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Thread: Fitna

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sita View Post
    Cathy, To explain further I should really divide into two posts one in regards to the Tuareg issue another to properly explain my comments on Orientalism and the gendering of clothing. I am aware this is off=topic and apolagise to everyone else.
    I think first I should explain my position. I am not a sociologist or Anthropologist my degree is in History and Literature. However my interests and specialism is post-colonial studies so my thoughts echo that stance more than anything. Of particular interest is Orientalism and literature of the Maghreb and Mashreq
    Sociology and Anthropology thus becomes important background research particularly as post-colonial studies is naturally inter-disciplinary.
    Also, Cathy the book I mentioned to you before Veil: Modesty, Privacy and Resistance by the writer Fadwa El Guindi El Guindi Website - well, I know from your posts and interests you would love it. It is also relevant to both discussions. I'm also not sure of how much you know so I apologise if I repeat loads of stuff you already know.
    Thanks Sita, I have not read this book but may look for it! Sounds interesting for sure.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sita View Post

    On the Tuareg well they are incredily fascinating so I shall try to contain myself. First they claim descent from the Tamenokalt (roughly meaning Queen I think) Tin Hinan who they supposedly call 'mother of us all'.
    They are traditionally nomadic, tribal and matrilineal but not matriarchal. Organised into a number of major tribal confederations (Ettebel) .Their traditional social structure is complex roughly its a hierarchical feudal based system with divisions based on descent. Divided up into nobles, vassals (this group may include craftsmen, musicians, religious leaders etc.) and slaves.
    On the veil: Well in the Air Tuareg Dialect its know as 'tegelmoust'.

    According to Robert Murphy there's a particular knack to the veil 'the cloth is wrapped about the head to form a low turban and the end is then brought across the face, the top of the cloth falling across the nose and the bottom hanging well below the chin.' So it can be worn as either a slit where even the eyes are barely seen or the eyes and just below the nose. It appears the amount of the face shown can depend on the situation. But the men who veil, veil all the time even eating, sleeping, travelling. It is very different from women veiling in Islam because the Tuareg men should not unveil at all even around intimate family members. Some sources suggest for example in the act of eating, the veil can be loosened but to reveal the mouth in eating would be to show a mans 'low status'. A noble would never reveal his mouth. So the veil is also reflective of the class structure of that society.Tuareg women don't traditionally veil, but occasionally use their shawls to cover their lower faces as a sign of reserve. They also take part in tribal and family discussions.

    The reasons as to why it is traditionally worn can vary, most suggest it is protection against the evil eye. I am not discounting the theory you explained: it is a new one to me do you have a source for it (I am interested). I am however not sure how that theory stands up if we consider that the veiling is a sign of maturity, men/boys start veiling at the age of 17 (although I've also heard 25).
    Sita, the theory I mentioned was based on something my teacher Morocco told me (if I recall correctly). As I understand it she spent some time in the early 1960s and also possibly later, with a tribe in Morocco near Goulmime. Her Guedra teacher's name was B'shara.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sita View Post
    Unveiled boys like men mostly herd animals, and some have considered that veiling in this case may also have a practical source of protecting men from the desert winds etc. Of course this is challenged by the fact other desert groups in the same circumstances don't follow the same practices. To be honest I myself do not know the ANSWER to why - only the theories. My particular interest is in reading the veil. What it means, symbolises & communicates in different societies. Origins are very rarely clear-cut . My academic skill is that of a 'reader' and 'analyser' It does however appear that veiling in this society is highly connected to rank, power and authority. The veil is also not static they are continually adjusting it, they tighten it to pull rank on slaves or lower ranked individuals. Slaves are unveiled and the more inferior vassals and ranks are more 'looser' with their veiling. The veil is also worn higher when around a noble. Courting is very formalised, they veil when courting. Around women the veil is also worn higher and tighter. 'Veiling' also goes on in other social aspects for example the father in law's name is avoided but refereed to as amrar or leader. Interaction, communication and identification is from body language in Tuareg particular attention goes to the eyes.

    As for religion it is hard to answer my research has not been of academically religious/philosophical nature. The Tuaregs are predominately Muslim no doubt about that. Sunni Muslim of the Maliki madhhab, which is of course very compatible with their natural lifestyle (nomadic). The issue is when you suggest they've kept a lot of their traditional religion. In all religions the peoples traditional practises, culture and even religious practises can still be found (or at least traces of them). In N.Africa traditional practises have been absorbed in their Islamic culture no doubt about it. But their belief and religion is Islam. For example tattooing, tribal markings still exist in some areas. Traditional N. African mendhi patterns and marks can be raced back to animistic religions and have clear meaning there's a specific mark for example like a cross but with two lines across instead of one. I can't remember the name but it represents a desert lizard. A basker, sun seeking and therefore is symbolic of the souls search to enlightenment for ancient sun cults. However modernity has led to new meanings or just a loss of knowledge. Many original symbols have been lost, transformed or replaced.

    The Tuareg's traditional culture have also suffered from modernity, persecution and the break up of their way of life. I could not comment on their religious perceptions or understanding as most writings are about them by outsiders. I do know they have kept a strong cultural identity and traditions but how they view these traditions is another issue.
    North Africa is Islamic however it should also be seen as a palimpsest of Islamic, Arabic, Berber, Western influences. Resulting in a complex and varied culture and perhaps mysticism. Countryside and Urban areas also make a difference as in all countries.
    The modern history of the Tuareg is also interesting such as fighting for colonel Gadafi and coming more into focus thanks to the success of the bands Tinariwen music. Aljazeera Eng. had a little interesting programme on them Including a interview with the bands historian:YouTube - Music of Resistance - Tinariwen - 10 Feb 09 - Part 1
    YouTube - Music of Resistance - Tinariwen - 10 Feb 09 - Part 2
    It gives a lot of info on the culture and you get it from 'them'. Also the musics great and you see aspects of traditional dancing and tindi (sp) 'music of the women'.
    Sita
    Thanks Sita, I don't know whether I will be able to catch up with you I have been out of town for work.

    Cathy

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sita View Post
    Well, this is touching on my dissertation and I'm trying to think, where to start and how to cut it down and get rid of all the complicated theory.
    Okay well when I refer to Orientalism it 's in the sense of Edward Said's definition
    explained here clearly if anyone's unaware of it :Orientalism
    Yes I am familiar with Said's definition.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sita View Post
    Although I agree with Kabbani's argument that this creation of the East as the inferior and savage Orient actually can be traced back to the fall of Constantinople and the Byzantine Empire, but in regards to this argument that is not important. Here I am specifically talking about the time of the colonial occupations of the Middle East and North Africa, especially Algeria, by the French and British.
    The veiling of 'Oriental' women was a major obsession of Orientalism and European colonialism - the obsession takes two forms.
    Agree with all this.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sita View Post
    On one hand it became politicised. The veiling and concealment of 'Oriental' women was seem as proof of Islam's oppression of women and it's inferiority to the 'civilised' West. It's much the same argument as you hear today say in regards to Afghanistan. You liberate these women by unveiling them . Indeed Lord Cromer the consul-General of Egypt (though he was basically a dictator of the country) made a political speech that stated just this. He used the veil to show the oppression of women and proof of Islam's backwardness. His supposed feminist stance in regards to Egypt was puzzling considering in England he was a leading figure of the Men's League for Opposing women's Suffrage. In Algeria the French made the unveiling of women a colonial policy. It was also used as an argument to justify colonialism as the force of liberation: saving these poor women and people from their uncivilised, savage ways. Sound familiar?

    Basically the 'oppression of women' has always been the biggest 'tool' of the West against Islam and the East. The veil is a part of it - particularly now the 'Harem' has gone.
    OK, now you are making me reconsider some of my own assumptions! I had been thinking of Hoda Shawaari for example, taking off her head covering as a liberating, feminist act.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sita View Post

    In Orientalist writing and painting the veil is sexually fetishised.
    Agreed.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sita View Post
    The traditional 'veil' of say Algeria: the Haik - which covered everything with the exception of one eye- becomes a translucent covering in which the colonial could see the submissive naked body or 'quivering thighs' beneath. Before he physically penetrated her. Other colours used are pink, and reds. In Lalla Rookh and Vathek these are not just the veils worn by the women but the veils of the Harem (indeed the harems here are constructed via these pink veils). The Harem itself is physically penetrated by the male by tearing off the pink veil. It can be seen as echoing the colonial conquest. In this discourse,travel writing the colonial land is seen and described as feminine. By penetrating the colonial women you penetrate society. This aspect of Romantic literature plays out the colonial fantasy of possessing the Orient via the body of the mysterious Oriental women. Thus the veil is transformed from a barrier into a invitation - a tease inviting the final act. Malek Alloula has a book The Colonial Harem in which he studies the trend of pictures of Algerian women (photographed with many at various stages of nudity some wearing a head veil but the breasts exposed) manufactured as postcards to be sent back to France as souvenirs. 'Your own little piece of Algeria' Many even allowed for you to write on the women's bodies. The examples are numerous.
    Basically familiar with what you are talking about (did not know some of the details here and not sure about writing on the women's bodies--do you mean on the postcards?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sita View Post

    Either way the 'veil' became gendered - connected with women, particularly Oriental women. Perhaps it is also because at the time Orientalism was at it's height; gendered clothes were the norm in Europe e.g. a women wearing trousers would cause outage. However even today if you mention a veil the association is the same, in fact very little has changed. How many books or articles do you see about the East or Arab/N.African women reference the veil or (un)veiling either as a picture or title? This Oriental discourse of the Veil is alive today. Except the political argument of the veil as a symbol of female oppression is still in use perhaps stronger, more powerful.
    OK, I guess I have had the same associations.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sita View Post

    Yet the word 'veil' is a term that covers over a hundred different items of clothing used for veiling, from the yashmik, burqu' to the hijab etc. Indeed the Islamic veil some argue is coming to be seen as a symbol of Islam more than the crescent moon, at least in Western eyes. The discourse of the veil though is normally one-sided and this Western view never takes into account cultural or geographic variations, histories or issues of trends or nationalism in the practises of veiling.
    I have noticed different types of head coverings for women in different regions, and men also.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sita View Post

    Even the academic studies tend to be focused on the areas of Religion, Womens studies, areas studies. Never in relation to itself, the different histories and traditions of veiling. For example the issue of male veiling - both Arab and Berber men have been known to veil, not just the Tuareg they are one example. What is the kufiyyah? but a form of 'veiling'. Go to Quatar- how many Arab men there wear a 'veil'? But men where veiled during colonial times, yet many studies ignore this why? I mean even the Prophet Muhammed reportedly on a couple of occasions wore a face veil. So if Muslim & Arab men are known to wear veils, including the most important Arab man in history: the Prophet himself why is every Western discussion on the veil about women?
    I think I see what you mean. We have politicized it and shaped the discussion as applying only to women but it doesn't. I realized that it was pre-Islamic.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sita View Post
    We've gendered the veil, left out any mention of male veiling in the 'orient' even though we see it clearly on T.V. Because to discuss male veiling, would destroy the argument that veiling is oppressive to women. It implies it is a cultural practise understood in these terms. Indeed male veiling in these areas appears to be associated with ideas of masculinity and virility.

    Simply put veiling is pre-Islamic and is traced back by many to the Assyrian's. Veiling is present in Byzantine culture - the Empire that created the Christianity we recognise today. Mary is always depicted veiled. According to Jabbouri 'a number of pre-Islamic men Arab men were known by the title thu khimar (the veiled ones).' I just wish for once I could see the veil discussed properly not used to score political points. In France and Britain the veil has been used for this very purpose recently.
    True. But I think I read that in France no religious displays at all are allowed (including wearing crucifixes)

    Quote Originally Posted by Sita View Post

    Interestingly El Guindi suggests: the veil in social space represents kinship, privacy, authority, rank, power, identity. In the past in Muslim India women were known to ritually beat their husbands with their veils. 'In general veiling by women or men communicates, not subordinate gender status of the shame of sexuality, but the group status of the individual, the identity of the group and the sacredness of privacy... When the two sexes are joined in sacred time and space to worship God the central spatial object of the pilgrimage, the Ka'ba, itself veiled, becomes the metaphor of sacred privacy in public.'

    I hope that explains my earlier comment. I wasn't sure what aspect was the problem so I just expanded all of it: as you can see. If you managed to stay awake Well you must high tolerance

    Sita
    So what is your position on all this?!? I gather you see much more complexity than "the veil" being either feminist or oppressive to women, but for instance the current rise in young women in much of the ME now adopting the hijab that their mothers had stopped wearing in their own younger days--what do you make of it?

    Thanks, Cathy

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    Quote Originally Posted by cathy View Post
    Thanks Sita, I have not read this book but may look for it! Sounds interesting for sure.



    Sita, the theory I mentioned was based on something my teacher Morocco told me (if I recall correctly). As I understand it she spent some time in the early 1960s and also possibly later, with a tribe in Morocco near Goulmime. Her Guedra teacher's name was B'shara.
    Thanks for the info
    Well if she's had first hand experience/field work - I know who I would place as a superior source in this area and it ain't me



    Thanks Sita, I don't know whether I will be able to catch up with you I have been out of town for work.
    Don't worry - I just now after reading those two rambling posts that I no longer need ever fear meeting word counts again
    Cathy
    Sita

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    Quote Originally Posted by cathy View Post
    Yes I am familiar with Said's definition.



    Agree with all this.



    OK, now you are making me reconsider some of my own assumptions! I had been thinking of Hoda Shawaari for example, taking off her head covering as a liberating, feminist act.
    This is an interesting point from what I've researched. Firstly were you aware she did not completely 'unveil' as we would see me it but removed only her face veil 'yashmik' or 'burqu'. She continued wearing the hijab. An important distinction that in many sources is forgotten.
    Also what I've read also points that these actions were also motivated by a social concern that the the veil was becoming a symbol of elitism separating the women from the cosmopolitan city areas from the countryside. The move was also meant to unite them. Interestingly even in Afghanistan today while you find the burqu used in the city, in the rural areas the veiling is not as severe (prolly due to the obvious reasons). It's not an uncommon situation.





    Basically familiar with what you are talking about (did not know some of the details here and not sure about writing on the women's bodies--do you mean on the postcards?
    yep not the real bodies of the women sorry. (it's a particulalry poignant point in my subject referring to writing and language as ownership). But photography was used by the French as a weapon for unveiling the women to produce 'Identity cards' (thus easier to control Algerian movements). The photographer Marc Granger was given this task as part of his military duty in 1960 his writing on it was very interesting as he himself says 'They had no choice. They were forced to unveil and be photographed'(1982). not in a studio either but publicly outside thus adding to the humiliation.



    I think I see what you mean. We have politicized it and shaped the discussion as applying only to women but it doesn't. I realized that it was pre-Islamic.

    yep, but we've also done it as a weapon to be used against the culture and religion. Neither do we see that veiling was a common part of our own culture in say the medieval period or Tudor times etc. (it was never mentioned in my history lessons because it was seen as irrelevant and obvious when you looked at the paintings of the period) which was why I mentioned the Byzantine/Christian church connection.

    True. But I think I read that in France no religious displays at all are allowed (including wearing crucifixes)
    Yes, but who has this been mostly aimed at and acted out on?


    So what is your position on all this?!? I gather you see much more complexity than "the veil" being either feminist or oppressive to women, but for instance the current rise in young women in much of the ME now adopting the hijab that their mothers had stopped wearing in their own younger days--what do you make of it?
    Well I personally think the meaning of the veil varies and is continually changing. It is not static and it appears to evade one set meaning. It can be worn for an array of reasons: fashion, religious, nationalism even feminism. It has long been associated as a transgressive garment. Well If I think of Algeria because that is the focus at the mo, the hijab is quite recent really, grandmothers and mothers would normally have worn the Haik which would be viewed as old fashioned and dowdy compared to the hijab. There can be a clear distinction between what older and newer generations wore in regards to the types of veil. The reason why it is worn varies from person and country.

    My issue is that I do not see it as either a sign of oppression or feminist as it covers a spectrum of meanings. I do have an issue that the veil is seen and used by the West as a measurement for women's equality: as a symbol of oppression or feminism. It is after all a garment and in this case a 'red herring'. In my opinion Education and the availability of it for women is a better mark of female equality in a country and the Arab world has no issue there. In fact many out do us having more women in traditionally seen 'male subjects' than the West. Further more these women are clever and able enough to deal with any problem in society themselves - so I tend to think the West should just focus on it's own issues and leave the Arab countries to find their own way.

    My study at the moment looks at how literature (although I'm limited to one author in this case an Algerian) responds and reacts to Orientalism and it's imagery in their writing. One focus is the issue of veiling/unveiling in her writing (not just in regards to her characters either but also conceptually in regards to structure etc.). Though I admit my research has made me interested in the study of the veil in all cultures and history and I can see myself looking into Western as well as Eastern forms of 'veiling' in the future.

    Thanks, Cathy
    Sita
    Last edited by Sita; 03-29-2009 at 05:42 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sita View Post
    This is an interesting point from what I've researched. Firstly were you aware she did not completely 'unveil' as we would see me it but removed only her face veil 'yashmik' or 'burqu'. She continued wearing the hijab. An important distinction that in many sources is forgotten.
    Also what I've read also points that these actions were also motivated by a social concern that the the veil was becoming a symbol of elitism separating the women from the cosmopolitan city areas from the countryside. The move was also meant to unite them. Interestingly even in Afghanistan today while you find the burqu used in the city, in the rural areas the veiling is not as severe (prolly due to the obvious reasons). It's not an uncommon situation.
    I did not realize Hoda continued to wear the hijab and removed only the yashmik/burqu. I DID have some inkling about the class politics going on in tandem because the memoirs make a point about Hoda associating with women of lower classes for the greater purpose of Egypt as a whole. So as usual causes mix (gender/class/nationalism)

    Quote Originally Posted by Sita View Post
    yep not the real bodies of the women sorry. (it's a particulalry poignant point in my subject referring to writing and language as ownership). But photography was used by the French as a weapon for unveiling the women to produce 'Identity cards' (thus easier to control Algerian movements). The photographer Marc Granger was given this task as part of his military duty in 1960 his writing on it was very interesting as he himself says 'They had no choice. They were forced to unveil and be photographed'(1982). not in a studio either but publicly outside thus adding to the humiliation.
    Yes, I have done some reading on the topic of language and writing as a form of ownership. I had not heard about the identity cards but I have heard plenty about native women being forced to disrobe to various degrees for pictures to feed the appetites of the photo consumers. National Geographic was a big aggressor in this.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sita View Post
    yep, but we've also done it as a weapon to be used against the culture and religion. Neither do we see that veiling was a common part of our own culture in say the medieval period or Tudor times etc. (it was never mentioned in my history lessons because it was seen as irrelevant and obvious when you looked at the paintings of the period) which was why I mentioned the Byzantine/Christian church connection.
    Interesting, I had not thought of this. You are quite right that veiling or head coverings in general was much more widely practiced in the West in former times. I think a prominent relic of the tradition must be the bridal veil. But surely THIS is symbolic in the ways you were describing (giving yourself/your virginity to the man, the man taking ownership). It also has to do with modesty in both cultures don't you think???

    Quote Originally Posted by Sita View Post
    Well I personally think the meaning of the veil varies and is continually changing. It is not static and it appears to evade one set meaning. It can be worn for an array of reasons: fashion, religious, nationalism even feminism. It has long been associated as a transgressive garment. Well If I think of Algeria because that is the focus at the mo, the hijab is quite recent really, grandmothers and mothers would normally have worn the Haik which would be viewed as old fashioned and dowdy compared to the hijab. There can be a clear distinction between what older and newer generations wore in regards to the types of veil. The reason why it is worn varies from person and country.

    My issue is that I do not see it as either a sign of oppression or feminist as it covers a spectrum of meanings. I do have an issue that the veil is seen and used by the West as a measurement for women's equality: as a symbol of oppression or feminism. It is after all a garment and in this case a 'red herring'. In my opinion Education and the availability of it for women is a better mark of female equality in a country and the Arab world has no issue there. In fact many out do us having more women in traditionally seen 'male subjects' than the West. Further more these women are clever and able enough to deal with any problem in society themselves - so I tend to think the West should just focus on it's own issues and leave the Arab countries to find their own way.

    My study at the moment looks at how literature (although I'm limited to one author in this case an Algerian) responds and reacts to Orientalism and it's imagery in their writing. One focus is the issue of veiling/unveiling in her writing (not just in regards to her characters either but also conceptually in regards to structure etc.). Though I admit my research has made me interested in the study of the veil in all cultures and history and I can see myself looking into Western as well as Eastern forms of 'veiling' in the future.
    Interesting that bit about "transgressive garment." Who is transgressing? Do you mean women can transgress by wearing it?

    Would you say that all "female garments" have this range of possible meanings and interpretations and "transgressive" potential?

    The Haik was traditionally worn by the Tuareg women also, no?

    I guess I have seen it as a symbol of modesty. I know full well that Muslim men are equally responsible for modest dress and behavior but the custom of head/face covering has never been as marked for men, has it? The way I read Hoda Shawaari's memoirs, her renegotiation of her marriage on her own terms, her later leaving of the Harem, and taking off the face veil, were all steps on a continuum of liberation.

    Maybe it's because of the sources I have read but I interpreted the Harem and the hijab and abaya as to do with the greater need to conceal, control women and their disruptive potential. And now we are back to "fitna!"

    Good point about education of women though. You are right, as long as women get to choose what they wear, it should not be a big deal to us in the West compared to something like access to education.

    As to worrying about our own issues in the West, where do I sign up to eliminate panty hose and spike heeled pumps?!

    Cathy

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    Quote Originally Posted by cathy View Post
    I did not realize Hoda continued to wear the hijab and removed only the yashmik/burqu. I DID have some inkling about the class politics going on in tandem because the memoirs make a point about Hoda associating with women of lower classes for the greater purpose of Egypt as a whole. So as usual causes mix (gender/class/nationalism)
    yeah, history really loves those themes doesn't it

    Yes, I have done some reading on the topic of language and writing as a form of ownership. I had not heard about the identity cards but I have heard plenty about native women being forced to disrobe to various degrees for pictures to feed the appetites of the photo consumers. National Geographic was a big aggressor in this.
    Yes its a disturbing subject.


    Interesting, I had not thought of this. You are quite right that veiling or head coverings in general was much more widely practiced in the West in former times. I think a prominent relic of the tradition must be the bridal veil. But surely THIS is symbolic in the ways you were describing (giving yourself/your virginity to the man, the man taking ownership). It also has to do with modesty in both cultures don't you think???
    Interesting that you mention the bridal veil it has come up for exactly those reasons you mentioned in my research. Edward Lane described his first sight of Egypt: 'As I approached the shore, I felt like an Eastern bridegroom, about to lift the veil off my bride, and to see for the first time, the features that were to to charm me, or disapoint, or disgust him'.
    There is definitly a connection between the unveiling of the Eastern women and the possession of the women by a groom in Western traditions. I connect it to the theories of the male gaze and the scopic drive - to see something, is to know it, is to define it, is to control/own it. We are very much on the same page here - it's a pity we live in different areas of the world or I'd suggest meeting up for coffee and a chat

    As veiling in the West prolly derived from the same sources: Assyrian/Byzantine. I agree modesty would also refer to one of the Western uses for the veil -Nun's are another example. Veiling was common until very recent for women in my own religion (sometimes it can still be seen), I still have my great grandmother's black lace matilla - here's an interesting (though slightly extreme web page that you might find interesting) VeilingAgain in the West there are diverse meaning but one strong one is class and status, sign of marriage, virginity/purity, mourning etc.

    Another interesting point up until the late 16th century(I think - may be wrong on the exact date) headwear was even madatory at certain times, and in certain places there were even laws in placed and fines for those who went out on the streets uncovered. Clothing was very strict in Britain for example the Tudor Sumptuary Laws or Statutes of Apparel. It was concidered inappropriate for mature of married women to reveal their hair although they grew it very long. Fashion also played a part in the sort of headcovering used e.g Anne Boleyn is seen as making the 'French hood' fashionable. Which again reveals geographical variations in Europe.


    Interesting that bit about "transgressive garment." Who is transgressing? Do you mean women can transgress by wearing it?
    Well it's to do with th Islamic ideas of public/private spaces which is different from the Western concept but hard to explain as I only have a basic understanding myself and it's not an easy thing to explain. The veil signifies private, 'sacred' space. Outside is public space. Veiling allows the wearer to be in a private space, while breaching public space. It is the vital element that allows for a trangression of spacial boundaries. Does that make sense? I haven't explained it well at all but it would take forever otherwise.
    Also it evades the male gaze for the veiled women can see, but not be seen placing her in position of power.
    Just a comment on the public/private space thing -Mernissi and some other's like to gender these concepts but be warned it's more complex than that.


    Would you say that all "female garments" have this range of possible meanings and interpretations and "transgressive" potential?
    That's an interesting point, not all as I think it depends on how they've evolved over time. The corset for example has a mass of potential and multiple meanings, particularly in the last decades where it has resurfaced as a form of 'female empowerment' and been adopted by certain alternative lifestyles. I think most garments that have a history that goes back to period where clothes were gendered in Western culture.

    The Haik was traditionally worn by the Tuareg women also, no?
    I'm not sure. I have been very upset that I cannot find that much info on the Haik itself. What I've found out it is Berber in origin and appears to be possibly linked to Roman tunics but those are not from academic sources or verified.

    I guess I have seen it as a symbol of modesty. I know full well that Muslim men are equally responsible for modest dress and behavior but the custom of head/face covering has never been as marked for men, has it?
    marked in what way? for example when did women's veiling become marked?

    The way I read Hoda Shawaari's memoirs, her renegotiation of her marriage on her own terms, her later leaving of the Harem, and taking off the face veil, were all steps on a continuum of liberation.
    They may well of been to her, but the situation is not far from the same situation a European women would have been living at that time. One example in regards to discussions on arranged marriage I have been involved in: so many times I have had to point out marrying for love is still a relatively new concept in the West. Even in my grand parents time there were serious issues about marrying outside your race, class, religion etc. Loosely arranged marriages or 'suitable' marriages between certain classes was still common well into the 20 century. My great-grandparents marriage points to being a 'business based arranged marriage' between two middle class Irish famiies.

    Maybe it's because of the sources I have read but I interpreted the Harem and the hijab and abaya as to do with the greater need to conceal, control women and their disruptive potential. And now we are back to "fitna!"
    Well there are cultural factors like the concepts of space, social structures etc. that show other angles to these issues. Again Guindi is prolly the best. Mernissi's version of feminism is considered by some as very Westernised, there are others who look to Islam for inspiration for what's commonly reffered to as 'Arab/Islamic feminism'. Also no society is perfect, there's always someone somewhere exploiting their power but the importance I think is it to put it into context. I mean 'harem' for example? what exactly do we in the West mean by a Harem? I mean it basically just denotes the womens private quarters.

    Good point about education of women though. You are right, as long as women get to choose what they wear, it should not be a big deal to us in the West compared to something like access to education.

    As to worrying about our own issues in the West, where do I sign up to eliminate panty hose and spike heeled pumps?!

    I think the corset has some company - panty hose, those are stockings right? - very powerful garment.
    Cathy
    Sita
    Last edited by Sita; 03-30-2009 at 10:49 PM.

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    Default What gives about hair in monotheistic cultures?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sita View Post
    Sita
    Holy moly, that website threw me for a loop! There are Catholics in the here and now who advocate veiling for ordinary women!!!

    "We cover ourselves because we are holy -- and because feminine beauty is incredibly powerful. If you don't believe me, consider how the image of "woman" is used to sell everything from shampoo to used cars. We women need to understand the power of the feminine and act accordingly by following the rules of modest attire, including the use of the veil."

    Here's what I want to know. What gives about hair?!??!? Why do all the Abrahamic religions have major hangups about hair? Yes hair can be beautiful and sexy and alluring but geez. Just about everyone has it! Just about everyone can grow it long! Does the sight of it prevent anyone from going about their daily routines? Or from praying even? I don't think so.

    But look at Orthodox Judaism. Women shave their heads just before marriage and wear wigs when they go out ever after. I remember something about a debate whether it is worse to wear wigs made from the hair of pork-eating races...of course, men wear yarmulkes and he curly sidelocks, and usually another hat on top of that when outside.

    And yes, I think even in the 1940s, maybe 1950s, in the US all men wore hats outside. There are pictures of people in baseball stadiums and the men might as well be in government-issued uniforms, including the hats.

    And yes, panty hose are the sheer type of stockings. I don't mind tights--usually black, more opaque, more comfortable and less prone to runs. They actually help keep your legs warm too. But stockings are uncomfortable, expensive, run at the slightlest provocation. And they are pretty much required part of the woman's corporate uniform--skirt suit, etc. Possibly less de rigeur in the UK than the US from my informal survey.

    I see what you mean about the corset. I think panty hose have a fetish following, esp. among cross dressers and men who like to be humiliated by female doms.

    I wonder whether there are bridal wear and veil fetishists.

    I love that word "sumptuary" because it reminds me of "sumptuous."

    Cathy

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    Interesting that you mention the bridal veil it has come up for exactly those reasons you mentioned in my research. Edward Lane described his first sight of Egypt: 'As I approached the shore, I felt like an Eastern bridegroom, about to lift the veil off my bride, and to see for the first time, the features that were to charm me, or disappoint, or disgust him'.
    There is definitely a connection between the unveiling of the Eastern women and the possession of the women by a groom in Western traditions. I connect it to the theories of the male gaze and the scopic drive - to see something, is to know it, is to define it, is to control/own it. We are very much on the same page here - it's a pity we live in different areas of the world or I'd suggest meeting up for coffee and a chat
    I have been meaning to read Edward Lane also! According to Wikipedia, while in Egypt he dressed like a Turk including the turban. Now I am put in mind of Lawrence of Arabia…

    I am somewhat familiar with theories about ‘the male gaze’ as well. Surely that is a (Western) feminist idea though I can see how it ties into creating “sacred space” as in “I am protected from the prying male gaze by dressing modestly.”

    I PM'd you about the coffee and chat idea

    As veiling in the West prolly derived from the same sources: Assyrian/Byzantine. I agree modesty would also refer to one of the Western uses for the veil -Nuns are another example. Veiling was common until very recent for women in my own religion (sometimes it can still be seen), I still have my great grandmother's black lace matilla - here's an interesting (though slightly extreme web page that you might find interesting) VeilingAgain in the West there are diverse meaning but one strong one is class and status, sign of marriage, virginity/purity, mourning etc.
    Yes, nuns for sure. And yes, until recently, it was a whole lot more common in the West and did carry a range of meanings. And I also thought about men Sikhs with their never-trimmed hair and turbans, with a separate kind of covering for boys. So not just the Abrahamic tradition.

    Another interesting point up until the late 16th century (I think - may be wrong on the exact date) headwear was even mandatory at certain times, and in certain places there were even laws in placed and fines for those who went out on the streets uncovered. Clothing was very strict in Britain for example the Tudor Sumptuary Laws or Statutes of Apparel. It was considered inappropriate for mature of married women to reveal their hair although they grew it very long. Fashion also played a part in the sort of headcovering used e.g Anne Boleyn is seen as making the 'French hood' fashionable. Which again reveals geographical variations in Europe.
    Agreed. What gets me though is once a rule is relaxed, I have trouble understanding it coming back through religion. Fashion and personal preference is one thing. Resurgence of religion and conservatism seems to me another.


    Well it's to do with the Islamic ideas of public/private spaces which is different from the Western concept but hard to explain as I only have a basic understanding myself and it's not an easy thing to explain. The veil signifies private, 'sacred' space. Outside is public space. Veiling allows the wearer to be in a private space, while breaching public space. It is the vital element that allows for a transgression of spacial boundaries. Does that make sense? I haven't explained it well at all but it would take forever otherwise.
    Also it evades the male gaze for the veiled women can see, but not be seen placing her in position of power.
    Just a comment on the public/private space thing -Mernissi and some others like to gender these concepts but be warned it's more complex than that.
    Yes I have some idea of the public/private spaces concept and how traditionally, public = male and private = female or family only (or maybe that is what you were warning about with Mernissi gendering these concepts?), and how wearing higab and abaya allowed women to go from one place to another, say their own home to their mother’s, without violating anything. I get how it evades the male gaze too. But please comment further on “not be seen placing her in position of power.” I think this is what bothers me about the whole topic. Without equal access to the public space and rights, I can’t fathom how women can be equal. Power as in rights is a good, necessary thing. Power as in "the power to distract men from their prayers" is not what I am after. I don't want to feel guilty, dirty, immodest, or disrespectful for walking down the street. Or dancing in public.


    That's an interesting point, not all as I think it depends on how they've evolved over time. The corset for example has a mass of potential and multiple meanings, particularly in the last decades where it has resurfaced as a form of 'female empowerment' and been adopted by certain alternative lifestyles. I think most garments that have a history that goes back to period where clothes were gendered in Western culture.
    I will try to give this more thought. I know what is “comfortable” and “appropriate” vary by class/age/social group/culture and while yes I am more comfortable in pajamas I would not be Comfortable wearing them to work. And no I don’t find brassieres particularly comfortable but again I would not feel right without one at work. And yes I feel pretty much OK wearing a bathing suit at the beach but not in other settings, etc.


    marked in what way? for example when did women's veiling become marked?
    I meant more mark-ed, like more pronounced or more emphasis. The female coverings generally cover more and there appears (to me) to be more exhortations about the importance of wearing them. Like the reputation of the women was the reputation of the family and therefore the man.


    They may well of been to her, but the situation is not far from the same situation a European women would have been living at that time. One example in regards to discussions on arranged marriage I have been involved in: so many times I have had to point out marrying for love is still a relatively new concept in the West. Even in my grand parents time there were serious issues about marrying outside your race, class, religion etc. Loosely arranged marriages or 'suitable' marriages between certain classes was still common well into the 20 century. My great-grandparents marriage points to being a 'business based arranged marriage' between two middle class Irish families.
    Totally agree that marrying for love is a very modern, Western concept. Most of the Indians I know (in India) today had what we would call arranged marriages. Not exactly “you will marry this man we have chosen whom you have never met—the wedding is next month” but “now that you have reached the appropriate age, we will introduce you to a few carefully chosen appropriate men, expecting that you will hit it off with one of them in the next few months.” And I also point out that the majority of marriages in the West are still between people from similar religious, class, and social backgrounds (including my own!) Sending your children to the “right” colleges can be construed as just another strategy….


    Well there are cultural factors like the concepts of space, social structures etc. that show other angles to these issues. Again Guindi is prolly the best. Mernissi's version of feminism is considered by some as very Westernised, there are others who look to Islam for inspiration for what's commonly referred to as 'Arab/Islamic feminism'. Also no society is perfect, there's always someone somewhere exploiting their power but the importance I think is it to put it into context. I mean 'harem' for example? what exactly do we in the West mean by a Harem? I mean it basically just denotes the womens private quarters.
    Hhhmmm—Arab/Islamic feminism. I’ll have to look into this idea too.

    Yes, harem denotes womens’ private quarters and nothing wrong with having them. But as I alluded to earlier, I can’t imagine not wanting full access and equal rights to the public space as well. Very hard for me to imagine any kind of feminism that posits any kind of “separate but equal” or “women have different needs” kind of basis. To me, equal rights means equal rights and requires public power as in the power to vote, to travel alone, to drive, to go to school, and so on.

    Cathy

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    Quote Originally Posted by cathy View Post
    Holy moly, that website threw me for a loop! There are Catholics in the here and now who advocate veiling for ordinary women!!!
    Well, these are the extremist traditionalist section, I'm not entirely sure if they mean for just religious purposes or generally (you never know). Mind you itp put it in prospective they also want the full hours long Tridentine Masses brought back in a language few understand so...I arrest my case The only thing we don't seem to have his albino assassin monks with seemingly 20/20 vision (the Da Vinci code was such a disappointment )

    "We cover ourselves because we are holy -- and because feminine beauty is incredibly powerful. If you don't believe me, consider how the image of "woman" is used to sell everything from shampoo to used cars. We women need to understand the power of the feminine and act accordingly by following the rules of modest attire, including the use of the veil."

    Here's what I want to know. What gives about hair?!??!? Why do all the Abrahamic religions have major hangups about hair? Yes hair can be beautiful and sexy and alluring but geez. Just about everyone has it! Just about everyone can grow it long! Does the sight of it prevent anyone from going about their daily routines? Or from praying even? I don't think so.
    I'm not sure but hair always seems to have been a provocative subject and sex is definitely an element of it - look at the amount of time and energy put into its upkeep and the hairdressing industry. I have extremely long and slightly wild hair and I'm not kidding the reaction is amazing. People come up to me, not just to comment but strangers have even grabbed it and started stroking it in the middle of town

    But look at Orthodox Judaism. Women shave their heads just before marriage and wear wigs when they go out ever after. I remember something about a debate whether it is worse to wear wigs made from the hair of pork-eating races...of course, men wear yarmulkes and he curly sidelocks, and usually another hat on top of that when outside.

    And yes, I think even in the 1940s, maybe 1950s, in the US all men wore hats outside. There are pictures of people in baseball stadiums and the men might as well be in government-issued uniforms, including the hats.

    And yes, panty hose are the sheer type of stockings. I don't mind tights--usually black, more opaque, more comfortable and less prone to runs. They actually help keep your legs warm too. But stockings are uncomfortable, expensive, run at the slightlest provocation. And they are pretty much required part of the woman's corporate uniform--skirt suit, etc. Possibly less de rigeur in the UK than the US from my informal survey.
    mmm... I am tights wearer myself so I understand what you mean. Mind you next week I'm on an archaeological dig and I have to wear appropriate clothes like trousers (which I hate) and to be honest it's an environment that will not receive any so called 'feminine' clothes well. Which to be honest I find restrictive - I'm quite happy to wear a thick skirt and get it coated in mud but I have to conform to the rules.

    I see what you mean about the corset. I think panty hose have a fetish following, esp. among cross dressers and men who like to be humiliated by female doms.
    Yeah they do seem to. Dita Von Teese and the whole 50's pin up resurgence has definitely refuelled it. I sometimes wonder if part of the fetish for those clothes, is the idea for men that women have dressed up just to please them, rather than the clothing itself.

    I wonder whether there are bridal wear and veil fetishists.
    Ready for another link: Oooh, Baby, Put it On: Ripping up Veil Fetish Art Muslimah Media Watch actually it's a great blog generally.

    I love that word "sumptuary" because it reminds me of "sumptuous."
    gotta love those delicious 'tasting' words: decadent to the core if only the meaning of sumptuary reflected it

    Cathy
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    Last edited by Sita; 04-01-2009 at 05:14 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by cathy View Post
    I have been meaning to read Edward Lane also! According to Wikipedia, while in Egypt he dressed like a Turk including the turban. Now I am put in mind of Lawrence of Arabia…
    You can get it online TIMEA: An account of the manners and customs of the modern Egyptians. Written in Egypt during the years 1833?1835. [Electronic Version]
    It's an interesting read particularly his comments about Egyptian women.


    I am somewhat familiar with theories about ‘the male gaze’ as well. Surely that is a (Western) feminist idea though I can see how it ties into creating “sacred space” as in “I am protected from the prying male gaze by dressing modestly.”
    Yes, the 'male gaze' has become very relevant in my current research project (diss) not just because it epitomises elements of Orientalism but also due to the authors work I'm studying. However the feminist idea is fundamentally Western and suggests that The Gaze is masculine and the property of that gender.

    But in my authors work there is very definitely a gendered feminine gaze that exists and is used to respond to the colonial gaze as a form of resistance. I refer to it as a 'reciprocal gaze'. My author appears to have created a whole sophisticated language of resistance and communication via this feminine gaze, that is constructed around the cultural elements you mentioned: the veil and private/public space. But then the 'EYE' has always been a powerful and provocative element of most cultures.


    I PM'd you about the coffee and chat idea
    Great have responded


    Yes, nuns for sure. And yes, until recently, it was a whole lot more common in the West and did carry a range of meanings. And I also thought about men Sikhs with their never-trimmed hair and turbans, with a separate kind of covering for boys. So not just the Abrahamic tradition.
    Although for those Sikh's that follow the tradition of Kesh it also applies to both women and not just facial hair. Then there's Rastafarian traditions as well. Aren't there also some East Asian traditions that have the idea of uncut plait or ponytail, I'm not sure? But then haircutting and shaving has been used as punishment hasn't it? and of mourning. It's an area I've never considered but now you mention it millions of examples pop into my head... Rapunzel, Samson and Delilah, Botticelli's Venus. My mother used to tell me a story about God pulling you up to heaven via your hair, as a child and a committed Romanticist, I thought this was so poetic and beautiful. It's only when I grew up I thought of the implications for pain


    Agreed. What gets me though is once a rule is relaxed, I have trouble understanding it coming back through religion. Fashion and personal preference is one thing. Resurgence of religion and conservatism seems to me another.
    My theory: Security, globalism and post-modernism has left us with a fragmented world where everything is questioned, and with no one unquestioned omniscient authority (whether is be education, religion, government). People then go to whatever certainty they can find, 'the medieval chain of being' for example - you knew your place, everything made sense and had a purpose. even if it was one that was fundamentally unfair. People are now trying to regain that and conservative religious practices of the past offer them a way of doing that. Creationists are a perfect example. After all at the turn of the century people looked to extreme political ideologies such as Marxism, Fascism, Anarchism: many were viewed as having disastrous results and were spurned because of that. So religious ideology has now come to the fore.



    Yes I have some idea of the public/private spaces concept and how traditionally, public = male and private = female or family only (or maybe that is what you were warning about with Mernissi gendering these concepts?)
    yes, that was what I meant: the structure of public/male and private/female although commonly used doesn't always work. It's much more complex than that, more to do with the action being performed than the gender of the person.

    , and how wearing higab and abaya allowed women to go from one place to another, say their own home to their mother’s, without violating anything. I get how it evades the male gaze too. But please comment further on “not be seen placing her in position of power.” I think this is what bothers me about the whole topic. Without equal access to the public space and rights, I can’t fathom how women can be equal. Power as in rights is a good, necessary thing. Power as in "the power to distract men from their prayers" is not what I am after. I don't want to feel guilty, dirty, immodest, or disrespectful for walking down the street. Or dancing in public.
    I've got to go back to where I said that to remember what I meant. So I will come back to this.


    I will try to give this more thought. I know what is “comfortable” and “appropriate” vary by class/age/social group/culture and while yes I am more comfortable in pajamas I would not be Comfortable wearing them to work. And no I don’t find brassieres particularly comfortable but again I would not feel right without one at work. And yes I feel pretty much OK wearing a bathing suit at the beach but not in other settings, etc.




    I meant more mark-ed, like more pronounced or more emphasis. The female coverings generally cover more and there appears (to me) to be more exhortations about the importance of wearing them. Like the reputation of the women was the reputation of the family and therefore the man.
    Well, in Algeria the importance of female veiling appears to have increased due to colonisation. Theoretically (and admittedly we all know that has practical limitations) the colonial discourse and anti-colonial discourse placed women (therefore their bodies) at the centre of society and therefore the fight for dominance. In reaction to the French's attempts to control and unveil the Algerian women, the Algerian reaction was to place more emphasis on the veil as a symbol of public resistance to colonisation. A women to unveil therefore becomes more than a choice, but a traitorous act. Admittedly it places the women in a horrific situation but it is started by the colonial invasion and in many ways is a human reaction (humans after all are tribal in nature). This is not unusual in post-colonial societies due to the emphasis on the female body in colonial discourse.
    Women who exist in any patriarchal society live under the conditions you describe they are the life givers (the vessel). They then are placed at the centre of society, the home and family. A patriarchal/patrilineal society inherits through the male lines. So to ensure that those lines are pure (and his legacy will continue) the women's fidelity is then of vital importance. That is what places the women's honour at the centre of society and her family. Both the M.E and the West tend for the most part to follow these traditions - veil or no veil. Fidelity is very much tied to the idea of providing a pure male line. A matriarchal /matrilineal society does not follow this pattern because the line goes through the mother and is then guaranteed purity.




    Cathy
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    Last edited by Sita; 04-01-2009 at 05:22 PM.

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