Saturday, October 30, 2010

Madcap Unveiled

I'm writing this because I'm starting to feel quite uncomfortable about saying anything regarding this issue and that's not good. I'm definitely not trying to offend by stating this point of view, and I would truly welcome other ideas that would broaden my scope.

Patch and I went to see a play in the city yesterday, around the issue of wearing hijab. It was a play designed for junior/senior high students, and overly simplistic (I thought.) The hijab-wearing character was portrayed as expressing her religion and culture, against of a neutral familial background. Her mother didn't wear hijab. Both parents actually discouraged her from wearing it, wanted her to wait until she went to university. The teen character had gone to Lebanon for a visit, fell in love with her dying grandmother, and decided to wear hijab to accentuate that closeness of faith and family.

I was raised with a Mennonite extended family. Several of the older women wore long, dark dresses and prayer caps. It was unusual, it was different, and it just was what it was. They were raised with it and due to their particular constellations of circumstances, they decided to stay with it. My grandmother didn't. She was still fairly conservative, but she wore slacks and I never saw her with a head-covering that I remember. Still, it wasn't utterly exotic in my experience. It was a part of our family and cultural "thing", like rulkuken and watermelon at fasba.

However - I've never run into someone of Mennonite background who wasn't raised wearing a prayer-cap, who suddenly decided to don one because that was her cultural background. Never. She could be out there, but I'd be particularly astonished if that decision was made in her teens. I've been around for a few years now, and I've never seen a teen wearing a head-covering who wasn't raised in a head-covering family. I suspect the same is true in Muslim circles.

What I'm saying is that I think the play's premise was disingenuous, not based on a standard experience of Muslims in Canada. I think it was used as a way to swish trickier issues under the carpet.

In the foyer outside there were several newspaper-clipping collages, of articles discussing France's decision to ban the hijab, reviews of hijab-fashion blogs... and a couple articles about women who wear niqab in Canada, who have experienced discrimination in the workplace because of that.

And this is where I think we're dealing with another issue entirely.

The niquab covers the whole face. There are situations where this might be appropriate, such as at -40C, or in the middle of sand-storm. In day-to-day life I think it's totally inappropriate, for several reasons.

First of all, humans are programmed to respond to, and bond to, and take cues from other human faces. We all do. Babies form attachments and gain confidence in interaction based on the love they see in the "mirrors" of their parents' faces. Our elastic, expressive faces are one of the peculiar qualities of our human-ness. A covered face inhibits our ability to bond with the person we're dealing with. I believe this level of interpersonal bonding and basic recognition of mutual humanity is indispensable to civil interaction. We already treat each other badly enough without further eliminating the commonality of the face that reminds us that we're dealing with another human being.

Expressions tell us more than words do. What someone says can be completely altered by how they look when they're saying it. So to cover the face removes both clarity of expression and clarity of response in an interchange between a veiled person and her partner in conversation and transaction. I would argue that it also undermines trust. I have a very difficult time assessing and trusting a relationship that I only have online, because I haven't met that person face-to-face. If I can never see your facial expressions when you talk to me? It's definitely not going to happen between us.

The face is identity, both of self and of other. Body language is important, but when we want to definitely identify someone, we look to the face. When we think of ourselves, we make reference to our faces. Our faces are important to who we are to ourselves and the people we come into contact with. We may not like our faces, but they're uniquely OURS. To be covered is to lose self within a societal context.

And perhaps this point is too bloomin' obvious, but I'll just make it anyway. The niquab is an element of cultures that treat women in ways that Canadians consider abusive, even if women say they "choose" it.

My latest acquaintance with this variety of "choice" was while reading The Secret Lives of the Saints, an expose of the polygamous Bountiful community in British Columbia. Some of the women involved insisted that it was a freely made choice. Some of those same women later left the community and then denied those statements. Yeah, they could "choose" it - or experience reprisals. That's not much of a choice.

Anti-polygamy activists, whose numbers include former polygamous wives and children, insist that polygamy is inherently a system of entrapment and degradation for women. I would argue that because of the importance of the human face to positive human interaction and identity as I outlined earlier, full face veiling accomplishes the same thing.

In Canada we've outlawed polygamy and FGM, even though they are cultural norms in other parts of the world. We've banned them because we've come to the conclusion that they're a detriment to the well-being of women, and that women have human rights equal to those of men. I think it's reasonable to argue that banning full-face veils in public is a comparable move.

Okay, so there are all my cards on the table. I don't have a problem with Muslims or Mennonites, or the home-church lady who lives down the road who thinks that God wants her to pin a doily to her hair to show her spirituality and submission. I have a problem with women's faces being covered and their vulvas scraped off. So with that in mind, please feel free to point out any holes in what I'm saying. I really am interested in hearing what you've got to add to what I'm thinking about!

And as usual, courtesy in disagreement is very much appreciated...

Monday, October 18, 2010

I'm thinking....

...diaper bag. A small bag, just big enough for using as a baby-bag, but small enough to use as a purse too if one were so inclined. And in grey, very hip right now, apparently.

You know, if we were truly sensible of the seasons up here, NOBODY would wear black or grey in the winter. Sensible people would realize that the outer dreich demands the most drenched, intense colours possible. Men would flaunt fuschia fedoras, and women would wrap up in orange and lime and violet. And we'd all feel much better for it, I'm sure.

But we don't. We wear black and grey everything. How dull.

Jeepers. I think November is already seeping into my bones.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Fall Update

Yes, it's been a very long time, Shadowmoss!

Used to be that everything I was thinking demanded an outlet on the page, but that's not so much the case anymore. Not that I'm not thinking, but I want my thoughts to take shape in the "real" world. It's a little frustrating. So much around me seems stuck - I want FORWARD MOVEMENT. Now!

It seems I've got a very small circle of activity at present; house, kids, work, school. Repeat. And that's as it needs to be at the moment, because I won't get to where I'm going without taking every step along the way, but jeepers... such little steps.

There are some babies on the way, so I've done a little quilting, and am thinking about a little more. There's the yard that needs to be cleaned up, as usual. Way too much acreage around here for our family. The rabbits need butchering. We won't be raising rabbits again. Maybe a repeat on the chickens next summer. My brain is being crushed under the weight of cellular physiology - I'm supposed to be able to figure out graded potentials along the cell membrane? Huh? I hosted the homeschool network kick-off event at a bowling alley in the city, cake, balloons, door-prizes, the whole schtick. I still don't have curtains on most of the windows. The cats need de-worming.

I need a nap.

I hope you're all well. I do think of you often.