I grew up in Miami. I spent a lot of time walking around beaches in nothing but a bikini from the time I was 12. All the girls did this. I did not feel ashamed or insecure. I was just walking around. I never thought about how my body could cause a man to sin. It just wasn’t a part of my upbringing. I wouldn’t be caught dead in a bikini today (to the relief of all other human beings on the planet) not because I am more modest but because I don’t want to wear one. And that is the key. Self-determination. Choice.
As I read of girls and women around the world, such as in theocratic Iran, who are required to wear head scarves by law and burqas in some extremely conservative cultures, I am so very, very thankful that I was born, raised (mostly) and live in the United States, in a western culture.
And this brings me to the dangers of a theocracy, the very thing that our Founding Fathers worked hard to bar from taking root and growing here. I believe in the free expression of religion. I do NOT believe in the right of any person in this country to require any kind of religious expression from me. Do you see the difference? The wearing of head scarves is just a means of controlling women, marking and labeling them.
What does covering a part of our female bodies do to us as people? It labels us as subjugated, oppressed, controlled beings who must apologize for the core of our nature: being female. This kind of law or tenet places women in a place of shame. Shame, control, oppression…
These are all characteristics of an abusive relationship. If a religion is abusive, then it needs to be discredited. These organizations are not just religious, they are cults. The very nature of a cult is control and abuse.
When is religion cultish? I personally believe cult behavior occurs when an individual or organization requires something of followers that did not originate from followers’ own personal convictions, from their own relationship with God for only themselves. Does this make sense?
Indian Widows have been in the news lately. This Inter Press News article describes the nature of the problem:
“The women were married off at a very young age – some were just five or six. Their husbands, who were much older, married several times. When they died, they left dozens of young widows behind, said Bindeshwar Pathak of Sulabh International.
“These young girls were forced to shave off their hair, dress only in the coarsest white clothes, eat once a day and were barred from all social events as they were considered ill-omened.”
The practice of treating women who have been subjugated by men, treated like trash, thrown out as though they have no use anymore without their husbands is the nature of misogynistic culture and religion.
If I feel that I want to engage in any religious practice, i.e., cover my own head out of respect for God, not because anyone told me to do it and not because all of the other women cover their heads, that is one thing (I must admit that I despise the practice in strongly patriarchal religions that requires women to dress in ugly sacks and put stiff bonnets on their heads thinking that somehow that makes them more acceptable to God). But for a man to tell me that I should cover my head for any reason, I reject that. Why do I need to cover my femininity? I am not talking about nudity or walking around topless in a city or on a beach. I am talking about requiring that I cover myself, my hair, my arms, my legs, my female form because it is somehow shameful and might cause a man to stumble.
Do you see this misguided casting of blame on women for the sins of men? It is her fault if a man lusts after her. It is her fault if she is raped. It is her fault for being female, a shameful, disgusting, substandard human form.
This is the very nature of the abusive man’s arsenal of controlling behavior: shame and blame.
The bottom line is that here in the United States women are free to reject control. Although for some it is very dangerous and even life-threatening to challenge religious abuse and control, women have legal rights and can request protection from abusers/controllers.
I recently saw an ad in a local newspaper showing a woman wearing a veil offering “instruction” in Islam. The ad included a picture of a woman wearing long, flowing clothes and a veil — she was smiling and looked so happy. Really??? Yes, I can’t wait to subject myself to male control over my female form. Really??? I think this kind of proselytizing is very dangerous. Actually, isn’t any kind of proselytizing to be abhorred? I know that if you went to Egypt and tried to talk to a Muslim about Jesus you could easily end up in prison; it is against the law there. Here in the United States, the awful, horrible, disgusting United States it is legal because of our Constitution. That is because we celebrate freedom of religion here.
You are welcome to tell me about your Hindu religion and I am welcome to accept or reject it for me. I am free to talk about how I am disillusioned with the man-made parts of the Christian religion that hurt people; you are welcome to argue with me. Men and women are welcome to freely express their belief in Islam and to share it with others, even engage in proselytizing. That is the kind of country that we are resulting in the good, the bad, and the ugly. That is what freedom looks like.
The really awesome part about this country is that I am free to reject Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, atheism, deism, and any other “-ism” I feel like rejecting. As a woman, I am not required to subject myself to the religious demands of any man (or woman). As much as we hate a lot that is going on in the United States, I completely and absolutely celebrate this freedom. Yes, I do.
For those of us who love to refer to original sources, here is the wording of the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
So, although I despise proselytizing of any kind, it is protected by the Bill of Rights of the Constitution of the United States of America. That Muslim woman is free to place an advertisement offering “instruction” in Islam because she is in a country that celebrates freedom of religion — the free expression of religion, freedom of the press, and freedom of speech. I just hope, at some point, that she realizes that she is also free to cast off the veil and just be a person.
Celebrating freedom today!