Claire Lehmann on feminism’s new love for Islamic “modesty culture”

April 5, 2017 • 12:00 pm

Claire Lehmann, editor of the true liberal website Quillette, made a 4-minute video on feminists’ growing celebration of Islamic “modesty culture”—a video that deserves wider airing. Yes, it’s put out by the right-wing site Rebel Media, but who else would sponsor and air a video like this?

Claire is in fact not at all a conservative, but a liberal in the classical mold. And it takes a classical liberal to make these simple points:

Wearing a headscarf is not an achievement. It is certainly not a feminist statement.”

And her point about hijabophiles wanting attention is right on the money. Something has gone awry with feminism when it fetishizes and worships a symbol of male oppression. If a true patriarchy exists, it is Islam.

See Claire’s other Rebel Media videos here.

87 thoughts on “Claire Lehmann on feminism’s new love for Islamic “modesty culture”

  1. I knew the world had gone to Hell in a hand basket when Playboy went full SJW. I always thought women’s sexuality was something to celebrate. What happened? 🙁

    1. @Shaokang Yuan It has nothing to do with “SJW”. Playboy & Noor Tagouri were using each other for promotional purposes & that’s the end of it. Tagouri has been at the game of self-promotion from the beginning, but she has nothing of interest to say that I can find. She wants to be a U.S. T.V. national network news anchor [or someone of equal fame] & her tactics are designed merely to raise her profile.

      As to “women’s sexuality” – you ain’t gonna find THAT celebrated at Playboy! Don’t you find Playboy really, really boring when you get down to it? They tried doing away with naked full frontals for a while recently – aiming for ‘family friendly’ to increase their market, but without success. They are stuck with a brand image that no longer resonates.

      P.S. Even the venerable Pirelli calendar has been trying to get out of the male wankathon market, dispensing with the beach or lagoon shoot. Last year they engaged Annie Leibovitz & the theme was accomplished women of all ages: inc. Serena Williams, Amy Schumer, Yao Chen & the majestic Patti Smith. Interesting images that are worth a look. Dunno where they go from there though.

      1. I think it’s less that Playboy’s brand image doesn’t resonate and more that we have the internet now.

        1. Yep. Who needs Playboy when we have Internet porn?

          It’s a bit sad in a way, because Playboy used to publish some interesting articles and some serious interviews with leading public figures. (Yes, I actually used to read Playboy for the articles. Among other things…) This was several decades ago, though.


          1. They really did! In fact, I kept my Playboy subscription until just six or seven years ago because they were still producing quality interviews and journalistic pieces in many issues. I obviously wasn’t keeping the subscription for the pictures, as one can find the far more particular things that get them aroused on the internet, and often for free.

            Hell, they had a great interview with Dawkins at one point, if I remember correctly.

  2. Yeah, she’s right and i absolutely agree .

    BUT….Wasn’t it not that long ago that feminists were complaining about “selling things” using women’s bodies and the male culture of making women into sexual objects by showing them in various states of undress?

    Perhaps it would be best (as is suggested at some point in this video) to neither glorify nor vilify any type of dress as long as it’s the woman’s choice?

    1. In every organised group, from feminism to Christianity, there emerges an authoritarian subsect that tries to prescribe what “good” sect members must do. Sometimes these guidelines have some merit, a lot of the time they do not.

      Yes, real feminism ought to be women choosing what they wish to wear, whether it be maxi dresses or hot pants. Mind you, I think that Western males are just as under the heel of prescription as women. When did you last see a man walk down the street in a skirt without getting looks and comments.


      1. dunno, but farmer’s market is re-opening, and that always draws enough men in kilts to kill the novelty.

      2. When did you last see a man walk down the street in a skirt without getting looks and comments.


        And there I was, thinking that you lived on the Celtic (tiger?) Fringe. Do you not have men walking the streets in kilts on a daily basis? I noticed three – only one a busker – on yesterday’s trip to the Polish tailoring shop.

        1. For that matter…until the adoption of Western suits a bit over a century ago, men in Japan wore what would today be considered a dress. And many Japanese men (as well as, of course, those who appropriate Japanese culture) still wear kimonos — especially as tourists to temples in Kyoto, but far from exclusively.

          Wikipedia has a couple relevant pictures, neither of which show the men as being other than masculine.




          1. [SHRUG] my off-shift lounging around clothing at work or home is often a dressing gown. On shift, I’m the company’s representative, so dress code of lumberjack shirt, hand lens and jeans.

          2. Samoan men still wear the LavaLava to this day. Even the Police wear them, it’s their official uniform. Of course at 8degrees from the equator, you really need the ventilation! I can’t fathom why the Scotts would wear them.

      3. When did you last see a man in an office not wearing a bloody collar and tie?

        (Oh, me. But then I’m an engineer. Sufficiently senior to get away with it, sufficiently junior that I didn’t have to meet *important* clients, and sufficiently near retirement that I didn’t have to give a stuff.)


      4. I hope the irony of your comment is not lost on you. I see many of the posts regarding who and what true liberals should believe as excellent examples of the “No True Scotsman” fallacy.

    2. The fact is, we all sexualize each other, male and female alike, and if you look at action or romance movies and women’s magazines, men are just as sexualized and undressed for the pleasure of the viewer as women. I think we should stop complaining about sexualizing of women and accept that women do the same to men, and that all of it is a completely natural part of human sexuality.

      By the way, we’re always hearing about how the body types of women we see in media aren’t realistic and that men don’t have the same problem, but has anyone noticed in the last decade that every male action hero is huge a ripped to the point where any normal man would have to work out for hours every day, eat a strict diet, and be on HGH or steroids to achieve such bodies?

      1. My second paragraph isn’t to say we should stop showing unrealistic body types in movies and other entertainment. Entertainment is made for the pleasure of the viewer. It usually serves an escapist function. It’s just another supposed “problem” that both sexes actually encounter, but third-wave feminists say only women do. I don’t think it’s a problem for anyone in the first place. Most people can distinguish fantasy from reality. After all, the religious right wasn’t correct when they said that porn would destroy our families and culture.

        1. Yep. We should forbid movies from showing sensational females and hunky males – oh, about the same time we forbid them showing car chases and shootouts and explosions and all that totally unrealistic stuff, no?

          After all, who’s going to see the latest 007 movie if James Bond is played by John Belushi and the Bond Girl by Oprah…?


  3. It seems to me that feminists can support sensible clothing which doesn’t over-sexualize women without buying in to ‘modesty culture.’ Otherwise, it’s like protesting the idea that women should confine themselves to stereotypical “women’s” jobs like secretary by glorifying women who buck the system by refusing to ever leave the house, especially without a male escort. They’re kinda missing the larger picture here.

    1. But shouldn’t women also be equally free to wear senseless hyper-sexualized clothing?

      And shouldn’t true feminists be supportive of the right to dress however you damned well please, and focus attention on providing full protection from unwelcome advances (or whatever), regardless of what others think?

      …which would include those who voluntarily, without coercion, embrace stereotypical / traditional submissive / repressive roles.

      If it’s okay for somebody in the BSDM (BDSM? MSDB?) scene to happily submit to being handcuffed to a bed and spanked with paddles, shouldn’t it also be okay for somebody else to choose to stay at home except for when her husband accompanies her?

      (This, of course, presupposes the existence of an healthy liberal society where such behavior really is a choice; a radically different approach is called for in hellholes such as Saudi Arabia. And I don’t think either role is a particularly healthy one — but adults have the right to make unhealthy choices.)



        1. I would suggest that the sacred cow should be the freedom to dress, act, and live as one chooses, period, full stop.

          See…Sastra’s position that she “support[s] sensible clothing which doesn’t over-sexualize women” is exactly the same as the Saudi government’s; it’s just that Sastra (presumably) thinks a business-casual jacket-and-skirt outfit is modest, whereas the Saudis is certain it’s hyper-sexualized. That both would agree that pasties and a G-string are hyper-sexualized is irrelevant.

          That is, they’re both expressing agreement that hyper-sexualization is a bad thing, and only disagreeing on how much sexualization is and isn’t “hyper.”

          My position is that sexualization is just fine and nothing to be ashamed of or to shame others into avoiding — and, until we as a society accept that it’s perfectly okay for people to express (or not) their sexuality as they themselves see fit without others trying to dictate how much is “hyper,” we’re going to continue fighting over what does and doesn’t constitute acceptable modesty.

          …or, the problem isn’t the specifics of the dress code, it’s that too many people — many feminists included — have a desire to control women’s sexuality and personal expression of their sexuality.




          1. I think feminists (like all other activists) can both support the right to choose whatever AND advocate some choices over others, depending.

            When I brought up the “sensible” clothing issue I didn’t mean to contrast sensible clothing with clothes which are “slutty” or “immodest,” but with clothes which are uncomfortable, unprofessional, embarrassing, or “appropriately feminine.” The problem then isn’t hyper-sexualization, but pressure on women for hyper-feminization, or meeting an idealized, impossible standard.

            In other words, it’s not that spike heels and miniskirts violate standards of modesty and decorum, but that flats and pants shouldn’t violate standards of beauty and fashion. There’s a lot you can’t do easily in high heels and miniskirts. I could see a fashion revolution for the practical looking more traditionally ‘modest’ as a byproduct, as opposed to a goal.

          2. Ah — sorry for misunderstanding you.

            Yes, to riff on this theme, dress codes for work should be gender-neutral and practical. If they’re going to specify, for example, heel height for women, they should specify the same for men. If men are permitted to wear pants, women should be, too. If ties are required for men, they should be required for women; if women have the option of a necklace in place of a tie, so, too, should men. And so forth.

            Obviously, safety or other gear must be gender-ignorant save for actual anatomical differences — which are almost never relevant.




          3. Well, anyone who has worked in an office knows that women have far more choices than men when it comes to what they can and can’t wear. Men have to show up in a shirt and tie (and, if you work in certain professions, a full suit, which is very hot and uncomfortable), while women have a multitude of choices.

          4. Thirty years ago, it was much easier to find appropriate women’s clothes for work, especially for more formal meetings and presentations. Business suits (jacket and matching skirt) were widely available, as were the necessary cotton or silk blouses.
            Nowadays, the jacket/skirt or even jacket/pants combos are hard to find. What’s all too readily available are sleeveless sheath dresses, that look great if you’re slim and toned, but not so great if you’re not. I’m completely baffled as to why this has happened.

          5. Gabrielle — You’ve clearly never walked into a Niemann Marcus, Lord & Taylor, Macy’s, etc. All my female friends who work in law offices and the like have absolutely no trouble finding these things.

          6. Dear BJ,

            This weekend, do a little experiment and take a walk through the women’s department at your nearest Macy’s. Try and find the section that sells business suits. Then compare that to the size of the sections of the rest of the department. Take a walk through the dress section, and try and find a dress with sleeves, that is not low cut, that is not above the knee and that doesn’t hug every curve of one’s body.

            Up to about 10 years ago, the business suit section was relatively well stocked, but not anymore. It’s probably 5-10% of the total footage of the women’s department.

            Up to about 20 years ago, Joseph Banks sold women’s suits, which were terrific. Well cut and made from good quality wool cloth. Even Hart Shaffner Marks sold women’s suits. But alas, no more. Pendleton still sells some, but they’re no longer carried by department stores. Talbots has gone down the drain, unless you want to wear a pink suit.

          7. Gabrielle — the point was you said you can’t find them. You can easily find them. Of course there won’t be a huge section for them. They don’t really come in many colors or shapes, and they’re less popular in women’s fashion generally today. Still, if you want one, it’s very easy to get one (again, I have lawyer and other corporate friends who buy them all the time). You can also shop online.

          8. So, ‘sensible’ clothing on a beach is a bikini? (I think it is)

            I don’t think stiletto heels are ever sensible, though.


          9. Sensible clothing on a beach is nothing at all, and that’s common in northern Europe.

        1. Workplaces are a different case, in that you’re acting as a proxy for your employer. As a trivial example, many companies require employees to wear uniforms that they’d never wear under any other circumstances. How many mail carriers would wear their regulation blue outfits on their day off to drop off their Christmas packages at the post office? Dress codes are simply a less-strict form of uniform.

          But shouldn’t everybody be free to dress as they chose for a walk in the park or a night on the town or some other outing? No matter where the dress fits on the spectrum from boring to outrageous?




          1. Are judges reasonably entitled and empowered to dictate to female attorneys that they must wear skirts/dresses when performing their professional duties (as “officers of the court”)? Are male attorneys no less obligated to show a little leg in court?

          2. You realize you can wear a skirt down to your ankles or a pantsuit to court as well if you’re a woman, right?

          3. Apparently there are judges who have made remarks on how women lawyers should dress in court.

            Just googling ‘judge dress women lawyers’ turns up a surprising number of hits.

          4. Yes, out of the thousands of judges, there are a handful that have made such remarks. The general rules are still exactly as I said.

            And many a man has been admonished for showing up to court in jeans because he didn’t have time to grab his suit.

            Although, here’s an interesting fact I learned while in Florida: in many part of south Florida, casual clothing like jeans and a polo shirt is perfectly fine for court, as long as it’s not a trial.

          1. “bring out the gimp.”

            “The gimp’s sleeping…”

            “Well, I guess you’ll have to wake him up now then, won’t you?”

            That scene is forever seared into my memory.

      1. Let’s cut to the chase. If Muslim women had full and equal rights with Muslim men, no one would care how they dressed. So when a Muslim woman says that wearing the hijab is a sign of her religiosity, ask her if she has equal rights in her home and in her country. Wearing the hijab and pretending it is only expressing religious devotion is the biggest lie ever told. Everyone but the wearer of the hijab knows full well that it represents
        inequality and inferiority and male dominance. When I see a liberated Muslim woman I’ll let you know. The only liberated ones are the ex-Muslims like Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
        The rest are just in love with their jailers.It’s the “Stockholm syndrome” all over again but this time it’s a prison containing billions of women making excuses for their imprisonment.

  4. Meanwhile, Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Australian tour has been cancelled. 400 female Muslim academics and social worker started a petition to get the visit cancelled. Then the ‘Council for the Prevention of Islamaphobia’ decided to discuss with the venues, and their insurers the ‘potential risks’ of having such a white supremacist (YES she was ACTUALLY accused of that). And everyone started to get cold feet.

    These people don’t want debate. They simply want to shut down, by any means necessary (where have I heard that before?)

    1. PS. This will not end well. In the current obsession about ‘fake news’ (if you consider misrepresenting unverified reports in a biased way as fake news…every mainstream source is guilty), declaring something fake news can become the new censorship.

      Especially when a government agency is involved like in Germany (Ministry of Truth, anyone). A number of European nations, Canada, Australia, etc. have restrictions on news or even opinions that can ’cause political unrest’, for example, papers often cannot print names of accused especially if the name is Middle Eastern. Reporting that can ‘inspire hostilities’ would be all it takes to become banned ‘fake news’. Guess what happens to critics of Islam like Ali?

    2. The regressives have succeeded in convincing people that they will can become violent at a moment’s notice when a speaker they don’t like shows up. It’s finally happened.

    3. Bloody ‘insurance risks’ (along with ‘safety considerations’) have turned everyone into cowards. All you have to do to persuade someone in authority to say ‘No’ to something is to suggest that if ‘something’ goes wrong they could be ‘held liable’.

      Much safer not to let anybody do anything at all…


      1. Its easy to say that but a bit different when your livelihood and that of your employees (not to mention their safety) is on the line. Every translator of her books insists on complete anonymity.

        Some years ago I went to see a movie deemed offensive. Because of a bomb threat, the manager sent all the employees home but remained to personally explain to customers why the show was cancelled.

        1. Oh yes, you can always make that argument. But it remains true that all you have to do is invent some alleged risk, no matter how far-fetched, and in the current climate – and no I’m not talking about bomb threats, I’m talking about the obsessive scapegoating ‘safety’ culture – managers cave in.


          1. The problem is, however, is that the violence is REAL, not theoretical. Look at the hundreds of incidents in Europe and Russia (not to mention Pakistan and Bangledesh). At least one translator of Satanic Verses was murdered. The founder of ‘draw Mohammed day’ is in hiding living under an assumed name.

            It’s one thing to put yourself on the line, but not necessarily others who did not choose that path. We’ve had several atheist bloggers killed recently (as well as their associates). Did their death accomplish anything?

          2. First, I wasn’t talking specifically about the risk of Islamic terrorism, but about the pervasive culture of fear (aka ‘safety’) in general.

            But are you saying that nobody should ever take a risk? That nobody should ever blog, for example? That nobody should ever organise a public event in case ‘something’ unexpected happens? ‘cos that’s the way it’s going, and the scapegoat culture of ‘something happened, therefore *somebody* must be ‘held accountable’ is largely to blame. Shit happens. Crucifying the nearest scapegoat won’t stop it.


    4. ‘Council for the Prevention of Islamaphobia’

      It seems in this particular case a more apt name would be the “Council for the Predisposition for Islamofascism.”

        1. Indeed, seems all Islamism is Islamofascism at this point. Maybe after they have a reformation (I won’t hold my breath on that), we can reconsider dividing the two.

  5. The hijab is an inescapable prison. It advertises, regardless of whether one intends or not, that the wearer endorses the oppression and inequality of women across the globe.

    There should be an added definition for hijab: attire that demonstrates disconnected and regressive ideas.

  6. It’s interesting to read this while living in a middle eastern country. A couple of women I know who wear the hijab have discussed that they wear the hijab out of respect for their husbands views. I have also talked to western women in the past (from Australia and New Zealand) that wear certain clothes out of respect for their husbands/partners views. It’s important for others to note that Women can be oppressed anywhere in the world, no matter their ethnicity or faith or status of freedom.

    1. Sure, my wife and I sometimes get dressed up when we go out to eat. The difference is, I don’t throw acid in her face if she doesn’t.

    2. As Paul S said, the difference is what happens in these different countries when one doesn’t respect their husband’s wishes.

      Would you rather have a slight disagreement and be done with it, or be beaten/locked up in the house/possibly disfigured/reported to the religious police?

      1. Though we still have some police regulated issues gender issues.

        If I’m siting around in the yard shirtless, no one says anything. In much of the US, my wife would be arrested.

        1. Well, we also have the “Duluth Model,” where, if there’s a domestic violence call, the man is automatically assumed to be the perpetrator and removed until they can figure out what actually happened, even though study after study has shown that about 80% of domestic violence is reciprocal and, of the DV that isn’t, it’s committed at about the same rate by both genders.

    3. If I were to suggest to my wife that she should wear something different she would think I had fallen prey to some kind of brain virus. The number of women in the west who “wear certain clothes out of respect for their husbands/partners views” is, in my estimation, very small.

      1. And regardless, all people in healthy relationships try to “respect their partner’s wishes.” When there is a disagreement about those wishes, it’s usually just that: a disagreement. It doesn’t lead to an automatic beating for disobedience, husband-imposed house arrest, a visit (and perhaps jailing) from the religious police, or disfigurement.

      2. Depends on how extreme you’re speaking. We both certainly give consideration to clothing our spouse prefers. Nothing weird in that.

    4. While I wear – what my wife tells me to wear. Since I don’t really care (so long as it fits) I just can’t be bothered arguing. (Up to a point, anyway). Is this oppression?

      Fortunately what she tells me to wear is usually within the fairly wide range of what I regard as acceptable gear.

      P.S. Re yer handle – I also never wear shoes unless I have to. Catching trains or buses, sandals (in case some pleb squawks about ‘safety’). The office – shoes AND socks. Elsewhere, nah, can’t be bothered.

      1. We are brothers in arms (erm, shoes)! I will wear my birkenstocks with wool socks proudly in the winter when the ground isn’t covered in snow. I’m not putting on shoes unless I absolutely have to, or if they’re reaaalllly comfy sheepskin slippers.

        1. (Googles) Oh, so that’s what birkenstocks are!

          OK, yes, so that’s what I wear if I *have* to wear footwear. But to make it clear – I normally wear bare feet.


          1. But, but, but…..the worms….that can go….between your toes…..

            I’m scared now.

          2. Worms don’t worry me, they’re creepy but they usually stay decently buried.

            I loathe centipedes (and I once saw a four-inch one on the track in Rarotonga, fortunately in time to avoid stepping on it), but usually they stay in cover.

            The only nasty thing I’ve ever stepped on is a common wasp. And I was cooling my feet once in a pool after a long walk and I saw a black thing undulating towards my foot which could have been a leech – I rocketed out of that pool damn fast!


          3. There are these…oh man, I hesitate to tell you this…there are these tiny worms that enter your body by piercing in through the skin between your toes, becoming parasites and growing inside. I…I’m sorry.


          4. @BJ
            Oh sh*t. I’d forgotten about them. My toes are curling up right now.

            ‘course, wearing Birkenstocks hardly offers any protection if you step in deep mud. Welcome to paranoia land 😉

            Actually, I’m also paranoid about MRSA. And cancer.

            What the hell. Something’s going to get me eventually and it’ll probably be something I never thought of. Full speed ahead and damn the torpedoes!


          5. Hehehe, I avoid all mud and water and stuff that will get my feet dirty when wwearing them. If it’s a rare day where I can’r avoid such things, I will very reluctantly wear foot prison (AKA shoes).

            I’m more squicked out by parasites like worms in my body than even cancer.

          6. Well, the tracks I like to walk on are often muddy. Sometimes can’t avoid wading in it. I reckon feet are easier to clean than feet-in-hiking-boots. The sandals dangle on my belt for emergency use when some misguided sadist has spread crushed rock splinters aka ‘gravel’ all over the path.

            But there’s nothing more delightful than a dry path in the bush covered in a light layer of leaf litter, feels like walking on a carpet.


          7. That’s part of what makes Birks so great: you can easily slip them on and off. No bending over. No using your hands. Just put your weight on one foot and slip that sandal right off!

            Because I agree, it sure is lovely walking through a fresh, grassy field.

          1. You don’t want to read that. It’s very…graphic. And mostly about my genitals. It’s entitled “The (Mis)Adventures of BJ and his friend Penis.”

            (just kidding)

          2. heheh I wasn’t going for it, but it works!

            Oh, I mean I was totally going for that. Yup. I’m brilliant!

    1. Meanwhile, the Swedish government, which calls itself a “feminist government” with “feminist policies” and (this always makes me laugh) a “feminist foreign policy” (what the hell does that even mean?!?) showed up in full Islamic oppression garb, presumably to “respect their beautiful culture.”

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