironic that your attack on religious dogmatism is grounded in political dogmatism.
@33 - my challenge remains: How can you argue that the hijab _can't_ be worn out of free will, but a woman wearing high heels (which, as opposed to the hijab, are actually bad for you), does it voluntarily? As mentioned above, there are some, mostly older, feminists who would argue that neither are free - I disagree, but I accept that they have a coherent argument. But anyone reading Dan knows he'd ridicule the idea that a woman can't voluntarily wear high heels.

@39 - a) she's from Lebanon, which is a pretty liberal country. b) she's making the argument that _no_ woman wearing the headscarf does it voluntarily - i.e. her argument needs to apply to muslimas in the US, too. (the weak form of the argument - that some women don't wear it voluntarily is obviously true - see Saudi Arabia and Iran for a start - but not contested by anyone, either). c) It's not that hard to find writings by muslimas from predominantly muslim countries - especially those with more secular governments like Lebanon, Egypt, Tunisia, Indonesia - that defend the wearing of a headscarf.
Time out folks. There are plenty of women in the arab world who skip the headscarf. Just as there are plenty of women in the rural USA who wear curlers and sweatpants to the grocery store. It is as much a question of time and effort (and money) as it is of patriarchy. The veil can be a convenient equalizer in a relatively poor society where many do not have the money to purchase hair dye, or the time to make themselves up when they are busy cooking, shopping, cleaning, etc. Most women in the arab world do not have time-saving household appliances that we consider standard. They also do not have Safeway and all its processed, preservative filled foods. There is only so much time in a day to keep a house and feed a family. Think back to the 1950s when your grandmother had her hair done every week, then take away the money for the hairdresser. The veil could have easily caught on here in slightly different circumstances. Religion is just a tool. Think about the money
Joumana Haddad is a Christian, not a Muslim. This is significant, especially in a sectarian country like Lebanon, because it has a lot to do with her perception of Islam.
@45 Do you have a source where Haddad identifies as a Christian? She didn't say so in the interview, and I cannot find any other info elsewhere.

@43 I would assume almost all women who choose to wear high heels do so because they believe it makes them appear more attractive in one way or another. I really don't see that as an equal comparison.
@42 Well I'm so relieved. I had no idea you knew so much about "my politics" and how they've blinded me so. Please tell me more about myself. In fact, why don't you lecture Ms. Haddad about her politics as well, since she shares my view that there is no such thing as women who truly wish to veil themselves voluntarily.
@flang:… This article is also good because it quotes an Arab radical feminist critique of Haddad. She's not really taken seriously in the Arab world.

Also, her name is plainly Christian, both first and last.
Sorry, don't know how to post links on Slog (this is my first time commenting). It's an article from the NYTimes's T magazine called "Sex and the Souk" by Nina Burleigh.
flang -
a) Why do you think a muslim woman could not consider herself more attractive with a hijab. (And "attractive" often includes notions of "proper" - think of shaving legs&armpits, of people wanting to look "classy" etc.).
b) By what standard is "I want to please my god" an inferior standard to "I want to be attractive"?
adam, excellent post @ 10.
@49 The last part of your link got cut off but I'm assuming it points to the bio piece from March 21st. That article indicates that she had a "strict Christian upbringing," but considering how long ago that was and considering her current worldview, I would guess she's left it far behind (unless I've got the wrong article). Thanks for looking into that.
@50 Gah, sorry... Serves me right for not reading thoroughly.
@51 To your first question - I have no issues with the headscarf, as long as it is not being worn by force of law, church, or family. I agree that any woman, whether Muslim or of any other faith, would want to wear it to appear more dignified or attractive. My problem is with the burqa and anything resembling it. I would never believe any woman would honestly think wearing it improves their appearance in any way, since it obscures every single physical feature they have (which is the point of its existence in the first place) and makes them indistinguishable from every other woman wearing it.

Which leads to your second point. There's nothing inferior about "I wear it to please my god." Other actions that please God would include praying, tithing, abstaining, and so on. Nothing wrong with any of it, obviously. But you can't really wear it as a way to please God if choosing not to wear it makes him angry. That's the problem I and others have with it.
VEILS. There are many mornings when I wake up not rested from my over-worked schedule. At such times, I can handle taking a shower, brushing my teeth, combing my hair, and about not much else. I get my kid ready for school, and then I pick out an outfit to wear. It is at such times that I wonder if I could get away with wearing one of those head-to-toe veil things so that nobody can see my red eyes, my exhausted pale face, and maybe my old sweat pants, if that's what I end up wearing. I can't tell you the number of times that I've thought that. I've wondered how it would be to take my appearance, my sexuality, my physical realm out of consideration.

I'm a professional violinist. When I auditioned for orchestras, I got the luxury of a curtain to make sure that the hiring committee heard my playing only with their ears. A woman in the United States doesn't often get that. Women live under the scrutiny, The Eye. Sometimes it's unavoidable. For example, if I were a conductor, a curtain would be impossible because a conductor's craft exists so clearly in the physical realm. (Incidentally, do you know how few high-level female conductors there are?)

So I've imagined wearing the curtain. Forget for the moment what the public's reaction would be (OMG, look at that fanatic!)... I've thought that it would be somewhat freeing. I could be anything I want under that curtain. I could be like the world's most bad-ass poker face.

On the other hand, I would also be somewhat invisible. Yes, that would be freeing. I wonder if my behavior would change, like when you post something online under an alias... you tend to use a different tone than you might in person.

Or would the problem be that I would come to rely on the curtain? Couldn't it happen that I would feel way too exposed to be without it? Not to mention that it really does look cumbersome to move around in. And I would want to go swimming without it, obviously. (Remember the first time you ever went skinny dipping, how cool that sensation was? That must be like what veiled women feel like if they ever go swimming without all the clothing.)

So as I reflect, I imagine that there might be reasons for wanting a veil (including some reasons that I've considered myself). But for me, the main motivation would be so that I could feel as relaxed as men have it. I wish that I could slouch around in the crap that men wear and still be taken seriously and be considered hot, but not have to deal with being hot all the freaking time.

But I wonder... If the veil were a choice, like wearing a ponytail, then I'd expect women to wear it one day and not the next, depending on their choice that day. Or maybe not. I mean, some women never wear clothing that goes anywhere near their cleavage and others are more balanced about it (and then, like when Hilary Clinton's, oh I don't know, COLLARBONE was showing, the media had a fucking heart attack).

So if the thought process for veil-wearing women is anything like mine, if it's more to get the fuck away from the crunching tectonic plates hovering over women in this country, then it's not much of a CHOICE. If the veil choice is more of an exit strategy, then it's not so free.
33/flang: I also think the majority of commenter here are highly ignorant to suggest that a completely independent, free-thinking woman would make a voluntary decision to completely obscure her face in public.

Quite the contrary. I think the the majority of commenters here are mature enough to understand that just because a woman does something they might find odd, or wouldn't choose to do themselves, it doesn't mean that she's not independent and free-thinking.
I'll jump in and say I'm with those who believe a woman can freely choose to wear whatever she wants, even if it covers her full face. (Of course in many places it's not the case that she has a choice in the matter, and that is wrong. But it's the forcing that is wrong, not the object. As in that other discussion about offensive words and whether they're bad in themselves, there's nothing in itself wrong with hijabs, headscarves, burqas, high heels, topless bikinis or any other kind of clothes; what is wrong is forcing people to wear any of them.)

Haddad's claim that those women who choose to wear the veil as a statement against the West also seems to me to ignore the point. What is she saying -- that this would not be a legitimate reason to choose to wear the veil? But people seem to accept that if a women dresses provocatively to take part in a SlutWalk demonstration, she is doing that freely, even though again she's doing this to protest against something she doesn't like. Why should it be OK for her to choose her clothes so as to protest against slut-shaming, but not OK to choose her clothes so as to protest against Western cultural influence -- as long as it's a free choice of hers?

Also, all the discussion about 'brainwashing'... Even though it is true that people can be deliberately influenced (a word I prefer to 'brainwashed') into doing things, either by other individuals or by the culture where they grew up, I have to say those who use this argument tend to lose sight of the fact that it's a two-edged sword. One can just as legitimately claim that those who protest against something (say, those who are against the veil) are doing so also because they were 'brainwashed' by their culture and immediate environments (the West, feminism, liberalism, Christianity, you name it).

Either you believe that people are capable of free will choices, or then you don't -- because telling us they've been brainwashed by their culture solves nothing: everybody, including radical feminists, is influenced ('brainwashed') by their culture, their neighbors, their party comrades, their brothers-in-arms, etc.

So again: either you believe in the possibility of free choice despite the influence of the surrounding environment, or then you're fighting a losing battle.

Which is not to say that environments can't be bad, or that one shouldn't revolt against them sometimes. But to pretend that this is only a problem with 'their' environment (say, the Muslims'), never with 'our' environment, is not going to help.

It is indeed condescending for Ms Haddad to claim there are no women who can legitimately choose the veil. It would be just as bad as generalizing the opposite -- i.e., claiming that every woman who wears the veil has legitimately chosen to do it.

@55 - OK, but those are much more moderate positions.
1. I struggle more with accepting chadors, let alone burqas, than hijabs (i.e. the typical headscarf). But burqas aren't worn by a large majority of Arab women - most certainly not in Lebanon - so Haddad is pretty clearly referring to all types of headscarfs - and I think that's a rather extreme claim, that's only sustainable when you employ very strong notions of false conciousness.
(That said - if I'm going to accept that people want to play dog and be led around on a leash by their 'masters' - who am I to judge burqas...)

2. We agree that a religion that threatens the wrath of god if you do xyz is rather unpleasant. But
a) As long as you're voluntarily choosing that religion, you're still acting out of free will. Take e.g. a strong Catholic student at a mainstream US campus (and lets assume family pressure is weak or absent) who choses to not to have sex before marriage.
To be clear - that's not the case for many muslim women, especially in the Arab world. But it is for some.

b) Many moderate Muslims believe express precisely that wearing the hijab is not a religious duty, but just a sign of special devotion (there is a specific term for that in Islamic theology, I forgot). Again, that's not all Muslims. I'm arguing against the notion that _no_ Muslima wearing veil is doing it out of free will. I don't contest the idea that many don't wear it freely.
@Lex Tremendae (nice pick of alias, by the way), who wrote:
So if the thought process for veil-wearing women is anything like mine, if it's more to get the fuck away from the crunching tectonic plates hovering over women in this country, then it's not much of a CHOICE. If the veil choice is more of an exit strategy, then it's not so free.

This is an almost perfect example of what I think is a current misinterpretation of the meaning of 'chosing' in life. I frequently see it in feminists, but I don't think it's feminism per se, or liberalism, or activism; I sometimes think it's more the American perspective on the world, the idea that the free individual is that lonesome cowboy who rides into the sunset, and who can pick at a whim the place to stop, make his fire, play his harmonica, or then to settle down and start a farm.

As if a choice could only be legitimate or worthwhile if it were a totally unconditioned choice, meaning by this that there would be no consequences whatsoever (other than mild, aesthetic consequences) of your choices. So that when you make a choice -- be it to wear a veil so as to acquire soothing invisibility, or NOT to wear a veil so as to face the physique-judgmental world (and perhaps fight it back in its own terms? or perhaps to simply succumb to it, and go with the flow, and hope that there's sufficiently much consolation in the beauty of one's music and the pleasure of playing one's instrument, with which one becomes at times a unit quite separate from the world and its petty reality...).

I don't think, Lex, that there are ANY choices worth making -- perhaps even any choices whatsoever (though I hesitate to go that far) -- that don't have consequences, which would mean, by the interpretation you suggest, that, if one doesn't like said consequences, then one really doesn't have ANY choice. It's not simply that wearing the veil is not a choice to you; it's that, by your definition, NOTHING (not even playing the violin) is really a choice for you.

And that can't be true. If the fact that we dislike the consequences (given that the world is what it is, and even if we can change it it's not going to happen right now) means that you don't have a choice, then there ARE no choices, there is no freedom, there is not a damn thing worth doing for anyone, man, woman, or undecided. Because every choice has bad consequences that we don't like and that we either put up with or fight against.

(The reason why choices always have consequences, why the world always makes choosing so unpleasant we often think we don't really have a choice, is another fascinating topic -- but I don't want to digress.)

If the bad consequences delegitimize the choice, then there is no such thing as a choice, there is no such thing as freedom. If the fact that choosing the veil may bring you soothing invisibility which you would otherwise not be able to have means that choosing the veil is not -- cannot be -- as legitimate a choice as choosing not to wear it, then there are no legitimate choices ever, because there will always be, for every choice, some similar circumstance that will make one choice preferable (it's the only way to get the darn invisibility, to not be judged by my appearance, etc.) and therefore in your view not really a choice.

I cannot subscribe to that philosophically -- in fact, this goes against some of my deepest beliefs about the world, our role in it, and what we can expect from it.

Which is why I disagree with you, Lex -- even though the emotion and the depth of thinking, both instrospective and analytical, that you show in your comment makes me feel more than a little admiration for you.
@adam_smith, who wrote:
(That said - if I'm going to accept that people want to play dog and be led around on a leash by their 'masters' - who am I to judge burqas...)


See, everybody talks about 'brainwashing', 'illegimitate choices', 'false consciousness' (that fateful Marxist-Existentialist term; ah! Sartre, ah! Beauvoir...), but usually these are code words for 'opinions I dislike' + 'I cannot understand how someone could ever truly, freely believe that'. If traditional Muslims suddenly can also say the same about the opinions of feminists (as I've seen some actually do), then the same term can be applied to one opinion and to its logical opposite. Not a very useful analytical tool then.

The BDSM analogue is quite good. See, nobody should be forced to be led around on a leash by a master; but if it is possible to assume that choosing to do so is possible, that a person can (like EricaP) willingly and legitimately choose to submit, then there is nothing per se wrong with burqas or hijabs or chadors, just as there is nothing wrong with complete nudity. What is wrong is being forced.

Now, it's not difficult to get people to agree with that. But then the idea that 'wrong choices are not legitimate' creeps back with those fateful words ('false consciousness', etc.). One always thinks about people being 'brainwashed' into 'false consciousness' about opinions that one doesn't agree with; one never thinks of those poor people who were 'brainwashed' into 'false consciousness' about opinions that one does agree with. Now why should that be?...

Like you, adam_smith, I also do not want to deny that many women are forced to wear clothes in many ways; sometimes explicitly, sometimes implicitly (socially, culturally, etc.). But I am so worried when I see people promptly giving this explanation for opinions they don't like!

I would feel better if I saw a discussion of the conditions under which choice can be legitimate. Just as the BDSM community has come to their own conclusions about when it is legitimate for someone to choose to be a submissive, and when it's (self-)abusive or 'illegitimate', I would like to see people talking about what makes decisions and choices legitimate or illegitimate.

So that we could finally figure out which women are really being oppressed into wearing a hijab, or a burqa, and which women are not. Just as we can decide which people are really being humilitated (disrespected, harmed, damaged) by being forced to do humiliating or painful things (we all agree Abu Ghraib is an example, right?) and which people are not. Clearly it's not a settled issue -- and just assuming it is and then deducing from one's opinion who is or isn't a bigot or sexist or against the empowerment of women clealry just doesn't work.
@33 (flang), who wrote:
I also think the majority of commenter here are highly ignorant to suggest that a completely independent, free-thinking woman would make a voluntary decision to completely obscure her face in public.

I've worked with more traditional indigenous societies in the Amazon where people would think those people highly ignorant who suggest that a completely independent, free-thinking woman would make a voluntary decision to completely obscure her breasts in public. They just wouldn't see the point.

Or, in case you think that it's also oppression that Western (especially American) women don't show their breasts in public, and that this should be changed (actually I'd agree with this cultural change): I'd repeat what I said to Lex Tremendae in my post above (#60), plus what I said to adam_smith (#61), namely:

If a woman (or a man, for that matter) can legitimately choose to be spanked, tied up, or led around on a leash for her sexual pleasure and gratification, then she can also legitimately choose to wear a burqa, a hijab, or nothing at all.

Which is not to say that there aren't women (or men) who are forced (a word that needs to be defined, but still), both directly (via threats) or indirectly (cultural and social pressure) to wear burqas, hijabs, or nothing at all, or to do humiliating things against their will. This does happen, and it is wrong, and it should be fought against.

It's just that we shouldn't confuse these two situations.

And also that we should get to some sort of consensus about when people are 'being forced' or not. There is such a thing as a legitimate choice, even when said choice is to do something we don't agree with. Under what circumstances is a choice (regardless of whether or not we agree with or like it) legitimate? -- that is a question I wished people would try to answer more often.

@59 In the interview Haddad very explicitly mentions "veils" only; neither she nor Mullins ever brought up other forms of head coverings, and since I've never heard of any object referred to as a "veil" that doesn't cover the face, I think we have to accept that she is aware of the distinction. Haddad is from Lebanon, yes, but her work involves interacting with the Arab world as a whole.

We could get into a whole other discussion about whether people actually "choose" their religion (where "religion" refers not simply to "God(s)" but to the human organization that surrounds him (or her or them). On that point I would only say that here in Jesus-loving Texas I've never met anyone who says they met their savior Jesus Christ out of the blue one day, without having previously been told by someone else just what this Jesus guy was all about.

I concede after reading your points and those of some others here that, yes, there possibly are small minority of women who want to wear the veil of their own will and not out of fear of retribution from authority, but I don't think that should stop society as a whole from at the very least discouraging its use as a general rule. And for those countries like France who want to outlaw it completely, I believe their intentions are driven by the desire to ensure women's autonomy and not by Islamaphobia as seems to be the common mantra.
@62, 57, et al, See above. I would retract that particular comment if we could edit our posts here as it now feels more harsh than I would like. I originally submitted it because I could see the other commenters forming the pile-on over Dan's opinion of the interview and, in case he came back to read the comments, I wanted it to be clear it wasn't a settled issue that he and Hassad were wrong and Mullins was right. What I value most about Dan's commentary is the decidedly blunt nature of it and I don't want him letting up due to the beating he's been taking from all sides lately (see here for more drama:
@63 (flang), out of curiosity, how would your ideal society work? How would people actually be able to be raised and become adults without there being conditioning influences from the environment -- be like this, not like that; do this, not that?

What we call 'education' is a type of conditioning. When children grow up they absorb what is around them, to varying degrees. There is no way every child could, in their growing-up period, ever repeat the painful and long process of social evolution that led to the culture and society that exist where said child was born.

How could it ever be different?

I think what you mean is that you think that children who were raised to accept Jesus as their personal savior are 'wrong', whereas those who were raised to believe that he isn't (say, that there is no god, or that it's a different god, or whatever) are 'right'.

But both kids were raised (or 'brainwashed', if you prefer).

How could it ever be different, given the way humans develop from babies into adults?

What is your definition of 'freedom'? When in your opinion is a choice 'freely made', and when was it the result of social influence? Did someone who was raised by a feminist mother 'freely choose' to be a feminist?

Hell, even someone who was raised by parents to always think by him/herself -- did s/he 'freely choose' to always think by him/herself?

There's a problem with definitions here.
I'm inclined, these days, to think that fanaticism to our being correct is what makes us intolerant of the idea that others can choose something for themselves that we disprove of. We wed ourselves so tightly to the idea that we're correct that we loose the ability to consider different view points, and we become desperate to defend our opinions against contravening facts often at great emotional and intellectual expense, we also quickly forget that we are not immune from self-delusion. Maybe because the vast majority of us tend to believe what our parents believe that questions that can't be answered empirically then depend on our prior metaphysical assumptions. Maybe it is too hard to see through the lens of another, it easier to consider things from our own point of view. But what do I know, my $0.02 are often well suited for the dustbin. :-)
ankylosaur - I'm 100% with you, that's a helpful clarification. My issue with burqa and chador is this: They are almost exclusively worn within a highly repressive religious, political, and/or family context. The currents of Islam that prescribe Burqa and Chador also have 12th century notions of female subservience and, crucially, punishment for disobedience. So the problem is that there are virtually no cases of women wearing the Burqa under what you helpfully call "conditions under which choice can be legitimate." (While the exact line for these conditions is tricky, I don't think it's controversial that the threat of physical punishment and/or complete ostracism from family/community makes free choice impossible).
On the other hand, there are many examples of women wearing hijab who make that decision under conditions that can reasonably considered free. (plug your discussion of "free" choice here - I think "reasonable" should mean comparable to other decisions we consider "free," - hence my "high heels" example.)
@64 (flang), I understand you desire to keep Dan's comments as keen and sharp as possible -- it's indeed part of the reason why it's a pleasure to read him.

But then, does that mean that people who happen to disagree with him on some issue don't get to be just as sharp in their disagreement? :-)

I think Dan is all in all a well-balanced guy, with a good, working bullshit detector. He'll also see through the adjectives what is a true criticism or not. I'm sure that, if he ever changes his opinion, or his language about something, it's not just because he wants to 'please' those who disagree with him -- it's because he actually gave the topic some thought. Right, Dan? You don't cave just because some guys bark at you -- do you?
@flang (63) - your understanding of the word "veil" is not in line with how it's commonly used.
See the wikipedia article, for example:
"A variety of headdresses worn by Muslim women in accordance with hijab (the principle of dressing modestly) are sometimes referred to as veils. Many of these garments cover the hair, ears and throat, but do not cover the face. "

Specifically, "veil" is the usual translation of the arabic "hijab". So I think we can assume that when an Arab speaking woman whose third language is English says "veil" she means "hijab."
@66(kim in portland), I agree entirely with what you say. (Every time you throw in your $0.02, I feel like I've become richer by at least a couple of thousand dollars :-)). I think that people's love for their own correctness is the main motor behind a lot of attempts to 'teach the natives how to behave' (or conversely to 'teach the oppressive colonialists a lesson'), i.e. various forms of activism.

If there is one thing in Christ's message that wished people would heed, it's that loving each other (or, in modern parlance: empathy for each other's otherness and individuality) is way more important than being wed to one's correctness.

And if there's one thing from Buddhism that I'd add to Christ's message, it's that one's most important duty to oneself is to avoid being misled by self-delusion (Maya).

@67(adam_smith), I certainly agree with you that there are all kinds of red flags in most places where women wear burqas that suggest theirs are indeed not 'conditions under which a choice is legitimate.' Yet I would advocate the need to define said conditions; if we indeed had a good definition and then applied it to burqa areas in the world, we might be surprised. (I grant I would indeed be surprised; I expect the majority of burqa-wearing women are not under conditions for a legitimate choice; but hey, I've been surprised before in my life.)

And of course the concomittant question: what should we do? How does one go about changing the situation of burqa-wearing women (so that their choice could be legitimate), given that, in so many places in the Arabic world, exposure to such things as feminism or liberalism is seen as an example of "Western influence" -- the kind of thing that, as Ms Haddad pointed out, some Moslim women even choose to wear hijab (or maybe even burqas?) to protest against? What is a legitimate course of action here?
@63: Okay, I promise not to lecture you if you promise not to throw out any more straw men as egregious as the one @53. Since you seem reasonable enough to concede points well-argued (by adam.smith), I will offer you something for consideration regarding France and the burqa ban, because, as I've already stated, this controversy is much more about politics than women's autonomy.

The article is a bit long to post, so here is a somewhat shortened version:

International human rights organisations such as the Council of Europe and Amnesty International have condemned the ban as an impingement on the fundamental rights of certain women.

Only an estimated 2,000 of France’s some 2 million Muslim women wear the full facial covering. In other words, about 0.03% of the entire French population.

Significantly, Sarkozy claimed that his gripe with the veil was not a religious one, but rather touched on a question of human rights.

The distinction here is crucial, for in positioning the debate in a human rights context, Sarkozy managed to reconcile an attack on the Islamic veil with the values of liberty and equality that are the cornerstones of the French republican model. Moreover, setting the parameters of the debate in this way had the twin effect of pre-empting criticism on the grounds of religious discrimination and making the law that was proposed shortly afterwards politically difficult to oppose.

But make no mistake; the question of human rights is not the primary motivating factor behind the ban on the veil. A study conducted by the At Home in Europe Project of the Open Society Foundation, released today, presents the findings of in-depth interviews with 32 women who wear the full veil in France. Of those interviewed the majority had themselves chosen to wear the veil, often against the wishes of their family. For many of these women, the decision to cover their faces forms part of a spiritual journey and, similar to the Catholic nuns who wear a headdress, the Islamic veil is a sign of their commitment to their faith. Of course there are isolated cases where women are coerced into wearing the veil, but coercion is a marginal element in this equation.

The real issues here are religion and, of course, politics. With regard to religion, the hostility towards the veil is representative of a more generalised opposition to Islam in France, an opposition that is grounded largely in fear. It is telling that much of the initial media commentary on the ‘burka law’ was accompanied by a description of the different types of Islamic head dress, complete with illustrations. The fact is, many people are ignorant of the complexities of the Islamic religion and hold perceptions that are coloured by a post 9/11 security climate that has brought about a blanket equation between Islam and fundamentalism.

Fear is easily translated into political currency and in France, the politics of fear has traditionally been the preserve of the far-right. No longer. More recently, the political rhetoric of the far-right has been matched by the mainstream right in a thinly-veiled attempt to poach voters from the Front National. Government sponsored debates on identity and secularism have inevitably come to focus on the question of Islam and the threat posed by an ‘inassimilable’ population. Only last week, the Interior Minister, Claude Guéant declared that the growth of Islam in France ‘posed a problem’.

The current drift of French society is dangerous for many reasons, not least of which is the fact that the new law on the veil has legitimised the discourse of the far-right. Ironically, in attempting to poach the Front National’s votes, Sarkozy’s government has given momentum to their cause. The Front National has been campaigning for years of an anti-Islamic platform. Now their cause has been taken up by those in power.

Ultimately, the new law, which the government claims will facilitate greater social cohesion, will simply serve to marginalise Muslim women, and indeed the Muslim community more generally, by stigmatising aspects of their religion. The ban on the Islamic veil has undermined the fundamental values on which the Republic is built. Laïcité, the French form of secularism, appears to have taken on its own religiosity and become hostile to the beliefs of others rather than tolerating them.…
Also, flang, I've got to thank you for throwing your arguments down, because it has stimulated a really good discussion here. So many interesting points being made!

Yes, I absolutely see what you mean about choice. I didn't want to go down that sliding scale in my first post... tend to ramble on enough as it is... All I meant was that the choice FOR the burqa (even by me, the atheist American feminist) wouldn't be much of a free choice, fueled as it would be by a wish to alleviate high ambient pressure. I know... it's a matter of degree: All choice needs some fuel, and that's going to come from a certain degree of ambient pressure. It's surprising to me how the choice from within is so influenced from pressures without, and, frankly, certain choices feel surprisingly unfree.

I use the word "surprisingly" because, although I'm not surprised that my choice of where I can live is dictated by outside pressures about how much money I have to spend and where I can get a job, I AM surprised about the huge deal that's made of a woman's choice of clothing (especially in relation to the tiny deal made of a man's choice of clothing), and so if my most vivid fantasy for escaping that scrutiny (of something that is supposed to not be important) is wearing a curtain, then that doesn't feel free, especially in the context of United States culture.
In case anyone is interested, here are some additional words from the Economist that support the argument that the burqa (actually niqab) ban in France is about politics, and a willingness to take advantage of Islamophobia for political ends:

Since the law was passed, however, Mr Sarkozy’s popularity has sunk to record lows and he has come under pressure from a revived far-right National Front, led by Marine Le Pen. Mr Sarkozy faces a tough presidential election next year, and several polls suggest that Ms Le Pen might even beat him into the second-round run-off.

Partly as a result, he has been talking tough, again, about immigration and Islam. Last week his UMP party staged a controversial debate on laïcité, or secularism, which turned out to be all about Islam. Even French Muslims who have no time for the niqab-wearing fringe sense that Islam is being exploited for political ends.

Such is the tense atmosphere that even moderate voices in favour of the ban seem to have gone quiet, perhaps for fear of further stirring anti-Islam sentiment. Fadela Amara, a Muslim ex-minister in Nicolas Sarkozy's first government, once called the burqa a “prison”; now she seems to be silent. Rama Yade, another of the president's ex-ministers and of Senegalese origin, once said she considered the niqab an infringement of women’s rights; last week she quit the UMP, blaming its divisive attitude on identity matters.…
"Christian woman who lost her virginity to her virgin husband hands Savage his ass on his idea of sexual compatibility."
@73 (Lex Tremendae), I hope I didn't give the impression of antagonizing you personally in my (likewise rather rambling and perhaps a tad too emotional) reaction to your comment. My main point is also simply what you agreed with, that all choices are fueled by forces from the environment. (I'll even go further and say that it's precisely because our choices have good/bad consequences from our environment that they are meaningful choices. If your choice of clothes had absolutely no impact whatsoever on anyone else or on yourself, if you could just as well choose your clothes randomly; that is when I'd say your choice was meaningless, or that you didn't really have a choice.)

I agree, though, that certain choices feel rather unfree; and your example of women's clothing is quite pertinent. Here are my thoughts, though.

First, I don't think that people will ever stop caring about what they -- and, alas! also others -- look like. I don't think it's ever going to be the case that one's choice of clothing is not going to be 'read', 'interpreted', 'scrutinized' by others. (As a man, I'd claim that, even though men's clothes are less scrutinized than women, this by no means implies that they're free to dress as they choose, or that their choices of clothing don't often have dramatic consequences for their success or lack thereof. I could tell you a couple of horror stories connected to my decision never to wear ties, for instance.) Why this is so -- human psychology, the desire to 'read' others (so as to find allies/enemies, who's 'in our group' and who's an 'outsider') -- is of course interesting, but doesn't really affect the fact that it's not really going to change.

But I sense that what is really unfair to you is that the scrutiny is much more on women's clothes than on men's. That is indeed an unpleasant consequence of the fact that women's appearance is more highly valued than men's appearance, which means that it has more to do with a woman's success in her endeavors than in the case of men (for men, having more money tends to have a similar effect). This is probably because women's appearance has a stronger (sexual) effect on men than men's appearance has on women, so manipulating a woman's appearance is indeed more effective (on a psychosexual level -- not forgetting also the added cultural layers) than manipulating a man's appearance.

I sincerely hope that this is going to change. (It seems to be changing, doesn't it? Don't you have the feeling the situation was worse decades ago?) All I can do is affect myself; so I consciously try to judge people much more by who they are and what they do than by how they dress, men and women alike. I hope I am successful.
@75: "Savage thanks woman and tells her to keep the ass to herself, since he already had one, with the help of non-Christian woman who mops the floor with Christian woman".

Hey, that's sort of fun. Must...not..let...evil...side...emerge...
@Irena - That editorial you posted is exactly the sort that drives me crazy. That author, like so many others, is stating unequivocally that those of us who are opposed to the veil are driven solely by religious discrimination and really don't care about women's rights at all, and the only data he presents to support that charge is a study of 32 women who say they wear it by their own choice. For reasons that have been gone over pretty thoroughly here, that's not a convincing argument. I understand that groups like Amnesty International may honestly believe that the bans truly are harmful, or maybe they're just as spiteful as he is. Regardless, it's pretty obvious that guy's made up his mind that we're all just racists and xenophobes and no amount of arguing would alter his views.
@Irena, I've always been impressed by how emotional the French can get about their laïcité and égalité (though my direct problem is rather with la langue française est la seule langue de l'État français than with Islam). I live in the Netherlands, where the French ban has been heavily criticized -- despite the fact that we have our own home-grown anti-Islam politicians (Geert Wilders and his Party of Freedom, following the footsteps of the late Pim Fortuyn).

Some Dutch intellectuals try to argue that it is possible to be legitimately concerned with the consequences of a certain minority increasing within a society -- they'll hasten to add that the way the French did the ban is not the right way to deal with that, but that there is a problem there (assimilation vs. tolerance, melting pot vs. mosaic). What do you think -- is all talk of 'the problem of Islamic minorities' just fear of the Other masquerading as a true concern, or is there something to worry about there?
"'s the result of a brainwashing that makes them think it is their choice, or they have so much dignity that they don't want to admit that it has been forced on them."

The same has been said of sex workers.

Some Muslim women (in Western countries, where they are free to choose to wear it, not threatened to--in fact, many are threatened for wearing it) do freely choose to wear the veil as a point of pride, faith, modesty, etc.
@flang -- it's an interesting question you raise there. Yes, I think it's possible to be concerned from a purely human-rights point of view, but you have to agree that all the racist xenophobes (there are some out there) will be on the side of the ban as well, so that those concerned with human rights will have to accept them as strange bedfellows at least in this issue. And this fact does concern me. When I see reasonable people concerned with human rights and racist xenophobes on the same side, I wonder if a rethinking of the terms of the problem and better definitions of the points of contention isn't in order.
@adam.smith You're right that my understanding of a "veil" would be a garment that includes a face-obscuring feature of some sort; I think most Americans and Europeans would see it similarly, and that probably includes Mullins. You've pointed out that In the Arab world that may not be the case (the term "hijab" is an even more tangled web, by the looks of it). Since Hassad's work involves a heavy emphasis on the admiration of women's bodies (god bless her), it's logical that she might see all head coverings as oppressive and not just veils. But even if that is the case, I don't think there's any question that her motivation is grounded firmly in the desire for women's liberation and not from any sense of malice, so it really shouldn't matter much.
Your comments have enriched me, too.

Take care.
@ankylosaur Well, no one can control anyone's motivation but their own. Yes, I am aware the fact that my desire to see the veil banished puts me in the same company of those who hate Islam because Jesus hates Islam, and with those who just plain don't like "dem damned a-rabs." But of course, that goes the other way just as easily, since people who oppose the ban purely on the grounds of individual liberty (such as yourself, I assume), share company with abusive husbands, tyrannical religious authorities, and anyone else who thinks that a woman's body is an shameful, dirty instrument of evil that must be hid from the world at all costs. That concerns me a little as well.
Argh... I have been misspelling Haddad's name for a while now. Sorry.

Bingo on the comparison with sex workers.

There's a History professor at UW (I think his name is Jonathan Brown and he might have gone on to Georgetown) who gave a public lecture the day after California passed Prop. 8. When some questioner said that Muslim countries are oppressive, Brown shot back remarking that Prop. 8 had just passed, so stop crowing about the U.S. being better. But with regard to veiling, Brown showed photos of Egyptian families in which some of the women wore head coverings and some did not. He said that in many places, it's a personal choice, even within the same family, much like some women in the U.S. might wear short sleeves while others might not. The point here, I think, is that some people--presumably those invested in the notion that Muslim societies must absolutely be misogynist--might be oversimplifying the matter.

People might also find G. Willow Wilson's decision to wear a scarf interesting. Wilson, who's a white American convert to Islam and whose book The Butterfly Mosque was highlighted on some Slog post, certainly did not come across as oppressed in her writing or at her reading.

Finally, with respect to Dan's late mother, bless her soul, who's always sounded like someone who kicked ass pretty well, would one be able to say with any accuracy that because she was a devout worshiper of a religion that is as patriarchal as Catholicism--primarily because it was Catholicism, she was an oppressed woman self-punishing herself in a patriarchal society without realizing it?

Benazir Bhutto. Make of that what you will.

And yes, you are probably correct that your position is not, as you put it, "mere bigotry." (Italics are mine, of course.)
@flang, point well taken. But at least I will maintain that anyone who defends a viewpoint espoused also by radicals, bigots, and racists (which is true for both of us) should make all efforts to distance themselves from them and differentiate one's viewpoint from theirs. (Which you did try to do; which I appreciate.)

So let me state succinctly my viewpoint (and thereby differentiate myself from anyone who simply thinks that 'women should be modest', etc.): I think that objects are not right or wrong in themselves (like words, as I said in another thread), but the intentions and attitudes of those who use them. In the case of Muslim headgear, the hijab (or the burqa) are not per se wrong in any way; what makes them wrong is being forced to choose them, be it directly or indirectly (pending a good definition of 'indirectly' here). So I don't fight the burqa or the hijab, I fight the obligatoriness of the burqa or the hijab. Since a ban is also a way of forcing people to do what one wants (in this case, not to wear veils -- in certain situations, etc. etc. etc.), then it is ultimately the same thing as forcing them to wear it -- again, because what is wrong to me is the forcing, not what is forced.

So, to me a ban on the hijab is as bad as a hijab made obligatory (by law, or by custom). I see both as expressions of the same evil: depriving people of choice. Wherever there is true choice, I feel better, even if some of the available options are not to my liking.

And I say this as someone who is very much in favor of female bodies, and who is actually sad at the way the whole 'objectification' dialogue in feminism is often co-opted as a way to make it impossible to expose or appreciate female bodies and female beauty without at the same time being disrespectful ('objectifying') women, or to make said objectification an inherent feature of the 'male gaze', etc.

@84 - Functional Atheist -
unfortunately you're brushing over many subtleties of the arguments involved.
2.) "Vast majority" - whatever that means - isn't relevant here. The point is that Haddad says that _no one_ wears it voluntarily. Many women raised in relatively secular households chose to wear it. So while what you say is likely true, it's irrelevant to the discussion.

3.) If your sole argument against the high heel analogy is that the veil is the law in some countries, that would mean the analogy applies to all other countries, e.g. Lebanon, Egypt, the Maghreb, and Iraq - i.e. large chunks of the Arab world?

As for
1.) By the same style of argumentation: Neo-nazis and islamophobes don't like the headscarf. You don't like the headscarf --> You align yourself with neonazis and islamophobes. That's not an argument. it's a silly rhetorical trick.

4.) I think denying someone free will and agency is pretty insulting. While it's better than denying someone's right, it's still worth arguing against such insults (e.g. we don't want our politicians to engage in stereotyping of gays, even if they don't want to make homosexuality illegal.).
@82 - I don't think good intentions are all that matters. I think you can be well intentioned and wrong. I think you can even be well intentioned and harmful.
I think in the context of the Arab world, Haddad is mainly wrong, but without much practical consequences. As she carries her message into muslim-minority countries, with strong islamophobe undercurrents, I think her message has the potential to be harmful by giving legitimacy to and strengthening anti-muslim stereotypes.
@ functional atheist, here is a reaction to the points you raise.

Those women who sincerely 'choose' the veil, are publicly allying themselves with the assholes who would, and in some nations do, require the veil.

They often deny that, and openly criticize said assholes for their assholery (the one Muslim friend I have who does wear the veil is quite open in her criticism of many aspects of Muslim traditional society). Would you also claim that anyone who likes the American flag is publicly allying him/herself with anything bad that the American government may have done, at home or abroad?

Individuals in non-conquered nations like the US or Canada who voluntarily chose to wear the Swastika, as a sign of friendly Aryan solidarity, would be making a 'choice'--a choice to stand in solidarity with Nazi Germany.

If they say so. But they may see it as a symbol of something else (it's a Hindu religious symbol too, you know; the word "swastika" is not German, it's Sanskrit, in which it means something like 'being lucky', 'being fortunate'). Of course they would be stupid not to realize that most people would interpret it differently, so they would also have to publicly distance themselves from the Nazis.

Besides, it is thinkable that one is in favor of Aryan solidarity without being in favor of the Nazi form of it -- just as one can be in favor of democracy without necessarily being in favor of the current Russian or Chinese versions of it.

Muslim women who choose the veil are publicly choosing to associate themselves with evil men and evil practices.

Not if they distance themselves from said men and said practices. You're confusing the object and its symbolic meaning -- worse yet, you're assuming that said object can have only one symbolic meaning, namely, support for evil men and evil practices. That is incorrect.

The vast majority of Muslim women never had a legitimate opportunity to choose their religion. Rather, they are victims of childhood religious indoctrination. How free is their choice? They were brainwashed from the cradle.

Possibly true. But as I said above, those who oppose them were also 'brainwashed' by their environment into accepting the liberal values that they now propagate (everybody is influenced by their environment, etc.). So, the real question is: when is one ever free of indoctrination of any kind, when is one's choice ever really 'free'? You need a working definition of 'legitimate choice' before you can accuse others of failing it.

And I say this as someone who does think you're probably right in thinking that many, perhaps most Muslim women in at least certain Muslim countries did not choose their clothes in a legitimately free way.

Regarding the analogy to high heels: false. The western patriarchy does not have the force of law, and it does not require high heels always be worn in public.

Neither is this true in many Muslim nations -- Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Pakistan, etc. come to mind. (Outside of the Arabic peninsula, Iran, and perhaps Afghanistan, where exactly is this law, in the sense that not wearing the hijab would be a felony? If anyone happens to have details handy, please let me know.)

We simply don't like the veil--and our dislike has a logical and ethical basis, and is not mere bigotry or aesthetic preference.

If you don't like the veil, then your dislike is not logical and ethical, but merely personal. The veil is a symbol of many things to many people (it's actually very erotic to some). Your dislike would be logical and ethical only if it were directed at the reasons for making it obligatory in some places -- that, indeed, is wrong. But the veil itself is innocent, as could not be otherwise, since it is merely an object.

Please dislike not the veil, but the forcing! Remember: the Nazis didn't invent the swastika, which was -- and still is -- a Buddhist religious symbol with much deeper significance than stupid beliefs in Aryan superiority.
Now that we've firmly established that Haddad was raised as a Christian and is speaking as an outsider on how Muslim women feel about wearing the veil, is anyone going to call out Dan for his racist and profoundly ignorant assumption that all women living in the Arab world are Muslim?
Just a quick note before I run out -- flang, I am not implying that anyone who opposes the veil is a bigot, and I don't think that writer was, either. I am not thrilled with it myself. In fact, I agree with Haddad's general message to Arab women. But I think recent events have shown that outlawing it, even Westerners discouraging it, generally backfires. I really think this question needs to be resolved by the women most affected by it, and despite my quibbles with the details of Haddad's argument, I'm glad she's taken up the challenge to convince women to decide for themselves not to choose the veil.
@93, no, one may simply politely disagree with Dan's support for Haddad's unconditional claims without necessarily making an ass of oneself while doing it. Of course you're free to go ahead and make an ass of yourself if that pleases you.
@95: I didn't espouse a position on the veil issue, if you'll take time to read my post carefully. But it does make me roll my eyes to see typical American ignorance about any place other than America exemplified once AGAIN (ie; assuming that an Arab woman is ipso facto Muslim), and slightly nauseous to see Americans do so while making value judgments on other cultures.
I wish Dan would hurry up and realize that at heart he embraces values that for historical/political reasons he's forced to reject as "conservative": in this case the idea that, given the choice, people don't make choices that impair their freedom, and in general that people want more freedom.
@97, yes, and wouldn't it be wonderful if these people wanted freedom not only for themselves, but also for others, instead of being dismayed at the choices others make and deciding to limit their freedom?

Better yet, wouldn't it be just awesome if those guys also agreed on a definition of freedom, rather than trying to imposing it on each other?
I don't think @97 knows what "conservative" means...
What he states as supposedly conservative beliefs may be held (when it is opportune) by some libertarians associated with the GOP, but they have nothing to do with conservatism.
And I don't think actual conservatives would disagree with me here. Smart conservatives like, Douthat and Brooks (mainly Brooks a couple of years ago), would highlight the needs of communities/societies for moral boundaries. Burke, the godfather of conservativism, criticized the French revolution because (simplifying a little) it prioritized liberty over governance and stability.

On the other hand, both liberals and libertarians would broadly agree with your two claims, but would, as @98 helpfully points out, disagree about what they mean precisely and to what policies they should lead. Since Dan is, as far as he has a coherent philosophy, a libertarian leaning liberal I don't think he's got a problem here.
haddad is absolutely wrong, and mullins was performing as an honest, informed, and responsible journalist, albeit not as persistent a one as some of us would prefer.

i am an anthropologist with half a dozen years research experience in the world's largest muslim country, and the fact is that many, probably most, of the women there who use veils are extremely savvy about why they do, and not only did nobody force them to veil, most of them did so against the wishes of their parents (whose generation mostly did not veil).

there is plenty of good, thoughtful, rigorous writing on the subject of veiling, including quite a lot of it written by muslim women, and the notion that anyone who makes a different choice about their life than haddad did must be engaging in some sort of unconscious self-punishment is simply insulting.

frankly, you stranger editors would attack that kind of thinking out of hand were it applied to any given sexual kink, and you're applying a double standard to suit your own preconceptions in this case.
@ankylosaur Well, then we're both supporting the same conclusion, just differing on the process. You and others see a ban primarily designed to of prevent women from exercising their free will, I and others see a ban primarily designed to prevent patriarchal and oppressive cultures from keeping women "in their place."
@adam.smith Again, though, I can make the same argument about the position you're taking just as easily, as your message also gives strength to the very significant portion of the population that seeks to keep women from having any individual rights at all, least of which is the option not to wear the veil. There's nothing in Haddad's argument that could be interpreted by anyone who actually listens to it as Islamaphobic; she very specifically is only arguing for women's rights. If a single part of her argument is taken by bigots and twisted to support their own ends, well, I'm sorry but that's absolutely not her problem, or mine or anyone else's. Neither she nor you or anyone else should have to moderate an honest, straightforward argument because of the ignorance or malice of others. If we all had to live by those rules, no problem that involves sensitive issues in any way could even be debated at all, let alone actually fixed.
After reading the comments, there are no lengths the PC left in the US will not go to to defend their ideology. Reverse the polarities even a little bit (Christian women saying it's better to wait until marriage to have sex) and the vitriol starts spewing.
@flang - no, you're missing my point. I don't think concern about how an argument can be abused is a valid reason against it - I say as much @90.
There are two steps involved:
1. I think Haddad is wrong, both empirically and morally, in her claims about women wearing headscarf.
2. I think it's worth pushing against her wrong argument, because it plays into the hand of xenophobes. And it precisely plays into the hands of racists _because_ it is wrong, i.e. because it perpetuates stereotypes.

Step 2 requires step 1. You swat away step 1 @82 by saying "she may be wrong, but her heart is in the right place" and I'm saying that good intentions alone are not enough.

Also, I think that Haddad may very well be islamophobe. In the context of repressive Islam in much of the Arab world that's quite understandable and doesn't do much harm. I don't blame someone who grew up, say, an LGBT kid in the bible belt for being vehemently anti-Christian either. But that doesn't meant that kid would be right so say that all Christians hate gays, either.

And @104, although I suspect you're a troll: The problem is smugness and forcing your beliefs on other people:
Wearing a headscarf/marrying as a virgin - A-OK.
Teaching kids in school that you have to wear a headscarf or marry as a virgin (aka "abstinence only") - not OK.

Feeling like you're pleasing god by wearing a headscarf/marrying as a virgin - A-OK.
Writing smug letters about how you're so much better because you do - inviting derision from liberals.
I think there have been some great points made in this thread (along with some crappy ones, but trolls are gonna troll).

In the end, I think Haddad makes what is in general a fair point. I think if you added up all of the women actively forced to wear the veil, all of the women de facto forced to wear it, and all of the women who choose to wear it but do so as a response to cultural and religious pressure for or against, that number would make up the vast majority of veil-wearing women in the Muslim population. That's a fair point to make (and I do think that at the heart of her argument, that's the point she's making), and it makes sense for her to respond to a challenge about choice by discussing the restricted freedoms of that choice and what choice frequently, realistically means in this context.

But she is still in the wrong when she over-generalizes about how ALL veil-wearing Muslim women come to that conclusion, and I believe from her later wording that she knows that. I can't fault a journalist for challenging her on that point.

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