The Niqab Debate; A Feminist Canadian Perspective

maninchapsI’ve debated whether or not to write this post.

Let me be clear, the Niqab is a political, social and emotional hot button, and our Canadian Conservative spin-doctors hit the nail on the head when they reeled in this red herring.

This is and is not a political issue. It is because it addresses the clusterf^@k that happens when church and state mix. It is not because we should be focused on the complete erosion of democracy that has been achieved by the Conservative government.

I am by no means a social conservative. I am, however, amongst other fabulous and wonderful things, a feminist.

As a woman, the idea that any faith or culture requires a woman to hide her body reinforces the grand debate about the inequality between women and men.

It’s all bullshit folks. Women, men, and everyone who lives in the spectrum between these binary ideas of gender, deserve to be treated equally according to their achievements, gifts and status as a human being.

This morning, sipping my coffee, I read a social media post, (read it folks- it makes a great point, the twitter handle is @manwhohasitall ), which emphasized how screwed up our culture is when it comes to assigning value to typical gender roles.

The title of the article was; If we gave fathers the same nonsensical advice we give working mothers. Here are a few of the more ridiculous quotes;

TODAY’S DEBATE: Is fatherhood the end for career men?

RISE & SHINE FRAZZLED DADS! Wife & kids asleep? Now is the time to declutter cupboard under the sink & snack on your open pores. ‘Me time’.

Working husband & father? Feeling overwhelmed? YOUR FAULT. Drink more water, get up earlier & dress in your ‘wow’ colours.

Now that we have established the double-standard that still exists for working women, let me dive right in to Canadian politics and culture.

People flee to this country because it has a reputation for being nice, for offering equal opportunity, and not allowing our citizens to slit one another’s throats in the street because of basic human rights such as gender, religion, or ability differences.

You know why that exists folks? Because we separate religion from politics.

Given that the history of the niqab as religious versus cultural choice is debatable, let me hit you with a feminist, Canadian, patriotic perspective; women are sick and damn-tired of being told what to do. As Canadians, we’re sick and damn-tired of people from other countries coming here and telling us that they want the same religious-cultural government that they fled from.

If your argument is that not being allowed to wear the niqab is a religious right, perhaps you can cover your face and symbolically demean women in another country. I would never dream of travelling to Saudia Arabia, wearing a bikini and whining about being persecuted for wearing it. It just doesn’t happen.

I wouldn’t mind if all heterosexual men were mandated to wear ass-showing chaps so I could size up my next pony-ride, but I doubt that’s ever going to happen. Because it’s sexist and demeaning.

I agree with Naheed Nenshi’s latest article in the Globe and Mail which talks about Canada being a country of hope. I do not agree with starting down a slippery slope of mixing church and state via the not-so-subtle misogynistic tradition of devaluing the feminine in the name of religion, a la Niqab.

Don’t give me the ridiculous argument about Hallowe’en or Newfie Mummers. It’s not the same and you know it. You know why?  Because females and males participate equally in both. Because no one shows up at airport security, in a courtroom, or in any other situation with their face hidden. It’s a slap in the face of every woman who has ever had to fight to vote, be legally considered a person, been paid less than a man for the same job, the list goes on and on.

Yes, mandating an uncovered face would be telling women what to do, and men too. It’s also telling citizens that we are all accountable for our actions, that hiding behind religion or cultural traditions which symbolically treat women as the property of men will not be tolerated.

Like it or not, allowing the niqab to be worn in public flies in the face of women’s rights in North America. We have worked damn hard to achieve the reduced level of inequality that we have now.

Misogyny cannot hide behind a veil. Instead, that veil screams to North American women that it is alive and well.

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A Flashlight for Your Journey Into The Dark Night of The Soul

We're all addicted to something that takes the pain away, and eventually we all have to give it up and stumble out into the darkness in order to find the light.

We’re all addicted to something that takes the pain away. Eventually we all have to give it up and stumble out into the darkness in order to find the light.

I arrived at my desk today to find a brown-paper wrapped package containing a copy of, The Dark Night of the Soul by Gerald G. May.

It couldn’t have arrived at a better time.

Someone I love dearly, a best friend and wonderful person is suffering so deeply that the only caring I can offer is to hope that he knows he is loved as he suffers through what is, I’m sure, one of his ‘Dark Nights of the Soul’.

What my heart tells me to do is to keep reminding him of that, but what I know I have to do is let him find his own way, and hope that during the darkest of times, he knows that he is loved.

I want to call, text, send emails, books, quotes, stories, cards and carrier pigeons. I want to wrap him up and protect him from the demons only he can face and conquer.

I want to stomp my feet and shake my fist at the sky and….

…what?

To be honest, I’m not sure, as I’ve been having what I like to describe as, “The Dark Night of the Whateveryoucallit”. In other words, I don’t like to admit that I’m sad, depressed, angry, frightened or broken-hearted.

I like to breathe deeply and remember that whether or not I like it, I will wake up tomorrow and slog through the difficult emotions.

I like to remind myself that it’s ok to come home, cry myself to sleep and let this sadness snake its way through my body until I’m strangled by it.

I like to remember that ignoring it, or raging against it will not make it less painful or faster to go away.

Although it is painful to experience the ‘darker emotions’, the more you allow yourself to feel these in their gruesome fullness, the more cathartic it is. It’s scary as hell, but why use your energy fighting something you must face?

That’s been my experience anyway. Instead of running away from it, I just let it wash over me, seep into my bones, and tumble as tears from my eyes. Whenever we emerge from these darker times, we are a changed person, often with more capacity for love, compassion and empathy. The storms polish us like sea glass that has been worn smooth from being tossed ruthlessly against the rocks, and then gently brought to shore.

I’ll share with you some of the things that I’ve learned about not resisting painful emotions;

1)You have to reach out to people. Don’t roll your eyes and stop reading. Everyone has their own life, but friends are always willing to listen and do what they can.

2) There is alchemy in every human encounter; each person is at the same time giver and recipient. Helpers are gifted the opportunity to help, by those in need.

3) No emotion is permanent, so there’s no point running away from the hard stuff. It stays there until you’re too exhausted from chasing the next item of retail therapy, cigarette, joint, drink, lay or thrill-seeking adventure. Then you’re just left worn out and having to deal with what you spent all of your energy running away from

4)We all screw up. We all stumble backward once in a while when we need to be reminded of why we didn’t stay there in the first place ( bad relationships, addictions, habits…you get the gist of what I’m saying here…).

5)Life goes on, even when you don’t ever want to wake up, it goes on. See #1 and #8 when you really are suffering.

6)Guilt and shame are chosen emotions. They’re tough ones to overcome because they whisper evil things to our ego, and ego is a ruthless critic. Looking deeply and compassionately at guilt and shame can ease a lot of internal suffering.

7)When you are able to, offering your compassion and love to another human being may be emotionally risky, but it’s totally worth it.

8) Talking does help. Language helps us process, but it also invites different perspectives and the occasionally necessary reality check.

For those barely able to take the next step through the dark night of their own soul, I wish you peace.

For those of you who care about someone who is going through this, I also wish you peace.

Be kind to yourself and be kind to one another. Be gentle…and stock up on tissue ’cause you’re gonna need it.