Fuck Your Morals

Amina

Amina

There exists a narrative among some human rights activists,  feminists and even progressives – in this country and elsewhere – that women wearing hijab in the from of burkas or any kind of other veiling in Muslim countries is a matter of cultural perspective and tradition that needs to be respected and is off limits to criticism.

This narrative, born out of a false sense of cultural relativism, insists that every woman who covers herself is doing so out of her own free will, is not  forced to do so and in fact lives a life of happiness and contentedness under a welcoming and warm religion and men who do not at all view women as less than their equals.The wearing of the hijab and the practice of veiling are, therefore, seen as mere cultural differences and any such criticism of the hijab and the (patriarchal) culture that stands behind it, constructs it, perpetuates it and propagates it are seen as arrogant, western ethnocentric attempts at imposing one’s owns values onto others.

Frankly, that’s a load of crap.

No one is patronizing Muslim women with respect to the veils they have to wear as a direct result of the oppressive religion and patriarchy they live under. Being under the yoke of an oppressive religion and a stringent patriarchy that views women as second class human beings is a matter of cultural difference the same way slavery is.

A woman saying she enjoys wearing the hijab is like a slave saying he enjoys his shackles.

Yes, muslim women have such a great track record of protecting their freedoms and rights. They have the right to  not talk to any men. The right to get beaten by their husbands and any male relative.The right to not go to school and get an education. The right to be obedient and quiet. The right to let their bodies be treated like state property. The right to have no rights at all.

Yes, muslim women have such a great track record of protecting their freedoms and rights. They have the right to not talk to any men. The right to get beaten by their husbands and any male relative, really. The right to not go to school and get an education. The right to be obedient and quiet. The right to let their bodies be treated like state property. The right to have no rights at all.

Muslim women who say they are ok with it and do not mind it don’t know any better and are speaking out of ignorance following a lifetime of socialization, manipulation and indoctrinated into believing that the oppressive patriarchy they live under is working in their favor and was just part of their culture.

It is not.

The hijab or any kind of other covering and veiling requested of women are not cultural artifacts or traditions that need to be respected and preserved any more than any kind of other act of oppression of and discrimination against women is.

They are tools and symbols of oppression and control of women that need to be exposed for what they are and abolished.

Body, Autonomy, Agency, Equality

The best and most effective way to control a woman is to control her sexualityand with it her body, thus stripping her off her autonomy and agency. A deeply dehumanizing act.

Controlling a woman’s body by policing what she wears and else does with it is treating said woman’s body and the woman herself like the property of her husband who then effectively just becomes her owner and proprietor.

It is a deeply misogynistic, not to mention offensive and invasive custom.

A man seems to be the extension of the state in such Islamic countries – as he does not respect a woman as an equal and thus as a self-governed, rights-bearing, autonomous individual human.

Subverting another human being’s agency is a very serious offense.

"My Body Belongs to Me and is Not the Source of Anyone's Honor"

My Body Belongs to Me and is Not the Source of Anyone’s Honor

Hijab and veils in the form of burkas are symbols of oppression used to police women and their bodies to conform to norms established and created by men in  a deeply patriarchal system.

Women do not cover themselves up because they want to. They cover themselves up because they have no other choice; because the patriarchy and the oppressive religion they live under dictates that they do.

Furthermore, the belief that policing women’s bodies and reproduction is acceptable and needs to be respected accordingly as part of someone’s culture is deeply problematic with rather dire consequences as the track record of how women are treated in such countries shows.That is nothing that deserves to be respected.

Tunisia Progressive?

Tunisia, the birthplace of the Arab Spring, has, according to Human Rights Watch, “long [been] viewed as the most progressive Arab country with respect to women’s rights.”

The evidence does not support such an assertion unless one considers not stoning women to death, not making them marry their rapists or allowing them to have driver’s licences, progressive. Arab Spring my ass. Tunisia is apparently only considered “more progressive” vis a vis places like Afghanistan, Pakistan or Iran. Being a notch better than the worst of the worst does not make you a progressive.

Men and politicians in Islamic countries, and yes I am lumping them all together because this is one rare instance where there are no exceptions,  want to limit choice and marginalize women so as to be able to better control them. Just because in Tunisia they don’t stone women to death and allow them to have an education past fifth grade does not make them pro women. If you set the bar pretty darn low, it is not hard to exceed it.

A-TOPLESS-Flag-BurningWhat all this ultimately boils down to is that there is nothing about how Islam views and treats women that serves  a decent purpose, and certainly nothing that advances women’s agency or autonomy. Not even in Tunisia.

The Veil As A Symbol of Patriarchy and Oppression 

It is dehumanizing and insulting to be a woman navigating in a society in which you are not, uncompromisingly, respected as a man’s equal. It is terrible to be the sister, mother, daughter, student, friend or coworker of people who treat you like second class human beings.

It is demeaning to be raised in a world in which everyone around you, including your own father and brothers and partner hold the view that you not deserve equal opportunity and equal access. People who believe that you deserve less respect, less dignity, less agency,  less autonomy, less opportunity, less voice,  less ownership of self, less of your humanity.

A-FREE-AMINA-Maryam

The truth is that women in Islamic countries have to cover themselves up because of men who wrote the Koran and dictate the moral code of the nation, with devastating consequences. These women have no choice, which is the ultimate form of control and oppressions. 

Not being stoned to death, being allowed to attend school and even university or  being allowed to walk around without a head cover once in a while is not being liberal and woman friendly. Those are nothing but token gestures by Islamic oppressive patriarchs who are not really respecting a woman’s agency and humanity and much less really believe in it. These men are just allowing women, no permitting them, to do such things based solely at their discretion.

A permission that can be revoked at any time as the patriarchy sees fit.

There is nothing autonomous, liberal and feminist about men permitting women to be free and navigate through society without shackles once in a while and only in places and spaces they are willing to let them navigate without the threat to bodily harm.

If women are to ever gain any kind of autonomy and are to rise from the oppressive patriarchy that has been and continues to enslave and oppress them  – overtly and covertly – they, first and foremost need autonomy over their bodies.  They need to be agents of themselves rather than the subjects of the patriarchy around them where they are at their mercy and discretion, only allowed to behave in ways they deem acceptable and appropriate.

This is a crucial, if not the most important step towards independence because nothing robs a person of their personhood and humanity than not being able to make decisions pertaining to their own body. It cannot be emphasized enough. 

This is what Amina Tyler was symbolizing and protesting when she posed nude on her facebook pic, the words “Fuck your Morals” painted on her bare chest.

Takei-sulu-wiht-sword

Amina Tyler and FEMEN

This March, a Tunisian woman named Amina Tyler posted two topless photos of herself on Facebook. In one, “Fuck Your Morals” is painted across her bare chest. In the other, she is wearing eyeliner and bright lipstick, scrawled down her chest in four lines are the Arabic words ”My body belongs to me, and is not the source of anyone’s honor.”

Tyler founded a Tunisian chapter of the feminist group FEMEN in February after seeing photos of the group’s activists online. Based in Kiev, FEMEN counts over a hundred and fifty thousand active members and has become famous—to quote the organization’s Wikipedia page—for its “noticeably erotic rallies,” strictly topless, against groups and individuals it perceives as corrupt, including the sex industry, the Church, sharia courts, Vladimir Putin, and Silvio Berlusconi.

After Tyler’s photos went up, an Islamist activist hacked the Facebook page of FEMEN’s Tunisian branch, posting religious videos and verses. One divinely inspired message read  “Thanks to God we have hacked this immoral page and the best is yet to come.” Another said, “The page has been hacked and God willing, this debauchery will disappear from Tunisia.” In the meantime, news agencies frantically reported that Tyler had been committed to a psychiatric hospital, that her parents had disowned her.

Amina-supporter-Curpo-Mio-uncensoredIn late March, Tyler told Italian journalist Federica Tourn that she believed she would be beaten or raped if Tunisian police tracked her down. She claimed that “nothing they could do would be worse than what already happens here to women, the way women are forced to live every day. Ever since we are small they tell us to be calm, to behave well, to dress a certain way, everything to find a husband. We must also study to be able to marry, because young guys today want a woman who works.”

But women, she said, are ready for change: We “have reached the height of self-determination: we no longer obey any authority, neither family nor religious. We know what we want and we make our own decisions.”

Tyler has received numerous death threats and stated that she is afraid for her life and the lives of her family.

In Tyler’s honor, protesters declared last Thursday, April 4th, Topless Jihad Day. A petition in her defense had fifteen thousand signers, including outspoken atheist Richard Dawkins. In capital cities, university-aged women with crowns of orange and lilac flowers painted their torsos for solidarity: “Bare breasts against Islamism,” “No sharia,” “Free Amina.”

Muslim Women Against Freedom

As to be expected, there has been a barrage of protests and objections to FEMEN’s and Amina’s approach. Islamic cultural centers all around the world, even those that claim to be supposedly pro women’s rights, and Muslim women themselves have protested,  calling FEMEN’s approach “highly counterproductive and detrimental to Muslim women across the world.”  As one Muslim woman and so-called activist wearing hijab on her profile pic on the Huffington Post statedtheir [FEMEN] tactics are a part of the ideological war that is going on between neo-colonial elements in the West and Islamic societies. Their aim is not to emancipate us from our presumed slavery, but instead reinforce Western imperialism and generate consent for the ongoing wars against Muslim countries.”

As Muslim Women Against Femen spokesperson Ayesha Latif told HP, she finds FEMEN’s approach “racist as well as evidence of colonial feminist rhetoric that portrays Arab/Muslim women as oppressed.” She added:

“It is incredibly inappropriate and offensive that they’re taking advantage of the stereotype that us Muslim women have to face in order to further their questionable cause.

The assumption they promote is that we are subjugated creatures controlled by men, who need to be liberated by a group of perfectly groomed white women posing nude and using shock tactics.

For them, the more you strip the more of a feminist you are – that’s Western feminist ideology. That’s not liberation for us, but that doesn’t make us anti-feminist.

We wonder how many Muslim women they have actually spoken to?”

o-TOPLESS-JIHAD-DAY-570

Questionable cause? Presumed slavery? Being pro hijab does not make us make anti-feminist? Not Subjugated and controlled by men? Don’t need liberating?

Exactly what Planet are these women from? And how intellectually comatose at best and deeply manipulated at worst do you have to be to believe that wearing your shackles in the from of veiling does not make you anti feminist? Or a slave to your men and religion? Or controlled by men and unliberated?

Women like Latif are precisely the reason this movement and the work of FEMEN is so important as clearly the oppressed do not see themselves as oppressed.

It is also amazing to see that amidst the death and rape threats Amina received, among others from Tunisian imam Adel Almi, chair of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, who proclaimed that Tyler “deserves to be whipped or stoned to death”, the problem seems to be FEMEN, Amina’s bare breasts and Western feminists. 

Instead of acknowledging their  horrible situation and use this opportunity to bring attention to the cause of oppressed women in the Muslim world, all people like Latif  vest their energy in is condemning efforts by FEMEN to give their cause a voice, publicity and direction.

After all, as we all know, Muslim women have such a great track record of protecting their freedoms and rights. They have the right no not talk to any men. The right to get beaten by their husbands and any male relative really. The right to not go to school and get an education. The right to be obedient and quiet. The right to let their bodies be treated like state property. You name it.

Complete Control

You know you have mastered the art of complete control when those you do control have come to believe it is not only in their own self interest but that in fact no control is taking place at all. Just take one look at North Korea and the true, fanatical devotion of North Koreans to their leader as example of believing the lies one is told.

Amina-Hippie-Man-Boobs

Who knew that a pair of bare tits, which are completely natural and normal body parts used primarily to nurse a newborn,  and something so fundamental such as demanding autonomy over one’s own body, refusing to be subjugated and passed around like state and male property, demanding equal opportunity, equal access, respect, dignity, agency,  a voice, ownership of self and thus more of one’s humanity could threaten self righteous, god loving and god fearing and supposedly moral people and their minions such as Latif to feel so threatened that they have to issue death threats.

Sometimes you have to engage in a radical, symbolic act to force the issue. And I am not talking anything violent but radical enough to rock the boat. Thirty of foorty years ago something like that would have been unheard of.  But today people aren’t shocked.

Amina was making a statement. And given how autonomy over one’s body is the number one tool of oppression in Muslim countries, it is understandable why she  chose to expose her breasts.

Making a woman wear hijab and cover herself up – at the request of a man, under the threat of violence if disobeyed –  in ugly, shapeless wear that obliterates her femininity by, literally, covering up every inch of her womanhood in cloth is as oppressive and disrespectful and as quashing to autonomy and agency it can get.

The hijab tells a woman that not only is she not given a voice in the political and professional sphere but that her entire womanhood, including her body parts, are under the control of a man who ultimately seems to be serving as the proxy for the institutionalized oppression of women by the state and its religion, Islam.

It is the ultimate oppressive act, robbing a woman of her autonomy, agency, and the ability to consent dictating that women cannot and should not be their own best decision-makers, their own best advocates, and their own best protectors.

If you aren’t even allowed to wear what you want, how can you expect that you will ever be granted anything else? Such as equality?

Therefore, women’s liberation in the muslim world, much like any kind of other liberation, is not going to happen only through diplomacy and negotiations. Diplomacy only works with reasonable people who are willing and ready to have a discussion with you as their equals. Entities who are interested in engaging in good faith discourse to amend their ways and get rid of systematic, institutionalized misogyny.  There can be no discussion had with entities, in this case men, whose response to your protests against subjugation is that you be stoned and raped. You don’t negotiate with Sith.

You Do Not Free Yourself  From the Shackles of Oppression by Nicely Asking For It

It didn’t work when this country was founded and our ancestors fought the Revolutionary war.  It did not work when the French Revolution took place. And it did not work during segregation. Some uprising, albeit peaceful, is needed.

Women in the West had to fight tooth and nail for their freedoms and rights (and we are still lagging in many ways). Burning of bras anyone? Protests? Marches? It happened in act of defiance, not by nicely asking for it.

The male leaders of Muslim nations are neither interested in nor do they care to sit down and have discussions on how to treat women as fully autonomous, right-bearing, equal human beings. They don’t believe that women are their equals. If such men were to ever grant them any freedoms it will be at their discretion and on their terms and only in the form of something like “you can get an education” or “you may get a driver’s license.” It will not be real equality. Not as long as Muslim women act like fucking minions unwilling and unable to stand up and fight back.

Amina is a symbol for standing up to religious oppression and the patriarchy that informs it and I stand in solidarity with her when I say, Fuck Your Morals. There is nothing moral about oppressing women and stripping them of their humanity and dignity.

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  1. #1 by ThinkAgain on April 14, 2013 - 7:45 AM

    Latif is not defending Muslim countries; she is defending women’s rights to wear the hijab if they choose to – which your response claims you do also. Islam and Islamic regimes are onto the same thing. Many women who live in environments where they are free to choose, choose to wear the hijab. This means the garment is not inherently evil and can in fact be reclaimed as a tool of empowerment rather than oppression.

    • #2 by popreflection on April 14, 2013 - 9:33 AM

      She is defending a women’s rights to wear the hijab?” Are you listening to yourself? That is like a black person saying he is defending a black person’s right to wear shackles and remain enslaved. It is like a black person saying that he is defending his right to obey Jim Crow laws. That is absurd.

      Reading comprehension is important. I do NOT defend a woman’s right to wear hijab. I have stated only 8000 times that the hijab in and of itself is a tool of oppression and that no woman who really has a choice, I mean REALLY a choice, and is in her right mind and who hasnt been brainwashed would ever choose to subjugate herself to wear in the first place. Even Latif and Alawa – about whom I also posted a separate entity and which I doubt you read since you are citing me her HP link) doesn’t know what she is talking about. This is a women who has been peed on and oppressed all her life, she dodnt know any better. That’s the whole point – these women have been so manipulated they think they want to wear this shit. That is how control works. Just look at North Korea and the total brainwashing those people have undergone to the point of thinking their leader is really the most important entity in the universe and their way the right way etc – even though most of them live in poverty and fucking eat tree bark to starve. Just read the account of those female journalists that were held there for a year before Clinton negotiated their release about the power of mind control and brainwashing.

      Secondly, I defend a woman’s right to CHOOSE whether she wants to wear hijab, go bare, put on tar, wrap herself in silk or have 35 piercings and 80 tattoos. What part of choice do you exactly not comprehend? Latif and all the hijab/oppression apologists do not even THINK in terms of choice.

      Latif says she has a choice, which only makes sense if she lives in the US (and even then remember societal/parental pressure – people dont just automatically escape abusive practices becasue they live in the US) and then she goes on misrepresenting the issue and making it look like all muslim women had a choice to not wear the hijab – which is utter garbage and a lie. The hijab is inherently evil. It was made by men and put in place by men, it is mentioned in the koran that was written by men and it is used today, among a myriad of other things, to keep women in check and under the yoke of men.

      I find your ignorance towards the reality these women face staggering and unsettling. You seem to think the hijab was just like a piece of garment, not unlike a skirt, or pants or some accessory that is misjudged and used by evil, white colonialist, thin women to impose some more white evilness and colonialism to the wonderful and free lives of muslim women all over the world. By condemning Amin and FEMEN you, indirectly and whether you like it or not, are just taking the side of a bunch of slave trading patriarchs who see women as nothing more than child bearers and maids they don’t have to pay

      I strongly urge you to dig a little deeper into these issues and educate yourself instead of just accepting everything you read at face value and then come here trying to defend a woman’s “right” to be covered up by a bunch of cloth to accommodate men.

  2. #3 by ThinkAgain on April 14, 2013 - 7:41 AM

    I did in fact read your entries. I simply disagree. I know plenty of women who wear the hijab who are empowered in their life choices, who wear it not out of threat of violence but out of personal faith – in other words choice. A woman wearing a hijab is not a tell tale sign she is oppressed. Oppression can take place with or without a garment. Yes there are human rights issues that take place within ” Muslim countries”. Threatening a woman with violence of she does not cover is a human rights violation. Oppressions which take place because political realities are by the state and need political Remedies. But telling women who are navigating their own paths of freedom that theirs is not a valid one is unfair. This isn’t the same as segregation and drawing that comparison does injustice to both the oppressed groups you referenced. Have you been to a Muslim country? How many Muslim women do you know? How much reading have you done about the multiple viewpoints on this issue? I am attaching a few links :

    http://www.enargywebzine.eu/spip.php?article254

    http://thefeministanthropologist.com/2012/07/10/islamophobia-and-sexism/

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/laila-alawa/i-am-not-oppressed_b_3052001.html

    http://www.youngchicagoauthors.org/girlspeak/features_bridging_the_disconnect_unveiling_the_hijab_and_islamic_feminism_by_diamond_sharp.htm

    http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=43297

    I trusty you are genuine in your desire to empower others and will read with an open mind in order to best do so.

  3. #4 by ThinkAgain on April 13, 2013 - 5:55 AM

    Your article dismisses a woman’s argument as “intellectually comatose” and uses words like crap and other expletives to describe people’s personal beliefs. If my comment seemed personally offensive, consider the feelings of those people who read this article. To automatically dismiss the discomfort of. The very people that Femen is fighting for completely denies them any agency – which is what this fight is supposed to be for. I do not argue with solidarity for Amina, or the fact that subjugation and oppression is wrong but I would like to point out that neither Femen, nor anyone else has the right to be the complete authority, laying out a moral code ( in this case, ncover yourself – to cover is wrong) that other woman must adhere to. There are ways of fighting patriarchy within societies without entirely abandoning all the customs, cultures or religious tenets of that society. Western feminists were lucky in that they got to navigate that path for themselves without the existence of a neo-imperialist, “superior” group of people to check their efforts. If uncovering herself was empowerment for Amina, then I support your solidarity with her and your protests of her treatment. I am deeply offended, however, by your dismissing Latif and assuming she stands for patriarchy, simply because she chooses to cover herself. That creates a false dichotomy between Islam, and the Muslim culture on one side, and western led feminism on the other. That is true denial of Muslim women’s agency because it forces women to make a false choice – and puts the empowerment movement in the hands of people who already have cultural power.

    • #5 by popreflection on April 13, 2013 - 9:43 AM

      Her assertions are being dismissed as a load of ignorant, unfounded crap because you have to be so brainwashed and blind and oblivious to your own reality that you would not see the shackles your enslavers make you wear for what they are.

      Seeing someone visibly carry with herself the symbols and tools of oppression and then actually have the audacity to say they are not oppressed is both sad and outrageous. It really is. The manipulation and brainwashing these women undergo. I mean that is the ultimate tool of control isn’t it? To really believe that you are not oppressed despite all evidence to the contrary.

      And this is not about cultural relativism vs ethnocentrism. FEMEN and Amina are about choice.

      No one, NO ONE, can tell me that women in Muslim countries have a CHOICE to not wear the hijab.

      The difference between FEMEN/Amina and the regimes of muslim countries is that FEMEN does not take away a woman’s right to be able to choose what to wear.

      The position of muslim countries, on the other hand, the same ones Latif is so fervently defending, takes away that choice and thus forbids women to be bare and makes them wear hijab under penalty.

      There is a world of difference. FEMEN’s position expands freedom; the Islamic regime/patriarchy limits it or takes it away. The FEMEN position treats women as autonomous, rights-bearing human beings deserving of full equality; the Islamic regime/patriarchy treats women’s bodies as state property and women as second-class human beings, not just citizens.

      How can you stand up there and KNOW you don’t have a choice but to wear hijab in your home country and then still come here and insist that you do not feel oppressed.

      At the risk of repeating what has been said in both of my entries (whichI suspect you did not understand and/or read): having no autonomy over one’s body is a serious transgression. And telling a woman what to do with her body, is the number one tool of oppression in Muslim countries.

      Making a woman cover herself up – at the request of a man, under the threat of violence if disobeyed – covering up every inch of her womanhood in cloth is as oppressive and disrespectful and as quashing to autonomy and agency it can get.

      The hijab tells a woman that not only is she not given a voice in the political and professional sphere but that her entire womanhood, including her body parts, are under the control of a man who ultimately seems to be serving as the proxy for the institutionalized oppression of women by the state and its religion, Islam.

      It is the ultimate oppressive act, robbing a woman of her autonomy, agency, and the ability to consent dictating that women cannot and should not be their own best decision-makers, their own best advocates, and their own best protectors.

      If you aren’t even allowed to wear what you want, how can you expect that you will ever be granted anything else? Such as equality?

      This woman has been manipulated so deeply that she has come to embrace her oppression. It not unlike the request to marry one’s rapist.

      A woman saying she enjoys wearing the hijab is like a slave saying he enjoys his shackles.

      FEMEN’s activism is not patronizing and colonial any more than the activities of anti segregationists were some 50+ years ago. This is a human rights issues that transcends cultural boundaries. This is not thin white women asking everyone to be white and thin, these happen to be white and thin women who are passionately advocating for the end of oppression of women. They want them to have a choice – which they do not have. And if you do not have a choice then you are not free. And that is what it boils down.

  4. #6 by ThinkAgain on April 12, 2013 - 5:02 PM

    I had left a comment detailing the culturally paternalistic nature of this article. It seems it was deleted. So much for freedom of expression.

    • #7 by popreflection on April 12, 2013 - 5:48 PM

      Personal insults/ad hominem attacks are not cool

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