It has long been a mystery to me as to why everyday chauvinistic men who exhibit commonly expected patriarchal prejudices suddenly become feminists over the issue of veil wearing Muslim women. This strange behaviour carries a pattern of commonality. The men, mainly White, transform instantly before your eyes whenever the topic of the Muslim world or Islam comes up. Their eyes narrow, their voices become more gruff and they come up with the same line, ‘look at how they make their women cover up or look at how they treat their women’.
It does not matter if the topic is something totally unrelated to Muslim feminism, it can even be about Assad’s chemical warfare domestic policy, but the mere mention of anything linked to the Muslims world causes these men to revert to the manly behavior of ‘chivalry’. They take up imaginary cudgels of pro-feminist weaponry and aim fire but with their mouths. These are men, I must tell you, who would not hesitate to judge any woman who is wearing a short skirt, tight trousers or a low cut top or any form of clothing really that they consider to be an invitation of some sort.
After reading Laurie Penny’s article the dark clouds of confusion above my head have disappeared. Men always opt for the easy route. It is in their nature. By using the veil situation to exalt themselves it also allows them to vent their prejudice. Killing two birds with one stone is an easy feat if you don’t have to actually sling a stone. Why get physical when you only need to be verbal, it is much easier?
This thesis can be extrapolated into the issue of domestic violence. Many men will tell you that they will not stand for it if they witness a man hitting a woman. However, many of these same men would look away or be complicit over domestic violence which involves pushing, shoving or mental abuse. By defining domestic violence to mean beating or kicking or slapping absolves men of any further responsibility.
If these men were really aghast over veiled women would they not do something about it? Taking umbrage over veiled women is the perfect low hanging fruit strategy of the patriarchy. To climb the tree to pick the higher hanging fruit which represents everyday sexism would be too much work and would take them out of their comfort zone.
There has been a trajectory of growth within my feminism self since I realised that I was a feminist about 10 years ago. It did not occur to me that I was a feminist because I laboured under the misapprehension that the ideology belonged to white women who were middle class. The theory and practise of feminist mothering is what drew me into the feminist fold and I love it. However, it does open one’s eyes to the entrenched and pervasive chauvinism that exists within society. As a result, I am quite often an angry woman and the anger can last for hours. Being a feminist can be a emotionally painful and isolating experience sometimes but I would still rather be an informed woman than the blinkered one that I was.
Behind the doors of lovely middle class homes often lie little secrets of male dominance. The exterior tells a tale of a happy couple with children living among the normal life of a middle class family. You would not expect to find discord of a serious nature beyond gentle arguments over what to have for dinner or where to holiday next. The reason you would not expect to find trouble is because female violence is (falsely) linked with poverty, the lower classes, shoddy neighbourhoods or with the gender imbalance in third world countries where women do not even have legislative backing to help mitigate the excesses propagated against them.
The middle class patriarchal system in Western democracies operates in the private sphere and in secrecy, much along the lines of the Harlan Coben novel titled. ‘Tell No One’. If you tell someone they will not believe you anyway, especially if you are the woman of the middle class home. If people by chance do believe you they will excuse your partner’s behaviour. The excuses are made along the lines of, “he is tired from working all week”, “he must be worried about the bills”. The sub-text of all this pathetic excuse making is that people do not want to get involved because it may then reveal the cracks in their own lives. Earthquakes only happen in third world countries, not in the tree lined suburbs of the Western world.
The woman who is being shoved and pulled roughly starts to wonder whether what she is experiencing is ‘normal’. After all, violence must produce blood to termed as ‘violence’ in the first place? Does it? If no bruises show up is it still violence? Perhaps the definition of violence allows the middle class man to get away completely because there are no bruises and no blood is drawn. He has made his manly point. Is that not his right? After all he is king of the castle.
Such are the ugly secrets that lie behind those lovely curtains or blinds in any street. It is still male domination and is wrong.