Notes and Comment Blog

Our short and pithy observations on the passing scene as it relates to the mission of Butterflies and Wheels. Woolly-headed or razor-sharp comments in the media, anti-rationalist rhetoric in books or magazines or overheard on the bus, it’s all grist to our mill. And sometimes we will hold forth on the basis of no inspiration at all beyond what happens to occur to us.

Read Lauryn Oates

Apr 26th, 2012 5:32 pm | By

Do be sure to read Lauryn Oates’s new article at ur-B&W.

Here’s how it begins:

Foreign Policy has a superb series out now called The Sex Issue. In their own words, here is what it’s about:

When U.S. magazines devote special issues to sex, they are usually of the celebratory variety (see: Esquire, April 2012 edition; Cosmopolitan, every month). Suffice it to say that is not what we had in mind with Foreign Policy’s first-ever Sex Issue, which is dedicated instead to the consideration of how and why sex — in all the various meanings of the word — matters in shaping the world’s politics. Why? In Foreign Policy, the magazine and the subject, sex is too often the missing part of the equation — the part that the policymakers and journalists talk about with each other, but not with their audiences. And what’s the result? Women missing from peace talks and parliaments, sexual abuse and exploitation institutionalized and legalized in too many places on the planet, and a U.S. policy that, whether intentionally or not, all too frequently works to shore up the abusers and perpetuate the marginalization of half of humanity. Women’s bodies are the world’s battleground, the contested terrain on which politics is played out. We can keep ignoring it. For this one issue, we decided not to.

The articles’ criticisms are aimed squarely on the worst offenders in the oppression of women, such as Iran and Saudi Arabia, as well as commenting on discriminatory practices elsewhere such as sex-selective abortion in India.

An article by Egyptian-American journalist Mona Eltahawy called “Why Do They Hate Us” co-opts the question so often said to be asked by Americans, and asks it as a woman. Eltahawy is particularly forceful in her indictment of the misogyny so prevalent in the Middle East:

Name me an Arab country, and I’ll recite a litany of abuses fueled by a toxic mix of culture and religion that few seem willing or able to disentangle lest they blaspheme or offend. When more than 90 percent of ever-married women in Egypt — including my mother and all but one of her six sisters — have had their genitals cut in the name of modesty, then surely we must all blaspheme. When Egyptian women are subjected to humiliating “virginity tests” merely for speaking out, it’s no time for silence. When an article in the Egyptian criminal code says that if a woman has been beaten by her husband “with good intentions” no punitive damages can be obtained, then to hell with political correctness. And what, pray tell, are “good intentions”? They are legally deemed to include any beating that is “not severe” or “directed at the face.” What all this means is that when it comes to the status of women in the Middle East, it’s not better than you think. It’s much, much worse.

Eltahawy says not a word of a lie. She tells it like it is, merely describing practices and actions on the part of men towards women that are violent and depraved. When you read such descriptions, free of the sugarcoating so often slathered on by those who squirm at the very idea of criticizing other cultures, you realize just how rare it is to hear the devastating truth.

Read on.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

The air is full of feathers

Apr 26th, 2012 4:34 pm | By

I can never catch up. You know how that goes.

And I can even less catch up right now because I read one post and then I have to read posts linked in trackbacks and before you know it the afternoon is gone. This will not do! I could have built a cathedral in the time.

I read this self-confessed rant about Carrier on Ehrman (and, somewhat mystifyingly, also on PZ on Carrier on Ehrman). I read Ehrman on Carrier on Ehrman. I’m going to read Vridar on all three and our friend Eric on all three.

I’ll tell you the truth: I’m not reading them to get a better understanding of the scholarship on Jesus. I’m reading them because there’s so much in them that’s funny. That’s also why I’m sharing them with you. Don’t bother with them if you’re interested in Jesus studies, but do if you want a laugh.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

A duty to raise a new generation of bigots

Apr 26th, 2012 11:49 am | By

Simply revolting.

The Roman Catholic church has written to every state-funded Catholic secondary school in England and Wales asking them to encourage pupils to sign a petition against gay marriage…The Catholic Education Service, which acts for Catholic bishops in England and Wales, contacted 385 secondary schools to highlight a letter read in parish churches last month, in which two archbishops told worshippers that Catholics have a “duty to do all we can to ensure that the true meaning of marriage is not lost for future generations”.

The CES also asked schools to draw pupils’ attention to the petition being organised by the Coalition for Marriage, a Christian campaign which has attracted more than 466,000 signatures to date.

This is in state schools, remember. Paid for by tax payers. Not private, church schools, paid for by people who attend the churches and want to pay for church schools, but public, state schools, paid for by people in general, including non-believers, Muslims, Hindus, Protestants, Catholics who prefer secular education - the large majority, in fact. State schools are being encouraged by a church to teach churchy bigotry and deprivation of rights.

A pupil at St Philomena’s Catholic high school for girls in Carshalton, in the south London borough of Sutton, told the website that children aged 11 to 18 had been encouraged to sign the anti-equality pledge by their headteacher.

She said: “In our assembly for the whole sixth form you could feel people bristling as she explained parts of the letter and encouraged us to sign the petition. It was just a really outdated, misjudged and heavily biased presentation.”

She said some pupils had responded by buying Gay Pride badges to pin to their uniforms. “There are several people in my year who aren’t heterosexual – myself included – and I for one was appalled and actually disgusted by what they were encouraging,” she said. “After all, that’s discrimination they were urging impressionable people to engage in, which is unacceptable.”

Well that’s my kind of pupil. Kids today – they’re so impressive!

A CES spokeswoman said: “We said that schools might like to consider using this [letter] in assemblies or in class teaching. We said people might want to consider asking pupils and parents if they might want to sign the petition. It’s really important that no school discriminates against any member of the school community.

“Schools with a religious character are allowed to teach sex and relationships – and conduct assemblies – in accordance with the religious views of the school. The Catholic view of marriage is not a political view; it’s a religious view.”

Oh you cowardly smoke-blowing shit. ”Might like to consider.” “Might want to consider asking if they might want to.” And then pretending to care about discrimination! And talking about “any member of the school community” as if using the correct formula nullifies the teaching of bigotry and deprivation of rights. And then the stinking gall of saying the Catholic view of marriage is not a political view. The hell it’s not! It’s all about power and control. The CES spokeswoman, being a woman, is a damn fool if she can’t see that. Her male bosses are just evil.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Just what the schools need

Apr 26th, 2012 10:15 am | By

The Washington Post is slobbering all over an evangelist called Joel Osteen. He’s visiting Washington and thrilling the fans, we’re told.

Well, maybe, but I am told he is also visiting a public elementary school today. Why?

As my informant put it:

Fewer than 20% of these students read at grade level.  Fewer than 13% are grade level in science.  Just 16% are doing grade-level maths.  And the best the school and local government can do is bring in a megapastor who espouses prosperity gospel and anti-evolutionism to read to these poorly-taught students.



And JT reports new and worse stuff.

a parent returning a library book noticed books stacked up for giveaways in the school library at Amidon-Bowen Elementary.  The books were Gifts from the Heart, which says that it is dedicated “To a strong and mighty generation who will develop and use their gifts to inspire others, and be ushered into the greater things of Christ.”  The books are reportedly to be given away.

JT has pics of the book; go check them out.

I know also that the ACLU has emailed the school and that the school is, to use their words, “looking into it.”  Let’s give them a little extra incentive.

It is the dream of every lawbreaker to operate in the dark.  Please take a moment to assure Mr. Ham that there are lots of eyes watching.

Chancellor Kaya Henderson

1200 First Street, NE Washington, DC 20002

Telephone: (202) 442-5885            (202) 442-5885

Fax: (202) 442-5026

To e-mail:

Amidon-Bowen Vice Principal Dwayne Ham

401 I St. SW Washington, DC 20024.

Phone: 724-4867 Fax: 724-4868

Drop them a line or give them a tinkle on the phone. They’d love to hear from you.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

They should follow it without any argument

Apr 25th, 2012 5:29 pm | By

It’s a small (comparatively) sect in India that insists on mutilating girls’ genitalia.

The Bohra brand of Islam is followed by 1.2 million people worldwide and is a sect of Shia Islam that originated in Yemen.

While the sect bars other Muslims from its mosques, it sees itself as more liberal, treating men and women equally in matters of education and marriage.

But in matters of slicing off major chunks of the genitals with a razor blade, not so much.

For generations, few women in the tightly-knit community have spoken out in opposition, fearing that to air their grievances would be seen as an act of revolt frowned upon by their elders.

Right. Obviously. This was something imposed on them, and they were cowed into submission. We know. This is what we object to. (And by “we” I mean those of us who do, which fortunately now includes women in the tightly-knit community.)

The anti-Khatna movement gained momentum after Tasneem, a Bohra woman who goes by one name, posted an online petition at the social action platform in November last year.

She requested their religious leader, the 101-year-old Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin, ban female genital mutilation, the consequences of which afflict 140 million women worldwide according to the World Health Organisation.

Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin is the 52nd Dai-al Mutalaq (absolute missionary) of the community and has sole authority to decide on all spiritual and temporal matters.

A dictator, in other words – only worse than a secular dictator, because wrapped in the robes of “god says I get to tell you what to do.”

Every member of the sect takes an oath of allegiance to the leader, who lives in western city of Mumbai.

And they’re all born into it, and clearly refusal to take the oath is not an option.

When contacted by AFP, Burhanuddin’s spokesman, Qureshi Raghib, ruled out any change and said he had no interest in talking about the issue.

“I have heard about the online campaign but Bohra women should understand that our religion advocates the procedure and they should follow it without any argument,” he said.

And there you go – that’s why theocracy is a shit system.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Failure to comprehend

Apr 25th, 2012 4:51 pm | By

I don’t understand.

Eleven years ago, Farida Bano was circumcised had her genitals mutilated by an aunt on a bunk bed in her family home at the end of her 10th birthday party.

The mutilation occurred not in Africa, where the practice is most prevalent, but in India where a small Muslim sub-sect known as the Dawoodi Bohra continues to believe that the removal of the clitoris is the will of God.

I don’t understand, because if they think God wants the clitoris removed, how do they explain God’s putting it there in the first place?

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

The spirit of Tahrir

Apr 25th, 2012 4:02 pm | By

Update: April 27: It may be that this is a fake. There are murmurs to that effect but I haven’t found anything authoritative yet. I’ll update if I do.

Be careful before you read this. Don’t be drinking wine or coffee or lemonade while you read. Put down anything fragile. Close the windows. If you’re at work, brace yourself, so that no flurries of obscenity burst out before you can stop them.

Egypt’s Islamist-dominated parliament is considering two new laws

…one that would legalize the marriage of girls starting from the age of 14 and the other that permits a husband to have sex with his dead wife within the six hours following her death.

Don’t look at me. I did warn you.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Nicer, sweeter, less outspoken

Apr 25th, 2012 12:06 pm | By

Anna Quindlen was on Fresh Air yesterday, and she said something I’ve been pondering a good deal lately.

As a little girl, Anna Quindlen wasn’t afraid of a whole lot. She frequently got into trouble and occasionally shot off her mouth. But as she grew older, the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer became what she calls a “girl imitation.”

“[I became] nicer, sweeter, less outspoken [and] less combative,” she tells Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross. “All of the qualities that you need to be a good opinion columnist tend to be qualities that aren’t valued in women. And I think that was a bit of a challenge for me when I became an op-ed columnist [for The New York Times] and has been a challenge for many of us who do that as a living.”

I think this is related to the whole “women in atheism” question…and the misogyny in atheism question, too.

Atheism by its nature is “combative” – at least, active or outspoken or explicit or “movement” atheism is. Movement atheism is naturally combative. This could be a big part of the reason it took the movement so god damn long to realize it was forgetting to invite women to its parties. Women aren’t seen as combative.  All of the qualities that you need to be a good movement atheist tend to be qualities that aren’t valued in women. Implicit stereotypes probably made women as a category seem like the wrong kind of people to invite to the parties because women are too nice and sweet to combat god, not outspoken and combative enough to pick fights with god. That could be why male atheists* think of atheism as a boys’ club and something that women will wreck if they’re allowed into it, because they’ll put up curtains and forbid swearing and try to sign a peace treaty with god.

*Those who do

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

“A selective fear of Islamists”

Apr 24th, 2012 5:58 pm | By

Oh the stupid…It just gets worse.

Samia Errazzouki also hated Eltahawy’s article. And she gave us this gem of wisdom as part of her argument:

Eltahawy  points to “hate” as the source and cause of the injustices committed against Arab women. She scapegoats the rise of the Islamists, but Maya Mikdashi debunked that argument a couple months ago:

“Gender equality and justice should be a focus of progressive politics no matter who is in power. A selective fear of Islamists when it comes to women’s and LGBTQ rights has more to do with Islamophobia than a genuine concern with gender justice. Unfortunately, Islamists do not have an exclusive license to practice patriarchy and gender discrimination/oppression in the region. The secular state has been doing it fairly adequately for the last half a century.”

You have got to be kidding.

Does “the secular state” stone women to death? Does it imprison or stone rape victims while letting their rapists go free and unstoned? Does it force women to wear a bandage over their head and neck on pain of whipping or a heavy fine? Does it arrest them for driving a car? Does it throw acid on girls on their way to school?

Is “the secular state” really on a par with Islamists? Is it really much of a muchness whether you live in Afghanistan or France? Pakistan or Germany? Iran or Canada? Algeria or the US? Somalia or Sweden?

Give me a fucking break.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

So comrades come rally

Apr 24th, 2012 5:34 pm | By

I’m going to look some more at Nahed Eltantawy’s anger at Mona Eltahawy’s article about misogyny in the Middle East, because there’s something really sinister about it.

I refuse to be lumped into this monolithic group of oppressed, abused and hated victims. Arab women’s problems are not the same across the board. Even within one country like Egypt, what I see as a problem, might not be the most pressing issue for the woman next door. So, I refuse to have Eltahawy talk on my behalf as if she is the expert who can accurately identify my plight.

It’s as if she thinks Eltahawy is doing something bad to her…is in fact oppressing her and abusing her and making her a victim. But why? Eltahawy is angry about things that are done to women in Egypt and Saudi Arabia as well as elsewhere in the Middle East. She doesn’t talk on Eltantawy’s behalf; she doesn’t claim to identify her plight; she describes abuses of women’s rights. Why does that make Eltantawy so angry? What does she want instead? Silence on the subject? Why would she want that? Silence on oppression and abuse is easy to have, but what good does it do? Silence on oppression and abuse allow the oppression and abuse to go on happening. We know what that’s like; we see that happening all the time; we see the aftermath; we think it’s terrible, we feel shame and horror, we say it must never happen again.

The people of Sarajevo got plenty of silence on oppression and abuse for a long time. The people of Rwanda got silence and inaction when they could have used something else. The abused imprisoned children and women in Ireland got luxurious, lavish amounts of silence on oppression and abuse for decade after decade, and it wasn’t what they wanted – they wanted noise and attention and an end to the oppression and abuse.

What is this idiotic and callous idea that reporting human rights violations is an insult to the potential victims? Where did this come from? It seems to be a confused version of anti-colonialism, but when the confusion is so deep that it sees Mona Eltahawy as Othering Egyptian women – well things have gone wrong.

Everything, from virginity tests, to sexual deprivation, female genital mutilation, sexual harassment and child marriage, is included in this article to produce a column that will surely be welcomed by many Western feminists and anti-Islamists, who for years have been telling us that Muslim women are weak, oppressed victims of misogyny and rigid Islamic rules that force them to hide behind their veils.

That, when you look at it closely, is a revolting thing to say. We “Western feminists” welcome news of finger-rape, FGM, and child marriage? The hell we do! We don’t welcome it; we pay attention to it. We should pay attention to it. Everyone should. Internationalism is a good thing. Human rights are a good thing. Finger rape and FGM and child marriage are not good things.

We don’t think Muslim women are “weak” any more than we think the Tutsis are weak, Irish women and children are weak, Iranian gays are weak, and so on. If someone has a gun to my head, it makes no difference how strong I am.

We really need to resist this hateful idea that human rights are purely local and that everyone should ignore any abuses that happen beyond their borders. Eltantawy probably didn’t mean to suggest that, but she did. She needs to think harder about the subject.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

You gonna believe Mona Eltahawy or the grand mufti?

Apr 24th, 2012 12:53 pm | By

Nahed Eltantawy responds to Mona Eltahawy’s article on woman-hating in the Middle East. She hates it.

I felt deeply offended and insulted by Mona Eltahawy’s latest article in Foreign Policy, titled Why Do They Hate Us?   I follow Eltahawy’s columns quite regularly and I accept many of her arguments, even if I do not agree with her views on Islam and veiling. But for her to claim that “they” hate Arab women is in my view complete nonsense…Everything, from virginity tests, to sexual deprivation, female genital mutilation, sexual harassment and child marriage, is included in this article to produce a column that will surely be welcomed by many Western feminists and anti-Islamists, who for years have been telling us that Muslim women are weak, oppressed victims of misogyny and rigid Islamic rules that force them to hide behind their veils.

Meaning what? We shouldn’t worry about women stoned to death, girls taken out of school and forced into marriage, girls who are held down while their genitals are sliced off, women whipped for not wearing a burqa? We should just say “that’s their culture, it’s none of our business” and go on our way rejoicing? We should be insular and selfish and indifferent?

But for many Arab women (I say many based on the negative reaction Eltahawy’s column has already stirred), this column is offensive and is nothing but a combination of old cultural practices and undemocratic government actions that are described in a way to represent women as the Oriental Other, weak, helpless and submissive, oppressed by Islam and the Muslim male, this ugly, barbaric monster.

Ah yes, naughty Orientalist Mona Eltahawy, representing Arab women as the Other. How does that work, exactly?

…some of the evidence Eltahawy relies on, such as virginity tests, criminal codes, etc are problems of undemocratic governing and have nothing to do with hate of women. These are problems that also impact men. There are numerous accounts of police brutality in Egypt, where men have been beaten, sexually abused or beaten to death. Have we forgotten about Khaled Said, the young Alexandrian, whose brutal death sparked the Jan25 Revolution? Or how about Essam Atta, the young man who was tortured to death in prison? Why do we always have to focus on violence against women?

“Virginity tests” in which cops shove fingers up women have nothing to do with hate of women? Really? As for that final question – words fail me.

I find Eltahawy’s discussion of sexual harassment also problematic. Eltahawy, very candidly and on more than one occasion, has described in detail her ordeal with Egyptian riot police back in November 2011. She explained how she was groped everywhere by a number of police officers while in Cairo. Yet in this Foreign Policy column, she adds a new detail; she informs her audience that she was groped earlier that day by a fellow protester in Tahrir Square! But while Eltahawy details her groping ordeal, she fails to mention the heroic Egyptian women and men who are fighting this epidemic. There is no denial that sexual harassment is a disgusting and sick problem in Egypt that needs to be eradicated. Yet, there’s also no denial that there are gutsy women who are already engaged in a battle against this epidemic.

Boy, that’s a devastating rejoinder. Yes, sexual harassment is a disgusting and sick problem in Egypt, but somehow Mona is naughty for saying so. Why?
Meanwhile, in woman-loving Saudi Arabia, the grand mufti says girls are ready for marriage at age ten. Yes, ten.

A girl is ready to marry at 10 or 12 years of age according to Islam, London-based Al Hayat reported Sheikh Abdul-Aziz Al Sheikh as saying, adding that Islamic law is not repressive to women.
“Those who call for raising the age of marriage to 25 are absolutely mistaken,”Al Sheikh said in a lecture at the faculty of Imam Mohamed bin Saud Islamic University in Riyadh.
He added: “Our mothers and grandmothers got married when they were barely 12. Good upbringing makes a girl ready to perform all marital duties at that age.”

Oh yeah? Can good upbringing make her wide enough to bear children without getting a fistula? No, it can’t, so enormous numbers of women have ruined lives because they leak piss or shit or both and everybody shuns them.

And then there’s the little matter of education, and being able to choose something to do with her life other than or in addition to domestic work. “Good upbringing” may make it possible for her to do all the housework at age ten, but it doesn’t make it desirable.
And then there’s the fact that few ten-year-old girls want to have sex, especially with grown men.
But the grand mufti’s indifference to the well-being and flourishing of girls and women has nothing to do with hatred – oh heavens no. It would be Orientalist to say that.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

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How did that get there?!

Apr 24th, 2012 12:09 pm | By

There’s a new group in Tunisia, Equality and Parity, that is protesting the wearing of the niqab.

Equality and Parity promised that they will plan manifestations and sit-ins if women’s rights are violated in Tunisia. The group lobbies against denigrating women’s representation in decision-making – whether it be in the political, social, cultural, or economic sphere. It also promotes the full citizenship of women and total eradication of gender discrimination.

It put together a rather cryptic video that looks like a campaign for the niqab but is apparently intended as a campaign against it. Maybe it just seems cryptic to me because I’m not familiar with Tunisian advertising.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Posted in Notes and Comment Blog
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Reportedly offended by

Apr 24th, 2012 11:22 am | By


A court in Egypt has upheld the three-month prison sentence given to the leading comic actor, Adel Imam, for insulting Islam in his films and plays.

Is that an accurate translation? Is that really what the charge is? “Insulting” Islam? How do you “insult” an abstraction? In English, at least, you don’t. You don’t “insult” capitalism or advertising or libertarianism or computer programming or socialism. You can only insult people. The word implies reception and reaction, which imply consciousness, and fairly elaborate consciousness at that. You can only insult something with a mind. Insult requires Theory of Mind.

The case brought against Imam by Asran Mansour, a lawyer with ties to Islamist groups, accused the actor of frequently mocking the authorities and politicians in his films and plays, and offending Islam and its symbols.

Imam’s movies regularly top the Egyptian box office and the types of roles he plays have varied enormously across his career.

Mr Mansour was reportedly offended by the film Al-Irhabi (The Terrorist), in which Imam plays a radical Islamist; the play Al-Zaeem (The Leader), a comedy satirising Middle Eastern autocrats; and the film Morgan Ahmed Morgan, which sees a rich businessman stand for parliament.

Egypt must have an incredibly flawed legal system, for such a case to make sense. One, why should the courts care what Mr Mansour was “offended” by; two, actors in movies are not necessarily responsible for the content of the movies anyway. Three, fuck off.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Posted in Notes and Comment Blog
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Poke the hatred in its eye

Apr 23rd, 2012 5:04 pm | By

Mona Eltahawy pulls no punches in her Foreign Policy article on the hatred of women in the Middle East. She’s pissed, man.

I could find you a host of crackpots sounding off on Woman the Insatiable Temptress, but I’m staying mainstream with  Qaradawi, who commands a huge audience on and off the satellite channels. Although he says female genital mutilation (which he calls “circumcision,” a common euphemism that tries to put the practice on a par with male circumcision) is not “obligatory,” you will also find this priceless observation in one of his books: “I personally support this under the current circumstances in the modern world. Anyone who thinks that circumcision is the best way to protect his daughters should do it,” he wrote, adding, “The moderate opinion is in favor of practicing circumcision to reduce temptation.”

Notice that it’s the man who gets to decide; notice that he gets to decide for his daughters; notice that the daughters have no say; notice that this reduction of “temptation” is the elimination of sexual arousal; ponder the apparent lack of need to reduce male “temptation” by a similar form of amputation.

Just as regime-appointed clerics lull the poor across the region with promises of justice — and nubile virgins — in the next world rather than a reckoning with the corruption and nepotism of the dictator in this life, so women are silenced by a deadly combination of men who hate them while also claiming to have God firmly on their side.

Exactly. The religion makes it all ok, because after all, it’s religion – don’t look at me, it’s God who made the rules.

What hope can there be for women in the new Egyptian parliament, dominated as it is by men stuck in the seventh century? A quarter of those parliamentary seats are now held by Salafis, who believe that mimicking the original ways of the Prophet Mohammed is an appropriate prescription for modern life. Last fall, when fielding female candidates, Egypt’s Salafi Nour Party ran a flower in place of each woman’s face. Women are not to be seen or heard — even their voices are a temptation — so there they are in the Egyptian parliament, covered from head to toe in black and never uttering a word.

That I didn’t know. It’s…pathetic.


First we stop pretending. Call out the hate for what it is. Resist cultural relativism and know that even in countries undergoing revolutions and uprisings, women will remain the cheapest bargaining chips. You — the outside world — will be told that it’s our “culture” and “religion” to do X, Y, or Z to women. Understand that whoever deemed it as such was never a woman. The Arab uprisings may have been sparked by an Arab man — Mohamed Bouazizi, the Tunisian street vendor who set himself on fire in desperation — but they will be finished by Arab women.

We are more than our headscarves and our hymens. Listen to those of us fighting. Amplify the voices of the region and poke the hatred in its eye. There was a time when being an Islamist was the most vulnerable political position in Egypt and Tunisia. Understand that now it very well might be Woman. As it always has been.



(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Posted in Notes and Comment Blog
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What you need to know

Apr 23rd, 2012 4:29 pm | By

A reader sent me a link to this Dear Daughter letter.

Dear daughter -

You should know that you are hated.

It’s true; she needs to know that.

There is nothing worse than being a girl. I’m not saying this as a former girl- I quite liked being a girl. I’m saying this from the POV of the entire rest of the world. There was a lovely feminist TED talk – A Call To Men – where a man discussed his conversation with a twelve year old boy, and the boy said he would rather die than be called a girl. And the man thought, Good Lord, how do these boys view girls, if being compared to them is the worst thing in the world?  

I watched that talk – it’s very good – and actually what the boy said is that it would destroy him to be called a girl. That’s even worse, in a way. It’s not at all surprising though. I already know that’s what boys and men think, unless they’re consciously feminist. I see and hear it all the time. I have a corrupt taste for shows on the Discover channel about people doing backbreaking dangerous work in the worst possible conditions, like fishing the Bering Sea while huge waves crash over the deck every few minutes, so I see lots of “You do that like a girrrrrl” followed by loud jeering laughter. But then I heard the same thing when I was a laborer for the parks department. It’s familiar. All-male workplaces are awash in contempt for women.

Intelligent design? Don’t make me laugh.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Posted in Notes and Comment Blog

Delusions of choice

Apr 23rd, 2012 12:05 pm | By

And now I’ll spell out exactly why I think the Collective Response is so wrong and bad.

The hijab is a statement of female subordination, and it’s also a statement of loyalty or obedience to a ferociously misogynist and coercive religion. Some people are “offended” to be told that. It doesn’t follow that it’s not true.

Women who wear the hijab without being forced are making a mistake, just as nuns are making a mistake in being nuns. Both sets of women are endorsing a religion that systematically and explicitly bars them from leadership positions in the religion and declares them subordinate and inferior overall. That’s a mistake. It’s not “racist” to say that.

The Collective Response claims that wearing the hijab is a matter of choice.

What we do find deeply problematic, however, is the questioning of women’s choice to wear the niqab and the presumption that this decision is rooted in a “false consciousness.”

To us, it is deeply troubling to be patronized by a person who insists the hijab is never a choice made of free will.

Note that in the first mention they say “niqab” – which takes their wrongness to a whole new level. They said in a comment that this was a slip of the tongue (some slip!) but they decided to leave it “in hopes of sparking a multilayered discussion that engages understandings of the hijab as well as the niqab.” This just underlines their fundamental frivolity and callousness. Yes let’s also spark a multilayered discussion that engages understandings of stoning to death and girls married off at age 9 and girls’ genitalia carved up like a roasted duck and girls and women murdered for saying No. Let’s treat it all as a “site” for “multilayered discussion” of “intersectionality” and perhaps another publication in The Journal of Pious Horseshit. Yes let’s have a fun detached multilayered chat about women wearing cloth bags over their heads with only a tiny slit in front of the eyes.

Moving on…They find it problematic that Wilde-Blavatsky questions women’s “choice” to wear the niqab and the hijab. Really? It’s clear from their use of jargon that they consider themselves highly sophisticated, but what is sophisticated about taking the notion of choice and free will as transparent and unproblematic? What do they think they mean? How would it be possible to make a free choice to wear the hijab? Free how, free in what sense? Free of influence of any kind?

The idea is ridiculous. We don’t do anything social that way. We certainly don’t wear clothes free of influence – our “choices” are shaped by what’s available and by what’s “normal” – no matter what choices we make, they’re shaped by constraints of that kind. If we “choose” to wear a leopard-pattern loincloth, that choice is shaped by various influences just as a choice to wear jeans and a sweatshirt is – and just as a choice to wear the hijab is.

And the hijab is what it is and not something else. It’s not a baseball cap or a scrunchie. It’s not secular. It has the meaning it has, and there is no “choice” that women can make that alters that fact. It’s a religious garment, with an extensive history of coercion and even violence – a lot of violence – that can’t be erased just by calling it a choice. Imagine a Jew in Amsterdam or Paris in 1946 making a “choice” to wear a yellow star. No “choice” could have erased the meaning of the yellow star. No “choice” can erase the meaning of the hijab now.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

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A note was left

Apr 23rd, 2012 11:13 am | By

To expand on one part of the Adele Wilde-Blavatsky and the Collective Response issue…

Wilde-Blavatsky said at the beginning of her article

Last month, an American-born Iraqi woman, Shaima Alawadi, was viciously murdered in the United States. According to reports, her daughter stated that a racist note was left outside the family home before the attack. Alawadi’s death came shortly after another allegedly racially-motivated murder, that of African-American man Trayvon Martin.

The Collective Response treated that account of the murder of Alawi as true. But is it? I wanted to explore that question yesterday but I didn’t have time, and overnight BenSix provided a helpful link in a comment.

The story sounded wrong to me from the outset – if it were a racist attack, why would it single out one particular woman inside a house? That’s not how racist attacks usually go – unless the one particular person is an activist or organizer or the like. Racist attacks on random people to “send a message” target people on the street or everyone in a house that is torched or fire-bombed. Going into a house to kill one person sounds like a very odd kind of racist attack.

And it turns out there are reasons to think that’s not what it was.

But records obtained by NBCSanDiego revealed that Alawadi was having problems with her husband and daughter. Investigators said Alawadi was planning to divorce her husband and move to Texas.

The warrants also show that the victim’s daughter Fatima was  upset about the family’s plan to have her marry one of her cousins. Police found a text message on the teenage daughter’s cell phone, at the time she was being  interviewed by detectives. The text read: “The detective will find  out. Tell him ‘[can't] talk’.”

Records also show a possible suspect was near the house on  the day of the crime. A neighbor gave police a description of a possible suspect  spotted running from the crime scene.

The suspect is described as a “darker skinned boy in his late  teens or early 20s … with a skinny build, carrying a donut shaped cardboard  box.” He was seen at 10:30 a.m., about 45 minutes before Alawadi’s daughter called 911.

Records reveal that on Nov. 3 last year, Fatima and  21-year-old Rawnaq Yacub were contacted by police for possibly having sex in a parked car. Officers contacted Alawadii, who went to the incident location.  Alwadi was driving her daughter away from the area when Fatima said “I love you  mom,” then jumped out of the car while it was moving at 35 mph.

Fatima was transported to the hospital with multiple  injuries, including a possible broken arm, according to police. The 17-year-old  told paramedics and hospital staff that she was being forced to marry her cousin and did not want to do so, which is why she jumped out of the car. Fatima  refused to talk to police at the hospital, according to the documents.

Since the March 21 incident, police have asked a judge for  permission to search the car of Alawadi’s husband, Kassim Alhimidi.

So, possibly nothing like the Trayvon Martin case at all. Possibly not in any sense a racist attack.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Posted in Notes and Comment Blog

You know what you can do with your collective response

Apr 22nd, 2012 5:04 pm | By

Maryam points out, in agreement with Adele Wilde-Blavatsky, that the hoodie and the hijab are not the same. Wilde-Blavatsky published an article arguing that on the website The Feminist Wire on April 13.

What I take issue with here is the equating of the hoodie and the hijab as sources of ethnic identity and pride. The hijab, which is discriminatory and rooted in men’s desire to control women’s appearance and sexuality, is not a choice for the majority of women who wear it. The hoodie, on the other hand, is a choice for everyone who wears it. The history and origin of these two items of clothing and what they represent could not be more different; like comparing the crippling footbindings of Chinese women with a `Made in China’ Nike trainer.

This is not neo-colonialism either. Muslim feminists have spoken out against the burqa and hijab, and even supported the French ban in schools. Fadela Amara explained her support for France’s ban:

The veil is the visible symbol of the subjugation of women, and therefore has no place in the mixed, secular spaces of France’s public school system.

When some feminists began defending the headscarf on the grounds of “tradition”, Amara vehemently disagreed:

They define liberty and equality according to what  colour your skin is. They won’t denounce forced marriages or female genital mutilation, because, they  say, it’s tradition. It’s nothing more than neocolonialism. It’s not tradition, it’s archaic. French feminists are totally contradictory. When Algerian women fought against wearing the headscarf in Algeria, French feminists supported them. But when it’s some young girl in a French suburb school, they don’t.

Shock-horror – she actually said the hijab is rooted in men’s desire to control women’s appearance and sexuality. She actually quoted Fadela Amara saying it is the visible symbol of the subjugation of women. This must not be! So a group of women signed a Collective Response (uh oh – the very name makes me turn pale with nausea) to explain how terribly wrong it is to say that the hijab is a symbol of the subjugation of women. It’s badly-written, and jargony, and stupid, and wrong.

An article recently published on The Feminist Wire’s website and circulated via its facebook page has prompted this note. In her article, “To Be Anti-Racist Is To Be Feminist: The Hoodie and the Hijab Are Not Equals,” Adele Wilde-Blavatsky attempts to address the important question of what it means to be an anti-racist feminist in the 21st century. Her article, however, serves to assert white feminist privilege and power by producing a reductive understanding of racial and gendered violence and by denying Muslim women their agency.

In her article, Wilde-Blavatsky takes “issue with … the equating of the hoodie and the hijab as sources of ethnic identity.” Oblivious to the important cross-racial and cross-ethnic connections and solidarities made in light of the tragic murders of Trayvon Martin and Shaima Alawadi, the author contends that the hoodie and the hijab cannot be compared because “the history and origin of these two items of clothing and what they represent could not be more different.” For her, Trayvon Martin’s hoodie signifies a history of racism, whereas Shaima Alawadi’s hijab signifies only male domination and female oppression. Revealing her own biases, Wilde-Blavatsky writes, “The hijab, which is discriminatory and rooted in men’s desire to control women’s appearance and sexuality, is not a choice for the majority of women who wear it. The hoodie, on the other hand, is a choice for everyone who wears it” (emphasis in original).

And that’s all they say about that. They don’t say why  Wilde-Blavatsky is wrong to say that the hoodie signifies a history of racism while the hijab signifies male domination and female oppression. It would have been helpful if they had said why, because frankly I have no idea why they think that. How would the hijab not be such a signifier when women get whipped, beaten, fined, imprisoned, and sometimes killed for failing or refusing to wear it? Does anybody anywhere get whipped or killed for refusing to wear a hoodie? Does The Man force anyone to wear a hoodie?

And then what’s the crap about the important cross-racial and cross-ethnic connections and solidarities made in light of the tragic murders of Trayvon Martin and Shaima Alawadi? What is it that Wilde-Blavatsky is “oblivious” to? What does it have to do with her point? She’s certainly not arguing that women should be murdered for wearing a hijab, so what is it that she’s oblivious to? People can agree across racial and ethnic differences that no one should be killed for wearing the wrong kind of headgear, and Wilde-Blavatsky wrote nothing to interfere with that view. That claim looks to me like a meaningless piety rather than an argument.

To us, it is deeply troubling to be patronized by a person who insists the hijab is never a choice made of free will. But what is even more saddening is that such opinions are being propagated on a feminist site with a commitment to highlighting the consequences of the “ill-fated pursuit of wars abroad and the abandonment of a vision of social justice at home.” The consequences of such wars have included the demonization, incarceration, and oppression of Muslim men, women, and children at home and abroad.

Non sequitur follows non sequitur. It’s not patronizing to point out that the hijab is not always “a choice made of free will” – and W-B in fact didn’t say it’s never a free choice, so they’re being simply dishonest in saying she “insists the hijab is never a choice made of free will.”

As feminists deeply committed to challenging racism and Islamophobia and how it differentially impacts black and Muslim (and black Muslim) communities, we wish to open up a dialogue about how to build solidarities across complex histories of subjugation and survival. This space is precisely what is shut down in this article. In writing this letter, we emphasize that our concern is not solely with Adele Wilde-Blavatsky’s article but with the broader systemic issues revealed in the publication of a work that prevents us from challenging hierarchies of privilege and building solidarity.

Bullying nonsense. Nothing was “shut down” in the article; nothing prevents them from “challenging hierarchies of privilege and building solidarity.”

Maryam offers a much better statement.

We extend our full solidarity to Adele Wilde-Blavatsky for such a clear and rare analysis from feminists in Europe and North America, in which women’s resistance to the Muslim Right -including by resisting all forms of fundamentalist veiling – is made visible and honoured, rather than sacrificed on the altar of anti racism and anti imperialism’.

* Marieme Helie Lucas, sociologist, Algeria, founder and former international coordinator of the international solidarity network Women Living Under Muslim Laws ( wluml), coordinator Secularism Is A Women’s Issue

* Fatou Sow, Researcher, Senegal, international coordinator, Women Living Under Muslim Laws

* Maryam Namazie, Spokesperson, One Law for All and Equal Rights Now – Organisation against Women’s Discrimination in Iran, Iran/UK

* Karima Bennoune, Professor of Law, Rutgers University, U S A

* Khawar Mumtaz, Shirkat Gah, Pakistan




(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Posted in Notes and Comment Blog

It’s always priorities, isn’t it

Apr 22nd, 2012 4:01 pm | By

Ah the Catholic church in Ireland - always shameless, always brazen, always ignoring the harm it does to other people while demanding infinite respect for itself. This time it has its mitres in a knot because a broadcaster said it had fucked things up in Ireland. Yes, and?

The Communications Office of the Irish bishops has demanded a full apology and retraction from radio presenter Ray D’Arcy after he told listeners “the Catholic Church, in many ways, has fucked up this country”…

Catholic communications chief Martin Long has demanded that the station and presenter retract the “insulting” and “offensive” comment on air tomorrow.

Oh has he. Has he really. The Irish bishops who concealed child rape and transferred rapist priests instead of reporting them to the police, thus enabling them to go on raping. The Irish bishops at the head of an organization that for generations imprisoned women in laundries to do slave labor for decades – an organization that made those women raise their children for three years and then hand them over to the “mother superior” and sign an oath “never to attempt to see, interfere with or make any claim to the said child at any future time.” The Irish bishops at the head of an organization that imprisoned the children of parents with no money for the sake of the cash the state paid them; an organization that starved the children and tortured them emotionally and physically. Those Irish bishops.

How fucking dare they.

H/t Robin.

(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

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No life for girls

Apr 22nd, 2012 11:35 am | By

Bangladesh has one of the highest rates of child (read: girl) marriage in the world; 20% are married off before the age of 15.

This of course means they get pregnant young, and give birth young. This means they get fistulas. This ruins their lives. There are tens of thousands in that situation, as there are in Africa. (In Sudan for instance. In Niger and Kenya. In Nigeria.)

There are people who campaign against child marriage in Bangladesh.

“I do this work because I wanted to put a smile back on the face of the parents,” says Oli Ahmed. He grins as he says it.

Oli is a campaigner who goes around the slum where he lives in Dhaka standing up to his elders and telling them why they shouldn’t marry off their daughters so young.

He’s the same age as Poppy, just 12.

He’s 12!! 12. You’re a good human being, Oli.

“I used to know a girl who was like an older sister to me, but she was forced to get married and never came back.”

It made him very angry and sad…Oli approached Plan International which was already working in his slum in Dhaka.

He told them he wanted to set up a group led by children to try and stop the practice. He goes door to door with a group of friends persuading, scolding and hectoring parents.

One NGO worker says that since they started work, the number of child marriages in that area has dropped by as much as 50%.

“I feel very good that a girl’s life has been saved because of the work that I’ve done,” says Oli.

Now all we need is tens of thousands of 12-year-olds like Oli.


(This is a syndicated post. Read the original at FreeThoughtBlogs.)

Posted in Notes and Comment Blog