For my reprieves from the academic, and for inspiration for my creative writing, I like to walk a trail around a lake in a community about a mile from where I live. This former summer community is an island of artsy-ness and progressivism, and higher real estate prices than the brick ranch houses like the one I live in. A locally famous folk-singing lesbian couple reportedly lives there, and that gives the community extra cachet.
Many of the cars in the neighborhood sport bumper stickers with the word “coexist” amidst symbols of various religions, and no one seems to enforce the residents-only rule for fishermen or picnickers.
Since no signs are posted against taking walks around the lake I feel no guilt in taking my constitutionals there; I return the greetings of dog-walkers and fishermen.
One afternoon, deep in the poetic reverie the lake and trees and birds inspire, I came across a sight spooky against this natural sunny backdrop: a woman completely swathed in black with only slits for her eyes. The incongruous sight of women, peering out of slits of cloth, in full Islamic regalia, behind the wheels of mini vans or paying for goat meat at the Publix is no longer that unusual in my neighborhood, though it still takes me aback. But here on a sunny afternoon, amidst ducks and geese, and gazebos and picnic tables, came this creature who looked like the Ghost of Christmas Past with two small children: the boy around four years old dressed in typical Western clothing of pants and a shirt. The girl, about age seven, wore the traditional head scarf and long dress.
And there I saw myself.
I will never understand the feminist defense of this obliteration of a woman’s identity. This defense is put forth even by 18-year-olds, who repeat the regnant doctrine of relativism. I posed the question to my college freshmen, “Don’t you think it’s better for women to wear clothes that allow them free movement and the ability to communicate?”
“Well,” goes the answer, “to them [“them” being the key word] their dress represents freedom because no one views them as sex objects. And what do they think of our way of dressing in shorts and stuff?” This from a girl dressed in a shoulder-and-cleavage-revealing tank top.