This time, it’s personal.
I mean, political.
That is to say . . . aw, nuts.
Naomi has been hip for a while to how sexually deadening a hyper-sexualized culture can be, and she’s certainly provoked some interesting discussions on the place modesty might have in a grown-up, domestic sex life. (Along with the old stuff about pornography being a turn-off. Which a lot of it is; certainly the first person I heard articulate that point well was Kate Millett, who famously remarked that the fundamental problem with pornography is that is was so “unsexy.” That is very often the case, although the passages in Sexual Politics I found myself reading over and over again were, um . . . the quotes from Henry Miller. I didn’t care for the woman-hatred, but I thought that if that were removed all the sexy little games might be. You know: sexy.)
So, Ms. Wolf has taken the logic a bit further, and published an article that soft-peddles the extreme dress that women are required to wear in Islamist regimes. You know: the full-body-coverup, sense-deprivation getup that Oriana Fallaci had to put on to score her interview with the Ayatollah Khomeini. Her first question to him was, “how do you swim in this thing?” She also removed it in the middle of the interview, which was sensible.
But here is Ms. Wolf, whose view of modesty is binary—on, or off. She gives us an interesting history of religion, too:
The Western Christian tradition portrays all sexuality, even married sexuality, as sinful. Islam and Judaism never had that same kind of mind-body split. So, in both cultures, sexuality channeled into marriage and family life is seen as a source of great blessing, sanctioned by God.
I’d be interested in how “married sexuality” got to be sinful in the Christian tradition without making it into scripture. Or how Judaism is pro-sex, and led to Christianity, which is anti-sex, which led to Islam, which is also pro-sex. Does celebration of human sexuality skip a tradition within the world’s religions? Just askin’. And why do I get the feeling that Wolf has never read Song of Solomon—or listened to Frank Zappa’s “Catholic Girls”?
Phyllis Chesler responded to Ms. Wolf over at Pajamas Media, pointing out the obvious links between the women’s slavery in part of the Middle East, Africa, and Asia . . . and the dress code that symbolizes and enforces that slavery.
And now Ms. Wolf is angry about Chesler’s article, rather than the fact that in matters of dress, women in extremist Islamic cultures do not have freedom of choice. Choice. Remember that? When I was just a wee young feminist, that was considered an important word. Ah, good times.
But wait! Wolf pays lip service to the concept of choice, at the end of her essay:
I do not mean to dismiss the many women leaders in the Muslim world who regard veiling as a means of controlling women. Choice is everything. But Westerners should recognise that when a woman in France or Britain chooses a veil, it is not necessarily a sign of her repression. And, more importantly, when you choose your own miniskirt and halter top – in a Western culture in which women are not so free to age, to be respected as mothers, workers or spiritual beings, and to disregard Madison Avenue – it’s worth thinking in a more nuanced way about what female freedom really means.
France’s law against headscarves is, in fact, insane. But it’s equally insane to conflate headscarves and modest apparel with garb that cuts one off from the world—not allowing communication, creating sensory deprivation, and putting one in danger of heatstroke in 115-degree temperatures.
And I can dress as I choose, and pay as much—or as little—attention to advertising as I please. Courtesy of the Western liberal tradition.
Not free to age? Bitch, please: I do it every day. In fact, I’m counting the minutes until my uterus retires—but it still insists on going through the motions every 2-5 weeks. In the extremist Islamic cultures, I might not be free to age at all if I talked to a man. Or rode a bicycle. Or drove a car. Or got raped. That whole aging concern would be taken right off my plate. One less thing to worry about! Fiddle-dee-dee.
Cynthia Yockey has pictures that demonstrate the difference between the type of veiled outfit Naomi Wolf experimented with, and the monstrous things that are mandated in extremist Muslim societies. I believe I attempted, at the time, to point out the distinction between liberating modesty and gender slavery. They are different things. No, really, Naomi.
So, after getting taken to the woodshed, Naomi Wolf has demanded an apology from Phyllis Chesler, who has quite rightly refused to proffer such a thing.
And Cynthia and I have her back on this.
UPDATE: More here. Just scroll.