Under the Black Blanket


Human Rights, Women and "The Monoculture"

Last night I had interesting exchange with a smart NYC high school senior, who challenged me on the notion: if you think women don't mind walking around with black blankets over their heads in 120 degree heat, then you need to re-examine whether you think women are like you, that is, human.

English: Human Rights logo: "FREE AS A MA...

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I said the treatment of women is a human rights issue, not a "cultural" issue.

And this very smart young man called me out on this.

He said, well, do you think a global "monoculture" is a good idea? And should we "police" these cultures?

I had never heard the term "monoculture" before, must be a concept that entered the high school history/sociology classes since I graduated, but I get it: What would the world be like if every culture in the world was the same? Like eradicating fermented yak milk, blowfish sushi, Peruvian flautists, colorful Indonesian textiles, Irish jigs, Ukrainian folk dance .... .

What would be the point of bringing cameras on adventure travel, right?

I also never suggested "policing" to bring universal human rights to women. I'm just suggesting that women have them.

Because we all DO agree that if a society practices slavery, or the systematic discrimination against (or murder of) an ethnic group that includes men, then that behavior is best discouraged, if not policed. No one has suggested recently that the eradication of those behaviors has produced a monoculture.

Would global cultures be less vibrant if women had universal human rights?

Are we losing cultural value when societies stop forcing women to cover their flesh for fear of inciting male lust and God's displeasure. Do we risk becoming a monoculture when women are no longer being denied education, the right to drive, the right to choose when and whom to have sex with or marry, the right to divorce, and run for public office?

I am almost getting why our right wing idiots complain about morally relativistic teacher/philosophers. Almost, but ... not yet. I believe in tolerance and debate and not making judgments about people who are different than I am.

But I do think that kid was wrong.

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Recently I have been writing about women’s fashion, looking in particular at those items of clothing that are at times viewed as misogynist: heels, push-up bras, corsets and tight fitting clothes to name the main alleged culprits. At the risk of trivializing this question of the Burka I couldn’t help noticing these two topics have elements in common. They both share being championed by some women while other women claim they are devises of torture and degradation. They share being undeniably a response to the male gaze albeit on different ends of the spectrum. One could argue the issue, raised by Senior Monoculture, that the Burka is a cultural piece of clothing but is it? Is the Push-up bra for that matter?
I doubt either the Burka or the push-up bra were made with the well-being of women in mind but I think the point is really that although some women may feel the push-up bra is simply a great way to show-off “god/surgeon-given” assets they will not be stoned to death if they decide to go free-style. If the Burka is a cultural piece of clothing then why stop there? Let’s add an iron ball and chain, it wasn’t THAT uncomfortable and it was primarily there to protect the wearer from running off and risking the consequence, so it was for their own good they were a precious commodity after all!
It’s pretty simple if the result of wearing — or not wearing — any one thing is possible death then you have to wait until the death sentence is lifted to find out if it is a truly desired — i.e. cultural— way of life. Full stop. No asking the victims or the abusers for their opinions. OR, instead of waiting…

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