Gender, Culture, and Freedom (or not)

First, I must remark that having OCD is not always a bad thing.

For instance, in order to be a thoroughly thorough physician, a mild-to-moderate dose of OCD helps me obsess over whether I have searched all the hidden corners of a client’s (excuse me, I ABHOR the demeaning word “patient,” to be discussed in a future post) case are probed, whether the records are clearly in order, whether the instruments and supplies in the exam rooms are exactly as they should be, so that I can simply reach blindly into the cupboard and have my hand land upon the exact tool I need, because that is where I determine that it should always be; and my assistant knows that I will not be happy of things are not just so.

In a similar vein, OCD has made my editorial life quite simple, as I can spot an error in usage, grammar, punctuation, etc., without particularly looking for it.  My OCD just sets off a loud clanging in my head that will not turn off until I correct the error.

For this reason, I must prelude this excellent article from the Clarion Project, on a heart-rending topic, with an editorial note:  the author means “gender,” not “sexuality.”  Certainly there is plenty to discuss regarding sex and sexuality in radical Islam, but here she is writing about the fact that people with two “X” chromosomes must shroud themselves from head to toe, even in the throes of labor, or even indoors in the company of all women.

Now, I am going to reveal a secret about myself.  Mind you, this pertains only to myself, and cannot be generalized to anyone else: it is a most personal thing.

I like being veiled.

Not the black heavy burqa/niqab type of veil-wrong culture, uncomfortable, conspicuous.

I like to wear what my acupuncture professor, Dr. Joseph Helms, once called “Flowing Robes,” as in, “and NO Flowing Robes.”  (This was directed at me when our class of 300 new graduates-to-be was being briefed for our final practical exam.  I wore my Flowing Robes anyway.)

Not only do I love my colorful, comfortable Flowing Robes, but I like to wrap beautiful scarves around my head.  It keeps my brains from exploding.

And when I go out into public, I long to throw a diaphanous length of silk over all, so that I can see out, but they can’t see in.

Who is they?

The male factor, of course.

I don’t want men looking at me.

It gives me the creeps.

Too much trauma over too many years.  I need my space, my privacy.  I need freedom to be in my own world.


This is my comfort zone.  It does not translate to anyone else.  It does not form the basis for generalization.  I just feel comfortable traveling around in my own cloak of invisibility. 

However, this is not how it is for the women who are forced to bear the uniform of gender-based slavery–for slaves they are, with no freedoms whatsoever, no shred of self-determination, no voice, and no face.

What is our face?  Why were we given a face?  What do faces do for us in life?

Did you know that dogs have more facial muscles than humans?  Why do you suppose that is?

Ethologists, who are scientists who study animal social behaviour and culture, tell us that animals use their faces to communicate with other animals.

Have you noticed the slight lift of the dog’s upper lip, when it is lying quietly chewing a chewie, and another dog of the household comes in?  That means, “I love you, but if you come any closer I’ll rip you a new one.”

What if that dog were wearing a niqab?  And an eye-veil too?

The other dog would have no idea what the first dog was thinking.  It might make a mistake and try to join in the chewie fun.  Uh-oh.

Or: how often, as mothers, wives, partners, daughters, friends, etc., do we, by the slightest twitch of a facial muscle, communicate something profound, something known only to the members of our inner circle?

I believe I have made my point, so I won’t belabor it: forced veiling dehumanizes a class of people, namely homo sapiens possessing two “X” chromosomes.  It strips them of a critical necessity common to all mammals: the ability to use the faces God gave them, not just to be “pretty faces,” but as means of communication.

It not only dehumanizes them, but objectifies them to the level of pods that exist only to do the will of their male owners.

This, my Muslim Bloggie friends will (I hope) agree, is not Islamic.  It has nothing to do with modesty.  It has to do with control and power, and…fear.

For woman is the source of all power.  She is the genitive principle.  Without woman, life does not endure. 

And if this extraordinary principle of creative power is given a chance to blossom and bear fruit….?

I leave you with that question.

Leave a comment


  1. Laura, agree, all good points! Nicely presented. Like your flowing,colorful style. And OCD fits well in practice! I would have loved working with you. Christine

    • Thanks, Christine! Appreciate the writing compliments. It would have been a blast working with you…I do miss practice….It was pure joy. My parents called me lazy when I became disabled…cut like a dull serrated knife. I must admit a sense of sad justice when my dad became too disabled to do the work he loved…got a taste of it himself. I feel a bit guilty about those feelings, but not excessive!

  2. Being you is one if the most difficult thing there is
    The eye roll
    The finger point
    The shoulds
    The list goes on and on
    I lived my life by the rules of Sheldon for some 60 odd years
    And I’ll be fuvked if I am going to change for any ONE

  3. Laura there are people who just don’t get it
    Far be it for me to be the teacher
    I had to learn it
    What’s good for the goose…….
    There are no free bees
    If you think you’ve got away with
    Just wait until the bill comes in the mail
    Everybody pays
    Even Mr Trump

    • Yeah…I just wonder when that check is going to show up…But there will be taxes, that’s for sure. No phone, no food, no pets….just wanna break even, is that too much to ask???

  4. Laura just hang in there
    I know it’s been rough
    I know what you have been through
    But hold on to that spirit of yours no one can take that away from you
    “As long as you fall on your back and
    you can see up you will get up”” Les Brown”

  5. Without doubt woman’s genitive power is awesome.

    From two to seven years old, I lived in Saudi Arabia in an ARAMCO compound. My father told me that I would be considered valuable property to sheik as a member of his harem, for I had fair skin, freckles and hazel eyes. So I knew from a very early age, that I was lucky to be an American, that women are treated as chattel in places such as Saudi Arabia.

    Sobering lesson for a young feisty headstrong girl who when I pretended to be a nurse when playing make-believe, my father told me, “No, you will be a doctor. Nurses do all the dirty work. Doctors get the credit and get paid.”

    Honestly, if I had decided to become a nurse practitioner, I may have pursued medicine rather than bailing out after one year as a freshman biochem major at UCLA.

    Instead, my path has been less planned and more serendipitous, as if God had a hand in it, and I was not really at the helm at all.

    • Amazing. I actually was hired at the King Faad Hospital as a pediatrician in 1992. They offered so much money that I would have been able to pay off my $120,000 in student loans. I didn’t mind that I would have a body guard, a chauffeur, and have to cover from head to toe. But when I got the faculty directory and saw that I would be the ONLY woman in a department full of hideous men in head gear and grizzly beards, I cancelled. Never mind!

      • In the 60s, my dad made enough money as a chemical engineer for ARAMCO to move back to the States, finance a Harvard MBA while supporting a family of four, buy a car, and put a downpayment on a home in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA (suburb of LA). We lived frugally, but still…

  6. I love this post. Disagree about the word patient…As a patient I experience word client as demeaning because I associate it with consumerism and beauty parlors…I’m not sure where the beauty parlor part comes in…:) But I agree that OCD is sometimes a very good thing.

    • Thanks, Rob! I don’t like the word “patient” because it implies (to me) a permanent, passive state of being one’s illness. As in “mental patient”–ugh, I’m not a mental patient, I’m a person who lives with mental illness. Do you have any alternative suggestions? ” Person who lives with mental illness?” Let’s see, acronym for that…PWLWMH…kind of long…

      • LOL–I like patient because it means one who is receives medical treatment.

        Not consumes medical treatment but seeks and receives those treatments required to restore health.

        One can be a patient and not be ill…for instance; I am a patient who sees his dentist four times a year. In between those visits I eat, brush and floss.

        Dictionary. com defines patient as this:

        1. a person who is under medical care or treatment.
        2. a person or ‘thing’ (a rock?) that undergoes some action.
        3. Archaic. a sufferer or victim.

        So, suffering seems to be an archaic definition of patient…which I’m sure will take many pain patients by surprise.

        In lieu of patient I suggest we use ‘patron’ which was the term we once used to denote one who went to the beauty parlor…:)

        or even more specific: PWDIDCPTSDWBPF

        (Patient with Dissociative Identity Disorder Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder with Bi-Polar Features.)

        I prefer patron, which is in keeping with the treatment options offered by Kaiser.

        I hate bee-hives….

        • LOL when Miss Managed Care was getting her first bee hive, a group of concerned citizens where I went to medical school started a group called the “Health Care Consumers.” From then on, “patients” were called “consumers.” I have never yet formed an opinion about that, but continue to mull it over, thirty years later. Hmmm.

          • I sense that you and I may share the same understanding of language; which is that a shift in denotation can result in a shift in social status.

            This idea that we use words to create a class system of the mind is really at the heart of the much abused and misunderstood concept of politically correct speech.

            The fact that the new PC is one
            that places a premium on verbal abuse seems to escape most people.

            That’s because the right successfully changed the meaning to denote “muddle headed liberalism” rather than an intelligent insight regarding the way language shapes thought.

            I don’t know when the word we use to denote our countrymen in the States shifted from Citizen to Consumer; but at some point the media replaced the word “citizen” with “consumer.”

            Here’s how Democracy at Work defines the word Citizen: A citizen is a participatory member of a political community. Citizenship is gained by meeting the legal requirements of a national, state, or local government. A nation grants certain rights and privileges to its citizens. In return, citizens are expected to obey their country’s laws and defend it against its enemies.


            The most common definition of Consumer is summed up best on Wikipedia: The consumer is the one who pays to consume goods and services produced. As such, consumers play a vital role in the economic system of a nation. Without consumer demand, producers would lack one of the key motivations to produce: to sell to consumers. The consumer also forms part of the chain of distribution.

            I’m not all that keen on a word that describes a Darwinist view of the value of the person in relation to the political system and our economy.

            The two words reflect a huge difference in social role and in the value of the life of the individual in relation to the government and other consumers.

            A citizen has value by virtue of his contribution to the politics and life of his nation and the world.

            A consumer buys stuff. He has no real value to the political process but instead owes his allegiance to the economic system.

            Our economic system has little to do with our system of government which is supposed to be a participatory democracy.

            In the same way, a patient is a person; sometimes a person who is sick and sometimes not.

            A Client is always in danger of getting the beehive, whether she wants it or not. 🙂

            • No! No beehive! Nooooo! I promise not to consume beehives! I won’t even approach a beehive walking backwards! (But I do promise to consume honey. Soon.) To me, the word “consumer” connotes robot units plunking down chunks of change at Wal-Mart and Costco for carts full of large screen TVs, iPhones, cords and cords and batteries and batteries, plugging themselves into electric cars they ordered with an app on their iPhone (also works with Android), the car drives them to their coordinates, plus itself in, the Consumer takes its consumer goods in and plugs them and itself in….And so forth.

  7. Patriarchal society has a lot to answer for. Bring on equality, and the ability to choose to wear what makes us comfortable, without anyone else judging us for it.


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