Bikini vs. Burqa: from my Facebook wall

Bikinis Make Men See Women as Objects, Scans Confirm

Sexy women in bikinis really do inspire some men to see them as objects, according to a new study of male behavior.

Brain scans revealed that when men are shown pictures of scantily clad women, the region of the brain associated with tool use lights up.

Men were also more likely to associate images of sexualized women with first-person action verbs such as “I push, I grasp, I handle,” said lead researcher Susan Fiske, a psychologist at Princeton University.

And in a “shocking” finding, Fiske noted, some of the men studied showed no activity in the part of the brain that usually responds when a person ponders another’s intentions.  (Read more here.)

bikini vs. burka
COLUMBIA ROOMMATE  The text is true but the picture is misguided. Women are nor forced to where bikinis in the US, whereas women are forced to cover their skin in certain Arabic countries. It’s a choice / human rights question.
FELLOW HIGH SCHOOL ALUM  And bikinis are awesome.
ACTIVIST  Women who wish to cover their faces are forced not to in certain ‘western’ countries. That’s an equally unfair restriction on personal freedom. The picture says everybody’s an idiot, which is pretty fair.
COLUMBIA ROOMMATE  Yeah, not in the US. I somehow doubt that al-Qãhırıï is making an anti-France point here.
ACTIVIST  That’s true, but he didn’t actually name the US so I’m looking at things in a more global sense since most of the world isn’t America. The point remains the same though – personal freedom does include the choice to be modest, and there are more countries than France restricting that now. It’s all childish anyway – how another human being dresses doesn’t change my life.
COLUMBIA ROOMMATE  I’m all for absolute freedom in how people dress. Including going naked.
ACTIVIST I’d like to limit being naked, mostly because a great majority of people are not people I’d want to see naked 🙂
RED CROSS  i feel sorry about you activist.
al-Qãhırıï  ‎@COLUMBIA ROOMMATE it’s complicated:  Sociology of Gender:  the Hijab
COLUMBIA ROOMMATE  Thanks for posting that paper, al-Qãhırıï. I agree that a snap judgment that women wear a hijab due to patriarchal oppression is not the most educated view. In fact, let’s say it is 100% incorrect and damaging.
If we agree on that point, I think it boils down to one’s view on the role of religion in a political state. If one believes that religion and state are inseparable, then the mandate to wear a hijab is practically consistent and appropriate – a law that encourages alignment with the religious text on which the government’s policies are based. Makes sense.
If one, on the other hand, believes that religion and state should be separated, then it is wrong to force a woman to wear a hijab.
Of course, things are never this simple. There are gray areas and questions much more difficult to answer, depending on one’s beliefs. For example, if one believes in a human being’s intrinsic right to free expression, then even a government based on religion, despite its innate drive to align law and faith, is alienating a right. It’s very structure, its very essence, alienates that right.
And then there are some purely theoretical angles to this question. For example, imagine Culture X which only allows its people to wear green hats. The people of Culture X only grow up wearing green hats and the idea of wearing any hat but a green one seems ridiculous, even alien. Now imagine Culture Y, which allows its people to wear any color hat. Certain colors may be more popular, but people grow up to pick the color they like best on their own. While a member of Culture X may not understand why anyone would want to wear a non-green hat, that same member may have potentially chosen a different color had he been born into Culture Y. This opens up another can of worms – whether the “purpose” of the individual should be the flexing of his individualism or the attempt to maintain harmony of the group.
I am not saying I believe or do not believe in any of these views. Just laying the groundwork for any kind of discussion that is to be had on this topic.
al-Qãhırıï  ‎@COLUMBIA ROOMMATE that’s an amazing comment!
Now here’s a pickle: I don’t believe that Islam and law are separable, meaning that Islam is the basis for what’s right, permissible, inadvisable and wrong in a Muslim’s life.
This is different than “church & state” in that there does not need to be an Islamic state for a Muslim to choose the Islamic legal framework.
NOW, whether or not there is a state, there is no legal basis for forcing a woman to cover herself. The wording of the Qur-an, as I showed in the paper you read, lists two reasons for covering: to be recognized and to not be molested. That’s usually said to mean to be recognized as a believer and to discourage unwanted advances.
There is no legal punishment for a woman to reveal her body in the shari’ah. There are numerous recorded instances when Muhammad saw a woman without her head or face covered and did not force her to cover them. These narrations are also a source of Islamic law. Since there is no legal precedent for punishing/enforcing the Islamic dress code, in my eyes this leaves the situation at the verse “There is no compulsion in the religion” (Qur-an 2.256). So if a woman is not a believer or doesn’t want to be recognized as one, and/or does not fear/mind advances, she is free.
So IF and, since we know, WHEN a government forces a woman to adopt the Islamic dress code, they have stepped beyond the bounds of their authority and onto her right of choice. You may as well know that the only government I know of which enforces the head-covering is Iran. I am in Saudi Arabia and I can see women with their heads and faces uncovered every day outside. There is a requirement to wear a cloak (abaya). I think this goes to your very relevant point about grey areas, in this instance the grey area between cultural norms and religious requirements. In Oman, for example, where the laws are much more lax, no one tells a woman what to wear, but she knows she would stick out like a sore thumb without long, loose clothing. It is a sort of peer pressure, and I believe this is the only valid way to expect people to change: by presenting so many examples that they either agree with or start to respect the point. No one should be forced to do what they don’t believe in, or prevented from doing what they believe, unless there is an established harm in it.
COLUMBIA ROOMMATE Awesome post. Thanks for writing it. I think we see eye to eye on this.
al-Qãhırıï  we been seein’ eye-to-eye a lot lately…
Related Posts

Sociology of Deviance: not shaking Hands with Women

My final college class was a summer school course at the University of Texas-Austin.  It was a Sociology class about deviance.  One of our assignments was to observe deviant behavior and write a report.  I chose to focus on the fact that I do not shake hands with women and record their reactions to it, and analyze the meaning of it all.  I’ve edited this from the draft I turned in for typographical errors as well as to say things which the maximum word count did not let me explain.


Daniel Nehemiah Oliver

Sociology 366- Deviance

Professor Mark Stafford

I don’t shake hands with women.  It’s awkward to refuse an outstretched arm and open hand, but I’m a Muslim, so I say “I’m a Muslim.  I can’t shake hands with you but I have respect.”  I openly admit that this is my interpretation of Islam, but I also insist that it is backed by evidence.  To refuse to shake hands is deviant behavior.  Everybody does it.  To openly discriminate against women and act like it’s alright goes beyond deviance:  it offends the basic notions of our modern society.

To get observations of reactions to deviant behavior (and to test my own personal resolve),  I made arrangements to be hired by one of Austin’s IRS offices.  Throughout the hiring process, orientation and work, I declined to shake hands with any woman I encountered, with the same line.  I recorded my observations surreptitiously, mostly by memorizing them until I could transcribe them after the end of the workday.  Here is my summary of their reactions:

  1.  Indifference- 50%

Example:  After arriving for an interview at the IRS, I met the liaison who was paging me.  She reached out to shake hands, I delivered my line and she said “Fine that’s OK”.

  1.  Annoyed acceptance- 20%

Example:  I soon met the senior supervisor.  When she reached out to shake hands and I explained, she drew her face, looking visibly upset, then withdrew her hand.

  1. Active Rejection- 10%

Example:  A co-worker smiled in approval of my explanation, but then proceeded to step forward, reach out and grab my hand.  I let her do it because I did not want the experiment to proceed into physical aggression.

  1. Passive Rejection- 10%

Example:  I explained myself as above and the woman asked if we could do it “just once”.  It was as if the norm could not be broken in her mind;  no way a man can refuse to touch a woman, just because she’s a woman.   I used a lot of smiles but didn’t make any moves forward, so the subject was more or less dropped.

  1. Debate- 10%

Example:  One co-worker opened up a discussion with questions like:

“If you or I had gloves on, then could we shake hands?”

“What about hugs?”

“What if a woman is your relative?  You can’t shake hands with your own mother?”

The last reaction type, “Debate”, was the most revealing to me.  I already knew what not shaking hands with females meant to me, and that it was a deviant behavior.  But it was important to know what it meant to them.  Why was it deviant?  How did they feel that deviant behavior should be dealt with.

From the debates I learned that the main issue was equality.  To borrow from Goffman, equality is an identity norm, i.e.

Sociology figure Erving Goffman

everybody thinks everyone has to be equal.  But does everybody define equality equally?  Deep down, and not very deep, everyone knows that we are not equal*.  The problem is all the connotations that inequality has:  powerful/powerless, superiority/inferiority, deserving/undeserving, etc.  Shaking hands is something that everybody does with everybody else.  Regardless of age, health status, gender, sexuality, income level or any other factor, we all shake hands.  It doesn’t really mean that we are equal, it is more like our agreement to refuse to acknowledge our inequalities.  By shaking hands with you, I am ignoring all the things I notice about you, and you are ignoring all the things you notice about me.  That’s what makes it a norm.  We are not being equal, we are equalizing ourselves.

When someone breaks from that, when someone makes explicit the unspeakable, by acknowledging that there are differences, this is a deviance.  This is a violation of a socio-psycho-emotional atmosphere that we’ve all been trained to maintain at all costs.  It is an offense, a mockery, a crime.  To deviate, knowing what deviance is, is a further outrage, because it is not a mistake.  It is a calculated refutation of reality, a presentation of evidence that some realities are only thought to be real.  Some truths are only relative.  It says that everybody does not know that, you only think you do.  True deviance, as opposed to crime or vulgarity, is a check and balance on pre-conceived notions.  It regulates the level of institutionalization in a society, by making people think again about things that have been taken for granted for so long by so many that they haven’t been pondered over.  That, I finally understand, is why we bother to study deviance.  It is the reminder, however unwelcome, that there can be change, the insistence that there should be, and the example of how there could be.

After I’d collected enough observations, I quit.


Equals? Can they be? NEED they be?

*And is this really so wrong, to know and say that we are unequal?  Take the benign example of green and red.  Who will say that they are equal?  Green is not red.  Red is not green.  They are both colors, but they are not equal.  They are not identical, but does that stop them from being identified with each other?  If we said that they were equal, that would only mean that we are not identifying them properly.  Can the same not go with people?

Green is as different from red as red is different from green.  They are equal in their inequality, or difference, to each other.  They are equal, it seems to be implied, in their right to be different from each other.  Green is somehow a defiance, a refutation, of red.  It does not have to be red.  Red does not need to be green.

But this does not mean some sort of superiority or privilege for one of the colors.  Nor do differences and inequalities have to for people.  These associations are unnecessary, arbitrary, slanderous politicizations with no inherent presence.  Green can be better than red, if you’re painting a picture with grass.  Red can be better than green, if you know that it will make a car stop when you need it to.  And people are much the same.  We are different.  We are not equal.  This makes us useful to each other and to the world we share.  I don’t want who I am to be ignored.  I don’t want to be thought of as you, even though I love you.  Needs and circumstances make certain people better than others.  They become more useful, more effective, more necessary.  It is not treating all people the same that gives them their rights.  A person more completely receives her or his right when his or her strengths are encouraged and weaknesses are covered.

What lies ahead…

The greatest jihad that lies before the Muslims today is to establish
a true Islamic society which people will see and which will make Islam
attractive to them, so that they will turn to Islam voluntarily,
because they will see an example or attitude, morals and manners to be
followed. (1)

The individual in the Muslim society is required to work, within the
limits of his specialty and potential, to develop his society and make
it a strong, coherent and rich society that is independent of others,
qualified to convey the message of heaven to the earth, providing
strong evidence of the greatness of Islam and its suitability for all
places and all times.  Bu this Muslim society will never achieve this
unless the Muslims understand their responsibility, for Allah has made
them his trustees (khulafaa, singular:  khaleefah) on the earth, so
that they may cause His word to prevail, apply His laws and spread the
divinely-ordained way of life that was brought by the Qur-an and

This requires them to be pro-active, ambitious, persistent and
serious, keen to make good use of their time, organized in all things,
productive, hard-working and constantly developing and renewing. (2)

(1) al-Hashimi, Dr. Muhammad Ali, The Ideal Muslim Society as defined
in the Qur-an and Sunnah, International Islamic Publishing House, 2007
(Translated by Nasireddin al-Khattab), p. 403

(2) ibid., pp. 358-9