About Rationally Speaking
Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.
Friday, June 22, 2007
Where are the feminists, when you need them?
The article was about how an increasing number of Europeans – British in this specific case – but also French, German, and Italians – object to Muslim women's attire because they wear their religion on their sleeves, so to speak, which many westerners find “offensive.” Well, get over it. I find people in my neighborhood in Brooklyn who wear big and loud Christian crosses offensive too (not to mention in really bad taste), but one of the distinguishing features of liberal democracies is that there is no constitutional protection against offense, quite the contrary.
On the other hand, I am stunned by the almost absolute silence of feminists on this issue. One of the Muslim women interviewed for the Times piece said “a lot of people assumed I'm oppressed ... I don't care, I've got a brain.” Perhaps, sister, but you ain't using it right. It is not surprising that oppressed people may have a hard time even realizing that they are oppressed, so thoroughly brainwashed they have been since birth (just think of those women in some African countries who actually practice genital mutilation on their own daughters).
But for people outside the immediate cultural influence of conservative Islam, it is a no brainer that completely covering the body of a woman is a straightforward way to deny her personality and to limit her social interactions. In other words, she is being oppressed, whether she realizes it or not.
Which leads to the already stated question: where are our beloved feminists? They used to burn bras and bravely defy white males' expectations of what they should wear and look like, but they are hardly saying a peep about niqabs and hijabs. Indeed, if a feminist has spoken recently on this issue, it has been to defend the right to multiculturalism. But multiculturalism, like almost anything else, is a good thing only within certain limits. And those limits are set by the concept of universal human rights. “Universal” means that it applies to everyone, not just to western white women living in the blue states of America. What have you got to say for yourselves, sisters?