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Burkas and can a platonic conversation between the sexes exist? Let’s make it happen.
Let me start with a quick note about Burkas.

What people never note about the Burka is that it isn’t only to hide the woman from other men, it is also to hide the woman from her own husband. The structure of desire as has been discussed in several discussions here (Valentine's day in the Girard Household, Desire is always a desire of the desire of the other, and The Spark of Love to name a few) is that desire is for the desire of the other. To put it simply, men desire what other men desire. Thus if you have a beautiful woman and other men desire her, you will move to desire her even more. Your desire of your own wife depends on her being a desirable woman. (See linked discussions for further details on this matter.)  

  Why does Islam, and most religions for that matter, fear a wife being desired by her husband? Because, as John Stevenson remarks in post quoting “Own the meaning of a man’s life and you own his heart.” Women and desire is a danger to the structure of control which religions want to achieve over the believers. This is true not only about religions but in many organizations of control. Women are dangerous because if men fall in love with them, if they desire them, their heart is not in the right place; the meaning of their life is not decided by the powers above but by the woman. (The Hebrew Bible for example has a whole chapter of the danger of women as seducers).

There are many reasons why men put women down, from needing a mirror which shows them at twice their size as Virginia Wolf says, to many mentioned in the linked discussion, but this point significantly separates the question of women and that of minorities. The existence of women in the workplace and in the world is a danger to structure of control which men built. (Gay men may pose a similar threat but there are also important differences.)

I wanted to write this post for a long time only I wasn’t sure how to make it a forward leaning post instead of a descriptive one. Yesterday I read an intelligent woman clearly explaining how a ban on Burqa’s is bad which showed, for me, the depth of the enslaved accepting and rationalizing their own enslavement. Treating the Burka as some kind of religious artifact, similar perhaps to wearing a Yarmulke or a Turban is ridiculous. This has been, lengthily, discussed in the Burka discussion and I won’t repeat the discussion but I will note that a mass religion demands of women to be invisible in the world. This invisibility is also, as in the discussion on supermodels , an impediment to thinking as thinking involves (outside) feedback. It involves a conversation.

(In the article in favor of allowing burkas the woman actually said: “But in today’s Europe women can dress more or less as they please; there is no reason for the burden to religious liberty that the ban involves.” This is hilariously false. Women can almost never wear what they please. Nor can men for that matter, but so much more than women can. (e.g. see discussion on What should an academic wear). Are Burka’s like Wearing high heels (and post)? There might be some similarities but it is all in the quantity of submission (men have their own version of high heels) and effacement.

The effacement of women has taken many shapes, from men’s clubs to many other means of simply not seeing women. This has somewhat changed and women are part of the fabric of society, and yet a platonic conversation is still not a simple matter, as women are well aware of. Not after high school. How do we make it happen?

I’ll describe in a later post some of the problems of such a conversation but I don’t want this post to be too long, and I also wanted first to start a conversation about these issues.
Hello Hugh,
Is this the article you're referring to?

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/07/11/veiled-threats/

It's in the opinion section of the NYT and written by Martha Nussbaum.
More on the subject here:

http://topics.nytimes.com/topics/reference/timestopics/subjects/m/muslim_veiling/index.html

In response to Linda OReilly
Yes Linda but I didn't want to mention it here. The topic is not the burqa law on which there is a great discussion here which is so much more interesting than her misguided article. I mentioned it for the reasons I elaborated above (e.g. that it saddened me to read it). You'll see from the post below why I mentioned the burka in the topic of conversation.
I’ll continue then, explaining what I meant by platonic conversation.

How does one talk to a woman with a boyfriend? Emily Andrews in post  says:

“Are we imposing intellectual burqas? Can we admit the possibility that a woman in a relationship might have something of deep value, even something intimate, to say to a man who is not her lover?
Without betraying the one she loves.”

I think there is a strange agreement of a kind of intellectual burqa which women in a relationship wear.  When you say something of value, when you touch someone with your words, this touch is also erotic. Are you betraying your partner by doing this? Women are in a tough spot here. While men can “intellectually” touch women without fear of consequence, for women the moment a touch is made, they don’t know what they are getting themselves into. The moment contact is made, men actually demand a lot from you, hence the choice of wearing an intellectual burqa.

This “burqa” is of course not totally by choice. Because the different manners of touching are conflated, men dress women in relationship with a kind of burqa where they are invisible and their words unimportant, as they can’t carry touch with them, hence they are immaterial. This invisibility cloak becomes stronger the more serious the relationship is. A boyfriend of 2 months, ok, a year is still ok, 2 years is getting touchy, and married is close to invisible.

(I remember asking a woman to lunch/dinner only to find out she has a boyfriend. I said that we can still meet and talk. I remember being somewhat shocked at her own shock, and delight, at the idea. At the time it was strange to me that she would be shocked, but nowadays I understand. Most men either wouldn’t be interested in talking with her, or would simply mean that she can cheat on her boyfriend.)

Women thus surround themselves with friends who are either gay that they are not attracted to as a way to eliminate the eroticism of the conversation, while men mostly talk with other men, and the girlfriends of their friends.

Conversations, when meaningful, are erotic, but they can still be platonic in the sense of no physical contact. In fact, conversations online or by email can’t be anything but platonic, but still both sides need to understand and accept a certain eroticism which comes from meaningful conversations, while at the same time understand and accept that there is nothing promised by it. The touch is but a passing touch with no commitment. It is good if people can understand that in real life as well as the immaterial world online. 


I spoke about women in a relationship - but why do they need to be in a relationship? They might simply want to talk and nothing more. Everything I said is even more valid when they are not in a relationship but simply want a working-relationship or platonic one.


What are people thoughts on conversation between the sexes?


Postscript (July 14, 2010 at 4:26 PM):
I added an explanation of the connection between the posts here: post
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