Saturday, February 19, 2011

Sex Makes People Uncomfortable

It was amazing to hear the deafening silence that Bill Maher was met with last night on his show when he said that the Middle East needs a “sexual revolution.” Of course he followed it with comments that lumped all Arab men together as sexist, which is not going to help your argument. I have dated Muslim and non-Muslim Middle Eastern men and I was met with the same “Not Without My Daughter” prejudices that are best summed up by what one Pakistani guy said to me “Be careful, Iranian guys are violent.” They’re like any other guy, some are, some aren’t and then there’s Charlie Sheen.

But the point that he made about a “sexual revolution” is the one that I would like to concentrate on. It is what happened in the United States in order that women could achieve equal rights. I believe the word “sexual” is what caused the panel to freeze as he had not mentioned any of the other generalizing statements as of yet. I took him to mean a gender revolution, not a go out and whore it up 1969 style revolution. Though he might have meant that but I’ll keep going along the lines that he meant a gender revolution because that is by all means what needs to happen. Women need to gain the right to make their own decisions such as whether to drive or not, whether to vote or not, whether to leave the house without the escort of a male relative or not.

During World War I when women began wearing the pants of a factory worker they then went on to wear the pants at home, gaining the right to vote two years after the war was over. I understand if you want to be modest in your dress, including covering your head, people are very hesitant to speak on this topic but you should have the choice to do so or not to do so, that is freedom. I also support the right of students in France to wear the hijab to school if they want. It goes both ways and women are always at the center of these arguments because they are the most easy to identify as a “certain type of Muslim.” Because, let’s face it, if wearing a beard means you’re a fundamentalist, then these hipsters have a lot of explaining to do.

But I was thoroughly surprised that the panel didn't get on to the topic of the lack of basic rights for women in some Middle Eastern countries, instead they responded to his generalizations and made, as he said, "false equivalencies" to the hardships that women still experience in the United States. Yes, I face a lot of sexism in my industry but I am in my industry (barely), I wear pants to work, and I always, always vote.

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