The Hypocrisy of Feminist Outrage
If it is okay for women to bare it all in public without regard to the sensitivities of those around them, why is it not ok for men to make comments regarding women’s dress without regard to their sensitivities? Perhaps catcallers are just sexually expressing themselves. Perhaps that is what freedom and equality are all about.
The viral NYC Catcall video has caused a stir in social media and online forums. It records a woman receiving over 100 catcalls from men as she walks the streets of New York City for 10 hours.
Just consider the 100,000+ youtube comments alone. While most commenters found the behavior of the catcalling men disgusting, some took issue with how the woman in the video was dressed. These commenters were daring enough to suggest that perhaps she would have attracted less negative attention had she dressed more “modestly.”
This suggestion, in turn, was met with backlash. How dare anyone “blame the victim” by suggesting that a woman change the way she dresses because men cannot or will not act with common decency!
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What do we make of all this?
Is it completely outlandish to suggest that the way a woman (or man) dresses has an impact on how others treat her (or him)?
A Different Kind of Sexual Harassment
Here is another suggestion: why can’t we recognize that sexual harassment can go both ways?
Often, we characterize catcalling men as the predators who harass helpless women. What about immodest dress? If a person dresses in “sexy” clothes and goes out in public, why shouldn’t we consider this a form of sexual harassment in its own right?
Let me be frank. As a Muslim man, it is not easy walking through the streets these days. Women’s fashion continues to get increasingly sexy and provocative, and, in effect, public spaces are increasingly sexualized. From an Islamic perspective, the harm caused to individuals by this is clear and inarguable. Even from a non-religious perspective, constantly bombarding men with sexiness can be tortuous. Think of men or adolescent males who for whatever reason cannot find a sexual partner. Or think of married men being endlessly tempted by strangers as soon as they step out of the house. And, of course, the same or analogous harm can be inflicted on women by provocatively dressed men.
So, given the extent of this harm, why can’t concerned members of society raise their voices and say, enough is enough?
Unfortunately, people who do suggest that public dress should abide by basic standards of decency are characterized as prudes and out-of-touch religious fundamentalists. Even the words “decency” and “modesty” are seen as relics of a patriarchal past.
“So what if a woman wants to show some skin?” is the typical line. “A woman’s right to bare it all is what freedom and equality is all about! This is the 21st century. Are we still talking about women dressing ‘modestly’? How quaint! Modesty is dead. Women have the right to express their sexuality any way they please. If some women want to dress in long skirts, cover their hair, wear burkas, etc., that’s fine, but don’t tell anyone else how to dress.”
These are the arguments, more or less, from self-proclaimed “feminists” (especially third-wave) and others on the subject of modest dress. (Of course, there are many schools of thought in the feminist movement, and we should be cautious about characterizing feminists with too broad a brush. For example, some feminists will argue that current fashion merely serves to “objectify” women and, thus, serves the interests of men. But, even among this group, few would analyze the issue of women’s dress from the lens of men as victims, and even fewer would endorse the view that women’s dress be dictated by the sensitivities of men.)
Whose Power and Control?
The problem with the above argument against modesty is that it is hypocritical or, at least, wildly inconsistent.
When it comes to street harassment, catcalling is considered indecent, disrespectful, and immodest, to say the least. That means that, contrary to the above rant about “modesty being dead,” we all recognize and understand the value of these concepts, at least in the context of street harassment. And that means that we all do recognize some standard of decency, modesty, and respect. So why don’t we similarly recognize that a person’s dress could (and should) also abide by standards of modesty and decency?
In other words, it is hypocritical to bemoan the lack of decency/modesty on the part of catcallers but then, in the same breath, deny that those same concepts of decency/modesty can apply to the way people dress.
In response to this, some might argue that their grievance against street harassment has nothing to do with some arcane notion of decency, modesty, or honor. Rather, what makes street harassment so odious is that it is an instance of a person “exerting power and control over someone else.”
But, again, from a certain perspective, provocative dress, too, can be understood as an exertion of power over others in the public space, even an act of violence. From the Islamic worldview, for example, a person’s gaze is an invaluable treasure to be protected as it serves as the gateway to the heart/mind. And, while much of the onus in protecting one’s gaze falls on the person himself, others bear some moral responsibility too in being mindful of what they display in the presence of others. As we will see below, this moral-metaphysical construct has clear parallels in the legal and psychoanalytical traditions of the secular West.
Double Standards Abound
Ultimately, the point is if feminists wanted to be consistent, they should adopt the same hands-off attitude with respect to catcallers as they have for fashion.
If it is ok for women to bare it all in public without regard to the sensitivities of those around them, why is it not ok for men to make comments regarding women’s dress without regard to their sensitivities?
After all, perhaps catcallers are just sexually expressing themselves. Perhaps that is what freedom and equality are all about. Few would deny that men and women have different, gender-specific modes of sexual expression. If women can “own their bodies” by displaying it, why can’t men “own their feelings” by expressing their instinctual reactions to what women display?
Besides, on what basis can it be argued that a woman being catcalled suffers any real harm? Are comments like, “Hey beautiful,” by strange men in actuality harmful to a woman? How so?
Of course, I believe there is harm, but I also believe that immodest dress can be equally if not more harmful to onlookers.
Blaming the Victim
The suggestion that people modify their behavior or dress in order to avoid sexual harassment or assault is widely considered as nothing more than “blaming the victim.” What do we make of this?
First of all, as I have already said, certain kinds of behavior and dress should be understood as unacceptable due to the fact that they cause harm to others. (This is in line with secular moral reasoning, namely that only acts that harm others can be legally regulated or even deemed immoral in the first place.) A woman or man dressed provocatively, walking in public causes acute harm to those around her or him. As Muslims, we recognize this harm in the Islamic sense, but it should not be too difficult for non-Muslims to recognize – or at least acknowledge the possibility of – this harm as well. A few examples:
1- Workplace standards of dress: All places of business in the West have dress codes. The idea is that dressing provocatively is inappropriate as it can cause distraction and unneeded sexual tension that can contribute to a hostile working environment. If those standards are commonplace, why is it so hard to understand that provocative dress can be cause for a hostile public space?
2- Children: Everyone seems to recognize that children should not be exposed to certain kinds of scenes or images. That is why the MPAA in the US puts out movie ratings (PG, PG-13, etc.) and pundits question the presence of dancing cheerleaders at professional sporting events where children are present. Few would deny that there is harm, psychological or otherwise, that can afflict children exposed to sexually provocative imagery. Well, why can’t we extend that logic to adults? Could regular exposure to sexually provocative imagery cause psychological or neurological harm in adults? Scientific research has already concluded as much.
3- Indecent exposure laws: As it turns out, Saudia Arabia, Iran, and the Taliban are not the only governments that dictate to their populations how much to cover themselves. Secular countries also have laws about what parts of the human body can or cannot be exposed in public spaces. Oftentimes, these laws simply represent Western cultural norms and, thus, go unquestioned, whereas analogous laws in Muslim countries that do not reflect Western norms are criticized. But, as far as Western norms go, who gets to decide that certain parts of the body, such as genitalia or a woman’s chest, are the only areas on the body that need to be covered in public? As any anthropologist can explain, different cultures have different views on dress, nudity, and the metaphysical and social significance of displaying the body. What is considered “naked” in one culture might be “modest,” even “prudish,” in another and vice versa. By means of colonialism and mass media, however, Western standards of dress and nudity have been mass imposed around the globe to such an extent that much of the world’s intuitions and subjective views on bodily propriety reflect Western sensibilities. In contrast to these idiosyncratic sensibilities, Islamic norms are seen (and experienced) as restrictive, alien, even barbaric. Even many Muslim women in hijab consciously feel like the veil is burdensome and would prefer to dress “normally” and only refrain from doing so due to their (commendable) religious devotion. If these Muslim women were taken back in time to, say, the year 1910 in America or Europe, the hijab would not stand out at all, since, even then, it was considered improper for a woman to expose her hair in public, let alone wear miniskirts and high heels. While the “normal” in secular society is in constant flux, Islamic principles of `awrah have remained consistent.
With these examples in mind, it is not hard to motivate the idea that, even from a secular perspective, immodest dress can cause harm. Does this mean that the woman in the viral video deserved the disrespectful treatment? Does this mean that a scantily dressed woman (or man) deserves to be sexually assaulted?
Absolutely not. Such harassment is never justifiable. But that fact has no bearing on the question of what is or is not appropriate dress and behavior. As Muslims, we should not be hesitant to denounce sexual harassment in the form of catcalling while also noting that immodest displays are in their own way a form of harassment that ought to be curbed with appropriate dress.
Ultimately, the implication is that, through these kinds of arguments, we can justify and demonstrate the ethical superiority of modest dress, such as the hijab, even from a secular, non-religious perspective. In this way, rather than being defensive and apologetic about hijab, Muslims should be confident in the emphasis their religion puts on modesty and even propose the hijab (and its analogs) to non-Muslims as a clear moral alternative.
What About Sexual Harassment Against Veiled Women?
Of course, some will be quick to point out that modestly dressed women, even women in full hijab, are still victims of catcalling and sexual assault. This response completely misses the point.
No one claims that dressing modestly will completely foreclose on the possibility of receiving negative attention. The claim is simply that, all else being equal, modest dress, e.g., hijab, significantly reduces the likelihood of such harassment. In fact, a recent youtube video demonstrated precisely this claim in spectacular fashion. So, yes, while women in hijab are, unfortunately, frequent victims of catcalling in Cairo’s busy streets, for example, the undeniable fact remains that the harassment would be much, much worse if these same women were dressed in yoga pants, tank tops, and other common Western styles.
Defining the Provocative
Throughout this post, I have expounded on the harm of “provocative dress” without defining exactly what this phrase means. Are short sleeves “provocative”? Are skinny jeans? Are maxi dresses? Is a one-piece swimsuit more or less provocative than a bikini?
I do not need to define the term because, as US Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart famously said about the concept of obscenity, I know it when I see it. Clearly, what is or is not provocative is in the eye of the beholder, and cultural standards shift all the time. But all is not lost to radical subjectivity and relativism. For example, at the very least, people today generally share this notion of “sexiness” within a given culture. In fact, being sexy is a sought after quality when it comes to dress and general demeanor. So, it is this commonplace notion that I would tie to “provocativeness” in benchmarking a more extensive discussion of appropriate dress in the public sphere. In other words, let’s scale back the sex appeal.
It is noteworthy that in many cultures and religions throughout time we find parallels to the Muslim standards of hijab. In the Jewish and Christian traditions, covering the hair and donning loose fitting clothes were the norm. These archetypal modes of dress can also be found in non-Abrahamic traditions. For the majority of human history, numerous civilizations independently maintained a common conception of modesty, virtue, and honor, as if these standards emanated from a universal source. Even in Western society, up until 60 or 70 years ago, these values still had currency. But, ever since, everything has been up in the air.
Rules of Engagement
If anyone can be blamed for the erosion of basic norms of sexual propriety as seen in the catcalling video and elsewhere, some of the blame must fall on the “Sexual Revolution” itself. What is obvious is that the hypersexualization of the public space in modern times, driven by the “sexual revolutionaries” of the past 50 years, is directly contributing to the catcalling and harassment happening on the streets of our cities, among other things.
The 20th century Sexual Revolution in the West was meant to subvert sexual norms and standards of behavior between the sexes — norms and standards deemed coquettish at best, oppressive at worst. What feminists, modernists, and sexual revolutionaries failed to realize in their haste to overturn the old rules is that some of those mores might have actually served a crucial purpose.
For example, is it appropriate to shamelessly proposition a stranger in public by way of catcall?
But what about “hitting on” said stranger?
Well, depends on the situation.
Is it appropriate to meet someone at a bar and decide to go home with her for the night?
In today’s culture, yes.
What if that person has had too much to drink?
Well, that becomes a little trickier…
How much alcohol is too much? What if the stranger is willing and ready? What if the stranger has boyfriend? What if the stranger is willing now, but changes her mind half way through? Or the next day? What if the person is not a stranger but a coworker? What if the location is not a bar but an office party? What if the coworker is married? etc., etc., etc.
The point is there are countless rules and standards of behavior — both explicit and implicit, of varying degrees of subtlety — that dictate appropriate sexual behavior even in “sexually liberated,” third-wave feminist Western culture. But the very existence of these rules squarely conflicts with the “no rules,” “no inhibitions,” free love,” “free sexual expression” ethos of the post-sexual revolution world we inhabit.
Hypocrisy Upon Hypocrisy
The hypocrisy is we are teaching and conditioning members of society, men and women, that “free sexual expression” is the only way to be healthy but, then, we are outraged by certain kinds of “indecency,” e.g., catcalling. Is it really that surprising that when people are incessantly told to, “Throw away your inhibitions,” “Don’t be a prude,” “Let the inner animal loose,” that the result will be an increase of indecency and socially taboo behaviors? Again, from a certain perspective, catcallers are essentially just expressing their sexuality. Maybe it would be “prudish” of us to suggest that they hold their tongues.
The lasting effects of the Sexual Revolution are reverberating in the street, in our homes, and in our psyches. Young people are the unfortunate victims. Things are so confused that girls are having trouble understanding if they have been victims of rape or not. Boys are insecure if they have not lost their virginity by the end of middle school.
Just look at the contradictions in the field of fashion itself. Girls as young as 10 are encouraged to dress sexy, but what does this amount to other than attracting sexual attention from others? Obviously certain kinds of attention are socially acceptable and others are not, but what are these standards grounded in? Not tradition, not cultural memory, not elderly counsel, not organized religion. The rules exist and the consequences are steep, but the institutions that historically were responsible for instilling these norms have all been undermined by the vicious anti-authoritarianism of modern sexual liberation. Yet the same voices calling for liberation are also the ones bemoaning the acts of catcallers and sexual harassers.
We are all victims of this hypocrisy.
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November 17, 2014 at 4:16 AM
I think this is argued really well and the conclusion is right on. One thing worth mentioning maybe: I think it’s tricky to phrase the beginning argument as it’s phrased here. Specifically the idea that men are harmed through provocative dress of others. It’s true that on a psychological and spiritual level it is harmful, and to an audience of Muslims (such as on this site) this argument will register just fine. But I think if we’re to ever pitch this argument to non-Muslims we should change the phrasing. To a non-Muslim, saying ‘it hurts men’ makes it sound like a Men’s Rights argument which, regardless of its validity/invalidity, is perceived negatively and with ridicule in discussion today. Perhaps it would be better not to include this line then in order to reach the point of social spiritual/mental harm.
But I don’t want to sound negative. This is written very well, and was a great read.
November 17, 2014 at 7:08 AM
Perhaps that’s part of the problem – allowing the liberals to take control of the narrative, such that even the appearance of similarity of arguments to one of their denounced ideological groups is not allowed. So we can’t even *sound like* the MRA because, hey, those guys are looked down upon by the liberal/left-wing. Better not upset them.
Personally, I think this is one of the major points of the article – inverting the lens of sexual harassment. It’s an important part of Daniel’s argument, because it’s an example of how the liberal/feminist view on the issue is completely one-sided, and hypocritical.
November 17, 2014 at 9:12 AM
The thing is that it’s not a very good example of “how the liberal/feminist view on the issue is completely one-sided, and hypocritical”, because the “harms” that are being compared are completely different in nature:
1. The harm that is caused to a man by a woman being dressed provocatively: the man feels sexual desire and has to struggle with himself to control it. What happens next is completely within the control of the man – he can decide to act on the sexual desire, or he can decide to control himself (albeit, perhaps, with some difficulty) and go about his normal business.
2. The harm that is caused to woman by a man catcalling her: the woman feels inwardly terrified, because she does not know what will happen next. As the video in question demonstrated, some men do not like their catcalls being ignored – and many women have, in fact, been physically attacked for ignoring these catcalls; while others have been physically attacked for speaking back. Any woman can tell you how deeply unsettling it was to watch a man silently follow the young lady around for 5 minutes, because he objected to being ignored. What happens next is completely outside of the woman’s control, because she cannot control what the man will do, nor does she have the strength to fight him off.
It is disingenuous to compare these two harms, and to say that feminists are being hypocritical when ignoring one of the harms while focusing on the other. The harm that is being focused on relates to a person’s safety from being attacked. Western society considers that to be important.
The other harm relates to helping a person with their self-control and not unnecessarily exposing that person to temptation. Western society places absolutely no value whatsoever on this – most advertising is, in fact, directed to whittling away this self-control, and encouraging us to lose ourselves in consumption and hedonistic desires. I think it’s a little harsh to call feminists hypocritical because they do not recognise the value of helping people with their self-control – when the entire society they live in does not recognise the value of helping people with their self-control.
That is why I agree with Sheharyar. Without laying the foundation of explaining to a Western audience why it is important – in general and not just in relation to sexual matters – to help people with their self-control, it sounds very much like “male tears” to complain about the harm caused to men by women dressing provocatively.
November 17, 2014 at 10:32 AM
I’m not sure the harms are being compared, as such. I think the author was pointing our that the ‘other side of the coin’ (the effect women’s dress has on men) is completely ignored, or worse, conflated with victim-blaming.
I also think the foundation for its understanding has been laid down – it’s quite clear this article is written from an Islamic viewpoint, and even if it weren’t, it clearly shows the contradiction inherent in ‘freedom of choice’ when people’s individual desires conflict (freedom to dress as one pleases and freedom to react to such dress).
I think this is only problematic if one considers feminism completely isolated from the surrounding cultural context – I.e. Western liberalism, as you’ve rightly pointed out. Feminism is simply an offshoot fuelled by, amongst others things, economic concerns.
November 17, 2014 at 12:56 PM
The post details more harms than simply mere temptation. While Westerners (non-Muslims and, unfortunately, Muslims) may not recognize these harms as such, that does not mean that they are not there and are not debilitating. Going into the examples of dress codes, indecent exposure laws, and protecting children from seeing the obscene or lewd was meant to show that, in some way, Western culture and law DOES recognize this harm despite itself. So, no, “temptation” is part of the issue, but there is a lot more to it.
November 17, 2014 at 5:56 PM
@ Brother Daniel. You are officially my top Muslim writer as of right now.
@ Zaheer Feminism = Socialism in Panties.
November 19, 2014 at 5:47 PM
Dear Sir. Can I suggest if you don’t want to be ‘harassed’ by women minding their own business in the street Orr other public place and having no interest in you whatsoever that you solve this problem of yours by just staying indoors?
January 11, 2015 at 12:34 AM
“perhaps she would have attracted less negative attention had she dressed more “modestly.” ”
The youtube video woman is dressed in a crew-neck, short-sleeved t-shirt and pants/jeans. The only thing remotely “immodest” about her clothing is that you can tell she’s a woman.
May 17, 2015 at 8:31 AM
After reading your argument,I observe your point, however, it would be badly misinterpreted by many due to some flaws. First comes the idea/ issue of the entire subject, where the idea of shaming catcalls by creating the Youtube Video is not to Draw attention to the amount of Catcalls received by each woman’s standard of clothing, but to stop the practice altogether.
While it could be argued that it is also hard on men to witness the female form and abstain from any ill mannered attempts, the point here is that woman are being catcalled even if they do wear the veil, something acknowledged by you within this article. Catcalling is in fact harmful to the victims of the catcalls, where a woman dressed in any manner is singled out, and it is neither respectful towards her nor is it welcome. It is not “youre beautiful”, but often gets obscenities from others. At times, especially if the woman is alone, this could lead to her feeling in danger, and can extend to more than just catcalls, but to manners of groping or touching, even if the woman is covered. the following has been observed in many countries, and the fact that you raise this as Men being victims seems to be wrong to me.
This goes back to the principle of self control, of how men should be able to restrain themselves. Woman are not observed going around catcalling men who are shirtless,but men are. And the reality is that today the post “Sexual revolution” era, that women seek to dress and do what they want, and for that to be acceptable, in turn your argument would not suffice unless its within a forum or community with the beliefs such as islam (May many more people believe in it inshalah).
November 17, 2014 at 7:12 AM
your argument is valid and sound but it is trumped by a twisted sense of Western chauvinism. We want to give women in general a wider berth and respect for the whore is a basic Western concept (remember Sex in the City?). There is an anti-Musllim elementl in this. The real double standard does not cross sexual lines. Women can walk down the street with breasts and butt all but bared and in the typical Western mind, that woman is to be respected (I’m up here). But the woman who walks down the street in hijab is often not respected. How many times have you seen hiabis at feminist meeting or on an American woman’s talk show? There is an organized thing in Western culture where women who cover are not to be seen in Western media. The same liberated people who fight over the right of a woman to walk down the street naked, quietly tolerate Western disrespect of Muslim women. Can you imagine what a tape would look like of a covered woman walking alone through crowded city streets of New York or even worse, in the South? Who could could count the dirty looks and stares? In France and in other places, they are laws that outright make it illegal for a woman to cover herself. This is the real double standard. Our sisters right here in America are punished for wearing hijab. Most often, they are denied job opportunities. Yet we end up treating this mistreatment as a fact of life. How often do Muslims tell Muslim women, “take that thing off, or no one will hire you…” Porn is a fact of life in the West. With the internet, I believe it is ubiquitous. So I pray Allah forgive my mannish eyes when they fail me, but for me, that is not the issue. We are being forced to see one kind of woman as normal and this is unfair to women we as Muslims say are openly striving for piety and this is the real double standard and fake freedom of the catcall video. Most Western uncovered women are not models. An overweight woman with bad skin in a tight dress, most of the time is just plain gross.
November 21, 2014 at 11:12 AM
Here is a summary of this comments section:
Article: Thing A is bad. Thing B is bad too.
Comments: OMG! Thing A is really, really bad! How can you deny that Thing A is bad?! How dare you compare Thing A and Thing B! Thing A is not the same as Thing B! Keep it in your pants! Why are you justifying Thing A, you monster?!
November 21, 2014 at 1:39 PM
Sir, you need to learn to be a little less ego-centric (male tendency), and a little more sensitive to the opposite sex (they are women but they are, more importantly, human beings). While feminism has gone too far, you need to realize why it has gone so far – precisely because of the attitudes and the exaggerated sense of entitlement of men. Don’t forget that even when women used to dress very very conservatively, they suffered a whole lot of abuse. So blame the abusers for blowing women away from conservative dress codes. Had Islam not been abused by “muslim” men, Allah would not have allowed the downfall of Muslim societies. If Allah has placed men in a difficult trial in the West, then he has also given them the self-control to succeed in those trials. Please bear with women while they are making blunders in trying desperately to be recognized as human beings.
November 21, 2014 at 4:46 PM
Comments: Don’t Dare Criticize The Zeitgeist Polices. Put your down down and pretend that religion plays, yes even Islam plays no role in society anymore or better yet it shouldn’t.
P.S. As you may have seen on this and other blog, that you reflect very erringly close to what ideas have been forming in my mind in the past fey years; is there a possible way I can communicate with you via email ?
November 23, 2014 at 6:21 PM
Perhaps, Br Daniel, you are being sincere in what you think you have written.
But the article is not: “Thing A is bad. Thing B is bad too.”
The article is: “Thing A is bad. Thing B is equally, if not more bad than Thing A. Furthermore, if people want to suggest that Thing B is okay, then they are being hypocritical if they don’t also suggest that Thing A is okay.”
It is your article that has compared Thing A and Thing B (“equally, if not more …”), and it is your article that has linked the justification of Thing B to the justification of Thing A. The commenters are not some group of crazy people who can’t read.
November 17, 2014 at 2:29 PM
It is a well written argument but stands no ground in a debate.
Moreover this argument will be thrown away by muslim women themselves which is evident from above comments.
We need to understand that we cannot make everyone follow Islam and each one is recompensed according to their deeds.
The tests are going to be more and more rigorous and difficult as the end nears.
Inna akramakum ‘aindAllahi atqaakum
So who ever (male) keeps their gaze lowered will be many ranks higher than who doesn’t
November 17, 2014 at 2:39 PM
I don’t know what debates you are familiar with, but usually the more sound and compelling the argument, the more ground it has in a debate. Also, thanks for letting us know what “Muslim women themselves” will think of the post. If I have any other questions about Muslim women, I’ll be sure to consult with you.
November 17, 2014 at 7:10 PM
What are your grounds on which you are going to debate.
Will you say that as muslim men cannot control their desires the women should not be allowed to wear revealing dress.
Will you say the revealing dresses attract muslim men and they can’t lower the gaze hence women should not wear such dress
Tomorrow you might argue that because muslims cannot control their desire for alcohol, hence all the pubs be closed down.
this is like using these as excuses to commit sin.
This issues have been present ever since civilization and hence Allah swt sent messengers for guidance.
If you wrote your opinion then have the grace to accept other’s opinion even if you don’t like. You don’t need to ask me about muslim women and their opinion because you will know from the responses.
As-Salaamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu.
November 17, 2014 at 7:56 PM
@Mohammed: “What are your grounds on which you are going to debate.” If you scroll up, you will be surprised to discover that I’ve written a whole article on this question. Here is a link for your convenience: http://muslimmatters.org/2014/11/17/the-hypocrisy-of-feminist-outrage
November 18, 2014 at 2:53 AM
Thanks for the link but I read the article before and asked some simple question (see below).
However you ignored that question,
probably because it left you inconvenient and just like any other person who debates to win (not to convey message) you chose an easy way out
November 23, 2014 at 3:34 PM
Muslim women wearing hijabs or even burqas are harassed all the time in Muslim countries, where it is the norm to dress conservatively. Clearly, clothing does not have some magical power associated with it that can protect a woman. Similarly, not wearing enough clothes doesn’t necessarily lead to harassment. We muslims just have to cut our losses and choose Allah over everything else when we wear a hijab. We don’t wear it to please (or pacify) men, but to please Allah.
Secondly, that men are constantly “harassed” with stimuli is a blessing in disguise – it can have a numbing effect and make it easier for men to get used to self-control. By complaining and judging women, and publishing articles such as these, muslims are doing the opposite of dawa.
Lastly, muslim scholars have an important role to play in respecting women and promoting respectful attitudes towards women, so that they’ll feel free to wear proper clothes without somehow appearing oppressed/weak/inviting of sexual assault/or likely to be quiet about sexual assault because they’re ashamed of their bodies. May I take a few minutes to point out the kinds of things I have heard coming out of the blessed mouths of some prominent scholars without naming them? (I’m not using exact words, but it’s very close).
“I enter my wife through the front door” (way to go and be a “satar” for one’s wife. I’m trying not to picture anything)
“I experienced tranquility within a few months of marriage and was able to think clearly” (sounds like someone just went to ‘relieve’ themselves. or I wonder if she is very pretty)
“your husband doesn’t care how big your behind is. So be willing to fulfil his rights.” (how about someone says the same thing to his mother)
Please, these comments are just a few examples, and they’re especially hurtful when said by people we hold in high regard. I’ve taken to avoiding public sermons and youtube videos as much as possible and reading more instead. I was disappointed to read this article.
November 17, 2014 at 4:38 PM
This is a disgusting and dangerous article. Shame on you Muslim Matters for publishing it.
November 17, 2014 at 5:52 PM
Oh I am sorry. Some one dared give a critique of feminism ? What is it now, that there is feminism right after the Sunnah ? Women have been given free reign to dress however they want in American society, and if men dressed half as the women do, they would arrested for indecent exposure….so women are not children nor babies, so they can take responsibility.
AN EXCELLENT ARTICLE BAR NONE. About time Muslims start realizing that this absurdity, the academic hucksterism, the fraud that is feminism is exposed.
November 19, 2014 at 5:14 PM
I dont see where sister amina is disagreeing with this article because of its critique on feminism.
November 17, 2014 at 8:34 PM
@Amina – So I take it you didn’t like it…?
Look, if you have a critique of the points made in post, share them. And if the post offended you, well… what can I say? The name of this column is “The Muslim Skeptic,” not “The Muslim Sycophant.”
November 18, 2014 at 8:49 AM
How is this even article worthy?
She is in a western nation, walking down a busy pedestrian street(although not entirely provocatively dressed IMO) and men are men in a western nation.
You really want to report on something worthy?????
Go over to Arabia and film undercover the men that solicit fully covered women in public.
That’s a real problem. This is a reach for something we all know is going to happen here and has been an issue for decades now.
November 18, 2014 at 8:03 AM
Very nicely worded and I must admit, I found this to be a a most refreshingly articulate (and of course, the Islamic perspective is the main cause of it) piece in the face of the two ridiculous arguments taken by both sides on the secular front i.e the “No man can tall a woman how to dress” brigade and the “She only had herself to blame as she wore revealing clothing hence the men were expressing themselves as nature intended” party. Naturally, I decided to share this on my Facebook profile and received a wide array of predictable and quite frankly laughable abuse. Apparently I am:
– promoting rape culture
– a defender of sexual harassment
– oppressing women and “I hope you never get married etc.”
Of course, I responded by asking them if they had actually read the article before venting their spleens on me.
“I started reading it but then decided that the introduction was enough for me.”
“No why would I read such filth?”
It appears that most people are content with remaining offended.
November 18, 2014 at 9:57 AM
@Ismail – I find it noteworthy that we live in world where it is normal and encouraged for strangers to have “one night stands” and for men to sleep with each other, but it is views like in my article that people find “disgusting,” “filthy,” and “dangerous.”
And that is one of the main purposes of this column: to be offensive in this way.
One of the formative experiences in my life was the Danish cartoon controversy w/ cartoons of the Prophet (sas). Those cartoons were defended — by layman and intellectual alike — on the basis of “freedom to offend.” The way things were portrayed, for a Muslim like me to be offended by those cartoons simply meant that 1) I was not enlightened enough to appreciate freedom of speech and 2) I was clinging to outmoded religious beliefs as if they had any value or meaning.
One of my goals in life is to demonstrate the hypocrisy of this by writing about and endorsing views that are viscerally offensive to these same people. And not to do it by way of crude cartoons but through cold, hard rational analysis. And, to be honest, getting these kinds of angry reactions feels good, not only because it is vindicating, but also because it’s pay back. You caused me immense pain by mocking my faith and my Prophet (sas). And then you put salt in the wound by belittling that pain. So if I can give you a small taste of that, all the better.
November 18, 2014 at 1:29 PM
You, brother, have inspired me to return back to blogging. I used to post regularly on a personal blog a few years back during my teens. The amount of bile spewed on the comments section by fully grown adults on what I regarded were completely innocent topics like the hijab or even Ramadan shocked me out of writing.
Do keep your writings coming, for such intelligent pieces like that are also, in my opinion, part of Islamic dawah. We should all do our bit with what we’ve got to show the world the truth and invite people to it.
November 18, 2014 at 1:40 PM
I would disagree. It simply meant that he had the right to offend you, and you had the right to be offended. I think you misconstrued the experience entirely.
Also sidenote: deliberately attempting to cause other people pain is just mean.
November 19, 2014 at 3:35 PM
you didnt cause anybody pain. What you did is make a FOOL of yourself. Check out social media, we women are laughing at your idiocy lol
November 19, 2014 at 3:42 PM
@ Sameena – If anything, the reaction to the article makes me think I need to write more on contradictions within feminist discourse. Thanks for the positive encouragement everyone.
November 19, 2014 at 8:05 PM
“And, to be honest, getting these kinds of angry reactions feels good, not only because it is vindicating, but also because it’s pay back. You caused me immense pain by mocking my faith and my Prophet (sas). And then you put salt in the wound by belittling that pain. So if I can give you a small taste of that, all the better.”
And if, in the process, you also cause pain to your Muslim sisters, then that’s no problem, right? We’re just collateral damage.
May I respectfully remind you that these people to whom you are seeking to cause pain are your sisters in humanity. And many of the women who do not dress “modestly” are your sisters in Islam. Are you seriously suggesting that these sisters of yours in Islam are “sexually harassing” you, just by existing in the same space as you? That is deeply offensive.
And if it causes you pleasure to belittle the honour of your sisters in Islam – or your sisters in humanity – in this way, then may I respectfully suggest that you need to turn the mirror inwards and reflect on your own behaviour and motivations?
A Muslim should not be a sadist (noun: one who derives pleasure from inflicting pain on others).
November 24, 2014 at 12:36 AM
Brother your writing should be to enlighten..not to pay back. The Prophet and our book tell us that the good action is not equal to the bad….which means you find a way to counter the bad with a good….in Islam, we don’t repay evil for evil.
November 26, 2014 at 10:55 AM
As Salamu Alaikum,
As a Muslim woman, I enjoy your posts, including this one. They are well thought out and intelligent, if a bit controversial.
From this one, I learned that we have forgotten that men are really affected, even hurt, by the state of women’s dress (or undress). This does not mean that they don’t have the capacity to control themselves – but the hurt is still there. We have to really open our hearts and understand the pain that men feel…like it or not, this is the way Allah made them.
(This also does not deny that men also harass fully clothed women in Niqab in mid-Eastern countries, or does it deny centuries of oppression of women by men…both genders need to open their hearts and really understand the other).
BUT…I am really sad when I read of your motivation to write your pieces. It seems you are writing these pieces as ‘revenge’ / ‘to get back’ at liberals/feminists/etc who offended the Prophet (s).
Some questions to ask:
1. What is the point? What do you hope to accomplish by writing these pieces? So your offender is offended…so what? Is he or she going to change their views?
2. Are you really writing these articles for the sake of Allah?
November 21, 2014 at 9:19 AM
Spot On! What is your blog that you will restart ? And yes if someone dares even espouses a farthing of criticism of either homosexuality or feminism or anything in the normal culture, they become automatic ‘apologists’ or ‘Kultural Nazis’.
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November 18, 2014 at 1:28 PM
Great article, hypocrisy indeed, someone forgot to tell the feminists lawful freedom of expression (be it catcalls or form-fitting dress) cuts both ways and can’t be curtailed simply because it’s indecent (“indecent” being a relative term here).
November 19, 2014 at 2:43 PM
Excellent article! I completely agree with this post. As a Muslim-American woman, I have 3 main points to make:
1. There are no standards of dress that we can agree to; we are drowning in confusion and ambiguity. From a practicing-Muslim perspective, things are a lot more clear. But if you choose to follow your own thing, or societal dictates, things start to get fuzzy and suddenly everything is “relative.” I was talking to a Muslim sister recently about the idea of modest dress, and she claimed that it was unclear: “Are skinny jeans immodest? Compared to a `abaya, they are immodest. Compared to a bikini, they are modest. So they are modest and immodest at the same time!” Seriously? You’ve got to be kidding me. Such comments tend to be disingenuous and self-deluding.
2. Sometimes people like to play dumb about what “provocative dress” means. I love how the author puts it here: “I know it when I see it.” We all do. Despite loud protests and whiny claims that everything is relative, we actually do have at least an idea of what “dressing sexy” means. You know why? Because girls deliberately dress sexy all the time, when they are trying to get the attention of that guy they like. As fashion magazines urge us to “Make him notice you!” we wear what we think will best show off our assets and best compliment our skin or figure. So we know what dressing sexy means, because we understand that “if you’ve got it, flaunt it.”
November 19, 2014 at 2:44 PM
3. Here is what I find hypocritical: If people want the freedom to dress as they please, great. Knock yourself out. But you know what comes with the territory of clothes meant to attract male attention? Male attention. What some of us don’t realize is that in trying to get that hot guy we like to notice us, we will get other guys, ones that we don’t think are so hot and whom we don’t like, to notice us, too. They also have eyes. We can’t control WHOSE male attention we will attract. We can’t wear revealing clothes meant to make us get noticed by guys, but then turn around and call the guys who notice us disgusting pigs. We cannot simultaneously demand the freedom TO dress as scantily as possible, and the freedom FROM unwanted male attention in the form of catcalls. Pick one. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.
And just to be 100% clear, I do NOT think that a woman who wears revealing clothes “deserves” rape or sexual assault. Sexual assault in any form is a crime. As a woman, I know how unwanted male attention can be scary and or at the very least unsettling. In no way am I blaming the victim or endorsing rape culture. Are we good now?
This subject is so sensitive and so controversial that if anyone (esp a guy, like the author of this post) even dares to approach it, he is automatically attacked with labels of “misogynist” or “chauvinist pig” or “sexist patriarchal freak.” Anyone who has anything to say about a human being taking responsibility for their actions (in this case their choice of attire) is “blaming the victim.”
All I’m saying is: let’s just be honest with ourselves about exactly what we’re doing. You can choose to be modest in dress and expect modesty back from others, OR you can choose to be immodest in dress and be okay with immodesty back from others. You can’t be immodest yourself but demand modesty from others. That’s hypocrisy.
November 19, 2014 at 5:13 PM
“All I’m saying is: let’s just be honest with ourselves about exactly what we’re doing. You can choose to be modest in dress and expect modesty back from others, OR you can choose to be immodest in dress and be okay with immodesty back from others. You can’t be immodest yourself but demand modesty from others. That’s hypocrisy.”
Really? So just because one part of society behaves immodestly and immorally, it justifies another part of society acting in a manner that is not just immoral and immodest but also harmful directly to the former part of society? No one is saying that these women are doing the right thing in dressing this way or that they are justified in any way. The point is that a man’s catcalling or sexual harassment of a woman, no matter how she is dressed, is never justified. I would never blame my bad behavior or harming another person on their behavior. I have a choice to ignore or react. My choices reflect on me, not on the other person.
November 26, 2014 at 11:06 AM
Interestingly, both Umm Muhammad and Toronto Niqabi are correct…it all depends on what perspective you are looking at.
From a individual perspective, perspective of an agent, Toronto Niqabi is correct. I as an agent can’t blame anyone else for my misbehavior.
But, from a general societal perspective, Umm Muhammad is correct. Unfortunately, not everyone is society takes it upon themselves to be a responsible agents. There are laws of cause and effect even in human societies – this is why there are disciplines such as sociology. Therefore, a woman who is dressed less modestly dressed probably is going to be harrassed more than a women who is more modestly dressed according to Western standards. We should not be surprised that this happens.
March 4, 2015 at 10:27 PM
what about the horny women? If i see a sexy or topless man in public am I allowed to harass them? Am I also not in “pain?” These men should stay in the house or dress in loose flowing floor length gowns and please co er those faces and hair!!!!
November 19, 2014 at 2:51 PM
I’ll start by making no claim to any religious affiliation, so you might be better informed on what angle to take this at. Although I do agree with your assessments of some of the negative societal results we see by dressing more provocatively, i would like to focus in particular on your assessment pertaining to those women who you feel commit an act of violence or violation upon your being. I do not agree with blaming a woman for your own lack of self control, or the pains you endure in order to exhibit that self control. Its comparable to a bank robber being apprehended for robbing the back and subsequently faulting the bank for taking a lackadaisical approach to security!! When in actuality, it turns out the bank only required better protection for itself because of people like this very bank robber!
What a splendid correlative example regarding the lack of control amongst men in reference to women who dress more provocatively. She would be perfectly fine dressing as she chooses, but for the man that harasses her or feels threatened and enticed by her because of it. You sir are the bank robber blaming the bank for not protecting itself adequateky against robbers like yourself. Preposterous! Without you, the woman wouldn’t be harassed, while if she altered her appearance to better suit the inner quarrel you have with your inability to come to terms concerning your own internal struggle and weaknesses, the harassment would continue.
Only to a lesser degree you argue. Well, to a lesser degree, simply isn’t adequate. If your objective is to entirely refrain as civilized people from harassing, abusing, disrespecting, and raping our women, the only logical answer is to alter your male mindset. You adhere to a religion, or any religion for that matter, which requires an immense amount of open mindedness, commitment and motivation. Utilize that to prevent yourself from feeling violated by a woman you can’t shelter yourself from, a woman who would be raped less if only she dressed differently… Differently implying in a way that diminishes your primal urges and exonerates you from having to confront the legitimate foundation of the problem.
Personally, as a man married to a Muslim woman, I find no urges within that I struggle to control, and certainly not to a point where I would ever contemplate restricting the free expression of another individual within the normalities of that given culture and society. I consider, for myself, a woman as something to respect, and whether I approve of her appearance or not is not something that is at my discretion to implement. I truly feel for any man who sees a woman dressed provocatively and suddenly possesses an overwhelming and uncontrollable desire to harass her, touch her, insult and degrade her. Perhaps these men ought to have been brought up on the principles of how to respect and honor a woman, rather than lust after her because she renders you incapable of controlling your weaknesses. Perhaps if their father’s treated their mother’s with genuine love, devotion and commitment, it might translate into someone who doesn’t have quite the same intensity of those inherent and unalterable primal urges you so generously emphasize.
Which brings me to another point. I have always perceived the idea that our thoughts can be sinful as a legitimate belief. Without the initial thought, what sin could result? Perhaps these men ought to contemplate the weakness of their being that truly causes their sin and realize that a strong resilient mind leads to strong resilient action. Rather than taking the easy escape and claiming your lust is an inherent and uncontrollable aspect of your nature that a woman is wrongfully controlling with her appearance. Oh you must feel so profoundly violated. I feel far more violated by men who use this weakness as a means to satisfy their fleshly desire, as a means to control women, inhibit their rights and expression, and as a means to further subjugate them in order to maintain their own irrational and unfounded dominance.
Bottom line is women will no longer be harassed and victimized when two things occur. When plain and simple, men respect and honor women, and when people like yourself stop claiming that disrespecting and dishonoring women is not the root of the problem. I’m sorry, but you can’t claim to respect women while simultaneously stating that you see the skin or hair on one and struggle with your sexual urges to harass, touch or rape her. Step out of the primative and our ancient animalistic tendencies by taking accountability for your blatant weaknesses. As for the problem you have with your gaze?? Well that’s too damn bad, deal with it. The torture you feel pales in comparison to the torture those women endure on account of your weakness. Care to contemplate and entertain the idea that a provacative woman often dresses in such a way to obtain your attention? Perhaps if you better controlled yourself and your gaze, you would find your desire to see better dressed women, fulfilled.
November 19, 2014 at 3:13 PM
I would concur with you Steve.
You gave brilliant words to my thoughts which I expressed earlier.
November 20, 2014 at 9:58 PM
So you are a non-muslim married to a Muslim woman ?
November 21, 2014 at 7:34 AM
The comment below was posted by Comment Team as received through email. The Commenter faced some issues with the spam mechanism on our page which were not allowing it to go through.
Daniel is neither justifying nor condoning any acts of sexual harassment. In fact, he has stated clearly, several times, that irrespective of a person’s dress or state of undress, people indulging in sexual harassment are culpable. However, there are two issues here that are being conflated, which I believe Daniel has done an excellent job of differentiating. Yet, the confusion persists. I don’t know if I can do a better job than him, but Insha Allah, I want to give it a try. The two issues being:
1. Are expectations of freeing our society of this menace (sexual harassment), while at the same time according to oneself the right to dress as you please, reasonable?
2. Are there no harms associated with people dressing as they please (Apples and oranges, so to say)? The issue here really is not if apples and oranges are the same. The question really is, can an apple exist while the orange exists? I will explain that last cryptic question in a bit.
Coming to the first question, your example of a bank is quite demonstrative. Will the bank be held responsible for not taking all precautions of safeguarding the money entrusted to them even if the robber was caught and convicted? For example, can a bank insist on transporting money in transparent bags on flatbed trucks? Can a bank insist on displaying all the cash and valuables it has, in plain public view behind glass doors or better still without doors? To make it even better, what if all banks insisted on this birth right that each one of us is entitled to, namely safety?
Neither depositors/investors nor the law enforcement will be happy about admitting such reckless demands of banks and rightly so. It will lead to chaos in society. You are right, neither robberies nor the need for any of these safety precautions that the banks take or law enforcement suggests or mandates on businesses will exist.
In the meanwhile, robbers do exist and reasonable people expect reasonable people to take those precautions. As for the unreasonable, they exist too.
One last word on this first point wherein a lot of sisters are conflating ‘causation’ to ‘justification’, this quote attributed to Professor Tomis Kapitan, from one of Glenn Greenwald’s recent articles might help, “Obviously, to point out the causes and objectives of particular terrorist actions is to imply nothing about their legitimacy — that is an independent matter…”
Stated otherwise in this context, “Obviously, to point out the ways and means to reduce the menace of sexual harassment and to paint a more complete picture of this issue is to imply nothing about the culpability of sexual harassers—that is an independent matter.”
I have addressed the second issue in response to sister Sekeenah’s comment below.
Abu Milk Sheikh
November 23, 2014 at 6:01 AM
(I assume that you’re not Muslim based on your first sentence, even though it’s not explicitly stated as such.)
Yet, you don’t respect your wife enough to not be in an adulterous relationship with her (Islamically speaking.)
If you did respect you Muslim wife, you would respect the fact that her religion doesn’t allow her to marry you.
Chivalry (based on your comment it sounds like you’re a proponent of this concept) would be to look out for her best interests even at the expense of your own. Whether you believe in her religion or not, her marrying you is not in her temporal or metaphysical best interests.
So basically, you’re the man you were vilifying in your comment. A man who can’t control your thoughts and urges enough to stay away from a woman that’s off limits to you.
I feel bad for your wife. She should know better.
November 23, 2014 at 6:50 PM
dude, don’t go judging this guy or his marriage. you probably think it’s permissible for muslim men to marry outside the faith, right? and ALL MEN: Unless you are writing about how to not harass women or giving other men advice on how to do that, leave the feminist discourse to WOMEN. it makes you all look ignorant, arrogant and it alienates you from the very demographic you are trying to speak for. that’s all.
November 19, 2014 at 3:46 PM
Here is a comment I made in another thread that is equally pertinent here:
Most of what I see here are reactionary comments that fail to address the basic arguments made in the “dangerous,” “inflammatory” article.
Our society wants to insist that a person can dress however he pleases and that be nobody else’s business and, furthermore, to raise even the smallest objection to that dress constitutes “blaming the victim,” “slut shaming,” etc.
The simple point is, YES, it is the business of other people, and YES dress can be harmful. That is a fact recognized even by secular standards (dress codes, indecent exposure laws, etc). How my making this point is tantamount to inciting rape and the oppression of women is beyond me.
November 19, 2014 at 5:20 PM
But is the way a person dresses equally harmful as another person making rude or violent comments on that person’s dress?
November 20, 2014 at 3:13 AM
Did I make this claim anywhere in the post? Did I say that sexually harassing someone and dressing provocatively are equally harmful? Or did I just say that both have associated harms?
November 19, 2014 at 8:13 PM
Yet again why this argument is wrong is, because like how in France they are telling Mulsim women not to veil in public. Because at the end of the day one can claim that by veiling, wearing burka etc, he/she is being harassed by those who observe such conservative form of attire etc …that her/his space and right to what is “normal” to them is being violated. I am not agreeing to such thought here, but tying to point out that the entire argument, both ways is wrong.
November 20, 2014 at 1:34 AM
So, let me try to understand. The fact that bigots in France take issue with hijab means that no one could ever dress in a way that is offensive, wrong, and morally objectionable? Are you an absolute relativist about how much of one’s body one can appropriately display in public? It is wrong for us, for example, to object to women in bikinis, say, walking down the street? Does this apply to men too? Is it objectionable for a man to “bare it all” in public and flash women and children?
Oh wait, no. Actually, it’s illegal in Western countries and many would also consider it disgusting, morally objectionable, and severely harmful. But of course you would take objection to such reasoning because the way a person dresses can never be harmful or a form of sexual harassment.
November 19, 2014 at 5:08 PM
This a really disappointing article from Muslim Matters.
While I am in no way a supporter of Western style feminism, I still do not believe that the way a woman dresses is justification for men’s behavior. A woman (or man) dressing indecently and immorally is definitely wrong, but a man harassing her for it or making unwelcome comments on her appearance or even leering at her cannot be considered on the same level.
I am a Muslim woman living in a high Muslim populated area of Toronto, Canada. At the local Walmart, a white man in a group walked by and commented “I like your eyes.”, just loud enough for me to hear. He laughed as he noticed me freezing up and trying to step as far away from his group as I could as they walked by. I was in a modest abaya AND A NIQAB. I do not wear makeup when I go out and my husband was an aisle or two away (FYI because I know some will bring up this argument, unfortunately). And this has happened to me before. An employee at a grocery store in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia commented on my “beautiful eyes” and followed me and my sister around until we reached our parents. I was wearing an abaya, niqab and no makeup.
Should I start covering my eyes too? Where does it stop? How about men take responsibility for their actions? A man coming across a woman he finds attractive, no matter how she is dressed, in full niqab and abaya or a bikini, DOES NOT FEEL THREATENED BY HER. A woman receiving unwelcome comments or stares does. She feels uncomfortable and scared, no matter how she may be dressed. (Umm Sumayyah expressed this better than me in her comment above) If she ignores his comments and doesn’t say anything back, she is labelled a “whore, slut etc”, thought of as accepting such comments by society. If she asks him to cut it out, he may respond by harassing her even more, following her, making violent threats etc.
A word of advice to Muslim men: if you feel “threatened” by indecently dressed women and have no lawful way of fulfilling your desires (you’re unmarried, can’t marry soon, live away from your wife etc etc) then do as our most wonderful and wise Prophet (SAW) prescribed. Fast and pray more. Lower your gaze. Pray to Allah to help you control your desires and preserve your chastity and stop you from harming yourself and others through your actions. Pray for the hidayah of that woman.
In justifying catcalling, and sexual harassment based on how skimpily a woman is dressed, you are one step away from justifying rape with a comment like, “she was asking for it.”
Think about that.
November 19, 2014 at 5:51 PM
I repeatedly state in the post that there is no justification for sexual harassment, catcalling, etc., and that a person’s dress in no way, shape, or form justifies harassment. How much clearer on this can I be?
November 19, 2014 at 7:31 PM
The whole premise of your post is that, if women want the right to dress how they want, then men should also have the right to say what they want.
Given that premise, your protestations that there is no justification for catcalling are nothing more than empty words.
November 19, 2014 at 8:05 PM
the reason why your point about harassment is wrong was lost, is because you are equating how women dress and harassment in your argument, like I said Ina an earlier post how one compares an orange to an apple and cry out loud to insist that they are the same. What you need to do if you would like to address the flaws of society, of normalizing sexual behaviour and dressing, then you need to address it in its own right and not bring it up along with harassment. It is distasteful to ignore such a universal problem as harassment, kneading it along with feminism etc…
Abu Milk Sheikh
November 23, 2014 at 6:13 AM
The commonly worn niqab (eyes visible) magnifies the beauty of the eyes to the extent that ugly women can look exotic and desirable. Many women wear it specifically for this reason, while many others have the good sense to realize its effect and wear the full veil (eyes covered, gloves, head-to-toe cloak.)
July 17, 2016 at 12:04 PM
The Niqaab which shows the eyes, is well known to have been practiced at the time of the Messenger (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and is considered permissible by the scholars of Islam, so why you would call for something more, so as to cause hardship for Muslim women? what rationality is there in thinking there is any sense in a women covering her eyes, so her vision is blurred? which it would be, try it ‘Brother’…….. why are you promoting something more then Allah himself has commanded?
“O Prophet! Tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks (veils) all over their bodies (i.e. screen themselves completely except the eyes or one eye to see the way)”
The Niqaab style you mentioned, where it is widened to reveal other parts of the face like the forehead, is commonly worn, where exactly? I am a Muslim women, its lawful for me to look at fellow sisters, unlike yourself, and i haven’t ever seen any sister wear Niqaab like that except in beauty photography,
You should have the ‘Good sense’ to not expect, demand, or promote anything more then what Allah has commanded, because of your own desires, the Niqaab and even the Hijaab are big tests for Muslim women, the last thing they need, is Muslim men claiming they should have the good sense to also blot out the eyes, which would cause a great hardship for women,
November 19, 2014 at 5:13 PM
Very interesting article. Since the author is repeatedly requesting somebody address the article head on, here is my take on it.
1. Throughout the article you beg the reader to take home one message: that men are being harrassed by sexual incitation too, just as women are being harassed through catcalling. This is like comparing oranges to apples and insisting on calling it the same. Why? Because half way through your argument you ask about the double standards of equality and freedom yet forget to draw a line there. If as you claim men who are “harassed” have the right and freedom to catcalling, then where does it stop. That is exactly the line of thought which leads some men to “express” their own sexual inclination and thought through action and leads to rape…you see the slippery-slope? The main reason goes back to comparing oranges to apples. Just because a woman dresses a certain way, it doesn’t mean anybody has the right to catcall.
2. You make claims such as “self-proclaimed feminists say women have the right to dress however they like…” Yet choose to ignore, that it is not just feminists who believe in that. As a Muslim woman, I too believe in the choice to dress however one see fit. This line of thought is exactly what pushed many sisters away from the masjid, because God forbid if a sister doesn’t observe the hijab, she is harassed within our own community. Our deen is inherently imbedded with the idea of free-will and choice…which will equal recompense according to ones deed. Yet as a community, we repeatedly fail to give others the right and freedom to choose how they act or dress without failing to impose our own thoughts and methods on them (this by the way applies to a lot of other areas within our Muslim community).
3.once again you bring up an interesting point about Muslim women, by linking to an anecdotal reference and claim ” even MANY Muslim women in hijab consciously feel like the veil is burdensome…”. I followed your argument though out your writing, except for this. How is one personal narrative equal to many? While in a haste to make a point you failed in assuming that a lot of Muslim women feel that the veil is burdensome. I guess my point here is clear without going to the history of veil and the exegesis etc.
4. The most disappointing point you made came close to the end of your article when you say about harassment of Muslim women that it “…would be much, much worse if these women dressed in yoga pants, tanks…”. I have lived in Saudi and witnessed first hand, how fully veiled women were repeatedly harassed in different social settings. How do you answer to that, it could be much, much worse if they dressed differently? That is simply, like I pointed out in the beginning looking at your foot when your nose hurts from a blow.
What people are outraged about when seeing that video is not the way she is dressed, but the failure to recognize the need to address harassment for what it is. By choosing to address extreme ends to make argument for your article, you failed to address what is inherently present in all cultures throughout the world, that of corrupt behaviour that leads to harm towards women. You chose the West to address this, because your article has intended to cry out, “hey, I am a man and I am victim of the sexual revolution”. But repeatedly failed to touch upon why harassment is wrong by treading on the slippery side of freedom of expression. You should do a little bit of research about women and harassment in Muslim countries, children and harassment before you relegate me as a feminist. It doesn’t matter how a person is dressed, harassment is there from people who choose to “express” themselves either through word or worse through action. So in the end, you are comparing oranges to apples…
November 20, 2014 at 3:54 AM
“If as you claim men who are “harassed” have the right and freedom to catcalling, then where does it stop.” Really? That’s what I claimed? smh
November 19, 2014 at 10:33 PM
I’m really sorry that in your sincere efforts to defend hijab, you unfortunately fell into a whole lot of very dangerous misconceptions about sexual harassment. Please do believe that the commentators on here are not ‘crazy people’ who are merely ‘being reactionary’ – as much as some of your points are very good ones (such as your point that the sexual revolution led to a lot of ‘grey areas’ regarding acceptability of flirtation, that every society has a standard of what is considered acceptable to wear, etc) I really do personally believe that you made some sincere mistakes that older and more respectable sisters than I have pointed out above. If I were you, I would ask some sisters about it, and write a short apology for any misconceptions you had. Just a gentle reminder from someone who appreciates philosophy just as much as you do, and doesn’t want to see your good efforts derailed.
November 19, 2014 at 11:56 PM
I thought the author’s point was pretty clear. If you hold to the western value system, you believe in freedom of expression, whether it is vulgar or not, so long as it’s lawful.
“Dress” is considered a form of expression, and accordingly a woman can dress how she likes within the limits of the law – it’s legal.
Likewise, catcalling is also a form of expression. So are compliments. So is “hi, how are you” which was said quite a bit (and added to the sexual harassment tally in the video, lol). All of it is “legal”.
The author’s point is simple – if you hold western values on freedom of expression, then be consistent – give both people the right to express themselves WITHIN THE LIMITS OF THE LAW.
Likewise, if LEGAL male public self-expression is sexual harassment, then consider that perhaps other types of female LEGAL self-expression are likewise the same.
Now come to the Muslim value system. Men are required to lower their eyes and dress modestly. Women are required to dress in loose clothes that are opaque and cover the body except the face and hands in front of nonmahrams. Both must maintain modest, respectful speech. Both genders are responsible for modesty, and if either gender is derelict in maintaining the rules, then either one can be held accountable for violation.
If muslim men are catcalling women of any religion or form of dress, they are wrong for doing so, full stop. No one put a gun to your head when an attractive woman walked outside – you have free will, you can choose good manners and modesty.
Likewise, when women dress appropriately, they may not be exempt from harassment, but they will likely find it would have been more frequent and worse without it. Theoretically, you should be able to walk around like any western woman, but your Creator knows practically speaking it’s better protection than to not do it. To ignore the responsibility intentionally is to be irresponsible and accountable, not for direct harm, but for increasing the chances of having it caused on your person, not because you deserve it, but because practically speaking if in the best generation women had to observe this form of dress, then don’t get your hopes up that these later “civilized” generations in the west with 1 rape every 44 seconds (based on what is reported) will ever be better.
The author is simply saying our take on modesty is intellectually consistent, respectful, and practical. If as a practicing Muslim you’ve lost the ability to appreciate this point, it may be indicative that you’ve mixed between Islamic and western values and definitions of right and wrong so thoroughly you don’t know where one ends and the other begins.
November 20, 2014 at 1:12 AM
So sad you failed to address the same issue most sisters are raising here. In fact including Toronto sister (who pointed out that she actually observes niqab) but was still harrassed, I will add my name to the list and tell you that I too observe the niqab. Yet it doesn’t make it right for you to simply claim that we have lost the line between islamic and western values.
What is lost here is that that right which you claim is the same to express in terms of what is in sociology termed as “culture” is different from the expression of word or action. How one dresses is ones own culture, regardless of how that came about (for us Muslims it is from divine guidance, so always consistent) whereas in Western societies it is relative with no agreed upon norms (so the inconsistency and the double standard the brother alludes to).
Why have you and br. Daniel avoided to tackle the issue of Muslim women being harassed within the Muslim community? I believe you will quickly realize that this line of thought is wrong when you examine why it is not the same “right” that is being compared.
At the end of the day even within our deen a Muslim woman has the right to dress as she wishes and she answers to Allah, yet we are so quick to judge and drive sisters away from what “ummah” should be.
November 20, 2014 at 1:31 AM
The second issue is simply, do apples exist and oranges don’t or vice versa? So, if the men are expected to just look away and not be bothered by various states of undress exhibited in current society, will the same be tolerated of men? Excuse me for being graphic here. Will a man dressed in an excellent suit with parts of his nether region showing partially, only in an elegant manner, be tolerated? What about someone minding his own business and pleasuring himself/herself in public?
The answer to the above questions is that to most reasonable people, irrespective of the existence of laws, these are hideous things, because society realizes the adverse psychosocial repercussions of such behavior. With that qualifier, Daniel asked the simple question, are there no psychological or social effects of women insisting on dressing as they please? Simply put, yes oranges exist but do apples also exist?
But, are they equal? I incline toward agreeing with the sisters that they are not equal. In fact, I personally know a lot of women who are scarred by such experiences and would easily sit on the sister’s side on this matter.
However, we have to make a few assumptions while coming to those conclusions. For example, if a cat-caller did not make any threatening moves but just called out, “God bless you Ma’mi!”, will we tolerate it? No, we will not. In fact, is calling out with a gentle smile, “God bless you Ma’mi!” threatening? So the level of threat and sense of insecurity is irrelevant. Secondly, can we state confidently that the adverse psychosocial effects of bombardment with continuous, and dare I say unwanted and unsolicited sensual imagery, are negligible in comparison to the apparently innocuous, “God bless you Ma’mi!” I guess, Daniel is questioning these assumptions that we make.
Daniel, this was a very fine and well-articulated article. Enjoyed reading it! Keep them coming.
November 20, 2014 at 2:38 AM
I believe br Daniel did address it in his point related to men in Cairo harassing hijabi women on the streets. It’s wrong and shameful, so I’m not sure why it’s coming up…?
Your last statement is troubling – a woman has a right in Islam to dress as she wishes cuts to what I said earlier. We have choices, but those choices aren’t rights. It’s like saying i have a right to skip prayers. You have the responsibility to perform prayers and the choice to bear the consequence of neglecting Allah’s Right on you to obey Him when you meet Him. The exact same is true of how you dress.
When we talk about the right to dress, it’s in the context of a secular system trying to take away our religious rights in the matter.
Otherwise, you have to take it to it’s logical conclusion – men have a right to catcall women since the law promotes freedom of expression.
November 20, 2014 at 1:18 AM
Siraaj, I see that the author is saying that, and I really appreciated his point about relative/objective morality and the difference between Islamic and Western systems when it comes to this, which you elaborate – but the problem is that that point is not what most people see when they read this article. What they see (and what I saw) is language/examples that are problematic, and this means that people are going to be extremely reactionary in their disgust against the problematic aspects of the argument, thus rendering the article unproductive, which I think is a shame. Comments are going to be even more angry considering the fact that the article is coming on the tail end of what was a very viral discussion about the problems inherent in such language/examples.
November 20, 2014 at 2:57 AM
Yes, but there’s reactionary because he truly said something offensive, and then there’s reactionary because someone has fed us a line about how the world works and anything that challenges that narrative is simply calling for x, y, and z against women. I think his article falls in the latter because it attempts to swing the pendulum away from the other extreme to a balance which recognizes both men and women are responsible for being modest and promoting a modest environment. Putting it all on men and leaving out women is unfair – the Prophet (saw) stated that the most difficult trial for men is women. Yes, they have to be strong and choose virtue, but don’t underestimate the struggle or the harm a poorly dressed woman can cause to one’s iman.
November 20, 2014 at 5:44 PM
Well put, brother. Exactly.
November 20, 2014 at 7:33 AM
I think Siraaj (and Razan, inadvertently) has made a good point in the thread directly above – one of the most striking things about the reaction to this article is people’s failure to comprehend the intention and main point of the article, and to immediately react with the usual feminist/liberal tropes of “that’s just victim-blaming/misogyny/promoting rape” etc.
What’s worrying is that much of this reactionary lashing out, this *eagerness* to misread, to be offended, to draw inaccurate conclusions, to make false comparisons (while at the same time accusing the author doing so), is coming from Muslim women, and many men, too. Thus far I’ve only read one Muslim woman comment here who isn’t completely repulsed by this article, and I’ve seen quite a few Muslim men who also seem to have deliberately misread this article. Or at least rebuffed it on arguments it never made.
As Siraaj (and the author) have pointed out, this most likely speaks to the utter and spectacular indoctrination by Western liberal/secual mores within our Ummah. Given that, it’s easy to see why this article has received the criticism it has. Perhaps br. Daniel could rewrite it within the framework of an audience with a liberal/feminist/secual bias. This may not be possible given that the basic premise of the article ipso facto rejects this narrative.
One other thing br. Daniel *could* have emphasized is the harm provocative dressing has on women themselves, which *does not* come from men. This would at least be received by Muslim women with less disdain…it would still alienate most true feminists because it still speaks to restrictions on freedom of dress.
At the end of the day, I think br. Daniel has achieved his purpose and made his point: the fact that the reaction to this article has played out the way it has is proof of how liberal secularism has divided us and made us all a victim of its hypocrisy and inherent contradictions. We have only ourselves to blame.
November 20, 2014 at 11:10 AM
Salam brothers Siraaj and Zaheer,
I see a very big problem here, and that is that people are dismissing conservative practicing Muslim sisters when they talk about problems like sexual harassment or when they criticize an argumentation form, by accusing them of falling victim to liberal secular paradigms. I am not a ‘liberal secular’, I am highly aware of the inherent problems within that discourse Islamically, and so are the sisters commenting here. Believe me, if they weren’t, they could very easily be sitting around writing self-satisfied FB and tumblr posts about this rather than making the effort to engage with you from an Islamic viewpoint, and these sisters have very clearly pointed out the problems in the article’s form of argument (umm sakeena’s first comment did so very well) rather than defending another ‘worldview’, and misdiagnosing this is quite dangerous.
At this point, accusations that there is ‘nothing to be offended about’ in the article are simply untrue – this isn’t about the author expressing a different worldview about women’s standards of dress, it’s about the inappropriate analogies drawn in an attempt to defend that worldview, because these analogies inadvertently (whether the author realized it or not, and I assume he didn’t) contain some plain old untruths that we SHOULD be offended by.
I never normally comment this much on MM articles – but as I said, I don’t want to see the author’s very important points on philosophy/worldviews derailed in an online world that very much is lacking Muslims engaging these topics from a classical/orthodox point of view. All too often as a result of mistakes like these, the Muslim community then throws up their hands at the more ‘orthodox’ and says, “See what these traditional people are like? Out of touch and they refuse to admit their mistakes! We need to abandon them and figure things out on our own!”
The biggest point of persuasion and of making an effective argument is the language that you use and what it means to the audience you are addressing. What you have seen here is a perfect example of you speaking with one argument in mind, and your language/analogies resulting in your audience hearing a totally different argument than you intended. Hence, although the author, Siraaj, and Zaheer may see an important point being made, if everyone else sees a totally different and very problematic issue coming up, then the presence of that issue is VALID, because no matter how good your point was, it simply has not been heard. Whether we like it or not – most people are NOT going to be so patient that they will break down the argument, recognize the good points, and excuse your mistakes, rather, you will be dismissed entirely – that is how humans and rhetoric WORK.
November 20, 2014 at 1:13 PM
I think this would be made clearer with examples – please point out the language that was problematic or infllammatory.
November 20, 2014 at 1:32 PM
Thanks for the nasiha Razan. Thanks for the vote of confidence, Siraaj, Zaheer, et al.
While the comments section here doesn’t reflect it, there have been many who have understood exactly and clearly the arguments made in the post without being offended. As I have noted above multiple times, what people are finding offensive are misinterpretations of my arguments. For example, nowhere do I make an equivalence between catcalling and immodest dress. Nowhere do I claim that men have the right to catcall women so long as women have the right to “dress as they want.” Nowhere do I say that hijab is a final solution for street harassment. Why are people reading these claims into the post? I don’t know. Can I improve my writing? Always. Should people be responsible for reading more carefully before jumping to conclusions? …yes.
What I find surprising is the push back from some Muslim women commenters on the claim that, yes, a person’s dress, woman or man, ought to abide by standards of decency, whatever those standards ultimately are. I can understand why a non-Muslim, non-religious, feminist secularist would be opposed to this claim (hypocritical as it would be, since there are indecent exposure laws even in secular countries, etc.). But why would a Muslim “hijabi” or “niqabi” be opposed to this? Do they not believe in the concept of `awrah? Do they think hijab is nothing but a religious symbol or a political statement, without any functional purpose?
I think part of the anxiety is that, as minorities in the West, Muslims are all but forced to endorse ideas like “women have the right to dress however they want” or “gays have the right to marry,” etc., ideas that are squarely opposed to their other religious commitments. It is a difficult and potentially dangerous position to be in, but as a community we need to be aware of the stakes involved. The way things are going, in two or three generations, hijab will be on the brink of extinction in the West. Just look at the Jewish and Christian communities. We are following the same path, even aggressively following it, if the comments above are any indication.
I wrote a more detailed essay on these issues here:http://muslimmatters.org/2014/05/20/black-mass-liberalism-and-the-orthodox-paradox/
November 20, 2014 at 2:14 PM
Hmmmm, I did take your post to stating there was an equivalence between catcalling and immodest dress based on the following:
“Besides, on what basis can it be argued that a woman being catcalled suffers any real harm? Are comments like, “Hey beautiful,” by strange men in actuality harmful to a woman? How so?
Of course, I believe there is harm, but I also believe that immodest dress can be equally if not more harmful to onlookers.”
Maybe you can clarify?
November 20, 2014 at 5:05 PM
I certainly don’t see any pushback from Muslim women on here regarding the concept of awrah. You are equating the protest against justifying street harassment with approval of indecent dress. No hijabi or niqabi would deny the Islamic concept of modesty and covering one’s awrah.
November 20, 2014 at 5:43 PM
@torontoniqabi – Look, either you are deliberately trying to misconstrue my words and slander me by saying that I am “justifying street harassment” or you have trouble grasping basic distinctions.
Again, the argument you are trying to describe is this: a third-wave feminist, **not me**, would have difficulty in decrying street harassment while also promoting a complete free for all in terms of people’s dress. A third-wave feminist, **not me**, who says that there is no such thing as “modesty,” “decency,” or “honor” when it comes to how people express themselves in public would have difficulty decrying street harassment as “immodest,” “indecent,” and “dishonorable,” since, in one sense, street harassment is a form of sexual expression. The fact that such third-wave feminists and promoters of the sexual revolution want to eat their cake and have it to by ignoring indecency in one situation but railing against it in another is hypocritical.
November 20, 2014 at 3:01 PM
@Siraaj – Yes, I do believe the TOTAL harm from indecent dress and public display is equal or greater than harm from catcalling, in the same way that even non-Muslims believe that indecent exposure (e.g., flashing, exposure to children, breast feeding in public, etc.) is harmful enough to necessitate legal injunctions, therapy for victims of it, etc. I did not make an equivalence between the harm of merely being tempted by immodest dress on the part of an individual man/woman and that of catcalling.
I am genuinely surprised that Muslims here are having such a hard time acknowledging the significant personal and societal harm that comes from widespread immodest dress and the increasingly sexualized public space we are forced to inhabit. Do people not have kids that they are trying to protect from all the sexual images bombarding us from every corner? Do people not feel a deep sense of pain and hopelessness when they can’t go out for 5 minutes without seeing indecent displays, whether on advertising or elsewhere? Is this the new normal for us? I can understand non-Muslims not understanding this because that IS the norm for them. But how this is difficult for Muslims to understand is truly depressing.
November 20, 2014 at 4:55 PM
In discussing this with my own wife and my own experience, I think there are a combination of reasons why women may not perceive the harm:
1. Women do not properly intrinsically understand male sex drive.
2. Women do not see one another in the same light that we see them. Seeing another woman “undressed” (meaning without hijab etc) doesn’t hit them the same way – there is no “gaze lowering” injunction towards other females (mostly).
3. As a society, we are desensitized by media (advertising, entertainment, music, academia, etc).
It became clearer to me after giving up movies and music.
November 21, 2014 at 2:16 PM
Believe it or not women do understand the concepts of hijab and awrah and they do understand the harm that it causes to society as a whole when society is hyper-sexualized. What you are failing to understand is that the repeated comparison you made in the original article, by which you were constantly equating the harm of cat-calling upon the victim with the harm of having to see immodest dress is an unfair, wrong, and ridiculous comparison. They are not the same. There are levels of harm and one is clearly much more harmful and terrifying to the victim.
A note on Hijab. Muslim women don’t wear Hijab to protect themselves from cat-callers or rapists. We all know that those unpleasant people who would do such a thing are not going to be deterred by a piece of cloth. We wear it to please Allah and to protect out own selves from being influenced by society’s constant pressures to see oneself simply as an object. Look at the statistics of young women who have such low self-esteem that they end up with eating disorders or end up harming themselves or even committing suicide. Hijab increases a woman’s self-respect and focuses her mindset to find ways to distinguish herself through her mind and intellect and spirituality and morality instead of through cosmetics and looking good.
Finally, you haven’t pointed the finger of blame where it needs to go. Ordinary western women who walk around with less than modest clothing are not the REASON that society has become hyper-sexualized, they are the PRODUCT of a hyper-sexualized society. A few teenage girls or even grown women wearing immodest clothing isn’t what transformed social norms in the west. There have been years of desensitization and influence through movies, advertisements, tv shows, etc that have caused this problem. And yes, feminism did play a role in that. By focusing on the example that you chose (cat-calling vs having to see immodest dress) you have not said anything about feminism or the media or society in general, you’ve said something about individuals in society and made it into a “women vs men” issue.
In reading your comments it is clear to me that the purpose you set out to achieve by writing your article has very little to do with the message that was conveyed to readers by your article.You need to rethink the way you phrased your argument. Perhaps when you expressed your views in a quick conversation with others at the masjid they all agreed with you, but when writing a lengthy article you have to go more in depth, give a wider variety of examples, hone your writing so that you are sure it gives the message intended, and above all, ask someone else to read it for you and give you their thoughts on how well it was written. Perhaps, when discussing women’s dress it would have been helpful to consult a Muslim sister so she could help you with the nuances of the wording.
Abu Milk Sheikh
November 23, 2014 at 7:27 AM
It’s because you’re (Western Muslims) desensitized. Live in the Muslim lands for a few years and 4s and 5s (by Western standards of beauty) will look like 7s and 8s, because women in general are very beautiful and a coolness to the eyes.
November 26, 2014 at 12:05 PM
Can you let us know the basis of your belief that there is greater total harm from indecent dress than cat-calling?
I personally don’t know which harm is worse…but a society with cat-calling is extremely harmful for women…
As others have stated, you only have to refer to societies (unfortunately many of them Muslim), in which women are cat-called regardless of their dress.
Women in Egypt full hijab and niqab who are afraid to get on a bus because their bottoms will be squeezed. Women in India modest salwar afraid to ride bikes to school because they will be ‘Eve-Teased.’
The Quran takes neither immodesty nor harrassment lightly…Sura Ahzaab address both…interestingly, severe punishment is mandated for harrasers.
November 20, 2014 at 9:13 AM
Something the oh-so enlightened bunch of people here seem to miss is that this not just some man-made rule or tradition-wise etc etc…. It is an order from allah…. simple….so simple and clear…. now it is up to you the awesomely intelligent people to follow or not…. When allah tells us to do something we do it because firstly and lastly allah is telling us to do it… and of-course puhleeeze when god tells us to do something there are good reasons… allah wishes us good not harm or burden….. if god commanded us for hijab we must and shall follow this for him…. and then reason out why he said so….. else for the real brainy ones you can debate this on the day of judgement when all arguments will be settled… sheesh people
November 20, 2014 at 11:23 AM
Very interesting how Daniel is being attacked by simps and Muslim women supposedly…because he dared give a critique of the hypocrisy of Western feminism….I am proud anti-feminist and I think high times this ideology be attacked and ridiculed for exactly what it is. One look at the the Islamic Monthly, would do people good for all the ‘how feminism helps women’…
Next time maybe Daniel can do a an critique of feminism from an academic point of view.
November 20, 2014 at 5:07 PM
I don’t see any feminists here or any supporters of feminism. Merely men and women who don’t believe that street harassment is justifiable in any case and that the arguments for dressing modestly can be made without bringing up the idea that if you dress indecently then you can expect and deserve harassment and catcalling.
November 20, 2014 at 10:04 PM
I want to dress in the nude and want nothing happening to me…
This a an sobering critique of feminism…these idiotic videos to catch people in the act to prove a point. There is a YouTube video of a man with a large erection on a subway to see women’s reaction…surprise surprise even a niqabi made it to get a picture of the man…shame…
November 20, 2014 at 2:08 PM
Brother Daniel, you seem to be a little bit confused about why people responded negatively to this article. No one is saying that feminists are super awesome and that all the ideals of modern feminism are great. No one is saying anything bad about the Islamic model and the Islamic ideals of decency and modesty and so on. By suggesting that the Muslim women who are offended by some statements in your article are just influenced by the west or whatever you are just dismissing their legitimate concerns with the way you have framed your argument, the examples you chose, and the very harmful connotations of the analogy you drew between the harm being done by catcalling and the supposed “harm done on men” of dressing provocatively.
I am quite happy to read thoughtful intellectual analysis of modern “feminism” and its faults but that is not what your article does. There are many confusions in your article between feminism and popular culture, there is no distinction made between the goals of the feminist movement and the actual results on society of some of their messages and ideals(this would have made a much better focus for your hypocrisy angle) nor do you differentiate between the different feminist movements and waves. By choosing to focus on “effects on men” and “harm to men” you play into the very western idea of “men vs women” and, as proven above, you offend and alienate many practicing Muslim women.
Instead of showing the superiority of the Islamic Model for gender interactions and showing that the Islamic ideals can actually improve Western society you instead somehow managed to put forth an argument that seems to be focused on proving that catcalling should be accepted. It may not have been your intention, but that is what it sounds like because of the way you framed your argument.
You can’t have an intellectual argument about western concepts like feminism and freedom of speech without having a very firm understanding of the language and all its connotations, negative and positive. You certainly can’t argue about hypocrisy without properly defining everything.
Let me attempt to show you the problems that some people had with your article. I will quote from your article because I have actually read it in full.
November 20, 2014 at 2:10 PM
1) “Here is another suggestion: why can’t we recognize that sexual harassment can go both ways?”
It can. If a woman were to loudly call out sexually charged phrases or comments about a man’s appearance or follow him around in the streets and make him feel afraid for his own safety then that would be considered harassment, but that has nothing to do with your argument.
“Often, we characterize catcalling men as the predators who harass helpless women.”
Yes, they are. They make women fear for their safety. They make it difficult for women to be in a public place. They are often groups of men together who are catcalling towards a single woman who is walking alone so she will be outnumbered. There’s nothing innocent about catcalling but the above sentence I quoted makes it sound like you don’t agree with the characterization of catcalling.
“What about immodest dress? If a person dresses in “sexy” clothes and goes out in public, why shouldn’t we consider this a form of sexual harassment in its own right?”
Because it isn’t. When someone (be it man or woman) dresses any way they like and goes out in public that is not directed at you. They don’t know you and they don’t care about you. They are just existing in life in the same public space as you and exercising their freedom to wear whatever they want. For a Muslim woman that’s a hijab or a niqab, for someone else it might be more provocative clothing, but it’s not directed at you or infringing on your personal safety in the way that catcalling infringes on women’s safety. Let me be frank. As a Muslim woman I don’t CARE if the way I choose to dress (hijab) makes someone uncomfortable and I don’t think that a woman who is wearing revealing clothing should care if her dress makes someone else uncomfortable.
(She should worry about her own comfort, her own sense of self-esteeem and self-worth, both of which are negatively impacted by provocative dress, but iunfortunately you chose not address these valid points in your argument and instead focused on “boohoo, it’s hard for us men”)
November 20, 2014 at 2:12 PM
2) “Let me be frank. As a Muslim man, it is not easy walking through the streets these days. Women’s fashion continues to get increasingly sexy and provocative, and, in effect, public spaces are increasingly sexualized. From an Islamic perspective, the harm caused to individuals by this is clear and inarguable. Even from a non-religious perspective, constantly bombarding men with sexiness can be tortuous. Think of men or adolescent males who for whatever reason cannot find a sexual partner. Or think of married men being endlessly tempted by strangers as soon as they step out of the house.”
Ok, what’s your point? Islam has already provided a perfect solution for this problem which I did not find mentioned anywhere in this article. The Quran tells men to lower their gaze. This is mentioned BEFORE the covering for women is mentioned. You can’t control what those “indecently dressed” women wear, but you can control your own eyes. It’s easy. Don’t look and the source of “harm” to you will disappear!
3) “Rather, what makes street harassment so odious is that it is an instance of a person “exerting power and control over someone else.” ”
This is correct.
“But, again, from a certain perspective, provocative dress, too, can be understood as an exertion of power over others in the public space, even an act of violence.”
No. Where did you get that? What a stretch! If a woman were to follow you around and force herself upon you, maybe, but just by existing she is not exerting control over you. You have a very simple way of getting outside this perceived “control” – don’t look! Allah tells men to do it in the Quran so I am not sure why it’s so hard for you and some other comment writers to imagine.
November 20, 2014 at 2:13 PM
4) “As Muslims, we should not be hesitant to denounce sexual harassment in the form of catcalling while also noting that immodest displays are in their own way a form of harassment that ought to be curbed with appropriate dress.”
There is nowhere in Islam that says we should force our own religious injunctions on others, especially in societies where we are the minority. In fact Islam is based on guidance which each person should strive to follow. Some people may reach a 50% others may reach 75% others may be at 100%, but that is their own struggle and their own business, we don’t say that a general society wide immodesty should be “curbed” by anything. If you want to CONVINCE the society that modest dress is better for society then you should have done that in your article. Instead you seem to be making statements about what women should and shouldn’t wear in a public space for your own comfort as a man. I’m sorry, but that’s what your article is saying whether or not that was your intention and it is not much different from a man telling Muslim women not to wear Hijab because it makes him uncomfortable.
5) “Even many Muslim women in hijab consciously feel like the veil is burdensome and would prefer to dress “normally” and only refrain from doing so due to their (commendable) religious devotion. ”
Ummm, no. They don’t find the hijab itself burdensome. They find society shunning them and constantly harassing them because of it burdensome. They find it burdensome that people think they’re oppressed or can’t speak english, or can’t make their own choices. They find it burdensome to not get a job because the person hiring would prefer to hire someone who is wearing a miniskirt.
6) “Besides, on what basis can it be argued that a woman being catcalled suffers any real harm? Are comments like, “Hey beautiful,” by strange men in actuality harmful to a woman? How so?”
This has been answered several times already. These comments make a woman feel unsafe and can also be accompanied by stalking and even actual harassment. If you are being subjected to this you don’t know if you will be eventually followed or even harassed and raped. It’s very, very harmful. I also find your article very repetitively focused on this one thing and that is part of the reason you got such a negative reaction.
November 20, 2014 at 2:30 PM
7) “Is it really that surprising that when people are incessantly told to, “Throw away your inhibitions,” “Don’t be a prude,” “Let the inner animal loose,” that the result will be an increase of indecency and socially taboo behaviors?”
But that’s not what you showed in your article so it’s kind of strange that this is part of your conclusion.
8) “Again, from a certain perspective, catcallers are essentially just expressing their sexuality. Maybe it would be “prudish” of us to suggest that they hold their tongues.”
No. They’re expressing their views about someone else’s sexuality in a way that inflicts pain and fear on that person. Why you’re focusing obsessively on this point is a mystery to me and many of the others who have left comments.
I hope this clarifies why people are responding negatively to your article.
November 20, 2014 at 2:15 PM
Daniel, please correct me if I am wrong. I got a bit confused after reading the article, the comments, and the replies to the comments. If I am to summarize your core argument, would it be the following?
Certain feminists advocate that women have the right to dress in any way that want. However, this leads to two problems in this hypersexualized society. First, provocative clothing goads certain uncouth men to engage with the women in an unpleasant manner, such as catcalling. Second, the provocative dresses make it difficult for men to restrain their glances and causes certain psychological harm to them. This does not mean that women are to be blamed for catcalls. You simply argue that when women follow ‘hijab,’ both the problems are mitigated, not completely solved; there will be always be some uncouth men. Hence, the feminist approach in this particular case is counterproductive, right?
At the same time, men must also follow ‘hijab’ regardless of how provocatively dressed the women might be, and must not even steal a lustful glance at her intentionally. I am assuming this was implied, even if not stated outright.
November 20, 2014 at 8:21 PM
I’ll just quote myself from above. Part of the argument is this: a third-wave feminist, **not me**, would have difficulty in decrying street harassment while also promoting a complete free for all in terms of people’s dress. A third-wave feminist, **not me**, who says that there is no such thing as “modesty,” “decency,” or “honor” when it comes to how people express themselves in public would have difficulty decrying street harassment as “immodest,” “indecent,” and “dishonorable,” since, in one sense, street harassment is a form of sexual expression. The fact that such third-wave feminists and promoters of the sexual revolution want to eat their cake and have it to by ignoring indecency in one situation but railing against it in another is hypocritical.
Literally none of the commenters above have addressed this simple argument. Instead they insist that I am “justifying street harassment” and “equating catcalling and provocative dress” and “how dare I tell women what to wear.”
The other part of the argument is that indecent dress is harmful to the individual AND to society overall because it contributes to the hypersexualization of public space and is directly connected to (and a symptom of) the deterioration of basic morality and propriety. I support this argument with points from both Islamic and secular viewpoints as well as numerous references linked throughout.
November 21, 2014 at 1:36 AM
That clears up my confusion, though one would still argue that sexual expression in the form of catcalling and in the from of wearing, for instance, halter top and short skirts, are not the same. Nonetheless, thanks. What you are trying to say is significantly different from what the comments are portraying the article to be.
November 21, 2014 at 8:10 AM
On the contrary, Br Daniel, the “third wave feminist” (not you) would, in fact, have no difficulty decrying street harassment, while promoting a “free for all” in terms of dress, because they are not decrying street harassment on the basis of “immodesty” or “indecency” or “honour”.
They are decrying street harassment because it is threatening and terrifying.
The commenters above have told you this repeatedly, but you do not wish to engage with the argument. Rather, you keep accusing the commenters of missing the point, while quite spectacularly doing the same yourself, repeatedly.
As for your second point, I do not know any Muslim sister who is posting here who disagrees with you that overt sexuality is harmful to society as a whole. But that is a discussion that needs to take place within a different framework, not in the context of a video about a woman who, while dressing and behaving with reasonable modesty *according to the standards of her society* is not free to go about her business in peace.
November 21, 2014 at 10:53 AM
@Umm Sumayyah – Yes, I anticipated that objection when I wrote:
“In response to this, some might argue that their grievance against street harassment has nothing to do with some arcane notion of decency, modesty, or honor. Rather, what makes street harassment so odious is that it is an instance of a person “exerting power and control over someone else.””
Did you and the others skip this part of the article? Instead of repeatedly asserting that “sexual harassment is threatening, terrifying, etc.” ***none of which I deny***, why not actually address the numerous points I make regarding the harm of indecent dress?
November 21, 2014 at 3:36 PM
You may have anticipated the objection, but you did not seriously engage with it. Rather, you responded by saying that a woman’s dress could itself be a form of “violence” – which completely trivialises the very real terror that women feel when they face street harassment. You cannot seriously compare the two situations in any meaningful way.
As for your comments on indecency in general, I am perfectly happy to engage with these thoughts, but, as I said in my reply to Umm Muhammad below, your framing of those arguments within the context of the catcalling video and responses to street harassment is not appropriate. The discussion on indecency in society needs to be in a context that considers all of the factors that have led to that indecency, not in a way that places the blame for that indecency primarily at the feet of women and “liberal feminists”.
(A few hints: It’s not women and “liberal feminists” who have exerted any real power over society in the 200 years it has taken for social morals to transform from Victorian modesty to current overt sexuality. It’s not primarily women and “liberal feminists” who benefit from the overt sexuality of modern society. And I can almost guarantee you that it’s not women and “liberal feminists” who will be your most serious opponents in trying to construct a society where men do not have free access to women’s bodies.)
I apologise for any harshness in my responses to you. Was salam.
November 20, 2014 at 5:52 PM
Women really need to take some responsibility over their actions. There is something about Western Feminism that so incredibly infantilises women.
Immodest women: if you are dressing to attract sexual attention; you cant “pick and choose” and be upset when you attract unwanted sexual attention.
Dressing immodestly corrodes the spiritual environment. Is there a direct correlation between immodest dress and lewd behaviour? Yes. Everyone knows it. That doesnt excuse the blame/responsibility on both sides, but it still exists.
Muslim women critising the author need to realise their own hypocrisy. If a media outlet (ahem!) promotes islamophobia and violence then are you saying it’s absolved of ANY blame when Muslims are attacked because they didnt “force” anyone to do that? If people must accept the consequences of their influence when it comes to verbal/intellectual discourse, then how much more for visual display?
Its not a debate that can be had in Western circles, but that doesnt make it any more of a reality. Its a 2 way street. The brothers will be rewarded for lowering their gaze and the immodestly dressed women held to task for spreading corruption.
November 20, 2014 at 10:06 PM
It’s 2014 and apparently we have come to a grand conclusion that women can do whatever they like however they like whenever they like/
November 20, 2014 at 8:32 PM
As a Muslim woman raised from a young age and living in the US, it is really hard for me to see the sheer amount of push-back and lashing out that brother Daniel is getting from fellow Muslim women. As a fellow commenter on here noted, I seem to be the only practicing Muslim woman on here who is not repulsed by, but actually–gasp!–even agrees with the points the author makes.
First off, let me put forth a few disclaimers lest I be misunderstood or relegated to the realm of the crazy:
*I am not a self-hating woman.
*I do not believe that rape is EVER justified–sexual assault is as ugly and violent as crimes can get.
*I do not believe that women don’t get abused or controlled by men in various societies and in various times–one would have to be blind and deaf to miss the constant instances of very real abuses that women suffer and have suffered at the hands of their male counterparts in both American and non-Western societies, in both Muslim and non-Muslim contexts.
*I do not believe in “blaming the victim” whenever cases of sexual abuse occur (which is at an alarmingly high rate, may Allah save all women and men)
*I do not think that hijab or niqab will magically–poof!–make any and all possibility of sexual abuse (whether cat-calling, stares or ogling, unwanted touching, threats, or outright rape) disappear.
*I do not think that in Muslim-majority countries, there are no instances of sexual abuse/ street harasment; as a young woman who has lived in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, I have seen firsthand the countless instances of casual catcalls routinely made to hijabis and niqabis by men in those Muslim countries.
*I am not suffering from false consciousness.
*I am not blindly, unthinkingly just following the dictates of religion with no understanding of culture or mores specific to the part of the world we find ourselves in; I grew up in the US and attended public school up until college.
*While in no way an expert, I am somewhat acquainted with feminist theory and ideas; I don’t claim any superiority here when I say that I graduated from Harvard with a degree in Social Anthropology. I mean only to dispel any doubts people might have that I have no understanding of the nuances of what’s being discussed.
I think that is is quite telling that in order to agree with the author on this topic, I feel the need to preface my comments with this long and tired list of disclaimers in order to avoid the ready labels that many people–fellow Muslim women included, surprisingly–don’t hesitate to dish out.
Anyway. There seem to be several key issues that are being brought up by my fellow Muslim ladies, and here is my take:
November 20, 2014 at 8:39 PM
-Sexual harassment can go both ways: this is true. But in a fellow Muslim woman’s comment, she equates males’ sexual harassment of women in the form of catcalling to this scenario: if a woman were to “loudly call out sexually charged phrases or comments about a man’s appearance or follow him around in the streets and make him feel afraid for his own safety then that would be considered harassment.”
November 20, 2014 at 8:40 PM
Hmm. Really? With all due respect, sister, I disagree. I think it’s important to be cognizant of the different ways in which harassment of a sexual nature can be committed.
I won’t talk about the harm done to men by women’s choice of attire (or lack thereof), even though I have young sons whom I wish I could shield from this type of harm as adult men insha’Allah.
But I’ll talk about the harm done to to women by women’s choice of attire (or lack thereof).
In Islam, BOTH men and women are commanded by the Almighty to do two things: guard their gaze and be modest in dress and conduct. I, as a believing Muslim woman, strive to guard my gaze from anything is unlawful for my to look at, including other women’s `awra! So a woman walking down the street in a miniskirt with thighs showing or a halter top with navel showing–that makes my job harder. I’m NOT saying that it’s my job to then run at her, screaming and flailing my arms, and coerce her into dressing more modestly so as not to make my job harder. I’m NOT saying that a man who chooses to catcall her is justified. I’m merely pointing out some harm that her choice of attire does cause me as a fellow human being (who happens to be Muslim) who shares her same public space.
So you see, it’s not an issue of temptation. I’m not, as a woman, lusting after a scantily-clad woman and cannot control my urges or sexual attraction to her (which is what some have accused this author of doing, with comments about “trying to keep it in his pants”). The harm done to me, by her, is different but still very real. During the summer months, while riding the subway or simply walking down the street, I will literally find it hard to find a safe place to look, a halal place for my eyes to rest!
THAT, in my opinion, is what the author was alluding to when talking about guarding the gaze, as it is an invaluable treasure in Islam.
Do you see how accusing the author (or men in general) of being unable to control their sexual urges doesn’t make sense?
When a sister here says that when a woman dresses scantily, “she is not directing that at you.” Umm…no she isn’t. But you know what she IS doing? Forgetting or dismissing the idea that she shares the public spaces with others aside from herself. Sure, she is not directing her nakedness at the author of this post, or at me, or at you–but she IS directing it at EVERYONE. Anyone who happens to cross paths with her is in her public space. That’s what makes it a public space: it’s not private. It’s not just you involved.
So a sister commented here advising this solution: “don’t look!” My response to that: please see above paragraph about not knowing where to look.
November 20, 2014 at 8:41 PM
Moving on. I hear your point, fellow commenter, that as people in the minority of a Western society, we cannot just go around trying to enforce our own religion on others or shoving our beliefs down people’s throats. No one is saying this, least of all brother Daniel in this article.
I agree with brother Daniel and a few of the commenters here about a very real problem: there is an ongoing phenomenon of Western (i.e. secularist/ atheist/ feminist) ideas and ideals seeping into the consciousness of Muslims, both in the US/ Western countries, and in majority-Muslim countries.
I am not here to accuse anyone of being steeped in the Western mindset. I say this to admit that I MYSELF find that, in various ways and about different issues, I struggle to separate my Islamic ideals from Western norms, in which I have been steeped for decades. It’s only natural for me to have absorbed at least some of them, unknowingly and unintentionally.
Lastly, because this post is turning into a book: I think that some of the knee-jerk reactions we see from women (Muslim or not) to this article is an erroneous conflation of feminism and women’s well-being. Feminist does not have a monopoly on women. Feminist, while varying, forms only a small sliver of competing ideologies and mind-sets that address the issues of women vis-a-vis men. Someone–yes, even a man!–may completely and vehemently disagree with feminist principles and yet be a staunch advocate and supporter of women. Imagine that.
November 21, 2014 at 8:38 AM
Umm Muhammad, honestly, I share your concerns about the sexualisation of public spaces.
The discussion here, however, is in the context of a video of a non-Muslim woman, in a non-Muslim society, dressing and walking reasonably modestly according to the standards of her society, and the outrage of people around the world that this woman could not go about her business in peace, as if she was somehow to blame for that situation.
Many of the points you make, and many of the points Br Daniel makes, regarding the harms to society in general from open indecency are perfectly valid points. But they do not belong in the context of this video or the reactions to it.
They belong in the context of a discussion about the sexualisation of society as a whole, taking into account the many factors that come into play, including:
* the role of the media;
* the ridicule faced by girls of all religions who wish to dress modestly (and boys who wish to behave modestly);
* the intense focus on the appearance of women in public life, even if they happen to be the Prime Minister of a country;
* the targeting of young girls by advertisers and merchandisers, so that they grow up thinking that indecent dress is normal and good, and many other societal factors.
What this discussion does is it ignores that context and places the blame for the sexualisation of society on individual women and “liberal feminists”, as if these are the people responsible for getting us from the modesty of Victorian England to the situation that we see today.
That is what I object to, and I resent the implication that I am somehow failing in “Muslim-y thinking” because of that point of view.
November 21, 2014 at 8:52 AM
Sister, you didn’t understand my point. The point is that the comparison is not valid because there’s a HUGE difference between the provocative clothing that’s not directed at you specifically that you can strive to ignore whereas catcalling IS directed specifically at the one victim and they feel in actual danger from it. And while the catcalling you were victim to in some Arab countries was “casual” did you ever stop to think that catcalling in the west could be accompanied by actually being followed around, raped, kidnapped, etc. Hope that makes more sense now.
Sister, I didn’t make up the don’t look thing, it’s the solution offered by Islam. I didn’t say it was easy either, but life isn’t supposed to be easy and there is no way it is on the same level as someone being directly harassed by catcalling.
Yes, society is full of temptations and so on, but there are many places to look. The ground for one. The trees and architecture. If a woman scantily dressed is approaching you you can look at her face instead of other parts of her body. You can look down at a book you are reading if you’re on the bus or something. You can look down at your phone where you might be playing a simple game of tetris or something. There are many ways to protect your gaze in public spaces. It is very disingenuous to suggest that this is just as hard as dealing with catcalling, which is what the author was repeatedly doing in comparisons. That’s all we’re saying.
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November 20, 2014 at 10:47 PM
Western men have been living around women for years who are not veiled and do not wear lose clothing and have controlled themselves just fine. Yes there are rapes here just like everywhere but at least our governments don’t put us in jail. If you can not control yourself when you see a woman in western clothes– YOU HAVE A SERIOUS PROBLEM.
November 21, 2014 at 9:50 AM
Really? Seriously? Again with the “you can’t control yourself” line?? That is what spoke to you, what you got from this article? Ugh. Please learn to read and then come back and try again.
November 22, 2014 at 12:10 AM
FYI, the video was shot in a western country named United States of America in the progressive city called New York. Since the video shows mostly black or brown men and if, by western, you meant ‘white’ then please do a reality check by reading this
Although, I agree that if you cannot control yourself you have a problem.
November 21, 2014 at 6:23 PM
Nobody on here, certainly not me, is throwing away all the good you mentioned in your article about the damage immoral society has on one’s iman and communal Muslim psyche. What I have pointed out, and numerous others have pointed out was what we thought was not right in the making of your point (which are all valid points and we need to discuss them), namely, using an example of street harassment (and the reaction it garnered from people in the general public) and then making an argument for something everybody in the comments sections agrees about. We all agree that the immoral tendencies and promotions of vulgar sexuality in the West are affecting both men and women negatively. We all agree that as Muslims we know and understand that Islamic attire, as well as conduct will help and is the solution for a society that has no moral compass to speak of.
What you need to acknowledge is that the basis of your argument (I.e. Using street harassment to make your point, even though you are saying that harassment is wrong) is wrong. You need to see our point for what it is, instead of dismissing our points. I have asked a valued question in an earlier post (stating that harassment for Muslim women could be much much worse if they dressed western), but you ignored it and repeatedly ignored what most sisters are saying, but is shocked to conclude that we are but influenced and deluded by liberal/secular thoughts.
I disagree with you when you made an assumption that in a few generations hijab or niqab would disappear.
I understand that your background has a lot to do with philosophy and I have read most of your articles and comments on here, which tend to hypothesize and abstract ideas and realities. For pragmatic reasons and reasons of facing reality, one must come to consider what the points we are making are. In my comments above I do not believe I said your article nor the point of modesty and Islamic values are not what we uphold.
Why we must be careful when we talk about harassment and the way we address it for the universal, societal problem that it is and insist on talking about it is because it is a huge Muslim problem. I don’t know if you have followed over the fall the big report that came out of Englad about the abuse and harassment that Muslim girls have suffered in the hands of Muslims adults. I don’t know if you are following the shocking news about a 3 year old toddler who was brutally raped in Afghanistan and numerous other girls. I don’t know if you are following the news about the shocking statistics about young girls self-harm due to psychological burdens etc…these are very important and huge. So when I got upset, I was upset for the sake of these reasons. That we must give harassment it’s place in our discussion. It doesn’t belong in philosophizing about sexual revolution and the revolting nature of the society we live in. The more we talk about these pragmatic problems, the better.
Yes, there is a place for your discussions and engaging points and fallacies you call out about the society we live in. We need to be educated about the nuances and points of failure of the Western/secular mindset. But please take responsibility in this discussion and acknowledge your own wrong. It doesn’t benefit that you say, you find pleasure in offending others.
Honestly this is the first time I have commented on MM.
As a community we are failing humanity in not being honest about universal problems of abuse, harassment. We are supposed to be the people of “qist”…which means not of just middle, but highest middle, I.e. The summit of all that is good. When we put a blind eye to these and other injustices or (in this case fail to see the wrong in bringing it up where it doesn’t belong) we aren’t being what we preach we are. In this particular example, we need to stand in objecting to the harassment that lady was subjected to. And when we want to condemn the popular culture and status quo, we should dedicate its own place for it.
Please take this as a naseeha, no need to take my dedication to Allah in observing niqab or the lack of observing hijab for other sisters as a reason to dismiss a point we are trying to make. Your points are valid and we agree to them, but object to where they were brought up.
AsSalamu alaykum warahmatullah.
November 22, 2014 at 12:02 AM
“They are decrying street harassment because it is threatening and terrifying.”
Scott Greenfield writes on his blog regarding this issue (specifically in relation to the video), “To the extent it has any parameters, it is the undesired communication by a male to a female, without regard to content. It is, presumptively again, per se “intimidating,” not because it suggests any objective basis for concern, but because women feel that they should not have to hear words they prefer not to hear, and forcing them to do so on the street annoys them. Things that annoy women should be crimes.”
The claim that ‘all’ street harassment is threatening is not tenable either legally or logically.
Despite what Scott Greenfield writes about the dangers of ‘criminalizing’ street harassment, the fact of the matter is that such laws exist, those laws that criminalize indecent exposure.
If fear for one’s safety is the defining criterion of sexual harassment then indecent exposure would not/should not be considered sexual harassment or for that matter most of the verbal comments recorded in this specific video.
Daniel explained this concept very well, when he asked, “Are comments like, “Hey beautiful,” by strange men in actuality harmful to a woman? How so? Of course, I believe there is harm,…”
For anyone familiar with basics of rhetoric, it would have been enough if he left it at the question, “how so?” But sadly, considering the knee jerk tendency to label, conflate and malign, he had to force that answer in the article and many times over in the comments section. The “how so?” is meant to make you think about the various aspects and nuances of this concept of sexual harassment.
If fear for safety and being followed around are defining features, then should a man/woman pleasuring oneself in public or even indulging in ‘indecent exposure’ be charged with laws pertaining to sexual harassment?
November 22, 2014 at 2:25 AM
1. The assertion that not “all” street harassment is threatening:
Do you not find it interesting that it is a man who is making this assertion? Perhaps *you* are not threatened by it, but the women who experience it generally are. The man who silently followed around the lady in the video for 5 minutes did not give any indication by his first address to her that he would turn into a silent stalker. The fact is that a woman does not know whether the random person who is calling out to her on the street will turn out to be that silent stalker – or someone even more terrifying. That is why street harassment is threatening – it’s not about “women being annoyed by having to hear something they don’t like”.
2. Your question about about why a person who is pleasuring themselves in public or indulging in “indecent exposure” should be charged with sexual harassment: I cannot speak to the law in the US, but in my my country a person is not “charged” with laws pertaining to sexual harassment. Sexual harassment is not a crime – it is something that is unlawful in the workplace, and can lead to workplace consequences.
Street harassment, on the other hand, is something different. Street harassment is not a crime in itself, but depending on its form, it can be (though it usually isn’t) dealt with under laws dealing with offensive or threatening behaviour, or laws dealing with assault, which includes threats of violence. These offences are something that you do to another person, where another person is harmed or feels unsafe.
Indecent exposure or public “self-pleasuring” are dealt with under laws relating specifically to “indecent exposure” or “indecent behaviour”. These are crimes that are not necessarily targeted at a particular person, and there does not need to be a victim, per se.
There is a difference between behaviour that is directed at a particular person, and behaviour that is indecent in general. The two need to be treated separately.
November 22, 2014 at 9:07 AM
Here is another, a woman who has been catcalled innumerable times. Also, she is a feminist and writes:
“…such interactions are so ubiquitous and so subjective that what one woman considers threatening may well be shrugged off by another.”
Let’s take your argument that, “The fact is that a woman does not know whether the random person who is calling out to her on the street will turn out to be that silent stalker – or someone even more terrifying. That is why street harassment is threatening…” to a logical conclusion. “The fact is, a woman does not know whether a man will call out to her…and that is why street harassment is threatening.” But, absent other aggravating factors, is the act of making unwanted calls threatening per se? Is the fact of being a man threatening? Therefore, the claim that ‘all’ street harassment is threatening is not tenable either legally or logically.
Now coming to your statement regarding indecent exposure or public pleasuring that, “these are crimes that are not necessarily targeted at a particular person, and there does not need to be a victim, per se.”
The directionality of indecent exposure can be demonstrated by citing several news items, which have the common theme of, “xyz exposed himself to…several people.” The preposition ‘to’ in the English language indicates directionality.
It can also be demonstrated by asking the question, if this video of the woman was shot in your country and at a park bench where a man would stroll in, relax at a convenient distance from her, expose his —tails and start petting them, not necessarily indicating that it is directed at her, would you consider it ‘street harassment’?
Also, please can you share the name of your country? So that we can find out which country on earth prosecutes people for indecent exposure and yet does not treat it as a form of sexual harassment.
November 23, 2014 at 5:14 PM
1. The thing that makes the catcaller scarier than a random man on the street is that the catcaller has specifically noticed the woman, has taken steps to make sure she knows he is watching her, and demonstrated his disregard for her feelings. In other words, he has already targeted her, whereas the random man has not. There is a very clear difference.
2. Similarly, there is a very clear difference between a man who targets indecent behaviour towards a specific woman or group of women, and a man who is generally being indecent. The former is much more terrifying for the women being targeted than the latter.
3. There are many countries around the world where indecency is treated separately from sexual harassment, and the offence consists of indecent exposure or indecent behaviour in a public place, with no reference to a “victim”. The harm is done to the public in general.
4. The best way to tackle any problem is by treating its root cause. The root cause of street harassment is not how the woman is dressed, but the sense of entitlement the harasser has over public spaces and over the bodies of women. That is why many people are asking for the focus of this discussion to be taken off the woman’s dress, and placed on the root cause of the behaviour, and for the conversation to move towards what we, as a society, can do to address these root causes.
November 24, 2014 at 1:32 AM
1. Yet, even after he has completed his catcall, he has not threatened you in any tangible way that the law would/could recognize, without running into problems of overzealous legislation that will give rise to secondary and arbitrary victimization of another kind (as discussed by the authors I have cited before). So, without any legal recourse to stop this, you are left to appeal to ‘your feelings’ and ‘the root problem’.
‘Your feelings’ could be different from another woman and that too a feminist with regard to your perception of threat. I repeat, “The claim that ‘all’ street harassment is threatening is not tenable either legally or logically.” So this fact stands until you demonstrate that it is otherwise.
Besides, why would anybody’s feelings be important to someone who prescribes to the idea that everything is fair as long as no one is physically hurt?
So, now coming to the root problem, how are you going to communicate this within the feminist framework without invoking Islam (or any other belief system that invokes values)? It is this dichotomy that the article intended to address. It has been made into something else in the comments section.
2. You still haven’t answered about the scenario of a man in a park in your country. Would you consider it street harassment or not? Yes or no?
3. Are there more than 225 letters in your country’s name? Which makes me even more inquisitive, a country that has more than 225 letters in its name and prosecutes people for indecent exposure, and yet does not recognize it as a form of sexual harassment? Please do share your country’s name.
November 22, 2014 at 1:36 PM
I hear the points you’re making, Umm Sumayya and ElvinInk. I truly appreciate this conversation. May Allah reward our sincere efforts to engage in real discussion and may He grant us deep understanding, ameen.
Several thoughts and observations about what’s going on:
Daniel, in this article, is making the point that
A) on a communal, societal level, high trends of public indecency / immodesty in dress and general behavior are harmful (despite insistent non-Muslim claims that this is freedom for women).
He goes on to propose
B) a link/ correlation between a heightened level of public immodesty/ indecency and a heightened level another form of immodesty/ indecency: catcalling (this is important to define: in the viral video, catcalling consisted of comments such as “God bless you, mami” and “hey beautiful,” and “hi, how are you?”)
Some readers MAY have added, in their own minds from previous experiences, stories of women friends, appalling reports read, etc, that
C) the author was additionally trying to link veritable crimes such as rape and physical assault to this issue of a societal phenomenon of public bodily exposure.
I feel like we may just be talking past each other. Many readers were angry, indignant, and offended, thinking that Daniel was making points A, B, and C. Daniel seemed offended and baffled as to why some readers have reacted this negatively, since he knows he was only making points A and B, and repeatedly clarifying that point C was NOT what he was saying.
November 22, 2014 at 1:42 PM
“We are a minority in a majority non-Muslim Western society and have no business talking about a non-Muslim woman walking through a non-Muslim city wearing reasonable clothes for non-Muslim standards.”
My response: you know what makes it our business? The fact that we live in this country and are affected deeply (VERY deeply in some cases) by our surroundings. As a fellow Muslim sister who has taken off her hijab has said to me, “I don’t live in a vacuum. To expect me to maintain Islamic standards of dress here and now is absurd. Look at everyone around us!!” The fact that increasingly and at an alarming rate, previously-devout young Muslim women and girls emulate such non-Muslim women.
We NEED to be able to rationally explain and clarify the practical wisdoms of hijab, the benefits and utility it affords women. Yes, the intention of anything should be for the sake of Allah–but that intention does not mean there aren’t ALSO real and practical functions for the concept of hijab. It is not mutually exclusive. To try to dismiss this is dangerous.
November 22, 2014 at 1:49 PM
I completely agree with you, Umm Sumayya, that there is a host of factors involved behind the societal downward-spiraling of decency and modesty. Feminism is not the only reason; there are certainly other players like the media, fashion industry, music industry, porn industry, popular culture, men’s interests/ agendas–many different parties stand to gain by seeing women nearly naked.
However, to me at least, certain strands of feminism, specifically third-wave, stand out because of their vehemence in defending the “right” of all women to bare their bodies and remove all inhibitions and have shameless sex and flaunt their sexuality and throw caution to the wind and glorify “raunch society” and reclaim words like “slut” and remove any and all restrictions. All in the name of “freedom.”
This, to me, is extremely detrimental and hurts me to see even women raised Muslim gradually abandoning their Muslim beliefs about this, in favor of the wildly more exciting third-wave feminist do-what-you-wanna-do-and-no-apologies culture. I mean, why not, right? Why follow strict rules when you can just…not?
It is so immensely painful for me to watch this gradual loosening of the hold of young Muslim women on Islam, in this arena specifically. I cannot tell you the number of Muslim friends and even family members I personally have who have turned into someone else; they have decided that hijab and rules about sexual conduct, modesty, chastity were cramping their style. So out the window those values went. Off came the hijab. Off came the looser, longer clothes. Instead, now these girls are wearing shorts and little dresses, going to parties, and engaging in promiscuous, meaningless sex. There is some definite brainwashing happening.
November 24, 2014 at 10:32 AM
“We NEED to be able to rationally explain and clarify the practical wisdoms of hijab, the benefits and utility it affords women.” Yes, of course we do, but this is not what brother Daniel did in his article. That’s the problem. He wasn’t focusing on hijab and its benefits for women, he was making it an issue about men and focusing on how hard it is for them to have to see inappropriate dress and he even went to the level of saying that inappropriate/provocative dress is so bad it’s like “violence” against men. That’s what we objected to. This method that he used has done the exact opposite of what one might hope to achieve by talking about and explaining hijab!
November 22, 2014 at 1:55 PM
As depressing as that is for me to watch unfold, then I also have to console these friends and sisters when they complain about guys looking at them on the street, a guy trying to grope them at wild parties because he was drunk, and a host of other equally sad things. I want to say to them: “Why did you choose to put yourself in this vulnerable position in the first place? Men on the street and men who are drunk at parties can be pigs–why did you expose yourself and then parade yourself before them? I am not denying the men’s need to own up to their mistakes–but I ask that you not deny yours. Taking any and all responsibility away from yourself is not empowering. It is victimizing.”
I’m not blaming the victim–what I am doing is treating these, and all women, as rational, adult human beings who are agents who are capable of making choices. Everyone who is a sane, rational adult is responsible for their own actions and choices. Men are. Women are.
That does NOT mean that I am saying there are no victims. Of course there are countless victims all over the world of sexual violence, rape, assault. That can happen to anyone, regardless of dress, and it’s appalling. I agree.
But then there are times when things like catcalling or ogling happen–but not equally to just anyone. Sometimes it happens to people who are agents who made their own choices and insisted that they will be free from harm while making unwise decisions.
Given the shiny allure and seductive sparkle of this third-wave-feminist-style “freedom,” I think it’s simply imperative that someone, like this writer, address the not-so-shiny underside of the issue. Thank you, Daniel. Please keep writing.
November 23, 2014 at 6:03 PM
The primary problem for the young women you describe is not their short skirts and partying. The primary problem is that they have lost trust in Allah as the one who loves them the most, and wants for them the best, and has the knowledge and authority to guide them as to how to achieve the best in this world and the next. And the problem needs to be tackled from that angle – not only for the young women who have been molested, but also for the young women who have not, and the young men who are in minimal danger of being molested but who have fallen into the same problem.
If we are serious about doing something about the scourge of anti-women violence and harassment in our communities, then it is essential that we change the way we talk about this issue.
By far, the highest incidence of molestation against girls and women is in their own home, by people who are close them. What enables this behaviour to start, and then continue, is the shame felt by the victim and her fear of being blamed for what is happening to her. This causes her to remain silent, and the problem goes on, often for years.
Why is she feeling shamed and fearful of being blamed? Because she has heard that whenever we talk about this issue of harassment of girls and women, we pay lip service to the idea that the man should not have done so, but then move past this on the basis that the men who do such acts are monsters, and we can’t do anything about it. We then go on to scrutinise, in intense detail, what the female victim did and how she could have acted differently to avoid such a problem happening. I would suggest that this approach is erroneous for several reasons.
November 23, 2014 at 6:04 PM
1. Not many of us could withstand such scrutiny of our behaviour and come out the other side unblemished. There is nearly always something that we could have done differently to avoid a given situation coming about.
2. Research into victims of harassment and more severe violence against women has shown us that the victim already blames herself for what happened, and has replayed the scenario in her head many times over, wishing that she had done things differently.
3. This scrutiny on the behaviour of victims is what gives rise to hugely damaging public messages, such as the comments recently by the Indian defence lawyer of one of the gang-rapists who brutally murdered a girl on a bus, when he said that such things don’t happen to decent girls.
4. The men who harass and molest women are not monsters. They are our brothers and fathers and sons. They are our grandfathers, uncles and cousins. They are our doctors and teachers. They are normal, everyday men who have internalised messages that give them a sense of entitlement over the bodies of women. As a society, we can do something about these messages.
5. If we can focus the conversation away from scrutinising the behaviour of the victim and onto the root causes of the problem, then this can help in creating a space where victims are not ashamed to speak up about what is happening to them, because they know they will be supported.
I am not speaking in the abstract, but in the light of real experiences of real women who have remained silent about their molestation out of shame and fear of being blamed rather than helped.
November 23, 2014 at 6:06 PM
With respect to the author of this article, it is hardly groundbreaking for a man to write an article that starts with the harassment of a woman by several different men, and then goes on to analyse what women should do differently to stop this from happening.
What would be groundbreaking is for a man to write an article, by and for practising Muslims who are passionate about their deen, that starts with the harassment of a woman by several different men, and then goes on to acknowledge that this harassment is a serious problem in Muslim and non-Muslim communities, and discusses the steps that men can take to discourage other men from this behaviour, and the steps that we can take as a society towards encouraging the respect of women and their welcome inclusion into public and political space.
That is the what I would have expected from a respected site like Muslim Matters, but I was disappointed.
And Allah knows best. May He forgive me for what I said wrong, and guide me to the correct way of thinking. May He protect us all, and strengthen our hearts. Ameen.
November 24, 2014 at 10:45 AM
Your above post did a MUCH better job of explaining some of the problems with modern feminism than Daniel’s article and your advice to those women – people you know personally who are Muslim sisters and do have the guidance of Islam that should help them to know better – is fine.
Unfortunately, what Daniel’s article does is it tells those women that by dressing that way they are doing “violence” upon poor men and that the harm they cause to men by dressing that way is the same as or even more than the harm that men disrespecting them causes. This is a very offensive analogy and that is what I objected to in the article. I guarantee you that if you had used this reasoning when speaking to them they would not have taken kindly to your advice and this may have pushed them even further away from modest dress!
January 11, 2015 at 12:21 PM
Do you steal food from bakeries who let the smell go into the street? Who have the audacity to display their products in the window? Do you justify when people rob jewelry stores because the jewelry store placed the shiny attractive items in the windowfront?
November 22, 2014 at 3:28 PM
I agree with the sisters who have said that from the perspective of feeling threatened, a woman who is being catcalled can definitely feels more threatened for her life and safety than does a man encountering half-naked women on the street. She doesn’t know if it will stop there, and she can’t retaliate if she’s put off.
And I also agree with the principle mentioned above of tackling each on principle, one at a time. So street harassment is wrong and not justified by improper dress, and the issue should be viewed as is, irrespective of how a woman dresses.
This article is not about street harassment – it’s about how a woman’s choice of dress can be harmful to her by increasing the chances of gaining unwanted male attention, about the harm it can cause men, and the hypocrisy in wanting to look at only one contributing factor and not another.
If we factor out the “fear” side of the discussion, then behaviorally speaking it’s all free speech. If you want to factor in what “could” happen, then an immodestly dressed woman “may” be teaching men to objectify her – she’s got it, she’s flaunting it. She “may” be teaching men women are simply sexual objects for our viewing pleasure. She “may” be enabling a psychology that promotes a rape culture.
But is a woman’s dress the only factor? As was mentioned earlier, catcalling happens to modestly dressed niqabis in Muslim countries – why? My question to those who have lived in those countries, has this type of behavior always been the case? If not, when did it start? What impact do you think the entertainment industry has on these countries? Music, movies, and so on?
I’m only looking at catcalling. Dv, strange attitudes about family honor, and so on are on the cultural side, but a universal eastern / western issues tend to have common factors – modest dress can reduce if not eliminate the problem and is one part of a many pronged solution.
The rest of it is with our families, to teach our children to be respectful, to teach our sons to be respectful and to teach our daughters to respect themselves and to keep away from what exploits them (ie most types of entertainment media)
November 23, 2014 at 5:29 PM
“If we factor out the “fear” side of the discussion …”
In other words, “I know that apples and oranges are different. But, if we take away the things that make the orange look like an orange, then don’t you think it would look rather like an apple?”
“Modest dress can reduce if not eliminate the problem …”
Are you at all aware of the levels of harassment of women in Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia and Egypt? Or in non-Muslim countries where the level of dress is more modest than the US, like India? Or in countries like Japan, where they have started women-only carriages on their trains because it has become nearly impossible for a woman to be in a mixed-gender carriage without being groped by a man?
If we are serious about reducing or eliminating the problem, then how about we tackle its root causes – the things that cause the men to behave in that way? What messages are they receiving that cause them to have a sense of entitlement over public space, or an entitlement to stare at women until the women feel uncomfortable, or an entitlement to verbally harass or intimidate women, or an entitlement to touch women? Where is that messaging coming from, and what are the societal institutions that reinforce those messages? What can we, as a society, do to change the messages that are being given to these men, and to make our public spaces safe for women?
(Hint: the answers probably do not centre around what individual women are wearing.)
November 24, 2014 at 1:51 AM
We are yet to establish that ‘fear’ is the defining character of oranges!
November 24, 2014 at 11:50 AM
Salaam alaykum Umm Sumayyah,
Yes, I’m aware of the fact that modestly dressed women in Muslim countries are harassed. I’ve stated it a number of times previously already. I think it’s fair to say that not only do we agree on this point, but that brother Daniel already mentioned it in his article.
I believe it was you who asked, “Are you saying without modest dress, it would be worse in those countries?” Unfortunately, yes. I just read a story that an Egyptian cab driver in the US molested a woman who apparently was clubbing or partying (and not wearing much). She reported him and he told the police, “In my country, when a woman dresses like that, it means she wants it.”
The sentence I wrote above was admittedly confusing – it should read “modest dress will reduce even if it will not eliminate the problem”, so my apologies for that.
What I mean by saying “It will reduce the problem” is that modest dress is a preventative / protective measure for women against harm. Preventative / protective measures in general do not guarantee protection from harm, but they are best practices that reduce such. So when you don’t walk a dangerous neighborhood at night, that’s a preventative measure. Doesn’t mean you can’t harmed in safe neighborhood. When you purchase a burglary alarm system for your home, that’s a preventative measure, but it doesn’t guarantee someone won’t try to break into your home after disabling your alarm system. You can teach your child how to behave in public when they are on their own so as to not be harmed, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be abducted.
But you still should take those protective / preventative measures anyway, and that’s the point.
What’s a woman in a public space who “has it and is flaunting it”? She’s the same as a person leaving their home for vacation and leaving signs out that say, “I’m out on a trip and don’t have an alarm system.” It’s a person who leaves their kid in the park and announces to the world, “I’m leaving my kid alone here for a few hours, bye.” It’s a person who decides to walk a dangerous neighborhood at night where all the gangs hang out. In principle, in every single situation, the person SHOULD expect that despite the attention they’ve drawn to themselves, no criminal activity takes place. No one should rob the home, no one should take or harm the kid, no one should attack the person out on a late night stroll.
But what if criminal activity did take place? The first thing you’d say is, “Why would you do something so stupid? Why would you draw attention to yourself, your family, or your property like that?”
As I mentioned above, you don’t have to draw attention to yourself to be harmed by criminal activity. You can even take preventative measures and still be a victim. but ultimately, those measures still have to be taken, and when a person intentionally draws attention to themselves instead of protecting themselves, it is valid to ask “Why are you intentionally drawing attention to yourself? Do you think that if you dressed more modestly, you would draw less attention from sleazy people?” It doesn’t change that they’re sleazy, but it also doesn’t change that you’re responsible for protecting yourself.
Finally, this discussion centers on “men” as though most men do this. that woman walked the streets of nyc (or manhattan) for 10 hours and received over 100 catcalls. Let’s put aside for a moment that most of what we saw in that video wasn’t actual catcalling, it was “hey, how are you” or “hi”, and there were 3 actual instances where people stayed with her (one in complimenting her, one in trying to get her number which in most social situations is normal, and the guy who followed her, which is creepy and weird). Please factor in that most men she passed said or did absolutely nothing.
Please also factor in the video evidence provided above of a woman walking in hijab vs the same woman not wearing it, and the attention received in the latter vs the former. There is a responsibility on us to teach men not to harm women, but there is also a responsibility on women to dress appropriately and not draw attention to themselves. It’s not one or the other, it’s both.
November 23, 2014 at 10:56 PM
@Siraaj Muhammad: “I’m only looking at catcalling. Dv, strange attitudes about family honor, and so on are on the cultural side, but a universal eastern / western issues tend to have common factors”
Catcalling and “strange attitudes about family honor” are two symptoms of the same problem, which is the ingrained disrespect for women in the society, any society. For centuries, women were men’s property. Only in later years did women start having a tiny crumb of the men’s cake and most men can’t stand it. In society’s where women have come furthest in gaining their human rights, those who still long to the time when women were their property expresses this in form of catcalling. In societies where women are still practically the property of men, they get honor murdered. The reason for both catcalling and strange attitudes about family honor is the man’s view that a woman is less than a man.
November 24, 2014 at 12:18 PM
Aveen, I agree with some of what you’ve said, but I also disagree with it as well. I think catcalling is simply unmannered men expressing that they find a woman attractive in, well, an unmannered way. Many men will be attracted to a woman and have proper manners and pass her by without saying anything. Still others on another extreme will approach her, try to make her acquaintaince, get her number, and eventually sleep with her because, well, she’s attractive and men have hormones they’d like to satisfy minus the responsibility of marriage and commitment. It has very little to do with historical perspectives of ownership, especially in the newer western generations. Women have the same hormones and are more expressive of their own sexuality as norms begin to allow for it more. A video of an attractive man has been circulating youtube where he was catcalled as well. I think that’s perfectly normal if not appropriate Islamically.
As for honor killings, I do not know the exact origin of the idea that if a woman is raped or has a relationship, the family has been dishonored. I do know that while men carry out the attacks, it is often sanctioned by female family members. When men beat their wives, it is mother-in-laws who support their sons, despite that the same happened to them with their own husbands. When women are divorced, widowed, or have previous relationship experience, it’s the mothers and aunts who tell their sons that the girl is defiled and not good enough for marriage (I know a number of cases where this happened, I wrote an article about it for MuslimMatters, you can look it up under “She’s Not Damaged Goods, We Have Damaged Standards”). And when women marry, in some cultures it’s the mother-in-law that appropriates the daughter-in-law and uses her like a slave to take care of the home.
These issues are often more complicated than simply male / female power dynamics, which I believe is more a vehicle for self-aggrandizing outrage rather than carefully considering the complete picture of the problem, picking apart each problem for what it is, and then providing meaningful, long-term solutions. As someone who has been married for 11 years and has never raised his hand to his wife, who grew up in a home where excessive domestic violence was part of the landscape, the person who had the most influence on me in this regard was not my father, whose behavior I could have carried forward, but my mother who stated “Only a coward hits a woman.”
I believe part of the solution (not the whole solution) is that women themselves, who are raising these “men”, need to raise them to respect women.
November 23, 2014 at 5:41 AM
Interestingly, the Devil also doesnt “force” anyone to do anything. He just ‘puts the idea’ out there into the public space. You cant fill the air with sewage and just ask people to pinch their noses as you exhibit your self-constructed “human right”. (And this applies to both genders; guys in skinny jeans -> please to refrain)
November 23, 2014 at 5:50 PM
Did you just compare women in public places to sewage?!
November 24, 2014 at 8:53 AM
Lol, Aveen, I sincerely hope you’re trolling…
November 25, 2014 at 2:46 AM
I compared filthy acts to filth. Yes; learn to follow an argument dear girl.
January 11, 2015 at 12:09 PM
Devil ‘puts the idea’ there like street harassment? So people who do street harassment must clearly be among the filth you are referring to. As such, clearly you wouldn’t defend such filth.
Abu Milk Sheikh
November 23, 2014 at 7:20 AM
The idea that Muslim women have a “right” to dress however they want is quite silly. It’s even sillier to hear Muslim women say so.
You don’t have a “right” to dress however you want. You are told how to dress by your Creator and His Messenger صلى الله عليه و سلم and given the ability to choose whether to obey or disobey. One choice is an act of worship and gains the pleasure of Allah, if done sincerely and according to the teachings of the Prophet صلى الله عليه و سلم. The other choice is a sin that is deserving of Allah’s punishment.
It’s like a Muslim saying “I have the right to continue living or off myself by jumping off a skyscraper” or “I have the right to choose to go to Paradise or Hellfire.”
January 11, 2015 at 12:07 PM
Do you argue that men have the ‘right’ to respond to women not yet dressing modestly in manners that are sins (e.g. harassment)?
November 23, 2014 at 10:57 AM
MashaAllah what a spectacular fail. It’s like this article was written exclusively for men.
For future pieces on this topic:
-Why not let sister share their experience in anonymous surveys + polls about being cat-called by Muslim guys?
-Why not share strategies women have successfully used in confronting cat-calling and sexual abuse?
-Why not talk about how scholars try to marry their students and pressure them if they refuse?
November 23, 2014 at 3:55 PM
A group of Muslim Feminists and I felt it imperative to respond to this article. It’s incredible resource and rebuttal of the many misogynistic comments and arguments that we endlessly experience. Please read and share it. Link: http://muslimgirl.net/8915/muslim-feminists-respond-hypocrisy-male-centric-narrative/
November 23, 2014 at 9:03 PM
I read the article response by @kkijaz and I really recommened it. Unlike this article, the response article actually references studies and statistics published by well respected international institutions.
November 23, 2014 at 9:31 PM
Thank you very much Aveen. I hope the article brings more awareness to the issues it highlights. The article is a huge disservice to the Muslim community, especially the Muslim diaspora in the US. We are all very disappointed with Muslim Matters for hosting it.
November 24, 2014 at 4:54 PM
I read the article. I empathize with the issues brought up, but I also feel it lacks internal consistency and, as mentioned above, doesn’t separate properly (or at all) the women’s rights islam champions and the women’s rights (or rights generally) that are part of progressive circles. E.g. I don’t support gay marriage, but according to the article if I don’t, I’m for injustice. I suspect you’ll find many of the women in this comments section don’t agree with that perspective (I hope).
November 25, 2014 at 3:11 AM
KKijaz, your rant completely missed the point of the article.
At the core of your argument is freedom of expression. A freedom you think women should wield at all costs. The author (mischievously perhaps) is suggesting that when unlimited freedom of expression is returned through a another route then all of a sudden you are up in arms.
Ironically you have completely validated most of the authors original arguments in your approach to this issue.
November 23, 2014 at 6:42 PM
I read the article twice (just to be sure). This is what I understood from the article.
1. If feminism is all about ‘equality’ and not ‘justice’ than what is right for one gender should also be right for another. So if it is not immodest to dress provocatively, than it’s shouldn’t be immodest to catcall.
2. It’s not like that they don’t have any rules about dress code at all in the west. They do, and we all know what they are. But when people in other countries and other religion tend to do so it is considered very oppressive.
3. If it is harmful for women to be harassed, it is also harmful for men to be exposed to sexually explicit images, since they work in somewhat the same way as drugs.
Although this is a very bravely written article, I must point out that…
1. The problem of cat calling and harassment is due to lack of proper upbringing (I never found that catcalling video fascinating anyways, the lady was not dressed provocatively, I’ve seen worst cases, plus it showed that the streets were filled with unruly men). Because in some societies women will receive all forms of harassment from men, regardless of what they wear. We need to teach our men to respect a woman regardless of who she is or what she wears, because that’s what the Prophet (PBUH) did.
2. Women do not dress (or undress) for the sake of men, but they wear hijab because Allah has asked them to do so. In fact both women AND men should wear modest clothings because modesty is a part of faith and we are a civilised group of people, not a bunch of tarzans running around in a jungle in their underpants.
November 23, 2014 at 9:52 PM
“We wonder how easy it would be for him to inform a gang rape victim, like Mukhtar Mai in Pakistan, that it would have been ‘much, much worse’ if she wasn’t wearing her chador, or rape victims in Darfur that the systematic torture and sexual violence they endured would have been ‘much, much worse’ if they weren’t wearing their veils. Would he like to tell the girls trafficked and forced into marriage by Boko Haram in Nigeria that their hijabs protected them from sexual violence? We wonder how the victims of sexual harassment and rape in Egypt’s Tahrir Square feel about the author’s assertion that street harassment would be far worse when there are cases of women having hundreds of men harass and assault them.”
November 23, 2014 at 9:59 PM
As an answer to all the angry comments, the author and the commentators who agree with him insist that the rest of us are missing the point. To that I say to the author: your point might very well have been the hypocrisy of the feminist movement, but I don’t care what your point is because you are expressing it by justifying sexual harassment. And not just that, but the ONLY way you tried to prove your point is by justifying sexual harassment. Your claim that you don’t believe that sexual harassment is justified under any circumstances is nothing more than empty words because you go right a head an blame sexual harassment on the woman’s choice of dress.
November 23, 2014 at 11:26 PM
Thank you for that.
November 23, 2014 at 10:03 PM
In reality, your article tells women “be modest or else” while it tells men “be modest”. Do you see how problematic that is? What you are saying to women is that if they are not “modest”, they will get harassed. Not in the after life but in the here and now, in reality, they will be psychologically and physically harmed if they are not “dressed modestly”. What do you tell men will happen to them, in the here and now, if they sexually harass women? A woman’s punishment for dressing “provocatively” is getting sexually harassed. What’s the punishment for the man who harasses that woman? Saying that God does not accept sexual harassment and that the man’s punishment will be severe in the after life is completely irrelevant here because, obviously, these men are not deterred by such warning and so it does not have the slightest effect on what women are forced to live through every single day… in the here and now.
November 23, 2014 at 10:24 PM
Another practical view I have an issue with. You define “provocative” and “modest” as “I know it when I see it”. Good for you! Now, today’s big cities are “melting pods” almost everywhere in the world. On the same street you can find someone who thinks that a bikini in public is modest and someone else who thinks that a jeans and T-shirt is provocative. Someone might see a miniskirt and short sleeves as modest while the person walking next to him sees that anything less than a burka is provocative. How exactly do you suggest that a woman should account for that? On what ground do you want the woman to adhere to YOUR definition of modest rather than the bikini-person’s definition? (I’m not going to say “rather than her own definition of modest” because you, obviously, don’t think that she is entitles to do that)
November 24, 2014 at 1:47 AM
Below comment manually posted by Comments Team based on email request.
My 2 cents: In addition to the observations made by Daniel, Zaheer, Siraaj, and others concerning how deeply many within our community have inhered secular liberal commitments as evidenced by the comments section, I find it interesting how Daniel’s critique of feminist discourse appears to have been deemed so offensive by some that the mere acknowledgment that men possess sexual attraction towards women is tantamount to a type of archaic primal instinct. This, despite the fact that we have a multitude of texts in the Quran and Sunna, and a plethora of empirical evidences that would make such a fact incredibly obvious.
The Prophet, alayhis salatu was salam, said that he left behind no temptation more difficult for men than women, and in another hadith stated that an unrestrained tongue and sexual organs are the principal reasons for people entering the hellfire. In yet another tradition he mentioned the one who resisted sexual temptation by a woman of beauty out of fear of Allah as being one of the seven shaded on the Day of Judgment. Even in the case of homosexuality, homoerotic impulses displayed by the people of Lot were described in the Quran as intoxicating them (innahum la-fi sakratihim ya’mahun). Indeed, the list could go on of verses and ahadith that speak to the potency of sexual desire. Going beyond the texts, the effects of unrestrained sexual desire are routinely on display in society. Popular figures jeopardize careers, financial stability, and risk humiliation time and again. Advertising routinely employs the adage ‘sex sells’, graphically enhancing celebrity figures and supermodels. Pornography is a burgeoning industry, with gross profits exceeding 100 billion dollars globally.
Frankly, the inability to acknowledge this is borderline fantastical, and simply alleging the imperative to exhibit self-control, though certainly valid, is clearly insufficient as even secular societies have imposed some set of regulations around indecency, dress codes, and the like, no matter how meagre these controls may be. Yes, everyone should lower their gaze, but that doesn’t mean that we’d want people walking around naked under the guise of freedom (few would want to live in such a society, I suspect). There needs to be a negotiation of individual responsibility and structural restrictions that make virtue and piety an achievable, encouraged, and lived reality, and as Muslims we should work to engender such a society.
This, I imagine, strikes some people as primitive for it requires a restriction of individual freedoms, and yet those same folks who object most fervently to such a discourse have no serious solutions for the increasing sexualization of our society today, with many concrete social harms including the objectification of the other, an increase in sexual assaults on campuses, psychological harms to youth growing up who view themselves as physiologically inadequate and suffer from eating disorders and the like. Any serious discussion of such problems would necessarily require a discussion of structural restrictions, and the point that Daniel is making (I believe) is that in the environment we live in Muslims should at a minimum devote a fraction of the effort they spend reorienting traditional Islamic mores to be more palatable to western sensibilities on critiquing/challenging contemporary feminist discourse and liberalism, particularly when liberal and feminist commitments are used time and again to denigrate the values and ethics taught to us by Allah and His Messenger. Certainly, Allah Knows Best.
November 24, 2014 at 4:00 AM
“Muslims should at a minimum devote a fraction of the effort they spend reorienting traditional Islamic mores to be more palatable to western sensibilities on critiquing/challenging contemporary feminist discourse and liberalism, particularly when liberal and feminist commitments are used time and again to denigrate the values and ethics taught to us by Allah and His Messenger.”
It is beyond me that a hundred odd comments missed that point, especially since this is second in a series of articles that Daniel plans to write.
November 24, 2014 at 5:14 AM
As-Salaamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu.
The same thing can be said about you and very few people who agree with you. You lot are missing the point raised by 100 or more people who commented against the article.
None of these 100 supported the misinformed and misinterpreted feminism. Everyone agrees that showing skin is faahish but what they are saying is cat calling is due to inherent satanic urge rather than due to the revealing dresses female wear.
Not everyone indulges in cat calling. In fact there are very few involved in cat calling compared to masses who do not.
Dress code is for everyone but when muslims (of yesteryears) went in to a non muslim country they still controlled their urge because they remember their hijab is their eye.
Those who can control themselves get reward.
It is good to raise awareness against misinterpreted feminism and liberalism but in a better way. What this article did was, showed the very typical muslim male mentality where all the restrictions are on female.
Br Daniel should have mentioned the hijab for male in more details and rather he should have concentrated his effors in explaining muslim males how to control their satanic urge, despite all the flesh and skin they see on the road, markets and out in society. That is what a true daayi does and that is what Prophet did when he reared the bravest of the people on the face of the earth.
Lastly, I am surprised at the waste of time, the so called intellectual muslims, are indulged in by writing and arguing on such a non issue which doesn’t have any impact on individual person’s final destination.
Each one will be rewarded as per their deeds.
Finally for all the bloggers here,
In Surah Al-Isra verse 53
Allah swt says
“And say to my slaves ( i.e. the true believers of Islamic Monotheism ) that they should ( only ) say those words that are the best. ( Because ) Shaitan ( Satan ) verily, sows disagreements among them. Surely, Shaitan ( Satan ) is to man a plain enemy.
I make dua that,
May Allah help us to understand each other’s view point and may Allah bring in harmony, peace and agreement between all groups of true muslims.
Aameen, Thumma Aameen
November 25, 2014 at 2:56 AM
2 key problems are that
1) Feminists continue to equate that both genders are equal. Hence they are completely bamboozled by the male drive and fail to understand it completely. Unless it comes to manipulating male sexual attention for their own ends.
2) Feminist internal referencing is centred around a premise that they are innately right, have no inherent responsibilities as a gender group and any attempt to limit this is “patriarchy” “oppression” “mysogyny”.
January 11, 2015 at 12:00 PM
Nobody is saying men don’t have sexual attraction toward women. It’s equating sexual harassment to dressing immodestly, ignoring the obligations to divert one’s eyes and instead putting the focus on women like so many male authors, scholars, etc. do. You reference the time of the Prophet, but don’t note that the Prophet (pbuh) never catcalled when seeing immodestly dressed non-Muslims who at that time used to occasionally leave their breasts exposed. That the Prophet never endorsed catcalling or justified it. So, focus on the Prophet’s behavior and the Qur’ans teaching to divert your eyes and leave it at that.
November 24, 2014 at 5:40 AM
In my own opinion (which does not have anything against the authors point)
That all responses that start with “ummmm, really?” Should be automatically reprimanded. Unless you are in middle school. *runs away*
By the way, as raised a non muslim woman, I can see what the author is saying!! And it adds up. Could use some work, though.
November 24, 2014 at 11:16 AM
Good article… also should the hypocrisy of how it’s okay for women to dress half-naked at work but not men. If a man were to show up to a professional work environment with dress shorts (yes, I know, they don’t exist – my point proven) and fancy sandals for men they would be looked at wide-eyed and needless to say ridiculed and maybe even admonished by their supervisor/manager… yet it’s the norm these days for a woman to show up wearing a mini-skirt. Who can defend/explain away this hypocrisy?
Also, women, by the very fact that they are dressing the way they do, are the aggressors (from the point of view of men) and the men are “victims”. Now, some male “victims” assaulted by this visual onslaught respond inappropriately – two wrongs don’t make a right.
Life is filled with hypocrisies, at the individual and societal level. Instead of denying or covering it up and fighting the truth we should at least acknowledge it and move on, if we’re not going to do anything better.
November 24, 2014 at 11:34 AM
Again what a sad story…you say anything against the Gay agenda or this fraud of feminism, you start getting attacked by Muslims now. Hooray for the Umma. They are trying to revoke incest in Germany and my bottom dollar says that they are going to be so called Muslims that will defend that. Just like under liberal indoctrination Muslims were defending satanic worship at Harvard.
We should all study the lives and history of the early Jewish immigrants that came to the U.S in the beginning of the 20th Century because from then to now we have seen the what wonderful results of assimilation have done. And like them by the end of this decade, there will two Muslim communities, one ‘liberal’ and one ‘conservative’, not theologically speaking, not Shia, Sunni or Wahhabi, but because of their outlook on social and political issues.
Liberal Imams (female imams ?), Liberal Mosques, Liberal Muslims…
Oi Vey! What a way to be a Mulsim in America ?
I am utterly ashamed of being a Muslim these days…because of Muslims themlsves
November 24, 2014 at 6:29 PM
Note to the Author:
There’s nothing wrong with your articles except that little paragraph over there. “No one claims that dressing modestly will…” and of course, the reference to the catcalling videos. I think that’s what causing most of the controversy. There’s just way too many things wrong with that statement and those videos.
You could have totally made your point about feminist hypocrisy without referencing to those. Because the article was about feminist hypocrisy and not why we wear hijab. Is there a way to republish the article without those two things. It will make your argument a bit better understood.
November 25, 2014 at 8:31 PM
This article has left me confused and with a bad taste in my mouth. But of course my self proclaimed righteousness is the product of “third-wave feminist Western culture” (rolls eyes)
How do you explain “harassment that ought to be curbed with appropriate dress” when women the Middle east are harassed while wearing an abaya?
How do you explain your argument that “immodest dress can be equally if not more harmful to onlookers” when there was a woman who was killed for not answering a catcall?
And why is appropriate dressing measured by how you see it?
So many questions. I’m deeply disappointed that Muslim Matters decided to publish this piece.
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December 1, 2014 at 5:01 PM
Powerful piece. Very well-written, well-thought-out, and rational. Amazing!!!
November 27, 2014 at 7:41 AM
Finally the other side of the heavily bruised coin of modern feminism. Thank you Daniel for a clear and well-thought out article on this issue. Seeing as you don’t seem to have many female thumbs up. I’d like to add to that list as a Muslim woman, I agree with what you said in the article – which, no offence, isn’t something new but is hardly spoken about from this angle in modern times for various reasons. And its closer to truth and reality than what is often spouted on this topic. so thanks, kudos for mostly keeping your calm in a topic highly charged with emotion!
November 30, 2014 at 12:09 AM
O wow… Having read through the article, the majority of comments, then skimming through the last few…
– Would just like to commend the brother for writing the original post. In this age of extreme liberalism and feminism we desperately need articles to challenge the social norm, and the brother not only challenged it, he put them on the defensive. Relatively few muslims do this these days. Unfortunalety even many of our public scholars/speakers are quite apologetic on these issues, (many – not all).
– Just a side point, I’m from Britain and ive noticed our public scholars/speakers are a lot less apologetic, far more straight forward, less worried about public backlash when talking about these issues. (Sh haitham & public speaker a. Andalusi to name a couple). I don’t blame americans, Muslims may be public enemy number one in britain, but in america it is a lot worse. The danger is however is that you may water down aspects of deen, even subconsciously.
– i sympathise with the sisters who had genuine concerns about the way the brother expressed some of his points, indeed some of the sentences could be reworded, phrases replaced, tone rethought, your concerns are valid, (that doesn’t at all refute the general message of the article or the points brought up imo).
– i don’t sympathise at all though with many complete red herrings, false accusations,slippery slope fallacies that the comment section is also full of.
– would like to question the wisdom of the clearly very eloquent brothers and sisters who are debating the same points in circles!! I must have have read the same point and counter point about 10 times!!! Surely you couldve written a whole response article in that time, somehow spent sometime elsewhere on the internet spreading something positive. The comments turned into a novel,only the plot stopped advancing a while ago…
March 13, 2015 at 11:16 PM
My FAAAAAAVORITE comment so far…
Honestly that is exactly what I feel, Subhan’Allah!
November 30, 2014 at 4:34 AM
Daniel if you can’t stand the heat, then you shouldn’t be in the kitchen. You wrote a chauvinistic and misogynist article and rightly got roasted for it. And if you are going to write provocatively, then you need to develop thicker skin. The message of the Quran is simple for menfolk: “Lower your gaze”=learn to control your urges.
December 8, 2014 at 9:44 AM
As a young Muslim woman, I get sexually harassed by my fellow Muslim men more than any other race of men. No matter what I wear fully clothed or “revealing”. It has had a very traumatic impact on me and baffles me that when I walk down the street coming from work or school why is it a fellow Muslim men harassing me but not the so called “infidel man”.
I respectfully disagree with this articles content. Men are not some special beings that can not control their urges. If they are then maybe they should cover their eyes lest they be “turned on” and rape or harass a fellow human being.
I as a normal human being see men who I find physically attractive on the streets, baring their shoulders full of muscles or tight pair of jeans where I can view the curve of their buttocks or genitalia. But not once did I think it was respectable of me to whistle, catcall or “accidentally bump” into them.
The issue here is not that men get tempted more than women. The reality is that Muslim societies give men the pass or the excuse to indulge in such behavior with no consequences or punishment. Instead the woman is blamed and suffers injustice.
Allah did not make a woman’s body to tempt men. A woman’s body is her vehicle to live, walk, move, pray and survive on this planet. It is not a sexual object.
As Muslims we need to take responsibility for our actions, our mistakes. Stop blaming the “West” or the devil the west does not tell you to rape young boys, girls and women and men. Or to lie, cheat, kill. Islam is about forgiveness, tolerance , acceptance, giving people chances, never ever judging people on superficial reasons and fighting those urges that harm other human beings. Blaming others never gets you anywhere, the answer lies within you, your attitude and your heart.
Goat of Mendes
October 16, 2015 at 11:03 PM
Your wrong it’s all women like you who think you can do or say whatever you want and there will be no consequences or punishment but there should be. Women since 1976 should have all had their asses thrown in jail for hassling men by ridiculing their whistling and compliments disrespectfully calling it “hassling”. “Hassling”? Sexual harassment? Sidewalk Hassling”? What? Its all women like you who keep yourselves self-deceived and are gullible God will send to hell someday for believing in and passing such an abominable law as your pathetic attempt to victimize men called sexual harassment. Just a lame excuse so you can play the victim. To say something stupid like, do you know that’s “sexual” “hassling”? I feel disrespected. The cops shouldn’t have just stood there like dummies, they should have had that barista’s ass hauled off to jail for harassing a customer. The Sinister Six, were six trouble makers who were looking to be criminals and harass and persecute innocent men without being punished for lying about men’s compliments because they love Satan. And Satan has told you these lies as he has used femeanism to destroy millions of women’s lives and he has destroyed yours. I mean if I was a woman, which thank God I am not, I would have to be pretty stupid if I think I can just overreact every time a man so much as even stares at me and think there will be no consequences for my actions and words against men when they haven’t said or done anything wrong but I have. North Americas biggest mistake was passing that sexual hassling law. The real criminals are the law makers who passed it, along with our governments, police are lawless criminals. And you are part of the problem. Your actions and everyone else here, unless they say I am sorry for harassing you by bearing false witness against you, I am sorry Lord Jesus for being evil lying about his compliments and whistling, please forgive me. If you don’t say this and mean there will be consequences and a punishment that awaits you in the afterlife and you wont be in heaven either. Everyone who lies about men’s whistling and wont stop calling it street harassment and wont stop keeping compliments of bosoms and cleavages “illegal” will be in hell with Satan and his demonic brothers.
D A S
December 9, 2014 at 9:52 PM
I’m not Muslim but I do think that in the USA people are very much hypocrites and their minds are full of conflicting interests. Women act and dress like sluts yet demand respect. They don’t seem to understand the difference between being “empowered” and just being “slutty”… in their minds there is no difference between the two. They are also taught to feel overly entitled to everything AND if they don’t get it they go into what’s called “Professional Victim Mode” in which they lie about being raped or abused… and they totally get away with it. So on the one hand they preach about peace and justice yet their behavior is hypocritical. Sad thing is that most American women are delusional, professional victims (not saying none of them are ever abused or not victims of rape BUT a huge amount of them lie lie lie & lie), and even though a lot of them say that women are more giving and caring is completely not true.. most American women are needy, clingy, selfish, rude, pushy, bossy, lie, take things that don’t belong to them, and manipulate people. Statistics show that in any given office women are far more back stabbing and manipulative than men are and this was an article in Psychology Today. OK all that said I don’t hate all women, in fact I met a lot of nice logical well rounded women in the US but to tell you the truth Ive met far more intelligent hard working and trusting women from other countries than my own. Now at this point most American women reading this will falsely accuse me of wanting all women to be controlled by men like in other countries when that is not true. The women I admire from other countries are independent, empowered, mature, logical, and hard working… these are the real empowered women of the world unlike most USA women who are just selfish spoiled brats with conflicting views and delusions.
April 5, 2015 at 1:23 PM
“Women act and dress like sluts yet demand respect.” > Dressing as a ‘slut’ is one’s perspective. In some eastern countries dressing as a ‘slut’ means having anything but your eyes be displayed. In the USA there is a standard of dress, which is clearly different than what you think the standard should be. But it’s not right to label someone as a ‘slut’ because you disagree with an entire society’s definition of what is acceptable. You are saying a lot of people claiming abuse are lying – you were not there in the situation, and you can not see into their heart, so you really should not make such claims. Last, it’s a shame you have had a bad experience with working women in the U.S. As a professional female I can vouch that most professional women in the U.S. aren’t as you describe. If it was true, there wouldn’t be as many professional women in the U.S. I hope your heart softens a bit to your clear hatred, as seen in your sweeping hateful generalizations & acceptance of sample bias to represent U.S. professional women.
January 11, 2015 at 11:49 AM
Equating harassment with dressing immodestly is false to start off with, and as the foundation for the article, puts the entire grounds of the article at question. Harassment is equal to…harassment. And dressing immodestly is equal to…dressing immodestly. A female dressing immodestly tempts men, and the equivalent is a male dressing in such a way as to tempt women. Because the Prophet (pbuh) never justified catcalls with a statement that women shouldn’t dress immodest, and the Qur’an or the Prophet (pbuh) never equated the two, should be your ultimate example. The Qur’an and the Prophet (pbuh) did in fact teach how to respond to immodesty and even modestly dressed people – diverting your eyes. That should be your focus of your efforts (not writing justifications about people doing otherwise, attempting to equate things that Islam clearly explained how to handle), and distracting people from this Qur’an guidance is wrong. The Prophet never taught us to justify one wrong with someone else’s – Islam is a meritocracy. Focus on your clearly-Qur’an-founded obligations (diverting your eyes).
April 5, 2015 at 1:17 PM
Agree that this mindset is dangerous, but please don’t think all male Muslims have this mindset or all people within certain Muslim-majority cultures do. I’m Muslim, have an Egyptian husband, and have Muslim friends across cultures married to Muslim men across cultures. Just as every large western family probably has a bigot, same for every large eastern family, but that shouldn’t represent the west or the east. We just gotta stand up to them and stand up to such websites that give these sick people a voice to present their sick positions.
April 13, 2015 at 9:14 AM
Interesting, and a proof that women are far superior to men. They’re not distracted by hair, ankles, or bare skin on arms and legs. Even more, there’s one thought that keeps bugging me. It’s something an old man told me many years ago:
“You know what separates the men from the boys? The ability of self control.”
Nobody bears responsibility for how Allah created the world. Women can’t be blamed for having been given a body that can appeal to men. However, you do bear responsibility for your own actions and thoughts. Maybe it’s time you stop giving in to the temptations created by your own sex-obsessed brain. There are many males that aren’t distracted by a piece of skin or the hint of a femaly bodyshape. That don’t feel the need to undress these ladies further with their eyes, grope them, yell dirty things at them, rape them. Or even accuse them of sexual harassment.
Kind regards from one of them.
July 6, 2015 at 1:13 AM
How exactly do you know women are not “distracted” by the male body? Do you walk around with a hidden camera observing their every move?
Just like a man is to bear is actions, namely catcalling here; a woman is to bear her actions–dressing provocatively. But the bearing of one’s actions irrelevant to the bigger picture, which is, What is acceptable, sexual liberation, prohibited–and why?
Women can’t be blame for being appealing; men can’t be blamed for appreciating what they see. You don’t like the attention? Act the part. Comfort is something you are not entitled to.
Finally, escalating this argument by talking about groping and raping is pathetic and dishonest at best. This was purely about catcalling (limited to words); why are you talking about rape? Or groping?
My two cents
May 12, 2015 at 5:00 PM
I am a muslim woman who grew up in the west. I believe every woman should value what she has and cover herself appropriately. For me personally I wouldnt want any man to look at me that has no right to look at me. For this I will take all the necessary steps such as even covering my face, etc and I feel free and more secure and confident wearing such clothing(full hijab and jilbab). On the other hand, guys brought up in western countries are either desensitized to nudity(being that they are exposed to women scantily clad from a young age, etc) or only catcall when the women are really beautiful or good looking..This works to my advantage being in the west in that no one is going to give me a second look(unless the guy happens to be muslim) and let alone cat calling. On the other hand I have been intensely stared at by men in muslim countries(despite wearing a niqab). I have only been honestly “cat called” once in Saudi arabia by one guy in a group who was trying to guess my ethnicity(and that too when I was out with my family…go figure).
Muslim men have leaps to go in terms of hayaa or modesty. I think the lowering gaze lectures or pamphlets or public campaign should be propagated in Arab countries, Pakistan, Bangladesh. I cannot imagine how women dont cover their faces in that part of the world….because that is properly the least they should do to safeguard their own selves.
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October 16, 2015 at 9:36 PM
The hypocrisy of calling the words, your breasts are lovely a so-called crime of sexual “hassling” is a satanic, evil, hypocritical lie from Satan and the devils. Beelzebub succeeded in getting North America to pass this lie to harass men who haven’t said anything wrong. This lie has been used by evil leaders like Bush, etc. in North America and the world over for cops to pester men by forcing them against their wills to give insincere apologies over trivial, inoffensive compliments about baristas cleavages and breasts in malls like in Enfield, etc. People who call whistling, staring and compliments will go to hell when they are dead to be punished by God for their trespass against men.
October 16, 2015 at 9:48 PM
The real criminals are femeanists the lying sacks of Shiite they are and other lawless criminals who go around attacking men with lies about their whistling, staring at them and their bosoms and cleavages. And another lie about compliments so women can self-delude themselves into thinking they are the victims when they are not, the men are the victims of women’s immoral hypocritical overreactions to their actions and words. You see they used Isaiah 29:21 Make a man an offender for a word, laying a snare for him that reproveth in the gate. That turn aside the just for a thing of nought. This North America has been using as an excuse this Old Testament Bible verse to justify committing this atrocity, crime and injustice against men for over thirty years now since nineteen seventy six. How many women do you think are in hell for hassling men by insulting them calling their whistling hassling insults and you have nice tits a crime of so-called sexual pestering? Sexual hassling is a false teaching and so-called sidewalk hassling is a doctrine of demons. Arrest men and banish them disrespectfully from supermarkets like the Big Lie World Ass Market for something so stupid and trivial as saying your breasts are lovely today and burn in hell for eternity for your persecution of and passing judgement on that poor innocent soul who said nothing amiss.
October 16, 2015 at 10:46 PM
I am really sorry that I overreact when men stare at my ass, cleavage and bosom and compliments these physical parts of my body. So I rationalize adolescent behavior as pretty much all ladies who are criminals harassing men with that sexual hassling law are. Who act like they can just about say or do anything they want and there wont be any consequences or repercussions. You see that is the problem with the women’s so-called movement. They are wolves in sheep’s clothing who go around deceiving women into believing lies about family, patriarchy that they blame as they do all men for their own problems, more lies about and inappropriate responses to their bosoms, asses and cleavages being stared at and complimented. Becoming ungrateful, unholy, unthankful, lovers of themselves more then lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof. It’s to bad as a woman, I am a victimizer of men when I make up lies about them on tenth avenue in New York when they whistle at me, make fun of them for commending me for having a lovely bosom and cleavage. Women like me and the scum of the earth femeanists are what is wrong on planet Earth. It was just fine until our kind came along and ruined it for men everywhere. We haven’t apologized for passing a law to justify our harassment of men when they give us compliments. Obama should do away with the sexual harassment law its hurting men and violating their right to speak their minds and freely compliment ladies busts and bust-lines.
October 18, 2015 at 10:28 PM
“Constantly bombarding men with sexiness can be tortuous.”
Hilarious. Your inability to see a woman without being overcome by your sexual urges is not the problem of society at large. Take a cold shower, horndog.
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January 12, 2017 at 2:29 PM
This article insults every decent man out there, and reduces us to nothing more than grunting, uncontrollable, sex crazed animals. If that’s how you want to be perceived, then perhaps you should stay at home, let your women work, at least until you can learn some self control.
If you go back far enough in history, you’ll realize that men and women were barely clad and only covered their genitalia, because at that time breasts weren’t an issue, and definitely weren’t sexualized. Fast forward to present day, there are still tribes and cultures that live that way, so we have to wonder, who sexualized women this way? Men, and only men.
Millennia of patriarchal cultures and religions have done nothing more than subjugate women, but worse, brainwashed men into believing that every evil and disgusting thought or act, was somehow attributed to and therefore blamed on women. A small core group of men started this belief system, and at first it was limited to forcing women to stay virgins, then to removing their right to be sexual creatures independent of marriage, to limiting their education with the belief women had smaller brains, and thus were less intelligent and less worthy, and so on. Then it started with how and what women can say and do, where they can or can’t go, to what they can or cannot wear. In men’s arrogance, we reduced our mates, sexualized them, blamed them for all of our ……………….well you name it, men have done it. The only outcome from centuries and millennia of this, was to infantalize men. Society as a whole, took away their accountability, their responsibility and in turn, their self control. It’s like an indulged child that misbehaves, is never punished, and blames others for his mistakes and actions. You would never raise a child this way, so why would you do it with boys. Sound familiar?
You can go on about what a woman wears and how it brings difficulties upon men, all because we get horny, but it has nothing to do with them. Our lack of control is simply that, ours, and ours alone. When puberty hits a boy between the ages of 11-14, their bodies are flooded with testosterone, and whether women were around or not, boys will still get nocturnal erections, morning erections and the most embarrassing ones every teenage guy suffers through, daytime erections at the most inappropriate times, like in class when it’s time to get up and leave. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve had to sit and wait, or use books to cover up the bulge in my pants. It’s a part of life, and like anything else, it’s normal, healthy, and why teenage boys and young men masturbate so much. For some young men, no amount of sex is would be enough, while others manage their urges with regular masturbation or by keeping themselves busy, pre-occupied, but never, ever did I or my brothers or friends blame them on the girls around us. In the marine corps for instance, we’d all have to stand attention at the foot of our beds, wearing nothing more than military issued white boxers, boners sticking out, and with only men around. Hear that, no women, go figure. No one to blame, all because it’s a physiological response, and perfectly normal.
I was raised to respect girls and women, and perhaps it’s why I never had a problem having girlfriends and getting regular sex, but even in between girlfriends, I didn’t go around ogling women, cat calling them, harassing them, or blaming them for my sexual urges. This is a normal part of life, and growing up, and the only reason it’s more difficult when we’re younger, is because there’s more testosterone surging in our bodies than there is in later life.
Someone mentioned the attire women wear in the west, and that if men wore it they’d be arrested. Really, in what country? While women cover their breasts in public, men get away with wearing only shorts but no shirt on the hottest s summer days, but you don’t see women assaulting them, or men getting arrested, so that’s bull, and I dare anyone to prove otherwise.
When men go to the beach, they wear even less, and women wear bathing suits, but somehow, at the beach, you don’t see men flipping out over the scanty swimsuits, yet according to some comments, this only seems to be a problem in day to day life. That’s my take on the article and comments I’ve read, and again, I call bullshit on it. If Muslim men have a problem, then perhaps you should avoid the beaches, and more so, the nude beaches which most western countries also have. While our societies aren’t perfect, this is a much preferable way to live.
Stop putting this all on women, instead, learn some self control. Stop whining and complaining like babies, and instead treat women with the respect they deserve, and get yourselves a girlfriend. While you’re at it, stop making sex out to be something dirty if a woman does it before marriage. Sex is sex, there’s no difference if a guy or girl has it, besides, you need one and the other to have it, right? That is unless you’re gay.
If you genuinely believe you can’t control yourself, then perhaps you should stop watching porn and reading nudie magazines because it only makes things worse, and the imagery stays with you, as does the unresolved urges you get from it. Consider meditating instead, or better still, try seeing woman as human beings worthy of respect and dignity, and stop reducing them to sexual objects.
The whole business of women covering up somehow stopping rapes and harassment has been proven to be false and misleading time and time again, even in the most conservative Muslim cultures. That being the case, perhaps it’s time for Muslim men, and men in general, to take a good hard look at themselves, because they’re the aggressors and violators in all these cases, and rethink this nonsense.
The world is 50% women, and it’s high time you start seeing them as the intelligent, hard working equals they are, and stop preying on them. When you can look at a woman, admire her for her compassion, hard work, dedication or any of the other human qualities they have and share with us, then the world will be equal, they will be equal, and you can stop acting like overindulged babies who have been spoiled too long.
I work as a doctor, and I can tell you for a fact, if you work with them and deal with them, you will stop objectifying them. This is why we don’t segregate the sexes in western nations, as it only creates these problems, and not overcomes them.
May 13, 2019 at 5:23 PM
So women are responsible for both how they dress (ok) but also how men react to how they are dressed (not ok)? What exactly are men responsible for then? Men are capable of self-restraint and should use it. A woman in a short skirt is not harassing you. Maybe it’s hot outside or she is part of a different culture where short skirts are no big deal. You can choose to put it in perspective in your mind so it’s not such a big deal.
Why is street harassment a big deal? Two reasons. One, it implies women only exist for men to gawk at and are not human beings just trying to go about their business with the right to be left alone. Second, because women are sometimes attacked and there is no way of knowing what the intentions are of a street harasser. It’s wrong because of the implied threat of violence. These men are not “expressing their sexuality” because that would imply the goal was to get a date. But they know this behavior will not get them a date. It’s obvious this crude behavior would never work in that way. They do it because they know it frightens women and makes them feel unwelcome and unsafe in public or at the very least they do it because they don’t respect women’s rights to be left alone in public and to travel to and from without having to respond to every stranger. (We certainly don’t expect men to waste time talking to strangers when they are busy trying to get somewhere.)
As for your idea that women who are dressed modestly are not completely protected from harassment but are harassed less often? That is only true when some women are dressed more modestly than others. When all women are dressed to the same level of modesty, then the harassment is actually higher. Most women would agree that walking in New York City, as scary as it might be, is still safer than walking down the street in Saudi Arabia covered head to toe.