Saturday, 26 September 2009

Naomi Wolf on Veiling

I recently came across this article by American feminist Naomi Wolf in the Japan Times suggesting that veiling may not be as oppressive as viewed by many in the West after all:

"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.

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 head scarf or chador, people relate to me as an individual, not an object; I feel respected."

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 head scarf or the chador comes off in the sanctity of the home."

You can read the full article here.

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