Thursday, June 25, 2009

Stuart Jeffries, Jacqueline Pascarl, Sarkozy, Robespierre and the joy of foot binding

This is a site dedicated to passionate campaigns for good causes. After all, there's not much point being a loon if you can't dedicate yourself to quixotic ventures for the good of humanity.

Which is why we've decided to revive the Chinese art of female foot binding. It's no use for men of course because they have ridiculous feet, but over a thousand years of dedicated scientific study, Chinese men worked out that properly broken and bound female feet were tremendously erotic (and conveniently limited the movements of women). 

Only the advent of the wretched spoilsport Communist party put a stop to the practice, surely yet another strike against the sick pinko perverts and their materialistic ways. If you want to find out more about this noble tradition, as always Wikipedia provides an introduction here.

I mention this, because I was compelled by Stuart Jeffries column Sarkozy abuses the freedom the French have fought for, originally published in The Guardian, then recycled in the SMH, and containing his noble plea for women to be allowed to wear the burqa. He manages this by quoting Hegel and explaining the difference between abstract and concrete freedom. I was so impressed by his philosophical and practical insights, and the question of the identities that we construct for ourselves, that I thought I'd enlist it in my campaign for the return of footbinding:

For Hegel this is not real freedom, because our wants and desires are determined by society. By those lights, a Western fashion victim is as much a sartorial prisoner as a woman with her feet bound in an exceptionally erotic and appealing way. By real freedom Hegel meant not doing whatever one wants but having freedom from societal conditioning by using reason. If you meet someone who manages to be really free in this sense send me their names so we can celebrate their escape.

Well that's pretty potent. Women after all are just dumb fashion victims, prisoners of ribbons and curls, so why not stick them in a burqa or bind their feet, if that's what they want or that's what their men say they should want. Out of sight temptress.

Yes, but, you might want to say, surely women who have their feet bound are more oppressed than those who treat the sartorial laws of celebrity magazines as though they were the words of God? I am still depressed when I see a woman with bound feet, but that's my problem. What is striking in Sarkozy's speech is that it is again a man who denounces women and presumes they are cut off from society.

A solid point, especially coming from a man who sees women as bubble headed boobies bound by the sartorial laws of celebrity magazines, and therefore a clear headed man able to stand up to a man who denounces women and presumes they are cut off from society. There's something so wonderful and exciting about two men squabbling over the rights of women, whether for the sartorially superficial blonde, or the burqa clad, or even the foot bound.

Sarkozy's remarks are consistent with the tradition of laicite that led, in 2004, to the banning of headscarves in French schools. Doesn't he realise that his speech exemplifies an abstract freedom of expression which, in Hegelian terms, proceeds from social conditioning, not reason? It seems unlikely. For French political culture, religion is tolerable only if it keeps itself to itself.

Gosh, and here I was thinking we'd made some advances in recent times by ensuring I never had to sight a Dominican nun in the penguin outfits that used to haunt my nightmares back when I was trapped in a full on educational attempt to imitate the atmosphere of a Fellini movie. Clearly that secular fool Sarkozy has no idea of Hegelian social conditioning, as opposed to religion, which proceeds strictly from Hegelian reason, vis a vis the concrete and the abstract, ipso facto, ad hoc, hic sunt leones.

Or did I get that all wrong? Silly me, excuse me for a moment while I go off and read Vogue to re-orientate myself.

Ah that's better, I've got on a divine after hours silk gown which allows me to think so much more clearly. Now where we with that naughty Sarkozy:

Sarkozy now goes further, pursuing those who dress in a way that rejects Western values even in their private worlds. He said: "Foot binding is not a sign of religion, it is a sign of subservience. It will not be welcome on the territory of the French republic." Even religious justification is bad enough, run the suppressed premises of this argument, but the absence of such despicable justifications is worse.

How dare he. What a cad. Now I can see what Jeffries is getting at, yes I can see clearly, the rain has gone, and so have the perfidious French.

So the woman with her bound feet must be free to choose to be more Western. Sarkozy proposes that such freedom would improve her lot.

French venerate such abstract freedoms. They were, for Hegel, the basis of the revolution's collapse into the Terror in which individuals were sacrificed to the ill-conceived pursuit of abstract freedoms. Sarkozy is thus a modern-day Robespierre, proposing some women be terrorised in the name of the kinds of abstract freedoms France has venerated for 210 years. Let's see if he succeeds.

Yes indeed. A veritable Robespierre. Now you might quibble, and suggest that thousands died under the loopy Robespierre during the reign of terror, and that if nothing else he deserved to be guillotined  for pretending that a religion of virtue was compatible with mass slaughter. 

You might even suggest that Sarkozy hasn't been active enough with the guillotine to earn the comparison, or perhaps propose that Jeffries is using a variant of Godwin's Law. To which I can only say you must be a woman, so tell me what kind of outfit will you be wearing this weekend (don't you just love Kate Moss. She still sets the trends, doesn't she?)

But there you have it. Thanks to the pioneering Jeffries, we now have a sound philosophical and ideological basis for the return of foot binding. 

Funnily enough, at the same time, The Punch has been getting right behind Sarkozy, and managed to dig up an article by Jacqueine Pascarl: The truth behind the burqa.

Overlooking the fact that she's a woman, and therefore only thinks in a societally conditioned sartorial way, she had this to say:

Frankly, I’ve lived on both sides of this debate, and I would like to put the record straight once and for all as I was instructed during my time in a moderately strict Islamic society - to wear a burqa, hijab or headscarf during daily life is not prescribed specifically anywhere in the Koran – it is not wajib (mandatory and prescribed by the Koran), but only sunat (recommended culturally).

Oh, you mean like in Lutheran churches in the old days, when women sat on one side and men on the other, and women had to wear head coverings, as enjoined by the bible. But that's mandatory, not that we see much of it going on today. 

Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head.
But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven.
For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered.
For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man.

1 Corinthians 11

Yes, yes, let's start shaving the infidel women, but surely that's the point of the burqa then. Prevents brazilians for a start. As you'd expect, since she's a woman, Pascarl just doesn't get it:

I was taught scores of things by the Royal Iman, the beauty of many tracts of the Koran, the cadence of the Arabic language; but much of the teachings, as opposed to the Koran itself, were strictly cultural and archaic, rather than the pure religious teachings of the Koran. I learnt that the primary reason women are required by Islamic societies (the majority of which are patriarchal) to swathe themselves in fabrics and cover their collar bones, necks, arms, legs, ankles, calves, chests, elbows, shoulders, throats, thighs, ears, napes of necks, hair and in some cases, faces, is that women are culturally condemned to the roll of seductress and are considered untrustworthy, immoral humans, driven to tempt men and bring down the bastions of male self-control. The fine shape of an ankle, or a tendril of hair – a glimpse of which can send a mere male into a sexual frenzy, are the tools of seduction. In essence and to outline it crudely – the veil, much lauded by so called Islamic teachings, is a protection for men against we voracious vixens of the mortal world. Not, as so many pundits state, a protection for women against men.

There's more of this kind of thing, an almost endless rant. No wonder she couldn't be trusted in the lone company of a male without her baser instincts coming to the fore. All that chattering.

Even culturally, under the Islamic teachings I studied and with which I was indoctrinated, not one stanza exhorted a man to order his woman to cover her face – everything else, yes, but to wend her way along streets covered in a tent with only slits for her vision was never mentioned. Similarly, I am deeply perplexed by the current custom of small, Australian primary aged girls attending taxpayer subsidised private Islamic schools, wearing hijabs as part of their mandatory uniform. There are no teachings which direct females to cover all the parts of the body and the hair prior to puberty. In other words, if a girl has not yet menstruated, a headscarf is not a part of the dress code under Islam.

I have heard it argued by a young Muslim teenager that a hijab or a burqa denotes a female as a “girl or woman of dignity”. My gentle reply was that demeanour and deeds denote dignity, not a piece of fabric. The Koran mentions modesty, but does not describe a burqa or a hijab.

Me? I just love the way the Victorian spirit lives on in the world, but then I'm modesty incarnate. Quick, cover that naked piano or chair or table leg for fear the rounded wood brings on a woody in the dim witted male next to you.

I keed, I keed. The Victorians were never obsessed with wrapping piano legs in pantaloons, they had a tremendously healthy attitude to sex and especially female sexuality.

Oh dear, I feel a swoon coming on. Now before I faint, how does Pascarl wrap it up?

Surely in 2009, human beings can be trusted to walk down the street, safe in the knowledge that a glimpse of hair will not cause a riot or an orgy. A veil worn in any form should be a personal and independent choice, free of familial or social pressure, A perambulating shroud should not be used to effectively excise a woman from the society in which they live and the possibilities of the freedoms we should all enjoy. Vive l’France!

Harumph. Sarkozy, or should I say Robespierre lover. Dearie me, these recalcitrant modern women can be so tetchy and difficult. Voracious vixens you might almost say, the kind who'll probably want to read the whole Pascarl piece to contrast her insights with those of the Hegelian male Jeffries.

Ah well, the campaign to get the Hegelian foot binding back into the world of feminine fashion might take a little time, but we press on, swimming against the tide ...


Anonymous said...

ly more westerners would read the Koran. It's barely 150 pages of widely spaced sentences - nowhere near as tedious as the Torah or NT; as a 19thC french arabist it was simply the OT redacted for the arab mind.
The thing that really pisses me off is seeing young, pre pubertal Oz girls shrouded.
As Pascarl accurately points out "the veil, much lauded by so called Islamic teachings, is a protection for men" which I STRONGLY RESENT. If their kultur has so warped muslims that they have to do something to something to someone else to cover up their own failings then they need education or, failing that, eradication.

dorothy parker said...

I'm presuming, hoping that you mean the eradication of religious beliefs of a fundamentalist kind, in which case no argument from me, but I must say that I find the eradication of people, as a way of curing them of their foibles, beliefs, follies and foolishnesses more than a tad extreme, and inclined to make me break Godwin's Law very loudly.