Of burkhas, veils, trade goods, and the future


I belong to Tribe.net which is a social networking site.  Pretty much any kind of tribe you might be interested in, up to and including sexual ones, are there (or used to be, anyway).

Given that I have a wide variety of interests, I belong to tribes about bellydance and several subdivisions of that such as Egyptian bellydance, American style, Turkish style, and of course my locally based tribes.  I also belong to handspinning tribes, gardening tribes, natural health tribes, and one post apocolyptic tribe.  This is the one I’m blogging about today.

One of the topics posted on Saturday which I replied to on Sunday, was titled Post Apocolyptic Trade Goods.  One of the posters brought up women as a trade good.  Several men replied joking about an appropriate price.  I replied because I was offended by that…my post was simple, to the point, and without hatred.  I of course got completely flamed, quite viciously, and was told to ‘go make me a sandwich, woman’ along with other more vile comments including accusing me of being a typical manipulative woman who is not capable of actually doing anything myself so I have to use my sex as a weapon.

I have as my avatar there, the same picture I have of myself on my blog.  That of course was also brought up as an issue.  I know that ignorance is bliss, but people really shouldn’t comment on stuff they don’t actually know anything about.  Comparing my colorful silk veil to a hijab, and making cartoon caricaturish comments about Islam while accusing me of being  a Muslim hypocrite who wears the veil yet accuses them of sexism doesn’t place them in a positive light in my view.  It only proves my point.

Here is my reply to them:

First of all, you are displaying your ignorance by comparing a silk veil, used in AMERICAN STYLE bellydance, to a hijab or to a burkha. A hijab being a traditional religious and cultural modesty artifact, and a burkha being a male imposed means of control and dehumanization.  I do happen to be a bellydancer.  I have MANY friends who are from the Middle East, and yes I DO speak some Arabic. The fact that women dance in the Middle East, which to the average American male is ‘stripper lite’ while in the Middle East it’s just a dance, and some women make money at it (and some use it as a front for other things), is typical of the misunderstanding. Women dance there as a rebellion against their culture.  They dance for themselves.  Just as those of us who truly fall in love with the artform here do.  We share our love with the audience if there is one, but we don’t do it for them.

I am well aware of what goes on in some parts of the Middle East.  That was exactly my point.  So are men just basically, secretly, waiting for TEOTWAWKI so they can go back to being chauvinistic jerks like most of the rest of the world?  To be ‘real men’?  Oh, you poor put upon men, that can’t just do and say whatever they want.  So oppressed.  That’s the feeling I get from many of the survivalists I know, and I have corresponded with.

Thousand, I am the very LAST person you should accuse of being a whiney manipulative woman trying to use her sex as a weapon or a reason not to do something.   My husband would laugh to hear you accuse me of using my sex.  I would never ask my husband or any other man to do something I am capable of doing myself, unless I was planning to pay him to do something I didn’t want to do myself.  So sure, I’ll make you a sandwich…on my own time…and you might want to think twice about eating it if you want to live to eat another, if you keep talking like that.  My, my…such sensitive men we have here…almost as though you are just as easily offended….

My point was, and is, that this is one of the things that I wonder and worry about — my ability to be in a place, and just be looked at as a person, with skills and knowledge to share, and be treated as an equal, is something I fear will be lost in a TSHTF situation.  I truly do fear this for women generally.  Equality as something closer to reality is something that seems to have been made possible only by cheap oil and lightning fast communication.  What will happen when those go away?

This is perhaps the crux of my post.  Sharon Astyk puts it much more elegantly than I ever could in her blog post Peak Oil, Gender, and Power what it is that I am talking about, and why I found it so offensive.

Women historically, have not been considered equal to men.  This is not opinion.  It is fact.   Sharon points out that “…Most of those weird, queasy moments that don’t quite fall into any category, but where some man makes a woman know that they are only safe because the man chooses it to be that way…”  I’ve been there.  While I was on duty, no less.

The thing is, that my avatar photo is kind of offensive to some in the ME community, and I chose it deliberately because of that.  I do see the double standards, the fact that women are supposedly on a pedestal but that the reality in many cases is that women are seen and treated as objects. It’s a controversial subject.  Although if you are a man you probably don’t even realize it, here in America sexism is alive and well.  However, over there it’s much more overt.  How do women maneuver successfully?  How can I learn from them?

I probably would not even realize the extent of sexism in the US today if I had not chosen a traditionally male profession as my first career.  I was a firefighter for 10 years.  Believe you me, sexism IS alive and well.  As is racism.  I got out of the business because I became so disillusioned with our ‘public servants’ who are not any such thing in many, if not most cases.

So.  As the depression worsens, what will happen to us as a society?  What will happen if the federal govt and its ‘protections’ for women and minorities are no longer enforced, due to either lack of money/staff or due to the breakup of the US?  What will happen to worker protections generally?  The prohibition against children working?

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3 responses

  1. I just found your blog and found this post and the implications to be especially important. As an American Palestinian (Christian) and female, the questions you pose occur to me a great deal. I do feel vulnerable in many ways, have been targeted in the sexist and racist tradition and see the future as a falling apart of any pretense that I could be equal to a man or a white woman or a dog.
    I believe that people will revert, but not all of them. You must of encountered some true ignoramuses on tribe.net, however I am not fooling myself here. I think that the vulnerable will be targeted openly and that there are enough animalistic freaks out there that it may seem like hordes coming after the weak. Solution? Don’t be weak. Buy weapons. Learn to use them and don’t hesitate. Learn other forms of self defense. That is the advise I give to women and try to follow myself. Easier said than done. But will be done over time by me. Are you doing anything like that?

  2. Thanks for your thoughtful response, Linda.

    Yes, I have grown up in a household where all members were expected to be familiar with, and competent in a variety of weapons as we ate what we hunted/foraged/gardened to a large extent.

    I hope you’re right about the ‘hordes’ being a minority; given my experience in the fire service I suspect that even supposedly even tempered and rational men are susceptible to the sudden surge of power that a SHTF situation will present here in the States.

    I have friends who are hard core survivalists. Me, not so much. I prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

    Historically speaking, the utter repression of women in Islam and Middle Eastern countries is relatively new, and is itself partly a result of European colonialism. The prudishness and hypocrisy of the West gave birth to the extremists we see now. Which I find very, very, sad. Men just didn’t look at women as merely sex objects to be traded before colonialists treated the women as merely titillating ‘trade goods’ (because they were savages, of course). Then of course, the value of women both increased and decreased, hence the sometimes schizophrenic views of women today. If they’re essentially dehumanized and valuable only for their virginity and what honor they can bestow on a family/tribe they don’t really need to be treated like the humans they are.

    I lately have begun to see why some women, especially converts, love the hijab and the power it gives them. They can maneuver in so many ways behind the scenes, and most times they do not end up having to take any responsibility for their actions (at least publicly).

  3. What you say about colonialism is true of many cultures subjected to colonialism as I am sure you know.
    As a Christian (I use that term loosely as I do not practice or belong to a church), I was still raised within an Islamic culture and my parents treated the girls far differently from the boys and of course had different expectations. The attitude therefore is not truly religious so much as cultural and deeply ingrained.
    Virginity, when I was young, was sold to the highest bidder through arranged marriages. I equated this with prostitution from a very young age. I feel fortunate to have escaped that fate. I suppose because my parents were not extremists and also had no legal recourse to force me into a marriage at all, I was able to grow up and chose my own life. The problem I see with the women I know, of all faiths who marry young is that they fail to grow up emotionally. From father to husband to son, never truly coming into their own as people.

    I sometimes see the hijab as something that can provide a sense of freedom and of privacy, even hinting at the sacredness of a womans body. Speaking to women that I know personally who wear the hijab, they don’t feel constrained or forced. What the racist mind cannot comprehend is that some women (at least in the West) choose to wear one out of religious conviction in much the same way as some wear a cross pendant, while others are forced by law and still others can’t imagine life without one.There is force, yes, but there is choice too in some cases and then you have culture.

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