Thursday, 15 October 2015

The Covering Issue, Part 3

There are still people out there who don't know this so for the sake of completeness, here's what is actually in the Quran.

You can argue until the cows come home, that's the top and bottom of it.

But does it even matter? Once a tradition is in place, even if quite localized, it becomes a sort of norm, and humans, being lazy, tend to accept norms.

We get the best clues from places where the norm changes suddenly. These sudden changes are always reversions. No culture progresses overnight. All progressive change is slow (despite what opponents say). But reversions, especially where threats are involved, tend to be very swift.

Consequently, in places where a religious revolution has occurred, and modern clothing is suddenly banned, there will be a couple of generations where memories of life before the ban remain.

Imagine, for example, living in Afghanistan in the early 70s.

It took no time at all for this to be replaced by strict Islamic clothing. Young women at the time had no choice in the matter. Many women alive today remember wearing whatever they wanted when they were young. They have adjusted, as people do, but their feeling towards it is going to be different to their daughters who never knew that freedom. Their daughters may be utterly terrified of the idea of a mini skirt.

If you want to know how women feel about covering themselves, at whatever level, you have to ask them. Very privately, so they can speak freely. You can't assume anything. You will hear different views, some ultra-conservative, and some completely the opposite. A wide range, and no obvious pattern. There are plenty such interviews on You Tube if you want to see them. But the point is that there is no consensus. I have learned to ignore sweeping generalizations that "they are all perfectly happy", or "they know it's right", or "they are all forced into it", or whatever, because it's just not that simple.

There is familiarity, which leads to comfort.
There is resignation.
There is subtle cultural pressure.
There is the law.

In all cases what is forgotten is choice. Every single time.

Those poor Muslim women.


What, you think this is something restricted to Muslim countries or individuals?

No. And this is where I came in.

Admittedly having had a schoolfriend enter into a traditional Muslim marriage glowing with happiness helped me to be open-minded. And that stuck. But it's so easy to see (if you look) that the parallels in the west are just a matter of degree. And it's all a matter of degree.

I watched an interview with a a middle-eastern man who said that even a fully veiled woman can be a slut, because if she wears enough eyeliner it shows through the veil. And he said she was doing this deliberately to allure men. He couldn't see how ridiculous his projection was, even when some of his peers said he was going too far. The problem, therefore isn't the degree, from a veil to a string bikini. It's all about person A being convinced he can tell the intent of person B.

If I said I could read your mind, you'd say I was crazy. But this is no different.

This is the gist of the entire problem.

A man decides (based on what? Being rejected in the past? His own fantasies? Sheer delusion?) that THAT woman there is trying to turn him on. He is so determined to blame HER for HIS feelings, that he'll go so far as to insist on no eyeliner under a veil.

"They're all whores! They're all asking for it! They're all the same!"

Some of them, when questioned, have some sort of trauma in their past that gets them to that point. If you've ever read any of the Jack the Ripper novels, a number of them are sympathetic to Jack, and give him an experience that led him to what he did.

Any psychologist knows how this works. There are all sorts of ways it can happen, too, but the end result is the same. All women are evil jezebels and harming ANY woman works as revenge.

We know it's crazy, we don't accept it as an excuse, and every time it crops up in the media the overwhelming opinion is that he's wrong, he's crazy, he needs to be put away, and well....thankfully he's rare. And #NotAllMen too.

But there are those who just listen. They get persuaded by the idea that all women are weak/sluts/evil or whatever. OR.... all except their own. They're different. They're saints. Jimmy Saville called his mother the duchess and never married because no woman could reach that level of perfection. But he thought nothing of raping his own nieces. I guarantee inside his head they were just asking for it.

And some of the men he hung out with looked up to him, and thought he made sense.

And then there were men who looked up to them.

And even those who never had any slimebag hero somehow got caught up in a general machismo. It's in the media, the arts, Hollywood, cheap cowboy novels, locker room humour, and our language.

No, NotAllMen. Not even most. But just enough. 

If I had a penny for every time I heard a man say that he just "knew what she was really like" I could buy myself a huge bucket to vomit in, because this entire concept nauseates me.

And the solution? Hide them. Cover them up. By degree. Veil. Eyeslits. Headscarf. Loose tops with long sleeves and high necks. No upper arms. Wide shoulder straps. Hide the nipples.

Or this:

By degree only.

"It was distracting the boys."

This is the EXACT same thing as veiling a woman, because the reasoning behind it is identical.

And in both cases, if she doesn't comply, and is sexually assaulted, she'll be blamed. And if she complies and is assaulted she'll be blamed anyway.

It isn't the clothing that's the problem. OK? It never was.

It is the attitude of others, about the clothing.

Veiled women are assaulted. Fact.

But what do we have, after all this time?

Dress codes. Laws about clothing.

Let's try one. You are running a resort, and while you want to allow swimming, sunbathing etc. you don't want actual nudity, for whatever reason. So you have to come up with a simple dress code. And then enforce it.

"Cover your breasts and your pubic area."

Sounds reasonable. And then this lady shows up.

Would you allow her to dress this way?

Thought not. She's actually well-covered compared to some swimwear. Is it her age? What's the problem?

Ah, you say, she's just trying to make a point, she's actually being provocative.

And there we go again. Reading people's minds. Crazy.

"I insist she wears a regular bikini."

That's LESS clothing. How do you know she's not uncomfortable showing her lower legs? The reason is irrelevant too. None of your damned business.

"But I make the rules."

That's what they all say. That's what women have dealt with for soooooo long. Put this on, take this off. That's not enough, that's too much. We are all heartily sick of it.


  1. Clothing began as protection from the elements and gradually became controversial. Wherever people gather, that's going to happen because people believe they were born to dominate.

    1. In a nutshell :)

      Takes me so long to explain myself :)