Full veil banned for Muslim women in France.
April 11, 2011 2:51 AM   Subscribe

A law has come into force in France which makes it an offence for a Muslim woman to conceal her face behind a veil when in public.

In September, the French Senate approved a bill that would ban the wearing of the niquab or burkha in public. The bill was to come into effect in 6 months if not overturned by constitutional judges or the European Court of Human Rights. This bill would not ban the wearing of a hijab, or headscarf, but would apply to "any woman - French or foreign - walking on the street or in a park in France and wearing a face-concealing veil".

The penalty for any woman wearing the veil will be a fine of 150 euros. She could also be required to attend citizenship classes. However, the penalty for anyone making a woman wear the veil will be 30,000 euros and up to two years in jail. The bill was not overturned by the French courts or the EU's Court of Human rights, and goes into effect today.

The BBC's Gavin Hewitt writes: "For from today the wearing of full-face veils in France are banned. Overnight the woman from the suburb has become a dissenter. She says no law should tell her what she can't wear. She also believes that her faith trumps French law, and therein lies her problem in an avowedly secular French Republic. "

Last April, a woman who was wearing a full-face veil while driving was fined. Police said that the veil restricted her vision and could have caused an accident. The woman, who is 31 and a French citizen, said her field of view was unobstructed.

Critics of the bill say that Sarkozy is using a controversial situation to draw attention from his unpopular presidency and win easy votes. They say that only about 2,000 women in France wear a full-face covering.

Supporters of the bill say that it is an issue of women's rights, and that wearing the veil creates an inferior status that is not compatible with the French values of equality.

Previously on Metafilter: Les Niqabitches "stroll around Paris fully veiled from the waist up, but in hotpants and high heels waist-down, to protest the burqa ban in France."

France denies citizenship
to a Moroccan man whose wife wears the veil.
posted by dubold (444 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
I hope they ban beards, too. I'm terrified of guys with beards - what are they planning under there?
posted by doublehappy at 2:56 AM on April 11, 2011 [20 favorites]


This bill does not go far enough. Concealment is more difficult without clothing. We can have a safe and tanned society. If you've got nothing to hide, you should have no trouble.
posted by Knigel at 3:05 AM on April 11, 2011 [8 favorites]


I hate racist laws. I also hate the way fundamentalist Islam treats women. So I never know what to think about this issue.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 3:06 AM on April 11, 2011 [79 favorites]


You know what shits me to tears? That they allow smoking everywhere in France. The French could do well to address the rights of people to breathe fresh air and shut the hell up about a woman's RIGHT to wear whatever the hell she likes. Can men have their faces covered? What about those idiotic surgical masks you see some people wearing?

Rant, rant, incoherent rant.... Sorry folks, I'm purple, I'm so livid about this.
posted by taff at 3:07 AM on April 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


On one hand, France would like its citizens to please stop wearing all those un-French foreign clothes and try a bit harder to look, you know, French.

On the other hand, the stripey shirt, the beret, the cravat - merci, non; this is an embarrassment.

You can't have your gâteau and eat it, France!
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 3:07 AM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


She also believes that her faith trumps French law
I think this is any important point. Giant flying spaghetti monster should not trump state law.
But unfortunately this is kind of a straw man if the original law is unjust to begin with.
posted by sety at 3:19 AM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Full veil banned for Muslim women in France.

When I read it like this and think that the secular French government is telling religious women in France how to dress, it seems completely wrong.

And then I come to my senses. You think Muslim teenage girls living in France don't want to dress like every other teenage girl in France? You know what stops Muslim girls from choosing what they want to wear: men. The veil is not a symbol of female piety; it is a symbol of male oppression and force.

As a practical matter, the French law makes is much more difficult for male family members to impose their medieval will on the women in their family. This law is a tool of female empowerment and as such I am compelled to say it is a good thing.
posted by three blind mice at 3:20 AM on April 11, 2011 [37 favorites]


God this is so much racist populist bullshit and it enrages me that a nation founded on liberte, egalite and fraternite would do enact something so contrary to the beliefs that thousands of its citizens fought and died for. Reactionary, racist bullshit.
posted by smoke at 3:21 AM on April 11, 2011 [17 favorites]


You know what shits me to tears? That they allow smoking everywhere in France.

France have a smoking ban for public places.

---

One of the other times we discussed this I said this:

My personal belief on the veil issues is that nobody should be forced to wear anything, be that a burqa or a necktie, but equally nobody should be prevented from wearing whatever they want. It is idiotic to suggest that you make someone more free by limiting their clothing options.


My feelings are exactly the same today.
posted by knapah at 3:24 AM on April 11, 2011 [14 favorites]


You know what stops Muslim girls from choosing what they want to wear: men.

I wish I shared you confidence in knowing what women want, three blind mice. If, indeed, that is a (let alone the) problem, then fine; let's enact some legislation that protects and supports women's choice in France. But, we already have that.

Forgive me, but I find telling people who express a preference, opinion or emotion, "You're just a tool of the patriarchy, you poor blind fool! here's what you really think!" so much neo-colonist, patronising, middle-class bullshit.

Secular means separation of church and state; it does not mean the official state religion is atheism.
posted by smoke at 3:24 AM on April 11, 2011 [99 favorites]


I was looking around to see if I could find a specific translation of the law as written. From a commenter on the Friendly Atheist blog:

Actually the law says nothing about the burqa.
It says that the face of an individual must remain visible in public areas. That’s all. No mention of religion of the burqa in the text.

Here it is:

“nul ne peut dans l’espace public porter une tenue destinée à dissimuler son visage” sous peine d’encourir une amende de 150 euros ou “à titre de peine alternative ou complémentaire un stage de citoyenneté”.

Which translates like this with google :
“No one in public wear clothing designed to hide his face” on pain of incurring a fine of 150 euros or “as a sentencing alternative or complement a course of citizenship.”

posted by dubold at 3:31 AM on April 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


If it comes down to a fight between individual freedom and common good, my guess is, France will surrender.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 3:35 AM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


There were very good reasons for the original French headscarf ban in schools, namely teachers wanted their students to integrate instead of beating each other up.

All the subsequent shit has been the political version of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, mostly by France's wanna-be Bush v2.

Imho, there should actually be some cultural assimilation required to gain citizenship in most countries, learning rudimentary english should suffice for the U.S. and maybe U.K., but for smaller European countries the bar should be higher. I'm ambivalent in the particular case cited because France isn't a small country but neither does its history impose U.S. style freedom of religion.

Btw, France actually enforces it's smoking ban, unlike say the Germans, who grant nearly every bar an exemption.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:39 AM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


I wish I shared you confidence in knowing what women want, three blind mice. If, indeed, that is a (let alone the) problem, then fine; let's enact some legislation that protects and supports women's choice in France. But, we already have that.

We already have that? Pray tell link away. Specifically, what protections are available in France for the 13 year old girl, born and raised in the country, whose Moroccan born uncles insist she never go outside without being fully veiled? How are her rights being protected? What are her chances of integrating into the country where she was born?

neo-colonist, patronising, middle-class bullshit

Try to see this issue through the filter of gender equality.
posted by three blind mice at 3:39 AM on April 11, 2011 [7 favorites]


We already have that?
Yeah, dude, it's the same protections that exist for domestic violence and other forms of abuse. It covers a wide range of domestic situations. Feel free to conjure up the most extreme straw men you can find though; I'm sure this race-baiting suppression is worth it for saving just one imaginary kid, ffs.

Try to see this issue through the filter of gender equality.

Who are you to say what gender equality means for any woman, let alone a muslim woman? I'm not qualified to say - and my ideas are just that; ideas and less valid than any woman's opinion - but I'm inclined to believe what Muslim women say, rather than silencing their opinions and enforcing mine - which is filter or no, an imperialist and chauvinist attitude.

Your conception of gender equality is based on a framework of feminism that is intrinsically white, western and middle class. This doesn't necessarily invalidate its principles, but it does render them problematic in settings that are not white, western and middle class. What does feminism look like to an aboriginal woman? To a muslim woman? To the majority of women on earth? It's an interesting question with a lot of different answers, but you're only promoting one. And frankly I think that's a bit arrogant, and fairly ignorant.
posted by smoke at 3:51 AM on April 11, 2011 [21 favorites]


I also fully support this. The veil is a symbol of control and oppression. If you're a non-muslim woman, how would you feel about being culturally pressured to wear one? If you're a non-muslim man, how would you feel about your wife, daughters and female friends being culturally pressured to wear one?

I believe this law also makes it an offence for someone to pressurise a woman into wearing a burqa, which is as it should be.
posted by Summer at 3:52 AM on April 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


France outlaws superheroes

A stunning new law has been enacted in France, the hidden hideout of the world's most evil arch-villans, which would criminalise the activities of most superheroes, masked avengers and secret squirrels.

"Nul ne peut dans l'espace public porter une tenue destinée à dissimuler son visage," says the evil French government statute, which means: "no one may wear the underpants that are on the outside, nor sport the cape, and neither shall a person conceal their identity or have a teenage ward who doesn't wear the proper trousers, for chrissakes".

Members of the Justice League of America have been protesting the law by refusing to assist French people with their superpowers and shopping for their cheese elsewhere. Only Aquaman, who continues to exist on a technicality, can help France, and then only in respect of water-based or water-proximate peril.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 3:55 AM on April 11, 2011 [50 favorites]


The government limiting what people wear is messed up. What if you wear a veil or burqua for non-religious reasons? Would you still get in trouble?
The uglier I get the better an idea wearing one sounds. That sounds stupid, but so what? Stupidity is as valid a reason as any to dress how you like.

Once immodesty and sexuality is taboo. Now it is taboo to NOT want to show yourself.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 3:55 AM on April 11, 2011


At some point, more than likely not anytime in my lifetime, the friction over muslims becoming integrated into western society will finally pass. I'd love to see what that will be like, and can't wait for all of the bullshit (that has been going on for years, and who knows when it'll end) to finally go away. When people manage to get over the fact that other people have other beliefs and practices and (because it's likely the only way integration will happen) modern Islam starts to figure out its issues with women and femininity, I truly believe we'll see a flowering of culture, arts, and inovation, once people stop spending all their energy on being dicks about what people where, what they eat, and who they pray to.
posted by Ghidorah at 3:56 AM on April 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


Actually the law says nothing about the burqa.
It says that the face of an individual must remain visible in public areas. That’s all. No mention of religion of the burqa in the text.


Still messed up.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 3:57 AM on April 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


This has got nothing to do with race, no matter how often people here call it racist. As pointed out above it's also got nothing specifically to do with religion. You can argue about whether this bolsters or undermines the rights of the individual but lazy dog whistle name calling doesn't add anything to the argument. I do enjoy the fact that things are 'popular' if we agree with them but 'populist' if we don't.
posted by joannemullen at 3:59 AM on April 11, 2011 [9 favorites]


but lazy dog whistle name calling doesn't add anything to the argument

Dog whistle politics: Dog-whistle politics, also known as the use of code words, is a term for a type of political campaigning or speechmaking which employs coded language that appears to mean one thing to the general population but has a different or more specific meaning for a targeted subgroup of the audience.

I would genuinely struggle to find a more textbook example of dog whistle politics than this legislation, and I am a political science major.
posted by smoke at 4:02 AM on April 11, 2011 [17 favorites]


It's really a stupid law about a non-issue, just like the minaret hoopla in Switzerland. It's something of a Sarkozy tradition: take a overblown problem that's making the headlines for some reason, and turn into a law that the far-right voters may like. Even people in his own party are getting a little angsty about this, because the far-right voters are no longer falling for it and the next election may well be a Socialist/National Front run-off.

The only positive thing is the 4-5 million French muslims won't be affected: the burkha/niqab thing is really a foreign tradition to them and a sizeable proportion (IIRC 25%) of those 2000 women are native French and recent converts searching for enlightenment through 24/7 BDSM religious submission. Of course, there are actual cases of family coercion, but nothing that current laws can't address. BTW, cops are already saying that they won't try to enforce the law anyway.
posted by elgilito at 4:06 AM on April 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Liberté, Raison, Égalité!
posted by moonbiter at 4:10 AM on April 11, 2011


She also believes that her faith trumps French law, and therein lies her problem in an avowedly secular French Republic.

Whether the law's right or wrong, her attitude's pretty damning. Different countries are different, and they should have the right to be. In America, we're supposed to be free, free, free, and we can do our own thing even because "this is America, dammit." In France, you're French first, and then Christian/Muslim/Jewish, White/Black, etc. By saying that she's a Muslim first, and only then French, and that her faith trumps French law, it's a dog-whistle of her own. She's not saying it trumps French law, she's saying her faith trumps French culture.

Should people such as her have their hands (faces?) forced, or be fined? I don't know. But she's certainly thumbing her nose at France, and saying, "I may live here, but I don't want to be one of you."
posted by explosion at 4:13 AM on April 11, 2011 [19 favorites]


"Nul ne peut dans l'espace public porter une tenue destinée à dissimuler son visage"

Finally: no more public clownery - devious sneaks, the lot of them. (Fun pic: who's hiding from whom?)
posted by progosk at 4:18 AM on April 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


If France wishes more gender equality among it's immigrants, then it should pass some law stating that different migrant groups will be evaluated based upon their overall assimilation, including gender equality measures like women working outside the home and women marrying outside the nationality or religion.

Any nationalities who score poorly should see new immigration and new economic asylum seekers restricted to those unlikely to exhibit the problematic behavior, usually homosexuals and single women, plus the highly educated. If only homosexuals and comparatively liberated women can request asylum*, then you'd see these populations integrate into French society much faster. Conversely, these political shenanigans "aiming to annoy" will achieve nothing.

Any religion who's poor performance is linked to religious worker visas should see stronger restrictions placed on renewal of religious worker visas as well. France is more than capable of supply it's own Imams using only existing French citizens, btw.

* There are obviously legitimate regular asylum seekers who've taken serious action against their home country's regime, ala writing for dissident newspapers. I'm speaking more about economic asylum seekers who may face discrimination based upon some minority status, but simply don't qualify under our naive notion of asylum seeker. European countries take economic asylum seekers because their declining population require immigrants to show economic growth but they need some excuse to give their populations. Ideally, all such economic asylum cases should be replaced by skilled worker visas. Homosexuals and liberated women are otoh far more like real asylum seekers.
posted by jeffburdges at 4:18 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I... don't know a damned thing, pretty much. It's another country, another religion.

But I do know that, for starters, any law ought to apply equally to everyone, regardless of sex or religion, and that the actual form of the disguise in question ought to be irrelevant: whether a gorilla mask or a burka, what should matter to the law is the degree to which it does whatever it is that lawmakers are fretting over. Concealment of identity? Visual impairment? Men inflicting suffering on women or children in the name of religion? Lawmakers need to be honest about what they are regulating and why.

And it ought to apply equally to make anyone making someone else wear such a thing. If you can make your kid wear a burka to school every day, you ought to be able to make your kid wear another sort of disguise to school every day. My child is Cousin It, thank you very much, and I'll have none of your nanny state interference.
posted by pracowity at 4:19 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yes, because victimising religious minorities has always worked out well for Europe.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:20 AM on April 11, 2011


This is so conflicting. One on hand, it's a stupid, racist, sexist law. On the other hand, (IMO) it's a stupid sexist religious tradition.

I can hate both things, right?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:24 AM on April 11, 2011 [9 favorites]


Specifically, what protections are available in France for the 13 year old girl, born and raised in the country, whose Moroccan born uncles insist she never go outside without being fully veiled? How are her rights being protected?

I'm as conflicted about this as the next white liberal, but if the alternative is to be kept at home all the time and/or taken out of school because these hypothetical Moroccan-born uncles don't want to pay fines and also don't want her going out uncovered, I don't know if that's a step forward.

Generally, I'm suspicious of defences of laws on the grounds that they are advancing the cause of oppressed women, when those laws directly penalise not the oppressive circumstances but the women themselves.
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:28 AM on April 11, 2011 [44 favorites]


I too have the feeling that many of these women would prefer to be able to show their face in public but because of religion or societal pressures cannot. As others have said I also don't like the government regulating what people can or cannot wear. However, I do understand the government's desire to not let people easily conceal their identity in normal every day life. Google "France burqa robber" apparently this is a common criminal tactic there....That's the tie breaker for me, I'm for this.
posted by ill3 at 4:30 AM on April 11, 2011


I'm not sure that telling kids what they should & shouldn't wear is restricted to male muslims.

And this seems like a sneaky way to stop, say, protestors covering their faces too.
posted by i_cola at 4:36 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


What about wearing a ski-mask or an anonymous-mask? This law prevents people from masking up in public to hide their face. It affects the full veil, but it would also impact my ability to wear a Ronald Reagan mask at all times so CCTV cameras can't see my face. Make it about the veil if you would like, I'm a man and I looove talking about women's issues but I'm pretty sure this is a reasonable law if one thinks about it.
posted by fuq at 4:38 AM on April 11, 2011


My bank doesn't even let you wear sunglasses.
posted by box at 4:46 AM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


I too have the feeling that many of these women would prefer to be able to show their face in public but because of religion or societal pressures cannot.

It's hard to prove or refute statements like this, but the only times I have ever heard head-covering muslim women discuss the practice, they have been strongly supportive of the religious dogma that proscribes it and their right to follow that dogma should they wish.

Either way, you are almost certainly not helping these women by criminalising their behaviour. That action is spectacularly missing the point.

What this law is really addressing is the discomfort of (mostly) white French men in the presence of veiled muslim women, which is rather ironic when you consider the language it is couched in.
posted by londonmark at 4:52 AM on April 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


And yes, the law is conveniently neutral about the type of covering that it chooses to outlaw, but if you've been following the rhetoric for any amount of time you could never fail to recognise that it has a specific target.
posted by londonmark at 4:56 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


see how happy and friendly she looks.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 4:58 AM on April 11, 2011


And then I come to my senses. You think Muslim teenage girls living in France don't want to dress like every other teenage girl in France? You know what stops Muslim girls from choosing what they want to wear: men.

That's not always the case.

Try to see this issue through the filter of gender equality.

How is it "gender equality" to insist that these people cannot possibly have chosen to wear what they want to wear independently because they're women?

Because that's what you're saying. You're saying that it must be something they're compelled to do, that they can't have chosen it themselves. Would you be saying the same thing if it were men we were talking about?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:00 AM on April 11, 2011 [30 favorites]


This law also gives the police a chance to arrest/detain/fine people who try to remain anonymous in public (protests or otherwise). This law has far more devious uses beyond its original (claimed) intent.
posted by slimepuppy at 5:01 AM on April 11, 2011 [7 favorites]


I hate racist laws. I also hate the way fundamentalist Islam treats women. So I never know what to think about this issue.

Well, basically, France is saying "You can't tell your woman what to wear...we can, though. We're France."

And then I come to my senses. You think Muslim teenage girls living in France don't want to dress like every other teenage girl in France? You know what stops Muslim girls from choosing what they want to wear: men. The veil is not a symbol of female piety; it is a symbol of male oppression and force.

My female friends in high school were always telling me how it was their dads that limited their school clothing. Can we get some kind of regulation going that prevents those Catholic bastards from not letting their women dress like Britney Spears. Those paternalistic assholes!

There were very good reasons for the original French headscarf ban in schools, namely teachers wanted their students to integrate instead of beating each other up.

Absolutely. They should also ban glasses with tape in the middle. I have seen plenty a beating administered because of that accessory.

I also fully support this. The veil is a symbol of control and oppression. If you're a non-muslim woman, how would you feel about being culturally pressured to wear one? If you're a non-muslim man, how would you feel about your wife, daughters and female friends being culturally pressured to wear one?

Better XYZ, your feminism is showing through your westernized paternalistic attitude towards other cultures.

This has got nothing to do with race, no matter how often people here call it racist. As pointed out above it's also got nothing specifically to do with religion. You can argue about whether this bolsters or undermines the rights of the individual but lazy dog whistle name calling doesn't add anything to the argument. I do enjoy the fact that things are 'popular' if we agree with them but 'populist' if we don't.

Agreed. Also, stars and bars on the back of a pickup with a sign saying "The south shall rise again" is not racist, no matter how often people call it racist.

This is so conflicting. One on hand, it's a stupid, racist, sexist law. On the other hand, (IMO) it's a stupid sexist religious tradition.

I can hate both things, right?


Absolutely you can. But before France starts banning burqas, lets see some female priests getting their holy water on before you start dismissing religious practices as sexist. I mean thats job discrimination right there if you can't have females priesting. I bet they can priest better than some men. That always seemed like a stupid sexist religious tradition.



I think this is an absolute shit law. The absolute shit factor is only exceeded by the law that claims that anyone forcing a woman to cover her face will get fined big time and go to jail. I watch the news, I read the newspapers and so do you...they will never prosecute the men. They will claim that its too hard to prove or some shit. So basically, the few women who ARE forced to cover their faces will get fined, and the men behind it won't even be approached by the law.

And yeah, when you get into the "poor 13 year old girl who is forced by her Moroccan dad" stuff, you are basically FoxNewsing it up. Of the 2000 women who wear them, I'd like to know how many of them are 13 year olds that are forced to do so. By enacting this law, it would liberate those 13 year olds...but limit the freedoms of the other women who choose to wear it on their own accord.

Can I get some of you mefites just estimating how many of those women you believe are forced to wear it, and how many wear it on their own accord? I'm just curious to see how accurate your perceptions of this phenomenon are.
posted by hal_c_on at 5:03 AM on April 11, 2011 [22 favorites]


The problem I have is that this could result in women being stuck in their homes/not being able to access education for an essentially ideological law.

And as someone who feels naked without her glasses, I sympathise with someone who's required to wear less clothing than they are used to.
posted by kjs4 at 5:04 AM on April 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


I sympathise with someone who's required to wear less clothing than they are used to.

True that. I also sympathize with someone who's required to wear less clothing than they CHOOSE to.
posted by hal_c_on at 5:06 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


If this was about France outlawing ostentatious dress primarily address the practices of a fundamentalist Christian sect, it wouldn't garner nearly the ire here. It's a funny double standard.

This law works to promote a secular society. The French Constitution states explicitly that France is a secular society. If you move to France expecting garish demonstrations of your religious faith to be protected or even tolerated, it's your fault for not reading the fine print.

I realize that Muslims have been dealt a very bad hand, and my own country (US) has been appalling in its treatment and attitudes towards Muslims. I can't go two days without reading some truly hateful crap that conservative Americans are saying or promoting. But the underdog is not automatically noble, and the fact that Muslims are shat upon way too often doesn't give anyone license to freely emigrate to another nation and make public practices that the society at large doesn't want to see.

The institutional repression of hate speech in Germany doesn't get much opposition from the Left, despite the fact that it runs counter to the sacrosanct Western ideal of free speech. Even the most ardent supporters of "I may disagree, but I'll defend your right to say it" don't get worked up about that. Because no one feels sorry for racists. But France institutes a different law limiting expression, and the targets are sympathetic, and everyone rushes to exclaim how terrible it is.

Societies can and will enact laws that stifle expression in order to keep people in line with general sentiment. I don't like overt displays of religion, and I believe that full veils are a disgusting, offensive mechanism to remind the women who wear them that they are inferior. However, if a law outlawing the practice were enacted in the US, I would be irate because one of our guaranteed protections is that you are allowed to be as loud and abrasive about your religion as you want and no one can stop you. But France's clearly stated position is not the one of my country. This is not some retroactive policy, it's clearly inline with the French ideal of a secular republic. I have no more right to express outrage about it than I do about Germany's hate speech laws (also not appropriate for the US). And a French person has no right to get pissed that women have to cover their breasts at most US beaches.

In summary: if you're going to insist that another country respect YOUR ideals, there are about one hundred countries whose citizens could use your help more than France.
posted by Mayor Curley at 5:07 AM on April 11, 2011 [49 favorites]


Of course Muslim women are all so pathetic that the only reason they wear a veil is because their husbands say so.

/hamburger

I sure hope they'll be cracking down on wind masks on the ski hill too.
posted by unSane at 5:07 AM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Secular means separation of church and state; it does not mean the official state religion is atheism.

Dude, this bumper sticker would beat out that flying spaghetti monster bumper sticker any day of the year.
posted by hal_c_on at 5:09 AM on April 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


policiers de la mode...
posted by samsara at 5:10 AM on April 11, 2011


This law works to promote a secular society. The French Constitution states explicitly that France is a secular society. If you move to France expecting garish demonstrations of your religious faith to be protected or even tolerated, it's your fault for not reading the fine print.

Good point. Now what can we do about nuns wearing habits in France.
posted by hal_c_on at 5:11 AM on April 11, 2011 [15 favorites]


Try to see this issue through the filter of gender equality.

It would be nice if we could know for sure that this was the motivation behind the law. Sadly, we don't and given the current political climate in France racism/xenophobia seems far more likely.
posted by Go Banana at 5:12 AM on April 11, 2011


And a French person has no right to get pissed that women have to cover their breasts at most US beaches.

Actually, in a democracy...you can get pissed about anything you want to get pissed about. I believe its a right.
posted by hal_c_on at 5:14 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


This just in: France enacts a law forcing pedestrians to continually shout out their names and credit card details when walking in public places. "JE M'APPELLE BETRAND DELACROIX! MON NOMBRE PAR LA CARTE DE CRÉDIT EST 4846-3030-5436-8652! IL EST VISA!" yelled a Parisian we contacted about this story. French citizens lacking the power of speech must pay for regularly-broadcast TV adverts about themselves, their hobbies, and whether they are "cat people" or "dog people". Further regulations mean that anyone choosing the "it's complicated" status on Facebook will be shot, unless they publish an award-winning novel detailing EXACTLY how "complicated" it all is.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 5:16 AM on April 11, 2011 [7 favorites]


If you move to France

You realise that a lot of Muslim women are born in France, right?

As a practical matter, the French law makes is much more difficult for male family members to impose their medieval will on the women in their family. This law is a tool of female empowerment and as such I am compelled to say it is a good thing.

Look, I think it's simple: if you believe that there is a cultural force afoot in society that is depriving women of choices — and I agree — then it is surely a good idea to address this problem via other means than enacting laws to deprive women of choice even further.
posted by oliverburkeman at 5:17 AM on April 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


Actually, in a democracy...you can get pissed about anything you want to get pissed about. I believe its a right.

Well, yeah. But at some point it makes you a busybody or a crank.

I would welcome more exposed breasts, but if a French person told me the US was a center of oppression for not having them and that we were obligated to allow tits at the beach, I would call him arrogant. And then ask him which beaches were best for that sort of thing in France.
posted by Mayor Curley at 5:21 AM on April 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Whenever I get enraged about veiling (and I do, a lot), I remember that my culture doesn't allow me to walk around topless, and that I don't care in the least. Because I'm used to it and it seems natural.
posted by nev at 5:22 AM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh dear, this means I can't go to France and wear my balaclava, unlike in free America, where I can wear it everywhere I go and would never be arrested or thrown to the grown or shot.
posted by 0xdeadc0de at 5:28 AM on April 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


So Halloween is cancelled in France?
posted by blue_beetle at 5:31 AM on April 11, 2011


Mordor, 11 April 2011: Prime Minister Sauron today announced a new law banning the wearing of cloaks, Elven or otherwise, within the jurisdiction of his dark land. "I SEE YOU" commented the Lidless Eye, when asked whether this law discriminated against Hobbits. Frodo Baggins, an immigrant with a weird, foreign religion, said that all hope was now surely lost, but his lower-class manservant commented, "cheer up, Mr. Frodo!" and they hugged a little too long. A brief, haunting, sylvan theme then played. Some say that Hobbit culture has no place in Mordor society, but we firmly believe in a nation where ANYONE, no matter how hairy their feet, can work their way up from Shelob-food to claim the one ring of power and lordship of all Middle Earth.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 5:35 AM on April 11, 2011 [20 favorites]


This law works to promote a secular society. The French Constitution states explicitly that France is a secular society. If you move to France expecting garish demonstrations of your religious faith to be protected or even tolerated, it's your fault for not reading the fine print.

Well, OK - but European Convention on Human Rights, Article 9 "provides a right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This includes the freedom to change a religion or belief, and to manifest a religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance, subject to certain restrictions that are "in accordance with law" and "necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others". (Wikipedia).

And the ECHR is superordinate to French legislation. Seems to me that the question then becomes whether restrictions such as this one are 'necessary in a democratic society'. I suspect the French government would have a hard time proving that, which is why this law is written in neutral language and theoretically applies to everyone (though of course it's targeted at the niqab/burqa alone).
posted by Infinite Jest at 5:36 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I just received my visa for France - moving there in about a month. One of the requirements involves reporting to the OFII (French Office of Immigration and Integration) within 3 months of arriving.

the OFII mandates several things, and one of them includes a day of classes about "French life". From my research about what to expect, it seems to mainly involve conversations about how women are not property in France, how one can only have one wife, how one's daughters are not property, and other content that is particularly focused on North African immigrants of French colonial background.

I get a pretty strong vibe that the French look at this differently than Americans (like myself) do- they have more of a solid cultural background with a specific "French" identity, and they want to make sure people integrate into that social fabric.

Not saying whether this face covering ban is right or wrong, but it seems to me that viewing it through an American viewpoint isn't the best way to fully understand the situation.

In my case I just have to nod and agree with whatever the immigration cops say, so I'm not bothered by it :)
posted by EricGjerde at 5:39 AM on April 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


If you're a non-muslim woman, how would you feel about being culturally pressured to wear one?
I'm culturally pressured (and legally required) to wear a lot of things. For instance, yesterday was the first really warm day of Spring, and there were a bunch of guys tossing around a frisbee in the park shirtless. If I did that, I would be arrested, and then I would lose my job. According to my society, a woman's breasts are so provocative and sexual and filthy and obscene that it is ok to literally cart her off to jail for uncovering it. A man's chest, though, is just a body part, and he can display it whenever he wants.

So question for the pro-ban people here. Have you ever done anything to fight that double standard? Because I actually do find it deeply oppressive. And if you support banning niqabs but have never even noticed the double standards in your own society, then I really don't want to hear about it.
posted by craichead at 5:41 AM on April 11, 2011 [33 favorites]


A law has come into force in France which makes it an offence for a Muslim woman to conceal her face behind a veil when in public.

The article this sentence links to says that the law doesn't specify Islamic veils. I'm pretty sure it doesn't mention "Muslim women." We should get our facts straight as far as what the law actually says before we criticize it.
posted by John Cohen at 5:41 AM on April 11, 2011


This is going to be an extremely divisive issue like abortion with lots of terms like "ignorant" and "racist" being thrown around and crazy analogies being used like blunt instruments. I'm not sure I even want to enter the fray for fear of getting an elbow to the bread basket but here it goes...

The French government says the face-covering veil undermines the basic standards required for living in a shared society

A face is not a breast. You can try to compare this to forcing women to go topless but it isn't the same thing at all because we don't "read" people's breasts and take our cues from them. How many of us are uncomfortable with mirrored sunglasses because they shield us from making eye contact? Burquas are even more complicated because they shield the mouth cues as well.

That said, I am afraid that fining women wearing burquas will only lead to them being confined indoors, shut off from society completely.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 5:42 AM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Are people being disingenuous when they say that they don't see this as a racist or religious law? So what if it's written in neutral language, it's still clear that France's government is only suddenly concerned about how much of a woman's face they can see because of their immigrant Muslim population. I'm tired of this faux-concern about sexism -- Sarkozy's friends are hardly paragons -- look at Berlusconi. In practice, this law is going to make it harder for Muslim women to interact with others outside their family -- perhaps cause less integration not more -- and really do nothing to stop real cases of women's oppression. I think that's really terrible and French lawmakers should be ashamed of themselves.
posted by peacheater at 5:45 AM on April 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


This law is Frances way of saying "Hey Islam! Treating woman with less respect than men isn’t cool" and goes against loads of stuff we spent ages fighting for. Women shuffling about like inverted ghosts is weird and creepy. Wearing a mask because you’re women and your (admittedly very strict interpretation of a very broad and varied) religion essentially says you are a horrid thing that must be covered up suitable only for farming kids and are thus worth less respect that a man is bad. Even if it’s your own brainwashed choice doesn’t make it okay. Individual personal choices can be, and often are, stupid. Religion/wizardry should be tolerated within reason. Silly hats and capes: fine. Masks not cool. Though perhaps I’m just bitter, I have a heart felt and deeply held personal belief in nudism yet there was no yet the outcry when the government forced me to wear underwear in public.
posted by Damienmce at 5:46 AM on April 11, 2011


I don't know why my subconscious enjoys rhyming so much it makes me misspell simple words. Anyway, it is also so horrible that in France the freedom of choice of women is taken away, unlike in America, where they can choose to sell themselves into sexual slavery, join polygamous marriages, and every dress code allows them the option of wearing pants.
posted by 0xdeadc0de at 5:46 AM on April 11, 2011


How many of us are uncomfortable with mirrored sunglasses because they shield us from making eye contact?

Well yeah, but dude "my comfort" is like the shittiest reason for legislating, ever. Shit, there's a million different things I feel uncomfortable with or dislike, but I don't have the right to impose my freaking preference on someone else like that, leastaways not in a liberal society.
posted by smoke at 5:48 AM on April 11, 2011 [9 favorites]


At least one woman has been detained, although it's not clear if it's for the veil or for the unauthorized protest against the law.
posted by Lemurrhea at 5:51 AM on April 11, 2011


> So question for the pro-ban people here. Have you ever done anything to fight that double standard?

Yes, every Madri Gras I encourage women to exercise that freedom.
posted by 0xdeadc0de at 5:54 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


You can try to compare this to forcing women to go topless but it isn't the same thing at all because we don't "read" people's breasts and take our cues from them.

Really? So, what are straight men doing all the time? I assumed there was at least nutritional information on there somewhere...
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:54 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


but European Convention on Human Rights, Article 9 "provides a right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This includes the freedom to change a religion or belief, and to manifest a religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance, subject to certain restrictions that are "in accordance with law" and "necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others".

Point taken, but
"... subject to certain restrictions that are ... 'necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals'."
is rather broad. I could see arguments for public safety and public order that are far-fetched but not above obvious discount. "Morals" seems pretty firm-- there's a written precedent that French society at large values secularism. I'm not even remotely a lawyer, but there's wiggle room in that EU exception clause as presented.
posted by Mayor Curley at 5:54 AM on April 11, 2011


Well yeah, but dude "my comfort" is like the shittiest reason for legislating, ever

Yes, but the law isn't about your comfort or my comfort. It is about France making a stand and saying a covered face in society makes for difficulties in interpersonal interactions.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 5:54 AM on April 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


'unauthorized protest'

just roll that around a little in your mouth
posted by unSane at 5:55 AM on April 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


'unauthorized protest'

just roll that around a little in your mouth


Tastes like a flavour I've had before. Shades of...free speech zone?
posted by Lemurrhea at 5:57 AM on April 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


According to my society, a woman's breasts are so provocative and sexual and filthy and obscene that it is ok to literally cart her off to jail for uncovering it. A man's chest, though, is just a body part, and he can display it whenever he wants.

I'm not entirely sure this is true in France, though I could be wrong. I'm basing my doubt on the fact that you see women's nipples all over the place in advertising. But even so, you make a really good point. I think we're all too quick to see this in western cultural terms. On the ther other hand, you get to wear t-shirts and flip-flops and call them business dress while I'm hauled in and disciplined if I'm not in a shirt and tie. So, on a lesser scale, swings and roundabouts...
posted by londonmark at 5:59 AM on April 11, 2011


I have no more right to express outrage about it than I do about Germany's hate speech laws (also not appropriate for the US).

When Apartheid was the law of the land in South Africa, international outrage was not only right, but necessary. People have not only the right, but the duty to speak up against injustice wherever they see it.

Legislative suppression of the minority by the majority is unjust, regardless of how distasteful you may find the cultural, racial, or religious expression.
posted by billyfleetwood at 6:00 AM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


You can try to compare this to forcing women to go topless but it isn't the same thing at all because we don't "read" people's breasts and take our cues from them.
So fundamentally what you seem to be saying is that women are objects. Our clothing choices should be dictated by the perceptions and presumed needs of other people, who are assumed to be straight non-Muslim men. We must reveal parts of our bodies that straight, non-Muslim men feel they need to see in order to "read" us. We must cover parts of our bodies that straight, non-Muslim men find potentially arousing. Within those limits, we have some choice, but only within the limits that are set up to satisfy the needs of straight, non-Muslim men.

You're right: I do find mirrored sunglasses unnerving. It has never occurred to me, though, that I might be entitled to outlaw them. It takes a vast degree of privilege to think you have the right to legislate your subjectivity.
posted by craichead at 6:05 AM on April 11, 2011 [24 favorites]


Really? So, what are straight men doing all the time? I assumed there was at least nutritional information on there somewhere...

One of the reasons why women are uncomfortable with men staring at our breasts is because they are missing our facial cues. If a man is focused on my chest instead of my eyes or mouth, I'm left feeling that what I am thinking and saying-- the messages and signals I send out with my facial expressions-- are unimportant to him and his only interest in me is as a sexual thing and not an equal person with something important to communicate.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:05 AM on April 11, 2011 [7 favorites]


Well yeah, but dude "my comfort" is like the shittiest reason for legislating, ever. Shit, there's a million different things I feel uncomfortable with or dislike, but I don't have the right to impose my freaking preference on someone else like that, leastaways not in a liberal society.

You should become Emperor of France so you can run it according to your ideals instead of the people who actually live there.

Or better yet, some place like the DRC that would actually feel the force of your respect for liberal democracy. Dozens of countries where actual atrocities are a way of life and everyone's pissed off that a decent country like France won't let people wear extreme religious dress. I don't get it.
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:05 AM on April 11, 2011


Instead of "guessing" or "feeling" what women who wear burquas "want" to be wearing, why don't you GO OUT AND ASK THEM???

Go ahead, the rest of us will wait....

Fundamentalist clerics everywhere feel how oppressed I am by the Spanx and high heels I wear to my corporate job.
posted by muddgirl at 6:07 AM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Dozens of countries where actual atrocities are a way of life and everyone's pissed off that a decent country like France won't let people wear extreme religious dress. I don't get it.
France has a really horrific history having to do with oppressing religious minorities. They don't get the "don't worry about us; we're a decent country" exemption on this one. Sorry.
posted by craichead at 6:07 AM on April 11, 2011 [7 favorites]



"You should become Emperor of France so you can run it according to your ideals instead of those of some of the white people who actually live there.


FTFY.
posted by ChuraChura at 6:08 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not really buying the 'facial cues' argument, at least as a justification for lawmaking. It hasn't exactly led to the extinction of the telephone, has it?
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 6:09 AM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


So fundamentally what you seem to be saying is that women are objects. Our clothing choices should be dictated by the perceptions and presumed needs of other people,

No. I am not saying that at all. What I am saying is that equating breasts to faces is a false analogy. What I am saying is that a law forbidding any person, man or woman, walking around with bags over their heads so that their faces are completely obscured is not completely out of line.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:12 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


It hasn't exactly led to the extinction of the telephone, has it?

But when you call someone on the telephone you are not standing within arm's reach of them.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:14 AM on April 11, 2011


I could see arguments for public safety and public order that are far-fetched but not above obvious discount. "Morals" seems pretty firm-- there's a written precedent that French society at large values secularism

Interesting, I'd missed the significance of the morals argument. I'd seen weak public safety and public order arguments (agreed that they're "not above obvious discount", though I think they'd lose). But I can see what you say about the morals argument.

I'm with smoke that the discomfort of others is a poor reason to legislate like this, and that a liberal society has no right to impose its preferences on members of that society ("If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind." - John Stuart Mill). Seems to me that any law like this needs to cross a very high bar indeed in order to be justified.
posted by Infinite Jest at 6:15 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah this should end well. I sure hope that this doesn't result in worse treatment of women. If you can't practice your religion publicly, maybe women then just stay indoors. This just seems xenophobic and idiotic, and discriminatory.
posted by scunning at 6:16 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Legislative suppression of the minority by the majority is unjust, regardless of how distasteful you may find the cultural, racial, or religious expression.
posted by billyfleetwood at 9:00 AM on April 11


Why is this oppression of the minority? Muslims are free to practice Islam in France, and these women are not being discriminated against for their religion. The veil is not actually a requirement of Islam.

The French people, like the Brits, have tacitly accepted the surveillance society based upon security cameras at every intersection and public space. So it's only reasonable for the government, having spent so much on cameras watching your every move, to require you to allow those cameras to capture your face unobstructed.
posted by Pastabagel at 6:18 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


And how the hell do you enforce this :"However, the penalty for anyone making a woman wear the veil will be 30,000 euros and up to two years in jail."

How do you prove that someone is making her wear the veil?

"Is your husband forcing you to wear this veil?"

"You mean my husband who will beat the shit out of me for talking to you?"

"Yeah, him."

"Oh no, not at all, I wear it voluntarily."
posted by Pastabagel at 6:20 AM on April 11, 2011 [7 favorites]


France has a really horrific history having to do with oppressing religious minorities. They don't get the "don't worry about us; we're a decent country" exemption on this one. Sorry.

My Amnesty International group is composing sharply-worded letters to Sarkozy right now about their appalling treatment of the Huguenots in the 17th century.

I'm not signing mine, because as a descendant of New England Puritan Congregationalists of the same era I don't have a leg to stand on. Come to think of it, the Cong Church on my block (truth) has a Rainbow Flag, but no stocks and no gallows. That's probably a ruse, huh?
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:21 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Or better yet, some place like the DRC that would actually feel the force of your respect for liberal democracy. Dozens of countries where actual atrocities are a way of life and everyone's pissed off that a decent country like France won't let people wear extreme religious dress.

Furthermore, there are starving people in Africa who would love to eat that broccoli, young man. Now stop staring at that woman's breasts and make her take her balaclava off. It's making it impossible for me to "read" her.
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:21 AM on April 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


What I am saying is that a law forbidding any person, man or woman, walking around with bags over their heads so that their faces are completely obscured is not completely out of line.
That would make more sense to me were it not for all the overheated rhetoric about needing to protect women from hypothetical oppressive uncles who are obviously picking out their clothes for them. And I would be really surprised if this law were actually used to prosecute people who wear balaclavas when riding their bikes to work (as I do in the winter, fwiw, which I guess would make me an outlaw in France?) or who wear a mask to a costume party.
My Amnesty International group is composing sharply-worded letters to Sarkozy right now about their appalling treatment of the Huguenots in the 17th century.
Ever heard of the Dreyfus affair? France's issues with religious minorities didn't end in the 17th century.
posted by craichead at 6:24 AM on April 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Furthermore, there are starving people in Africa who would love to eat that broccoli, young man.

Point taken. I shouldn't have tried that tack. Even if it bothers me, it's not a good angle for this debate. My apologies.
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:24 AM on April 11, 2011


First arrests in Burqua ban.
posted by Xurando at 6:25 AM on April 11, 2011


My Amnesty International group is composing sharply-worded letters to Sarkozy right now about their appalling treatment of the Huguenots in the 17th century.

I don't want to Godwin this, but you don't have to go all the way back to the Huguenots to find examples of France treating its religious minorities, um, badly (boy is that an understatement).
posted by rtha at 6:31 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Slightly more seriously - pastabagel, I think that's right - the police may come under pressure to enforce the fines on the street, because that's a _lot_ easier than taking her back to her home and quizzing her family about whether this is a matter on compulsion or personal conviction.

In a similar way, legislation against the sex industry is often marketed as targeting the people who exploit sex worked, but in practical terms the police often target the sex workers themselves, because they are easier to find and less likely to have the will or resources to make trouble.
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:33 AM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


So great, we're arresting women over their fashion decisions again (religiously inclined or otherwise). That's a real step forward for women's liberation, France! I'll be really surprised if we ever see a man convicted for forcing a woman to veil.

(And add me to the group that's suspicious about how this will be enforced against political protestors. No more V masks in public for you, Anonymous.)
posted by immlass at 6:35 AM on April 11, 2011


Not sure about this, but it strikes me that if integration rather than persecution is your goal, there could be better solutions than blunderbuss persecution in the name of integration.

That said, I am sure the poli sci histrionics and slippery slope "won't somebody think about the halloween children" nonsense aren't getting us any closer to them.
posted by bonaldi at 6:36 AM on April 11, 2011


No more V masks in public for you, Anonymous.

So....you're saying there's an upside?
posted by aramaic at 6:39 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Can any of the pro-ban people here tell me, based on their own worldview, how many of the 2000 women who cover their face are forced to do so?

Serious question.

Because you and I both know that some people do it voluntarily, and some people get forced to do it. How many do you think get forced, and how many do it voluntarily?

Just wondering what you think, and I'm not being clever, snide, or sarcastic. I'm really asking for what you believe the numbers to be.
posted by hal_c_on at 6:40 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm torn. One the one hand I hate this type of legislation and on the other hand I hate the haters of the legislation. In both hands I see domineering males trying to tell women what to do and how to dress.
posted by peacay at 6:41 AM on April 11, 2011


I'm sorry, citizenship classes? What the fucking fuck.
posted by prefpara at 6:41 AM on April 11, 2011


As I understand it, Sarkozy's UMP are haemorrhaging support to the resurgent Front National under Le Pen fille and this piss-poor law seems quite plainly part of his rightward lurching aimed at stemming the tide, which apparently besides being transparent and bad is backfiring anyway.
posted by Abiezer at 6:44 AM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


What about women at funerals? Are they allowed to wear veils?

Cuz if you're going to ban one type of veil, you should ban them all. If you don't, that's most definitely religious discrimination.
posted by fungible at 6:44 AM on April 11, 2011


New crimes in France, the fashion capital of the world!

a. Veil-wearing
b. Forced veil-donning
c. Conspiracy to enscarf
d. Hat-tossing
e. Earmuff encouragement
f. Prescribing large spectacles to a minor
g. Cravat smuggling
h. Abetting a sideburn
i. Impersonating Groucho Marx
j. Use of an unlicenced nosegay
k. Snood clutching
posted by the quidnunc kid at 6:48 AM on April 11, 2011 [19 favorites]


"My personal belief on the veil issues is that nobody should be forced to wear anything, be that a burqa or a necktie, but equally nobody should be prevented from wearing whatever they want."

"My feelings are exactly the same today."

In and ideal world you are, of course, right, but if we can't have that? Which is the lesser of the two evils?

" It is idiotic to suggest that you make someone more free by limiting their clothing options."

Interesting. I may not be more free if I'm preventing from wearing a t-shirt with misogynistic slogans, but aren't the women around me freed from being oppressed by a ban on my wearing said shirt? Which is more important my freedom of expression or their freedom from harm? I'd say the latter.
posted by oddman at 6:50 AM on April 11, 2011


'Zoot Suit Riots', Los Angeles, USA, 1943: The Los Angeles City Council considered a proposal from Councillor Norris Nelson, that "it be made a jail offense to wear zoot-suits . . . within the city limits of LA").

Nelson: "The zoot suit has become a badge of hoodlumism. We prohibit nudism by an ordinance and if we can arrest people for being under-dressed, we can do so for being over-dressed."

[Eventually] it was resolved that the laws pertaining to rioting and disorderly conduct were sufficient to contain the zoot-suit threat. However, the council did encourage the War Production Board (WPB) to reiterate its regulations on the manufacture of suits. As the riots subsided, nationwide public condemnation of the military and civil officials followed with the governor ordering the creation of the McGucken committee to investigate and determine the cause of the riots. In 1943 the committee issued its report; it determined racism to be a central cause of the riots, further stating that it was "an aggravating practice (of the media) to link the phrase zoot suit with the report of a crime."
posted by Herodios at 6:51 AM on April 11, 2011 [16 favorites]


A question to those against the ban: Do you also think that laws requiring women to cover their breasts and pubic hair in public are completely out of line? How is that majority-sanctioned mandatory dresscode any different in principle from what France is doing?
posted by sour cream at 6:55 AM on April 11, 2011


What about women at funerals? Are they allowed to wear veils?

Cuz if you're going to ban one type of veil, you should ban them all. If you don't, that's most definitely religious discrimination.


According to the BBC, the following items are exempt from the ban:

* Motorcycle helmets
* Face-masks for health reasons
* Face-covering for sporting or professional activities
* Sunglasses, hats etc which do not completely hide the face
* Masks used in "traditional activities", such as carnivals or religious processions

(Emphasis mine, but I think it shows what's going on here)
posted by Infinite Jest at 6:58 AM on April 11, 2011 [9 favorites]


The position the French are taking with this ban is "If outsiders want a place in our society, then they should become just like us." They have already expelled the Romani.

Summer: "I also fully support this. The veil is a symbol of control and oppression. If you're a non-muslim woman, how would you feel about being culturally pressured to wear one? If you're a non-muslim man, how would you feel about your wife, daughters and female friends being culturally pressured to wear one?"

"Culturally-pressured" is an incredibly slippery slope that is difficult to sharply define when speaking about religious practice. As with tzniut in Judaism, observance varies widely amongst the faithful, and community pressure may or may not play a part in why.

To assume we have a greater knowledge and authority to speak for those we deem by our standards to be oppressed than they themselves do is pretty damned arrogant. Caution and learning is always a better course than interference based on assumption.
posted by zarq at 6:58 AM on April 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


Do you also think that laws requiring women to cover their breasts and pubic hair in public are completely out of line?

Yes. Of course, I live in New York, where seeing a bum masturbating on the subway is considered normal.
posted by fungible at 6:59 AM on April 11, 2011


A question to those against the ban: Do you also think that laws requiring women to cover their breasts and pubic hair in public are completely out of line? How is that majority-sanctioned mandatory dresscode any different in principle from what France is doing?
Inasmuch as they're not gender neutral, then yes, I consider those laws completely out of line. If there's also a law saying that men have to cover their chests and pubic hair, then fine. (Pubic hair seems weird to me, though. Am I going to be carted away to jail for going to the pool without aggressively shaving my bikini line? I've generally been under the impression that the sanction for that was social, not legal.) But I really see those laws as more akin to laws that *require* women to wear veils, not laws that forbid them from doing so.
posted by craichead at 7:05 AM on April 11, 2011


I grew up somewhere which is about 20% Muslim - and this means women on the streets look anything from Western to wearing the full chador. Post 9/11, my university held an Islam Awareness event, and I asked some women why some Muslim girls take the hijab and others do not - she told me that it isn't prescribed in the Koran, but after visiting Mecca it felt like something she wanted to do. In other words, neither her holy book nor her family or partner told her to do so.

I'm not personally familiar with stricter versions of Islam, so I wonder whether there are women who take the veil from choice - because they feel more comfortable or more observant doing so, because they believe it's a valid tradition, or other reasons.
posted by mippy at 7:07 AM on April 11, 2011


I am a strong feminist and a strong atheist and I think this is a shit law.

As others have pointed out, many women choose to wear the veil. Whatever I think about their religion, they believe it and they believe they are fulfilling a religious obligation by wearing it. Should we really tell them, no no no, we know better than you about how you should dress?

Most importantly though, those of you supporting this law seem to think that the consequences will be thousands of liberated women and girls shopping, working, and enjoying themselves proudly barefaced, with all the other French women. What's more likely is that thousands of women will now be sequestered at home, unable to leave their houses, because they cannot wear a veil in public according to the law, but they cannot NOT wear a veil in public according to their faith.

This is not a law in favour of women's rights, this takes away their rights to choose their clothing, to follow their religion, and ultimately restricts their movement to an abusive degree.
posted by arcticwoman at 7:09 AM on April 11, 2011 [34 favorites]


You know what shits me to tears? That they allow smoking everywhere in France. The French could do well to address the rights of people to breathe fresh air and shut the hell up about a woman's RIGHT to wear whatever the hell she likes.

Nope, I was there last week and smoking was banned in public places, just as it is in the UK. When I was there about ten years ago it was a bit of a surprise to sit in restaurants and see people smoke (I think this was outlawed in Britain a little earlier) but you'd have to sit outside to smoke with your coffee these days. Whether it's enforced more laxly (?) outside Paris I have no idea.

Can men have their faces covered? What about those idiotic surgical masks you see some people wearing?
MrMippy, who lived in Japan, tells me this is politeness - people wear them when they have a cold to stop the spread of their germs to others.
posted by mippy at 7:10 AM on April 11, 2011


When I was in college in SE Michigan, I made friends with two girls who covered. Neither wore a niquab or burqua, the Muslim girl wore a hijab, and the Christian girl just always wore a headscarf or a hat. The Christian girl's covering was not at all noticeable, and I never gave it a second thought. We had been friends for awhile before I found out that she wore it for religious reasons.

The hijab, on the other hand, marked my Muslim friend as a Muslim. It was noticeable, it was really the first thing you saw. To be honest, I had to look past it in order to get to know her. Just like nuns-in-training that I attended school with, their head-to-toe, flowing white habits marked them as Catholics.

Both my headcovering friends lived in the dorms, away from their families. My Muslim friend's family was a 40 minute car ride away. My Christian friend, who was raised in a strict Anabaptist tradition, broke with her "plain" family to go to college, and they were not in contact at all when I knew her. All three of us had Women's Studies together, so they certainly had been exposed to feminist ideas, and embraced many of them... they just wanted to cover their hair.

These girls had a choice. You can criticize the way they were raised all you want, but they, as autonomous adults, chose to cover.

I'd feel damn uncomfortable going braless in public, but I don't think we need to pass laws about this.

Speaking as someone who loves France, and the French people, I think this law sucks.
posted by Leta at 7:13 AM on April 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


Do you also think that laws requiring women to cover their breasts and pubic hair in public are completely out of line?

I think requiring women to cover their breasts when men aren't required to is a sexist law, tbh. I need the support so I'm likely to always wear something on my breasts for comfort reasons, but that's my decision and one I resent when I see men in the park in the summer with their shirts off.

On the question of pubes, I'm in general agreement with craichead. I've read enough AskMes about pubic grooming for women to know there's a lot of social policing about how you wear your hair down there even if it's only visible when your clothes are off. As a larger question of public nudism, I might think more about it if there were a public nudism crackdown as a manifestation of cultural prejudice and discrimination. (Which is what this law is: cultural prejudice. It's not just about Islam; it's about funny brown people doing stuff "we" don't like.)
posted by immlass at 7:13 AM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


This subject has been previously debated on Metafilter.

peacay: "I'm torn. One the one hand I hate this type of legislation and on the other hand I hate the haters of the legislation. In both hands I see domineering males trying to tell women what to do and how to dress."

Only one side is unilaterally telling women what to do and how to dress. There are undoubtedly Muslim women who have no problem wearing either a niqab or a burkha. I've known a couple of incredibly liberal, vocally feminist American Muslim women who happen to also cover their heads when in public.

So which is the greater problem? The state that has passed a law forcing all women in their country to dress according to their standards? Or a group of women who may or may not be oppressed?

I'm a strong supporter of womens' rights and gender equality. But this law strikes me as a backwards step into ignorance.
posted by zarq at 7:14 AM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


lets see some female priests getting their holy water on before you start dismissing religious practices as sexist. I mean thats job discrimination right there if you can't have females priesting. I bet they can priest better than some men. That always seemed like a stupid sexist religious tradition.

hal_c_on, my dismissing one religious practice as sexist does not preclude me from dismissing another for the same reason. It's not mutually exclusive.

Can men have their faces covered? What about those idiotic surgical masks you see some people wearing?

Those were, and remain, very common in Hong Kong as well. It started when SARS was a thing - because the population is so dense, people were encouraged to wear them to limit the spread of infectious diseases. Now it's just common practice if you have cold symptoms. Not really idiotic - just sensible.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:18 AM on April 11, 2011


Interesting. I may not be more free if I'm preventing from wearing a t-shirt with misogynistic slogans, but aren't the women around me freed from being oppressed by a ban on my wearing said shirt? Which is more important my freedom of expression or their freedom from harm? I'd say the latter.

This is more like banning women from wearing misogynistic tshirts, but I see your point.

I think any law on this issue should be focused on preventing enforced veil wearing (although that clearly faces major enforcement problems), not on banning anyone from choosing to wear it.
posted by knapah at 7:18 AM on April 11, 2011


Does this law apply to veils which cover the lower face but leave the eyes free? Because, yeah, if they ban that but not mirrored sunglasses, then the "we need to be able to see people's faces in a free and open society" argument is bullshit.

I've spoken to American Muslim women who have told me they like the veil, or at least the OPTION of the veil, because it sends the unequivocal message of "I am not available to you. I am not a public object. I am a private person in my private space, and I don't wish to be engaged publicly." As someone who has adopted many, MANY strategies to try and send the same message at times (headphones + sunglasses + book on the bus), I'm sympathetic. This law essentially says "Ha ha! You're a woman, so you're up for public consumption whether you want to be or not! We get to determine how exposed you are, not you!"

And if they specifically exempt face masks in a religious carnival, how can anyone claim that this isn't specifically targeting Muslim women?
posted by KathrynT at 7:20 AM on April 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


I think any law on this issue should be focused on preventing enforced veil wearing (although that clearly faces major enforcement problems), not on banning anyone from choosing to wear it.
I'm also not convinced that enforced-veil-wearing should be a policy priority. I mean, I'm sure it happens, and that's horrible. But given the tiny number of women in France who wear full-face veils, the attention paid to it seems to be disproportionate. I think this is a symbolic issue, designed to make a statement about France's attitudes towards Muslims, not a pressing problem that demands immediate remedy.
posted by craichead at 7:22 AM on April 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Try to see this issue through the filter of gender equality.
posted by three blind mice at 3:39 AM on April 11


Muslim men, and men in general, can dress as they please.

Only some Muslim women find that their preferred dress -- an expression of their religious beliefs or lifestyle -- is outlawed. Assuming that these women are not doing what they want only patronizes them.

Even if you think that the veil is a bad thing, that really should not obfuscate the apparent unfairness of this law.
posted by knoyers at 7:23 AM on April 11, 2011


I'm sorry, citizenship classes? What the fucking fuck.

I'm not sure I understand your outrage here. We have them in the US as well. They're about helping people navigate the citizenship process and pass the exam. Quite honestly, I see nothing wrong with people being required to take a class about the country they're moving to, at least in principle. What the classes may actually teach is another matter.
posted by oneirodynia at 7:23 AM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


You know, I said that I love the French people, and I do. I was an exchange student over the 5oth anniversary of D-Day, and I expected to be treated snottily. I was so wrong. Every single person I met was kind, friendly, and wonderful.

Having said this, I witnessed the worst racism I've ever seen while I was there. The way the Roma people were treated was shameful and embarrassing. None of my hosts participated in this, thank God, but it was very visible nonetheless.

Based on my experience there, I feel fairly distrustful of letting the French government dictate cultural customs to any brown people. I know, what I witnessed was more than 15 years ago, but with the expulsion of the Roma, things seem to be getting worse rather than better.
posted by Leta at 7:25 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is not a law meant to address a real problem, and should not be treated as such. Rather, it's Sarkozy's attempt to lure voters from the ultra-rightists into his nest of rats.
posted by klue at 7:26 AM on April 11, 2011


Does this law apply to veils which cover the lower face but leave the eyes free? Because, yeah, if they ban that but not mirrored sunglasses, then the "we need to be able to see people's faces in a free and open society" argument is bullshit.

I would support a law requiring any television interview to be terminated immediately if the subject does not remove his damn sunglasses.

Mandatory night in jail if the inteview takes place indoors or after sundown.
posted by Herodios at 7:27 AM on April 11, 2011


Quite honestly, I see nothing wrong with people being required to take a class about the country they're moving to, at least in principle.

The classes in this case are being deployed to people who already live in France, as punishment for not being French enough. They could be given to someone who was BORN in France. It's part of the punishment for wearing the veil in public.
posted by KathrynT at 7:30 AM on April 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


I don't want to Godwin this, but you don't have to go all the way back to the Huguenots to find examples of France treating its religious minorities, um, badly (boy is that an understatement).

No coincidence then, perhaps, that Alain Badiou keeps refering to Sarkozyism as 'transcendental Pétainism'.
posted by klue at 7:34 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


John Cohen: "The article this sentence links to says that the law doesn't specify Islamic veils. I'm pretty sure it doesn't mention "Muslim women." We should get our facts straight as far as what the law actually says before we criticize it."

A) It's a continuation of an ongoing fight by the French government against religious symbols, behind a pretense of liberalism.

B) The niqab, hijab and burqa were cited by some politicians as reasons why the ban was needed.
Anxiety over Muslim integration in Europe, or the lack of it, was on display when the French Parliament's lower house voted overwhelmingly on July 13 to ban the all-encompassing burqa and the full-face-covering niqab in public. The ban applies to public space defined broadly, including not only government offices and public transport, but also streets, parks, and private businesses. The law fines female violators 150 euros, and imposes steeper penalties, including jail time, for men found to be pressuring female relatives to cover their faces. Other European countries, and the provincial government of Quebec, are considering similar bills.

The French legislation, despite posing constitutional problems, passed with surprisingly little dissent. President Nicolas Sarkozy himself lobbied for it, saying that imprisonment "behind a mesh . . . is not the French republic's idea of women's dignity." The National Assembly, or lower house, concurred, voting for the ban 335-1 on the grounds that it is necessary to maintain the French values of individualism and human dignity. Some also cited security reasons. The Socialists boycotted the vote, but not because they disagreed with the ban, only with how broadly it was applied.
posted by zarq at 7:35 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I just realized that many of the comments here have a particular tone to them, something like "Why don't the French just let people be."

And this looks innocent enough, on it's face, but how much of it is spoken from a position of unacknowledged power? In other words, on Mefi and elsewhere, white men are often criticized for assuming their position on an issue is the default position; these men are very often pilloried for not understanding the need for a women-only club or Affirmative Action laws. We, Mefi style liberals and libertarians, routinely accept that notion that a minority is entitled to establish practices that are not available to the majority and that this is a good thing for both the majority and minority.

If we see the French as a rather small global minority (they surely are) don't they deserve some of the same consideration that we extend to other cultural, racial and gender minorities? If a woman can say "I don't want men in this building" and this is taken as an empowering stance, why can't the French say "We don't want certain practices in our country?"
posted by oddman at 7:42 AM on April 11, 2011


If a woman can say "I don't want men in this building" and this is taken as an empowering stance, why can't the French say "We don't want certain practices in our country?"

They can. I mean, obviously they can -- they have. But they have no right to be immune from criticism about it, particularly because this is obvious religious and cultural bigotry.
posted by KathrynT at 7:48 AM on April 11, 2011 [8 favorites]


Indefensible.
posted by Jehan at 7:50 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Interesting. I may not be more free if I'm preventing from wearing a t-shirt with misogynistic slogans, but aren't the women around me freed from being oppressed by a ban on my wearing said shirt? Which is more important my freedom of expression or their freedom from harm? I'd say the latter.

You'd say wrong. Freedom means not limiting self-expression even if it's ugly or offensive. How is a woman oppressed by a t-shirt? Offended or angry, perhaps, but oppressed? I'm fine with rights being restricted to prevent harm, but being offended is not actual harm. The state has no business limiting what kinds of slogans can be worn on a shirt, whether they be misogynistic, or racist, or anti-government, or just stupid.

This law has been inevitable for a very long time. I remember reading several articles in college many years ago (maybe 15-20) about French authorities' concerns about 'Islamists' who wore headscarves as a symbol of their rejection of French society. The law is a bad thing in my opinion, and it would be completely unacceptable in the U.S., but it's not at all surprising for France - which expects immigrants to stop being [whatever nationality they started out as] and start being French. As pointed out several times in this thread, this law does not affect most French Muslim women who aren't part of veil-wearing cultures. It affects a small minority who wear an obvious visual representation of a culture that is Not French.
posted by Dojie at 7:50 AM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


KathrynT, but why do we criticize the French for their biased preferences but withhold criticism from a women's social club for similarly biased preferences?
posted by oddman at 7:51 AM on April 11, 2011


oddman - the local MP in the town I grew up in made public comments on women wearing the veil. It's not an issue of letting the French be French - it's something that extremists in other countries with a large Islamic population - hello, EDL and BNP - are going to seize upon and campaign for. It isn't actually just a French issue.
posted by mippy at 7:51 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Men aren't born into those buildings, and they can leave without much trouble.
posted by yaymukund at 7:52 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


How is a woman oppressed by a t-shirt? Offended or angry, perhaps, but oppressed? I'm fine with rights being restricted to prevent harm, but being offended is not actual harm. The state has no business limiting what kinds of slogans can be worn on a shirt, whether they be misogynistic, or racist, or anti-government, or just stupid.

Good luck wearing that 'God Hates Fags' shirt then.
posted by mippy at 7:52 AM on April 11, 2011


KathrynT, but why do we criticize the French for their biased preferences but withhold criticism from a women's social club for similarly biased preferences?

Are you asking why "we" do or why I do? I can't answer for "we."
posted by KathrynT at 7:53 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


OP here: as one who has recently moved from the US to the UK, I find these questions of assimilation fascinating. From my perspective, my family and I are guests in the United Kingdom, and we should behave as such, making as much effort to adapt to local customs and practices as possible. The two cultures are similar enough that this doesn't require a huge amount of effort on my part.

However, if we had moved to, say, Iran, I think the same courtesy should be extended to our hypothetical hosts there. Many countries in the Middle East have far stricter rules on public behaviour than what I'm used to - public shows of affection, certain clothing choices, use of the left hand - I would consider it shockingly rude if an American expat was flouting convention in Tehran, saying, "Well, I'm Christian, not Muslim, so I don't have to obey these social norms."

Obviously, not every woman who is wearing a full veil has moved to that country - there are lots of Muslims born in France - so that certainly complicates the issue. It's not as clear-cut as merely visitors or immigrants adapting.
posted by dubold at 7:54 AM on April 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


"Freedom means not limiting self-expression even if it's ugly or offensive."

I placed it in the context of harmful action, not merely offensive ones. A woman can certainly be sexually harassed by a slogan on a shirt, a calendar on a wall, etc. As sexual harassment is clearly a question of harm not just offense. Certainly, the the law in the US, (and moral stance?) is that the speech is harmful and thus illegal.

(Woman aren't the only example available, just the one I'm using. )
posted by oddman at 7:55 AM on April 11, 2011


KathrynT, but why do we criticize the French for their biased preferences but withhold criticism from a women's social club for similarly biased preferences?
Because a woman's social club is in no way analogous to France?
posted by craichead at 7:55 AM on April 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Metafilter: ... and I am a political science major.
posted by modernnomad at 7:57 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I see the point, dubold, but as with the UK many women wearing the veil, or the chador, or the hijab, aren't immigrants - they are second, third generation. This is where questions of whether it's part of national culture get fuzzy.

I am happy to cover up if I go to a Muslim country. I'm also happy I live in a country where we are free to wear anything from a crop top to a full body covering - that's the kind of freedom I like about living in the West, or at least my particular part of it.
posted by mippy at 7:57 AM on April 11, 2011


craichead did you seem my post just up-thread of that?
posted by oddman at 7:58 AM on April 11, 2011


In New York City, it's not illegal to wear a mask in public -- as long as there are no more than two of you. I've often been surprised that even that's allowed. For all the talk of gender and race, the practice of completely or even partially obscuring one's face in public commonly inspires fear and suspicion in other humans. It's neither surprising or offensive to me to hear about a country abolishing the practice.
posted by hermitosis at 8:01 AM on April 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


oddman: " If we see the French as a rather small global minority (they surely are) don't they deserve some of the same consideration that we extend to other cultural, racial and gender minorities? If a woman can say "I don't want men in this building" and this is taken as an empowering stance, why can't the French say "We don't want certain practices in our country?""

Whoa, whoa, whoa. They're most certainly not a minority. They're a first world country, a member of the EU, and they have a population of 65 million+ people. 20th largest country in the world by population. Double the population of Canada. Slightly more than the UK and Italy.

By your metric, every single nationality on the planet is a "global minority."
posted by zarq at 8:05 AM on April 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


A ban on veils was passed by Belgian parliamentarians almost a year ago.
posted by MuffinMan at 8:05 AM on April 11, 2011


craichead did you seem my post just up-thread of that?
No, I didn't, but that's a completely separate argument. It's just as incoherent, but completely separate.

First of all, in the US, there's no blanket ban on sexual harassment. There's no law that says you can't wear a misogynistic t-shirt in a public park, which is what this law says about full-face veils. Second of all, there's a difference between forbidding something because it harms others and forbidding something because the person doing it is harming herself. And third of all, American law is irrelevant here, because we're talking about France.
posted by craichead at 8:08 AM on April 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


"There were very good reasons for the original French headscarf ban in schools, namely teachers wanted their students to integrate instead of beating each other up."

Right so when the French government had a problem with young thugs beating up girls in their schools, they sided with the thugs. I fail to see a good reason to do that.
posted by Blasdelb at 8:08 AM on April 11, 2011


Religion, particularly conservative religion, asserts a view of individuals and society as religious. The proper role of women within many Muslim groups is to have their head (or more) covered demonstrating their obedience to God and that their sexuality has been preserved per their religion as the exclusive domain of her husband.

France is asserting that it is a secular society. You can believe whatever you like, and practice privately whatever you like, but the price of religious freedom within a secular, pluralistic society is a concession of your religion's implicit social order as preeminent.

This is in the U.S. what drives the Christian extremists crazy that we aren't a Christian theocracy, and their continual attempts to reverse engineer American history into a chapter of Church history are a sign of what an irritant to their religious beliefs this is. The ruling ending government sponsored prayers in public schools in the U.S. was primarily a spiritual tragedy, not a legal defeat. This is one of the reasons we are the Great Satan to radical Muslims because secular society is a fundamental challenge to claims for the preeminence of a religious society. Secular society is a perversion and denial of the sovereignty of God and God's law.

This cannot be in dispute if you value a secular society. The debate is over where the line is on the limits of social assertions by religious groups. Is it at the hijab? At the "private" enforcement of religious laws within religious communities? At the involvement of religious parties or "Christian" Coalitions in politics? Can you legislate this line without violating what someone will experience as their Freedom of Religion?
posted by MasonDixon at 8:10 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Good luck wearing that 'God Hates Fags' shirt then.

I'm a homo and I absolutely defend the right of people to wear 'God Hates Fags' shirts. Freedom of expression is one of the most important freedoms we have - if I determine that people can't wear homophobic slogans, they are going to go after my right to wear atheistic slogans. An atheist group I belong to recently went to bat to defend the rights of a Pro-Life group to have a display on campus. I'm a pro-choice feminist, and think that the pro-life position is dangerous, but they deserve to have a display as much as I and my feminist group do (and they no doubt think that we are dangerous).

On the plus side, letting dangerous groups say their dangerous ideas allows us to know where they are and what they are advocating.
posted by arcticwoman at 8:11 AM on April 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


If we see the French as a rather small global minority (they surely are) don't they deserve some of the same consideration that we extend to other cultural, racial and gender minorities?

Coming from a (much) smaller 'global minority', this rhetoric is all around. We had a great way of dealing with unwanted religion and ethnicities for a while:

In 1814, Norway formulated its first constitution that included in the second paragraph a general ban against Jews and Jesuits entering the country. Portuguese Jews were exempt from this ban, but it appears that few applied for a letter of free passage. When Norway entered into the personal union of Sweden-Norway, the ban against Jews was upheld, though Sweden at that point had several Jewish communities.

But, well, that sort of policy is not deemed suitable anymore. The biggest problem with your statement is that it lacks a definition of just who 'the French' are. And even if you manage to get a definition excluding French citizens of muslim 'origin' as, you still haven't managed to show how they are under any threat from the veilers.

While, theoretically, any 'global minority' could deserve some form of protection,I fail to see how this has any relevance to the reality of this case.
posted by klue at 8:13 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Good luck wearing that 'God Hates Fags' shirt then.

Not sure what you mean by that. Is there some place that 'God Hates Fags' shirts have been made illegal? Was it some kind of dig that because I support the legal right to wear offensive shirts, that I must be part of the God Hates Fags crowd? I don't get it. Are they awful? Yes. Should they be illegal? Absolutely not.

I placed it in the context of harmful action, not merely offensive ones. A woman can certainly be sexually harassed by a slogan on a shirt, a calendar on a wall, etc. As sexual harassment is clearly a question of harm not just offense. Certainly, the the law in the US, (and moral stance?) is that the speech is harmful and thus illegal.

This is getting into more and more of a derail, but to bring it back to the point of the post - we're talking about a ban on an article of clothing in public. There is no sexual harassment law in the U.S. (or, I'm guessing, anywhere else) that would apply to a t-shirt worn in public no matter what is on it. Yes, a misogynistic shirt worn in the workplace could be part of a sexual harassment case, but not by itself. And it's irrelevant to the veil-ban anyway. The veils are not causing harm. The law may or may not be defensible, but harmful speech has nothing to do with it.
posted by Dojie at 8:18 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


my family and I are guests in the United Kingdom, and we should behave as such, making as much effort to adapt to local customs and practices as possible

Several people in this thread seem to believe that all Muslim women in France are immigrants. This is radically far from the truth.

Even if it were true, the "when in Rome" argument is ultimately an evasion, I think. If you think traditional-white-non-Muslim-French cultural practices are superior enough to certain Muslim ones to be enforced by laws restricting the freedom of people to make clothing choices, you have to come out and say that, not take refuge in a meta-principle having to do with being polite to one's hosts.
posted by oliverburkeman at 8:19 AM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


What about those idiotic surgical masks you see some people wearing?
Slight derail, but I always assumed they have crippling allergies or crippling mysophobia. Either way let's not go there.

posted by BrotherCaine at 8:20 AM on April 11, 2011


The proper role of women within many Muslim groups is to have their head (or more) covered demonstrating their obedience to God and that their sexuality has been preserved per their religion as the exclusive domain of her husband.

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Let's be clear. The burqa, the niqab, and the hijab are all cultural signifiers, not religious ones. Most Muslims don't have anything to do with them.
posted by KathrynT at 8:21 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


It bears repeating: this is largely a political show, designed for an internal, short-term purpose, i.e. capturing the right-wing vote in 2012. It sucks because it's stupid, but it has little grounding in reality. Fortunately it's not going to inconvenience many people. Cops are not going to waste energy rounding up some Afghan grandmas in order to enforce Sarkozy's antics. We can expect that a couple of well-educated, native French, hardcore burkha-wearing converts will get themselves arrested to make a point and will show up on TV, and then anyone will forget about it and it will become a bizarre footnote in French history books. Remember the big show about deporting the Roma? The governement did deport a few thousands of them, which was totally absurd since, being EU citizens, they were free to travel in the EU. I bet that most of the Roma deported last summer are back in France now - it's not like the Roma are less visible today or even try to hide.
These are dumb shows. The most painful thing is that this sort of grandstanding not only fails to address the real underlying issues, but probably makes it difficult to solve them properly in the long run.
posted by elgilito at 8:21 AM on April 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


I'm really glad we had this thread so we could apply the US constitution to French laws.
posted by TypographicalError at 8:22 AM on April 11, 2011 [7 favorites]


As I understand it, Sarkozy's UMP are haemorrhaging support to the resurgent Front National under Le Pen fille and this piss-poor law seems quite plainly part of his rightward lurching aimed at stemming the tide, which apparently besides being transparent and bad is backfiring anyway.

This. The law about veils has nothing to do with religion, regulation of dress, or anything else other than bolstering le petit Sarkozy's flagging support among those who would instead vote for Marine Le Pen or some other right-of-Sarkozy candidate.

This also conveniently happens to be why France is currently bombing the holy shit out of Abidjan despite Sarkozy's promises to stay out of Africa's internal disputes.
posted by blucevalo at 8:25 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Doije - sorry, that was a wee bit facetious of me - that shows me for typing whilst in the middle of other things. I know that the first amendment permits free speech, but doesn't statements like this come under your hate crime laws? I was under the impression that certain T-shirt designes - Cradle of Filth's masturbating nun for example - were outlawed in the UK, where we have no specific 'freedom of speech' legislation other than the unwritten 'you can say what you like but don't be a dick about it'.

It seems awfully patronising to view the veil as something which is 'harming themselves', and I say this as a card-carrying feminist (it's tucked behind my Boots card).

arcticwoman - a pro-life group set up at our university fair one year. It took me a lot of strength not to go and challenge them. Being personally choice or life is one thing - it's when people decide what others ought to believe that enrages me. And this veil debate isn't far off this.
posted by mippy at 8:26 AM on April 11, 2011


Adding, Abidjan and Banghazi .....
posted by blucevalo at 8:27 AM on April 11, 2011


Benghazi
posted by blucevalo at 8:27 AM on April 11, 2011


Let's call the whole thing off.
posted by Abiezer at 8:29 AM on April 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


blucevalo: "This. The law about veils has nothing to do with religion, regulation of dress, or anything else other than bolstering le petit Sarkozy's flagging support among those who would instead vote for Marine Le Pen or some other right-of-Sarkozy candidate. "

Whether he planned to use it as a distracting tactic or not, the very Muslim women he referred to in speeches while campaigning for the law are most certainly being affected by it.
posted by zarq at 8:30 AM on April 11, 2011


That's very true. I didn't mean to imply otherwise, and if I did, I apologize.
posted by blucevalo at 8:38 AM on April 11, 2011


I know that the first amendment permits free speech, but doesn't statements like this come under your hate crime laws? I was under the impression that certain T-shirt designes - Cradle of Filth's masturbating nun for example - were outlawed in the UK, where we have no specific 'freedom of speech' legislation other than the unwritten 'you can say what you like but don't be a dick about it'.

Hopefully, this will end the t-shirt derail, but no, hate crime laws in the US only apply when already illegal acts are motivated by someone's protected status. We can be as hatey as we want with our clothing. This suspiciously only lists three (English-speaking) countries, but the UK seems to be the only one that actually arrests people for wearing t-shirts.
posted by Dojie at 8:46 AM on April 11, 2011


This suspiciously only lists three (English-speaking) countries, but the UK seems to be the only one that actually arrests people for wearing t-shirts.

And just to clarify, those incidents were nothing to do with the UK's hate crimes laws...
posted by londonmark at 8:52 AM on April 11, 2011


If you think traditional-white-non-Muslim-French cultural practices are superior enough to certain Muslim ones to be enforced by laws restricting the freedom of people to make clothing choices, you have to come out and say that, not take refuge in a meta-principle having to do with being polite to one's hosts.

That's a severe misappropriation of the argument. He's only arguing that France has a right to expect people to make some attempt to conform to French cultural norms while in France. He need not come out and say anything, as he's NOT being duplicitous. He's not arguing for the absolute superiority of traditional French cultural practices over any other. Only that as someone electing to live in a particular society, you should be obligated to live within its confines. Whether the society is France, Uzbekistan or the Aleutian Islands.

I'm actually at a loss as to how you could earnestly construe the argument to be what you framed.

As for it being "radically far from the truth" that all muslim women in France are immigrants, we're debating a specific subset of muslim women. 75% of the women in question are foreign-born. three in four. Depends on your definition of "radically far" I guess.
posted by Mayor Curley at 8:54 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


The more I think about this the more it reminds me of saggy-pants laws here in the US, which are also about public conformity. There's no bullshit mention of white-knighting women and no pretense that it's about religion, but it's the same thing: dark people are offending the white majority in a time of racial tension (which is all the time, tbh) and therefore a visible symbol of a subculture is banned. One of the differences, though, is that in the US, the saggy-pants laws are generally treated as a small-town hick joke, and in France the president is in favor of the national law banning the offending dress.
posted by immlass at 8:54 AM on April 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


Several people in this thread seem to believe that all Muslim women in France are immigrants. This is radically far from the truth.

Even if it were true, the "when in Rome" argument is ultimately an evasion, I think. If you think traditional-white-non-Muslim-French cultural practices are superior enough to certain Muslim ones to be enforced by laws restricting the freedom of people to make clothing choices, you have to come out and say that, not take refuge in a meta-principle having to do with being polite to one's hosts.

oliverburkeman: if you read my full comment you'd see that I did explicitly state "Obviously, not every woman who is wearing a full veil has moved to that country - there are lots of Muslims born in France - so that certainly complicates the issue. It's not as clear-cut as merely visitors or immigrants adapting."

I disagree with the notion that I'm hiding notions of western cultural superiority under the veil of politeness (see what I did there?). I do think, however, that a situation like this is a great opportunity to have a conversation about questions like "what are the obligations of immigrants?" and "what does the host country owe the new arrival?".

As an American who grew up on the East Coast, these weren't questions that I thought about much before adulthood. Whether due to obliviousness or lack of opportunity, it just wasn't something that I remember coming up in my personal interactions.

European/Muslim relations have a long history of difficulty, and the spectre of colonialism will continue to hover for quite some time, but it's not until unspoken assumptions about behavior are stated clearly (Muslim women shouldn't cover their whole face; French law does not supersede Allah's law) that we can address whether or not those ideas are reasonable, and whether or not they should be allowed.
posted by dubold at 8:57 AM on April 11, 2011


Is this actually even a thing? I've been to Paris multiple times and I don't remember seeing a single woman with her face covered, even in the outer arrondissements.
posted by desjardins at 9:00 AM on April 11, 2011


Is this actually even a thing? I've been to Paris multiple times and I don't remember seeing a single woman with her face covered, even in the outer arrondissements.

Allegedly there are less than 2000 women wear the niqab or burqa. Hardly a significant threat to 'French Culture'.
posted by knapah at 9:05 AM on April 11, 2011


immlass: "saggy-pants laws here in the US"

Wait, someone actually passed one? Holy crap.
posted by zarq at 9:11 AM on April 11, 2011


In West London there seems to be a fashion for young black kids to wear baseball caps, but sort of perched on the head rather than pulled down - wonder if this was once a gang thing that's caught on.
posted by mippy at 9:15 AM on April 11, 2011


Hardly a significant threat to 'French Culture'
Well, the law also targets (theoretically) Batman French cosplayers, who may be as numerous (and as dangerous) as burkha-wearing women. The difference is that US comic book fans are not an obsession of the French far-right so it's the "burkha ban law" instead of the "silly-mask-with-pointy-ears ban law". But the practical effect is more or less the same.
posted by elgilito at 9:15 AM on April 11, 2011


mippy said:I see the point, dubold, but as with the UK many women wearing the veil, or the chador, or the hijab, aren't immigrants - they are second, third generation. This is where questions of whether it's part of national culture get fuzzy.

Agreed - "national culture" is such a nebulous concept, and the problem with codifying something like that is that I'm suspicious of anyone who'd want to write the rulebook on being British, or American, or Sudanese, etc.

France is asserting that it is a secular society. You can believe whatever you like, and practice privately whatever you like, but the price of religious freedom within a secular, pluralistic society is a concession of your religion's implicit social order as preeminent.

MasonDixon: although the motivation might be suspicious, and the ruling targeted at a specific group, I agree that part of the impetus for the law is probably that.

He's only arguing that France has a right to expect people to make some attempt to conform to French cultural norms while in France. He need not come out and say anything, as he's NOT being duplicitous. He's not arguing for the absolute superiority of traditional French cultural practices over any other. Only that as someone electing to live in a particular society, you should be obligated to live within its confines. Whether the society is France, Uzbekistan or the Aleutian Islands.

Specifically, I'm saying, "why does someone think think France doesn't have the right to say that?"
posted by dubold at 9:17 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


And, in theory, members of Anonymous protesting around Scientology sites (I spotted a V the other day near their TCR headquarters.)
posted by mippy at 9:17 AM on April 11, 2011


All freedoms are not equal. Some freedoms are more important than others. In my opinion a woman's right not to be subjected to cultural and religious pressure that tells her she is immodest if she goes out in public with her face and hair uncovered, trumps the right to wear anything you like in public.

France, and every other country in the world already has restrictions on what you can wear in public. This seems like a justifiable one. But hey, maybe that's because I'm old-fashioned enough to think that "tradition", "culture" and "religion" shouldn't be allowed to trample on basic human rights. After all, I also believe that male infant circumcision should be illegal for any reason other than medical need.

I find it pretty bloody disgraceful to see allegedly liberal people minimising this issue by misrepresenting it as merely a question of choosing to wear whatever you like in public. That is a level of disingenuousness that really deserves the name of blinkered hypocrisy. I am also distinctly unimpressed by the line that some Muslim women "choose" to wear these disgusting garments. Yeah, and some women in the twenties railed against the suffragettes and "chose" not to desire the vote.

Oh, I'm sorry. Am I being too white, male and British? Okay. I'll own that. and I'll stand by my white, male, British opinion as long as it continues to seem decent and rational to me.
posted by Decani at 9:17 AM on April 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


In West London there seems to be a fashion for young black kids to wear baseball caps, but sort of perched on the head rather than pulled down - wonder if this was once a gang thing that's caught on.

I don't know if it's a gang thing, but it's common amongst urban teenagers here in the midwest US (black, Hispanic and white). The brim is kept flat.
posted by desjardins at 9:20 AM on April 11, 2011


I find it pretty bloody disgraceful to see allegedly liberal people minimising this issue by misrepresenting it as merely a question of choosing to wear whatever you like in public.
Not as disgraceful as political mugs backing state intervention in a woman's choice of dress in a sacrifice of the rights of a few for a desperate vote bid.
posted by Abiezer at 9:20 AM on April 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


Oh, I'm sorry. Am I being too white, male and British? Okay. I'll own that. and I'll stand by my white, male, British opinion as long as it continues to seem decent and rational to me.

Nah, you're not being "white, male and British". More like "uninformed, stubborn, and willful".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:21 AM on April 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


In my opinion a woman's right not to be subjected to cultural and religious pressure that tells her she is immodest if she goes out in public with her face and hair uncovered, trumps the right to wear anything you like in public.

Do you think a law such as the one passed in France does anything to protect a woman's "right not to be subjected to cultural and religious pressure"? If so, I think you're a bit naive. If a particular subculture believes that women should be forced to veil their faces, wouldn't this law merely encourage that culture to keep their women indoors? How is that at all helpful if our stated end-goal is to release women from the forces of cultural and religious pressure.

In the United States, there is a popular conservative religious movement towards modesty, which involves not baring ones shoulders. Should we pass a law banning all sleeves because one group thinks shoulders are indecent?
posted by muddgirl at 9:23 AM on April 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


As someone who lives in mero Detroit which includes Dearborn I encounter scarfs and the occassional veil and it certainly doesn't bother me.
what does is oppression, but while my personal thoughts about the topic doesn't really matter, because I sure as hell don't want people telling me what to wear, I think that if one believes that these veils are oppression the best antidote for such thoughts is education, not preaching to women of Islam.
In fact, I am glad to live in ethnically diverse area and the culture is really facinating. Not all women where these coverings due to oppression, but as a symbol of faith just as Christians wear gaudy gold crosses on the outsides of their garments.

Sure some are oppressed but the best thing for that is educational resources and legal recourses to remedy the situation. Domestic violence as a whole is poorly addressed in our society.

In fact, in Detroit there was a lawsuit about the wearing of a veil in court.... I seemed to of forgotten that outcome but it was a very intriguing legal battle.
posted by handbanana at 9:26 AM on April 11, 2011


Dangerous facial coverings in France
posted by knapah at 9:30 AM on April 11, 2011


Not choosing what to wear Decani, choosing who to be.

It becomes clear that you wish to impose your sense of "how to live a good life" upon others; how is this in any manner different from a girls father doing the same exact thing and asserting that the young woman must follow the ways? Not being infantilized by the state, and the fear of people who assert that their way is either the only way, or the best way. The idea that there is 'one' conception of "womens rights", and that it is the mindset which you currently express? That is, as you say, an old fashioned, small world conception. The world is bigger, older, and wider than the set of laws you propose. Culture means more to others than it does to you.
posted by infinite intimation at 9:30 AM on April 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yeah, and some women in the twenties railed against the suffragettes and "chose" not to desire the vote.

This is exactly the opposite of the French law: women in France are getting arrested for violating a law that restricts their right to wear what they want (regardless of why they want it) and anti-suffrage protesters were trying to deny other women their right to vote.

Hyprocrisy is supporting women's rights to do what they want as long as you approve of their choices.
posted by immlass at 9:32 AM on April 11, 2011 [15 favorites]


I think that if one believes that these veils are oppression the best antidote for such thoughts is education, not preaching to women of Islam.

...education, I might add, which is nearly impossible if women feel that they can not leave the house because they will have to reveal their face to do so.

If we are truly committed to a global feminism, then we should be making these women's lives easier, not harder.
posted by muddgirl at 9:32 AM on April 11, 2011 [7 favorites]


In my opinion a woman's right not to be subjected to cultural and religious pressure that tells her she is immodest if she goes out in public with her face and hair uncovered, trumps the right to wear anything you like in public.

I tend to agree with you here, but the problem is that these laws will not have the effect of increasing women's rights. They will decrease some of their religious rights, and then further subjugate women by ensuring that those who are compelled to wear a veil (whatever the reason, whether they are choosing to wear a veil or being forced to, this is irrelevant) cannot leave their homes.

Women's rights with respect to fundamentalist religious groups are important topics to address, but these laws will not accomplish anything positive for the women whose rights we claim to care about.
posted by arcticwoman at 9:35 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Decani : " France, and every other country in the world already has restrictions on what you can wear in public. This seems like a justifiable one. But hey, maybe that's because I'm old-fashioned enough to think that "tradition", "culture" and "religion" shouldn't be allowed to trample on basic human rights. "

France is claiming their culture and tradition gives them the right (as you put it) "trample on basic human rights" by forcing their citizens to not wear certain types of clothing. You're simultaneously telling us that's justifiable while telling us that you're old-fashioned enough to think that it cannot possibly be justified?

I think perhaps you haven't thought this through.
posted by zarq at 9:35 AM on April 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


immlass: " Hyprocrisy is supporting women's rights to do what they want as long as you approve of their choices."

I wish I could favorite this a few hundred times.
posted by zarq at 9:36 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just to say, I think women in America have been brainwashed by the media to think they like multiple sex partners and they really don't. I'm clearly right and we should make a law banning them from sex outside of marriage to protect them from allowing men to exploit them.

Women who have been coerced to believe they like sex outside of monogamous marriage clearly don't ACTUALLY want what they say they want because they have been coerced by the media, their peers and the men who want to exploit them.

I can speak for all women and I know what they want and need better than they do. Let me dictate what other women should do, for I am righter than all the others!!!!!!!!!

My benevolent authoritarian dictatorship thatwill control the actions of the people against their will is the only way to make sure the people can be empowered and truly free!

(I think I drank too much coffee, but that was fun...)
posted by xarnop at 9:38 AM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


If we want another white, male, British opinion we could do worse than ask Damian Green, the current Minister of State for Immigration in the United Kingdom. His opinion? Banning the burqa in the UK would be 'un-British'.
posted by knapah at 9:40 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


In my opinion a woman's right not to be subjected to cultural and religious pressure that tells her she is immodest if she goes out in public with her face and hair uncovered, trumps the right to wear anything you like in public.
This law doesn't do a thing about cultural and religious pressure. If anything, it will intensify the cultural and religious pressure on women by reinforcing the idea that women's bodies are the terrain on which conflicts about culture and religion get fought out.
Yeah, and some women in the twenties railed against the suffragettes and "chose" not to desire the vote.
That's a bizarre analogy: suffragists weren't arguing for laws that required women to vote, but for laws that allowed women to vote. (And of course, the people they had to convince were anti-suffrage men, not anti-suffrage women, because by definition anti-suffrage women didn't have a say in the matter. They didn't vote.) They were arguing for women to have more options, not fewer. Also, one anti-suffrage argument was that women would just vote the way their husbands told them to vote. That is to say, it was anti-suffragists, not suffragists, who shared your opinions about women's inability to make their own decisions.
posted by craichead at 9:40 AM on April 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


Banning the burqa in the UK would be 'un-British'

It may or may not be unBritish, but UK government has understood quick enough that uptake of various forms of head coverings isn't so much driven by a sense of wanting to be covered up but an assertion of identity. There are countless of examples of young muslim women saying just that. In the case of less extreme headcoverings they are almost worn as a sense of fashion.

It is why, in the UK for example, that the rise in head coverings is being driven by 2nd and 3rd generation immigrants. Sarkozy is right that the burka is a barrier to engagement with society at large. He's wrong in understanding that the wearing of it is, in many western countries, a statement of intent about disengagement. Or engagement on one's own terms.

Banning the burka would create a greater sense of wanting to assert one's identity. Hence it is basically quite counterproductive.

What is ironic in the French example is the creation of some deeply unpleasant, ugly banlieues away from town centers and the shock now that a section of society might not want to engage or integrate in the way that people want them to.
posted by MuffinMan at 9:47 AM on April 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


I was at the grocery store studying fabric softener the first time I met a woman in a burqa.

I'd just moved to Queens from Austin, and while I didn't consider myself uncultured (I totally was) it was something of a shock. She wore a full burqa, too, the kind where even the eyes are hidden by a sort of black screen.

"Hey, kid."

Someone was speaking to me in a rough Long Island accent, but I couldn't pinpoint the sound.

"Yo!"

The woman was shaking her head at me. I held my hands up, one still grasping a bottle of Downy, and looked over my shoulder. Yep, talking to me. I prepared myself for some religious conversion talk (not because I thought that was what Muslims did, but because being raised in the South prepares you for the fact that strangers will try to tell you about their BFF Jesus in pretty much every inappropriate setting possible) or perhaps for the possibility that she was being abused and was about to ask for my help (that one was pretty racist).

She placed her hands on her hips. "Some losers keep stealing the detergent and the fabric softener at night. You better check to make sure that bottle's full, because these jerks won't take refunds."

A stocker appeared in the aisle, and she began to argue with him in the way only New Yorkers can do without becoming violent. Her son did cartwheels in the aisle. I thanked her, checked to make sure my fabric softener was full, (It wasn't, thank you Burqa Lady!!) and went to check out.

Now, maybe all of these women are being oppressed. I don't know about that. But I do know that a lot of the times I think I know people, or at least how certain people should act, and they surprise me every time.

Since then I've met a lot of women who wear burqas on my flights, and some are shy, some are spoken for only by men, as I'd been taught to expect. Some of them are chatty. People are people, culture aside, right? And it's pissed me off on more than one occasion to have a pilot or coworker or passenger act like we're going to get hijacked because some woman is dressed a little more conservatively than our culture deems necessary.

I think the US has done a lot of stupid things, and the Islamaphobia is out of control here, but I think erring on the side of religious and cultural expression is one of our greatest strengths.

Also I'd really like to see someone tell Burqa Lady she's dressed inappropriately. She made a Trade Fair employee apologize; I've been here four years and I can't even get them to tell me where the hell they keep aluminum foil.
posted by jnaps at 9:56 AM on April 11, 2011 [30 favorites]


Specifically, I'm saying, "why does someone think think France doesn't have the right to say that?"

Why? Shoot-from-the-hip "sensitive leftist" assertiveness. It's a complex topic, so bear with me:

• Muslims are unfairly maligned (true).

• immigrant Muslims are often impoverished, poor people are often victimized and the powerless are subjected to every kind of unfair treatment that you can imagine (true).

• French people are generally white and well-provided for (true).

• If the side with power (France) is in conflict with the oppressed minority (muslims), you must immediately side with the lesser faction to demonstrate that you are opposed to oppression. Issues like cultural values, general comfort, or cultural sovereignty are irrelevant if they are of consideration to the Power Faction. The only issue NOT relevant to the Lesser Faction is free will, and that is conditional. Free will about how to dress and conduct ones self is very relevant, free will about deciding how one's dress and conduct will be received somewhere and whether or not it is a good idea to move to where it will not be welcome is irrelevant. Likewise, if you are already part of a society, free will to adopt or reject cultural practices/dress that your neighbors will find disruptive is irrelevant.

• Because you must always side with the worse-off, cultural relativism is a one-way street where repugnant practices by the minority are absolved/justified and even merely questionable practices by the Power Faction are atrocities or at least lead-ups.

• Oppressed minorities should be allowed to do whatever they want and the price of privilege* is that you must let them no matter how disruptive it is. Equality follows instead of a self-perpetuating cycle of resentment that freezes progress.

*"Privilege" is something bad that some people are born with, roughly akin to original sin, except that it's explicitly the bearer's fault. It was discovered by Lani Guinier in the late 80's and social scientists have proven irrefutably that it is the source of nearly everything wrong with the world. The only way to remove it from your person is by constantly apologizing and being obsequious to people who have less of it than you do. If you're wondering if you have Privilege, ask yourself if your life is easier than the most down-trodden individual or group that you can think of. If the answer is "yes," then you should start making excuses for people that you may previously have disdained, ranging from perpetrators of property crimes all the way to suicide bombers. If you are unsure if you have Privilege, please go to your nearest Food Not Bombs table and someone will be happy to assure you that you do.
posted by Mayor Curley at 10:11 AM on April 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Note that a comparison with the UK (and possibly US) situation regarding to full veil issue is a little problematic. UK muslims come predominantly from Asian countries where the full veil is (in some areas) traditional. Most French muslims come from North and subsaharan Africa where these traditions do not exist (or no longer exist) except in some highly politicised circles. In other words, the burqa/niqab is not an identity issue for French muslims (unlike the Ramadan for instance), who are generally more integrated than other European muslims.
posted by elgilito at 10:12 AM on April 11, 2011


I am with the French on this one.

Medieval beekeeper suits have no place in a democratic society. Theirs or ours.

I absolutely want to see someone's eyes and face when I interact with them. It's a basic way that humans judge the trustworthiness and intentions of others.
posted by etherist at 10:12 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


There is an upside to this: Tease your Christian Right pals that the French are "better Christians" than they are. Watch their mouths open and shut, wordlessly.
posted by Xoebe at 10:13 AM on April 11, 2011


jnaps, that is a great example of how individuals, even in seemingly direct opposition, or resistance to the "dominant" ways for a particular culture, individuals pull, and are influence by their language, in expression, and ways (consciously or not) from their culture, their upbringing, their community.

Decani seems to have been playing the "everyone gangs up on white male brits" game, hoping to turn what is an act against people who are not him, into something about him, and his feelings, or rather, perceptions on their lifeway. Rudyard Islam had something to say about burdens.

y'know, the EDL spits on young Muslims people while holding up "won't someone think of the GAYS!" sings... I don't jump to their defense either. Just because someone takes on the "trappings" of some sort of resistance, or opposition to a power structure of oppression... doesn't mean that their motives, or goals, ends, or means are righteous, virtuous, or worthy. I do not believe that given power, those people would protect all people equally. I just do not. Protecting one "class", by oppressing another... is not justice. Particularly when singular persons may cross categories, venn diagram style.

Women the world over have been "self-expressing", expressing difference, assuming fluid gender roles, and living in resistance to patriarchy for ages. Just because many of the ways of expression, and gathering of prestige were homogenized, even forcefully eradicated, during colonialism, where so many avenues to resistance were lost, in the transition from local, vernacular ways, into commodity trading and international dealing (where the whites, the brits, and other Empires exploited, dominated by creating inter-group strife, pitting neighbour against neighbour (France would do well to look to their influence on 'The Hutu and the Tutsi'), and set the prices, and the currency) doesn't mean that it is now your duty to go "fix" people (whom you perceive to be broken, or childlike). The thing is, a lot of "white brit men" have long tried to tell women of the world how to be; and like any situation of an outsider, ignorant of localisms, coming in and telling households that they are "wrong" (and no, Muslims coming to France are not "telling France they are wrong", they are expecting merely the SAME treatment that all people who come to France have, Freedom, liberties, and equal justice, rather than exceptional treatment, merely equal treatment is sought).

You cannot just "take away freedoms, liberties and rights" from a single group, and expect the preservation of any good aspects of an ancient, long lasting cultural conception, when you try to "re-program" (selected) people using the law as a tool, or instrument of your desire, and will, it is a pathway to strife, not building societies. You build broken communities, non-cohesive families, broken homes, poverty, and a permanent system of in-cohesive communities... examples abound of places where people were ripped from their homes, forced to new places, their culture called "evil", education not "allowed" for the minority. And 100's of years later, there is strife, conflict, and difficulty in rebuilding the power of community which once was, but was eradicated by the colonizing/dominating forces.

You can see clearly multiple places where this happened, and why it is bad, and can actually measure the impact, and negative implications; please France, don't rebuild this road. This law will create a reality of less young women in school, and (personally) I will not blame this reality on some singular, unnamed Muslim father boogyman.
posted by infinite intimation at 10:14 AM on April 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


Oh, yeah, and I forgot, the first thing that came to my mind: You know what everyone is going to wear on Halloween, in France, this year.*

*of those French who might actually celebrate Halloween
posted by Xoebe at 10:14 AM on April 11, 2011


In the United States, there is a popular conservative religious movement towards modesty, which involves not baring ones shoulders. Should we pass a law banning all sleeves because one group thinks shoulders are indecent?

Does that particular religious movement condone beating up (and in the worst cases killing) young women who do not subscribe to the mores of that movement? Are those baring their shoulders routinely called "sluts" by their male peers? Do they advocate segretated PhysEd and swimming classes? Are their girls in any danger of being killed by relatives if they dare have premarital sex? - If so, then yes, I suppose that a law banning all sleeves is something one might think about.

I know that most Muslims are decent people who have nothing to do with honor killings etc., but there appears to be some correlation between forcing young women to wear the veil and the behavior described above.>
posted by sour cream at 10:17 AM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


He's only arguing that France has a right to expect people to make some attempt to conform to French cultural norms while in France. He need not come out and say anything, as he's NOT being duplicitous. He's not arguing for the absolute superiority of traditional French cultural practices over any other. Only that as someone electing to live in a particular society, you should be obligated to live within its confines.

But this implies that the activities of conservative Muslims as they go about their daily lives in France is to be excluded, a priori, from any role in constituting "French cultural norms", and that conservative Muslims are to be excluded from the "France" that has the right to expect certain behavior. At the very least, then, supporters of this law need to come out and say that longstanding tradition trumps everything else, to the extent that this should be enforced by law.

To be completely clear, I am not suggesting that traditions that pressure women to cover their faces are just as valid as traditions that don't. I am saying that before you fight a lack of freedom by removing another freedom, you need a really really good reason, and those seem lacking here.
posted by oliverburkeman at 10:26 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


they are expecting merely the SAME treatment that all people who come to France have, Freedom, liberties, and equal justice, rather than exceptional treatment, merely equal treatment is sought).


Are you French? I'd be really curious to hear from a native whether or not Wikipedia is correct in saying "French insistence on the lack of religion in all things public (laïcité or secularism) is a notable feature in the French ideal of citizenship....

The French Republic has always recognised individuals rather than groups and holds that its citizens' first allegiance is to society in general and not to a particular group, religious or otherwise; the opposing attitude, known as communautarisme, is generally considered undesirable in political discourse in France.
"
posted by dubold at 10:28 AM on April 11, 2011


("a really really good reason", I mean, given that the removal of a freedom is, all else being equal, a bad thing among liberals, which we mostly seem to be here.)
posted by oliverburkeman at 10:28 AM on April 11, 2011


I know that most Muslims are decent people who have nothing to do with honor killings etc.

I know that Obama isn't a Muslim. Of course I know that.

But he is a Muslim.
posted by running order squabble fest at 10:30 AM on April 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


etherist: Medieval beekeeper suits have no place in a democratic society. Theirs or ours.

Reductions to absurdity have no place in a democratic society either. Theirs or ours.

I absolutely want to see someone's eyes and face when I interact with them. It's a basic way that humans judge the trustworthiness and intentions of others.

Your wants are irrelevant.

Mayor Curley: It was discovered by Lani Guinier in the late 80's and social scientists have proven irrefutably that it is the source of nearly everything wrong with the world.

What do Lani Guinier and Food Not Bombs have to do with this discussion?
posted by blucevalo at 10:31 AM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


three blind mice: "Full veil banned for Muslim women in France.

As a practical matter, the French law makes is much more difficult for male family members to impose their medieval will on the women in their family. This law is a tool of female empowerment and as such I am compelled to say it is a good thing.
"


I suspect this has been said up thread, but I suspect those same men will just forbid those same girls from leaving the house. So, yeah. Broad cultural changes will require more than just this.
posted by NiteMayr at 10:32 AM on April 11, 2011


For a really long time, France (in general) has felt like they've had to protect their culture from outsiders. This isn't totally crazy; a lot of cultures have seen vast changes by the dominance of English-speaking countries on world-wide media. To the French that support this practice, it's not an issue of them being culturally imperialist, but an issue of resisting cultural imperialism.

The problem is that there's no culture that's really at the bottom of the power scale (well, maybe there's one), and protecting your culture means protecting it both from English/American and Muslim influences.

So I don't think talking about this in terms of the French right-wing makes a lot of sense. French political divisions aren't about racism (or culturalism, or whatever) as much as they are in the United States.

Obviously, there are a lot of factors that enter into the decision to enact France's law. Some of them are more smoke-screen, some of them are less. Framing this in terms of driving safety or protection of women alone doesn't really make sense, but those things can be contributing factors in the eyes of some of the people who support this.

To argue that the majority of French Muslims are native-born is kind of missing the point from the point of view of the French that are trying to protect their culture. To them, that just means that interventions like these are long past due.

I'm not French, so it's probably understandable that I don't agree that cultures need to be protected from foreign influence. Cultures change. Practices are lost, practices are gained. This is a pretty standard for US American beliefs, but it's worth mentioning that US American dissent isn't really about left or right either. There are conservatives that argue for the institution of English as the official language of the US, but there are also leftists dedicated to protecting minority groups from cultural assimilation and appropriation.
posted by nathan v at 10:36 AM on April 11, 2011


If so, then yes, I suppose that a law banning all sleeves is something one might think about.

Some of what you are describing is sometimes called "domestic violence." How, specifically, will banning face veils protect women from culturally-sanctioned domestic violence?

I know that most Muslims are decent people who have nothing to do with honor killings etc., but there appears to be some correlation between forcing young women to wear the veil and the behavior described above.

Again, this law does nothing to discern whether young women are wearing a face veil by choice or as a form of domestic violence. It has nothing to do with preventing domestic violence and to conflate the two leads to the sort of strawmanning present in this thread.
posted by muddgirl at 10:41 AM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


What do Lani Guinier and Food Not Bombs have to do with this discussion?

Making jokes for myself and hasty editing. For Guinier, I was making the point that the sides in this discussion have to do with the American Liberal concept of Privilege, even though it's not been framed that way. When the topic of Privilege does become explicit in other threads, I think of the people who are feeding it as "amateur Guiniers" so I slipped it in. Needless sentence only of interest to me, should have left it out.

Food Not Bombs-- That was originally "ask anyone here," but I thought the comment was more likely to be deleted if I made a joke about the user base, so I changed it to my favorite hippy punching bag at the last minute. Should have gone in a different direction. Valid exceptions, both. Sorry.
posted by Mayor Curley at 10:43 AM on April 11, 2011


There's a lot of misunderstanding here about why a woman might choose to wear niqab. Understanding The Face Veil, may help.

Let me first say that Muslims are not the only hair covering or face covering religion. The Jews and the Christians got plenty of their own sects that do the same thing. Heck, I have a friend who makes a fortune making wigs for Orthodox Jewish women, who wear wigs instead of showing their own hair. Sounds crazy, right? But not to them.

When I visit other cultures where women traditionally cover their hair, I cover my hair. If they rubbed blue mud in their belly buttons...I'd do that too. It's just my way of being polite...because it's not important to me in any way, and it is often important to the people in the culture where I hope to interact.

But women (in the west) who choose to wear hijab do it of their own free will...and to suggest that "they only do it because they're forced" is a massive failure of both understanding the faith they profess, but is also a ragingly paternalistic stand to make.

For some segments of some religions, covering one's head before god and man is a very important part of the faith. To suggest that a secular state has the right to stop some displays of religion, while allowing others, is to suggest that some religions are not as equal as others.
posted by dejah420 at 10:43 AM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


There are actually members of the Christian right in America who propose remarkably fucked-up things having to do with female sexuality, sour cream. There are also Christians in America, who are not necessarily the same people as the folks who want capital punishment for abortion providers, who wear Little House on the Prairie dresses because they think that's modest. I am very concerned about the radical religious right types and their policy agenda, but I sort of fail to see how banning Little House on the Prairie dresses is going to address the threat they pose.
posted by craichead at 10:45 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


If it comes down to a fight between individual freedom and common good, my guess is, France will surrender. posted by Samuel Farrow at 5:35 AM on 4/11
I know it's been fashionable to make fun of alleged French military incompetence since they expressed reservations about joining the US's glorious Mesopotamian Crusade but perhaps you could educate yourself about perhaps the most militarily successful country in history before trotting out such tired "jokes" on the blue.
posted by jtron at 10:50 AM on April 11, 2011 [9 favorites]


QFT, jtron. Just read about Napoleon's Grande Armee and that will give you a good indication of how the "cheese eating surrender monkeys" thing was started by Homer Simpson because he's an idiot, not because it's true.
posted by Leta at 10:53 AM on April 11, 2011


By the way: one more oddity in the arguments of some of this law's supporters here is the notion that French Muslim women must have "freely chosen" to live in France (thus must conform to French cultural norms) yet cannot possibly have freely chosen to wear a veil. Even among that portion of French Muslim women who are immigrants, that strikes me as extremely unlikely to be the case. (This is just one more reason why you can't dodge this argument by insisting that you're merely saying people in France should act French.)
posted by oliverburkeman at 10:54 AM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


one more oddity in the arguments of some of this law's supporters here is the notion that French Muslim women must have "freely chosen" to live in France (thus must conform to French cultural norms) yet cannot possibly have freely chosen to wear a veil.

Those aren't fully connected arguments (for the record, I'm not one of the people arguing that wearing the veil is coercion). The subject of the "elected to live in France" argument when coupled with "forced to wear a veil" shifts to the coercer (husband, father, etc.). If it's the immigrants we're discussing (not getting hung up on the fact that some of the folks are natives), either they're wearing it of free will and could elect not to move to France, or a man elects to make his wife wear a veil but also elected to move his family to France.

Personally, I think the coercion element is a red herring because people have demonstrated that it's certainly often not the case.
posted by Mayor Curley at 11:05 AM on April 11, 2011


Yeah, it's pretty amazing the contortions that people are engaging in, trying to argue that taking choices away from women is the best! thing! in the name of feminism!!1!

Come to think of it, it's a lot like Sarah Palin's feminism.

Look, some feminists have breast implants. Some take their husband's last name. Some are strippers. Some are stay at home moms. Some go to church every week. And some cover their hair.

Feminism is not monolithic. It does not conform to stereotypes. We aren't all hairy lesbian braless angry chicks, okay?

I'm not saying that all covering Muslim women are feminists, but don't say that they aren't, just based on the niquab.

If it's really domestic violence you are worried about, I would submit the following: Muslims haven't cornered the market on DV; let's not punish women for being forced to wear certain clothes, as that will do nothing to prevent/end DV.
posted by Leta at 11:14 AM on April 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Is it domestic violence if the woman says she likes it? BDSM anyone? What if some women like being oppressed? Is taking away their right to let themselves be oppressed any less of someone else oppressing their will?

The thing that I find ironic about protesting a womans right to wear follow an oppressive religion is the fact that it's perfectly legal to coerce a woman in to sex, into drinking, into anything under the sun, here in the states.

If you coerce her, but she chooses to follow your lead--- we leave her at the mercy of her choices in this culture.

Either we need to examine the ways that we allow women to choose oppression in this culture without stopping them, or we need to shut up about the face veils and champion womens right to choose oppression, abuse and exploitation as we do in this culture.
posted by xarnop at 11:15 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


But what if the women WANT to get the shit kicked out of them at home by their violent husband--aren't you restricting their freedom to be mercilessly attacked by a raging sociopath?
posted by gagglezoomer at 11:16 AM on April 11, 2011


dubold, I think you may be misreading that wiki, it appears more as an attempt to guard against the growth of "religion of the state" (which in all cases I can think of, leads to an oppression of breakaways, minority-sects, and opposition to structures of injustice, domination, or oppression [which, obviously ironically, is what the state is attempting to do here; it may not be under the "banner" of a state religion, but it has the effect of attempting to define citizens in relation to a particualar conception of "good", of "the right", of "secular", which, as I quote after, the French document of inception directly says is "not the French way". I am not French, have done an amount of reading on the similar phenomena in Quebec, and looked at this particular topic re; France for a while. The article you linked is more about;


"the State does not recognize any official religion (except for legacy statutes like that of military chaplains and the local law in Alsace-Moselle). Instead, it merely recognizes religious organizations, according to formal legal criteria that do not address religious doctrine. Conversely, religious organizations should refrain from intervening in the State's policy-making."


This Statute banning covering or modesty (note, this is likely less powerful than the inception documents), as written in Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen; which state...

No one shall be disquieted on account of his opinions, including his religious views, provided their manifestation does not disturb the public order established by law.

The aim of all political association is the preservation of the natural and imprescriptible rights of man. These rights are liberty, property, security, and resistance to oppression.
The current crop of political people have constructed a catch 22, the state will protect every single citizens right to free thought, belief, organization, and faith; unless you break this new law which specifically says ONE group may not have these same rights.
posted by infinite intimation at 11:17 AM on April 11, 2011


"The current crop of political people have constructed a catch 22, the state will protect every single citizens right to free thought, belief, organization, and faith; unless you break this new law which specifically says ONE group may not have these same rights."

I think a lot of people are misunderstanding this law. It does not specify Muslims nor women. It's also illegal for a man to wear a veil (which is kind of funny, because in this respect, it's maybe more enlightened than US American laws forbidding only women from baring their nipples). It's also illegal to wear a ski mask (unless you're skiing). The biggest punishment is reserved, not for people covering their faces, but for people who make others cover their faces (not sure what "make" entails-- threats of physical force, I believe, are already illegal, so I imagine that any sort of encouragement of covering up is against the law).

Of course, the meaning of this law is perfectly clear: it's aimed at Muslims. The prohibition against making others cover their face is pretty much unenforceable, so it's aimed at Muslim women.

The reason that it's likely to face challenges is because of its exemptions for traditional or religious ceremonies. I don't believe this has been well defined, and it's pretty clearly just a way to make it only apply to Muslim women. I guess it'd be okay for Muslim women to cover up during funerals or when going to mosque, but not when they go grocery shopping? It'd require some pretty crazy and stringent definitions to really be enforceable. I doubt that there's even any intention of enforcing it.
posted by nathan v at 11:33 AM on April 11, 2011


Is it domestic violence if the woman says she likes it? BDSM anyone?

It is ridiculous to mention these in the same breath. You don't know what you're talking about.

it's perfectly legal to coerce a woman in to sex

again, wtf are you talking about.
posted by desjardins at 11:40 AM on April 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


But what if the women WANT to get the shit kicked out of them at home by their violent husband--aren't you restricting their freedom to be mercilessly attacked by a raging sociopath?

Are you seriously equating wardrobe choice with physical assault?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:46 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hardly a significant threat to 'French Culture'
Well, the law also targets (theoretically) Batman French cosplayers, who may be as numerous (and as dangerous) as burkha-wearing women.


Surely there's only one French Batman cosplayer, and he is also a muslim.
posted by running order squabble fest at 11:50 AM on April 11, 2011


America: "Show us your tits!"
France: "And your face, too!"
posted by nickmark at 11:51 AM on April 11, 2011


xarnop: " Either we need to examine the ways that we allow women to choose oppression in this culture without stopping them, or we need to shut up about the face veils and champion womens right to choose oppression, abuse and exploitation as we do in this culture."

Are you joking around ironically the way you did upthread? I honestly can't tell.
posted by zarq at 11:52 AM on April 11, 2011


muddgirl: Some of what you are describing is sometimes called "domestic violence." How, specifically, will banning face veils protect women from culturally-sanctioned domestic violence?

Hmmm, you got me there, I suppose it doesn't. I'm updating my opinion on this law from "pro" to "ambivalent."

Apparently some Muslim women have already stated that they want to fight the law before the European court of human rights (and I suspect that they will be successful unless the law isn't repealed before). This strikes me as just a teeny bit ironic, because they are essentially fighting for symbols of a religion that wants to deny them the very right to stand up for themselves.
posted by sour cream at 11:52 AM on April 11, 2011


it's perfectly legal to coerce a woman in to sex, into drinking, into anything under the sun, here in the states.

What? Cite, please. Unless we're working from very different definitions of coercion.
posted by rtha at 11:53 AM on April 11, 2011


"If you sleep with me I'll leave you."

This is probably acceptable coercion in most people's eyes, but it's still coercion. You can run up a scale of less and less acceptable forms of coercion until you start to hit the stuff that's illegal in the US ("If you don't sleep with me I'll publish these incriminating photographs of you.")
posted by nathan v at 11:55 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


umm, "if you DON'T sleep with me...", of course.
posted by nathan v at 11:56 AM on April 11, 2011


There are “No Hats, No Hoods, No Sunglasses” signs in a lot of businesses (especially banks) here in the California. I'm pretty sure it's aimed at the sunglasses and black hoodies that are everywhere, and could therefore be interpreted as racist, since they're so prevalent in minority areas, though whites wear them plenty,too. I bet, though, that if France had just gone with something similar to that, there wouldn't be such a hullabaloo.

I can't bring myself to be sad about people being forced to show their features. It's a too integral a part of my culture to be able to meet someone's eyes and read their face. I do wish it hadn't come about because of cultural intolerances.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:56 AM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm saying that in our culture we allow women to be coerced into all sorts of things and for legal purposes we don't really care who coerced them, if they agreed, it's their fault.

If you want to make it illegal to coerce women to do things they don't want to do, that would be awesome, but how on earth would the government be capable of meddling in our lives to that extent? I mean, then will we make gossiping illegal because it hurts feelings?

At what point do we want to give people the right to choose something even if it's harmful to them?

I'm not proposing the answer, I posing a legitimate question. If we want to point fingers at the oppressive coercive muslim culture then we should look at the ways women in our own culture have been coerced and pressured into doing things that were harmful to them and the fact that we have no laws to protect women from any type of coersion in this culture.
posted by xarnop at 11:56 AM on April 11, 2011


because they are essentially fighting for symbols of a religion that wants to deny them the very right to stand up for themselves

Islam, the entire religion, wants to deny women the right to stand up for themselves? In a different way than any other conservative religion? Please explain.
posted by muddgirl at 11:56 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


muddgirl: " Islam, the entire religion, wants to deny women the right to stand up for themselves? In a different way than any other conservative religion?

Well, for one thing most religions explicitly don't do that. Extremists do.
posted by zarq at 11:59 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


the fact that we have no laws to protect women from any type of coersion in this culture.

That is simply incorrect. It may not be illegal to use the "If you don't sleep with me, I'll leave you" kind of coercion; it is absolutely illegal to use "If you don't do what I want [get drunk, fuck me, clean my house] I will shoot you/break your legs/kill your child/tell your mom and everyone you know you're a whore."
posted by rtha at 12:02 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yes but is that the kind of coersion being used on Muslim women? What if the coersion is, "If you don't put the burqa on, you will put the family to shame. Put it on immediately!" How is that worse than forms of coersion that are legal here?
posted by xarnop at 12:10 PM on April 11, 2011


I'm not saying it's worse or better. I'm asking that you stop declaring that all forms of coercion in the U.S. are legal. It's a rhetorical tactic that isn't serving your argument well in the least.
posted by rtha at 12:11 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


muddgirl: Islam, the entire religion, wants to deny women the right to stand up for themselves? In a different way than any other conservative religion?

I think it is undeniable that in those parts of the Islamic world where religious laws on wearing the proper headdress is enforced most rigorously (e.g. Saudi Arabia, Iran), women have the least rights. In Iran, failing to wear a hijab is punishable by up to 70 lashes.
posted by sour cream at 12:12 PM on April 11, 2011


...and that is why many people in Europe (including many Muslims) see the hijab as a symbol of oppression. And look at Muslim women wearing a veil or a burqa out of their own free will as totally bonkers and possibly in need of projection from themselves and/or their families.
posted by sour cream at 12:15 PM on April 11, 2011


xarnop: " At what point do we want to give people the right to choose something even if it's harmful to them?"

In the US, the line is usually drawn at the point your habits negatively affect others.
posted by zarq at 12:17 PM on April 11, 2011


punishable by up to 70 lashes

Reading a phrase like that definitely reinforces my feelings about the burqa. It makes me feel okay to just be against it, qualitatively, and not worry too much about having to support my arguments. I don't really care what your justifications are for lashing women, men, whoever for some bullshit misdemeanor crime and I don't care what your reasons are for forcing women to wear a beekeeper outfit in 100 degree heat. Fuck it. You suck as a person if you do that and I don't give a shit if it's because you read about in some old book.
posted by gagglezoomer at 12:20 PM on April 11, 2011


Reading a phrase like that definitely reinforces my feelings about the burqa. It makes me feel okay to just be against it, qualitatively, and not worry too much about having to support my arguments.

...so you oppose people being compelled to WEAR something they don't want to, but you support people being compelled to NOT wear somethign they DO want to?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:29 PM on April 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


"And look at Muslim women wearing a veil or a burqa out of their own free will as totally bonkers and possibly in need of projection from themselves and/or their families."

Why would women agree to allow themselves to be throatfucked by 10 men on film? I want to protect women from themselves making such choices-- however here in the states we champion that women can choose whatever they want to do. If someone pressured them into it, or they submitted to it because of low self esteem, or whatever--- we still believe that everyone should have the right to choose to do such things, however harmful, if they do so voluntarily.

Here, we say, people can choose to do things that are bad for themselves, and we leave them to face the consequences. I don't particularly like it, but it seems like the american way.

I like the idea of making the veils illegal. I think muslim culture is oppressive. I think women in our culture submit to harmful things done to them as well, and I would like to protect them as well.

When I talk about saving women in this culture from themselves I always get reminded about women's rights to choose to be degraded by men and how many women like it and so it should be legal. So cool. We can just make everything legal and leave people to suffer their own decisions, but then it seems inconsistant to say that a woman can't choose to be oppressed by a controlling religious ideology if she wants to.

I could be wrong, but I would guess assault is already illegal in france. So the lashes used to control people would already be against the law and changing a womans right to wear the veil wouldn't change that. But what if she agrees to the lashes? Considering that in our culture we allow women to be tortured on film for pay, I would say we are no less barbaric.
posted by xarnop at 12:30 PM on April 11, 2011


Dude, please stop the conflation of kinky sex with religiously mandated torture
posted by jtron at 12:33 PM on April 11, 2011 [7 favorites]


I think you are having a parallel conversation, Xarnop, about BDSM erotica, as far as I can tell. This is frankly odd to read.

On the plus side, the Bandar (port or coast) people of Iran have awesome burqas.
posted by running order squabble fest at 12:34 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


sour cream: "And look at Muslim women wearing a veil or a burqa out of their own free will as totally bonkers and possibly in need of projection from themselves and/or their families."

At the risk of stating the blindingly obvious, the women who are being banned from wearing hijabs, niqabs and burqas by French law do not live in a country where the state or a religious imam can legally lash them 70x for taking it off. I would assume there's little to no danger of this happening and the perpetrator getting away with it in France. If they did, it would be an horrific tragedy, but would never be state-sanctioned, and would still be the act of extremists, and I would hope like hell they'd be tried, convicted and rot in a French prison for the rest of their lives.

French Muslim women don't need protection from state or religious authorities who whip them. Instead, they're having "protection" forced upon them by the state and considering that France already has a documented problem with anti-Muslim discrimination, taking that to another, institutionalized level is problematic.
posted by zarq at 12:35 PM on April 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


Reading a phrase like that definitely reinforces my feelings about the burqa. It makes me feel okay to just be against it, qualitatively, and not worry too much about having to support my arguments. I don't really care what your justifications are for lashing women, men, whoever for some bullshit misdemeanor crime and I don't care what your reasons are for forcing women to wear a beekeeper outfit in 100 degree heat. Fuck it. You suck as a person if you do that and I don't give a shit if it's because you read about in some old book.

It's okay to be opposed to the practices that give rise to the wearing of burqas. The issue is when you start criminalizing the symptom as a hope of getting at the cause. Even if you think that it's okay to start criminalizing specific articles of clothing because you don't like the reason why some people wear them - and by the way, it's not - this is simply counterproductive. This only builds up walls, it doesn't do a damn thing to tear them down.

Women who choose to wear a burqa are being more oppressed by this law's denial of their choice. Women who are being coerced into never going out in public without a burqa are being more oppressed by this law's denial of the option of wearing a burqa, and will simply be forced to never go out in public instead.

This law punishes women who adhere to the specific subsets of Islam that require the wearing of face-coverings. It doesn't do a damn thing to free them.
posted by kafziel at 12:35 PM on April 11, 2011 [7 favorites]


a pro-life group set up at our university fair one year. It took me a lot of strength not to go and challenge them. Being personally choice or life is one thing - it's when people decide what others ought to believe that enrages me. And this veil debate isn't far off this.

There's no such thing as being personally pro-choice or life - both are political positions. And the analogy to the veil debate is actually pretty apt. I believe that a person ought to be able to choose what to do with their body. The French government believes that they know best for everyone.
posted by arcticwoman at 12:39 PM on April 11, 2011


When I talk about saving women in this culture from themselves I always get reminded about women's rights to choose to be degraded by men and how many women like it and so it should be legal.

So I should trust you to make decisions on my behalf? Because there are several groups here in the U.S. who would like to "protect me" in ways that you would (I hope) find beyond the pale. But you? You we can trust! You really *do* know better than I do what's degrading or harmful to me - you're not at all like those crazy Other People who would have me married off at age 15 to a man three times my age, or whatever.

Agency? I don't need to stinkin' agency!
posted by rtha at 12:40 PM on April 11, 2011 [7 favorites]


This law punishes women who adhere to the specific subsets of Islam that require the wearing of face-coverings. It doesn't do a damn thing to free them.

Maybe the effects of the law work against its intent. I'm not sure. But I think the law sends a clear message that France does not tolerate oppression in this manner, even under the flag of religion. That's something I can get behind. The burqa isn't a vulgar t-shirt, and wearing it isn't an exercise of religious freedom. If you want an analogy, here, I'll give you one: the Star of David sewn to your clothing.
posted by gagglezoomer at 12:40 PM on April 11, 2011


The Islamic Veil across Europe
posted by zarq at 12:43 PM on April 11, 2011


Fez fez fez fez fez fez fez!!!

(I just really like typing that!)
posted by newdaddy at 12:44 PM on April 11, 2011


Why would women agree to allow themselves to be throatfucked by 10 men on film?

Because of the money? Or because they enjoy it? In any case, I don't think there's a country on earth where failing to submit to that behavior (yikes I can't even type it) will get you lashed, so your analogy doesn't hold.

however here in the states we champion that women can choose whatever they want to do.

Well that's not really true, is it? For starters, they can't walk around bare-breasted, can they? Or while drinking a bottle of beer. That last one can even get you arrested -- land of the free my ass.
posted by sour cream at 12:45 PM on April 11, 2011


But I think the law sends a clear message that France does not tolerate oppression in this manner, even under the flag of religion.

It sends the message that France condones political oppression of a religious practice.

If you want an analogy, here, I'll give you one: the Star of David sewn to your clothing.

Oh FFS. The Star of David identifier was an act of a country to oppress it's citizens. It's a great analogy for why we should fight AGAINST this veil ban!
posted by muddgirl at 12:45 PM on April 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


the Star of David sewn to your clothing.

You mean like the ones the Vichy government required its French citizens and resident foreign nationals to wear? Yes. Exactly the same.
posted by rtha at 12:51 PM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


For starters, they can't walk around bare-breasted, can they?

They can in New York City. Take that, America!
posted by hermitosis at 12:51 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


rtha-- I agree with you and I'm actually saying exactly what you're saying. Wanting to protect someone from something you think it harmful doesn't give you the right to override their will.

However the technicalities of championing the right to choose oppression and abuse has it's downsides as much as oppressing people for the sake of their own good.

I don't think penalizing women for wearing the veil in any way is conductive to freeing them from oppression. It's indeed more of the same.

But in some oppresseve cultures people choose to accept the punishment recommended for them. What if a woman violates her cultures taboo and believes she deserves violent punishment? Then do we allow that punishment?
posted by xarnop at 12:52 PM on April 11, 2011


gagglezoomer: " If you want an analogy, here, I'll give you one: the Star of David sewn to your clothing."

This is not an accurate analogy.

The yellow star was used by nations throughout Europe to mark Jews and set them apart for approximately 500 years. It separated Jews from Christians and invited persecution. A godfearing Christian no longer had to look for stereotypical features in order to identify and target their traditional, hated enemy. The practice was abandoned at the end of the 18th century and then picked up again by the Nazis during the 20th. Again, to set Jews apart, isolate them and invite persecution. This way, the antisemitic Nuremberg Laws could be more easily enforced.

The Yellow Stars were institutionalized persecution and antisemitism. In France, a woman wearing a burqa, niqab or hijab head scarf is none of those things. And this law which bans women from wearing religious clothing is perhaps analogous to banning Jewish men from wearing skullcaps. (kipot) Or banning the practice of wig-wearing amongst Orthodox women. It's anti-religious legislation in the guise of liberalism.
posted by zarq at 12:52 PM on April 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


If you want an analogy, here, I'll give you one: the Star of David sewn to your clothing.
Ok, so I just want to get this straight. You're saying that if I want to sew a star of David to my clothing, I shouldn't be allowed to? Because I'm fully aware of the significance of that symbol, and I'm sure I'd be making some sort of statement if I decided to wear a star of David sewn on my clothing, but I'm really weirded out by the idea that I would be legally barred from doing so.
posted by craichead at 12:55 PM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sorry, I can't argue this. I just don't see eye to eye with how a Jew wearing a skull cap or a Christian with cross on a chain is the same as a face mask, the wearing of which is, in contemporary times, part and parcel of one of the most institutionalized, systematic regimes of female oppression in the world.

I don't see this as religious freedom at all.
posted by gagglezoomer at 12:57 PM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


The "oppressive" part is the part where it is "law", where punishment from a monolithic state is doled out, where state sanctioned opprobrium is placed on those who "err", or step outside the norms (sound familiar France? [yeah, 70 lashes is measurably harsher than jail/fines/inability to participate in civil society, but the principle of coercion is the same, and this is not a "which punishment is worse" contest] if women who wear such clothing, wether forced, or by force of free will, are banned from access to civil institutions... well, it follows that their voices will not be part of the mix which makes up "law and civil society", this one surefire way to entrench an underclass).

"because they are essentially fighting for symbols of a religion that wants to deny them the very right to stand up for themselves."

No; sorry. Not this at all. "They", are not helpless infants, nor monolithic singular individual, whom you must wrap in laws banning cultural trappings, or they will wither away. There is a brain behind that veil. A mouth, thoughts, and ideas. I deeply wish more people would recognize this, and do away with infantilizing rhetoric.

The more laws like this arise (and the examples of similar targeting laws are on the rise across europe, the West, Russia, and elsewhere), the less likely it will be that you will see women doing things like taking part in civil institutions; if the laws BAR a woman bearing these trappings from working in the public sector... then women bearing these cultural signifiers will cease to exist in the civil sector. It is not because of some "father", it is because of the laws. Parents die, and people run away, and redefine themselves; civil laws outlast them.

Is it a "moral" wrong for a parent to "make" their young girl cover up? Really? Like, even if she goes to public school, is allowed to learn, and to participate in the educational activities, and there is nothing stopping a full head cover wearing person from "phys-ed, gym class"? Is it being suggested that "if someone could STOP all burqua wearing, by stripping people of them, burning them, and relocating children to foster parents... would that be better? Do people really believe that a covering is inherently oppressive? Or is it a faction who use it oppressively? Or always?


"which is kind of funny"

No, it really isn't, this is a law targeting a group, and it will have a direct impact on the access to education, membership, and the claiming of a real place in society. The laws of Quebec barring a Sikh from entrance to the halls of governance, on account of cultural trappings, in the name of public security panic (and these new France ones) are about to say "women of a subset we are arbitrarily defining [and men with ski-masks?]

[even those who are single, have a billion dollars, are super smart, know much, and are independent, and can school the old boys club, but she wears a head-scarf because she is her mind, her words, ideas, and her actions, not what some man thinks of her face, or how hot she is." (and no, this doesn't mean by default that any given uncovered woman ought to be "judged on hotness", or is 'less' for having a different internal mindset; what this means is that THAT particular individual, made that choice, for their life (*which seems to really be the issue at the heart of this; there are two things going on, one, is the Assumption that Islamic culture is "judging" western culture as being "immodest", and two is that people of this culture are unable to possess free will, that it is "inconceivable" that someone could both freely choose such a mode of dress, and at the same time believe in rights, justice, and freedoms.

It is only "oppression" to people who feel it is oppressive.

"The biggest punishment is reserved, not for people covering their faces, but for people who make others cover their faces..."

Right, it is an attempt, by proxy, to make "Islamic teaching", sharing of that community, traditions, reasonings, and understandings... illegal. Again, I suggest looking at the long history of what happens when a dominant culture forces, by legal code, what may, and may not be taught (I would even suggest that by forcing such teaching underground, it pushes the culture, and the internal debates of that culture out of the commons, the Agora, and into places where fundamentalism, and radicalism flourish).
Have I just violated your rights by defending (nay, even perhaps some would see it as promoting) the ability for a woman to choose covering; am I guilty?

Yes, an Islamic father may have played a (possibly integral) role in the chain of causation that leads to any given daughter or woman wearing covering clothing; does anyone think that "non-theistic" parents actually go out and tell their kids to dress more revealing? To show more. To have more sex. To be more risky. More casual in dress. Taking away the hoody and forcing a belly showing Tee? No. "non-theistic" parenting actually suggests, and promotes the exact same "modesty". It appears to be a modern severe insecurity in secular society which leads to these, and other, attempts to overrule cultural, religious, and community rights in the name of an "individual", rather than recognition of an inherent value in the community, and from THERE working to protect individuals. This law seeks to attack the community; and to post hoc ergo procter hoc suggest that "there, we saved some individual", rather than taking individual cases, individually. Laws such as this say "this practice is, by very existence, oppressive. But I am far from ready to believe that there is some inherent "worseness" to this, versus, say, one western feminism conception (which I happen to agree with) suggesting that forcing, or by our dominant culture promoting as "awesome" young women into wearing a "Brittany Spears outfit" is severely oppressive, and forcing them into a dialogue with their community, and to much more likely become naught but objects.

When you take out some of the extrapolation (as in, a lot of people hate domestic violence, there are multiple Muslim based organization working to combat domestic violence, and if combat of this is the goal, there are egalitarian manners of addressing this cross-cultural, deep seated issue), and focus only on what is actually at stake, the power of the oppression, suddenly it becomes more apparent how "discrimination to prevent hypothetical, extrapolated, or generalized suggestions of discrimination" is not actually just at all.

I used individual in 'scare quotes', merely to suggest that even the most individualistic individual... is inherently a product of their culture, community, environment. They did not "discover" their individuality out of their boots... they developed it in dialogue with communal values (the pro-gay Catholic did not just one day decide that gay is good... it came about from the opprobrium witnessed, and their friends, their experience, their realizations, various things... but with certainty, I can assert, the creation of an "individual" arises not "from their genes", or "out of thin air".

The "two sides" here are the examination of culture as a "monological approach" (the idea that culture can actually spring forth fully formed as a "deeper truth" of an "individual"), and the idea of Culture, and community as a "dialogical realization" (the realization that culture both speaks upon, and inscribes upon single persons, and that those single persons speak upon, alter, shape, craft, and reform their culture/community.
posted by infinite intimation at 12:58 PM on April 11, 2011 [8 favorites]


Thousands and thousands of homosexual persons choose to wear a former symbol of their oppression. Should we ban it?
posted by muddgirl at 1:01 PM on April 11, 2011


So French women should "own" the burqa?
posted by gagglezoomer at 1:03 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


No, they should get out of the business of policing the clothing of French citizens who identify as Islamic believers (seems like the old adage of "government has no business in the bedrooms of individuals"... only here an even smaller unit; the very clothing upon a persons back.
posted by infinite intimation at 1:06 PM on April 11, 2011


gagglezoomer, should a non-Muslim woman be allowed to wear a headscarf and face veil? Or is it merely that you don't like the symbolic relationship it has in the context of Islam itself...?
posted by knapah at 1:08 PM on April 11, 2011


So French women should "own" the burqa?

Many muslim feminists DO "own" the hijab or burqa. They choose to wear it the way I CHOOSE to wear a wedding ring even though it is a symbol of female oppression. Let's ban wedding rings.

I don't know why it's so incomprehensible that different women will choose to wear different things, even though those things may be used as a form of oppression in other families.
posted by muddgirl at 1:09 PM on April 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


However the technicalities of championing the right to choose oppression and abuse has it's downsides as much as oppressing people for the sake of their own good.

It's complicated and difficult and there's no good or simple answer. Additionally, I'd like to be crystal clear that I am not "championing the right to choose oppression and abuse." I am arguing against your proposals for how best to protect people.

But in some oppresseve cultures people choose to accept the punishment recommended for them. What if a woman violates her cultures taboo and believes she deserves violent punishment? Then do we allow that punishment?


Perhaps? In the U.S., at least, it's not necessarily assault if the victim says it wasn't assault (may not be valid in all jurisdictions, IANAL). I guess you have a thing about BDSM, but as far as I know, it's legal to hire someone to whip you so you can feel "punished" for the bad thing you did at work (or whatever). Morally, I also don't have a problem with that.
posted by rtha at 1:19 PM on April 11, 2011


sour cream: " This strikes me as just a teeny bit ironic, because they are essentially fighting for symbols of a religion that wants to deny them the very right to stand up for themselves"

You do not know or understand anything at all about Islam if you think you can categorically make that statement and present it as "true".

gagglezoomer: "...wear a beekeeper outfit in 100 degree heat"

Spoken like someone who has:
1.) never felt the material used for a summer hijab
2.) never worn a hijab

Look, there's a reason why the men of the desert wear pretty much the same damn thing as the women. It's fucking hot and there's sand in places you didn't even know you had. Everyone in the desert is swathed in layers of gauze like (sand-screening) material. I have worn hijab in temperatures over 110, and I was significantly more comfortable than when I was wearing shorts; and I cannot tell you how grateful I was to the Bedouin who loaned it to me.

So the whole "they must be miserable under that thing, we should save them!" is again nothing but rampant, screaming, sexist paternalistic bullshit...and I think the whole argument is trying to find some mouse-hole of a way to say how much you hate Muslims without having to admit racism or theolism. Seriously, you're equating women who wear niqab to Jews being in Germany in WWII? Really? Despite the fact that the analogy doesn't make sense on any.single.level.EVER? You're concern-trolling for lulz, aren't you?

Women are allowed full agency, even when you, or France, doesn't like the religion they choose. With full agency comes the right to determine your outward face to the world. Whether that face is bare, or made up like a 7 year old gone mad with primary colors, or covered by a niqab; it is purely the choice of the woman wearing that face.
posted by dejah420 at 1:20 PM on April 11, 2011 [17 favorites]


Context matters. A veil is one thing, something that obscures your face fully is another. "Choosing" to wear a wedding ring is different than "choosing" not to speak to strangers except with a man present. An ongoing, violent system of oppression is different from a fading patriarchy that moves measurably closer each year toward full gender equality.

I tried to make the point earlier. Ya'll keep making the analogy that the burqa is the same as any other piece of religious clothing. I don't see it that way. I see it as categorically different. I don't think any woman would "choose" to wear that in a society that valued gender equality. Don't women who stay in abuse relationships "choose" that too? It's part of the package of institutionalized gender inferiority that permeates a substantial portion of Islam and I don't like it.
posted by gagglezoomer at 1:24 PM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Adds a whole new meaning to the phrase "Poker Face".

And Rickets.
posted by buzzman at 1:25 PM on April 11, 2011


gagglezoomer: "It's part of the package of institutionalized gender inferiority that permeates a substantial portion of Islam and I don't like it"

You don't like it because you DON'T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT IT! Look, I hate to yell at you, but jesus onna stick dude/ette, you're coming off as the most ignorant of all possible fucktards here.

Do some research. Islam has more equality written in to it than any other Abrahamic faith. Unlike Judaism and Christianity, women aren't blamed for original sin, pregnancy and childbirth aren't punishments, and the Qur'an explicity states that Allah created man and woman as an equal pair. (Qur'an 42:11)

Islamic Shariiah recognizes the full property rights of women before and after marriage. A married woman may keep her maiden name. They are entitled to receive marital gifts, to keep present and future properties and income for their own security. No married woman is required to spend a penny from her property and income on the household. She is entitled to full financial support during marriage and during the waiting period ('iddah) in case of divorce. She is also entitled to child support.

Both genders are entitled to equality before the law and courts of law. Justice is genderless.

Most references to testimony (witness) in the Qur'an do not make any reference to gender. Some references fully equate the testimony of males and female.

There is a ton of written work on equality in Islam. I suggest you stop listening to white people talking about what brown people believe.
posted by dejah420 at 1:37 PM on April 11, 2011 [26 favorites]


There is a ton of written work on equality in Islam. I suggest you stop listening to white people talking about what brown people believe.

For realz.
posted by hal_c_on at 1:41 PM on April 11, 2011


Thank you for laying out some truth, dejah420. It shouldn't be necessary, but here we are.
posted by muddgirl at 1:42 PM on April 11, 2011


Just chiming in to back dejah up- there was a lot of surprise on the part of, well, everybody, when I was studying world religions, at how virtually all the sexism throughout the Islamic world was cultural, not religious.
posted by Leta at 1:42 PM on April 11, 2011


It doesn't matter if it's cultural or religious, nor is it even helpful to try and distinguish between the two (personally, I don't think you ever can). Nor does it matter that some or many followers of Islam believe in and practice equality. This particular practice, the one we're discussing here, is deeply misogynistic.
posted by Summer at 1:47 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


This particular practice, the one we're discussing here, is deeply misogynistic.

What practice? The specific practice of wearing a veil?

Does France ban high heels? Those are hella misogynistic. Damn, and they hurt, too. Unlike a veil, which can be pleasantly cooling on a hot day.
posted by muddgirl at 1:51 PM on April 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


I don't recall any culture or religion mandating the wearing of heels. However, a number of cultures mandate the covering of women's faces for religious reasons. You're a woman defending the burqa? Shame on you.
posted by Summer at 1:59 PM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Spoken like someone who has:
1.) never felt the material used for a summer hijab
2.) never worn a hijab


3. worn a beekeeper outfit
posted by Hoopo at 2:00 PM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Summer: "You're a woman defending the burqa? Shame on you."

It would be nice if you didn't resort to a personal attack in order to make your point.
posted by zarq at 2:01 PM on April 11, 2011 [9 favorites]


What if you're a woman defending the right of other women to choose for herself? Should I be ashamed of myself, too?
posted by Leta at 2:07 PM on April 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


I don't recall any culture or religion mandating the wearing of heels.

Really? Man, I can not think of a single US culture that madates women wear pumps,and even worse: PANTYHOSE!

You're a woman defending the burqa? Shame on you.

You're a woman not defending the personal freedom to dress how I choose? Including religious modesty if that's my bag? Which it was, back in the day? Shame on you.
posted by muddgirl at 2:07 PM on April 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


Islam has more equality written in to it than any other Abrahamic faith.

Oh sure, in theory yes.

In practice, however, there is a huge gender gap in some parts of the Muslim population in Europe.
For example, adolescent boys are free to sleep with anyone they please, but God forbid a girl would dare to have a boyfriend or have premarital sex. That's dishonoring the family and in the worst case, she'll be killed.
Boys are free to wear whatever they like, but if a girl isn't decently covered, all the boys get to call her a slut or prostitute.

I know this is more for cultural than religious reasons, but your "Islam has more equality" must ring quite hollow to a lot of Muslim girls throughout Europe who envy their non-Muslim peers who are free to wear what they goddamn please, go out or have a boyfriend.

Do some research.

You know what? "Freedom of religion" also means that I can be free to not give a damn about Islam and not do any research about it. I've seen the gender inequality between Muslim boys and girls with my own eyes, and I don't think the burden is on me to reconcile that with your opinions on Islam.
posted by sour cream at 2:08 PM on April 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Islam has more equality written in to it than any other Abrahamic faith.

In Saudi Arabia women cannot drive, cannot vote, cannot dress as they like, the sexes are segregated in all public places (such as buses and restaurants), women have no say in who they marry, and as a rule inherit less than men. So while a very narrow and pedantic reading of Islamic texts might give the impression that women have rights, in the practical area of actual, living culture, at least as far as the more conservative Islamic countries are concerned, women quite clearly have less freedoms than men.
posted by The Emperor of Ice Cream at 2:11 PM on April 11, 2011


Saudi Arabia is a country, not a religion.
posted by muddgirl at 2:12 PM on April 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


This particular practice, the one we're discussing here, is deeply misogynistic.
As MuffinMan pointed out way up thread, it's surely far more likely that wearing a full veil in France today is a conscious act of self-identification amongst all but a very few (of an already small number of) women. This crude legislation won't help and given it's attacking a non-issue in France, you're foolish to take it at the face value (so to speak) of a liberal and secularising move as presented.
posted by Abiezer at 2:13 PM on April 11, 2011


Here is a comparitive example.

Utah has very strict, religiously-motivated laws about drinking. Does that mean that all Christians are anti-drinking?
posted by muddgirl at 2:13 PM on April 11, 2011


Okay, this is hilarious- guys we are talking about France. Not Saudi Arabia. FRANCE.
posted by Leta at 2:14 PM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


So while a very narrow and pedantic reading of Islamic texts might give the impression that women have rights, in the practical area of actual, living culture, at least as far as the more conservative Islamic countries are concerned, women quite clearly have less freedoms than men.

In some cases yes. So outlaw veils in those places, I guess. We're talking about France though, right? It's not a conservative Islamic country and it does none of these things you're objecting to.
posted by Hoopo at 2:16 PM on April 11, 2011



women quite clearly have less freedoms than men


But that's because they are exercising their religious freedom be restricted from those activities.

Does that mean that all Christians are anti-drinking?

No. Only Mormons.
posted by gagglezoomer at 2:16 PM on April 11, 2011


Yeah, the criticism of Saudi Arabia is a bit of a red herring. I would think that any state that intertwines itself so deeply with a religion is going to tend towards the 'extreme' end of things... that is a criticism of religion generally rather than Islam, and an argument in favour of secular states with a strong church/state divide. I think had the USA been set up from the get go as a Christian state, there'd be some rather extreme things happening there too -- let's not forget that American christians helped bring about such glories as witch burnings.. if they had their hands on the levers of state power in a fully institutional capacity, who knows what would have happened.
posted by modernnomad at 2:18 PM on April 11, 2011


Only Mormons

Mormons are Christians.

You DO recognize that, as there are many sects of Christianity, there are many sects of Islam? And just as within the Mormon faith there are mainstream Mormons and conservative Mormons (and even liberal Mormons!), so it goes with Islam?

And that just because a Mormon lady wears a full-length dress, that doesn't make her a polygamous bride?
posted by muddgirl at 2:19 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Saudi Arabia is a country, not a religion.

Yes it is, and it's a deeply religious country. So while I grant that Islam is clearly far from being a monolith, there are indeed certain conservative Islamic countries where the issue of how women are treated cannot be swept under the rug. It seems really misleading to say that women are granted all sorts of rights by the texts of Islam, and neglect to point out how women are actually treated in certain traditional and Islamic societies.
posted by The Emperor of Ice Cream at 2:20 PM on April 11, 2011


Do some research. Islam has more equality written in to it than any other Abrahamic faith.

The theoretical excellence of Islamic law -- or of any law -- is generally irrelevant. The way the laws are actually carried out has much more of an effect in people's day to day lives. Is it the case that the practice of Islam is as equal as it is written? (I do not know the answer to this.)
posted by jeather at 2:20 PM on April 11, 2011


neglect to point out how women are actually treated in certain traditional and Islamic societies.

Again, we're talking about France. I support any Islamic country which lifts any ban on bare faces, and allows its women to choose their dress.

Just as I support France if it lifts its ban ON the veil.
posted by muddgirl at 2:22 PM on April 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Does that mean that all Christians are anti-drinking?

No. Only Mormons.


RONG
posted by Hoopo at 2:23 PM on April 11, 2011


Honestly, this whole conversation boils down to "If I can't see her face, she's a victim." What's the difference between this and "If I can see her cleavage, she's a slut"?
posted by muddgirl at 2:23 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Essentially France is saying they know what is best for Islamic women. I can't say I agree since women [or men] ought to be able to choose to wear whatever they want to wear. But the French government must know better. I guess.

Maybe they will ban Carnival masks next?
posted by Rashomon at 2:25 PM on April 11, 2011


It seems really misleading to say that women are granted all sorts of rights by the texts of Islam, and neglect to point out how women are actually treated in certain traditional and Islamic societies.

It's not misleading to neglect to point out how women are actually treated in traditional Islamic societies in the context of a conversation about a modern liberal democracy like France though
posted by Hoopo at 2:26 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Free to ... not give a damn about..

By comments here, you very most assuredly DO give a damn about what you perceive to "be" (based on what? "I can be free to not give a damn about Islam and not do any research about it"), Islam. I mean, you are also inside their heads..."must ring quite hollow to a lot of Muslim girls throughout Europe who envy their non-Muslim peers".

But yeah, if you are trying to make laws which disallow the persistence of existence; one should know things beyond rhetorical flourishes and naked aggression.

Now, it is your business if you want/don't want to "give a damn" about any minority, culture, or sub-culture... so, yes, it is only a "recommendation" that you "look around", but if you don't, and further, actually assert that you might be MORE correct because you don't look around, well this might lead some to wonder why you are so interested in deciding right and wrong.
posted by infinite intimation at 2:26 PM on April 11, 2011 [8 favorites]


we're talking about France.

Understood; my comments were directed at this comment, which I found to be disingenuous (to the extent that some crucial context about actual conservative Islamic societies was left out).

For the record, and fwiw, I personally am totally against banning the veil in France or anywhere: people should be free to dress as they please.
posted by The Emperor of Ice Cream at 2:27 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Guys, listen. I know we're brown and you get all confused about that. But you can't confuse the RELIGION with a COUNTRY.

Also, my cousins are all drunk-dialing me and telling me about how they are going to move to france and start wearing the burqa. Thats just great. All France needs now is drunk women covering their mouths out of protest when they are 10 seconds from hurling Jack and Coke.

I'm guessing that this law will do nothing more than increase the number of women (muslim and non-muslim) covering their faces. This will result in lots of women getting fined...tons of them. Thats about it.

OH, also...there will probably be roving bands of french idiots who go around ripping women's clothes off now that they believe that the government approves of their actions.

YEAH! Women's Rights in FRANCE!
posted by hal_c_on at 2:32 PM on April 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


I would just like to point out that it appears virtually everyone in this thread who is against banning the veil would also be very much in favor of removing laws, anywhere in the world, that require the veil.

Because this isn't about the veil, or even religion. It's about women having agency, even if they have different priorities, culture, ideas (religious or otherwise), and make different choices than what you would like for them. People should have the right to bodily autonomy and self determination, regardless of what influences their choices.
posted by Leta at 2:33 PM on April 11, 2011 [15 favorites]


Look, something like 90% of American women take their husband's name when they get married. NINETY PERCENT. I think that's crazy. It's ridiculously misogynist and it makes me sick to my stomach when a friend changes her name when she gets married.

I will attempt to educate. I will publicly talk about the fact that I didn't change my name. I will correct people when the call me Mrs. MuddDude. I will advocate giving children non-paternal last names (my spouse and I agreed on Jason Tiger Wolf this weekend). But I will defend to the death the right for an individual to give in to the "wrong" cultural forces, even if I disagree.
posted by muddgirl at 2:35 PM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Or hell, Tiger Wolf is non-gendered. Isabella Tiger Wolf is freaking fierce.
posted by muddgirl at 2:36 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Leta,

Would you mind giving me an estimate...your own personal estimate of how many of the 2,000 women who were covering their face are forced to do it?

How many choose to cover their face because they want to?
How many get forced to do it, even though they don't want to.

Just an estimate, I'm not going to hold you to it. I'm not going to slam you. I really just want to know what you think. Thats all.
posted by hal_c_on at 2:36 PM on April 11, 2011


In practice, however, there is a huge gender gap in some parts of the Muslim population in Europe.

I could say the same thing about Catholics.
posted by anigbrowl at 2:36 PM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh, good lord, I have no idea. I hope none are forced, but I have absolutely no way of knowing. If I may, why are you asking me? What did I say that gave you any indication that I would know?
posted by Leta at 2:41 PM on April 11, 2011


I will advocate giving children non-paternal last names (my spouse and I agreed on Jason Tiger Wolf this weekend).

Please tell me that's a joke, because otherwise I will support your infant son's right to sue for burdening him with a lifetime of well-deserved mockery. Incidentally, my wife and I joined our last names when we got married. So I'm not saying that from a position of latent paternalism.
posted by anigbrowl at 2:41 PM on April 11, 2011


you can't confuse the RELIGION with a COUNTRY.

I'm assuming this comment is directed at my comments, in which case you're not reading what I wrote. To repeat: my intitial comment was a very specific comment about another poster's comment, and in it I clearly wrote: in the practical area of actual, living culture, at least as far as the more conservative Islamic countries are concerned, women quite clearly have less freedoms than men.

Again, my own view is that France is wrong to ban the veil.

My comments were simply directed at what I found to be a misleading comment about women's rights as granted in Islamic texts; while it may be true that said texts are actually surprisingly in favor of women's rights, and while Islamic practice is not at all monolithic, the actual reality of more conservative Islamic societies paints a very different picture.
posted by The Emperor of Ice Cream at 2:41 PM on April 11, 2011


Now, it is your business if you want/don't want to "give a damn" about any minority, culture, or sub-culture... so, yes, it is only a "recommendation" that you "look around", but if you don't, and further, actually assert that you might be MORE correct because you don't look around, well this might lead some to wonder why you are so interested in deciding right and wrong.

Well, as I've said upthread, I'm not sure (anymore) whether the new law in France is a good thing or not, so I'm not deciding anything here.

But I do see a slight disconnect going on here when people say "Islam is the pinnacle of gender equality" or "Islam is a peaceful religion" when (sub-)cultures that are predominantly Muslim tend to be so much more misogynistic and violent than (sub-)cultures that are not. It seems that there is a huge difference between Islam in THEORY and Islam as it is lived by real people in Europe. All I was saying is that I am not really interested in the theoretical side of Islam, which seems to be of limited relevance to most Muslims in Europe anyway.
posted by sour cream at 2:45 PM on April 11, 2011


for burdening him with a lifetime of well-deserved mockery

(1) It's best never to take me seriously when it comes to stupid stuff like "names." (2) I'm a huge nerd, the father's a huge nerd. Our kid is going to be mercilessly mocked no matter what name I give it - it's gonna be wearing coke-bottle glasses and high-water pants in the womb.

Believe me, Jason Wolf is better than if he took his father's last name: Jason Voorhees.

the actual reality of more conservative Islamic societies paints a very different picture.

But that's true of anything labeled "conservative". While a Republican doctrine of small government is actually surprisingly in favor of women's rights, the actual REALITY of the more conservative branch of the republican party paints a very different picture.
posted by muddgirl at 2:46 PM on April 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


My toaster undercooked the bread this morning: Racist bullshit.
posted by herbplarfegan at 2:46 PM on April 11, 2011


The government has passed a law which extends its hand into the families of an incredibly small minority.

Is being raised as a conservative (fundamentalist?) Muslim not a protected minority in France? It appears no longer to be, since I would be jailed if I tried to raise my family in such a way.

Let us compare this with Hasidic Judaism, a boy's payot is not illegal in France, how is this so different?

Oh yes, women and girls are abused, but let us have the government stop the abuse and not the religion. Because not every veil wearing Muslim girl is being abused, just as not every payot wearing boy is being abused. Stop the abuse, not the religion.

Freedom of Religion, Freedom of Expression, Freedom of Speech.
posted by Shit Parade at 2:48 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Shit Parade: " Let us compare this with Hasidic Judaism, a boy's payot is not illegal in France..."

Yet.
posted by zarq at 2:49 PM on April 11, 2011


Oh, good lord, I have no idea. I hope none are forced, but I have absolutely no way of knowing. If I may, why are you asking me? What did I say that gave you any indication that I would know?

Thanks for answering me. I had no indication that you would know, but I just wanted someone to finally give me a response. You seemed to be online, and I figured you would red it. Thanks, dude.
posted by hal_c_on at 2:51 PM on April 11, 2011


Believe me, Jason Wolf is better than if he took his father's last name: Jason Voorhees.

You so don't understand how boys think.

Having said that, the Browl offspring have all been pre-assigned names in algorithm based on Famous Engineers of the Ages. This was actually my wife's idea.
posted by anigbrowl at 2:53 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


sub-)cultures that are predominantly Muslim tend to be so much more misogynistic and violent than (sub-)cultures that are not.

. . . what?

I mean, what?

Cite?
posted by KathrynT at 2:55 PM on April 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


Believe me, Jason Wolf is better than if he took his father's last name: Jason Voorhees.

Wait...you had the opportunity to give him the same name as the actress who played Lisa Turtle on Saved by the Bell and you didn't take it?

Opportunity lost.
posted by hal_c_on at 2:55 PM on April 11, 2011


"Islam has more equality written in to it than any other Abrahamic faith.

Sure, in theory, yes.
"

No, this comment was not about "in theory" vs. What about SAUDI ARABIA!, it was about exactly the words that it says; Islam/equality/written.

Qur'an, being "words that are written", not "how some yahoo in country-nation XYZ interprets or asserts what words mean, and to talk about how he puts interpretations of words into Action.".

What a collection of people DO with a set of words is far from under the control of outsiders (or even insiders who are not of the same nationality/locality/community). What is controllable is assuming that outsiders must believe that which is most easily offensive to the largest number of people.

Look at the USA, people try to justify taking personal autonomy of body for women, and various other forms of backwards logic -- in the name of the Constitution, a document which is PRETTY, PRETTY good. People can ruin a good set of ideas by putting them into practice as THEY see fit.

This really doesn't speak to the original comment, or how people USE them, but, in a dialogical community or society, the same set of words, semiotics and linguistic signaling are also then used to RESPOND, and prove how, NO, the practice you tried to implement is NOT part of how these words ought to operate on reality... Again; dialogical. We don't turn around and scream "BURN THE CONSTITUTION; ABOLISH IT!", simply because the Teaparty Congress people misunderstand it; we try to argue, to the best of our ability why a different interpretation of the same words is more valid to the time and place we live in.

Again, culture, community and society are dialogical, and demanding that we place opprobrium on "masses of people", "groups", "communities", cultures, religions; anything other than bad actions by individual persons acting in a manner unconducive to a lasting civil society (a man beating a woman, violence, murder, assault, discrimination) is going to lead to constant strife. If we are constantly "trying" the children of an oppressive husband, this is unfair, as it is to "try" the brother of an abusive husband... Focus on individual actions, and crimes if you want a secular civil society.

Or ought the sins of the brother be revisited on the next 7 generations?
posted by infinite intimation at 2:57 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Please tell me that's a joke, because otherwise I will support your infant son's right to sue for burdening him with a lifetime of well-deserved mockery.

But you ought to thank me, before I die, for the gravel in your guts and the spit in your eye, 'cause I'm the son of a bitch that named you Jason Tiger Wolf.
posted by nathan v at 3:02 PM on April 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Opportunity lost.

NOT EVEN PREGNANT YET! Totally naming a son Lark Voorhees!

I'm going to be the worst parent ever.
posted by muddgirl at 3:03 PM on April 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


NOT EVEN PREGNANT YET!

Yeah...I was wondering about that, since you kept referring to the baby as "it" and "its".

I used to do that...before the females in my life threatened to reduce my biological functions so I could be properly identified as an "it". I stopped doing that really fast.
posted by hal_c_on at 3:05 PM on April 11, 2011


I suggest you stop listening to white people talking about what brown people believe.

Spoken like someone who has:
1.) never felt the material used for a summer hijab
2.) never worn a hijab


I have felt various hijab materials, and I myself have worn the hijab during a phase in my life, and FWIW, I and many other people who come from a Muslim background do agree with a ban on face veiling. There is a vast difference between covering ones hair and covering ones face. Sure, there are security issues, but our face isn't just some skin - as human beings, reading people's facial cues and eyes has long been fundamental to human social interaction - they have an evolutionary purpose. They don't just convey our own emotions, they're vital to the reciprocity of human connection.

A hijab on the other hand, while for some people does have some internal religious sentimentality, is really just a form of a hair accessory. I abhor any kind of banning on it, despite personally not seeing any kind of religious compulsion in it (my own wearing was social and peer related, as opposed to religious). But it's just' hair - people style, adorn, and cover it in a myriad different ways. There is no equivalence in a hair-covering and a face-covering. They're completely different territories.

Having done my share of reading on Islam, women, and feminism, I cannot get behind any kind of justification that being anti-burqa/niqab/etc is an automatic attack on Islam. I don't deny that reading between the lines of the unwritten intentions of this ban points to a lot of not so subtle Islamophobia and broader xenophobia in France, Europe, and elsewhere. It is undeniable. But I find myself in agreement with Mona Eltahawy, who has written a lot on this subject and gotten a lot of criticism for it. But she understands the duality of the hijacking of this issue by the French right wing, and the necessity of condemning at every opportunity, the forcing or pressuring of some women into being banned from partaking in natural, normal, and necessary connections. This is true not just of the women themselves, but the kind of exchange needed in basic communication and socialization with and from others.

And yes, I understand that for some women, this means they'll be pressured to stay at home completely. So you condone face veiling and placate the abusers? With ban or no ban, not everyone can "win" - I would rather this serve a strong signal that paternalistic control will not be tolerated, and give women abundant resources for help, than just let the abusive fundies continue on. And yes, some women do choose of their own volition, and not every women who covers her face is forced to do so - but it's also not inherently Islamic, and certainly not compulsory. So then face-veiling is from personal tradition or culture, right? But every society on earth has customs and traditions that are deemed normative that we abide by - even if we're born into them, and even if we don't agree. Sharing and interpreting those bodily and facial cues is among is among the most primal of those mores.

Anyway, this is getting long and tangential. But let us not assume that Muslims themselves, people from Muslim-ish backgrounds, and "brown people" completely disagree or abhor with the ban. There are a lot of valid points and great commentary in this thread, but there's also a lot of creepy "Save the Muslims!" rhetoric that is actually a bit offensive.

But yes, this is a a complicated and contested issue. It is not a one-track thing - that you either have to be with the bigots, or condone a constant cloak of public anonymity and curtaining.
posted by raztaj at 3:17 PM on April 11, 2011 [20 favorites]


I will defend to the death the right for an individual to give in to the "wrong" cultural forces, even if I disagree.

That's all good and well, but you are picking easy cases rather than difficult ones. For instance, after much deliberation, the practice of female circumcision now appears to have been condemned as un-Islamic, and while this practice was never exclusively an Islamic tradition, until recently it was sanctioned by some Muslims in Africa. So there are clearly many more potentially difficult cases to consider than the veil or the husband's last name.
posted by The Emperor of Ice Cream at 3:21 PM on April 11, 2011


I'm really torn on this issue, coming from my own point of view as an Irishman, I just wish some of our Catholic women priests would speak out on this issue...
posted by Elmore at 3:23 PM on April 11, 2011


Look, something like 90% of American women take their husband's name when they get married. NINETY PERCENT. I think that's crazy. It's ridiculously misogynist and it makes me sick to my stomach...

I remember the conversation I had with my wife a couple days before we got married.

"Do you think I should change my name?" she asked.

"I don't think it's my decision. I've always known you as 'Jane Smith,' so it would be odd for you to be 'Jane Curley.' And your name is part of your identity. But it could be fun, too. Your call. I'm certainly not taking your last name." [my real nickname and her real last name are one-syllable rhyming words.]

She changed it and didn't tell me until her new driver's license arrived in the mail. Now that I recount it I am deeply, deeply ashamed. I should have marched her down to the RMV and made her change it back in the interest of gender equality.
posted by Mayor Curley at 3:24 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Indeed raztaj, it's certainly a contested point with Islam itself. The Muslim Canadian Congress, for instance, has called for Canada to adopt a similar ban (though they've not got a lot of traction with it). In the same article, you can see the opposing viewpoint argued by a former president of the Canadian Islamic Congress. (as you can see, it does have a little People's Front of Judea / Judean People's Front flavour to it.. SPLINTER!)
posted by modernnomad at 3:25 PM on April 11, 2011


I have heard of a few adult Muslim women (within the feminist community, no less) have chosen to get one type of female circumcision or another. While I disagree with that choice I will defend their right to do it.

Of course, I condemn child circumcision of any gender, just as I condemn gender assignment surgery or pinning a baby's ears back. Why compare an irreversible procedure done on a child to clothing or other reversible choices made by an adult? Seems needlessly inflammatory.

I should have marched her down to the RMV and made her change it back in the interest of gender equality.

You should have marched down to your Senators office and demanded that they pass a law forbidding it. :)
posted by muddgirl at 3:27 PM on April 11, 2011


Qur'an, being "words that are written", not "how some yahoo in country-nation XYZ interprets or asserts what words mean, and to talk about how he puts interpretations of words into Action.".

The distinction can be applied in a pedantic and dogmatic way, however. Clearly not all Islam is Wahhabism, as Indonesia and other countries clearly show. But Wahhabism is a reality in some places, and one must ask why women not being able to vote is any less offensive than forbidding blacks (such as in apartheid-era South Africa) from voting.
posted by The Emperor of Ice Cream at 3:27 PM on April 11, 2011


I have heard of a few adult Muslim women (within the feminist community, no less) have chosen to get one type of female circumcision or another. While I disagree with that choice I will defend their right to do it.

I don't think a lot of people would share your feelings on this.

I condemn child circumcision of any gender, just as I condemn gender assignment surgery or pinning a baby's ears back. Why compare an irreversible procedure done on a child to clothing or other reversible choices made by an adult? Seems needlessly inflammatory.

A lot of people see female circumcision as far worse than male circumcision since: a) it directly affects a woman's ability to achieve sexual pleasure in a way that male circumcision does not, and b) the arguments via health and hygiene aspects are worse than they are for male circumcision
posted by The Emperor of Ice Cream at 3:35 PM on April 11, 2011


According to my society, a woman's breasts are so provocative and sexual and filthy and obscene that it is ok to literally cart her off to jail for uncovering it.

Provocative and sexual-- Yes. Filthy and obscene-- No. Good God, no.

Think of it as "too much of a good thing".. no, that doesn't quite do it-- does it make sense to imply that something can be too good to be in play in certain circumstances? I truly hope it doesn't sound like an oppressive objectification when I-- (white male middle-class American devil though I am)-- say that...

I guess it is a form of control, and I suppose it is hard to put my perspective on it into words without sounding like someone from a cult (or just back from a PromiseKeepers convention). I give up.

But then again: a male's shirtlessness is not a sexual more in this culture.. the shirtless dudes playing frisbee aren't batting naked erections around, after all. What difference does it make where that line is drawn on the body? (I'm earnestly asking)

Shouldn't I be able to say, with just as much conviction as a woman in favor of the legalization of her own public toplessness, "Dammit-- I wanna get some air on this wang! Get your laws off my body!" Is it merely because you see the requirement that a woman cover her genitalia just as a man must as settling that issue, and that a woman's breasts shouldn't be included?

If so, that's valid (I really can't say I would be one to protest so strongly if toplessness was no longer prohibited-- maybe for a day or so)-- but.. again, it comes down to what culture you're in. ...and on a final note, frankly, I'm grateful that my culture isn't blasé about breasts! Shrugging them off as another banal human trait? Frankly, that prospect blows my mind. Is that ethnocentric? Again, strictly speaking. But what the hell isn't? I didn't even mention French women's armpits in this paragraph!

When I'm playing shirtless frisbee in the park, maybe I consider the covering of breasts necessary because of how awesome I consider them. If that's sexist> mysogynist> hateful, hateful>bigoted bullshit to you, well.. alright. But it just comes down to a cultural difference. And there we go again. idk I think we passed that tree 10 minutes ago....

I'm not being polemic or snarky here. Well, except the tone I used when referring to the "wang," but that was just for comic effect.
posted by herbplarfegan at 3:37 PM on April 11, 2011


I don't think a lot of people would share your feelings on this.

I'm used to that, and I don't understand it from otherwise-rational feminists. I advocate for body autonomy - this extends from abortion to euthanasia to body modifications of all kinds.

I don't want to start a debate on baby circumcision, because that's not the point of this thread. Comparing wearing a face veil to any irreversible medical procedure is ludicrous and frankly I question the reason why anyone would do so.
posted by muddgirl at 3:40 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I mean, are French Muslims like, stapling veils to the faces of their female children? Because I'm clearly not down with that. We should get the French equivalent of CPS involved.
posted by muddgirl at 3:44 PM on April 11, 2011


When I'm playing shirtless frisbee in the park, maybe I consider the covering of breasts necessary because of how awesome I consider them.

That's a significant part of the argument for all veiling/modesty rules and religious laws, though. Seeing the face or hair or elbow or ankle or boob or whatever drives men to sin/lust/whatever bad thing and therefore the power of that body part must be concealed. I don't support burqa-banning because I don't like seeing cultural and/or religious debates played out on women's bodies and by making discriminatory rules that limit women's free choice, but I don't have a lot of sympathy for the impetus that drives the religious justification for the ban either. If my boobs are too fucking awesome for you to look at, maybe you should stay home!
posted by immlass at 3:44 PM on April 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


This shit is pissing me off. Women can't be trusted either way - either they're so sexually provocative that they must be covered for their own good, or they're so stupid they couldn't possibly choose to wear something seen as oppressive. Women! So stupid and so sexy!
posted by agregoli at 3:45 PM on April 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


Comparing wearing a face veil to any irreversible medical procedure is ludicrous and frankly I question the reason why anyone would do so.

I agree, and that's why I never made the comparison. Remember: I was merely responding to your comment I will defend to the death the right for an individual to give in to the "wrong" cultural forces, even if I disagree. My only point is/was that such dramatic statements are easier to make for most people when the issue is not a borderline case.

A lot of people would be less inclined to "defend to the death" those borderline practices than the seemingly more benign ones.

But I do have a larger point as well: as a progressive I think it makes sense not to attempt to tiptoe around some of the more problematic aspects of conservative Islam (such as the sometimes harsh treatments of homosexuals or women in some places and situations where conservative-style Islam flourishes).
posted by The Emperor of Ice Cream at 3:48 PM on April 11, 2011


If my boobs are too fucking awesome for you to look at, maybe you should stay home!

with the new technology, you can view right at your legislative seat.
posted by clavdivs at 3:51 PM on April 11, 2011


"There's no such thing as being personally pro-choice or life - both are political positions"

Really? Because I am pro-choice, and have had friends who are pro-life. That is to say, I personally feel that abortion should be safe and legal, and if I were in the position of an unwanted pregnancy (let's assume there's no reason why I can't have the child) then I feel termination would be an option for me. Friend felt that abortion was morally wrong - but if I had had one, she would have chosen not to lecture me on it. It's not much of a political issue here - I've seen a protest outside a clinic once, despite living near to Marie Stopes centres here and there, and it was unusual enough for the BBC to report on it for local radio. People have their beliefs, and they are no more to convince others than a preference for beer over wine.
posted by mippy at 3:58 PM on April 11, 2011


I don't recall any culture or religion mandating the wearing of heels

I went to a temp agency in the City and was told that I'd be expected to wear heels to work. There are a lot of parts of the West where women are expected to wear heels to either look professional or sexy, so while it isn't mandated as such, it's very much a cultural norm.
posted by mippy at 4:06 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Look, something like 90% of American women take their husband's name when they get married. NINETY PERCENT. I think that's crazy. It's ridiculously misogynist and it makes me sick to my stomach...

I don't think a lot of people would share your feelings on this.

I'm used to that, and I don't understand it from otherwise-rational feminists


Actually, muddgirl, I was absolutely with you for the first half of this thread. I don't believe laws should be passed that unfairly target women (which I feel this one does) and restrict their rights to wear what they want to wear.

But then you called American women taking their's husband's names 'misogynist'. And that you "try to educate" them on the errors of their ways.

To say that women taking their husbands' names in the past were subjected to misogyny in certain cultures, that I could accept. Certainly there was a time and place when a woman was seen as property or chattel and the taking of her husband's name was a mark of his ownership of her.

But American women today are not legally bound to take their spouse's name. if I want to take my husband's name, how dare you pass judgment on what I choose to do?

And that's what you are doing, passing judgment. Saying things like "I try to educate" is infantilizing women who disagree with you, something which you, a feminist, should be constitutionally opposed to!

Perhaps the 'otherwise rational' feminists that so puzzle you understand better than you what misogyny actually means, and that the desire to act on their own preferences does not constitue sexual oppression.

Using words like 'misogynistic' and 'crazy' to describe women who have chosen to take their husbands' names, by the way, is not at all rational. It's just insulting.
posted by misha at 4:09 PM on April 11, 2011 [10 favorites]


Seeing the face or hair or elbow or ankle or boob or whatever drives men to sin/lust/whatever bad thing and therefore the power of that body part must be concealed. I don't support burqa-banning because I don't like seeing cultural and/or religious debates played out on women's bodies and by making discriminatory rules that limit women's free choice, but I don't have a lot of sympathy for the impetus that drives the religious justification for the ban either. If my boobs are too fucking awesome for you to look at, maybe you should stay home!

Hee hee. I know! I already mentioned that legalized toplessness would not be a problem for me.. I was just trying, unsuccessfully (not surprising in the amount of space afforded here), to illuminate the finer points and make a case for it not being an "objectification." As I also mentioned, it's a confusing issue-- I don't claim to have a solid opinion on it.

I do think it's unreasonable to conflate covering the face with covering breasts and genitals-- YES: as I mentioned 3 times, I KNOW that to be because of cultural forces.

I said nothing about men being "driven to lust" the way the Muslim fuckwits would have us believe when they seek to cover-- forget it.

I'm against the burqa ban. I'm against requiring burqas. I like boobs. I like maximizing that enjoyment by preserving them. That results in a clash, as you've shown, and it always will. Teh end.
posted by herbplarfegan at 4:18 PM on April 11, 2011


" (sub-)cultures that are predominantly Muslim tend to be so much more misogynistic and violent than (sub-)cultures that are not.

And the truth comes out at last: ignorant racism based nothing more than rancid, age-old stereotypes. This is a reprehensible and staggeringly stupid thing to say, and I'm honestly surprised anyone could utter it on in a public community like this one without a stab of shame and embarrassment.

People all over the world are have voiced sentiments like this in relation to: Muslims, black people, Jews, gays, Uighurs, Hindis, Christians, teenagers, senior citizens, Africans, Roma, eastern Europeans, American Indians, aboriginals and indigenous people all over the world, soldiers, the working class, unions and more.

You have joined a long-lived and venerable group, my friend. I'm amazed at the company people are prepared to admit they keep.

If anyone on this thread doesn't want to "give a damn" about Islam, than I respectfully submit that your opinion is less than trivial and that maybe you should STFU.
posted by smoke at 4:22 PM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


...FWIW, I'm not really liking the way my choice of words has misrepresented my voice pretty badly about 9 times, so I'm just going to put it down..

I can see how everything I've said might fail to appeal to someone in your position-- this doesn't seem like a good place for these sides of this issue.

I'm not for limiting anyone's freedom, and I agree with you on just about everything-- everything important to the actual issue of the thread, certainly.
posted by herbplarfegan at 4:24 PM on April 11, 2011


" (sub-)cultures that are predominantly Muslim tend to be so much more misogynistic and violent than (sub-)cultures that are not."


And the truth comes out at last: ignorant racism based nothing more than rancid, age-old stereotypes. This is a reprehensible and staggeringly stupid thing to say, and I'm honestly surprised anyone could utter it on in a public community like this one without a stab of shame and embarrassment.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hj9oB4zpHww
posted by herbplarfegan at 4:29 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I hate racist laws. I also hate the way fundamentalist Islam treats women. So I never know what to think about this issue.
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 4:06 AM on April 11 [63 favorites +] [!]


Wait for the movie. Or just try to think of the average Muslim girl who wants to assimilate into a new culture that her father forced onto her. He can't let go, but she was never invested into his former locality. So he can't have it both ways, she'll win or die trying, which makes it a tragedy. If you don't like that movie, think of the gay son, or the straight one in love with a French girl who is disapproved of. I'm not surprised to see the raving defense of the father's position, because it lets people fully express their own sexual repression while believing they are hiding it from most.
posted by Brian B. at 4:31 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


As a French citizen, I'm against the ban for reasons I've stated above, but many of the anti-ban arguments made in this thread seem to ignore the specificities of the case and approach it using North American or UK filters. Here's a recap:
- The ban is not about the veil (hijab), as many people seem to assume, but about the full-face coverings (burqas and niqabs).
- The immense majority of French muslims (something like 99.99% of them, literally) don't care about burqas at all, don't wear them or don't plan to make their wives, girlfriends and daughters wear one. I live in a Parisian suburb with a sizeable Muslim population and I've seen exactly 1 (elderly) woman in niqab in the past 6 years. A minority of French muslims is OK with the hijab but about 40% approved the headscarf ban. Lots of French muslims are not even much religious, or keep it private, like most non-muslim French do (no "Honk if you love Jesus" bumper stickers here). So, to people who fear that the law will have any sort of direct effect on French muslims women: burqas are as relevant in France as are New Guinean penis sheaths.
- About 500 women (out of 2.5 millions) have made a deliberate choice to wear one, and some have been quite vocal about that. These women come from native French backgrounds or are well-educated second generation immigrants. The burqas made headlines when one of these women, Sandrine Moulères, was fined by overzealous cops for driving while wearing a burqa. It turned out that she was one of the 4 "wives" of a sleazy halal butcher who used them for social security fraud and was later accused of embezzlement. The guy is a far-right winger's poster child of what an undesirable immigrant should be like, so the 22-euro driving fine was turned into a national debate about immigration, integration, polygamy and secularism by the Sarkozistas. In the grand tradition of French writing, Sandrine Moulères wrote a book about her experience (the Lévy sisters, whose refusal to take off their muslim veils at school caused eventually the whole headscarf ban, wrote a book too). The 22-euro fine was cancelled, by the way. The polygamy outrage died when some smart folks noted that French chef Paul Bocuse is himself a polygamist (though polyamorous would be a better term).
- It is quite impossible to know what the other and much less talkative burqa-wearing women think of the situation (in fact, the creepy way Sandrine Moulères talked to the press under the direct supervision of her "husband" was quite shocking and contributed to the celebrity of the case). I suspect that part of those are elderly women who wear it because that's what they've done all their life and can't imagine living without it, notably in a foreign country. For the younger ones, there have been cases where they have been coerced to adhere to the strictest cultural traditions. In that case, the burqa is the least of their problems. This is not something that this opportunistic law will help to prevent but it can't be ignored either: there's a world of difference between the choices that a educated person living in a socially liberal environment can make for her/himself and the "choices" presented to a recent and under-educated immigrant living in an isolated district in a foreign country. For those interested, here's a scholarly paper (in French) that describes the legal and social problems that immigrant women in France have to face. That's way more interesting that that idiotic law.
posted by elgilito at 4:50 PM on April 11, 2011 [17 favorites]


A number of children in many different contexts are oppressed by their family because of cultural restraints but we as a modern society have to learned not to single out major categories such as religion in developing responses on how to prevent these abuses.

I don't always agree with Mormons, but I don't want the state to pass laws against them. The same goes for Catholics, Atheists, Buddhist, and pretty much every other major religion.
posted by Shit Parade at 4:55 PM on April 11, 2011


Haven't got a footnote, but year ago I read of a French scholar who determined that the face covering had nothing to do with Islam, and therefore not something that could credibly be defended as part of the religion. Unlike, say, a Sikh's turban.

Make of it what you will.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:02 PM on April 11, 2011


Haven't got a footnote, but year ago I read of a French scholar who determined that the face covering had nothing to do with Islam, and therefore not something that could credibly be defended as part of the religion. Unlike, say, a Sikh's turban.

Make of it what you will.


I'm not defending it on religious grounds, I just don't think that the state should dictate what we are allowed to wear.
posted by knapah at 5:17 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


raztaj: But I find myself in agreement with Mona Eltahawy, who has written a lot on this subject and gotten a lot of criticism for it. But she understands the duality of the hijacking of this issue by the French right wing, and the necessity of condemning at every opportunity, the forcing or pressuring of some women into being banned from partaking in natural, normal, and necessary connections."

i was wondering - your link just goes to her blog, are there specific articles or essays that you found particularly helpful or moving as you formulated your opinion, and could you point me toward them?

elgilito: About 500 women (out of 2.5 millions) have made a deliberate choice to wear one, and some have been quite vocal about that. These women come from native French backgrounds or are well-educated second generation immigrants.

Is there a sense as to why second-generation immigrants are making that choice? I mean, perhaps it's difficult to say why all of them would do so, but generally speaking? Is it all women from a certain area, or who worship at a certain mosque, or who are from specific backgrounds?
posted by dubold at 5:48 PM on April 11, 2011


I'm not surprised to see the raving defense of the father's position,

Who here is doing this?
posted by rtha at 5:55 PM on April 11, 2011


misha - I hear you. I didn't mean for that post to derail this conversation - I meant for it to be illustrative to the people who make the same complaints about women who wear face veils. I completely agree with every one of your criticisms - I don't actually think paternalistic name changes are that big of a deal on the scale of things - like I mentioned before, I don't really take my own name or my future children's names that seriously. I shouldn't treat other's decisions as lightly.

But then you called American women taking their's husband's names 'misogynist'. And that you "try to educate" them on the errors of their ways.

Taking the husband's name, and giving the father's name to children, is certainly paternalist, and the assumption that a woman will do so is sexist. I don't lecture my friends about the error of their choices - I don't "try to educate" my friends - I try to educate anybody who cares. Most of my friends don't. Education doesn't mean a powerpoint presentation - it means talking about my own experiences.

But American women today are not legally bound to take their spouse's name.

Not legally bound, no, but there is a prevailing cultural understanding that women will do so (and it's true). It is distinctly and manifestly odd that I didn't. It is often commented on. Most people will assume that I share my husband's last name, or that he shares mine. It is assumed that our children have or will have his name. Since we don't share a last name, people assume that we are not married until we correct them.

More disturbing to me: We celebrate the fact that female children contemplate changing their name to Mrs. Crush. When a woman gets divorced, we assume that she will give up her "married name," and if she doesn't the ex-husband may feel he has some interest in reclaiming it from her. When a family only has only female children, he feels safe to complain that his family name will "die out."

In other words - does a woman really own her name if she is expected by her friends and family to give it up on marriage or divorce?

Using words like 'misogynistic' and 'crazy' to describe women who have chosen to take their husbands' names, by the way, is not at all rational. It's just insulting.

I did not mean to say that specific women are misogynist or crazy, and I can see why it was taken so (I also should stop using the word "crazy" in this way - that's ableist language). Iit was wrong to state this at all, even as an attempt to draw a parallel between American cultural practices and Islamic cultural practices, and I apologize.
posted by muddgirl at 5:59 PM on April 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Thought experiment: who is in favor of the US or EU trying to force Saudi Arabia to let women drive and wear miniskirts in public?

We have a name for that sort of thing, you know.
posted by digitalprimate at 6:07 PM on April 11, 2011


...I CHOOSE to wear a wedding ring even though it is a symbol of female oppression.

[citation needed]
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 6:36 PM on April 11, 2011


Dubold: sorry about that, I was having trouble getting through to her blog earlier, so I just linked to the front. Here are a few posts by Mona Eltahawy worth reading. She essentially describes the ban as "the right move, by the wrong group" (i.e., the ban is a good thing, unfortunately carried out by people with the wrong motivations). Also worth watching - video discussion between her and writer Souheila Al-Jadda concerning banning face veils, not just in France, but overall.

Some might recognize Mona from going on a lot of the US cable networks during the Egyptian revolution in February. While their coverage was generally really pretty horrible, she was one of the very few voices of reason making the rounds.
posted by raztaj at 6:42 PM on April 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


If you think traditional-white-non-Muslim-French cultural practices are superior enough to certain Muslim ones to be enforced by laws restricting the freedom of people to make clothing choices, you have to come out and say that

Well, traditional French culture is superior. Are we not allowed to say that because it's "racist"? I thought part of the purpose of making a distinction between race and culture was so to allow such criticisms. French culture is superior to my own (southern hemisphere colonial) culture also. You'd have to be aesthetically numb or a complete philistine not to acknowledge it. The French have always been very protective of their language and culture, with their regulation of language against bastardized English and so on, and this seems consistent with that. If it is patronizing and "neo-colonial" to try and force Western ideals onto Muslims, where do Anglosphere liberals get off telling the French how they may and may not regulate their nation's culture? The French are not obliged to import the American multicultural liberal democratic model in all respects. Why should they? It's just another set of cultural assumptions. There seems to be an unspoken rule that the French are part of the same wider "in-group" as Anglosphere liberals (because they are white Europeans, presumably) so its OK to denounce them, but Muslims are an "out-group" so it's not. It's "cultural imperialism" in both cases. I would oppose any ban of this sort in my own country, but if the French want to enact one that's their prerogative.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 6:46 PM on April 11, 2011 [7 favorites]


where do Anglosphere liberals get off telling the French how they may and may not regulate their nation's culture

Well, as others have pointed out, the EU has directives about religion and human rights that the French are obliged to follow. English people, at the least, as fellow EU citizens certainly have a right to an opinion about the French; just as I have a right to voice my opinions of how Texas follows the US Constitution or not even though I'm a Californian.
posted by wildcrdj at 6:59 PM on April 11, 2011


Well, traditional French culture is superior.

Which aspects of culture are you comparing and to what, specifically, are you comparing "traditional French culture", however you define that? That's a serious question, because I can think of some aspects of traditional French culture, like colonialism, that are pretty unsavory.
posted by immlass at 7:06 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


L.P Hatecraft, the problem with that your argument is that it completely ignores that the women wearing niqab etc are French citizens, and therefore part of French culture.

But people - like yourself - are telling them that their French identity doesn't count; they have no role in shaping or defining what French culture is because

a)there's not many of them
b) because they're women
c) because they're not white
d) because their parents or grandparents weren't citizens.
e) because they're doing something we disagree with and that makes us uncomfortable
f) because it's not a version of "Frenchness" we can understand or appreciate

I'm sorry, that is racist. It is sexist. And I'm sadly unsurprised that someone I presume is Australian is touting an assimilist line like this without reflecting on the wider ramifications, and the paternal and xenophobic assumptions that is directly built upon.

Those women are French, and their cultures are - therefore - French cultures in one way or another. Culture isn't a monolithic block, it is pastiche. It is amorphous and blending, and what your argument comes down to is saying is that these women's identities are not valid - they are voiceless in a national sense, in a political sense, and yes in a cultural sense - and to hold that argument in light of the huge diversity cultures can easily accommodate, I just think that's appalling.
posted by smoke at 7:18 PM on April 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


Thought experiment: who is in favor of the US or EU trying to force Saudi Arabia to let women drive and wear miniskirts in public?

thought experiment: if instead of women not being able to vote in Saudi Arabia, it was black men who could not vote, would you be in favor of sanctions against the country similar to what South Africa faced during apartheid? Also, the fact that women can't dress as they please in Saudi Arabia is bad enough, but the fact that they can't even drive is a whole other order of oppressive stupidity.
posted by The Emperor of Ice Cream at 7:26 PM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


The more I think about this the more it reminds me of saggy-pants laws here in the US, which are also about public conformity. There's no bullshit mention of white-knighting women and no pretense that it's about religion, but it's the same thing: dark people are offending the white majority in a time of racial tension... in the US, the saggy-pants laws are generally treated as a small-town hick joke

Yeah, this is bullshit. From Zarq's NY Times link, here's one of the politicians behind such laws. She's from Trenton, NJ, which is not exactly a small town. Another major city that's pushing for a similar ordinance is Atlanta, where the city council has quite a few black faces.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 7:53 PM on April 11, 2011


muddgirl, your extended explanation goes a long way to explaining what you were getting at with your previous post (which I don't blame anyone for taking exception to as it was initially presented) but I think some of your explanation warrants discussion. Please take this in the spirit of debate rather than outright contention. I disagree with you here but I'm being detailed in the spirit of disagreeing rather than dismissing:

Taking the husband's name, and giving the father's name to children, is certainly paternalist, and the assumption that a woman will do so is sexist.

I absolutely agree with you, specifically considering the tradition's origins in property law and I essentially quoted that part for context.

I don't lecture my friends about the error of their choices...

I was really hoping that you were quoting a rebuttal for emphasis and missed the marks around "error of their choices," but I don't see it anywhere else. The decision to give up or adopt a name isn't an objective "error," it's a personal choice. The tradition is certainly tied to an era when marriage was about property and women were little more than the deeds, but for most marriages that's no longer a consideration. Without that, it's nothing more than a tradition. It's a baseless tradition now, and while that means it's useless and many (including myself) wouldn't miss it, it also means that it's generally free of the ugly socio-economic baggage that makes it judgment worthy. You have a right to your opinion, but it's alienating to frame opinion in concrete terms.

>But American women today are not legally bound to take their spouse's name.

Not legally bound, no, but there is a prevailing cultural understanding that women will do so (and it's true). It is distinctly and manifestly odd that I didn't. It is often commented on. Most people will assume that I share my husband's last name, or that he shares mine. It is assumed that our children have or will have his name. Since we don't share a last name, people assume that we are not married until we correct them.


Geography might play a role in this. I don't know where you live (but I think you're American), but where I live it's not uncommon for a woman to keep her name. There's no assumption to marital status, and increasingly a casual mention of being married doesn't lead to an assumption of even the gender of your spouse. My limited experience would validate your assumption that generally the children of an opposite-sex marriage will carry the paternal last name. However, this is due largely to legal considerations. A friend of mine ("James SonOfCharles") is a Sri Lankan tamil, and when he emigrated his children had traditional patronymic second names: "John SonOfJames," "Peter SonOfJames". He changed their names to reflect his second name, suggesting to the culture that he left that his children were his brothers. This isn't due to an insidious, institutionalized mechanism designed to oppress, but rather in deference to a bureaucracy that is too bloated to accommodate everyone's conventions. Society's going to catch up to everyone, some places faster than others.

...We celebrate the fact that female children contemplate changing their name to Mrs. Crush.

That's a broad generalization. Many of us don't care. My daughter could be gay-- I won't know for years. I'm not going to feel like I'm missing out whether that's the case or she never marries or she just appreciates the excellent name we chose so much that she never changes it.

When a woman gets divorced, we assume that she will give up her "married name," and if she doesn't the ex-husband may feel he has some interest in reclaiming it from her.

Again, might be regional. Round here there's absolutely no expectation how that will play out. Especially among professional women who have built their careers with a married name. I don't know of a single case where the divorcing husband has cared enough to press the issue. Should I divorce, I'd want my wife to keep her married name because it works better with her first name.

When a family only has only female children, he feels safe to complain that his family name will "die out."

I can't speak for everyone, but I have no brothers and no male cousins sharing my last name. I have one child, who is a girl and no more children will be coming. It's crossed my mind in a "huh, history marches on" sort of way. But my wife and female cousins have actually vocalized this observation while I have not. I would think anyone truly concerned about a situation like that was exceedingly shallow.

In other words - does a woman really own her name if she is expected by her friends and family to give it up on marriage or divorce?

This is the point I was aching to get to. No one owns their name. My surname isn't common, I share my first and variant-spelling last name with about 50 people domestically and a couple dozen others in Canada and another 100 or so with the traditional spelling in the UK. Furthermore, I use a traditional nickname for my first name both personally and professionally. I could have a long semiotics discussion concerning whether my name is the one on my birth certificate or the one I naturally give when prompted. Owning your name is like owning a rainbow (seriously!)-- a lot of people probably have claim to it and everyone who knows about it has a slightly different perspective.

I think that your other interesting points will be obscured by your position on naming conventions. You're within your rights to feel strongly about it, but I disagree about its cultural significance.
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:53 PM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


If you think traditional-white-non-Muslim-French cultural practices are superior enough to certain Muslim ones to be enforced by laws restricting the freedom of people to make clothing choices, you have to come out and say that

I'll come out and say it. Certain Muslim practices are inferior to certain traditional French practices, and the Muslim tradition of forcing women to cover up in public is one of them. Is this really controversial?
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 7:56 PM on April 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


L.P Hatecraft, the problem with that your argument is that it completely ignores that the women wearing niqab etc are French citizens, and therefore part of French culture.

smoke, most complaints against this law assume that French Muslims have a different culture to "traditional" French. This is not something I'm introducing. If they are of the same culture then it cannot be "neo-colonialism" or "assimilation", since those terms imply one culture dominating/oppressing another. If French Muslims are as culturally French as traditional French then those criticisms no longer apply, since it would be simply a matter of French people working out their own cultural norms amongst themselves. This relates to one argument for the ban and against those opposing it: the veil reinforces the separateness of French Muslims from the mainstream of French culture.

And I'm sadly unsurprised that someone I presume is Australian is touting an assimilist line like this without reflecting on the wider ramifications, and the paternal and xenophobic assumptions that is directly built upon.

Culture isn't a monolithic block, it is pastiche. It is amorphous and blending, and what your argument comes down to is saying is that these women's identities are not valid - they are voiceless in a national sense, in a political sense, and yes in a cultural sense - and to hold that argument in light of the huge diversity cultures can easily accommodate, I just think that's appalling.


I'm a New Zealander. I agree with most of what you wrote above in the context of Australia and New Zealand (America also), which are settler societies with a history of mass immigration. However you are treating your liberal multiculturalist views as if they are universal, and the only acceptable game in town. Different countries have different policies. Australia is basically multiculturalist. New Zealand on the other hand emphasizes biculturalism to a greater extent. Other countries might have a policy of integration or assimilation. That's not to say that all policies are acceptable of course, or else we couldn't condemn a Milosevic or a Botha, but the French policy is nowhere near over that line.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 8:27 PM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


Well, traditional French culture is superior. Are we not allowed to say that because it's "racist"?
You're allowed to say it, which you can tell because you just did and nothing bad is going to happen to you. But I think you shouldn't say it, because it's kind of stupid. Which aspects of "traditional French culture" are you talking about? Which culture or cultures, exactly, do you think it's superior to? By what metric would you measure superiorness? Are you sure you're not doing the thing where you define the culture you like by its best features and the culture you don't like by its worst?
I'll come out and say it. Certain Muslim practices are inferior to certain traditional French practices, and the Muslim tradition of forcing women to cover up in public is one of them.
And I think that the traditional French practice of treating religious minorities like shit is pretty awful. So when it comes to banning garments that very few women in France wear in order to make some sort of point about how unwelcome religious minorities are.... yeah. I'm not going with "French culture is superior" here. The far-right voters who are being appealed to here are very French. They represent one of the more shameful aspects of "traditional French culture." I just think it's a little bizarre that someone can look at a story in which Sarkozy makes up a stupid law in order to lure voters back from supporting the fucking Front National and claim that this is a story that shows the superiority of French culture.
posted by craichead at 8:30 PM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is not something I'm introducing. If they are of the same culture then it cannot be "neo-colonialism"

I disagree: it is neo-colonialism because we are defining these women by their religion, we are reducing their culture and status as citizens to little more than a co-sign for a religion, more specifically a co-sign for aspects of a religion that the western world currently has a problem with.

This is doing a grave disservice to these women who are mothers, students, workers, etc etc etc. Much more than a living metaphor. By denying their agency in this way we are shutting them out of French national discourses - both social and political and essentially reducing them to nothing more than a statement of religion. Telling them what and how to think, as a statement of our (white, non-Muslim westerners) shared cultural identity; not their own.

It's neo colonialist because this religion is associated predominantly with immigrants and refugees - as are most the women, probably - and as a religion, Islam is heavily associated with countries that were former colonies of France and the western world. It's also very similar to colonialist and paternalist discourses that insist on telling subjects what they really think and feel, and "looking after" them.

It's all about power, and if you're looking at power relations, all you need to do is see whether laws are giving power to the powerless, or taking it away. This is clearly taking it away.
posted by smoke at 8:45 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


craichead: I think that the traditional French practice of treating religious minorities like shit is pretty awful ... The far-right voters who are being appealed to here are very French.

Holy shit! You just tipped your hand. You're willing to make broad brush generalizations about French culture while simultaneously decrying intolerance? This is when I start wondering "Is s/he blinded to hypocrisy by agenda, or is this some Karl Rove-style 'Huge Balls' maneuver where your employ the tactics you ascribe to your enemy and assume no one will notice if you're loud enough?"

Once more for emphasis: Holy shit!
posted by Mayor Curley at 8:52 PM on April 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


You're willing to make broad brush generalizations about French culture while simultaneously decrying intolerance?
I don't think that's hypocritical. I'm not the one who started ranking cultures. But if you're going to claim the superiority of French culture, then you need to be willing to defend the whole of French culture, and that includes the ugly bits, which happen to be pretty well represented in this particular incident.
posted by craichead at 9:18 PM on April 11, 2011


From Zarq's NY Times link, here's one of the politicians behind such laws. She's from Trenton, NJ, which is not exactly a small town. Another major city that's pushing for a similar ordinance is Atlanta, where the city council has quite a few black faces.

That's a 3 1/2 year-old article. The town in Georgia that actually passed the saggy pants ban is Dublin, last September, and you can see a picture of the mayor on CNN. Yeah, some black people support the ban, because they don't like the subculture or the look even if most of the people wearing it are black. Along the same lines, there are Muslims, like Mona Eltahawy, who was mentioned upthread, who support the face-veil ban. That doesn't make it any less true that many of the folks who support the ban are doing it for for bigoted reasons, as even Eltahawy acknowledges in some of the linked posts. Ditto for the baggy pants laws and the racial profiling they cause, also discussed in the NYT article. (Also note the NAACP response to the current Florida legislation on baggy pants mentioned in this article.)

Also since that article was written, one of the laws that made it onto the books (in Florida) has already been abolished after a judge found it unconstitutional.
posted by immlass at 9:37 PM on April 11, 2011


That's a 3 1/2 year-old article.

Has she become less black since then?

That doesn't make it any less true that many of the folks who support the ban are doing it for for bigoted reasons,

Okay, so it's "many" now? How many is that? This seems different from your blanket statement earlier that suggested that all opposition to saggy pants is rooted in bigotry.

And it's funny how you can tell that some black people are against saggy pants because they don't like the subculture or look, but if it's a white person who's against it their motivations must stem from racism. Are white people not allowed to dislike the subculture?
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 9:57 PM on April 11, 2011


I don't think that's hypocritical. I'm not the one who started ranking cultures. But if you're going to claim the superiority of French culture

I never did. Don't start that underhanded shit. Deflection by false attribution is for cowards. Tell us why it's fine to claim that "treating minorities like shit" is a "traditional French practice" while you're decrying other stereotyping that runs counter to your notions?

Please note that I supported my accusation with contextual quotes, while you either fabricated a generalization for me or merely thought "one of THOSE philistines challenging me? Well, surely he must have said..." if you disagree please point out where I directly expressed the sentiment that you attributed to me, unless you're just going to use it again as misdirection against the evidence of your ironic bigotry.

Actually, it would be easier for you to just and paste the following (without quotes):

"I just dislike French people. Even the ones I've never met. And the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Be excellent to each other, man!"
posted by Mayor Curley at 9:59 PM on April 11, 2011


I never did. Don't start that underhanded shit. Deflection by false attribution is for cowards

Dude.
posted by krinklyfig at 10:05 PM on April 11, 2011


I never did.
The person I was responding to did, though. You can tell that because I quoted that person, right before my response:
Well, traditional French culture is superior.
And if you're going to flat-out proclaim that traditional French culture is superior, you need to acknowledge that the extreme-right tradition, which Marine Le Pen represents, is also part of anything you could call "traditional French culture."

Like I said in the part of my post that you ignore, I think the entire exercise is stupid. But if you're going to do it, you can't claim Voltaire and ignore Vichy. You don't get to cherry-pick the parts of the culture that allow you to claim superiority.
posted by craichead at 10:06 PM on April 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


Are white people not allowed to dislike the subculture?

Should you be able to legislate against it? I don't like some of the fashions associated with white people, even though I am one. I don't see a reason to pass laws against Polo shirts and their damn scratchy collars and sleeves, or khakis and Deckers, altogether the default outfit for salespeople at Best Buy and the poor schlub who fixes your computer. Though, honestly, if I were king, damn skippy you'd never see that outfit again outside of a golf course... and in that context we laugh at your dumb fashion choices, a grand tradition of the game.

Wait, what was the question again?
posted by krinklyfig at 10:13 PM on April 11, 2011


And I'm sadly unsurprised that someone I presume is Australian is touting an assimilist line like this

Because this fits your stereotype of Australians?
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 10:21 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wait. So who are you addressing again? You're arguing with two people but not making distinctions about to whom you're directing.

I have a question but at this point in this discussion I'll get slammed for asking it because there's an irish word in your username. Except that the Irish are white so maybe anything goes.
posted by Mayor Curley at 10:22 PM on April 11, 2011


Wait. So who are you addressing again?
What on earth are you talking about? I literally quoted the bits that I was responding to. In the second post, I was using "you" in the non-specific sense, not referring to you personally. And I can't for the life of me tell where all this vitriol is coming from.
I have a question but at this point in this discussion I'll get slammed for asking it because there's an irish word in your username.
And now I'm intrigued. I'm 100% non-Irish, though, which I guess might be disappointing to you, although I have no idea what it could have to do with anything.
posted by craichead at 10:28 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Because this fits your stereotype of Australians?

Because I am Australian and it's a discourse that has been used widely and to great effect by many of our politicians from local councilors to prime ministers regarding Muslims, Asian immigrants and aboriginals to the extent that such thinking is voiced uncritically by broad swathes of our population.
posted by smoke at 10:32 PM on April 11, 2011


Dubold: Is there a sense as to why second-generation immigrants are making that choice? I mean, perhaps it's difficult to say why all of them would do so, but generally speaking? Is it all women from a certain area, or who worship at a certain mosque, or who are from specific backgrounds?

Here's a recent report from the Open Society Foundations (a George Soros outfit) called Unveiling the Truth: Why 32 Women Wear the Full-Face Veil in France. Note that these interviews are of women who have chosen to wear it, so it's not comprehensive and biased by design. It's still a good start to understand the issue.

In this forum post, French and North African muslim women debate (in franco-arab-internet slang...) the pros and cons of the niqab.
posted by elgilito at 1:10 AM on April 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


elgilito, thanks very much for that. here's a translated version of the forum page if that helps anyone else.

The posts by Mona Eltahawy are really interesting. She said:

And to make an equally crude generalization of what happens in Europe, they spent some 500 years fighting over religion and trying to get rid of the church in their lives, so the last thing they want is to justify anything in terms of religion. So it's the opposite obsession almost -- to keep religion out of everything.

now, keeping in mind that she says it's a crude generalization, I do think that perhaps, for those of us who live in the US, the legacy of religious wars seems a bit more distant than for Europe. Certainly something to consider anyway.

In this piece from the Observer, posted on Mona Eltahawy's blog, she argues in favor of the burka ban. Stephanie Street disagrees. Yet both sides of the argument seem to be saying that the burkha and niqab are cultural rather than religious symbols. That seems to frame the dispute as what (i think) the right is saying: a clear-cut issue of one group in society choosing to retain different cultural traditions that are tied to issues of women's second-rate status?

Eltahawy also writes: behind
(the bans on minarets in Switzerland and the veil in France is) a dangerous silence: liberal refusal to robustly discuss what it means to be European, what it means to be Muslim, and racism and immigration. Liberals decrying the infringement of women’s rights should acknowledge that the absence of debate on these critical issues allowed the political right and the Muslim right to seize the situation.

I think many of the comments in the thread have reflected this unfortunate reality. Immigration issues are contentious, but by ignoring the tensions inherent in these tricky situations, we leave the discussion to be led by the most extreme wings of either "side".
posted by dubold at 3:28 AM on April 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I never did. Don't start that underhanded shit. Deflection by false attribution is for cowards

Whoa, if you prefer, you can read what craichead said as "But if one is going to claim the superiority of French culture".
posted by knapah at 3:54 AM on April 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Whoa, if you prefer, you can read what craichead said as "But if one is going to claim the superiority of French culture".

Yes, that was a total misunderstanding. S/he was contextually importing my argument to the one she was already having with someone else-- the statements I quoted weren't dependent on the prior discussion in my eyes so I couldn't make the jump. I read it as a mis-attribution to me, and I'm defensive about it because it's a slimy tactic that's employed much too frequently on this site. But I want to emphasize that it's not actually what was happening, and now that I get it I have no reason to believe that craichead is someone who would do that.

That comment was unwarranted and I apologize, even if I think that my confusion was understandable. I feel bound to assert that it would have been an appropriate response in an actual situation where that occurs, but that was NOT what was happening here. Sorry, the discourse is muddy enough without me adding to it like that.
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:33 AM on April 12, 2011


No worries, Mayor Curley. I probably would have thought to say "one," rather than "you' if I hadn't been posting way past my bedtime.
posted by craichead at 5:41 AM on April 12, 2011


Are white people not allowed to dislike the subculture?

I, personally, do not like saggy pants; I think they're stupid-looking and I have no idea how guys wearing them walk around without falling over. But I'm not asking for them to be outlawed either and I don't support laws that do. There's a difference between disliking a practice and trying to outlaw it.

So it's shitty when anyone tries to pass a law to ban saggy pants, but it's particularly suspicious when white people have fits about a fashion that is commonly believed to come out of prisons (whether or not that's actually where it came from). The racial issues surrounding the American judicial and penal systems are pretty well known. So, no, you can't talk about saggy-clothes laws by themselves without there being a huge unspoken issue about racism. If you're black and against saggy pants because you don't like to see young people emulating prison fashions or whatever, sure, that's not inherently because you are racist. But if you don't think racism--at the very least, institutional racism--plays into concerns about saggy pants on some level, you and I are too far apart on underlying premises to have a meaningful discussion about saggy-pants laws, or probably anything else to do with this issue.
posted by immlass at 6:31 AM on April 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


(full disclosure: mom-link) My mom, University of Wisconsin law professor Ann Althouse, gives this analysis on her blog:
Under the new French law, there's a fine of $216 for wearing a full-face veil, and a $43,000 fine and 1-year jail sentence for forcing someone else to wear on.

The fine is doubled for forcing a minor to cover up. You can see from the structure of the punishment that the government's intent is to protect women from subordination by private citizens. The premise — is it proved? — is that a woman is highly unlikely to freely choose this form of religious garb for herself. The freedom of women who choose the veil is counted at nothing compared to the supposed great evil in coercing women to wear it. If the coercion involved is so terrible, why not only outlaw coercion?

But is intrafamily coercion really that bad when what we're talking about is clothing? Would you be willing to accept a generally applicable law that imposed a 1-year jail sentence for forcing someone to wear clothing they don't like? Don't parents and spouses do that all the time? Would you double the sentence — on a generally applicable law — for parents who force their daughters to wear something other than what they want to wear?

Once you start asking questions like this, it is hard to get avoid the conclusion that the French law is anti-Muslim.
posted by John Cohen at 7:28 AM on April 12, 2011 [7 favorites]


(Her reference to "a generally applicable law" alludes to the U.S. Supreme Court's free exercise doctrine.)
posted by John Cohen at 8:04 AM on April 12, 2011


In the Paris episode of Donal Macintyre's Toughest Towns, he takes a look at the riots among young, suburban* Arab/North African/Muslim 2nd generation French who feel excluded from French society and see few prospects for themselves and their communities, particularly under Sarkozy.

I don't think this law will help.

*In Paris, the inner city is affluent and white, while the outer suburbs (known as les Banlieus) are broke, run down, and where the rioters tend to come from.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:53 AM on April 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Tangential to main discussion: There's a French movie on Netflix Instant (subtitled in English) called District B-13 (original title: Banlieue 13). It's about a Parisian ghetto that has become so violent they've put a wall around it and left the residents to fend for themselves. Guess what, all the denizens are Arab or African. I could only make it through the first 15 minutes, as it's all drugs, gunfights and foot chases, but it vaguely reminded me of the violence and despair of New Jack City.
posted by desjardins at 9:28 AM on April 12, 2011


Here's the chase scene from Banlieue 13. The rest of the film is a bit of a damp squib, IMHO.
posted by asok at 9:44 AM on April 12, 2011


Ok, I've read about 267 comments in the thread, and will go back to read the thread, but I find it curious that there are no Muslims (at least none that are identifying themselves as such) commenting up till the point that I have read.

jeffburdges: In the Niqabitches thread (linked to by the OP as well) you made the claim about the "protection in school" thing being because kids were getting beaten up for NOT wearing the headscarf. I asked for a citation several times and didn't get one. I'm asking here again. If kids are getting beaten up for what they choose to wear, the school bullying rules should be sufficient to deal with that. The problem is not what the kids are wearing; it's the bullying.

As a Muslim woman (who doesn't cover her head, except when in places of worship or while praying), laws like this are infuriating. I grew up in a somewhat liberal Muslim family. Some of the women wear head coverings, others don't. Some of my distant relatives wear the full burqa. My mother has started wearing the hijab some time in the past couple of years. My sister started wearing it after she went to university in the US. She hadn't been home in two years, and hadn't mentioned this fact, so I had the shock of my life when I saw her upon my arrival in the US for my own university education. The trajectories of our religious practice have been pretty much diametrically opposed. I was more conservative than her, growing up, and have become more and more liberal (a lot of Muslims would call me downright heretical) as time has gone by. For her, the exact opposite is true. Both of us are reasonably well-educated about our religion. We interpret it in radically different ways. Personally, I find it offensive that anyone would argue that she or I are responding to cultural coercion in the choices we have made.

For those arguing that the burqa, niqab and hijab are cultural signifiers, and not religious ones, that is an oversimplification. In SOME cases, they are only cultural signifiers. My mother-in-law, for example, used to don the full burqa on her way to her annual visit to her parental home. This was purely because that's what the women in her family did, and had nothing to do with her religious practice. Her family knew perfectly well that she did not wear the burqa anywhere else. No one had a problem with this. In other cases, women start wearing the hijab, niqab, and/or burqa as they move along a particular path of increasing religious conservatism. In those cases, they are often flying in the face of tradition and peer pressure to do this. For some, it is the wearing of the hijab that becomes their teenage rebellion and then they eventually settle back into something closer to what their family actually did all along.

The categorical declarations here that the veil is, and always must be construed as, a symbol of the oppression of women are pretty ignorant and arrogant. Not only do I think this law is stupid and ignorant, I also think it is counterproductive because it makes Muslims like me, who would otherwise be the French government's poster-children of assimilation (people in the US don't usually figure out I'm Muslim until it comes up in conversation or if they recognize my name as Muslim), more angry about being marginalised. I'd be surprised if this law doesn't actually radicalize otherwise moderate Muslims. And no, I don't mean in terms of them believing in violent overthrow of the government, just in terms of feeling the need to even more boldly highlight their otherness.

When countries pass laws that women must reveal their faces in order to get drivers' licenses, etc., that makes sense. These are, after all, identification documents. Similarly, I don't expect a women in full veil to be able to get a job as a lifeguard at a swimming pool. The requirements of her dress code would clearly conflict with her ability to do her job. But to ban the niqab from public places? That's ludicrous, and bigoted (those of you arguing that it's just about communication, etc., see the exceptions quoted above), and it makes my throat constrict in a way that only Daniel Pipes and his kind have managed to elicit before. What comes next, a requirement to drink wine? Because if you don't eat coq-au-vin, you're clearly not French enough?
posted by bardophile at 10:04 AM on April 12, 2011 [21 favorites]


What not to wear. Presenting five countries where wearing the wrong clothes is a crime. Don’t get a dodgy haircut in Korea or cross-dress in Saudi Arabia. Punishments vary from fines to flogging. The fashion police are for real.
posted by zarq at 10:14 AM on April 12, 2011


And now, having read, the other 125 comments in the thread, I'd like to say that while I can see arguments for advocating giving up the veil (duh, there's a reason I don't wear one), in the same way that I can see arguing for abolishing the practice of taking the husband's name at the time of marriage (again, duh, if I didn't think it was significant, why would I have kept my own name even though it creates a paperwork nightmare and a lot of social awkwardness?), I do not see any convincing justification for a legal ban on these practices.

Also that I am glad that other Muslim women and formerly Muslim women had indeed spoken up in the thread before my comment.
posted by bardophile at 10:24 AM on April 12, 2011


There's that old French "force us to be free" thing again.
posted by autoclavicle at 11:26 AM on April 12, 2011


Mimes. They should ban creepy mimes.
posted by stormpooper at 12:11 PM on April 12, 2011


But if you don't think racism--at the very least, institutional racism--plays into concerns about saggy pants on some level,

No doubt, I'm sure there must be people who support anti-pants legislation because they're racist, but that doesn't mean the legislation itself is racist. As you eventually admitted yourself, some people want to outlaw the saggy pants because they don't like the look or the subculture, not because they're racist. So you'll agree then that the case is the same with the ban on veils -- there are certainly racist supporters but that doesn't mean it's a racist law.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 1:22 PM on April 12, 2011



I'm not defending it on religious grounds, I just don't think that the state should dictate what we are allowed to wear.


Oh I'm not accusing you of doing so. But there are many who conflate religious law with the veil practice and point the original fellow (still can't find the cite, sorry) was making that there was no religious connection, only a traditional one. Ergo, for them, the religious defense is bogus and ought not be raised.
posted by IndigoJones at 1:52 PM on April 12, 2011


As you eventually admitted yourself, some people want to outlaw the saggy pants because they don't like the look or the subculture, not because they're racist.

When we're talking about institutional racism, we're talking about everybody being a little bit racist. (E.g., assuming black guys with their pants around their asses are thugs or criminals is racist.) So no, I don't admit that and I don't cede this point at all. No, I don't think black officials who want to ban saggy pants are driven by hatred or fear of all black people, but again, if you want to use the narrowest personal definition of racism, we're not on the same page.

So you'll agree then that the case is the same with the ban on veils -- there are certainly racist supporters but that doesn't mean it's a racist law.

To the extent that the veil ban is about Islam, which part of it clearly is, duh, of course it's not racist, just xenophobic and bigoted against Muslims. (Even Mona Eltahawy, who agrees with the current ban in France, says as much about the people who enacted it.) But it's driven by the same shitty stew of racist crap that drives saggy pants bans.

It's obvious to me that they're both fundamentally bigoted (racist and/or sexist and/or xenophobic and/or discriminatory against religion) laws. YMMV.
posted by immlass at 2:16 PM on April 12, 2011


Let me get this straight -- the black lawmaker who wants to ban saggy pants is actually doing so because she's a little bit racist. In the institutional sense. Is that what you're saying?
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 2:35 PM on April 12, 2011


I'm saying it's not as simple as "black people can never do racist things". I don't claim to know what's in anyone else's heart or mind, but yeah, if you're supporting a racist law, you're doing something racist, even if you do it with good intentions like, say, keeping young black men from being harassed by cops who assume they're thugs. That's supporting racism inherent in the system.

There's a Jesse Jackson quote (quoted here) from fifteen or twenty years ago: "There is nothing more painful to me ... than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery, then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved." So it is actually possible for a black person (Jackson) to have an overtly racist reaction to black and white people on the streets. That doesn't make anyone else's position racist or caused by racism, but it does make the point that an institutionally racist society instills prejudices in everyone, including people who are on the business end of racism.

If this is a gotcha game of "is there any way someone could support anti-saggy pants laws without them being a screaming cross-burning Jim-Crow-loving bigot?", no, I don't think that's absolutely impossible. But I view anyone who has so much of a hate-on for saggy pants that they're willing to put people in jail over it with suspicion, because of the effect of the laws and the cover they provide to other forms of racist behavior (e.g., profiling). I think they're racist laws, I think they discriminate against black people, and I believe even the best-hearted people who support them are responding to institutional racism in a bad way. This also sums up how I feel about the French law about banning the burqas. So I see them both as motivated by racism/bigotry and consider support for them suspiciously racist. Again, YMMV.

I have a personal rule about not repeating myself more than three times in a thread. This is my third repetition and elaboration on this topic, so I will not be responding further on it.
posted by immlass at 3:21 PM on April 12, 2011


I'm staggered by how condescending and offensive that is. According to this view, this accomplished lawmaker is actually so benighted that while she simply wants to ban saggy pants because she believes them too exposing, as she tells us, she cannot see that her actions would only contribute to the further oppression of people of her own race. Blind she is, despite her much deeper understanding of her own community, her constituents, and her culture. I'm amazed how one can see all that from a computer screen in another state. What an incredible burden this knowledge must be -- if only someone could show this poor black woman the errors of her simple ways!
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 4:12 PM on April 12, 2011


You appear to be wanting to use "racist" as determined by "this person intends to/does not intend to discriminate based on race". Racism has various components, and avenues. Sure, there are to this day "racists" who out and out "speak hate"... Racism does not end there.

Racism isn't as simple as "this person hates people who appear to fit category C"; racism is today also (more?) about policies, laws, regulations and statutes which DIFFERENTIALLY affect people as a subset of "total population Y". Perhaps I seek the term "differentially discriminatory legislation".

This pervasive racism is possibly more insidious; it is "majority culture" (any majority) pointing to a "sub-culture", particularly within a traditionally, and more pervasively discriminated against community, and using the internal differences to pit communities against themselves.

The laws of Arizona targeting, and allowing spot checks, demanding papers of "latino looking people"; differentially affects "latino looking people"... There may be latino politicians, that would not "save" the law from the realities and practicalities. There may be Muslims within the homeland security apparatus, this would not make the profiling going on less discriminatory.

Obviously, this law is not "targeting all black Americans" (which "old racism" would seemingly demand as a precursor to using this terminology); it targets one dress style, one 'form' of expression, one element of one sub-culture and obviously, "black american", like "Muslim woman" are not singular entities, so, no, the pants laws isn't "racist" in the sense that it is made by one person, targeting what they perceive to be a "race"... but it does predominantly affect certain people and further, it targets certain people who have long been the targets of continuous institutionalized discrimination, profiling, subjection to differential prison terms, differing social and economic realities, differential government funding (example, in Canada the "education funding" for an Aboriginal student is something like 40 cents on every "non-Aboriginal" student's education dollar) and, adding up to what is colloquially termed 'racism'.

Racism is not as simple as a bigot screaming discriminatory things about perceived category of "others". "End of story".

Just as the French law is not "specifically" targeting French citizen Muslim women (by name) but most certainly assuredly does target a "non-homogenous, but non-universal grouping, as a category, differentially from the citizenry population as a whole" (massive, burdensome, over-bearing, clear and present discrimination).

What they both have in common is that this is a furthering of a more widespread institutionalized discrimination; they are targeting a sub-category of a larger categorization, which racists of the 20'th century put in tidy little boxes they called "race".

Modern biological, anthropological, and genetic understandings of "race" take into account that those old conceptions of biological races were actually far wrong, invented, and primarily derived from bigotry.

You can still have racism even though the old colonialists conceptions of these categories were upended by genetic sequencing studies, and proven to be deeply wrong about their ideas of "race", modern science has superseded old conceptions of race.

However, racism as a "thing", very realistically, and materially affecting, and deprecating the lives of real people certainly is not "imaginary", so thus it is possible to "discuss" and "understand" racism; without playing that old game of the racists, parsing who is and is not a member of "which" race (that was a very important part when they were 'ranking' the subjects of the various empires, subjective categorization, classification, and ranking people as "members", "not-members", "half-members" and so on).

What is being suggested, is that this law, which predominantly targets a specific sub-categorization of Americans; in particular, a categorization of Americans who are ALREADY subjected to invasive, pervasive, discrimination (does "motivation" really matter? We get a more valuable understanding of "difference" if we look at the effects, the practicalities, and the statistical realities. Rather than some individuals [stated] motivation. Intent is not magic.)

And really, here we are into discussing "Rule of Law"; which ostensibly replaced divine right of kings (in some places)... Districts based on Rule of law must not prejudge, discriminate, nor disproportionately place the burden of law upon any one group, category, classification, culture or community.

Rule of law necessitates that we are all equally subject, and under the burden of law. Laws targeting one sector of a population do not fit into (my) conception of "Rule of Law" (this comment is not intended to be district specific, just a philosophical position regarding the nature of laws and justice).
posted by infinite intimation at 4:29 PM on April 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I do not see any convincing justification for a legal ban on these practices.

It makes sense to me. It is not racist to err on the side of caution, and the would-be moral police here are blind to the right reasons. To knee-jerk claim that the intentions of protecting women from abusive traditions in modern France is automatically racism is extreme bad faith that indicates a blindness towards women. Maybe some of these critics wait around for threads like this for a racial axe to grind. Surely the female critics will tell us they care about themselves as women, but they don't have to wear it, they just want someone else to wear it. And they don't deserve the benefit of doubt if they don't give the same benefit to the majority of females in France first.

The logic is pretty straightforward. It would appear that this ancient practice is a vestige of some pseudo-religious tribalism and the citizens don't want it taking hold in France. They have a reputation to protect, and charges of racism offends them less than charges of sexism.

Laws targeting one sector of a population do not fit into (my) conception of "Rule of Law" (this comment is not intended to be district specific, just a philosophical position regarding the nature of laws and justice).

The laws apply to all and targets a specific action in a public place in order to promote equality. No specific religious practice should be above the law, or there would be no rule of law, only religious law.
posted by Brian B. at 5:39 PM on April 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


If what you want is to protect women, then why punish them? Why assume paternalistically that the only reason a woman would dress in a certain way is to avoid being beaten or killed by her husband or father?

You know what would go a lot farther in the struggle to end domestic violence and help assimilate (in the good sense, not the Borg sense) new immigrants and disaffected residents? Anti-poverty measures. Jobs. No waiting lines for classes in French or job training. Not being lumped in shitty apartment buildings far from jobs or other social opportunities. But those things take money and real commitment and long-term support, and it requires a belief that the people you're helping are neither savages nor infants.

You know what's not going to help? Further othering them and the cultures - and, yes, religions - they come from.
posted by rtha at 6:01 PM on April 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


Why assume paternalistically that the only reason a woman would dress in a certain way is to avoid being beaten or killed by her husband or father?

No reason to assume this when you can assume the French don't want girls to be trained to like it either. That should worry them more if they had the right motives. The Lower House in France passed this 335 to 1. A religious law that isn't equal among its members doesn't need to survive if it can't survive democracy.
posted by Brian B. at 6:16 PM on April 12, 2011


A religious law that isn't equal among its members

What religious law are you talking about?
posted by rtha at 6:55 PM on April 12, 2011


I'm going to share a story about my cousin's daughter, Aisha (not her real name).

Aisha goes to an Islamic school and one of her teachers wore a niqab/burkha. Aisha really admired the teacher and when Aisha asked her why she wore it, I guess the answers she got convinced her. So, Aisha started to wear it herself.

Now this is in tolerant Toronto, and we don't have a war on the niqab (yet), but people wearing the niqab don't get the best of reactions from the public at large. As a show of solidarity her mother, my cousin, decided to wear a niqab as well.

They've been wearing it for at least 3-4 years now so it isn't some phase, or at least not a short-lived one. I doubt she's got the same teacher so it isn't a cult of personality thing. There's no man in the house to force them to wear it. Her older sister doesn't wear a niqab and at most will put her scarf around her head when it is time to pray.

So of the two people in my family wearing a niqab/burkha, at least one of them is doing so out of choice (a choice to support/protect your child seems like more of an obligation to me so I wouldn't include my cousin but she probably thinks otherwise). I don't know what the situation is like in France, and don't doubt that some people are being forced to wear the niqab, but I also don't doubt that some people there do so out of choice.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 7:04 PM on April 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


It is not racist to err on the side of caution

Not automatically, true. But it can be. White men have historically pillaged the developing world. It would still be racist for developing countries to refuse visas to white men simply for being white.

If the legislators of France honestly think that wearing the niqab is the only sexist activity that takes place in France, they're even stupider than this legislation suggests to me.

It's not a question of merely "appearing" racist. It's about not having a problem with BEING racist/xenophobic.

Surely the female critics will tell us they care about themselves as women, but they don't have to wear it, they just want someone else to wear it.

Did you miss the part where I was speaking from within the tradition, which is NOT always imposed on women, and has been radically reinterpreted in the last few decades?

I would be happier myself if Muslim women didn't feel the need to wear the veil. It's completely false to claim that I "just want someone else to wear it." I don't like the niqab; I feel like it gets in the way of communication.

Those are excellent reasons for me to choose not to participate in the tradition. They are not good reasons for me to outlaw wearing the niqab.

*Some* people use sex as a means of subjugating others against their will. Should we then outlaw sex altogether?

this ancient practice is a vestige of some pseudo-religious tribalism

The veil-wearing women of my family, whose husbands and brothers are deeply uncomfortable with their veil-wearing, would all be most interested (read amused, but also offended at the condescension) in hearing this view of their choice. As would those of my students who go on to wear the veil, despite the discomfort and vocal disapproval of their peer groups AND families, and the silent cringing of this teacher.

targets a specific action in a public place in order to promote equality

Right. That's so plausible when by law, the ONLY reason for which you can't cover your face appears to be religious conviction. I realize that some people here are perfectly fine with discrimination against self-chosen religious and/or cultural practices. I find that kind of discrimination just as offensive as any other.
posted by bardophile at 10:08 PM on April 12, 2011 [6 favorites]


I find that the more I read this thread, the angrier I get, so I'm bowing out of this discussion now, before I say something I'll regret later.
posted by bardophile at 10:26 PM on April 12, 2011


Brian B is reminding everyone of a fact that has become lost at this end of the thread:

The suppression of religious expression is a broad practice in France. Christians are not allowed to make overt displays of their religion in public. Jews are not allowed to make overt religious displays in public. Sikhs are not allowed to make overt religious displays in public. The French constitution makes no promises about religious expression.

This discussion about racism is based on a false supposition that if another, more popular religious subset had a comparable ostentatious dress requirement for its members that it would be tolerated. There's no indication that this is fact.

All of this implied suggestion that this law comes out of nowhere, with no precedent, to oppress a minority is false. French attitudes towards religion actually contributes to equality in an obvious way. If you are a Muslim or Jewish student, you don't have to sit in a classroom in December and hear about Christmas. If you are totally outside of the Judeo-Christian-Muslim tradition, you don't have to stand in line at the Post Office and see "In God We Trust" on a poster advertising stamps. If you are an atheist, you don't have to put up with politicians cynically presenting themselves as pious.

This law is in line with a sentiment that's obvious to anyone familiar with the modern history of France, and while this particular legislation is aimed at repressing a particular religious practice (even if it unfortunately is disingenuously framed as something broader), repressing religious displays has plenty of precedent in modern France and is applied universally.

You may believe that religious expression is a high ideal and that France is oppressive for limiting it. That's a valid argument. Asserting that French lawmakers are racist for adding another clause to their already thick collection of laws promoting secularism is not.
posted by Mayor Curley at 3:18 AM on April 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


The suppression of religious expression is a broad practice in France. Christians are not allowed to make overt displays of their religion in public. Jews are not allowed to make overt religious displays in public. Sikhs are not allowed to make overt religious displays in public. The French constitution makes no promises about religious expression.
posted by prefpara at 4:19 AM on April 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


And indeed The famous wayside crosses of rural France.

This discussion about racism is based on a false supposition that if another, more popular religious subset had a comparable ostentatious dress requirement for its members that it would be tolerated.

Haven't we already established that this is no more a dress requirement than wearing a crucifix, but rather a thing that some people within a faith do?

This law is in line with a sentiment that's obvious to anyone familiar with the modern history of France, and while this particular legislation is aimed at repressing a particular religious practice (even if it unfortunately is disingenuously framed as something broader), repressing religious displays has plenty of precedent in modern France and is applied universally.

I think you and Brian B are combining two uses of public in this argument. There are public buildings - buildings owned and run by the state, like courthouses, hotels de villes and schools. And there's public - in the open air, common. Religious displays are discouraged in public buildings - although as of last month the European Court of Human Rights permitted the display of crucifixes in schoolrooms on the grounds that it was not a tool of indoctrination but an expression of the culture of historically Christian countries - whether France counts is an interesting question, since the four Républiques have not been religious.

You aren't allowed to smoke in public buildings, because they are workplaces, but you are allowed to smoke outside public buildings, in e.g public parks. You can wear crucifixes in public parks. You cannot now wear a veil.
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:23 AM on April 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


The link about Jews leads to a story about Jews in Quebec, not in France.

In any case, I believe France has holidays on traditional Christian holidays. It is apparently fine to have the totally non-religious crucifixes around in public buildings, but not symbols of other religions. Christianity, of a secular sort, is baked into the culture, so the "we do not allow religious symbols" argument tends to ignore those symbols which are Christian but it wants to ignore, and prevents things from any other religion. Perhaps this is a reasonable stance, but it's also hypocritical. (I am generally pro a high level of secularism, but it generally ends up being secularism-except-for-some-parts-of-Christianity.)
posted by jeather at 5:08 AM on April 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


You should tell the Guardian that this has nothing to do with Muslims being singled out at all, Mayor Curley. They seem to see it differently.
Sarkozy, desperate to secure the far-right electorate in next year's presidential election, is under fire for deliberately stigmatising France's Muslim population to win votes. He has ordered a nationwide debate on Islam's place in secular France, briefing journalists he wants no halal food options in school canteens, no prayers outside and no minarets. He was defiant on Thursday, giving a speech lauding the "Christian heritage of France".
If this is really just about totally-neutral hostility to religion, it's sort of weird that the guy who proposed it would celebrate the country's Christian heritage.

So why does the Guardian think this is happening?
Sarkozy's move comes as Marine Le Pen, the new leader of the Front National, has seen her party's popularity soar to unprecedented levels since she compared Muslims praying in the streets outside overcrowded mosques to the Nazi occupation of France. She also criticised halal-only fast food restaurants.
posted by craichead at 5:12 AM on April 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


jeather: "The link about Jews leads to a story about Jews in Quebec, not in France."

The article also has nothing to do with Jews being prevented from wear anything in public or private. It's about an Hasidic community that had some of their property seized by a local Sherrif because they didn't pay taxes.
posted by zarq at 11:29 AM on April 13, 2011


This law is in line with a sentiment that's obvious to anyone familiar with the modern history of France, and while this particular legislation is aimed at repressing a particular religious practice (even if it unfortunately is disingenuously framed as something broader), repressing religious displays has plenty of precedent in modern France and is applied universally.

ORLY? Non, De Gaulle.

How much time have you actually spent in France, Mayor Curley? It's certainly not a very relgigious country, but nor does it feature the sort of institutionalised atheism you describe.
posted by anigbrowl at 12:38 PM on April 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Right. That's so plausible when by law, the ONLY reason for which you can't cover your face appears to be religious conviction.

Here's your religious conviction. Of course, the French actually have a tourist industry and invite the entire world to spend leisure time in France, so I can see why making laws against the horrible Taliban are required. They are horrible, right?
posted by Brian B. at 4:35 PM on April 13, 2011


I'm completely lost. Are you saying that... the aim of this law is to discourage tourism by the Taliban?
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:45 PM on April 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm completely lost. Are you saying that... the aim of this law is to discourage tourism by the Taliban?

I see what what you did there. You read tourism, then Taliban, but didn't allow the connection that most tourists would find their carefree image of France challenged by the fundamentalist reality in the streets. You just conflated the two. I'm conversing with literalists no doubt.
posted by Brian B. at 5:04 PM on April 13, 2011


So the 1900 or so women in France who wear the full veil will damage the French tourist industry because seeing a veiled woman doesn't conform to peoples' idealised vision of France?!

They should probably eject all of the non-white people too then, and all dress like this.
posted by knapah at 5:11 PM on April 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


You read tourism, then Taliban, but didn't allow the connection that most tourists would find their carefree image of France challenged by the fundamentalist reality in the streets.

If you think that the Taliban are walking the streets of Paris, then you're about five and a half thousand miles off. I mean, don't let me stop you, but it actually made more sense when I thought you were hoping to damage the reptutation of Paris as a Taliban holiday destination.
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:38 PM on April 13, 2011


If you think that the Taliban are walking the streets of Paris, then you're about five and a half thousand miles off.

That's good, right? So just to avoid any confusion, it might be a good idea for the French to make the point. Perception is key.
posted by Brian B. at 5:55 PM on April 13, 2011


A policeman is walking down the street when he spots a man throwing white powder everywhere.

The policeman stops the man and says, “Why are you throwing this powder all over the place?!”

“To keep the elephants away,” says the first guy.

“But there are no elephants around here!”

“See? It works!”
posted by knapah at 6:11 PM on April 13, 2011


Of course, the French actually have a tourist industry and invite the entire world to spend leisure time in France, so I can see why making laws against the horrible Taliban are required. They are horrible, right?

Come on.

Banning the niqab will....increase tourism? Tourists - who come from places like say the U.S. and the UK and Germany and Italy - will be so terrified by the sight of a woman dressed in such a way (because women like that don't live in the U.S. or UK or Canada or Germany or Italy! Because tourists from those countries have never been elsewhere in the world where fully veiled women might actually be a very common sight!) that they will run away or not come in the first place?

Perception is key.

Ohferchrissakes.
posted by rtha at 6:20 PM on April 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Banning the niqab will....increase tourism?

You imagined that a multipartisan select committee recommended the ban on a common whim? No matter how many women wanted it, it had to offer economic security. The ban may discourage fundamentalists from emigrating, which may discourage an enclave of fundamentalists from wider influence in the immigrant community. This is very forward thinking on their part. That Taliban is a bad influence, right?
posted by Brian B. at 6:41 PM on April 13, 2011


You imagined that a multipartisan select committee recommended the ban on a common whim? No matter how many women wanted it, it had to offer economic security.

Cite, please.
posted by rtha at 7:39 PM on April 13, 2011


Cite, please.

Cite for what?
posted by Brian B. at 7:47 PM on April 13, 2011


Cite, please.

In anticipating your response in utter boredom as usual, I will assume you were desiring the committee aspects of my claim, not the common sense part, although I have my doubts. Note that I linked something similar already, above.
posted by Brian B. at 8:00 PM on April 13, 2011


I'm not seeing anything about how the ban will increase tourism or how it offers France economic security. That's what I'm looking for a cite for. I already knew about the committee.
posted by rtha at 8:33 PM on April 13, 2011


I'm not seeing anything about how the ban will increase tourism or how it offers France economic security. That's what I'm looking for a cite for. I already knew about the committee.

No you didn't. You wouldn't have asked for a confusing blanket cite if you did. So you can cite the committee instead since you already knew about them.
posted by Brian B. at 8:39 PM on April 13, 2011


Then let me be very clear. I apologize for confusing you.

No matter how many women wanted it, it had to offer economic security.

Cite, please.

You read tourism, then Taliban, but didn't allow the connection that most tourists would find their carefree image of France challenged by the fundamentalist reality in the streets.


Cite, please. (Specifically, a cite that tourism would be discouraged if the niqab were not banned.)
posted by rtha at 8:46 PM on April 13, 2011


Cite, please....

Nope. You just can't refute it, and I don't do exhaustive research favors for moral enemies, including self-righteous pro-Taliban folks and/or misogynists, not that you are any of these, but this thread is full of poser-liberal nonsense, and I'm proud to regard them as enemies (you excepted of course). The law is passed, boycott France if you must.
posted by Brian B. at 9:10 PM on April 13, 2011


most tourists would find their carefree image of France challenged by the fundamentalist reality in the streets

What fundamentalist reality, a few women wandering around the supermarket in niqab? GMAFB. London is just as famous a tourist destination as Paris, and they seem able to cope with their middle eastern lady ninja population.

On a side note, it makes for an interesting variety of flirting.
posted by anigbrowl at 9:51 PM on April 13, 2011


Nope. You just can't refute it, and I don't do exhaustive research favors for moral enemies, including self-righteous pro-Taliban folks and/or misogynists, not that you are any of these, but this thread is full of poser-liberal nonsense, and I'm proud to regard them as enemies (you excepted of course). The law is passed, boycott France if you must.

No, the law was passed to expose the Neo-Templars, who with their Saurian allies, are infiltrating French society. That is why the committee advocated the ban, and not because misogynist fascists like people who agree with and but are not you hate all women. You cannot refute it.
posted by Snyder at 2:34 AM on April 14, 2011


How much time have you actually spent in France, Mayor Curley? It's certainly not a very relgigious country, but nor does it feature the sort of institutionalised atheism you describe.

Finally we get someone with the balls to just fabricate what the other side says. Lazy straw man. Yeah, that term has to get used once per long discussion here, but you're doing it.

I have maintained that modern France is deeply secular. Are you able to make the distinction between "institutional atheism" and "deeply secular"?

Even if I said what you're attributing to me (which I did not), your "evidence" is ridiculous. For Christ's sake (ha!), the lede in your first cite totally supports my contention: "President Nicolas Sarkozy has broken a French taboo by urging a more active role for religion."

Your second cite: Someone drew a picture of Sarkozy and the Pope. Great. The other day I saw a political cartoon of President Obama dressed as a cowboy.

Your third cite: So what? In the Soviet Union, where there actually was institutionalized atheism, you could see plenty of crucifix burial monuments.

Summary: don't make up positions for your opponents. If you're going to cite evidence, make it relevant instead of "here's some vaguely-related links so I must be right." Certainly don't cite a story that opens with a statement that affirms your opponent's actual position.
posted by Mayor Curley at 2:38 AM on April 14, 2011


I also responded to your points, Mayor Curley, and I genuinely would be interested to know whether you've spent much time in France. I can't say I've spent a huge amount of time there, compared to e.g French people, but I've seen Les Halles, where disaffected teens from les banlieus kick around, and the veil really isn't a huge problem. I've also seem the huge églises and cathédrales that define the skyline of Paris, and for that matter the roadside crosses. Nobody's pulling that stuff down.
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:08 AM on April 14, 2011


Nope. You just can't refute it, and I don't do exhaustive research

...on something that you are asserting is true, but have no desire or way to back up? You didn't do exhaustive research (or even a little googling?) on the effects of niqab-wearing women on France's tourism industry, even though you said that niqab-wearing women would make tourists stay away and that this is why the committee voted to ban the niqab - for economic reasons.

I was in France in the fall of 1986, when five bombs went off over the course of a week; dozens were injured and 11 or 12 people were killed. There were still lines for the Eiffel Tower and to see the Mona Lisa. The franc actually went up in value from the fall of 1985 to the fall of 1986. So pardon me if I have doubts that the existence of a few veil-wearing women are going to scare tourists away (many of whom come from countries - like the UK and US - where there are veil-wearing women, and/or travel for fun to countries where there are veil-wearing women).

But whatever. Thanks, by the way for excusing me from being a moral degenerate like all the other Taliban-loving, women-hating people in this thread. I mean dude, what.
posted by rtha at 5:16 AM on April 14, 2011 [7 favorites]


I was in France in the fall of 1986, when five bombs went off over the course of a week; dozens were injured and 11 or 12 people were killed. There were still lines for the Eiffel Tower and to see the Mona Lisa. The franc actually went up in value from the fall of 1985 to the fall of 1986. So pardon me if I have doubts that the existence of a few veil-wearing women are going to scare tourists away (many of whom come from countries - like the UK and US - where there are veil-wearing women, and/or travel for fun to countries where there are veil-wearing women).

For the record, you are now saying that bombs, if they were planted by a radicalized Islamic element, would not affect tourism, in order to contradict my point it seems. I don't think anyone in the French government would agree, but I won't dig for a foreign language survey of government officials in order to convince you, because it's bottom line common sense in any context, and that's all one can hope to point out in a debate. We can therefore disagree on what those deep concerns over "increased Islamisation" means in the afforementioned report and pretend that France doesn't rely on tourism, art, wine, and many other things that a radicalized Taliban-like enclave would target or detest.
posted by Brian B. at 7:04 AM on April 14, 2011


Brian B., please cut it out. I'm not sure what you're trying to accomplish in here, but the snippy you-vs-everybody dynamic you're running with here makes for a lousy thread.
posted by cortex at 7:25 AM on April 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


I don't think that all of the presented arguments and evidence are good or relevant, but this thread really has changed my opinion. The law in question is designed to single out a minority group for cynical political gain, and that's completely wrong. I'm not terribly sympathetic to loud displays of religious preference, but discrimination in the interest of furthering electoral success is wrong.
posted by Mayor Curley at 8:38 AM on April 14, 2011 [4 favorites]


For the record, you are now saying that bombs, if they were planted by a radicalized Islamic element, would not affect tourism, in order to contradict my point it seems.

Well, at least some of the bombings were claimed by a pro-Iranian group, and they did not, from what I saw when I was there, affect tourism. You said niqab-wearing women would be a drag on France's tourism economy; actual bombings did not seem to be much of a drag. And I still can't see where the claim that the committee recommended the ban out of economic interest comes from.
posted by rtha at 8:47 AM on April 14, 2011


....And that's what I get for writing out a comment more than an hour ago and then not hitting preview before posting. Doh. Sorry, cortex.
posted by rtha at 8:48 AM on April 14, 2011


Unveiling the Truth: Why 32 Women Wear the Full-Face Veil in France
Links to longer pdfs and summaries from interviews with women in France.
posted by gingerbeer at 7:54 PM on April 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


Thanks for that, gingerbeer. It was a very interesting read.
posted by small_ruminant at 3:37 PM on April 18, 2011


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