Playing the Indian Card

Friday, July 06, 2012

A Feminist Writes

Dressing like Mary.
Dear Abbot:

You are so wrong to defend the treatment of women in Saudi Arabia. You are wrong to defend the abaya as simply modest dress. Where do I start? I am 55 years old. I was raised Catholic. No I don't ever remember ever being told to 'dress like Mary'. I remember having a kleenex pinned to my head by nuns in 'habits' before a school outing to mass. Was that done to make a child of six or seven less sexually appealing? Anyway the 'winds of change' swept through the church in the sixties and seventies and even the 'Brides of Christ' no longer cover their hair. Here's the thing. I have no problem with a woman choosing to wear a scarf around her head. What I have a problem with is lack of choice for women or men for that matter. There is something wrong with a system that uses physical punishment to enforce a dress code. And it's not only about dress. For instance women are not allowed out without a male relative escorting them. Do you realize how constricting that would be? And the power that gives to the man? I never said that women could not be held responsible for their own choices. Social pressure is something that both sexes are subject to wherever one lives. It comes with being part of a community. And women in the west are indeed in positions of great power and responsibility now and doing quite well with it thank you very much! I'm not sure of what point you were trying to make about prisons and not sure of the statistics but if there are less women in prison I submit that is because they don't commit as many crimes as men. As for women never being blamed for anything and not accepting risks and responsibilities toward society? I'm not exactly sure what your talking about there. In the west women are allowed to participate and contribute to society and we not only 'expect all the rights and privileges', we have them. That's why I'm proudly a feminist. My generation broke through some pretty sturdy glass ceilings and made things better for the next generation. By the way as soon as women were allowed to join the armed forces they did. It's not that we weren't 'called on' to fight and die for our country...we weren't allowed to. I most definitely do not see women as 'precious fragile icons' and not sure how you surmised that. And I don't think it is really about sex or equality but CONTROL."

Baby Boomer Feminist

The Catholic Mantilla

Dear BBF:

Where do I start?

Let's just take it in order.

If you did not pay attention in Catechism class, that is of no relevance to anyone else.

Of course, as you note, covering the hair of young girls is not something they need at that age. It is part of their education, all of which is intended to be useful to them when they grow up, not right away. This is actually what education means. Some get it, some don't.

Your argument that this is no longer done is irrelevant—I pointed that out myself, and you cannot argue that, just because a thing is so, it must be right, and at the same time demand that current Muslim practices be changed. By your very logic, if they are so, they must be right.

If you are now in favour of choice for women, you must withdraw your original objection to Islam: the argument for the abaya I posted was from a Muslim woman, and you were refusing to allow her that choice. This, at least, is progress. I hope soon you will also be prepared to accept choice for men.

Yes, women have the right to be soldiers, if they decide they want to. Men, by contrast, have the duty to be soldiers, not the choice. They do not, unlike women, have the right to stay home if they prefer. Consider combat deaths. American men killed in Vietnam: around 50,000. American women killed in Vietnam: 6. Interestingly, the women have their own separate monument in the capital; the men don't. Your point will be valid if and when conscription for combat automatically applies to both men and women. 

The Separate Memorial for American Women Who Died in Vietnam, Washington. D.C.

It is actually the same with regard to working outside the home: women have the right to work outside the home, if they decide they want to. Men have the duty to work outside the home, not the choice—though their wives might give it to them. Women, in sum, have rights and no responsibilities; men have responsibilities, and no rights. This is not equality; this is a heightened inequality, in comparison with almost any other human society in history.

As to the statistics on male and female incarceration, which is to say, punishment for crime, the stats are easy to look up on the Internet, if you cared to. Currently in the US, about 7:1. That's a much higher proportion of females than it used to be, apparently for one reason: zero tolerance on drugs. This means judges and prosecutors can no longer give women a bye, at least on those crimes.

You want to argue this is because men actually commit more crimes; let's let you do that, because feminism is in the wrong either way. Then you also have to accept the argument that the disproportion of men in senior executive positions (before governments forced women's promotions) could have been because men are more responsible and more committed to their jobs. You cannot have it both ways--affirmative action when it favours women, and not otherwise—and in the same breath claim to want “equality.” Your position is, instead, all rights and no responsibilities for women; all responsibilities and no rights for men.

Women are allowed out without a male relative in Saudi Arabia; perhaps you were thinking of somewhere else? Possibly Afghanistan under the Taliban? Manhattan before Giuliani? The Wild West? In each of these cases, it may simply be a practical necessity, if one values women's safety over that of men. But stop and think for a minute: if this is constricting for the woman, isn't it at least as constricting for the man, who must drop whatever he wanted to do in order to accompany her? Why see this as something done to women, and not as something done to men? Are you really only concerned with the welfare of women, and whatever is done to men is okay?

And if so, why disguise it all by pretending to want equality? Why not at least be honest about it?


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