Christian Ortner is a prominent popular journalist and opinion writer in Austria. The following essay about the culture-enriching treatment of “Viennese” women was posted on his website yesterday. Many thanks to JLH for the translation:
Why Not Put Women on a Leash?
by Christian Ortner
August 12, 2015
For some weeks now, in Vienna City, you can see women — mostly in groups with a man — wrapped from head to toe in black cloth, covering the entire body and the head and usually only leaving a narrow slit at eye-height.
The whole thing is reminiscent of a gaggle of penguins.
In most cases, the article of clothing is a “niqab” as women (must) wear them, particularly on the Arabian peninsula and in the Gulf States, but to some extent also in other Muslim countries of the Middle East. These are women dragged along in the train of their husbands, as tourists at the height of the summer, looking to cool off at 40 degrees [Celsius, 104F] in Vienna.
Women who (have to) wrap their bodies entirely — what can you call that but an obscenity? (Wikipedia: “Something that is obscene is calculated to move other people to repulsion or shame or to injure some other elemental feeling.”)
And it is shame and repulsion that is awakened in any halfway civilized person by the spectacle of a woman forced by her society to completely shroud herself. It is an action of oppression, of denigration and of dehumanization, and any witness to it must fight the considerable and almost irresistible embarrassment and repulsion it causes.
It is incomprehensible why Western societies allow this kind of thing. Let us assume that in some distant, archaic culture it were customary to walk women through town, naked, on all fours and leashed. Would we shrug our shoulders and tolerate that? Yeah, well. And there is a quantitative but no real qualitative difference between a niqab and a leash.
It is worth noting that there is another aspect to this open show of contempt for women in Vienna.
Any halfway civilized traveler from the West in the Arab world — and especially in the conservative Gulf monarchies — will make a major effort to conform to the habits and customs there. No drinking of alcohol in public, the man reminding his female companion to cover her hair and camouflage her visual attractiveness (to the extent that this reminder is necessary).
That is just courtesy and common sense.
So why do our guests from the Arab world not have these thoughts in reverse and try to conform a little to what is customary here?
The unfortunate probability: Because they regard their religious and cultural rules as superior to all others in the world. That relativism that teaches us to regard all religions as ultimately of equal value and enables us to conform to these cultures, is surpassingly alien to them.
And that is part of a problem — a damned big problem.