The Cultural Significance of the BurkaBag

The B had this video in his pending list (he’ll add the transcript later). Since his pendings reside on the computer in my office, I get to peek at them. Thus, your early access…it’s only four minutes long, not enough to dissuade me from watching. Besides, there is something about a French woman speaking English; she brings a certain je ne sais quoi to the conversation, non?

The speaker, Céline Pina, outlines the choices of costume facing Islamic women in the West. In other words, choices that wouldn’t confront them had their families stayed in their country of origin. For these bagged women, they might as well have not bothered traveling westward.

Thanks to Ava Lon for the translation:

Video transcript:

00:00   Long live the Republic. Céline Pina. What does hijab signify?
00:04   Part one. Is wearing the hijab freedom or a provocation?
00:08   Nothing angers me as much as when you talk about
00:12   freedom in the case of wearing the hijab.
00:16   Like many [other] notions, this freedom is completely biased.
00:20   Why? Because in order there to be a free choice there has to be
00:24   a moral equivalence between the two options. However, you can see well that between
00:29   a veiled woman and a non-veiled woman the Islamists make an
00:33   extremely clear distinction. The veiled woman is a respectable woman.
00:37   The woman who isn’t veiled is a liberated woman, which is a wordplay
00:41   in order to say: a whore. In their minds, of course. The woman
00:45   who is veiled is the one who respects the rules of the group,
00:49   who respects the norm imposed by her origins.
00:54   The unveiled woman is the one who is becoming Westernized,
00:58   and who would rather choose her own individual way.
01:02   Finally, we can see clearly that between those two options
01:06   there’s no moral equivalence, and therefore for the audacity
01:10   of not being veiled, one has to [accept] separation from an entire universe:
01:15   the social one, and one’s family; and so finally
01:19   the choice of freedom for the woman will depend on the acceptance
01:23   of the group or of the family, and it cannot be a personal choice.
01:27   This “freedom to wear the hijab” is so much more
01:31   an imposture, that finally, what is being asked at the end is
01:35   that the woman integrate the social constraint and that she herself become
01:39   the perpetrator of her own imprisonment. Once you manage
01:44   to make sure that people are constrained, the advantage is
01:48   that it’s rare for them to leave it, because they are the first to
01:52   constrain themselves and to submit, before even the group demands it from them.
01:56   This is called conditioning. Those are things
02:00   which you can acquire extremely early; you simply
02:05   have to prepare the child for that. We can see well today
02:09   that there might be different motivations for wearing the hijab.
02:13   We have this conditioning, which makes the simple fact of not having it or
02:17   of removing it impossible. There is a constraint, which can be obtained by violence
02:21   or by conviction. One may have for example the idea that
02:25   it’s really God’s commandment and deeply believe it, and tell oneself: if I
02:30   do it, I’m respecting God, so he will be grateful and my life will be much
02:34   more pleasant. Like having an ill child and say: I’m going to put all the chances on my side.
02:38   One can also be in a form of political reclamation:
02:42   “I’m spitting in your face by the fact that I don’t
02:46   want your society, I don’t want your individualism and that I prefer
02:50   to belong to a group rather than belong
02:54   to a secular society.” Voilà, it’s a way of self-affirmation.
02:59   But whatever the motivation, the truth is that the sign we are sending
03:03   to the exterior world, yes, it signifies that its meaning is spoken with a single voice.
03:07   What it says is that the body of a woman is impure and has to be hidden.
03:11   What the hijab is saying is:
03:15   I’m not equal to man and I accept it.
03:19   The hijab establishes an inferior status for a woman, and
03:22   above all, her total infantilization, since she cannot even
03:28   — I would say — simply be in the sun.
03:32   She doesn’t even have the right to have a body. And when one
03:35   doesn’t have the right to be incarnated, one cannot influence the world, either.
03:38   So it’s imprisonment, and complete sterilization.

12 thoughts on “The Cultural Significance of the BurkaBag

  1. Back in the 1980s, I lived in a bedsit in north London. Two of my neighbours were Irish twin brothers, I guess in their 60s, former building workers. They took a shine to me, and invited me into their room, which was difficult, as they stank of unwashed bodies; they in turn thought my habit of taking a daily bath or shower was unhealthy! The Irish have (or used to) a saying: you can take the man from the bog, but not the bog from the man.

    I’m not having a go at the Irish in particular; I recall some years ago, on “Gates”, quoting the American anthropologist Jared Diamond, who’d worked in Papua New Guinea for many years, to the effect that when the natives were colonised by the Australians, they expressed gratitude that they’d been prevented from going on killing one another in tribal wars, in proportionately larger numbers than Europeans managed in the twentieth century. Another commenter pointed out that when the Japanese invaded forty years later, and had no interest in what the natives did, they reverted to tribal war and cannibalism.

    Back to the “bog”, I fear; it takes time for a culture to evolve and change- I wish it were otherwise. I suspect that Muslim women, by far the most numerous victims of Islam, are as conditioned as the men, excepting a few brave individuals.

  2. About the Burka: When we lived in Dubai, back in the 1980s, an Arab acquaintance told us that originally, the Burka was a ‘cosmetic’ which women liked to wear to prevent the tanning of their skin and facial wrinkles. They also preferred the face-covering because this took the place of dark glasses in the very bright sunlight in North Africa.

    That sounded very sensible to me and we asked why it had become obligatory. He shrugged: just the attitude of men, he said, they like to keep their women to themselves so they made it a religious duty.

    • Yes, it is all about etiquette and modesty, Islam also being a conservative religion that allocates the degree of “closeness” allowed between different members of society/family, as well as encouraging respect of the relationship of others and abstinence, which also translates as leaving women to their men

      Men also have hijab of the eyes for example

      The male and female dress in many Arab countries, and others of that latitude, is more or less as the hijab. The burqa is a simple extension, and I don’t know if it predates Islam or was designed afterwards as an easier means to ensure that its rules were kept. In many countries covering the lower half of the face is quite natural also and not of religious origin.

  3. Women in the much of the Muslim world didn’t wear the hijab or other religious clothes following the Ba’athist revolutions and prior to the Arab “awakening”. The Ba’athists were distinguished not by democracy, but by military and police state secular dictatorships. The big advantage of the Ba’athist dictators was, they rightly considered fanatic Muslims to be their mortal enemy, and acted accordingly.

    This is a hilarious video of Nasser poking fun at Islamists. Nasser was a dictator, but this film shows he could more than hold his own in any political debate. It’s simply that dictatorship is the most functional government in a Muslim country.

  4. The Muslims are omitting empathy and discretion from their views towards their neighbors. Christians and others who embrace western culture follow the directive: “love your neighbor as yourself.” That means to be empathetic towards the other person in determining how you should treat them. We consider it wrong to rape a lady because her body is hers and she has the right to decide who to share it with. The Muslims disregard the personal rights of others and inflict abuse and terror upon them based on the person’s choice of clothing. It’s a very absurd standard of conduct, totally barbaric and primitive. All people deserve respect, not just those wearing a hijab.

  5. That is very well argued and the speaker is clearly perceptive. What I will do, only for the sake of discussion, is to provide a counter argument. I will do that not in favour of the hijab nor against it.

    To start at the end, well the author knows sterilisation is not the outcome of the hijab, the birth rate amongst Arabs as compared to western women is notably higher. In fact the hijab reserves the woman solely to the service of the male. The wider social effects are apparent in both negative and positive ways, in the potency but lesser “sensitivity” of male dominated Arab society, through to certain efficiency and cohesion by a more simplistic or straightforward organisation. In the western world you could be comparing in criticism the fullness of a traditional relationship (if any still exist) through to the confused gender politics and open debauchery seen as permissible by some – and sure, some Arab visitors partake in the latter, but you do not see them sanctifying it by following that manner, i.e. it occurs in a downward contempt that also brings them some kind of satisfaction.

    You notice I am talking of the wider social implications first, because it is those that the author implies are used to constrain the female by conditioning. I think she would agree that western society also has its conditioning, one we find (more or less) naturally correct (because we are also partly conditioned to it). In the west the female is taken care of by the state, that is to say in most western countries raising children is not resource limited, if anything the opposite, and yet the population is in decline, in spite of the mini-skirt. and relationships that have become much less restraining on the freedom of those involved.

    How can this be?

    Raising a family is now often seen as almost traumatic in the west, the subtle prestige that is shared in Arab families often missing.

    Should I explain why? You would not like that I think, it would grate on your own perceptions of equality and fairness, on the dream of how you imagine things should be as opposed to what they are (or were) and why. I will just pin it as legislation from start to finish, that if that makes you free it also somewhere makes you worthless and owned by ” a third party institution “.

    So really, why should you care for or against the hijab. Is it out of genuine concern for “the poor” wearers? Is it because you wish them to live your lifestyle, to “prove it correct” ? Is it because you dislike the attitude of male Arabs, their religion even, and wish to frustrate and challenge their/its presence?

    The point of this critique is to underline the difficulty in maintaining own culture, of understanding how vulnerable it is, hopefully also understanding where it has gone ” slightly astray “. As a free individual woman representing the free individual woman, the author might discover that not all the males are too inclined to stand in her defence, because she already claims her own authority. I guess it would take a big bad Arab bully to remind her who is in charge, which by the time population dynamics have played out, might actually be her fate. She can then complain for herself, and not others.

    So I am being the polemicist today, and even (especially) as a male I would not really want to wear a hijab, but the authors angle of attack is just slightly skewed – what she wants to and should be able to say is “Ce n’est pas La France”.

    They seem to regulate everything else there, including in the name of culture , or is that the actual problem?

    • I think what you’re saying is, wearing a hijab (and of course, burkha) is disruptive to the culture of the host country, and for that reason is undesirable, apart from any considerations of fairness to women.

      I’ll go along with that. I do not consider garbage-bag, wrapped Muslim women to be natural allies. They’re as malignant as the Muslim males.

      ” In the west the female is taken care of by the state, that is to say in most western countries raising children is not resource limited, if anything the opposite, and yet the population is in decline”

      Going by experiments such as Mouse Utopia the plummeting birthrate is because of, rather than in spite of, the unlimited state support for any mother or child, however unfit, dependent, or damaged. In other words, having children is a finely-balanced genetic configuration, and allowing mutated genes to survive eventually accumulates too the point where the ability to bear children simply vanishes from a population.

      • Yes, that is what I am saying and have no problem saying it without dressing ( no pun) and without complex presentation. That is not to say I would be unkind about it, just explain directly… or who’s the boss otherwise ? In a private setting it would be clear that (particularly face) veiling does not pass, Arabs know this and they do not mix in private western society face veiled, and there are circumstances where head dress is also going to feel to be or be rejected. The problem is public domain, and there you have it that Muslims are guests who are invited as is, which is a kind gesture but not well considered by much of local society. In some muslim countries western women can go dressed as they are in spite of it not being the local custom (at own risk) . In others, say Saudi, a proper full hijab is required. Exactly how you go about resolving this in a kind way now I don’t know, normally when you arrive in a foreign country you learn their code and respect it (or leave), but the French seem to be doing the opposite by going out of their way to make exception for it…so maybe the French have in their own way created their own problem with their level of tolerance, or simple lack of attention. It is like they are afraid to have their own say in their own country, unless they as a whole don’t actually too much mind this form of dress, in which case I will shut up…but what I really think is that they are a bit ” somewhere else ” and have lost a sense of own community and nation.

        With the mousetopia what also happens in human terms is that the formation of natural hierarchy is disrupted, it gets flattened, and so the social order derived from that gets deconstructed also. The rewards are available ( by licence) without creation of family, which may end up being looked on as simply a female socialist endeavour and not own… ” Sad!”.

      • Ronald – Thanks for this about the mouse utopia. Fascinating, especially for me since two generations down from my wife and myself the children display an alarming array of non-adaptive behaviours/conditions/syndromes/whatever which I never saw growing up.

        In the wider world we see kids apparently queueing up for “gender reassignment” (or is that their parents vying with each other to be more progressive than everyone else at the dinner party?), was it a third of London teenage schoolgirls on anti-depressants I read the other day?, the recent reversal of the Flynn effect, substantial numbers of Japanese youngsters simply opting out of the sexual race. Straws in the wind? Misreporting? I don’t know.

        The more I thought about Charlton’s paper the more holes I seemed to see in it though.

        1. He writes off Calhoun’s original conclusion about the stress of overcrowding but his collection of negative mutations theory seemed equally speculative to me. He could settle both questions by re-running the experiment with twice the space and by genetically analysing the mice.

        2. I was unclear to what extent he thought the experiment could be extrapolated to humans. You seem to think quite a lot whereas I would be very, very sceptical considering the vast array of other factors affecting kids – technological, parenting styles, chaos at schools, pornography (which we are told damages sexual function in the end – with other biologically fertile humans at least), the demoralisation of some groups at the expense of others in the name of equality (working class white boys do worse at school than almost all the others in Britain now), negative messages about motherhood, reluctance of men to commit to bringing up families (perhaps because there’s no status in it) or simply contraceptive choices my grandmother didn’t have etc.

        What do you reckon?

        • For ECAW:

          You are correct, of course. A post hoc explanation of an unexpected experimental finding is always speculative.
          The Mouse Utopia experiment result could always be blamed on environmental stress, although not obvious, unless a specific experiment was designed to eliminate that possibility. It’s very interesting that there don’t seem to be any academic followup studies of the mouse utopia experiment. I suspect that performing such a followup would be damaging or catastrophic to an academic career.

          There’s an interesting finding that atheists load higher on mutational genes than religious people. Since mutations are almost always dysfunctional, the implication is that lacking religion is dysfunctional, both to individuals and to society. The author, who is a scientific journalist and not a scientist, links these findings to the genetic dysfunction of the mouse utopia inhabitants.

          Interestingly, the author includes this statement, which is manifest speculation and not directly supported by any experimental evidence:

          “But perhaps there is some good news. It’s quite clear from the Mouse Utopia experiments that if the mutants are removed, then the society will recover.”

          I wrote him and said I knew of no experimental findings to justify that statement, buy he didn’t reply. So, while I do agree with that conclusion, there is no direct result to confirm that.

          Incidentally, I’m an atheist, but I go where the science goes.

          • Whether, or how, a person conceptualises God or “creation” (to use an all inclusive term) , does not change whether there is or not. So you can believe or disbelieve, as long as you do not deny what is truth as you find it. Other people’s truths and understandings may differ from our own, we might discuss the differences, but ultimately, as long as others are honest and fair, it is not for us to judge them, for the simple reason that we cannot beyond a superficial opinion ( as in that is clearly not true or that is unkind to another so I cannot approve of your way).

            All the other creatures, they do not have to go around believing in God, maybe they are closer to the true nature of things for their lack of questioning, only people seem to obsess with their own relationship with creation, but then maybe they have reached a level of self consciousness that requires a deeper explanation, and have acquired abilities that call for reasoning.

            I do not mind atheists, at least those who just say they do not believe there is a God , it actually makes me smile as that is very innocent.

            What I do not like is people stating that there is no God in a know all or arrogant manner, I find that very offensive – if they do not believe in something, have not seen something, then what are they doing talking about it in that way, except to upset others?

            God is always beyond this duality though, so that is ok too eventually.

  6. There have been better deconstructions of the inherent oppressiveness of the wearers of the hijab and the burka, but the speaker is gratifyingly clear as to the miserableness of what these garments represent.

    What is a sandstorm in the Sahara obscure, our why some western females advocate for these miserable garments? For many years I’ve seen thousands of American women predominately black Americans and Latinas, don these garments and disappear into anonymity taking on the majority of time two personality traits. Scowling shrews, or servile meekness. The two at first glance our at opposite ends of a spectrum but in the psychological social political swirl of Islamic supremacism it fits that agenda to a tee.

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