We all know that pundits say incredibly stupid things and none of the Villagers is more guilty of that than the Washington Post’s Sally Quinn. I never read her stuff, but her Dec. 29 column crossed my path somehow. And ugh, Quinn tried to embark on a modern feminist path but instead arrived at a destination so ridiculously provincial and trivial, I just had to share it.
The blue bra. That’s what did it for me.
Yes, I know. There have been jillions of atrocities against women all over the world, many much worse than what happened to the young Egyptian woman who was beaten, stomped on and nearly stripped by the military during a demonstration. Aside from the sheer brutality, I think what got to me was that she was wearing this gorgeous, sexy bright blue bra. Under her abaya.
There was something so shocking about it, so unexpected. This person covered from head to toe demonstrated her beliefs through her choice of underwear. The blue bra said what I imagine her to be feeling: “I may be oppressed. I may not have rights. I may have to cover up my body and face. But you cannot destroy my womanhood. You can’t rob me of my femininity. You can’t take away my power.”
First of all: no, the “blue bra” woman did not demonstrate her beliefs through her choice in underwear. She demonstrated her beliefs by protesting in the streets of Cairo. She paid for it by being savagely beaten by military police. She has become a symbol, but not because of the color of her bra.
Second of all: Really? You saw that picture and what got you was the fact that an Eqyptian woman was wearing a blue bra? What, did you think she had it smuggled in from France or something? I’m sorry, but when I saw that picture what got me was the vulnerability, not the bra. I saw a woman being attacked by police so viciously, her clothing had been torn off. I saw her being hauled off and thought, “that woman is about to be raped.” In fact, we don’t know what happened to her. But that was my takeaway from that image.
Maybe this is a generational thing but I don’t get my sense of empowerment from my underwear. And I’m pretty sure that photo would have been just as shocking if the woman in question were wearing a white bra. Or a sports bra.
You know what I think? I think what got Sally Quinn was the realization that beneath the head scarf was a Muslim woman who looked like any Western female. She was wearing blue jeans. Tennis shoes. And yes, a blue bra. She could have been any female being hauled away from any of the protests which have rocked the world lately: Occupy Wall Street or a demonstration in Washington, D.C. Or London, or Sydney, Australia. I think Sally Quinn expected women in Cairo to be different from the rest of us somehow, maybe wearing special Muslim underwear or something. Hey, these aren’t Mormons (sorry, cheap shot).
I mean seriously, don’t you people travel? Or at least watch travel shows on TV? Or, hey: try reading your own damn newspaper, Sally. Haven’t you seen photographs from around the Muslim world of women with plucked eyebrows and carefully applied eye makeup, lipstick and Chanel sunglasses? Some even dye their hair. It’s all very Western save the head scarf.
The truth of the matter is, people are pretty much the same everywhere. Sure, people like Rick Santorum and John McCain can say they’d bomb Iran but just remember in Tehran there are women who, beneath their hijab, are wearing blue bras and lace panties like the rest of us. Why wouldn’t they? And they love their children just as much as we love ours, and they worry about their kids getting an education and how mom is starting to get forgetful and how Dad maybe shouldn’t be allowed to drive anymore. They worry about gaining weight and have crushes on film stars and adore their pet cats and dogs like everyone else in the world. We’re all part of the same human family.
Yes, there are cultural differences. And yes, as the global economy undergoes a major transformation, the balance of power around the world is undergoing a transformation as well. The world doesn’t belong to America anymore, we’re sharing it with growing economies like China, India and Brazil. Changes have taken place and this means cultural change as well as economic change.
The great thing about it is that when women go into the workplace, or the public square, or anywhere else, the men are always going to wonder, does she have on the blue bra? Let the answer always be yes.
Um, no they are not. At least, men aren’t undressing women in their minds any differently than they ever have through the centuries. They’re going to wonder, “if the women are in the workplace or the public square they are asserting themselves in an arena that used to belong solely to men. Is this change good or bad?”
It’s not about the damn bra, Sally. Please, look beyond the superficialities.