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Jan 21 2006

A Cult Is A Cult Is A Cult

This Muslim Pakistani dude is all rah-rah Islam. His religion is the greatest! It’s so great, he claims, that Christian women—i.e. white chicks—are converting in absolute droves. Why? Because Islam “gives women uncanny respect in the society especially in the roles of Mother, sister, daughter and wife.”

(As long as they don’t get themselves raped).

The dude is getting his information on white chick conversion from a Christian Science Monitor article which in fact suggests that Europeans—both women and men—are defecting at a rate of only a couple thousand a year, a veritable trickle. But it’s still significant to this spinster aunt that any women at all would volunteer for such a narrowly-defined, super-submissive gender role. What gives?

What gives is, why shouldn’t they? A commenter in a recent thread on this very patriarchy-blaming blog revealed how relieved she was to turn 40. No longer of interest to the repellent male gaze, her days as a sex object were done, and she could now embark on a career of lo-stress invisibility. Despite the fact that no man of 40 is rendered automatically invisible, she finds her own public insignificance infinitely preferable to being constantly assessed by men as a potential receptacle.

If we hear remarks like this from a patriarchy-blamer, is it really so bizarre that regular Western women, exhausted by the sexbot mandate to conform to impossible 90-lb supermodel bowling-ball-boob physical standards, by the constant pressure to be hot, kinky, and wild, by Botox, by having to shave their pits, by cruel shoes, by hating their ugly selves and hating other women who get better cosmetic surgery than they do, by men who would rather live without them than live without pornography–might find a simpler, more straightforward standard of femininity more appealing? The Islamic feminine is so uncomplicated. You just drape yourself up to your eyeballs in yards of solemn fabric, agree to shut the fuck up, and voilà. You’re celebrated for your piety rather than reviled for your unsightly asymmetrical labia.

Sadly, these convert gals are in for it. For Islam, like Christianity and Judaism and Skank-worship (the West’s other religion), was invented by dudes, for dudes. Control of women is central to all these cults. In fact, from the point of view of a woman who fancies herself a human being, the only differences between them are the props (and the degree of public humiliation—there is never no humiliation—she will suffer if she happens to piss off any dudes).

A woman functioning under the auspices of any of these misogynist doctrines is degraded; she exists only in terms of men. She has as her central duty the business of ministering to male whims. She lives in a constant state of reaction to male laws. Her ceaseless (yet fruitless) solicitation of the respect of males defines her. To the male who offers the best deal, she agrees, by legal contract, to whore herself. Washington wife-ofs are whores. Strippers are whores. Those somber chicks in scarves are whores. Brass pole = hijaab = cultured pearl choker.

Meanwhile, the Muslim Pakistani dude worries that Skankism is creeping into Islam. Be of good cheer, Muslim Pakistani dude! Skankism is a detail, a minor detail. Control of women—patriarchy’s raison d’être—is not the slightest bit endangered by slow-dancing or miniskirts. Patriarchy has successfully planted in every woman the seed of fear that keeps us all in line. A woman is always rapeable, whether she’s rolled up in black muslin or sliding down a brass pole on her prehensile beaver.

52 comments

3 pings

  1. Violet Socks

    Allow me to be the first to congratulate you on the “prehensile beaver” coinage. Your Twistyisms delight and astonish me.

  2. Chris Clarke

    Brass pole = hijaab = cultured pearl choker.

    Brilliant.

  3. BitingBeaver

    Damn, you are entirely too brilliant to be a mere mortal! Twisty, this is perhaps, one of my favorite posts to date. Per usual you have eloquently summed up my exact thoughts on this topic. Unlike me, you also do it in the space of a few paragraphs whereas my best Patriarchy blaming takes pages and pages you have an uncanny knack of honing in on the prey and taking it out with so many fewer words.

  4. thebewilderness

    How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. Kazillions

  5. SneakySnu

    Violet beat me to it. That’s the funniest expression I’ve ever heard.

    Yet another 5-star rant to print and put in my Twisty folder!

  6. kactus

    I’d like to say a few words about the poster who revelled in the fact that she was turning 40 and no longer subject to the whole male assessment thingy…cuz she very likely could have been me (except that I’m 46, as of today in fact). I’ve had and expressed those very same sentiments. It really, truly is a relief to concentrate on other things instead of how to look good for the patriarchy. And it doesn’t feel like giving up as much as it feels like getting over the intense pressures of youth. Sure, in this society if you pass 30 you’re no longer considered a cute young thing (MILF instead I guess), but many of us who’ve passed 40 look back on those high-stress please-the-patriarchy days and think “whew! How did I survive that? And aren’t I glad I don’t have to do that anymore?”

    Anyway, that’s my very personal turning-46 take on it.

  7. Kelley Bell

    Rock on Twisty-Girl!

    You are the Muhamad ALI of Patriarchail Pugilism.

    (On a ring side note, I might add that Arab Women in Burkas purchase about twice the amount of sexy undies as the sex crazed pole dancers of the Wild Wild West.)

  8. Steph

    You’re completely Smokin’ Twisty. Lately I read your posts and I have nothing to say except-Ya, what Twisty said!

  9. Violet Socks

    kactus, happy birthday! And I went through my own relief from the dudely gaze somewhere in my 30s. As a young circus performer I had been considered what I believe is now referred to as “hawt,” and it was dreadful. When I finally reached the age that drunken sots didn’t proposition me from cars and men didn’t stare at me so hard they seemed to be attempting remote penetration, the relief was palpable. I couldn’t believe how much more freely I breathed.

  10. sunny in texas

    i’m still a new patriarchy blamer. i turned 40 back in october and the two inner voices i have have been arguing for years, vacilating between “wear what you want, you shouldn’t give a fuck!” and “wear something sexier so men will flirt with you again.”

    i’m sorry, i’m just not at the stage where i revel in my invisibility yet. i’m trying, but today i had to just go and buy work jeans from the men’s department(and i went ahead and bought a flannel shirt too) and i am mega depressed. i am also just about to throw out every article of clothing in my closet that doesn’t fit me.

  11. Violet Socks

    sunny, you’re only invisible from the morons you wouldn’t want to notice you anyway. Wear the jeans and the flannel shirt, kick ass and take names, and a man worthy of you will find you hot shit.

  12. Kat

    Brilliant Twisty!
    After the 2001 attacks on the world trade center, my university hosted an entire series called “Understanding Islam,” which included a table in the student union about women in Islam. Happy, smiling women covered head to toe in large swaths of fabric waved from the table at all of us passing whores. They did lectures on how women in Islam receive more respect than other women because they aren’t treated like sex objects. With their bodies entirely hidden, they can be treated like individuals. (yeah, owned individuals!) It reminded me of reading about the southern vision of slaves as “happy negros” because master gave them a bible and didn’t hit them that often, and they didn’t have to worry about how they’d eat, because master took care of them. Muslim Women = The Happy Slaves.
    I did envy them their head to toe wraps and sensible shoes. Here were women who weren’t going to have to fret if they didn’t have the money or the body for the latest fashion. Muslim men want them hidden, not flaunting it all. They are more treated more like property than western women, but less like objects. Same song of control, different lyrics.

  13. firefly

    I too was relieved to turn 40 and revel in invisibility. Until I was raped at 42. It won’t change until we change it.

  14. Christopher

    Holy cow! People are worshipping the same god, but in a slightly different way! Wow!

    YHWY is a useless dipshit. If he exists he was either too stupid to know how much pain and, well, genocide his monotheistic first commandment would cause, or he didn’t care.

    So fuck him.

  15. Jodie

    I was the one who wrote about being invisible. It’s not giving up — it’s doing what you want and not caring and on one bothering you about your choices. It’s a very free feeling.

    And Sunny — Violet is right (I have experienced exactly that). :) So take heart.

  16. tisha

    Twisty, I’m moving in! Everyone outta the way she’s mine!

    (just kidding!!!!)

    Brilliant post, I think it’s your best yet.

  17. Kaka Mak

    The problem with draping oneself in fabric and no longer giving a good golly danged about if and how men view your body once hitting a certain age, is, it’s really only freedom for one–now. Doesn’t cancel out the decades of pressure, self-loathing, disgust, vunerability etc. a woman endured previously. And does nothing to open the eyes of younger girls/women who are still very much living under this bullshit.

    Just yesterday, I saw a new product for women, what looked like a modern-day corset or the longest bra I’ve ever seen. “Hides that tummy and lifts the breasts,” it did. “FUCK THAT, says I, “Let the female body BE.” And then thought: “Who cares what a 38-year old woman thinks. I’m just a dried up old hag (in the eyes of our youth-obessed, woman-oppressed culture.)

    To convince the younger generation of women this is bullshit–when self-esteem is so fragile and based on appearance–is the challenge.

    It shouldn’t have taken 38 at years for me to have the courage to say fuck that. It should have been my birth right.

  18. Twisty

    Hey Jodie, although in retrospect it certainly looks that way, I in no way meant to impugn your sense of post-40 relief as any kind of cop-out. Turning 40 is not anything one gives in to, it just happens. And it just happens, in our culture, that a woman of that age (unless she takes drastic surgical steps) stops being interesting as a sexbot. The point I should have made was what Kaka Mak says above: that if women enjoyed fully human status, we would have been living full, unobjectified lives from the git-go. I submit that part of the reason Western women may find Islam appealing is that it appears to free them from the tyranny of objectification.

  19. Liz

    Diane Keaton’s HuffPo piece on The Upside of Turning 60 touches on how age frees women from this “tyranny of objectification,” though she’s not nearly as articulate, clear, witty, or direct as Twisty is above.

    I liked what one of the commenters on the Ketaon post said: “Didn’t Gloria Steinem say about this time of life, ‘I’m the person I was at 11, only now I have my own apartment!’” I couldn’t find a cite on that quote (though I did experience hours of fun reading through thousands of pithy old GS quotes). But I would just change “my own apartment” to “my own house” (so I can paint things weird colors, keep lots of dogs, and design myself a whacky unruly garden), add “drive my own car,” throw in the freedom to have lots of hot sex (or not) without getting lectured or grounded, and voila! That’s me at 52. A high-spirited 11 year old enjoying my body for the fun things it can do rather than for how “sexy” it looks, carefree and oblivious of the Male Gaze. A fucking OCEAN of relief! Way better than being 22.

  20. tisha

    Violet Socks, were you really circus performer, or were you just using a figure of speech? I like it, I think I’m gonna use it:

    “I’m a circus performer for the patriarchy.”

    At age 39, I am a woman-on-the-verge, making day-to-day choices as to just how far I’m willing to go to fool the male eye into thinking I’m still breeding stock and a willing receptacle. It’s FUCKING EXPENSIVE, costing thousands of dollars that are better applied to my 401K to fund my inevitable future, invisible, possibly man-free (?) existence.

    I propose all the invisible cool chicks converge on some warm, inexpensive locale (Austin, anyone?) and retire from this circus-performer shit altogether. I understand most supposed “feminist utopias” meet ghastly ends, but what of the plain old gaggle of cool chicks who vow only do what they damn please and not give a fuck? Now THAT’S a party I want to be seen at . . . .

  21. Tony Patti

    Yes, worrying about how you look at any age is oppressive, and I weep to think how many of us care to the point of anxiety. Dress should be either thoughtless coverings or engaged in as play.

    The rapists will take anything they think they can get, so you can’t get invisible enough for them even in a burka. The guys who are worthwhile don’t need the whole standard setup, so why bother? I agree so much that the kind of man who needs to be seduced and titillated by excessively sexy looks is not worth the leers you seek.

    I’m 46 and I’ve felt invisible as a sexual being for quite a while, and it is a relief in some ways. Looking presentable is still kind of important though. I remember I was even younger when I noticed gay men were no longer giving me unwanted attentions, and that was a much greater relief.

  22. MzNicky

    I’m with tisha. I’ve long fantasized about eventually retiring to an all-woman commune. What say, Twisty? Can we all move in?

    I just worry that, at 53, I am so beyond the male gaze that I wouldn’t even be visible to the “cool chicks.” Well, the 40-ish age bracket I found to be especially tough—sort of like adolescence in reverse—but once that hill was crested, it was relievedly smooth sailing.

  23. Violet Socks

    Tisha, I really was a circus performer. Well, in a manner of speaking. I entertained people for money.

    But you’re right, it works much better as a figure of speech.

  24. Kelley Bell

    At every seminar I speak at, I always mention the Crones. Crones are women beyond child bearing age who have a deep wisdom to offer the world.

    Its an archtype, but one that deserves some attention.

    The concept is that once a woman gets to this point in life, she has a wealth of experience, and the ability to share it with a wider circle than just family and friends.

    It is a time when the feminine spirit comes into full bloom.

    In my book, I claim that Crones are the most valuable asset to any given culture.

    Just imagine how our society would change if we heralded and honored Crones!

    Women would be proud of wrinkles and grey hair.
    They would see aging as an elevation of their status
    They would know that society looked to them to serve their communities.
    They would not be objectified for sex
    The matriarchial voice would alter politics.

    All this and so much more.

  25. belledame222

    There’s a line in “The Handmaid’s Tale” where Aunt Something is instructing the “girls” on how much better off they are now that they’ve been relieved of the tyranny and danger of their former, Cosmo-riffic lives. Something like, “Then you had ‘freedom to.’ Now you have ‘freedom from.’ Don’t underrate it.”

    Of course, they have no such thing, as they’re forced to either be rental breeding machines or (surprise!) whores in a special, secret brothel for high-echelon types who’re on a nostalgia trip for Playboy. Or worked to death in a concentration camp.

    But I suppose for some women it’s the heavy structure and control of the theocratic religion that appeals, ultimately, even as it is for the men. “Freedom from” extends to a lot more than ogling on the street, after all. Freedom from having to make decisions. Freedom from doubt. Freedom from the feeling lost and out of control. And for some women there’s a limited power reward–the fictional “Aunts,” the head wife in a multi-wived household. That’s always the way, sadly. Broken people will often jump at the chance to take their place in the “kiss up, kick down” hierarchy, even if they’re near the bottom, just as long as they do have someone to kick. Because for some people it still beats what they had before–or what they think they had.

    I could see, say, Lynndie England having gone that way, if nudged in that direction instead of the one she ultimately took.

  26. Violet Socks

    I finally went and looked at the original CS Monitor article. This paragraph is absolutely mind-blowing:

    At the same time, argues Sarah Joseph, an English convert who founded “Emel,” a Muslim lifestyle magazine, “the idea that all women converts are looking for a nice cocooned lifestyle away from the excesses of Western feminism is not exactly accurate.”

    Away from the excesses of Western feminism? The levels of misunderstanding on display in that sentence are just…aaahggh. The mind reels.

  27. Violet Socks

    Sorry, it would have been better if I’d included the paragraph just preceding:

    Others are attracted by “a certain idea of womanhood and manhood that Islam offers,” suggests Karin van Nieuwkerk, who has studied Dutch women converts. “There is more space for family and motherhood in Islam, and women are not sex objects.

    At the same time, argues Sarah Joseph, an English convert who founded “Emel,” a Muslim lifestyle magazine, “the idea that all women converts are looking for a nice cocooned lifestyle away from the excesses of Western feminism is not exactly accurate.”

    So, see, we have it all backwards. Being a sex object is one of the excesses of Western feminism.

  28. belledame222

    There’s another take on the hijab here, by a Muslim woman:

    http://soundvision.com/Info/news/hijab/hjb.fear.asp

    It’s not clear to me from the article what she means by “hijab;” whether it’s just the headcovering and a relatively “modest” style of dress, or the full megillah of swirling fabric. I tend to suspect the former.

    anyway I was struck by this:

    Hijab is fundamentally part of worship but, right or wrong, it has become a political statement as well.

    We may only be expressing our commitment to our Deen (religion) but Hijab is seen to symbolize a rejection of the West.

    ***

    Taken as such, I can understand the appeal to some young women, especially when the veil is banned, as it has been in several countries.

    Btw, a little closer to home there’s the whole “Christian modesty” movement. Not quite at hijab/Handmaid’s style regalia level, but getting there.

    You can buy some fashions here:

    http://www.modestapparelchristianclothinglydiaofpurpledressescustomsewing.com/

    …it seems more like a “Little House on the Prairie” fetish, but anyway.

    read an apologia for Christian headcovering here:

    http://expage.com/page/headcovering

    “I truly believe that the more we separate ourselves from the ways of the world–the more sanctification we find..the more sanctified we become–the more peculiar we appear. That is the will of God.”

    http://www.momof9splace.com/modesty.html

    and you’ll just love this address:

    http://www.patriarchspath.org/Articles/Docs/Modesty_and_the_Christian_Woman.htm

  29. Nebris

    I refer to them collectively as The Judeo-Christlamic Father/God Cults.

    ~M~

  30. jc.

    I´ve just returned from Malaysia which I found to be (from an admitedly very superficial aquaintance of 3 weeks) a relatively laid back islamic majority state.
    But with all religions sometimes the hypocrisy becomes glaringly absurd.
    I refer in particular to some of the muslim dudes and their chatels vacationing on the resort island of Langkawi.
    Said dudes were young,geared out in baseball caps, 3 quarter length shorts, hip t-shirts and street cool sneaks and tended to scowl at all unbelievers. Their beloveds were clad in black all covering chadars which included a mouth and nose covering black veil. Langkawi is a beach vacation island and it is HOT, very hot and sunny. These couples were by no means in majority but they were a definite large vacationing minority and were encountered everywhere (island hopping day tours, shopping malls, aquariums etc.) but on the beach. They were always well equipped with modern digital pictorial recording devices which they used to take pictures of themselves in typical tourist fashion in front of exotic landmarks and things. My mind truly boggled at the thought of the thousands and thousand of pictures in the world of hip-hop Abdul (defender of the true faith and hater of the big satan) posing in front of palm trees and the eifel tower and such with his well protected and respected beloved, an anonymous large black sack.
    And of course the truth of this clothing for women has nothing to do with respect and care for women (I dare any rational person to cover themselves in a black cloth bag and climb and walk around in the sun in, for instance, the Twisty hood for and still advocate that this particular clothing was respectful of women)but has everything to to do with the marking and controling of patriarchal property, but you already knew that.

  31. Clare

    I was struck by the idea of turning 40 and getting relief from objectification. How do we as women get relief in the 4 decades before the male gaze diverts itself due to patriachical training? And, just as importantly, how do we train ourselves not to value ourselves based on that male gaze?
    Over the last 10 years, my weight has changed repeatedly and in large amounts. I’m on a downward cycle right now and all of a sudden I’m visible to men again. I don’t like it because it means to me that while before I was disgusting, I am now worth screwing. At the same time, I feel as if the male gaze is proving to me that I have lost weight.
    We should work to be relieved from this objectification prior to men tiring of objectifying us. The only way I know how is to remind myself and other women that I exist independent of the male gaze, that my body has strength, purpose and beauty wholly outside the realm of male sexual attraction, and that I need to open my mouth every time I feel myself being looked over like a piece of meat and tell that person either a) they are objectifying me and it makes me uncomfortable or b) to back the fuck off.

  32. LCGillies

    Thanks, twisty, another amazing flaming arrow dead center.

  33. Jennifer

    MzNicky:

    I just worry that, at 53, I am so beyond the male gaze that I wouldn’t even be visible to the “cool chicks.”

    If by cool chicks you mean lesbians, (of course you do) never fear. I am lesbian in my mid 30s and a IMHO there’s nothing sexier than some splendid wrinkles cozied up to a pair of intelligent eyes ;-)

    P/S I enjoy your stuff on TN Guerilla Women, welcome! It’s one of my favorites and it was the gateway drug to my feminist blog addiction.

    Twisty:

    You’re the bomb. Thank you for imparting your special brand of wisdom and joy to us “young onions.” I would SO make out with you.

    Now that I’ve joined the ranks of those who have propositioned you online, “Twist and Shout” keeps running through my head. It does have a good beat, though, and you can totally dance to it!

  34. Jenne

    That yellow face thing was added by wordpress, not me, I promise. I put the old fashioned winking face with the semi-colon, which converted to the trendy emoti-bot.

  35. belledame222

    Those black head-to-toe coverings just seem like walking tombs to me. And it so figures that the hubbies would be into the bling. No, no objectification of women in the hip-hop culture they aspire to. Gargh.

    By the way, I have always wondered how the “72 virgins in heaven” deal was supposed to work. I mean, do they *stay* virgins, or do they just keep automatically renewing themselves after usage, or what? And where do the virgins come from, anyway? Is that like, their hell? Or are they just sort of created for the occasion, like CGI figures?

  36. tisha

    belledame222, I heard on NPR about a year ago that there is a new translation of the Koran passage referring supposedly to the “virgins.” The word really means “white” or “pure” which COULD mean virgin, but could also mean the rare white grape that was considered a delicacy during that time.

    Wouldn’t it be funny . . . all these muslim guys going to “heaven” and being presented with 72 white grapes? haahahahahah!

  37. Type2

    Oh, so off the topic but…I’m diabetic and before I was diagnosed I would eat grapes by the pound. I can’t anymore b/c I have to control my blood sugar. So a heaven filled with white grapes sounds absolutely fantastic. Not fantastic enough to blow myself and hundreds, nay thousands, of innocent others into wee bits for, but a heaven nonetheless.

    Btw…what do female muslim martyrs get? Do they get male virgins? And is that supposed to be some great shakes? Again, I’d take the grapes.

  38. Violet Socks

    Automatic renewal after each usage, belledame. And they’re sort of like angels — 72 to each man in heaven, along with his earthly wife. Their vaginas magically become virginal again after each impalement. And the men’s penises are always hard, too!

    tisha, you’re so right — the new theory is that the Koran actually started out as a Syriac lectionary. That’s why one-fourth of it is and has always been unintelligible — it’s not really Peninsualar Arabic at all. The white “virgins” are really white raisins. And the verse long believed to mean “they put on their veils” (referring to women) probably reads “they fasten their belts/girdles” (referring to disciples).

  39. laughingmuse

    Right on, Twisty. Right on.

    And as several has mentioned, I think perhaps some women opt for a rigid system – because it is just that. You don’t have to worry about going too much one way (sexy and attractive, and thus “OK to look at”) or the other (unsexy, unattractive, but out of the harsh glare of constant sexualization). The dichotomy is still plainly there, but the role-playing is very rigid and contextualized.

  40. Mimi

    Another great post, Twisty!

    When I was 35, I traveled in Iran. Having spent a couple of months prior to that traveling in Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Iraq, I felt relieved when I was required to wear hajib in Iran. Until then, I hadn’t realized how much energy I’d used fending off the men in the middle east as a result of wearing western clothing.

    If the same experience happened now, I’d be angry at the patriarchy thanks to you, Twisy.

    I think the women converts to Islam are ignorant like I was.

  41. alsafi

    My experience has been somewhat different, wearing hijab. I find it frees me from the imposed duty of being a sex-object, and that I get treated, in general, a little more respectfully. I’m not referring to burqa or chador, here, though–just a scarf and modest, western dress. As a feminist, a lesbian, and not a practicing-muslima, I certainly wasn’t doing it to please anyone but myself, so I won’t say I’m the typical veil-wearer. I’ll even further qualify this by noting that the plural of ancdote is not data, before trotting out my anecdotal evidence–some of my muslima friends have remarked that they also find wearing hijab to be freeing, at least here in the US (see also Fatima Mernissi, “Size 6: The Western Women’s Harem”).

    Which is not to say that hijab are pure and true and unsullied by any taint of the patriarchy, ‘cos, well, haha-no. But there is room under the large umbrella of Islam for feminism, just as there is in any broad religion. It just involves being willing and able to look at that religion in a new way.

  42. Violet Socks

    But alsafi, when you and your friends find that wearing the hijab is freeing, what you’re being “freed” from is men looking at you as fuckable objects. You put on the hijab, and men look at you as non-fuckable objects. You’re still objects.

    What you need to be freed from — what we all need to be freed from — is the patriarchal system that classifies women as objects. Of course you get treated with more respect when you wear a bag over your head, because you’re living in a male-dominated society that decrees that respectable women should be covered.

    What feminism is saying is that whole setup is bogus.

  43. Joie Furlong

    Thank you for writing. It’s like hearing my 20 year old, militant feminist self speaking out again from under layers of middle aged mommydom…only smarter…and funnier. I’d stay to praise you more, but I need to direct all my girlfriends to your site.

  44. Heather

    Dear lord, you’ve hit on something I’ve been mulling over for the past month-why I am not ok with my friend converting to Islaam for her fiance?

  45. alsafi

    What feminism is saying is that whole setup is bogus.

    Oh, I know the whole system is bogus (I did say I was a feminist, right? WAC member, even). Believe me–I know the game is rigged. But it’s the only game in town. I’m just saying, in the same way that the woman turning 40 seemed to me to be saying, that if you gotta be an object, there’s often a certain amount of relief to being a non-fuckdoll object. And pointing out that there are women who find a strength in being able to use hijab as a resistive act–a way to preserve our own self-image as humans rather than blow-up dolls. We all make our compromises with the patriarchy in order to live our lives, after all, and some women can use the veil to draw strength and inspiration to fight from not feeling like a centerfold walking; it’s not necessarily true that any given individual feels oppressed by it. Of course, neither is it necessarily true that she doesn’t–I’m not saying that either.

    I mean, I can’t make men stop objectifying me. I can fight it, and I do. I can talk and argue and write about it, and I do that too. And yeah, I don’t want to be an object of any kind in anyone’s eyes. But some days, just not feeling like a sex object seems like a victory of sorts.

  46. Twisty

    I feel ya, asalfi. Since I got my boob chopped off and all my hair fell out, there is nothing remotely “sexy” about me anymore, and I’d be lying if I said it hasn’t been quite the revelation.

  47. Clare

    I’ve spent a bit of time with women in Christian movements for research, and am planning to again for the future. In talking to them, I learnt that the oppression that they really feel comes from wider society assuming that they are all doormats and loonies etc for believing what they believe. The groups that I’m familiar with, what some may call Christian cults / sects are looking towards a post-apocalyptic time in which gender differences don’t matter. Now, they are trying to live their lives in the way they see appropriate. Some of the things they believe may well seem quite offensive to feminists, and I struggle with some of their doctrine still. But what I try to remember is that they CHOSE to be part of that group for reasons I don’t understand because I’m not religiously inclined.
    Don’t get me wrong, I do agree with the stuff you’re addressing in this post generally speaking. BUt there are groups out there (and look, I do know, I got my BA studying them) that women do freely choose to join. I’m trying to understand from their point of view, and it is hard. But for some groups the choice does exist.
    I do feel I have to make some comment when I’ve talked at length to women who are saddened (and some very distressed at times) about the oppression they feel from women dismissing them as ‘doormat cult members’ (as they have put it). They have different priorites. Eg. Serving God – big priority (obviously), they all do it. Evangelising – deeply deeply important – they all do it, men and women, exactly the same. Learning about their faith – they all do it together, and from my observations, women are given as much time as men to discuss their views. And, down the list, the more secular concerns such as employment – men and women are all employed, men aren’t expected to have higher jobs than their wife etc because, frankly, they don’t give a shit what they do just so long as they’ve got enough to live by. Finally, in heaven (or on earth in the new Millenium, i.e. post-apocalypse, they do believe that sex divisions will not be a factor.
    So I don’t think it’s possible to speak of all ‘cults’ as oppressing women. Yes, in our eyes (and I do include my own, as I’ve said, I do struggle with this subject terribly) they are oppressed. But looking at them in their own terms they feel an oppression more in people’s attitudes, asumptions and expectations than the male members.
    I’ll stop there, taking up too much room! I know this comment wasn’t hugely relevent to the post as you were thinking more about Muslim groups (cannot possibly comment, not my field), but I just thought I’d say…

  48. kate

    “and from my observations, women are given as much time as men to discuss their views. And, down the list, the more secular concerns such as employment – men and women are all employed, men aren’t expected to have higher jobs than their wife etc because, frankly, they don’t give a shit what they do just so long as they’ve got enough to live by. Finally, in heaven (or on earth in the new Millenium, i.e. post-apocalypse, they do believe that sex divisions will not be a factor.”

    I highly disagree, although I respect that you have done much research and analysis, whereas my observation was through casual acquaintance made with such people of the various degrees of “christian faith”.

    I grew up in the midwest, more south than north and saw many, many variations of fundamentalism and grew up in a mainstream protestant household. I can say unequivocably that women who live under the “faith” of christianity must by and large accept a doctrine which preaches that women are second class citizens, untrustworthy and potentially the dirtiest whores if allowed to deviate from male control.

    The fact that women work now is more economic than cultural I’d postulate, particularly as you go further down the socio-economic ladder. If given the choice, these women wouldn’t be working and I am sure that the work they perform/jobs they hold have little if any power and are consistent with subservient and traditional female roles. Also, I’d posit that most are in a ‘safe’ and more controlled environment also. Not too many cocktail waitresses or positions that require years of independent education and training; i.e.,
    nurse.

    These women, like so many, act out on the promise that following the patriarchy with complete obedience will bring some great reward, whether in the end or now, because the lie of the patriarchy is that the beautiful princess gets to live happily ever after…good girls shall be rewarded.

    At sixty I meet them again all the time as well and they tell me, “If only I knew then what I know now…I’ve wasted my whole life.”

    *********
    As for the ‘invisibility’ thing. I remember my mother telling me, ‘menopause was the best thing that happened to me, no more men to bother with and now I can do what I want.’

    Well, that’s all well and good, but at 30 I had to digest that for awhile to understand it.

    Then at 35 I was given an antidepressent during a particularly difficult time in my life (couldn’t be poverty, single parenthood, social ostracization could it have been?). I quit the stupid drugs about six months after, choosing instead to stop being a victim.

    BUT…in the process I gained a lot of weight and men stopped looking at me. I looked like a clown in my mind and it seemed a whole part of my identity had been stripped — being attractive to men. No matter what I wore, or what I said, I was still the fat girl.

    I still haven’t conquered the weight, but at 40, I am more concerned with my health than what any man might think. Women are highly discriminated against based on their appearance and I have had to learn to ignore it instead of being angry.

    I dress for comfort. Jeans, sweatshirt, doc martens or boots (depending on what I’m doing). I haven’t touched make-up in ages. I brush my hair and that’s good.

    I run a business and meet people on a regular basis. Women don’t find me threatening anymore, men take me for all business and nothing else. No stares while I stand in line at the grocery store, no honks or hoots when out walking, no “Hey honey….” come-ons to annoy.

    Yeah, overall, I’d say its better, even been healing to be fat and be me, but it took some time to get here. Sure, I’d like to be thinner, but more because I’m concerned about heart disease and wanting to feel lighter and healthier.

    I’ll tell you one thing. I’d have no problem now speaking my mind to any idiot who’d come on to me if I ever were to lose weight. I’ve changed and cannot go back. Thank God.

  49. Twisty

    Thanks for this story, Kate. It’s just what I needed to hear after two days of All S&M All The Time.

  50. Anna

    What your write, Twisty, refers to fundamentalism. And what you write with respect to that, I can only applaud. But you are very mistaken in suggesting that fundamentalism=religion or even =organised religion. I guess over ther in the States you have a very local lunatic community in the evangelicals which taints your view of things, but I can assure you there are many, many dedicated Christians out there who watch these people in total bewilderment. You seem to see a stark either-or alternative between woman-bashing and religion-bashing. Fine news for (feminist, highly educated, take-no-shit) religious women.

    Check out this post http://hugoboy.typepad.com/hugo_schwyzer/2006/01/naomi_wolf_jesu.html and the links to Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

  51. Twisty

    Anna, I don’t doubt that there are less toxic versions of Christianity than the extremist one getting all the press here in the States. My own parents are a couple of tasteful Presbyterians who could not be less in-your-face about it. They’re pro-choice and they like homos and brown people and women. But the damage being done by the holy-roller godbags cannot be ignored.

  52. Clare

    Kate – I’m not going to disagree with you as such. Yes, I’ve done a lot of research, but only into a very small number of groups, and to be fair your experience is just as valid as mine.
    I don’t think what I wrote last night was terribly clear. What I was really trying to say is that it is a great worry when generalisations are made about religious groups. What you and Twisty said, I am certain, is not based upon rubbish the media churns out, but based on your experiences of the ‘wacky cults’. There are a number of groups out there who are generally thought to be pretty way out, but in fact they are not. They are respectful to each other regardless of gender. That’s not to say, of course, that all groups respect their women. BUT I really do think it is very worrying indeed when people use the term ‘cult’ as a catch-all perjorative term. ‘Cult’, or movement, after all, are incredibly diverse. So many of the, shall we say, quieter ones who just get on wih things, cannot be criticised on these accounts. I do think people tend to say ‘Cults’ to mean crazy awful religious people. But that’s just not fair. So many that I have encountered do choose this way of life, and one can’t just say they are oppressed when they don’t feel oppressed. It’s like the anhtropologists of the 19th C calling black people ‘savages’ and wishing to educate them (yes, quite an extreme example granted).
    Having said that of course, you’re right, there are some frightening groups out there. Oh, and I’m Englsih – I have had absolutely no experience of the right wing fundamentals you talked about. it was interesting reading that.

  1. Feministe » Links, etc.

    [...] Twisty writes A Cult Is A Cult Is A Cult, about invisibility, feminism, aging and religion. [...]

  2. The Good and the Right :: Random feminist moonbattedness, er, moonbattery. :: January :: 2006

    [...] In a post entitled “A cult is a cult is a cult,” radical feminist moonbat “Twisty Faster” has this to say about religion and women: . . . Islam, like Christianity and Judaism and Skank-worship (the West’s other religion), was invented by dudes, for dudes. Control of women is central to all these cults. In fact, from the point of view of a woman who fancies herself a human being, the only differences between them are the props (and the degree of public humiliation—there is never no humiliation—she will suffer if she happens to piss off any dudes). [...]

  3. Smite Me! [.net] » Blog Archive » Laura Bush Can Suck On My Left One

    [...] this was still sticking in the old craw as I headed over to Twisty’s place this morning to check out her latest masterpiece. ‘Twas an interesting look at “white [...]

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