Would you say that all "female garments" have this range of possible meanings and interpretations and "transgressive" potential?
The Haik was traditionally worn by the Tuareg women also, no?
I guess I have seen it as a symbol of modesty. I know full well that Muslim men are equally responsible for modest dress and behavior but the custom of head/face covering has never been as marked for men, has it? The way I read Hoda Shawaari's memoirs, her renegotiation of her marriage on her own terms, her later leaving of the Harem, and taking off the face veil, were all steps on a continuum of liberation.
Maybe it's because of the sources I have read but I interpreted the Harem and the hijab and abaya as to do with the greater need to conceal, control women and their disruptive potential. And now we are back to "fitna!"
Good point about education of women though. You are right, as long as women get to choose what they wear, it should not be a big deal to us in the West compared to something like access to education.
As to worrying about our own issues in the West, where do I sign up to eliminate panty hose and spike heeled pumps?!
"We cover ourselves because we are holy -- and because feminine beauty is incredibly powerful. If you don't believe me, consider how the image of "woman" is used to sell everything from shampoo to used cars. We women need to understand the power of the feminine and act accordingly by following the rules of modest attire, including the use of the veil."
Here's what I want to know. What gives about hair?!??!? Why do all the Abrahamic religions have major hangups about hair? Yes hair can be beautiful and sexy and alluring but geez. Just about everyone has it! Just about everyone can grow it long! Does the sight of it prevent anyone from going about their daily routines? Or from praying even? I don't think so.
But look at Orthodox Judaism. Women shave their heads just before marriage and wear wigs when they go out ever after. I remember something about a debate whether it is worse to wear wigs made from the hair of pork-eating races...of course, men wear yarmulkes and he curly sidelocks, and usually another hat on top of that when outside.
And yes, I think even in the 1940s, maybe 1950s, in the US all men wore hats outside. There are pictures of people in baseball stadiums and the men might as well be in government-issued uniforms, including the hats.
And yes, panty hose are the sheer type of stockings. I don't mind tights--usually black, more opaque, more comfortable and less prone to runs. They actually help keep your legs warm too. But stockings are uncomfortable, expensive, run at the slightlest provocation. And they are pretty much required part of the woman's corporate uniform--skirt suit, etc. Possibly less de rigeur in the UK than the US from my informal survey.
I see what you mean about the corset. I think panty hose have a fetish following, esp. among cross dressers and men who like to be humiliated by female doms.
I wonder whether there are bridal wear and veil fetishists.
I love that word "sumptuary" because it reminds me of "sumptuous."
I have been meaning to read Edward Lane also! According to Wikipedia, while in Egypt he dressed like a Turk including the turban. Now I am put in mind of Lawrence of Arabia…Interesting that you mention the bridal veil it has come up for exactly those reasons you mentioned in my research. Edward Lane described his first sight of Egypt: 'As I approached the shore, I felt like an Eastern bridegroom, about to lift the veil off my bride, and to see for the first time, the features that were to charm me, or disappoint, or disgust him'.
There is definitely a connection between the unveiling of the Eastern women and the possession of the women by a groom in Western traditions. I connect it to the theories of the male gaze and the scopic drive - to see something, is to know it, is to define it, is to control/own it. We are very much on the same page here - it's a pity we live in different areas of the world or I'd suggest meeting up for coffee and a chat
I am somewhat familiar with theories about ‘the male gaze’ as well. Surely that is a (Western) feminist idea though I can see how it ties into creating “sacred space” as in “I am protected from the prying male gaze by dressing modestly.”
I PM'd you about the coffee and chat idea
Yes, nuns for sure. And yes, until recently, it was a whole lot more common in the West and did carry a range of meanings. And I also thought about men Sikhs with their never-trimmed hair and turbans, with a separate kind of covering for boys. So not just the Abrahamic tradition.As veiling in the West prolly derived from the same sources: Assyrian/Byzantine. I agree modesty would also refer to one of the Western uses for the veil -Nuns are another example. Veiling was common until very recent for women in my own religion (sometimes it can still be seen), I still have my great grandmother's black lace matilla - here's an interesting (though slightly extreme web page that you might find interesting) VeilingAgain in the West there are diverse meaning but one strong one is class and status, sign of marriage, virginity/purity, mourning etc.
Agreed. What gets me though is once a rule is relaxed, I have trouble understanding it coming back through religion. Fashion and personal preference is one thing. Resurgence of religion and conservatism seems to me another.Another interesting point up until the late 16th century (I think - may be wrong on the exact date) headwear was even mandatory at certain times, and in certain places there were even laws in placed and fines for those who went out on the streets uncovered. Clothing was very strict in Britain for example the Tudor Sumptuary Laws or Statutes of Apparel. It was considered inappropriate for mature of married women to reveal their hair although they grew it very long. Fashion also played a part in the sort of headcovering used e.g Anne Boleyn is seen as making the 'French hood' fashionable. Which again reveals geographical variations in Europe.
Yes I have some idea of the public/private spaces concept and how traditionally, public = male and private = female or family only (or maybe that is what you were warning about with Mernissi gendering these concepts?), and how wearing higab and abaya allowed women to go from one place to another, say their own home to their mother’s, without violating anything. I get how it evades the male gaze too. But please comment further on “not be seen placing her in position of power.” I think this is what bothers me about the whole topic. Without equal access to the public space and rights, I can’t fathom how women can be equal. Power as in rights is a good, necessary thing. Power as in "the power to distract men from their prayers" is not what I am after. I don't want to feel guilty, dirty, immodest, or disrespectful for walking down the street. Or dancing in public.Well it's to do with the Islamic ideas of public/private spaces which is different from the Western concept but hard to explain as I only have a basic understanding myself and it's not an easy thing to explain. The veil signifies private, 'sacred' space. Outside is public space. Veiling allows the wearer to be in a private space, while breaching public space. It is the vital element that allows for a transgression of spacial boundaries. Does that make sense? I haven't explained it well at all but it would take forever otherwise.
Also it evades the male gaze for the veiled women can see, but not be seen placing her in position of power.
Just a comment on the public/private space thing -Mernissi and some others like to gender these concepts but be warned it's more complex than that.
I will try to give this more thought. I know what is “comfortable” and “appropriate” vary by class/age/social group/culture and while yes I am more comfortable in pajamas I would not be Comfortable wearing them to work. And no I don’t find brassieres particularly comfortable but again I would not feel right without one at work. And yes I feel pretty much OK wearing a bathing suit at the beach but not in other settings, etc.That's an interesting point, not all as I think it depends on how they've evolved over time. The corset for example has a mass of potential and multiple meanings, particularly in the last decades where it has resurfaced as a form of 'female empowerment' and been adopted by certain alternative lifestyles. I think most garments that have a history that goes back to period where clothes were gendered in Western culture.
I meant more mark-ed, like more pronounced or more emphasis. The female coverings generally cover more and there appears (to me) to be more exhortations about the importance of wearing them. Like the reputation of the women was the reputation of the family and therefore the man.marked in what way? for example when did women's veiling become marked?
Totally agree that marrying for love is a very modern, Western concept. Most of the Indians I know (in India) today had what we would call arranged marriages. Not exactly “you will marry this man we have chosen whom you have never met—the wedding is next month” but “now that you have reached the appropriate age, we will introduce you to a few carefully chosen appropriate men, expecting that you will hit it off with one of them in the next few months.” And I also point out that the majority of marriages in the West are still between people from similar religious, class, and social backgrounds (including my own!) Sending your children to the “right” colleges can be construed as just another strategy….They may well of been to her, but the situation is not far from the same situation a European women would have been living at that time. One example in regards to discussions on arranged marriage I have been involved in: so many times I have had to point out marrying for love is still a relatively new concept in the West. Even in my grand parents time there were serious issues about marrying outside your race, class, religion etc. Loosely arranged marriages or 'suitable' marriages between certain classes was still common well into the 20 century. My great-grandparents marriage points to being a 'business based arranged marriage' between two middle class Irish families.
Hhhmmm—Arab/Islamic feminism. I’ll have to look into this idea too.Well there are cultural factors like the concepts of space, social structures etc. that show other angles to these issues. Again Guindi is prolly the best. Mernissi's version of feminism is considered by some as very Westernised, there are others who look to Islam for inspiration for what's commonly referred to as 'Arab/Islamic feminism'. Also no society is perfect, there's always someone somewhere exploiting their power but the importance I think is it to put it into context. I mean 'harem' for example? what exactly do we in the West mean by a Harem? I mean it basically just denotes the womens private quarters.
Yes, harem denotes womens’ private quarters and nothing wrong with having them. But as I alluded to earlier, I can’t imagine not wanting full access and equal rights to the public space as well. Very hard for me to imagine any kind of feminism that posits any kind of “separate but equal” or “women have different needs” kind of basis. To me, equal rights means equal rights and requires public power as in the power to vote, to travel alone, to drive, to go to school, and so on.