As happens from time to time, someone I’ve never heard of starts to follow me on Twitter. Now I fully admit: I’m terrible on Twitter. I’ve been trying to follow Andrea’s lead and be something more than a tired series of “Look what I’ve written on Frankly Curious!” But when Jennifer Izaakson followed me, I noticed. She’s written a couple of articles on the Huffington Post. And regardless what they pay, I want a chunk of that. So I clicked over to see what she had written.
Her most recent article is, A Ban on the Veil Is an Attack on Our Freedoms. Well, having read that title, I was immediately impressed—imagining her as a modern day Isabelle Eberhardt. As a first approximation: of course! There’s a reason why “liberal” and “libertarian” share two whole syllables. All else equal, people should be able to do what they want. And if people want to wear the veil, who are I am to disagree? After all, for most women, it is probably more cultural than anything else.
But it isn’t quite that simple. Let’s suppose the issue were not the veil, but genital mutilation. In this case would we really believe that women were demanding genital mutilation out of some cultural affinity with their mothers? I think we would rightly believe that these women had just been brain washed. So the issue is not as black and white as I’m afraid that Izaakson would make it. Although I’m the first to admit that wearing the veil is well on the liberty side of the question.
What this all brings up is the elephant in the room. (Not Chris Christie; he’s just really big.) How do different cultures fuse together to create a new culture? I’m sorry for this, but I have to go all Thomas Friedman on you. I was riding in this taxi with a Sheikh driver. Because I’m very interested in religion, I asked him about his religion, which I knew a bit about—far more than most Americans. Unfortunately, the conversation quickly turned to the question of how American women dress and how they are a bunch of whores. Clearly, he saw things differently from the way I did. I think men are mature enough to see a totally hot young woman in short-shorts without losing all control. In other words, as a man, I put the onus of control on my own gender and he put it on the other gender. Men are helpless when tempted by the nubile figure!
Obviously, I think my cultural perspective is correct. And I’m not just saying that. His attitude was repugnant to me. I feel as sure of my attitude being better than his as I am of mammalian child rearing is to that of alligators. (FYI: alligators eat their own children.) So I have a very real problem with the veil in the sense that it is a symbol of the reptilian belief that men just can’t control themselves when they see a bit of skin. Sadly, that is what is on the other gender side of the veil debate.
You may well ask, “Does he believe in banning the veil?” Not at all! I believe not only in culture but in the clash of cultures. I believe different peoples who combine become better, in the same way that genetic diversity improves the species. And I have no doubt that over time the veil will become a cultural signifier rather than a scarlet letter. But let us not fool ourselves into believe that the veil does not have a pernicious symbolism for many (Especially men!) in many non-western cultures throughout the world.
Updated to non-drunk standards.