“The most dangerous burqua is the one you don’t know you are wearing.” Poster, The Most Dangerous Burqua by Massimiliano Geraci and Emanuele Pistola (Cyberzone), Italy. (by permission)

As with any work of art, the poster presented here inspires many interpretations. For me, it fits perfectly with my present understanding of our best American flaw, the one that enables irrational wars, torture, global climate change, and so many of the ills we suffer, day to day.

The outline:

Here in America, we pride ourselves on our individuality and free expression. We cannot imagine how other cultures can be so ignorant as to insist on the obliteration of a whole gender and its humanity, its freedom of opportunity, its individuality, underneath full head-and-body cloth coverings—burqas. We think of ourselves as more enlightened than that; we are not oppressed by such authoritarian, hierarchical nonsense. We are free.

We hear the stated purpose of the Islamic burqa—to protect males from the supposed power of females to induce them into depravity, and to protect females from the supposed natural, uncontrollable depravity of males—and we laugh at the naiveté there, at the pure, sexist, wrongheaded nature of it. And we feel superior.

But how superior should we feel if we too wear a burqa, a metaphorical one, one not limited to women? How free are we if we too must cover ourselves, unconsciously, to serve an equally authoritarian, hierarchical ideology? How independent, how liberated are we, given this collective, social intuition, where the mass of people learn to function as tools of the system and to avoid being subversives of it? How emancipated are we where our burqa is operating over all, working constantly to hide and oppress?

Overstatement? Simplistic? Conspiracy theory? Consider this: The unstated, hidden purpose of the American burqa is to protect a capitalist culture from the subversive nature of non-conformity, independent critical thought, difference, and knowing and loving who we are, the power of being whole.

Our burqa manifests most clearly via the epidemic of cosmetic surgery and media make-over programming. http://www.genders.org/g41/g41_weber.html  Note: Plastic surgeons make no effort at preserving the unique features of a person’s face; on the contrary, they consciously strive to conform their patient’s faces to standardized models, to standards of beauty based on cultural notions of perfection. http://www.beautyanalysis.com/index2_mba.htm

Within the face-and-body-altered population, and in the media, we now see a trend toward UNIFORMITY, an epidemic of masks—masks that hide unique faces.

These are citizens who have gotten the message, a message being sent to ordinary Americans via celebrity. And the message is this: Conform toward perfection and sameness; and in the case of women, “perfection” means conforming to America’s extremist, polarized notion of femininity, which is determined by America’s extremist, polarized, masculinist standards, all of which are the foundation of sexism and misogyny. (Misogyny is more than “hatred of woman;” it is hatred of the “feminine,” “female” characteristics, the “soft” qualities attributed to the feminine.)

This is because sexism and misogyny—fundamentally—serve laissez-faire capitalism better than all the other isms that we abhor; it is because the notion of incorporating feminine characteristics—compassion, community, empathy, care—into the culture, as something to be valued, is anathema to the capitalist system. Thus, the female—who embodies the philosophical, feminine characteristics— MUST BE DENIGRATED, ERASED, DEPRIVED OF SIGNIFICANCE, otherwise, if CEO’s internalized compassion and care as top values into their personalities, how could they rationalize laying off thousands of workers and moving their jobs to China; how could the CIA justify torture; how could the wars go on, if all the people making the decisions were balanced and whole?

The lessons arrive via the media, via celebrity:

To be perfect is to be virtuous. And sometimes this means being “moderate,” or “centrist,” and not veering to far toward radical truths, which will earn the stigma of “conspiracy theorist.”

To be “imperfect” —angry, questioning, unhappy, “ugly”— different, or independent, fully human, is to be immoral, to be bad, to be “abnormal.”

“Democrats are the enemy of normal Americans.” — Newt Gingrich

To be abnormal is for any individual to adopt the human characteristics attributed to both genders; that is, a male retains and admires his own capacities for compassion, empathy, and love; and a female retains and admires her own capacities for courage, perseverance, and energy.


But the notion of yin-yang must be covered over, erased. We are taught to accept all the threads that are woven into the whole of this American burqa— “It’s the natural order of things.”

Ultimately, the American populace becomes increasingly unable or unwilling to resist oppression, resist the undermining of civil liberty, resist war, or the degradation of the environment—”It’s the natural order of things.”

If to remove our burqa would be to acquire a stigma in its place, one spelling “abnormal,” or “conspiracy theorist,” could we endure that anxiety for the sake of liberty?

Noam Chompsky: At this stage of history, either one of two things is possible: Either the general population will take control of its own destiny, and will concern itself with community interests, guided by values of solidarity, and sympathy, and concern for others, or, alternatively, there will be no destiny for anyone to control.


Wearing Obedience—Warning: This post may contain subversive thoughts and images.


Zenzoe 8 years 43 weeks ago

Note: Some random threads—factors—woven into our burqa:

• A media that hides, by omission, realities from the American people, so that we remain blind to them. (Israel/Palestine, for example)

• An electoral system that excludes alternative voices.

• A school system that increasingly fails to teach authentic history and civics.

• A media that fails to show up for left-wing protests.

• A government that colludes with corporations to suppress information and propagandize against truth.

• Double standards: For example, rule of law for the masses v.s. rule of law for the elite (a Justice Department that chooses to be blind to criminality by top-level government officials.)

• Authoritarian mental health trends, where suffering is disconnected from its cultural context and the individual held solely responsible. (The Army is currently conducting studies, for example, to see if “soldiers who learn optimism will heal faster when they are wounded on the battlefield.” Gary Greenberg, The War on Unhappiness,” Harper’s Magazine, Sept. 2010)

• Mass entertainment.

Zenzoe 8 years 43 weeks ago

So, I’m having a conversation with myself? Okay...

Here’s another thread, another way that wearing obedience manifests: It is the way—often, not always—anti-sexist, anti-misogyny feminism is equated with sex-phobic puritanism. This is how opposition to those aspects of culture that denigrate women and contribute to our second-class status is stigmatized, invalidated and trivialized. It is how otherwise good guys are turned against the feminist movement—what man wants to be thought of as being a puritanical, unsexy guy? What woman wants to be thought of as unsexy? Nobody does.

In fact, being anti-sexist does not in any way equate with sex-phobia. And being sexist does not equate to manly, sexual prowess or attractiveness. Not at all! There’s no bigger turn-off. (Except for females who have been abused in relationships and in culture. But that’s a huge subject. What must be remembered is that masochism is a manifestation of a sick society, not what comes naturally to women.)

Moving toward a culture where women have equality, and where we have gender-balanced values, can only ENHANCE our sexuality.

Zenzoe 8 years 42 weeks ago

I just finished watching Free Speech TV's showing of the documentary, Pornography. It demonstrates better than I can here just how sick this society is, just how sexist and misogynistic we have become. But also, this documentary speaks to the cultural mistake that inspires the transformation of human sexuality into an excuse for the violent denigration of women—capitalism. A very welcome film!

I feel SO SORRY FOR YOUNG WOMEN THESE DAYS, to be subjected to this sickness, to have to search for relationships and a life within such a massively anti-woman culture—and for young men, who have so lost their way. There's a better, far sexier way to be, within a context of mutuality and equality, but these poor kids are missing it!

Free Speech TV will air this program again. Please watch for it.

Natural Lefty's picture
Natural Lefty 8 years 30 weeks ago

"The most dangerous Burqua is the one you don't know you're wearing."

Somehow, I just remembered the picture of the Burqua, never mind that it was an American flag. That's the problem with memory. I was pretty sure I saw this post before.

Good points you make here. As a Social Psychologist, I should be in tune with them, which I am, but apparently was in too much of a hurry to pay proper attention when I saw this post before. It's much as I have written about the concept of freedom on my blog -- that freedom is something which happens or doesn't happen in one's own mind, cognitive freedom, that is. But it seems to me that it is our inner sense of freedom which counts the most. You do have a different emphasis here, which is on culture and how it oppresses women, thus the Burquas we cannot see. However, the two topics are related. People often wind up creating their own barriers to freedom when they accept society's oppressive standards. Those who do not accept society's standards are made to be uncomfortable and constantly aware of their nonconformity with societal expectations, whereas a submissive woman can be comfortably conformist, at least until her husband beats her, cheats on her, degrades her and leaves her with more young children than she reasonably can care for.

Zenzoe 8 years 30 weeks ago

I don't have any time right now to respond. Just this, to respond to, "You do have a different emphasis here, which is on culture and how it oppresses women, thus the Burquas we cannot see"—that I would hope you might look again at what I said, because the metaphorical burqa in America is an equal-opportunity oppression, one worn by both men and women. Also, my emphasis is on capitalism and how it is served by sexism and misogyny.

Natural Lefty's picture
Natural Lefty 8 years 30 weeks ago

Zenzoe, I can see that now. You are talking about how the capitalist system creates conformity. I have written about similar ideas, but in a different way. Both men and women have to buy things in order to "look good" in the eyes of others.

Here are a few other random comments, if you excuse me going into professor/professional reader mode for awhile. I don't do that for many people, just special ones (as in the best), if it seems like a critique.

First, have you heard about the attractiveness research which morphs different photos together into composite faces? It is found that the more faces are put together, the more attractive the faces are rated as being. Thus, most people prefer faces with "average" looking features, so there is a sameness and conformity to people's judgments of attractiveness in contrast to the "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" saying.

Second, I have renamed some of my posts in the past, and I think it helps at times. The name of this post "wearing obedience" is somewhat misleading, so I would consider renaming it something like "Our Inner Burqas" which would give a more accurate impression. You mentioned somewhere that this is a draft, so if you revise it, you could change the title.

Third, the picture is perfect, but with this website, it makes the text very narrow, which is more difficult to read. I wonder if there is some way to include the picture without making the entire text so narrow, although I know that is a problem of this site, not your post.

Fourth, you mispelled Noam Chomsky. (You spelled it Noam Chompsky.) There was an Amslan signing chimp called Noam Chimpsky, as I recall. I am pretty sure you didn't get that quote from Noam Chimpsky, though.

Lastly, I see you have subheadings of a sort, which are good, but they are not prominant enough. It works better if they are larger and/or in bold print. You write very well, but the message may get lost in the verbiage at times. I am sure I have the same problem.

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