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  • liza

    ahhh … hmmmm … this is really not funny.
    when i was in amsterdam, which has a muslim population that is exploding, i saw a wonderful multimedia installation about burkas at the amsterdam museum. there were 50 of them, each with its own ‘personality’. the multimedia part were the interviews of the owners and their reasons, some of them quite feminist may i add, for wearing them.
    it’s a post i have been remiss in putting up. maybe i should now.
    anyhow, this is really not the kind of thing that TGW want to be playing with. it’s really prejudiced … i wouldn’t go so far to call it racist but others will.
    see this discussion here.

  • EconAtheist

    What’s “TGW” …?

  • gayle

    Good one. BTW, love the new design. Nice!

  • Bobby

    Tennessee Guerrilla Women (TGW), as it says on the main page.
    While it may be called racist, it would be more accurately called “culturalist”. As often as not and especially in certain countries, it is more of a cultural than religious manifestation. The Qur’an certainly does not demand complete veiling of women in public.
    I suppose one feminist interpretation of the burqa is that it prevents the objectification of women, but obviously that is a large burden to place on women for mens’ objectifying them. Further, and this should go without saying, it is heavily correlated with the segregation of society, entirely to the detriment of womens’ access.
    IMO, there is nothing wrong with the burqa itself, but because of history it has become, justifiably, to be seen as a cultural symbol reflecting deeply conservative and sexist societies.
    I would love to learn more about this topic, liza.

  • nottrue

    Yes, it is very misguided and quite irresponsible. But whilst I think it wrong to associate cultural erosion with cultural choice, I get the extrapolation. It is designed to enrage complacency, all well and good, but it is employing the same tactics as the opposition, fear & hatred. Still it doesn’t address the very serious problem that is occurring in America. Having said that, your entire culture is so God based and fucking religion crazy the analogy is correct. It’s hard to counter, God Bless America and in God We Trust, fire and brimstone are so deeply burnt into your culture … and rising out from the ashes.
    These attitudes are very uniquely American, even when they occur in other countries at the root of the problem are American based religious groups.
    These people are eroding your rights one by one, this is just the start. The have had success and are now power hungry and going from strength to strength, state to state … one law at a time. It’s insidious, one day it doesn’t concern you the next … it does. Prohibition will be next on the agenda etc.
    Are Americans so indoctrinated they they haven’t the common sense to see where all this is leading. You don’t need prophecy to foresee a well organised and devised plan to totally reshape, restructure your society. It started with the mass enrollments for the last election … these people are garnering power and with every success comes another mission. Just wait until they are at the helm with lots of nice coloured of buttons to push. If that doesn’t worry you … well it scares the fucking shit out of me, far more than any burka.
    Wake up and smell the VX people the sirens are screaming.

  • Wolke

    How is there nothing wrong with the burka itself? What is the burka itself, is there some sort of intrinsic character or essence of a burka that is independent of its use, the women wearing it, the society demanding its wear? Something that has to be protected from culturalist assault?
    The supposedly feminist interpretation of a burka as preventing the objectification of women is completely distorted. The burka is the result of the objectification of women: Women are completely reduced to the appeals (and reproductional functions) of their bodies. In societies holding this view it is common sense that women’s bodies need to be “protected” from unauthorized access – in the most extreme example of Afghanistan employing burkas, confinement to the house etc – with the effect that the woman’s body is owned by a man. In the process a woman ceases to be a human being and approaches the status of livestock. That is objectification for me.

  • The Happy Feminist

    Right. The burka itself results from and furthers the objectification of women.

  • Jessica

    Liza, I don’t think it’s supposed to be funny. It’s supposed to piss people off; it’s supposed to incite discourse. I think it’s a problematic and complicated issue, but this is the way I took it:
    Westerners so often talk about Muslim women in this amazingly condescending way–oh, they’re so oppressed, those poor “third world” women. We are so lucky here. I saw this as turning that on its head–we’re not so “free” over here.
    From your post:
    In trying to equate American Christian fundamentalists with Islamic fundamentalists, Tennessee Guerrilla Women they probably thought they were being cute. The problem is, there are islamic feminist theologists who are trying to make a difference within their religion.
    I agree that you can’t equate all fundamentalisms, and that this campaign could be taken that way. But you say that this is a moment of “cultural imperialism”–I think the exact opposite is true. By saying that we all wear burkas (whether actual burkas or metaphorical ones) we’re subverting that idea that somehow Western women are so much freer than say, women in Iraq or Afghanistan.

  • karen

    I think the statement being made by the image is how the Bush administration has tried to make the subservience of women fashionable (i.e. the purse and fashion drawing). Bush and his cronies proselytize in countless ways and with countless methods that it’s OK for women NOT to have choices and options in life.
    I do not think the image is intended to denigrate Muslim women in any way. It is well known that Afghani women have been so persecuted. The burka seems to be a symbol of that oppression.
    The way I see it – this image is just an attempt to wake up the youth of America to think about the future they want for themselves. Few of the young seem to care whether their rights are taken away from them. They alone need to decide what is best for their lives – not the government.

  • Wolke

    Jessica, I’m curious, please tell me why you think Muslim women are not so oppressed and why do you think Western women are not so much freer.
    Liza, you are pretty enraged about cultural ignorance of Western women, but you aren’t cautious with generalizations, either. TGW specifically use the Afghan burka that was imposed on the Afghan women by the Taliban. For you anything that covers the hair seems to qualify as a burka so that you can claim that the red burka t-shirt is an insult to all Muslim women. As you may have noticed, the exhibition in Amsterdam you’re talking about was on headscarves. Also, only a small minority of Muslim women was/is forced to wear a burka.
    You exhibit the same carelessness when talking about “Western” women. This isn’t about “spreading the virus of the American Empire” or patronizing Muslim women in their efforts for more rights. In your culturally relativist selfrighteousness you’re completely missing the point here.
    For you the burka obviously represents a cultural icon that is only peripherally connected to the oppression of women, so you are very quick to diagnose the demonization of Muslims. However, TGW use the (Taliban!) burka as a symbol for women’s oppression (if you doubt that the burka translates into oppression of women, have a look here: ) and puts it in the context of women’s oppression in America. This is about a war against women.

  • Wolke

    Liza’s post:
    “BTW: I don’t know if I would have the same reaction if the people involved in the spoof were muslims themselves.”
    So anything “Westerners” comment on Muslim issues is an indication of cultural imperialism, but if Muslims say the same, it may be ok? And you’re accusing TGW of bigotry?

  • Jessica

    Wolke, it’s not that I don’t think Muslim women are oppressed, it’s that I don’t think that Western women have a right to judge their oppression as “worse” or “better.” (And to even assume a hierarchy of oppressions.)

  • Wolke

    Of course you always have to be cautious with judgment, and to judge one form of oppression worse or better than another one isn’t exactly constructive, either. But don’t you agree that there is something like a hierarchy of liberties, in that for example the liberty to work and earn money or the right to school education are more fundamental than the right to choose who you marry, and this in turn is more fundamental than equal representation of both genders in the government or in boards of directors?
    Anyhow I completely agree that judging doesn’t serve for anything but increased distance and animosity. As I see it, the best strategy for Western feminists is to support the feminists in women-oppressing countries in their efforts.
    A couple of months ago, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi was awarded another human rights prize and I was able to see her speech. This is quoted from her speech (my translation from a not so good Farsi-to-German translation):
    “You cannot over night apply the women-related laws of Sweden on Saudi Arabia, nor can you over night apply laws based on democratic principles on all African nations. Of importance is the development of the society towards a superior culture, and in this regard laws play an important role, because one of the tasks of legislature lies in its guiding role. Legislature must be one step ahead of culture so it can develop and enhance the culture. (…she gives an example how laws could promote education for girls in Afghanistan…) That is, you have to proceed slowly and step by step.
    Another aspect that has to be pointed out regarding the development and enhancement of culture it that it must not take too long. That is, you have to aspire to reach international standards as fast as possible. Proceeding towards international standards all-too slowly must not be instrumentalized by non-democratic states to play for time.”

  • liza sabater

    How can you say the burka further’s women’s objectification? How about jeans or low-cut dresses? It’s just such a culturally uninformed assumption. White American feminists need to drop this burka bullshit and not speak for muslim women, some of them feminists, who choose to wear it for political and cultural reasons.
    There are muslim women choosing to use the burqa as a sign of their religious choice, autonomy and cultural pride. Who the fuck are we to say that wearing a burqa is demeaning? That’s my point. It’s bigotted, it’s cultural insensitive.
    The Catholic Church is responsible for many of the ills of the world but would you hold it against a priest or a nun to try to do something about it? Would you hold it against Theology of Liberation catholics to try to fight the system from within?
    Look, I’m the first one to not call this a racist campaign –and I am speaking as a Puerto Rican black atheist feminist woman with muslims and christians in my family. I hate it when people filter everything through the issues of race. But this shows an utter lack of cultural awareness.
    You may want to educate yourselves more about that here :
    and i have my response here :
    Tennessee Guerilla Women’s Red Burka : Is this what bigoted, racist, imperialist feminism looks like?

  • Jessica

    Liza, I’m not sure who you’re addressing your comment to–but that’s pretty much what I said–that American/Western women should not speak for Muslim women. So I’m a bit confused as to who you’re accusing of being of “culturally insensitive” and in need of “educating ourselves.”

  • Wolke

    Are you talking about burkas or headscarves, Liza? TGW used an Afghan burka as a symbol for oppression, not a headscarf. I have never heard of a woman wearing a burka as a sign of autonomy or religious choice.

  • liza

    if it were muslim women making a statement of solidarity with american women that’s one thing. it just does not work the other way around.
    this is another good article that i should have linked to :
    Unveiling the Taleban Dress Codes Are Not the Issue, New Study Finds
    and Textisle offered this link to a post by Lauren:
    Consider the Hijab: Blogging Against Racism
    BTW : Even though BURQA is the whole dress imposed in Afghanistan, in Amsterdam they called the headscarf a burqa. Burqa, Niqab, chador; they’re all different interpretation of Hijab.
    Grock … I wish my brother were here to explain these things.
    BTW … it’s not just in Afghanistan that women use the full burqa. We have a mosque just a few blocks from us and I see some of the women go in for prayer in full dress. Just saying. Just some women.
    BTW, the question on my post is supposed to be provocative. I ultimately say it’s a poor choice that comes from americans really not being a polivalent culture. And I don’t claim to be an expert on this nor do I think I’m being articulate about this either; but i think this discussion is necessary.
    If this is the brainchild of Echidne, I’m ferklemt. I mean, she’s one of the best feminist bloggers out there. I really do respect her work. I just really think this was a really bad choice.
    Are there any muslims in this thread?

  • Jessica

    Liza, I agree–the discussion is absolutely necessary. But I wasn’t trying to say that I saw this as a campaign speaking in solidarity with Muslim women. I agree that that would be majorly misguided, considering that (I’m assuming), Muslim women weren’t a part of creating the campaign. And to be honest, I think the campaign probably should have been posted with some sort of analysis or context. But just because that analysis wasn’t there, it doesn’t mean that the TGW created it from a place of insensitivity or ignorance. I think it’s important to call each other out and ensure that we’re all thinking as critically as we can be. But I also think that can be done in a way to further the conversation rather that stop it dead in its tracks.
    I’m going to try and start a new post tomorrow to devote more discussion to this, because I do think that it’s a conversation that needs to be continued.

  • Samhita

    I just left this comment on women of color blog, but I wanted to leave it here because they have comment moderator on, to add to this discussion.
    Hey all-
    I write for feministing and I think this is a really good deconstruction of that post. I don’t know TGW or their intention for creating this and I do think it was shortsighted on our part to not have analysis around posting such a dramatic image.
    But I am wondering a couple of things.
    Why is a discussion of burqa SO explosive? I understand the argument and whole-heartedly agree that Western understandings/discussions of women that choose to wear hijab or chador, fail to recognize that some women choose to wear it and are very (indigenously) feminist in doing so.
    What I sense is a general discomfort when discussing burqa, however “we” are still talking about “them”? I don’t see a single “authentic” experience represented here, nor do I believe that an authentic experience exists. I think it changes and is experienced differently by women everywhere. I think like most issues affecting women, some women agree, some don’t, some are rallying around it, don’t want to wear it etc, others do. (even though I have yet to hear about a woman wanting to where burqa)
    But what if you disagree? I as a, radical activist and South Asian feminist, do not agree with women that are pro-forced child-birth. That may be their choice or a source of empowerment for them, but I don’t understand it, at ALL. Granted, I am an immigrant, not a Christian, so I don’t understand their culture, but I don’t give a rats ass what their choice is, or that they feel empowered rallying around us losing our right to choice. Their choice to me is unacceptable.
    So while I understand that it is different when talking about burqa in Afghanistan and that it is culturally specific and could potentially be imperialist for us to critique, I don’t personally understand why someone would where it. Where do I put that? Do I pretend I don’t feel that way?
    But despite my opinion or my potentially Western (non-Western) gaze, what about the Bush administration’s appropriation of feminist language (or what they think is feminist language) to justify military aggression? Isn’t that the real issue, the what we know and can do issue?
    I agree that this symbol is problematic and I think this discussion is necessary, as I think it is really important to call people out on shit that we think potentially re-enforces racist, sexist, homophobic, classist and imperialist ideology. But are mainstream feminist blogs the real enemy? What about mainstream media and blogs that poorly try to represent “other” cultural norms?
    Finally, my initial reaction to that picture represented how the Bush Administration is using “women’s lib” to justify war overseas (bullshit), while waging a war against women here.
    But again, I am torn in many ways on this one…

  • nottrue

    Quite frankly I think you are all crazy, side-tracked or totally oblivious. You are all going on about burkas in their various incarnations, and by virtue of these discussions epitomise American xenophobia regardless of your individual origins and your efforts to defend or minimalise their existence.
    Whenever we single out for particular attention any human condition, culture, ideology etc we reveal far more about ourselves that we do about the subject matter.
    Yes there are people who wear similar out of choice, hence my comment stating it is wrong to associate cultural erosion with cultural choice (exluding regimes). I have met quite a few (eg Indo-Fijian Muslims) who in fact choose this mode of dress and are definitely not oppressed.
    Not one of you has expressed real concern over the current trend that is taking place at law, which I assume is the purpose of this image. And it’s not just women’s rights, you ought to be on the outside looking in, it’s scary.

  • nottrue

    Come to think of it, I see women every day of the week, maybe not dressed in a burka exactly but ostensibly not far from it compared to the usual western garb … quite happily strolling arm in arm with their spouses, chatting, laughing etc, basically just living life as do we all … certainly don’t look oppressed to me.
    To me, the major concern is the lack of communal gardens where they can, for a time, acquire adequate vitamin D exposure required for pregnancy, potentially 3rd & 4rd children are at risk of rickets when the last trimester is during winter, in particular if the mother has high melanin concentrations.

  • Wolke

    Nottrue, I agree with you that American women shouldn’t be wasting time and energy on feminist in-quarrels when they’re being deprived of one right after the other. However I do think that this discussion is important, exactly for the purpose of getting over petty disagreements and focusing on the goals.
    I’ve had my share of the leftist übertolerant mindset that is so caught in its political correctness and anticipatory appreciation of just anything, mistaking positions of individuals or political/religious parties for cultural traditions and opposing in principle any interference of “Western” people into the affairs of members of other cultures or religions. This leads to exactly the distortion this burka-discussion displays. It may well be that there is actually women who choose to wear burka (there’s definitely those who choose to wear a headscarf) which I personally don’t understand and also think it problematic. But as long as 99% of women wearing burka are forced to do so and are oppressed in many other ways of which the burka is only the visible symptom – I think it’s a slap in the face for these women that Western feminists are protecting the burka as a completely normal garment to wear, pointing at those few women (mostly living in Western countries) that chose to wear it.
    In Germany this mindset of having more sympathy with oppressive practices from other cultures than the people of that culture themselves has led (together with general failures in the immigration policies) to the emergence of a Turkish-German parallel culture that is actually more conservative than the native culture of these people. For instance, a lot of Turkish-German men born here marry women from Turkey that may have worked there and had a life of their own. When they get here, their husbands’ families keep them from learning German, lock them in the house and exploit them as child-bearers. Women who try to escape this, but also young girls born here who want to live as liberatedly as their girlfriends (not wearing a headscarf, taking part in school sport, attending mixed-gender parties…) can end up murdered by their brothers, fathers or husbands’ families. This supposedly is an act of honour and it is happening in Germany. The notion of accepting everything patriarchal fathers might come up with as cultural traditions forgets to grant the human rights at least to those people living in our countries, if we can’t grant them to everyone.
    What’s the priority here, 1. showing appreciation and tolerance of every variant of convictions people from other cultures or religions hold, thereby blurring your vision and risking losing out of sight the goal (human rights for everyone and, since we’re feminists, especially for women) or 2. helping women from other cultures or religions in their own struggle for more liberties and thereby risk offending a minority for whom bona fide symbols of oppression signify autonomy?

  • egalia

    Meanwhile this controversial little shirt is our all time best seller. And, no, our readers are NOT “ignorant”, “bigoted, imperialist, racists.”
    I’d like to point out that one of the reasons the left is losing this civil war is that we on the left qualify and nuance ourselves to death while the right just keeps on broadcasting potent sound-bites.
    Obviously, you can’t fucking do anything without offending someone. Some times you just have to risk it.
    Unlike the blogger from NYC, we live in a fucking red state where everything is deadly serious all the fucking time.
    Finally, there is something that puzzles me. Since Liza at Culture Kitchen feels so strongly that our little shirt is a bigoted, racist, and imperialist crime, why in the world has she made herself complicit by publishing and broadcasting the offending image? Even us dumb hicks down here in the ignorant red states know better than to publish what we view as bigoted, racist and imperialist images.
    A link would have sufficed.
    Like MzNicky says, “This isn’t about clothing. It’s about global patriarchal oppression in all its nefarious manifestations.” and “We’re not the enemy, sister.”

  • parker

    Just saying this sure looks like Elizabeth Smart was made to wear a burka by the American Talaban

  • parker

    better link
    Just saying this sure looks like burkas are what the fundies have in mind for all women, not just the ones they kidnap

  • Lisa

    this website is the most pathetic thing i have ever seen. It is like a bad self-promotion ad. Are women and men not equal? I am really so shocked to see such a lame excuse for a web site that I do not even know what to say. I guess that as long as you feel strong by having this little “Girls Only” club, it will keep you happy, as well as distract you from really influencing Americans with your non-sense.

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