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Veils vs. Lingerie
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A couple of interesting things on the net regarding feminism, women's rights, and clothing.

First Jeanne d'Arc's blog on what she describes as a misguided attempt to liberate Muslim women by removing their veils (via Electrolite).

Now, I seriously doubt that there are many, if any, feminists mistaking the symbol of the veil for the actual root problem: the gross human rights abuses inflicted upon many women in the Muslim world. Is there anyone who actually thinks that by getting rid of veils, women will suddenly be elevated to equality in places like Saudi Arabia?

Maybe, but I doubt it. These sound like straw men, or rather straw women, to me.

Next is Maureen Dowd's account of lingerie shopping in Riyadh, a surreal, but effective, op-ed on her encounter with the mutawwa (or morality police) in Saudi Arabia:

I felt drab, dressed in black to suit Saudi standards with a scarf over my hair, a long skirt, a sweater over a T-shirt and flats. An earlier outing with a pink skirt had caused my Ministry of Information minder to bark: "Get your abaya! They'll kill you!"

Now to me this isn't about cultural sensitivity, or trying to impose Western values in a non-Western country. It's about individual liberties.

Here's the ever-so-important distinction:

The goal should not be to abolish veils or abayas or burkas. The point is it should be her choice. No woman, anywhere, should be flogged because she's exposing her ankles. This isn't imposing Western standards. This is calling for basic individual liberty and gender equality. For everyone, everywhere.

I've honestly never understood the thinking that because of some arbitrary boundary, be it a physical border or a cultural one, people should be allowed to get a free pass on committing gross violations of basic human rights, with the excuse that "their culture deserves respect". Well no, their culture does not deserve respect if among its tenets women are treated like dogs.

Apply the same logical standard to a country like apartheid South Africa. Would it have been acceptable to say, "Gee, they treat blacks as if they are subhuman, but it's their culture, so everything's fine"? Of course not. And yet, why don't we apply the same level of outrage toward the treatment of women in many Middle Eastern countries as we would against blacks under apartheid? Is there a vicious double-standard at work here?

Is this:

or this:

or any of the horrors described in this:,8816,185647,00.html

acceptable under the excuse of mutual cultural respect?

Is it acceptable to treat people as subhuman based on their gender, but not their race?

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