Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Burqa

Mona Eltahawy has a fine rhetorical point but not necessarily a strong argument:

What really strikes me is that a lot of people say that they support a woman's right to choose to wear a burqa because it's her natural right. But I often tell them that what they're doing is supporting an ideology that does not believe in a woman's right to do anything. We're talking about women who cannot travel alone, cannot drive, cannot even go into a hospital without a man with them. And yet there is basically one right that we are fighting for these women to have, and that is the right to cover their faces. To tell you the truth, I'm really outraged that people get into these huge fights and say that as a feminist you must support a women's right to do this, because it's basically the only kind of "right" that this ideology wants to give women. Otherwise they get nothing.
Yes, so the answer is not to remove the one right the bigoted fanatics willingly grant to women but to champion a comprehensive set of rights for women -- all the same rights as men, no exceptions -- placing particular emphasis on the rights the fanatics would deny them.

The argument is weak but I am unconvinced that burqas are a purely private matter. For now, I will say that if the French do ban the burqa, it won't sadden me and I won't rail against the ban. I don't accept the asinine dogmas that vilify and reduce women, and I question whether the laws of open societies should give cover to bullying and privation directed against women within "communities" or otherwise kept in cloisters. 

(via Ophelia Benson)


larryniven said...

Er, having just written on this myself, I have to point out that Brown is the interviewer and not the person to whom that argument belongs.

Dale said...

Ugh, you're right. When you're right, you're right, and you're right all the way across the board on this.