Results 1 to 5 of 5

Thread: Article - Behind the veil lives a thriving Muslim sexuality

  1. #1

    Default Article - Behind the veil lives a thriving Muslim sexuality

    Behind the veil lives a thriving Muslim sexuality



    NAOMI WOLF
    August 30, 2008


    A woman swathed in black to her ankles, wearing a headscarf or a full chador, walks down a European or North American street, surrounded by other women in halter tops, miniskirts and short shorts. She passes under immense billboards on which other women swoon in sexual ecstasy, cavort in lingerie or simply stretch out languorously, almost fully naked. Could this image be any more iconic of the discomfort the West has with the social mores of Islam, and vice versa?

    Ideological battles are often waged with women's bodies as their emblems, and Western Islamophobia is no exception. When France banned headscarves in schools, it used the hijab as a proxy for Western values in general, including the appropriate status of women. When Americans were being prepared for the invasion of Afghanistan, the Taliban were demonised for denying cosmetics and hair colour to women; when the Taliban were overthrown, Western writers often noted that women had taken off their scarves.

    But are we in the West radically misinterpreting Muslim sexual mores, particularly the meaning to many Muslim women of being veiled or wearing the chador? And are we blind to our own markers of the oppression and control of women?

    The West interprets veiling as repression of women and suppression of their sexuality. But when I travelled in Muslim countries and was invited to join a discussion in women-only settings within Muslim homes, I learned that Muslim attitudes toward women's appearance and sexuality are not rooted in repression, but in a strong sense of public versus private, of what is due to God and what is due to one's husband. It is not that Islam suppresses sexuality, but that it embodies a strongly developed sense of its appropriate channelling - toward marriage, the bonds that sustain family life, and the attachment that secures a home.

    Outside the walls of the typical Muslim households that I visited in Morocco, Jordan, and Egypt, all was demureness and propriety. But inside, women were as interested in allure, seduction and pleasure as women anywhere in the world.

    At home, in the context of marital intimacy, Victoria's Secret, elegant fashion and skin care lotions abounded. The bridal videos that I was shown, with the sensuous dancing that the bride learns as part of what makes her a wonderful wife, and which she proudly displays for her bridegroom, suggested that sensuality was not alien to Muslim women. Rather, pleasure and sexuality, both male and female, should not be displayed promiscuously - and possibly destructively - for all to see.



    Indeed, many Muslim women I spoke with did not feel at all subjugated by the chador or the headscarf. On the contrary, they felt liberated from what they experienced as the intrusive, commodifying, basely sexualising Western gaze. Many women said something like this: "When I wear Western clothes, men stare at me, objectify me, or I am always measuring myself against the standards of models in magazines, which are hard to live up to - and even harder as you get older, not to mention how tiring it can be to be on display all the time. When I wear my headscarf or chador, people relate to me as an individual, not an object; I feel respected." This may not be expressed in a traditional Western feminist set of images, but it is a recognisably Western feminist set of feelings.

    I experienced it myself. I put on a shalwar kameez and a headscarf in Morocco for a trip to the bazaar. Yes, some of the warmth I encountered was probably from the novelty of seeing a Westerner so clothed; but, as I moved about the market - the curve of my breasts covered, the shape of my legs obscured, my long hair not flying about me - I felt a novel sense of calm and serenity. I felt, yes, in certain ways, free.

    Nor are Muslim women alone. 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.

    This may explain why both Muslim and Orthodox Jewish women not only describe a sense of being liberated by their modest clothing and covered hair, but also express much higher levels of sensual joy in their married lives than is common in the West. When sexuality is kept private and directed in ways seen as sacred - and when one's husband isn't seeing his wife (or other women) half-naked all day long - one can feel great power and intensity when the headscarf or the chador comes off in the the home.

    Among healthy young men in the West, who grow up on pornography and sexual imagery on every street corner, reduced libido is a growing epidemic, so it is easy to imagine the power that sexuality can carry in a more modest culture. And it is worth understanding the positive experiences that women - and men - can have in cultures where sexuality is more conservatively directed.

    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.

    Naomi Wolf is the author, most recently, of The End Of America: Letter Of Warning To A Young Patriot and the upcoming Give Me Liberty: How To Become An American Revolutionary, and is co-founder of the American Freedom Campaign, a US democracy movement.
    Behind the veil lives a thriving Muslim sexuality - Opinion - smh.com.au
    Naomi Wolf has been a favourite of mine for ages (since I read The Beauty Myth in year 12) and this article reminds me why.

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Jun 2003
    Location
    Ubiquity
    Posts
    9,922

    Default

    What an awesome article. And I agree totally with modesty not meaning oppression. Thanks for posting chloe.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Location
    Port Macquarie, NSW
    Posts
    1,443

    Default

    Very interesting. I, too agree with that this article says, and I certainly agree that the headscarf has become symbolic of a demonised islamic "enemy at the gate" that has largely invented by the US, and other Western governments.

    I do wonder, though, whether there really is a "growing epidemic" of "reduced libido".

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Location
    On the other side of this screen!!!
    Posts
    11,129

    Default

    I do wonder, though, whether there really is a "growing epidemic" of "reduced libido".
    Huge profits by the makers of Viagra might bear this out.

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Location
    Somewhere Over The Rainbow
    Posts
    3,094

    Default

    Thanks for posting this chloe. I am an avid fan of Naomi Wolf's views and this only highlights the reasons why.

    I often laugh at girls, even my own friends, who are closed minded about female muslim dress. Quite often you will hear a comment along the lines of "why do they allow themselves to be controlled like that"..... whilst flipping through the pages of the latest vogue, absolutely covered in make up and more concerned about Pairs Hilton's latest fashion fiasco rather than actually THINKING about what they have just said, and whay they allow themselves to be subject to.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •