Down on a muffin (cont’d.)

Down on a muffin (cont’d.) July 6, 2006

In my initial response to the "Prairie Muffin Manifesto" I seem to have struck some readers as smug and disdainful. My apologies for any smugness, but the disdain was intentional.

That disdain, however, is reserved for the PMs ideas — not for the people who hold them. Like many American evangelical and/or fundamentalist Christians, they seem like Very Nice People. I don't dislike them, but I strongly disagree with the unholy rot they've embraced in lieu of Christianity.

(The appropriate and accurate response to the poor souls tangled up in such rot is pity. If such pity strikes you as necessarily condescending or smug, then you may be forgetting that pity is also, primarily, an expression of love.)

There are several things I admire about the PMs — mostly on the "prairie" side of the ledger. They seem, for example, to have embraced the Mennonite critique of consumer culture. Bravo for that. I only wish they had gone the rest of the way and become Mennonites, adopting also their radical Anabaptist egalitarianism, their magnanimity, generosity (of wealth and of compassion) and their passion for justice.*

Like everyone else the Muffins are, of course, free to choose for themselves the components of their own faith. The problem is they want to go further than that.

I disagree with their "complementarian" understanding of gender roles, and with their corruption of scripture used to justify that view, but they're as free as Tom Cruise is to believe whatever they choose — even if it's insupportable nonsense. This is America and I am a liberal and as a liberal American I believe that everyone is free to choose whatever idiosyncratic alternative lifestyle they like.

But here is where the PMs cross the line, and what makes the Muffins worth remarking on. This is from our PM friend's blog:

I would remove women’s suffrage, and I might even consider making voting rights tied to property ownership.

Our friend is utterly free to choose to disenfranchise herself, but advocating the disenfranchisement of others is intolerable.**

This is precisely the point at which the Very Nice People of American evangelicaldom cease to be nice. They claim, rightly, that their own free exercise of religion gives them the right to swing their arm, but they don't believe this freedom should end where somebody else's nose begins.

Consider an analogy from the current — and lethal — dispute over religious freedom in Iraq and Afghanistan involving the compulsory wearing of beards and burkas.

In America, you are free to decide that God (or L. Ron Hubbard, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster) wants you to wear a burka. Those of us with a more egalitarian view of gender roles are free to disagree with this choice,*** but we cannot compel you to stop wearing your burka. You have the freedom even to restrict your own freedom voluntarily.

But illiberal evangelicals are rarely satisfied with voluntarily restricting their own freedoms, they want to make such restrictions compulsory for everyone.

"What good does it do me," they ask, "to choose to wear my burka if I am still to be confronted by all those non-burka-clad females every time I go out in public?" Thus, they argue, their own religious freedom demands that others who do not share their beliefs must also submit to them — that all women be forced to wear a burka**** so that they are free to maintain their own fragile sensibilities undisturbed by any reminders that there are alternatives.

Once you decide that your own freedom can only be secured by compelling everybody else to live according to your choices, then you cease to be a Very Nice Person.

– – – – – – – – – – – –

* Also: Shoofly pie.

** Here is where illiberal folks like to chime in with something like, "You liberals can tolerate anything except for intolerance." This they seem to imagine is a witty rejoinder that exposes some contradiction in our thinking, as though proponents of tolerance had just proposed the existence of the barber who cuts the hair of all those, and only those, who do not cut their own hair. "Hah!" they cackle, triumphantly, "Then who cuts the barber's hair?" The proper response to such people is to crush them under a rock that is so big even God couldn't lift it.

*** And, in being free to disagree, we are free to say things like this, "We are right and you are wrong." This is, after all, what "disagree" means. You are free to say the same thing, of course. (But you'd be wrong about that, too.)

**** Re: burkas — isn't a showy, extravagant display of "modesty" kind of an oxymoron? They seem about as modest as your basic Siegfried & Roy costume. Spiritual disciplines, it seems to me, shouldn't erode the virtues they're purported to nurture.


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  • Toby

    Jesurgislac:
    You think it would be nice if people in Western countries started to think that “it’s a good thing for women to freely choose to wear the veil”?
    That’s an odd interpretation of what I said–roughly on a par with conservatives who hear liberals call for acceptance of homosexuality, and conclude that we must want everyone to become gay.
    Dr Science:
    I should clarify that I’m talking about the full or Afghan burqa, not the headscarf or hijab.
    Technically, the burqa is a species of the genus of hijab. And I am addressing the hijab in general, including the burqa (as did the poll I referenced above).
    So yes, Toby, Simply by wearing a certain piece of clothing, women are thereby transformed into “inhuman blobs” — because that’s what the burqa *looks like*…
    If you mean that literally, then you have a remarkably superficial conception of what it is to be human.
    …and its function is to control how women *look*.
    Sure: sometimes it is used by others to control how a woman looks, and sometimes it is used by a woman to control how she herself looks.
    As for hijab, it all depends on whether the women themselves feel that it’s their choice. I don’t consider it a particularly pivotal issue, and I don’t really understand why it puts some Europeans’ panties in a twist.
    I can agree with that–keeping in mind that the burqa is a kind of hijab, and that Islamophobia is not limited to Europe.

  • bellatrys

    You mean like this Islamic World”, J?
    Or this one?
    Or this one?
    Or this one?
    Or this one?
    Like I said, stop getting all your talking points from rightwing Christofascists and their secular masters at PNAC. Get out a little bit more – it’s easy, with the internet, if you *want* to. Wake up and realize that there is no “Islamic World,” except in your simplistic fantasies. There are a lot of different societies, with cultures as initially different as Germany and Trinidad, which have interpreted and re-interpreted their religion in the light of their pasts and interactions with other cultures – including interactions like this.
    Then, start trying to do some critical thinking. The tensions between puritanism and egalitarianism and their opposites are mirrored in our own “Western” traditions. Everything you object to about “The Islamic World” is still with us or was found as SOP during the glory days of Christendom. Honor killings for aristocratic renaissance Italian women judged by their brothers to be dressing like courtesans. “Crimes of passion” getting of with a slap on the wrist when committed by a jealous man against a woman in every Christian country – “she didn’t fight back hard enough because she wasn’t severely physically injured” used as grounds for dismissing rape in the UK a couple years ago. A fourteen year old girl raped by her stepfather getting no justice, because she wasn’t a virgin when he did it. Most Americans, and Brits, surveyed today believing that women “ask for it” when raped/murdered by being out at night, going to parties, daring to have a life just like a guy. Most women who are killed or beaten being hurt not by strangers but by husbands/boyfriends/exes, in America, and the collective attitude a shrug – that’s what men are like, women need to be “careful” (without, however, being “prudes” or “man-haters”, somehow, magically.) Christian Eastern Europe isn’t any better – that’s why there are all those male-order bride services for rich American guys who want a domestic slave and whore who can’t escape them, so they imagine.
    And the recent Western, Christian eras where women must stay home and only bear children, or be virgins, go out only with male permission, with arms, legs, and midriff covered (and not by trousers either), and have minimal legal rights (it was never none, and is not *none* in sharia either, it’s just grossly unequal) and Submit Gladly in all things to their male owners in the name of God – is the one that the people who rant loudest against “Islamofascism” want to bring back today, and are working with the administrations’ backing to restore with their “abstinence-only” education, “Christian nation” claptrap and constant harangues against feminism and “radical individualism” as the root of all evils. (The way it is for haredi Jewish women, btw, who must cover and obey and for whom education is not required or looked well on.)

  • bellatrys

    You mean like this Islamic World”, J?
    Or this one?
    Or this one?
    Or this one?
    Or this one?
    Like I said, stop getting all your talking points from rightwing Christofascists and their secular masters at PNAC. Get out a little bit more – it’s easy, with the internet, if you *want* to. Wake up and realize that there is no “Islamic World,” except in your simplistic fantasies. There are a lot of different societies, with cultures as initially different as Germany and Trinidad, which have interpreted and re-interpreted their religion in the light of their pasts and interactions with other cultures – including interactions like this.
    Then, start trying to do some critical thinking. The tensions between puritanism and egalitarianism and their opposites are mirrored in our own “Western” traditions. Everything you object to about “The Islamic World” is still with us or was found as SOP during the glory days of Christendom. Honor killings for aristocratic renaissance Italian women judged by their brothers to be dressing like courtesans. “Crimes of passion” getting of with a slap on the wrist when committed by a jealous man against a woman in every Christian country – “she didn’t fight back hard enough because she wasn’t severely physically injured” used as grounds for dismissing rape in the UK a couple years ago. A fourteen year old girl raped by her stepfather getting no justice, because she wasn’t a virgin when he did it. Most Americans, and Brits, surveyed today believing that women “ask for it” when raped/murdered by being out at night, going to parties, daring to have a life just like a guy. Most women who are killed or beaten being hurt not by strangers but by husbands/boyfriends/exes, in America, and the collective attitude a shrug – that’s what men are like, women need to be “careful” (without, however, being “prudes” or “man-haters”, somehow, magically.) Christian Eastern Europe isn’t any better – that’s why there are all those male-order bride services for rich American guys who want a domestic slave and whore who can’t escape them, so they imagine.
    And the recent Western, Christian eras where women must stay home and only bear children, or be virgins, go out only with male permission, with arms, legs, and midriff covered (and not by trousers either), and have minimal legal rights (it was never none, and is not *none* in sharia either, it’s just grossly unequal) and Submit Gladly in all things to their male owners in the name of God – is the one that the people who rant loudest against “Islamofascism” want to bring back today, and are working with the administrations’ backing to restore with their “abstinence-only” education, “Christian nation” claptrap and constant harangues against feminism and “radical individualism” as the root of all evils. (The way it is for haredi Jewish women, btw, who must cover and obey and for whom education is not required or looked well on.)

  • J

    You keep harping about PNAC. I have no idea what PNAC is.
    And re: My supposed fortress of ignorance: Shut up. I spent a lot of time in college studying with the very sensitive and knowledgeable Prof. David Powers at Cornell University’s Department of Near Eastern Studies. Studied some Arabic, spent 4 months living in Rabat, Morocco. I’m afraid you’re just going to have to accept that my belligerence is a conscious choice rather than a symptom of being woefully unlettered.
    And you keep citing examples of Christian intolerance and theocracy as if you think I’m an apologist for these things. Or, as if you think that the fact that they exist somehow makes the misdeeds of Muslim societies less bad.
    Well you know what, it doesn’t. What, do you think that “the enemy of our enemy is our friend?” That because our insane government is bombing and shotoing Muslim radicals that therefore Islam simply must be a noble and kind religion and that there deep down there simply must be a benevolent reason for burqas and honor killings. The Anthropological Mistake.

  • Jesurgislac

    Toby: That’s an odd interpretation of what I said
    It’s what you said yourself, Toby. If you meant something other than what you actually said, perhaps you should try to say it differently.

  • Jesurgislac

    Toby: Technically, the burqa is a species of the genus of hijab.
    Nope. The hijab is a headscarf: it’s part of the requirement for women to dress modestly. (Men are also supposed to dress modestly, but typically, the onus is put on women.) The burqa is a mobile form of purdah.
    Of course, they both derive from the patriarchal belief that women’s bodies are sexual and men’s bodies are neutral and it’s up to women to conceal their sexual bodies because it’s always the woman’s fault if she “provokes” male desire. That’s true, but that patriarchal belief is expressed in many ways – from the recent decision by Six Apart to ban default icons of women breastfeeding their children, to the way swimsuits are designed for men and for women. But they’re not “the same thing”.
    Now, you asserted that it would be nice if people in Western countries started to think that “it’s a good thing for women to freely choose to wear the veil”. That would be a more extreme form of the patriarchal belief current in Western countries presently that women’s bodies are sexual and men’s bodies are neutral. I do not think it would be “nice” if this patriarchal belief became more extreme; it’s bad enough that breastfeeding mothers are routinely harassed because of this belief.
    J, complaining that you don’t know what PNAC means when Bellatrys provides a link explaining the acronym is kind of childish, don’t you think? Click the link. Find out.

  • Jesurgislac

    Toby: Technically, the burqa is a species of the genus of hijab.
    Nope. The hijab is a headscarf: it’s part of the requirement for women to dress modestly. (Men are also supposed to dress modestly, but typically, the onus is put on women.) The burqa is a mobile form of purdah.
    Of course, they both derive from the patriarchal belief that women’s bodies are sexual and men’s bodies are neutral and it’s up to women to conceal their sexual bodies because it’s always the woman’s fault if she “provokes” male desire. That’s true, but that patriarchal belief is expressed in many ways – from the recent decision by Six Apart to ban default icons of women breastfeeding their children, to the way swimsuits are designed for men and for women. But they’re not “the same thing”.
    Now, you asserted that it would be nice if people in Western countries started to think that “it’s a good thing for women to freely choose to wear the veil”. That would be a more extreme form of the patriarchal belief current in Western countries presently that women’s bodies are sexual and men’s bodies are neutral. I do not think it would be “nice” if this patriarchal belief became more extreme; it’s bad enough that breastfeeding mothers are routinely harassed because of this belief.
    J, complaining that you don’t know what PNAC means when Bellatrys provides a link explaining the acronym is kind of childish, don’t you think? Click the link. Find out.

  • bellatrys

    Actually, Jes, I didn’t link to PNAC this time – but I will remedy that! (Of course, it’s not like googling costs anything but time – I have no respect for people who won’t do even minimal research.
    –One thing which is increasingly clear is that the American (mostly-male) anti-feminist bloggers who invoke the Plight Of Women In The Middle East™ as a way of shutting up/shutting down feminist discussions in the US, do not, in fact, actually give a damn for womens’ rights *anywhere.* They just use it to excuse the War, if wingers/liberal hawks (this shown by the fact that the facts that women’s lives in Afghanistan are no better than before we started bombing them, and Iraq are significantly worse, make no difference to their arguments) or to make us here shut up and go away and stop making them feel uncomfortable about their privileges (shown by the fact that they’re not actually interested in *doing* anything to help Middle Easterners, just to hold them up as an example of how much more enlightened “we” are, and therefore don’t need to improve in any regard.)
    It’s just one more manifestation of a typical rhetorical ploy which I call “Don’t you know there’s a war on?”, and which literal tactic, I kid you not, was used in a fandom forum by a particularly noisy and bullying mod to shut down dissent, by saying (after it became clear he was losing the argument) “How can you waste time talking about fiction and movies, when there’s a war in Iraq and people are suffering and dying all over the world?” Somehow, it wasn’t wasting time when *he* was doing it and dominating the conversation. Only when people came along and challenged his premises with citations.
    Other feminist bloggers have termed this particular use of it the “I’ll give you something to cry about” trope, as in, “Be grateful I’m just verbally abusing you, woman [kid], it could be so much worse.”

  • bellatrys

    J, you have shown yourself to be a mental midget, stuck in utter binary thinking mode, and incapable of nuance *or* doing anything but creating strawmen.
    Plonk!

  • Toby

    Jesurgislac:
    I said it would be nice if people here in the west could accept the fact that some women freely choose to wear the veil (and we shouldn’t judge or pity or sneer at them for doing so). How does it follow from this that I want all women to wear the veil?
    And here’s what Wiki has to say about the meaning of “hijab”. I guess it would be more accurate to say that it has two meanings, one which refers specifically to a headscarf, another which applies more widely.

  • Toby

    Jesurgislac:
    I said it would be nice if people here in the west could accept the fact that some women freely choose to wear the veil (and we shouldn’t judge or pity or sneer at them for doing so). How does it follow from this that I want all women to wear the veil?
    And here’s what Wiki has to say about the meaning of “hijab”. I guess it would be more accurate to say that it has two meanings, one which refers specifically to a headscarf, another which applies more widely.

  • Garnet

    I said it would be nice if people here in the west could accept the fact that some women freely choose to wear the veil (and we shouldn’t judge or pity or sneer at them for doing so).
    That’s nice. Personally, I’d prefer it if people the world over, not just ‘the West’, chucked out the toxic belief structures that do things like convince women that they should cover themselves from head to toe in a shapeless black blob of a robe. But hey, I’m just judgemental like that, I guess.

  • Garnet

    I said it would be nice if people here in the west could accept the fact that some women freely choose to wear the veil (and we shouldn’t judge or pity or sneer at them for doing so).
    That’s nice. Personally, I’d prefer it if people the world over, not just ‘the West’, chucked out the toxic belief structures that do things like convince women that they should cover themselves from head to toe in a shapeless black blob of a robe. But hey, I’m just judgemental like that, I guess.

  • Jesurgislac

    Toby: I said it would be nice if people here in the west could accept the fact that some women freely choose to wear the veil
    Ah, so you were wishing for a world which already exists: that’s a good way of making sure your wish comes true! People here in the West do accept the fact that some women freely choose to wear the veil. What you actually said you were wishing for (which made more consistent sense) was a world in which people here in the West would approve of women wearing the veil – a very different matter. But if you’re only looking for acceptance of a fact, you will find that most people do accept the fact that, unfortunately, some women actually choose to veil themselves up in purdah. Of course this is not a good thing, but adults are allowed to make their own choices, no matter how self-destructive.

  • Fred

    Juvenile addendum:
    Since the subject of PNAC has again arisen, a brief note on pronunciation. This acronym is often incorrecly pronounced “pee-knack.” The letters actually stand for the Project for a New American Century, thus the “c” should be soft, pronounced as an “s” as in “century.”
    (When reason and democratic processes are unable to check the new imperialists, then adolescent ridicule and giggling become legitimate forms of opposition. And, you know, dick jokes.)

  • bulbul

    And here’s what Wiki has to say about the meaning of “hijab”. I guess it would be more accurate to say that it has two meanings, one which refers specifically to a headscarf, another which applies more widely.
    Well, here’s a good advice: don’t trust wiki that much. The original meaning of the word, as found e.g. in the Quran, is “barrier, protection”. All other meanings are derivations, see also “khimar” in the very same article.
    And the jurisprudence jury is still out on what the “barrier” is and what it is exactly that the veil should cover.
    Re burka: Particularly enraging to western liberals.
    Naah, I’d say that it’s about fifty-fifty. Conservatives (at least here in Europe) are as upset about burkas/hijabs/chadors as liberals are.
    Christofascists
    Thank you, bellatrys. About time some started using this term.
    Islamophobia is not limited to Europe.
    Are we talking about the actual Europe, the continent, or the mystical Europe with married gay couples roaming the streets and destroying families and fetuses being thrown out of the windows in thousands? Because if I think Islamophobia, I think the good ol’ USofA.
    Christian Eastern Europe isn’t any better
    Ehm, it actually is. But I get your general point and I agree with you.

  • bulbul

    And here’s what Wiki has to say about the meaning of “hijab”. I guess it would be more accurate to say that it has two meanings, one which refers specifically to a headscarf, another which applies more widely.
    Well, here’s a good advice: don’t trust wiki that much. The original meaning of the word, as found e.g. in the Quran, is “barrier, protection”. All other meanings are derivations, see also “khimar” in the very same article.
    And the jurisprudence jury is still out on what the “barrier” is and what it is exactly that the veil should cover.
    Re burka: Particularly enraging to western liberals.
    Naah, I’d say that it’s about fifty-fifty. Conservatives (at least here in Europe) are as upset about burkas/hijabs/chadors as liberals are.
    Christofascists
    Thank you, bellatrys. About time some started using this term.
    Islamophobia is not limited to Europe.
    Are we talking about the actual Europe, the continent, or the mystical Europe with married gay couples roaming the streets and destroying families and fetuses being thrown out of the windows in thousands? Because if I think Islamophobia, I think the good ol’ USofA.
    Christian Eastern Europe isn’t any better
    Ehm, it actually is. But I get your general point and I agree with you.

  • bulbul

    Most Muslims like Bin Laden.
    I am sure you have some statistics to back this statement up.
    No?
    Well, didn’t think so.
    My experience with Arab, Iranian, Turkish, Bosnian, Indonesian and African muslims is that they don’t like Usama at all. To quote a Palestinian buddy of mine, “He’s a Saudi prick, he doesn’t care about islam. None of them does. Fuck the Saudis.”
    Plus, bellatrys is right about the “utter binary thinking mode”. There is much more to radical/fundamentalist/qutbist islam than Bin Ladin. And it shames me to have to remind an expert such as yourself of such obvious facts.
    Wake up and realize that there is no “Islamic World,” except in your simplistic fantasies.
    You heard the lady, folks. Now go and spread the message. Write it in your blogs. Call the newspapers and tv stations. Print it on your shirts and underwear. LET EVERYONE KNOW.
    Go tell it on the mountain!

  • bulbul

    Or, as if you think that the fact that they exist somehow makes the misdeeds of Muslim societies less bad.
    This is the standard argument I get to hear every time I engage in a debate like this. Then I’m usually accused of being an apologist for radical Islam or even a collaborator. My response:
    The fact that there are Christian excesses does not make the misdeeds of Muslim societies less bad. It serves to remind you that WE ARE NOT THAT DIFFERENT. So get half-baked expert ass of yours off that high moral piedestal and remember that bit Jesus had about judging.

  • Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little

    Fred, after you tackle the PNAC pronounciation debacle, could you kindle convince my fellow tech-geeks to stop calling Graphics Interchange Format files “jiffs”?
    (My personal worst peeve used to be when people called Systems Operators “sigh-sops”, but I rarely see the term sysop used these days, and people mostly get the pronounciation of sysadmin correct on the first try.)

  • cjmr’s husband

    Sorry, “jif” is the official pronunciation from the people who created the bloody thing. Just one more way that gif is inferior.
    Pronounce it .png instead, everyone will be happier.
    (unless they wanted animation, of course, in which case, pronounce it ghif and use software that doesn’t dither the colors horribly)

  • Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little

    Pfeh. They’re wrong too. They may have created it, but they’re still wrong.
    Thatsmystoryanimstickntoit.

  • Anono

    I have to say, Fred, that this comment of yours was one of the nastiest pieces of bullshit innuendo that I’ve ever seen in the blogosphere or anywhere else:
    And it’s pure coincidence that this particular subgroup, which just happens to have statistically higher rates of all manner of abuses domestic, also just happens to choose a creepily pedophilic-sounding nickname for their youngest children.
    Pure coincidence.