“Je suis Charlie.” I am angry today. Because a bunch of irreverent journalists were murdered, because the attacks on the Jewish people never never end, because France as a bastion of secularism is under attack, because we’re all under attack—aided by yet one more book written by a bunch of men in the distant past telling women what to do and what to wear.
The images of Islam coming out of Paris today and images from the time my grandson and I spent in Dubai, Oman and Kuwait this summer are scrolling through my mind in a jumble. Right now I am focusing on my visceral response to the public image of religiously-clothed Muslim women. I am so struck by the young woman fugitive in her pictures as a young woman with her boyfriend and then as eyes peering out from a blacked-out head.
I want to shout sometimes, ‘why can’t anything ever be simple?’ ‘Straightforward?’ ‘For sure?’ No ambiguities. No confusion.
It’s that fugitive. The terrorist. Hayat Boumeddiene. She looks so normal in two of the photos, a young brown-haired French woman. Then there is the photo of her in full black garb, face covered, hands and barely-revealed eyes focused on the cross-bow she’s aiming.
That latter photo so arouses my anger, NOT because she’s aiming a cross-bow, NOTeven to the extent that the weapon might represent her future as a wanted criminal—the Bonnie to her now-dead Clyde.
My anger is directed at the concealed woman and whatever societal claptrap is concealing her. Don’t do blah blah blah about how it’s none of my business or tradition or respecting cultural customs…NO WOMAN REALLY DEEP DOWN WANTS TO BE SHROUDED, CONCEALED, BURIED ALIVE—anymore than any man does. But hey…who wrote the book.
I’ve written about this on previous travel posts but the French fugitive has reminded me of what deep anger I feel when I see shrouded women. Can’t help it. Want to respect custom but a little voice always says, ‘which customs?’ Fish on Friday, no pork ever, cake with afternoon coffee? Or slavery, public beheading, drowning witches, subjugating women?
I wore the black overgarment called the abaya this fall for a tour of Kuwait’s grand mosque, not the face covering but all of the rest of it. It was only briefly hot and uncomfortable because, after all guided tours tend to be short. The rest of the day I moved about as freely as my grandson in lightweight pants and long-sleeved shirt. It was fine, our friendly smart young Muslim guide did the same as she robed and unrobed, before and after the tour.
Then, for the last adventure of our Big Trip we went to a highly recommended and rather fancy Kuwait City restaurant on the beach. And, as previously written, the Saudi couples started coming in mid-afternoon. The ‘tall, dark and handsome’ men and the completely draped and blacked-out women. Only the eyes are available when the face-covering niqab is worn.
Do not tell me these rich young Saudi women who buy their pretty clothes in the elegant streets and high end shops of the world WANT TO GO OUT TO EAT IN A BIG BLACK TENT-LIKE THING. Because I will never believe you.
Okay, I am just angry today. Because a bunch of irreverent journalists were murdered, because the attacks on the Jewish people never never end, because France as a bastion of secularism is under attack, because we’re all under attack—aided by yet one more book written by a bunch of men in the distant past telling us what to do and what to wear.
I was going to close with the first stanza of Helen Reddy’s “I Am Woman” …just because. But it occurs to me that ‘hear me roar’ could be what the Hayat the fugitive is muttering to herself in a hideout somewhere in cold foggy France or maybe Turkey or by now she’s in Syria ‘roaring,’ powerful again in her own jihadist way…and she’s doing it all in the full regalia of traditional Muslim womanhood apparently. Which does make for a secretive existence it’s true…if that’s what you need…and she did and she does.
I am fascinated by the many contradictions of this one very bad girl. What we’re willing to do for our 15 minutes of power…
Honestly I am by nature respectful of many things—only good things in my mind. But not of any of the sacred cows of religion or politics or popular culture. And the Charlie Hebdo killings were all about maintaining the untouchables–which is what all dictatorial systems have always desired.
Oh what the heck…
I am woman, hear me roar
In numbers too big to ignore
And I know too much to go back an’ pretend
‘Cause I’ve heard it all before
And I’ve been down there on the floor
No one’s ever gonna keep me down again