I think the reason I didn't care to dispatch with Jones' latest ante-upping is simply that it was too stupid. If Jones is writing about her eating disorders in a way that's unhealthy and deluded and potentially misleading to young readers, that's one thing. If she's sharing her insights about working in the magazine industry, sure, that's interesting. She may be a crackpot, but at least these are authentic experiences. But I really could care less what Liz Jones has to say about politics - or whatever the hell it is she's talking about here - and her Black Like Me-style undercover impressions after one week of burqa-wearing don't seem exactly definitive.
Indeed, the piece is stupid, pointless, ignorant, and racist. It is also so absurd as to approach camp.
Squatting next to me is my burka. It looks so innocuous: just a few yards of black fabric. But, my goodness, how oppressive it is, how suffocating, how transforming. Moved by the plight of Lubna Hussein, a Sudanese woman who faces 40 lashes for wearing trousers in public, I decided to spend a week enveloped in what she should have been wearing. Out shopping one day, I caught sight of myself in a Knightsbridge store window. Instead of me staring back, I saw a dark, depressed alien. A smudge. A nothing.
That right there is objective journalism, folks. It's really good she undertook this, because it's not like there are any actual religious Muslim women whose impressions we could have heard (oh, forgot, they're too oppressed) or maybe the story of a convert explaining her impressions of the new lifestyle, or even, you know, a serious writer. No, it had to be Liz. We knew, Liz, you'd give us the real squatting-burqa experience, and that one week in costume can give a true taste of the life of a devout Muslim woman whose culture or motivations you've made no effort to understand! (Also: Sean Penn called. He wants his terrible, 18-year-old ghostwriter back.) Shockingly, the week doesn't exactly prove a revelation to Jones: wearing a burqa's as dumb as she suspected! It's hard to eat and drink and get around, and while white people are totally nice and not at all racist, a mean "Arab" man yells abuse at her (she thinks). Her conclusions?
On yet another perfect summer's day in Hyde Park during my week covered up, I saw a crocodile of schoolchildren. Only the pale moon of the faces of the Muslim girls was exposed...I know now exactly how they feel: marginalised, objectified, kept box-fresh for the eyes of male relatives...I find it disgusting that we allow British schoolgirls to be treated in this way.
While I think it's safe to dismiss Jones, at this point, as an attention-mad lunatic, it's not crazy that an actual Muslim should take some umbrage at this distillation of superior ignorance. And Muslimah Media Watch's Krista takes down Jones' stunt with an able seriousness I can't, at this point, honor her with, so I'll let Krista have the floor:
What really bothers me is when these attempts are explained as a way to understand "what it's like to wear the burqa" (or niqab, or headscarf, or whatever). If you're wearing any of these things without any personal religious or cultural meanings attached to them, it would be hard to even come close to appreciating what it's really like for women who wear them.
She dismantles Jones' opus point by point - maybe women who do this for more than a week actually, you know, know how to get around and eat - and is particularly offended by Jones' dismissal of white racism, based on her brief experience. Ironically, she points out, Jones' own stated contempt for her appearance gives the lie to that claim. In sum:
All I can say to this is, no. No, you don't know how they feel (or at the very least, you can't say for certain that you do.) You don't know why they're wearing what they're wearing, or what meaning it has for them. Yes, some Muslim women feel marginalized and objectified, and sometimes this even relates to their clothing. Other women might wear exactly the same clothing and feel entirely different, or might even feel more marginalized and objectified by non-Muslims than by their "male relatives." Spending a week in a burqa (especially when this experience is entered into already with fear and disgust towards the burqa) does not make someone an expert on how women who wear these things feel, or on how they should react to racism and abuse.
Ah, but that would require Jones to be reasonable, and honest, and think rather than emote, and challenge the assumptions that any injustice in the larger Muslim world must be tied to every aspect of the religion, and that no woman who observes it is capable of being more than chattel! This would require research - or at least a momentary consideration of other people's motives, which isn't exactly the author's strong suit. Liz Jones wore the sullen, squatting burqa. Liz Jones had a hard time eating and a guy of indeterminate ethnicity maybe yelled at her. As such, Liz Jones has condemned the entire religion, made sweeping assumptions about every Muslim she meets, and emerged with her superiority in tact. Yes, this piece is a marvel of ignorance and stupidity. But I also think if Krista reads a little more of her sweeping oeuvre - or perhaps her unhinged new memoir? - she'll feel a little better.
Burqa Tourism at its Finest: How to Become an Expert on Muslim Women in Just One Week [Muslimah Media Watch]
My Week Wearing A Burka: Just A Few Yards Of Black Fabric, But It Felt Like A Prison [Daily Mail]