Veiled Threat

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would you like it if you were forced to wear a veil in public?"

If I had a nickel for every time someone tossed that lame chestnut
my way, I'd probably be able to buy another gun or two and men trying
to make me don a veil would be the least of my worries. In fact,
now that I think of it, being forced to wear a veil is the
least of my worries. Miles ahead of worrying about some guy forcing
me to wear a veil in public is worry about being able to keep enough
of my money for a decent retirement and worry about having my nephews
enslaved to fight someone else's wars. And yet, not coincidentally,
it's the guys wanting just those two things — my money and my family
— who are telling their bogeyman-tales of the Veil Monster.

is this such a common line among the pro-war crowd, and what do
they hope to achieve with it? It's a misogynistic variant of the
argument for perpetual war which in essence boils down to "You
have to give up your freedom to remain free," or, as George
Orwell distilled it to ultra-purity, "Slavery is Freedom."
What is distressing about this argument isn't even the evilness
and absurdity of it so much as the absolute sincerity with which
it is parroted by those who have swallowed it.

for the benefit of those chevaliers who are working so hard to convince
me to just shut up, pay my taxes, and play along with the Great
Leader in his conquest-in-the-name-of-freedom, let me offer these

  • Saddam
    Hussein is probably the last person in the world I would have
    had to worry about putting the veil on me. His despotism was
    most decidedly a secular one, and more importantly his grasp
    far exceeded his reach in terms of conquest. He didn't have
    much luck with Iran, did he? And he couldn't even pick off little
    Kuwait. So arresting him, noble as that may have been otherwise,
    isn't saving me from the dreaded veil. However, it may be that
    now that Iraq's government is in the hands of the US military
    which is itching to hand it over to the thug-du-jour, women
    will soon be forced to wear the veil. Isn't that a sad
  • I have
    a gun. In fact, I have two. I'm not bragging, or swaggering
    (OK, I may be swaggering the teeniest bit), but it's a fact.
    Any guy who tries the veil-trick with me is going to very much
    regret that the thought ever crossed his mind. If you want to
    keep Americans free of the Veil Monster, give every woman a
    rifle and let her decide what she wears with it.
  • If I was
    interested in lesser-of-two-evils arguments, I'd have to say
    that all things being equal I'd rather wear a veil than see
    my husband conscripted into an army of foreign conquest or give
    up half my income as the price of my "protection"
    from the veil. I honestly would — in a minute — wear a veil
    in public if I was excused from paying taxes. It might even
    be kind of cool — the ultimate sunglasses: "I can see you,
    but you can't see me!"

this veil-thing is the prototypical protection racket "offering"
— with a pinch of paternalism thrown in to scare timid women into
submission. Sorry, but I'm not buying — this turns out to be an
offer I very much can refuse. No doubt the bullies "offering"
"veil protection" can take my money and my family when
and if they decide to stop asking me nicely to hand them over and/or
I decide to stop playing along, but I'll not be handing it to them
with my blessing at least. I'll stay unveiled and unbowed, thanks-very-much,
and not accept the choice of one evil or the other.

27, 2004

Hogarth [send her mail]
is a brain-imaging research coordinator in a neurodevelopmental
disorders research group. Visit her

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