Do you read Captain Awkward? You should, you know. Everyone in the world should read Captain Awkward. If everyone did that, the world would probably become a significantly better place in, like, a fortnight or so. People would be Using Their Words and respecting boundaries and communicating and getting rid of the Darth Vaders in their life and.. oh, it would be marvellous.
I read a thing in Captain Awkward the other day, where the good Captain observed the following in relation to a letter writer who was tired of having to explain their medical condition and dietary needs over dinner:
I think the world would be a better place if we stuck to one acceptable way of commenting on what is on a fellow adult’s plate. That way is “That looks delicious” + some variation of“Where did you get it/how did you make it/does it taste as good as it looks/smells/Is it like this other thing that is also delicious?“
The following are to be instituted immediately:
- Stop commenting on how much or how little someone eats.
- Stop commenting on what is on someone else’s plate
- Stop assigning food a moral value.
Like the Cap’n says, if we did those things then a whole shedload of things would be no longer problems, right there.
Something similar occurred to me today, when I came across this post over on Tumblr about some non-Muslim woman dressing up in latex hijab drag. As with just about every appropriation of Muslim women’s dress, this non-Muslim probably saw what she was doing as a statement on reclaiming sexual liberation in an edgy, different sort of way. Probably not as yet another instance of the same-old same-old, white non-Muslim women using words like ‘unveiled’ and playing with oh-so-exotic hijab fashion to make totally-not-racist-at-all statements. Because Muslim women apparently don’t have voices or keyboards of their own, and they definitely don’t have perfectly ordinary ranges of sexualities. From the post: (I’m barely containing the desire to post all of it and say READ EVERYTHING NOW, but i figure you can hop over there to do that. You should, btw)
i despise the voyeuristic gaze imposed … by non-Muslim, white western feminist eyes …
in the same way i despise photos of Muslim women in abayas shopping at victoria’s secret being circulated as somehow more revolutionary and awe inspiring than the rest
(cause Muslim women don’t need bras and panties too -_-)
all of this indirectly, and often times unintentionally, feeds into western entitlement
the idea that we have to prove how liberated we are in order to garner respect, even if it means divulging the parts of us we keep close for a variety of reasons
fundamentally, in my personal opinion, Muslim women who practice modesty (or dont) are in no way obliged to tell the dirty secrets of their lives in order for western non-Muslim women to look at them as liberated and therefore find common ground with them
and if that’s really the basis in which non-Muslims are going constructively engage with notions of liberation in regards to Muslim women
…then really, you need to critically examine why someone has to put their dirty sexual business in the streets in order to gain respect as a sexually liberated person
you need to constructively examine the distinct positionality and place of privilege a culture of sexual liberation is framed from, if the litmus test for being identified as worthy, of being identified as “liberated” relies on you outing yourself over and over again for validation by the liberated and privileged few, who all the while ignore the varying societal and cultural contexts which don’t make that a safe reality for many people, not just Muslim women.
…liberation, or being liberated, should not be contingent having no privacy, framing everything around the western gaze, putting yourself in danger- outing yourself to a larger majority that already suffers from socio-cultural amnesia when it comes to anything far outside the bounds of eurocentricism and western frameworks. prostration before a fucked up ideal isn’t and never should be a necessary condition of “liberation” in the first place
I think it’s time we proposed some new rules. Copying shamelessly from the Captain, I think the world would be a better place if we:
- stuck to one acceptable way of commenting on a person’s
hijabclothes. That way is “I really like that thing you’re wearing” + some variation of “That colour/style really suits you” and “Where did you get it?.
- Only commented on a person’s clothes in appropriate situations. With people who are receptive to having their clothes talked about. By us.
- Stopped commenting on how much or how little someone wears.
- Stopped appropriating clothing styles with specific meanings for another culture(s).
- Stopped assigning clothes a moral value or making assumptions about people’s morals based on what they are wearing.
Can we do that? Like, from right now, can we quit appropriating, quit assigning moral values to clothes, quit fetishising entire freakin’ religions and cultures, and if we have to comment on someone’s hijab, stick to something like “Oh, I like that scarf you’re wearing today, that colour really suits you”? Can we, like, do that now maybe?
- Debunking the ‘oppressed’ Muslim woman myth (vancouverobserver.com)
- Dublin drama celebrates veiled Muslim women (muslimireland.wordpress.com)
- oops, your jahiliyya is showing: exposing the convert party girl (woodturtle.wordpress.com)
- Islam, headscarves… and men (who need to see their way out) (thefatalfeminist.com)
YES YES YES! *jumps up and down* Captain Awkward is the best, and your version of her rules is perfect!
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I’m with Laura, and thank you, this is something I have struggled to explain to other feminists, when I for example argue against the French “burqa ban”.
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Excellent article. Hearing from actual women definitely paints a different picture than those offered by news/special interest groups. Thanks for sharing this!
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