Joan Wallach Scott is an influential Princeton University historian whose poisonous brand of academic feminism sanctions Islamic misogyny in the name of cultural relativism. Her 2006 polemic, The Politics of the Veil, was an intellectually lazy attempt to shut down opponents of public veiling in France with broad accusations of racism, imperialism, and paranoia.
Salon’s Tracy Clark-Flory interviewed Professor Scott this week on Muslim women’s “right to veil,” insisting “[i]t would be a pity for her voice to be left out of the debate” on the proposed burqa ban in France. Scott’s morally vacuous contributions to the public conversation make her a supremely qualified recipient of The Naomi Wolf Award (aka, The Howler.) For those not familiar:
The Naomi Wolf Award recognizes the failure of feminist commentators to identify Muslim veils, particularly the burqa and the niqab, as powerful symbols of extremist ideology and instruments of subjugation. Nominees will be judged on their use of the rhetoric of freedom and choice to justify these emblems of Islamic gender apartheid.
Joan Scott acknowledges that “there is no Quranic requirement that women wear these coverings.” But like all apologists for the burqa and niqab, she pretends that those who veil are exercising religious freedom:
What’s wrong is that there’s no real attempt to find out why women wear these or to grant the idea that they may be making a choice; that they are not forced to do this, but find it a way of expressing their religious identity or religious conscience.
The full veil is not a mere fashion choice representing devotion to the Muslim faith. It is a reflection of women’s second-class status that travels with them wherever they go. It is a reminder to the wearer and all those who encounter her that she is subhuman, undeserving of fresh air, sunlight, and the ability to communicate effectively.
Under Sharia law, infidels may be persecuted, disfigured, or murdered. Where is the meaningful choice for women?
Choice is liberating. The burqa is not a choice.
Scott also contends that the burqa and niqab are not necessarily an assault on freedom and equality:
One can’t assume they know why a woman wears a veil or even that it signifies oppression.
They don’t take into account the many reasons women might decide to wear a veil — much of the testimony suggests women [in France] choose this; they are not forced. By assuming that there is only one reason women might wear a veil, this argument refuses to grant agency or religious conscience to women.
Just because these women live in Europe does not mean this tool of oppression magically transforms into an emblem of freedom and choice. I wonder, has Professor Scott ever attempted to go about her daily business while entombed in a dehumanizing fabric crypt? Women behind the veil are mummies who have yet to be embalmed. It is not just their gender and sexuality that are erased, but the senses they use to interact with the world.
Should we drop our concerns simply because these women appear complicit in their own subordination?
Just in case you’re not fully on Team Burqa, Scott takes a moment to convince readers of the “deep racism about Muslims”:
I think [debating the veil] is a way of avoiding talking about the discrimination Muslims (men and women) face in Western societies, a way of indicating “our” superiority to “them,” of blaming “them” for the discrimination they suffer, a way of depicting “them” as less modern, less enlightened than “us.”
Discussions of stigmatizing the other might be red meat for the politically correct crowd, but back on Planet Morality, all ideologies are not equally deserving of respect. Western societies are superior to those where Sharia law reigns supreme. Any system of belief that celebrates misogyny with practices like female genital mutilation, polygamy, and stoning is inherently “less enlightened.”
Women shrouded in the burqa are walking advertisements of Islam’s loathing of women, non-Muslims, and Western ideals. To use leftist parlance Joan Scott might understand, the burqa is hate speech.
But no matter the level of violence and misogyny, Scott believes all ideas are equally valid and righteous (as long as they aren’t part of the Zionist conspiracy.) On a recent panel with Tariq Ramadan, Scott even refused to condemn the Islamic practice of stoning women who commit adultery, explaining that it is not for us to criticize or meddle in their religion. In light of that moral depravity, it’s no surprise that Scott continues to make a case for the burqa.
And so, in recognition of Joan Scott’s obscene defense of a woman’s choice to be buried alive behind a veil that symbolizes the absence of choice for women, I hereby present her with her very first Naomi Wolf Award.
I expect it won’t be her last.