Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Glor, gloooooorrrrr, glooo-o-rrrrr, gloo-o-o-o-ria...

I'll tell you something a little weird about me, something that no one probably knows. When I'm writing, I sometimes like to listen to a soundtrack that I've made for myself, compiled of various different versions of the song "Gloria In Excelsis Deo." I'm serious, I have versions from Pavarotti to Mariah Carey. A version by DJ Da Cut happens to be a favorite--still outranked, however, by Bach's Mass in B minor. You just don't get better music.

Anyway, I'm thinking about that because I've wanted to write tonight since I went to this talk last night by Susie Orbach, down at Southbank Center. She's just released a supposedly very powerful new book called Bodies and had a 'conversation' with another therapist on stage. I have to say, it was most likely the best intellectual event I've been to in my life. Instead of reading from prepared remarks or giving some off-the-cuff lecture about something very obscure, likely taken out of context and really inaccessible to people who are listening to information about it over 45 short minutes. This was an honest conversation between two therapists who think about gender and sexuality and psychoanalysis because they love it--and they were bouncing ideas off of each other while drinking wine under lights and in front of microphones. And we got to watch.

They talked about diets quite a bit, because of the general idea behind the book, which is that people basically do such awful things to their bodies that it suggests they don't act like they have them--therein lies the paradox, because what else does a dieter care about, besides her/his body?! She talked about eating disorders; she told us how her mother was the first person she knew who dieted (when no one did it) and now her daughter is the only one in her class who doesn't diet (when everyone does it). She questioned whether we could ever really engage with being human, if we denied any flaw, or obstacle, or abnormality that it included. To be a feminist, I think she would say, is to love your body no matter what it looks like--and, almost more importantly, to think others bodies are great, no matter what they look like.

Do I think I've achieved that level of feminist consciousness? No, I'll be the first one to admit I buy into image and appearances more than I'd like to. I know I'm lucky because I love food so much and yet I don't necessarily pay any costs. If I looked very different, I'm not sure how I'd feel about image and appearance. I do waiver back and forth what side of this issue I come down on, but, I could be better about it so I'm working on it, whatever that means. An issue that I am completely, 100% resolved on? Gender segregation (or "free mixing" as my interview respondents call it in London) and how wrong it is. I don't understand the arguments I hear in favor it: "Men and women are good at different things. Women are better at things in the home, and men just have to leave the house to provide for the family," or "If men and women are together, then men start looking at other men's wives and the women become really uncomfortable"....these were both uttered by women, by the way. It's really difficult for me to understand either point of views: either women who choose not to stay home are somehow defying some laws of nature or that men and women are so primordially attracted to each other, regardless of appearance or personality, that we can't trust them not to jump each other when they're left to their own devices?

The Koran actually only refers to segregation when the Prophet's wives are mentioned; they were so special and superior to everyone that you weren't allowed to speak to them without a curtain between you and them--not that they weren't allowed, you weren't, AND it was the Prophet's wives, not every-day Abeelah. It's something that's been interpreted in one way and launched to amazing degrees. And then this book that I'm reading right now--written by an ex-radical British Islamist who left Hizbut Tahrir and is now telling his story--tells of an interpretation of the Koran that a really educated economist who worked for J.P. Morgan in London and moonlighted as the head of one of Hizb's cells in the East End suggested at one of his sessions. He invoked an interpretation that said men were justified in examining the naked bodies of women before they agreed to marry them, because bodily abnormalities that might otherwise spawn divorce later on could be detected and the match could be avoided. And he interprets 'looking at them' to mean, in fact, raping them.

If people are free to interpret whatever the hell they may want from the scripture (ANY scripture--this applies across the board), then WHAT IS NOT OKAY IN GOD'S NAME? That's why I'm not religious. Because, while the idea may have been good in the beginning, it's been completely bastardized by its practice.

-----in exlesis deeee-ooooo....

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love this post. It's a real roller-coaster rider, from an anecdote about a quirky writing habit through to some of the more horrific things your research is revealing. My favorite part, though, is the description of the "talk" you went to. It reminds me of us, of AFA and Fist, even, and of what happens every time we get together, without the audience but definitely with the wine. I miss that! Wish I could've been there.