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Thursday 18 October 2007, by Monica Lanfranco

All the versions of this article: [English] [italiano]

Loss. It’s the key word that expresses the weakness of our society, both groups and single people, in front of a new emergency: the assault against women’s body, the violence inside the family, the pervasive commercialization of human relationships, the developing relativism in all political analysis. These is translated into some recent legal sentences in favour of the patriarchal barbarity.

The last for example in Germany, where a man from Sardinia (an Italian isle) raped and tortured his girlfriend but the judgement has been easy with him because of his origins and traditions. Of course it was normal for him to consider his woman as a property.

Recently here in Italy we saw some parts of the feminist movement and a large part of the left approve one of the most violent symbol of religious tradition: burka.

Loss, not as the opposite of win, but as the opposite of the verbs to conserve, take care, preserve, obtain. While the heritage of know-hows, social rights and laws gained thank to the ‘900’s feminism has arrived, even if quite superficially, to the generation of over 40’s, now we are facing with a dramatic interruption of political transmission. Break of communication that means a renounce to give this heritage to young people, because of the fear to be in conflict with them, in particular with young immigrants.

Loss: we don’t give anybody this rich and precious collective gain, so we couldn’t work together to update and make it grow up.

Why this interruption? Because of weakness, tiredness, disillusions, refusal (flowing back from old political praxis and approaches and even from the false alternative ones) and, at last for somebody, because of the ease and opportunity acquainted. These are perhaps some of the answers, but certainly we all can see that there’s an acritical habit concerning with the social phenomenon that we call ‘veline’ (young girls almost undressed, assistants on tv shows) and with the specular one of veiled women. And we know that only few years ago we could have seen a political reaction to such a thing. In fact, now the left and what remains of the feminist movement maybe still can say something about the mercification of the bodies, both in the media world and in the violent market of immigrant workers. But few words are spoken about the use of female body as a battle field, where patriarchal forces and religious fundamentalisms are on the same side. However, some words have been spoken about the ‘freedom’ of Muslim women to hide themselves behind their fair prison made by the veil, or behind the physical and political annulment made by the burka.

I wonder what do the results of the struggle for gender rights and citizenship matter for the same women that have achieved them? Not very much, if in front of the growing violence of racism, because of the fear to be involved in, they go back and give up thinking of social and political rights as universal and inviolable.

The right wing insists on the feeling of fear that pollutes our society, giving the fault to immigrant workers, and asks for urgent measures. Then, worried to fall down in this trap of racism, the left defends, in reaction to that, every barbarity coming from the migrant people. And also it gives credit to the most fundamentalist voices because they seem more radical and anti-capitalist (perhaps this is connected with the old ‘sin’ of being born in the richer part of the planet guilty of the most hateful kinds of colonialism and imperialism).

Before the recent sentence – that some Italian feminists have considered clever – about the freedom to suit the burka, someone said, from a relativistic point of view, that we could substitute the genital mutilation with a symbolic sting made in public hospitals. But this is the same relativistic argument used by the German judge regarding to the Italian raper, I think. And in this case the whole Italian political world raised lots of complaints.

According to this multicultural way of thinking – that in Europe and Canada is opening the doors to a double track justice with laws of the secular state adjoining to the laws of Sharia for Muslim citizens – why Chinese community can’t ask for death sentence for crimes that involved people of this minority?

When have we stopped to think? Irshad Manji, she lesbian and Muslim feminist, asked to Muslim people, inviting them to deal with the responsibility of terrorism before they judge the ‘unfaithful’.

When have we stopped to think? We, western feminists, when we affirm that choosing to suit burka is a freedom to defend.

Critical feminist thought was and is an useful tool to dismantle and destructure every link that ties up patriarchy and religions, in order to make men and women free from the slavery of stereotypes and from their destiny determined by gender roles and power. Isn’t it yet?

Where is the power of critical thought if it goes back and stammers in front of the religion and the traditions of ‘victims’?

Warning! Our sisters of WLUML tell us.

Introducing legal grants to burka and other things like that is just what fundamentalists want to obtain in western countries. We already can see the beginnings of that in Canada and GB.

What do we have to face, if we can’t stop this multicultural position and if we don’t start to change the lack of relationships between migrants and natives? Probably a grey cloudy future.

We have to build bridges among all people struggling for secularism and liberation. Otherwise we will see the effects of having separated ‘enclaves’ each of them minding its owns, that is to say that the men of each group can decide how and if their women can participate to social life or have to stay at home without social and political rights. In this circumstances there’ll be the impossibility to have a common ground of shared secular rights. Women’s freedom is a main indicator of civilization, and for us it means that women’s bodies are free and not engaged by the word of a Holyfather, whoever he is. Unfortunately in some countries the word of a Holyfather is law of the state.

There’s a rethorical form called ‘ossimoro’ (joining two terms with opposite meaning, for example ‘sweet pains’, or ‘humanitarian war’): condemning women to the freedom of burka is an outrageous ossimoro for all who have fought for political and private happiness of all women. It’s a loss of sense and political horizon that we can’t afford, neither western people, nor migrants, nor the young generations of men and women that we’re growing up.