first fig

my candle burns at both ends…

Category: violence against women

Weekly Anti-Woman Wacko

It’s that time again, time for me to highlight an anti-woman wacko who made news this week.


I read an op-ed in the New York Times earlier this week that was so full of chauvinism, cultural imperialism and xenophobia it made me sick to my stomach. Jean-Francois Cope is the president of a major French political party and the mayor of Meaux. During his career he was also the Minister of the Budget and the spokesperson for the French government. Cope is an influential leader in France but unfortunately he uses that influence to trample on the rights of Muslim women.

For those who don’t know, a number of European countries and cities have passed, or are in the process of passing laws that would prohibit women from wearing face veils such as the burqa or niqab in public. The justification for such a law is that “[the face covering] is a mask, a mask worn at all times, making identification or participation in economic and social life virtually impossible.”

Except that women who wear burqas do participate in economic and social life. Several months ago I took a crochet class from one of the local yarn stores. Two of my classmates were young girls, both wearing hair & face coverings. They participated like all the other members of the class, they were affable and funny young women and did not seem at all hindered by the fact that most of their face was covered. Women all over the world go to school, shop for groceries and contribute to society all while wearing veils.


Cope then goes onto say that the burqa is a safety risk:

This face covering poses a serious safety problem at a time when security cameras play an important role in the protection of public order. An armed robbery recently committed in the Paris suburbs by criminals dressed in burqas provided an unfortunate confirmation of this fact. As a mayor, I cannot guarantee the protection of the residents for whom I am responsible if masked people are allowed to run about.

The fallacy in this type of argument is astounding. Since one person wore a burqa to commit armed robbery it must follow that everyone wearing a burqa will commit armed robbery.

You’re probably saying to yourself, “c’mon, mraynes, no person in their right mind would think that Muslim women are like criminals just because they wear a face veil.” But wait for it…

The visibility of the face in the public sphere has always been a public safety requirement. It was so obvious that until now it did not need to be enshrined in law. But the increase in women wearing the niqab, like that of the ski mask favored by criminals, changes that. We must therefore adjust our law, without waiting for the phenomenon to spread.

Yep, he just made the argument that women in niqabs might be criminals. I’m also really looking forward to the new legislation the French National Assembly will propose…banning the ski mask.

And it just gets worse.
How can you establish a relationship with a person who, by hiding a smile or a glance — those universal signs of our common humanity — refuses to exist in the eyes of others?…But the niqab and burqa represent a refusal to exist as a person in the eyes of others. The person who wears one is no longer identifiable; she is a shadow among others, lacking individuality, avoiding responsibility.
I really have no words for how wrong this is. A woman in a burqa has no humanity? Because this man cannot gaze upon her face she has no individuality and so she ceases to exist? Really? And I love that instead of acknowledging his own bias against this Muslim dress, instead of acknowledging his own failure in seeing the humanity in another human being when they wear a burqa or nijab, he instead blames the woman. Yes, this covered woman makes you see her as non-human. Yes, that makes sense.

There are so many problematic things in this editorial. For example, saying that this isn’t religious discrimination. Because you know, so many non-Muslim French women are walking down the street in burqas. And then there’s the title, “Tearing Away the Veil”. I think really helps Cope in his assertion that this is a benevolent law that will uphold “the dignity of women.” As a woman, I can confirm that my dignity doesn’t at all suffer when men or laws tear pieces of my clothing off my body.

One of Cope’s more cogent arguments is that “[i]ndividual liberty is vital, but individuals, like communities, must accept compromises that are indispensable to living together, in the name of certain principles that are essential to the common good.” I agree, part of peacefully living in society is compromising with our neighbors. But it is not compromise if one party is forced to give something up without receiving anything in return. So what will Muslim women be gaining in return for giving up their religious and cultural custom?

It speaks volumes that Cope does not provide one way in which this law will benefit Muslim women. Rather, it proves that the health, happiness and rights of women were not the first priority in drafting this legislation. It is ironic that French leaders believe that the burqa ban will increase the visibility, responsibility and dignity of Muslim women. In reality, this ban will further push Muslim women to the margins of society. Yes, there will be some women who choose to take the burqa off but there will be just as many who are cloistered in their homes, unable to leave because of their religious and cultural beliefs. So what, exactly, is making these women invisible?


I have to say at this point that I hate the idea of the burqa and nijab. I think they are horrible customs based on the oppression of women. That being said, it is not my right, or anybody else’s to dictate how another woman worships her god.

The law that Jean-Francois Cope is proposing is just as repressive and misogynistic as the veil itself. Both the burqa and burqa ban are tools of patriarchal institutions, making women invisible and denying them the right to choose. We like to get up on our Western high-horse and proclaim our enlightened thinking, our commitment to equal rights for women. But oppression is oppression whether it comes in the form of clothing or laws that deny the right of women to control their own bodies.
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I’m Not Back Yet

Dear Readers (If you even still exist):

I’m sorry for my absence. Life has been hard. I’m starting to feel better and am hoping to resurrect this blog in the near future.
As you can see, I’ve tweaked the layout which is why I’m actually posting now, I’m testing this new layout. When I return, First Fig will be a much cooler place. So stay tuned.
Until then, please enjoy my latest post over at The Exponent:
How You Can Help A Victim of Domestic Violence

Every month or so I’ll get a call from a friend or acquaintance asking me for information to help a loved one involved in a violent relationship. We all know or will know a victim of domestic violence; the current statistics are one in three women will be abused in some manner during her lifetime. I have two younger sisters and it blows my mind that statistically, one of us will be in an abusive relationship.

Knowing this, it is vital that information on how best to support victims of violence be readily available. I have found, however, that there is a general uneasiness and confusion on how best to do this. In my previous work with victims I gained some very specific knowledge that I thought might be useful to share here. To make things easier, I will use female pronouns since women are more likely to be victims but this information applies equally to men as they can also be victims of domestic violence, too.

So, what to do if you know & love a victim of domestic violence:

First, be a listening and non-judgmental ear. You cannot help your loved one if they don’t trust you.

When or if a victim confides in you about an unhealthy relationship you must first determine the lethality of the situation to determine the best course of action.

If it is not a lethal relationship, meaning there is no current threat of severe bodily harm or death, I think it best to start with domestic violence education. I particularly like the Power & Control Wheel because it covers all the different ways abuse might be present in a relationship. (If you are dealing with a teenage abusive relationship, this version is better suited for their unique needs.) After going through the wheel with the victim I then like to show them the Equality Wheel so they have an idea of what a healthy relationship looks like. (Teen version here.)

At this point there are several choices to be made, all belonging to the victim. Remember, your job is to be a support, any pressure from you will make things worse. Your loved one may choose to stay and work on the relationship. If this is their choice, I would suggest having her attend an outpatient domestic violence support group. There she will receive more domestic violence education and connect with other women in similar situations. Many social service agencies have these kinds of support groups but you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline and they can refer you to the appropriate places if you need further help.

If your loved one chooses to leave the abusive relationship, provisions must be made for her physical and emotional support. Despite having worked at a domestic violence shelter, I think it always preferable for victims to be surrounded by family at this difficult time. If your loved one will be living with family, make sure she is enrolled in a support group. If it is not possible for her to live with family then dv shelters are a safe, supportive place to go and they offer wonderful services. Domestic violence shelters will provide food and shelter, support groups and domestic violence education as well as targeted case management to help the victim get back on her feet. You can get referrals to local domestic violence shelters through the national dv hotline linked to above.

Know that the average woman will leave an abusive relationship seven times before she leaves for good. Although this will be frustrating to you, try to be as non-judgmental as possible; the dynamics of abuse are very complicated and it is difficult to extricate one’s self from the figurative strangle-hold the abuser has over his victim. Be patient and remember that your loved one needs your support during these time more than ever. Also, please be aware that the most dangerous time for an abuse victim is after they leave the relationship. I strongly recommend having your loved one do a safety plan with a domestic violence advocate and get an Order of Protection if appropriate.

If, when you first speak to a victim, it appears that her situation is very dangerous, the first priority is to get her and any children safe. I would recommend a domestic violence shelter at this point because they are at un-disclosed locations and it will be more difficult for an abuser to find her.

Next, get the victim an Order of Protection. Many shelters will help out with this, they may even have a legal advocate on staff. If not, most superior courts do have legal advocates on staff and they can help victims navigate the complicated legal system for free. I can’t recommend using a lawyer or legal advocate enough; they understand the intricacies of the system and will be able to provide the victim with the most comprehensive Order of Protection possible. As a side note, if you feel like your safety is at risk for helping the victim, you may get an Injunction Against Harassment. While not as powerful as an order of protection, it might give you some peace of mind.

It is the goal of all domestic violence advocates to keep the victim safe and help them start a new, healthy life. Regardless of whether your loved one goes into shelter, I would utilize the services of dv advocates because they can provide your loved one with the most resources to overcome this traumatic experience and come through a survivor.

This post is getting too long but if you’re interested, I would be happy to do a follow-up post on what to do if your loved one gets caught up in the justice system or what you can do to help victims of domestic violence more generally. If you have question, please comment and I’ll do my best to answer. Also, I would love for those of you with experience in this matter to share tips that have worked or not worked so that others can learn from them. Domestic violence is a pervasive problem in our society, it affects all of us in one way or another. Only through education and commitment can we come close to ending this evil.

Weekly Anti-Woman Wacko

I sometimes feel that I am not grateful enough for the gender equality that I enjoy in my country and in my religion. I am reminded of how truly blessed I am when leaders of other countries pass laws like the one Hamid Karzai just passed in Afghanistan. One provision makes it illegal for a woman to reject her husbands sexual advances, effectively legalizing marital rape. (Although, in an effort to compromise, Karzai suggested that the law should be changed to require women to have sex with their husbands every four days. I’m looking for a way to be sarcastic about this but words fail me.) Another provision would not allow girls or women to attend school or work or even leave the house without their father or husband’s permission. Women also could not refuse to wear makeup if their husband required it.

Yesterday, 300 very brave Afghan women marched in the street to protest this law and demanded that they be given equal rights…that they be treated like human beings! For this action they were called whores and had stones thrown at them.

I am weeping as I write this because it should not hurt to be a woman and I want to know why it does? Can somebody please explain to me why my Afghan sisters have to ask permission from their government not to be raped?

And in case you’re feeling a little too comfortable in the privilege of being a woman living in the United States, spousal rape was only made a punishable crime country-wide in 1993 with the passing of stricter sexual offense codes. Despite the criminalization of marital rape, there are still at least thirty-three states that grant exemptions to the perpetrators in certain cases. There is also one major university granting an honorary doctorate to a famous marital rape apologist THIS YEAR!

We should never be fooled into thinking that we have reached the pinnacle of equality. We are all connected and until our sisters in Afghanistan enjoy the same rights we do, no woman will ever be truly equal.

Weekly Anti-Woman Wacko: Vintage Postcard Edition

I’m tired. It has been an such an emotionally exhausting week that I couldn’t bear to write about another wacko. So instead I have provided some vintage anti-woman, Italian postcards for your viewing “pleasure”.


Lovely, huh? Well these little beauties are selling for $18 a piece at several anti-woman websites which I won’t link to. Misogyny is alive and well, people!

Weekly Anti-Woman Wacko

I don’t have a ton of time today as I’m headed off to a Mormon feminist retreat in Southern California, but I couldn’t leave with out nominating my weekly wacko. As I’m in a hurry I’ve picked a video for you all to watch, I think it’s pretty self-explanatory as to why this is my pick for weekly wacko.

This makes me so insanely angry that I can barely even talk about it. It really would be nice to live in a country where women were trusted and allowed to make informed decisions on their own behalf. The fact that we are not only goes to show how far we have to go in order for women to have true equality in this country.

For better analysis into Personhood USA, see here.

I Can’t Understand This

There are a few things that fill my soul with rage, one of those is violence against women and children. I have had to de-sensitize myself a lot to this issue just because of the work I do. Every once in a while, I hear of something that makes me so angry that tears will pour down my face. The Dunbar Village rape case is one of these instances.

In 2007, a woman was gang raped by 10 men in her own home for over three hours, forced to have sex with her own 12-year-old son and survived an attempt to light both of them on fire. Four of those men have been arrested and are currently in prison without bail. This is where the story gets even more heinous. Despite conclusive DNA evidence, apparent photographic evidence that the rapists took on their cell phones during the attack and signed confessions, Al Sharpton and the NAACP have taken the defense of these four young men with the excuse that white men, accused of the same crime, are given bond. Equal justice is something that I fully support and those white men should be in prison. But just because our judicial system is racist doesn’t mean that extremely violent black offenders should be treated with leniency!

I am dumbfounded by the actions of Al Sharpton and the NAACP. It is amazing to me that instead of standing up for the rights of an African American woman and her son, they chose to support the worst of men. Al Sharpton and the NAACP should be standing up and cheering that a violent act against a woman of color is actually being taken seriously for once. The statistics on rape cases against African American women that are fully investigated and prosecuted our abysmal. Even in this case, six of the attackers are still free and there is no effort to find them!

Go an read Rev. Dr. Renita J. Weems’ call to action at her blog. Here are some things she suggest we can do:

1. Spread the word. Forward this if your conscience and concern have been raised. Send it to every concerned black citizen that you know.

2. Demand an explanation from your local NAACP chapter about this case. Cancel your membership to these organizations, and write a letter explaining that you will return when they prioritize the public safety needs of black women and children.

3. If you do not belong to these organizations, call and write them to tell them of your outrage and displeasure:

NAACP National Headquarters
4805 Mt. Hope Drive
Baltimore MD 21215

National Action Network
Rev. Al Sharpton
106 W. 145th Street
Harlem, New York

If you know an African American reporter or a black radio talk show host, forward this story to them and ask them to follow up on it.

Read the history of the Dunbar Village problem here: http://www.dunbarvillage2008.blogspot.com/