by Dan Savage
on Fri, Nov 4, 2011 at 4:39 PM
Joumana Haddad is a Lebanese writer and poet and the founding editor of Jasad (“Body”), an erotic magazine for Arab women, which is a ballsy (ovariesy?) thing to found & edit. Haddad was interviewed today on the public radio program The World by co-host Lisa Mullins. Early in the interview Haddad pointed out that, despite what many in the West believe, not all Arab women are "veiled, subdued, and oppressed." Some Arab women are like her: unveiled, liberated, and free. Haddad added that women who aren't like her—all those veiled, subdued, and oppressed women—represent the majority of Arab women, "and that's one of our biggest problems." Mullins, in a hilariously patronizing display of PC handwringing, jumps in to correct Haddad on this point. Haddad promptly hands Mullins her ass:
MULLINS: When you make the distinction between yourself and the other women who, for instance, wear the veil, just to put it very basically, inherent in that argument is the idea that [women who wear the veil] are trapped, that they cannot think for themselves, that they don't think for themselves, that they don't choose to wear the veil, when you know that there are women who do.
HADDAD: I'm quite convinced, and I can say it in a very extreme way, that I know they don't. Because either it's the result of a brainwashing that makes them think it is their choice, or they have so much dignity that they don't want to admit that it has been forced on them. But you can only talk about choice and freedom of choice when you have alternatives. You can not talk about freedom of choice when, if you don't wear the veil, you're going to be either harassed or beaten up or killed or whatever.
MULLINS: But you know there are young people who have grown up who have not had the veil imposed on them [who] have chosen now to wear it, for whatever reason. I mean, you know these people, I've met some of them myself. They've had the freedom to not do it and they choose to.
HADDAD: I know. And many of these cases are in a way a reaction to what they perceive as an invasion of the West, of Western values, on their lives, and they do it as a self-punishment, I think, without realizing it. And when I talk about patriarchal societies, I'm talking also about women, because many women have patriarchal values.