The Women’s March was an event coordinated to “send a bold message to [the new American] government on their first day in office, and to the world that women’s rights are human rights”. Part of the agenda of the Women’s March was to show solidarity with minorities who, justifiably, are anxious about their place and their rights in Trump’s Neo-America. These kinds of peaceful protests are certainly signs of a healthy democracy, and the motivations for the march are, in my opinion, to be praised and commended. Having said this, there were a number of women at the march who saw fit to veil themselves in solidarity with their fellow American women who happen to be Muslim. Now, I doubt any sane and empathetic person would have an issue with the rationale behind this well-meaning expression of solidarity, yet the vehicle, i.e., the veil, is where I think problematic issues arise.
These issues also arise in Australia’s new (well-intentioned) Australia Day billboard campaign to normalize Muslim Australians, which again, no reasonable and rights-loving person should protest. However, it is again the vehicle of such well-intentioned campaigns that is the problem. The Australian campaign adds an extra dimension to the problem, because the veiled women are not women, but children, which raises issues of childhood indoctrination, the exploitation of children, and the inappropriate sexualisation of children for religious and political reasons.
Both these incidents underscore a recent trend within western liberal politics, a trend frequently protested by liberal Muslims in both the Muslim world and the west. This trend is the fetishizing of the veiling of women, which is a patriarchal hangover brought into the 21st century by not only the religion of Islam, but by numerous strains of patriarchal religion. The debate over the veiling of women within Islam continues amongst Islamic scholars, and although this medieval custom has been popular throughout the history of Islam, many in the west seem to view it as the only authentic way for women in Islam to dress. This two-dimensional caricature of the Muslim woman is a shallow portrait painted by both the political right and left in the west.
Here is where we arrive at our first peculiarity. Why on earth do western liberal feminists normalize and endorse a patriarchal custom supported by the conservative right in the Muslim world? Shouldn’t western liberal feminists be standing shoulder-to-shoulder with their liberal feminist sisters in the Muslim world, who are doing their best to throw off this relic of patriarchy? This would be like liberal Muslims in the Muslim world attempting to stand should-to-shoulder with their oppressed Christian sisters by endorsing Pat Robertson’s conservative creed of Christianity, rather than say the more liberal and secular Christianity of British Anglicanism. The answer to the question of whether or not western liberal feminists should be supporting their fellow liberal feminists in the Muslim world is a simple yes, they should; however, sadly, liberalism in the west appears to have become infected by a similar illogical and unreasonable line of thinking that plagues the far right.
This caricature of the Muslim woman has been popularized by numerous western feminists, including Naomi Wolf, who, advocating a bizarre brand of cultural relativism place religion and culture above the rights of Muslim women to determine their own sexuality. Of course, many Muslim feminists also place their religion and culture above the rights of women, but there has been (for quite some time now) a growing tide of Muslim feminists in the Muslim world, and in the west, whose voices have been stifled, censored and censured by both their Muslim sisters in the Muslim world and the west, as well as by their liberated western sisters. These predominantly third-wave feminists place patriarchal religion and patriarchal culture above the rights of themselves and their sisters, choosing male-centered and male-dominated customs and beliefs over the inherent right of women to exist as equals to their paternal and conjugal patriarchs. That feminists continue to willingly subjugate themselves beneath the yoke of overtly patriarchal influences – that they prostrate themselves like submissive little girls pretending to be independent women – that they place patriarchal institutions above female liberation, this is what I fail to fathom.
A further crime creeps into the equation when we consider western feminism’s fetishizing of the veiling of Muslim women. I would go so far as to say that western feminists who champion and normalize the veiling of Muslim women are hypocrites of the highest order. Why is it acceptable to disproportionately impose modesty upon Muslim women and not on western women? Why don’t western feminists see fit to subjugate themselves before the more conservative aspects of their own religion? I can only imagine Elizabeth Cady Stanton turning furiously in her grave over the grave abuse of feminism that is transpiring amongst the well-meaning western bigots who make up large and loud constituencies of modern feminism. But is it fair to call these western liberal feminists bigots? Yes, I believe it is. If you reduce a whole group down to a stereotyped caricature and ascribe and informally enforce standards upon this group that you aren’t willing to place on yourself (bigotry of low expectations), which here is the cultural and often legal imposition of forced modesty-culture on Muslim women, then yes, you are a bigot. I think it’s time for western feminism to find its way back to its roots and quit accommodating and even glorifying patriarchy for the sake of virtue signalling and an obsession with almost extremist strain of cultural relativism. So to answer the question, to patriarchy or not to patriarchy, the answer is simple…Not to patriarchy.
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