Monday, July 12, 2010

Legal Scholar Says Burqa Ban 'Discriminatory'

Only someone really "smart"--like, for example, legal scholar/philopher Martha Nussbaum--could make this argument for not banning the burqa:
A third argument, very prominent today, is that the burqa is a symbol of male domination that symbolizes the objectification of women (that they are being seen as mere objects). A Catalonian legislator recently called the burqa a “degrading prison.” The first thing we should say about this argument is that the people who make it typically don’t know much about Islam and would have a hard time saying what symbolizes what in that religion. But the more glaring flaw in the argument is that society is suffused with symbols of male supremacy that treat women as objects. Sex magazines, nude photos, tight jeans — all of these products, arguably, treat women as objects, as do so many aspects of our media culture. And what about the “degrading prison” of plastic surgery? Every time I undress in the locker room of my gym, I see women bearing the scars of liposuction, tummy tucks, breast implants. Isn’t much of this done in order to conform to a male norm of female beauty that casts women as sex objects? Proponents of the burqa ban do not propose to ban all these objectifying practices. Indeed, they often participate in them. And banning all such practices on a basis of equality would be an intolerable invasion of liberty. Once again, then, the opponents of the burqa are utterly inconsistent, betraying a fear of the different that is discriminatory and unworthy of a liberal democracy. The way to deal with sexism, in this case as in all, is by persuasion and example, not by removing liberty.
Actually, I'm not a huge fan of the burqa ban, not because I think wearing one is anything remotely akin to plastic surgery, but because I think in a free, democratic society such a restriction is unenforceable. Or, to be more precise, that to enact such a ban would end up criminalizing the wrong people--i.e. the poor women required to wear the contrivance. That said, it is Ms. Nussbaum who betrays her ignorance of the misogyny inherent in Islamic doctrine by making such a specious equation.

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