Veiled Threat

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

Puh-leeeze! 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.

Why 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.

So 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 clarifications:

  • 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 irony?
  • 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!"

No, 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.

April 27, 2004