Monthly Archives: November 2013

Disrespect of the Hijab and Non-American Cultures in General (Ugh…just ugh)

A few weeks ago, my W&G studies class watched a video about the burqa (oh hey look, that word isn’t in the Microsoft Office 2013 dictionary) and life for Muslim women in a particular country (can’t quite remember which).

I tried finding the title online, but alas, it was one among many in the long line of videos and articles documenting the Western fascination with clothing of religious modesty—a fascination that often has Westerners stumbling clumsily in its attempt to understand.

After nearly 20 minutes of various key-word searching I found nothing except some additionally annoying article. Like this one, for example. It was one of many, “non-muslim girls going out in hijab” articles. Now, some of these articles are enlightening and non-offensive, but alas, this one was the opposite.

The writer compared a burqa wearer to the Grim Reaper and scoffed at the idea of a burqa with fashion sleeves. (Un)fortunately the writer was an equal-opportunity offender, stating that she dressed up as a pregnant nun for Halloween. Classy. Another gem among the awfulness was something I’ll add in full quotes for emphasis.

“I didn’t realize the significance of visiting one of the tallest buildings in New York dressed in Islamic garb until we reached the entrance. I felt like a jerk.”

So, I’m getting that the implication is Muslim women shouldn’t visit tall buildings?

To add a bit more richness to the crap that was this article, a response article by Vice staff and the original author was made against the criticism. They mock their critics by claiming that it was a sociological experiment. As a student of Sociology, I find this to be total bullshit. There was barely an ounce of scientific methodology in what they did. It is frustrating that an academic discipline I find so wonderful was dragged into this mess and made to seem unscientific (as if being a social science hasn’t given it enough crap to deal with already).

Also, big surprise here, the garment she was wearing wasn’t even a burqa. Despite her claim that she extensively google-searched the subject and she specified in her article that it was an abaya, she continued to refer to it as a burqa (she also added a niqab, which isn’t an actual part of the abaya, but an additional piece of clothing).

Let me school you up, guys. “Burqa” is not a catch all term for any form of Muslim female dress. If you must mash them all up into one category, at least use the term “hijab.”

Now, some of you that have slight knowledge of the subject may be thinking, “but wait, I thought that’s just a headscarf.” Well, no. The term hijab generally refers to the idea of a sense of modesty that Muslim women (and, as I understand it, men) should possess, and specifically to the kind of scarf that serves only to cover the head. The burqa is a form of hijab, as is the niqab (covers the face except for the eyes).

In her big ‘ol response to critics she admits that she incorrectly called the garment a burqa, so I guess that’s a minor plus, but she argues that if it had been a burqa she would have gotten the same response. She tries to make the point that if people had reacted differently, then it would have been simply a fashion blog. This explanation just seems to fall short. Derailment anyone? And she tries to say she “was in no way making any kind of statement about Muslim women or Islam,” but her irrelevance for their culture shone through the whole article.

Personally removing the symbolism of something does not achieve a thing. No matter what one’s personal belief is, to a large number of people, the hijab has weight and meaning, just Catholic rosaries, Native American headdresses, U.S. purple hearts, white wedding dresses, and Olympic medals carry weight and meaning for many. Failing to hold the proper reverence for something important to a culture simply offends. For some reason, being irreverent and offensive, or mocking political correctness, is cool now. People seem to believe that being confident and not caring what other people thing is an excuse for ignorant actions that make other people uncomfortable. This is incredibly frustrating.

Every hipster wearing war bonnet, pop-star wearing a bindi, or white girl covered in wedding henna she got from a festival is contributing to a culture that disregards and disrespects other cultures (these examples are specifically examples of cultural appropriation, which you can read more about it here  and here and see here).

This just further emphasizes the “AMERICA IS #1” attitude these “totally multicultural appreciation appropriation” people are trying to dispel.


I think my next post will be about my personal journey with the hijab, or my initial struggle accepting the idea of white privilege and cultural appropriation.

Response to Miami Dolfin’s Incognito/Martin “Bullying” (umm, harassment anyone?) Case

The first thing that came to me when reading a blog post by my teacher and a CBS news article, each about the Richie Incognito/Jonathan Martin fiasco, was how the term “bulling” really should have been replaced with the word “harassment.”

It is easier to excuse bulling. Bullying is Suzy pushing Rebecca in the playground, or Tommy calling Jacob smelly. Bullying is what school children deal with. How could an adult not “man-up” enough to handle such a small thing?

Harassment, however, carries the proper weight that constant and unprofessional torment in the workplace deserves. Harassment is illegal. Harassment will get you fired. Arguably, bullying should carry this weight as well, but one must use the words that properly gather the feeling of a matter when the matter is at hand.

Now, when writing this article I quickly googled what people thought the differences were, but the arguments were weak. One article said harassment implies physical force, however, the legal definition does not specify that this is the only factor of harrasment.

Words are powerful. That’s why people are more willing to approve the “Affordable Care Act” than they are “Obamacare” despite the fact that these words mean the same thing.

It’s why the reproductive rights debate in the U.S. today use emotionally charged language like “pro-life” instead of “anti-choice,” and “child” or “baby” instead of “zygote,” “embryo,” or “fetus.”

In important issues, one must stake stock of the emotional weight, meaning, and nuances of language.

Creative Commons Attribution: winnifredxoxo, flicker

Creative Commons Attribution: winnifredxoxo, flicker
Cue cliché picture of old fashioned weights. You know…for measuring the weight of words and such.

Then I got to the portion of the article that involved victim blaming and it was like a switch shut off in my head. How does one reason with such madness? With a person that is part of a culture being so repeatedly misguided.

I see no way that these people blaming Martin for the harassment have thought that out logically. Incognito was sending Martin death threats about his family, and was calling him racial slurs. What possess a person to spend so much of their time making anther human being’s life awful? There is literally no logical rational for that. There is no way that someone can say Martin was at fault without sounding like a horrible person.

Cases like this illuminate problems in other areas of life. It is a small step to take from blaming a man for his own suffering of racist and cruel harassment to blaming a girl for being sexually assaulted.

Women in Government–If this were a survey, the results would be rubbish!

Women are dramatically underrepresented in our government. They share this under representation with other minority groups (and I’m using that term in its sociological definition—a group that is subset from the social majority which holds most of the power in a society—and not it’s “popular” definition [and I say that with as much feigned-butsortofactual-disdain as possible] of numerical majority, since, you know, women are the numerical majority *phew*).

This is a problem. It’s sad that I even need to say that. Or that there may be people reading this that disagree.

In 2013, women make up 18.3% of the U.S. Congress. There are only 5 female Governors. That’s 10% guys.

50.8% of the U.S. population is female!

Oh, and don’t sit nice and comfy in front of your computer thinking haughtily “at least the U.S. is better than other places.” Oh no…Oh no honey, it isn’t though. According to the UN’s infographic Women in Politics 2012, we place 78th in a ranking of countries by women in congress. That’s 78th place after other places tie with each other. We actually tie too–with Turkmenistan.

If you’re one of those people who think Muslim women are super oppressed in “their own” countries, I’ll be glad to burst your superiority bubble. Of the 15 countries with the highest populations of Muslims in the world, 9, (N-I-N-E!) beat us when it comes to female representation in government. In fact, most of the nations we deem “developing countries” beat us as well!

Now, discussions like this tend to start leaning towards the idea of biological and set femininity—that women are better at handling issues related to women because it’s something inherent in them. I’d like to break that part of the discussion right now. According to Unicef’s The State of the World’s Children 2007,

“Women are often exposed to different patterns of socialization and have different life experiences than men and are likely to bring their experience and expertise to bear on their political decisions. While important changes have been taking place over the past few decades, in most countries, women still bear the main caregiving responsibilities for their families, including children and the elderly” (54).

These patterns of socialization are also why women are less likely to run for office. Many women aren’t socialized to think they can hold a political office, so they don’t strive for it as much as men who are socialized to think they can. The effect of this socialization floods into many other fields (STEM, I’m looking at you! >.>)

A good way to think about the problem of under representation of women in government lies in sociological research. The idea that a sample must be an accurate representation of the total population being researched is constantly drilled into the Sociology student’s head. In order to collect data from a sample (the group of people who were picked to participate) that actually represents the total population, you need to make sure that it’s made up of individuals that actually match the characteristics of the population.

If you’re doing a study that isn’t about gender or race, and you want to make sure these variables don’t disproportionately affect your results, there are sampling methods to help you do this.  One is especially good at representing the ideas of the total population as a whole, by making sure the proportions of people in the sample are the same as in the population—it’s called proportionate stratified sampling. If 10% of a certain population is female, 10% of your sample should be randomly selected females. If 20% of the population is white, 20% of the sample is white.

If, however, a researcher wanted to know how the opinions of different genders or races differ, you need to have a sample size of each category so you have enough data from each to do a comparison (this could be used if, say, you wanted to do a survey on women’s vs. men’s opinions in the field of engineering). This is called disproportionate stratified sampling.

The key with disproportionate stratified sampling is, you want more opinions from a certain group.

Hehehee, the only public domain picture I could find was of one of former President Bush's State of the Union addresses, though, he did appoint Condeleeza Rice as Secretary of State, so perhaps he applies more positively than one may think to this post.

Hehehee, the only public domain picture I could find was of one of former President Bush’s State of the Union addresses, though, he did appoint Condoleezza Rice as Secretary of State, so perhaps he applies more positively than one may think to this post.

Hopefully, you can see how I think this applies to the government. If the sample (elected officials) is unrepresentative of the population (the U.S. citizens), how can their ideas truly represent the whole? Spoiler: they can’t. No, the “sample” has a disproportionate number of men than the total population, and that metaphorically makes it a disproportionate stratified sample. Their opinions are inordinately overrepresented. Unfortunately, “unrepresentative” in that first sentence applies to literal government representation—elected officials are meant to carry out the will of the citizens who elect them.

Some may say “Men can represent women just as well as women can!” That could be and in some cases is very true! Unfortunately, most of the men in government simply don’t pay enough attention to issues that affect women. That Unicef’s The State of the World’s Children 2007 thing from earlier also stated,

“A study of legislatures in the United States, for example, found that women feel a special responsibility to represent other women and consider themselves more capable of representing their interests ” (54).

Women don’t just think they are more capable of representing other women’s interests, they really do represent them. According to the UN’s infographic Women in Politics 2012, of the 1065 portfolios held by Women Ministers (in government, of course), in 188 countries, 98 fell in the category of “Social Affairs” (9.2%), 79 in the category of “Family/Children/Youth/Elderly/Disabled” (7.4%), 73 in the category of “Women’s Affairs/Gender Equality” (6.9%), and 68 in “Education” and in “Employment/Labour/Vocational Training” (6.4%).

Women in government truly do advocate for other women (though, it should be noted, although women are more likely than men to advocate for women’s issues, not all women advocate for women’s issues.)

So don’t let your subconscious prejudices hold you back—go out and vote for your qualified female mayors, representatives, senators, and governors!