Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Shame Of Dressing in Women's Clothes

An interesting story from Maravan, Iran:

A group of Kurdish activist women from Marivan, along with a few citizens of the city, held a demonstration April 16 on the main streets of the city in protest of the authorities’ parading a man in Marivan after dressing him in the traditional women’s clothing of Kurdistan, a local source told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. The Special Guard Unit violently confronted the demonstrators.
According to the human rights activist, the women activists clad themselves in red Kurdish costumes to protest the red Kurdish clothes the man, T. Daabaashi, was forced to wear for what the authorities called punishment of “hoodlums.” The women carried placards and called the act of parading the man an insult to women and to Kurdish people, an act they strongly condemned. After the initial gathering and the flow of the demonstrators from Moosak Square towards the Shabrang intersection, Special Guard forces surrounded the protesters and attacked them in the 12 Sawareh Square of Marivan, injuring a number of the participants with pepper gas and batons. According to an eyewitness, the severe attack resulted in a broken leg for one of the female protesters and severe head injuries for several others.
The human rights activist added that the man who had been dressed in female Kurdish clothing was accused of quarreling and wielding a knife, and by the orders of the Mariwan prosecutor, was forced to wear a headscarf, Kurdish pants, and red women’s clothes as security forces paraded him on the main streets of Marivan on April 15. The widespread protest in the city caused several Kurdish Members of Parliament to write a letter and demand admonishment of the Interior and Justice Ministers.

The basis of the sentence is the assumption that men are "lowered" or shamed by being forced to dress as women.  By the way, this does not work in reverse.  Try a thought experiment.  Thus, this is about the fact that being a woman is regarded as lower than being a man and men can be punished by making them temporarily dress as women.

Here is the Facebook response from many Kurdish men who want to support women:

One participant writes:

To show my solidarity and support to the “womanhood” and their suffers and torments during the history mostly have done by “men” [sic]. as we have faced recently a stupid judge”s order to punish a person by putting on him the feminine customs, so it is one of the times that we should gather around each other and condemn this stupidity, brutality and inhumanity against the womanhood; the half of society as well as at least half of the human being on the earth. I am supporting womanhood by the at least I can do for them.
What makes this interesting is that the power of social shaming does depend on others implicitly believing in something being shameful.  If enough people refuse to go along with that, the connection between the punishment and the shame is reduced.

In one of those bouts of serendipity I noticed something similar working in quite a different story, this one about slut shaming:

It all started when the good folks at George Washington High School decided to address this rampant problem of teen sluttery by having a guest speaker come in to yell at their students about their whorish ways. No for reals the speaker, Pam Stenzel… decided that the best way to get her message across to these kids requires a healthy dose of apoplectic misogyny with a sprinkling of utter bullshit:
At GW’s assembly, Stenzel allegedly told students that “if you take birth control, your mother probably hates you” and “I could look at any one of you in the eyes right now and tell if you’re going to be promiscuous.” She also asserted that condoms aren’t safe, and every instance of sexual contact will lead to a sexually transmitted infection…

Katelyn Campbell, a senior at the school and the student body vice president, took the initiative on her own to make sure that future classes aren’t subjected to that level of derp:
Campbell refused to attend the assembly, which was funded by a conservative religious organization called “Believe in West Virginia” and advertised with fliers that proclaimed “God’s plan for sexual purity.” Instead, she filed a complaint with the ACLU and began to speak out about her objections to this type of school-sponsored event. Campbell called Stenzel’s presentation “slut shaming” and said that it made many students uncomfortable.
Shaming is a weapon much used in female socialization.  Perhaps more than in socialization in general.