Sunday, 15 September 2013

Pauline Marois, troll queen

Especially after that helpful pictorial, Québec premier Pauline Marois has proven herself all at once Canada's media troll-in-chief! I can just imagine her late at night in her pyjamas, surrounded by empty bags of Cheetos, rubbing her hands and chuckling to herself as she presses "submit."

Everyone has more or less admitted that this isn't really principally about kippahs* and blingy crucifixes. It's mostly about two things: (1) totally unsurprising PQ opportunism in the face of their minority-government situation, meaning their need to throw "red meat" to the base and (2) hijabs. Of which (1) is the more important consideration, naturally.

But then, consideration (1) is sort of pivotal on (2). I won't get into the reason for the panic about (2), nor the larger issues about (1). For the PQ opportunism, I recommend this sage article in Le Devoir.

I'm sure the regular readers of this blog can recite the "symbolic" and "political" feminist arguments against sumptuary regulation aimed at women off by heart**. But this is actually about putting a hijab ban---for public service workers, but that's a big part of the economy---into practice. That means talking about its effect on the hijab-wearing women itself.

I have written about this before in the context of Muslim-majority countries that have a very rigid idea of the exclusion of hijab (and other traditional garments) in official contexts, namely Turkey---this is sometimes invoked in newspaper comments in favour of the "Charter of Values***." In real life, things do not always work the way the symbolism seems to say it ought. The situation is complex, there is a class of women who is not helped in any kind of personal or financial independence when political restrictions on personal religious expression are in force. Which, as far as concerns hijab-wearers, is the point.

It's not at all clear that this has anything to do with the liberation of the women in question themselves. Of the women who really don't want to but are forced by their stereotypical, big-bearded husbands or fathers, this risks either (a) sending them home from whatever public service jobs they may hold and/or (b) exposing them to even greater violence/oppression from their patriarchs.

And for the women who are affected by this and wear the hijab for genuinely-held reasons (whether or not one agrees)? It places them in a position of choosing between their personal identity/conscience and the livelihoods of their families. If the goal is "integration" of these women, something so alienating cannot possibly be a good thing. It's "gender-equality" legislation enforced principally upon women.

So here's the deal: there's a good principle to follow in all such situations. In matters of what we put on or in our bodies and what goes within a limited amount of personal space...we should be sovereign. You shouldn't be able to make someone give you a haircut, if they don't like being very close to you. And you shouldn't be able to make someone take off their yarmulke.

Some "clever" people may whine, "What about the nudist primary school teachers?" Or maybe, "What happens when the baby's adorable little feetses is still stuck in the birth canal? Can the mother perform her unholy ritual THEN???" You know, we can deal with these little details on a case by case basis. Nothing is simple when it comes to people, their feelings, and their personal space.

But as for the whole charter business, it's based on a series of cynical political calculation. The sovereigntist project is a bit moribund for the time being, and some of its leaders clearly feel that an insipid "interculturalism" is not working---and there's nothing better than a little ethnic us vs. them to get the nationalist fervor going. Hence the over-the-top reaction to Maria Mourani: they think that her bridge status is dispensible now, or was never very useful in the first place.

But in the meantime, they've deliberately or inadvertently decided to put the lie to the idea that the sovereigntist movement was about the forward momentum of an evolving, inclusive, social-democratic French-speaking polity. It's amazing how easy it seems to have been to shed that. Will it be worth it for Pauline Marois' little trolly thrill? Only time will tell.

*The whole YWCA business in Montréal notwithstanding---haha, get it? Notwithstanding? Like the clause? *rimshot*

**Of which, ironically, this charter is one, but I'll get to that.

***The V-word (values) is always a dangerous "dog whistle".


deBeauxOs said...

Excellent blogpost, Mandos.

Grand merci.

Niles said...

Quebec has its 'pur laine' moments. I'll never forget that night post-"The Referendum" when "money and the ethnic vote" popped out of Parizeau.

Catholic symbols getting a pass as 'traditional' is jaw-dropping stunning in its blind privilege.

lagatta à montréal said...

Niles, do remember that Parizeau was made to stand down immediately after that drunken rant.

Yes, great post, Mandos, and more than a bit of deadpan humour to boot.

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