Eyes are the windows of the soul, yeh?
Martha Nussbaum has been explaining why the burqa is not such a bad thing, as well as explaining why it shouldn’t be banned. She said one thing (in a long post. much of which I skimmed) that froze me in astonishment for a second.
Several readers made the comment that the burqa is objectionable because it portrays women as non-persons. Is this plausible? Isn’t our poetic tradition full of the trope that eyes are the windows of the soul? And I think this is just right: contact with another person, as individual to individual, is made primarily through eyes, not nose or mouth.
Seriously? Contact with another person, as individual to individual, is made through the face – not through the eyes or the nose or the mouth, but the whole face. That’s why men don’t wear burqas: men want to be free to interact with people (that is, in this context, men) in the normal natural way. They also want to be free to breathe, eat, drink, hear, look around – they want to be free to do all the usual things one does with one’s face.
There’s something oddly typical about that ridiculous, sentimental claim. Nussbaum is brilliant, but she also has this strange blindness and tendency to sentimentalize. It could be that having a lot of New York Times readers commenting on her posts will teach her something.