“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.
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.