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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. Author of FREEDOM OF RELIGION AND THE SECULAR STATE (2012), HUMANITY ENHANCED (2014), and THE MYSTERY OF MORAL AUTHORITY (2016).

Friday, November 03, 2006

Pundits who just don't get it

The clash between radical Islam and Western modernity has led to many opportunistic analyses that are themselves essentially reactionary. In the Australian context, we have the country's most senior Muslim cleric, Sheik Hilali, demonising the pleasurable (for all concerned) and essentially harmless exercise of female sexual power when attractive young women wear clothes that display their beauty. The mufti says that this is wrong and that it invites rape - as if most men are dumb brutes who cannot control themselves when confronted by the sight of female skin.

This has led to a storm of commentary here, almost all of it denouncing the mufti's views, but much of it in a way that is itself reactionary. A good example is the op.ed. piece by Michael Keating this morning, in which he wants to compare Hilali's attitude to that of footballers who have (consensual) group sex. Both are, supposedly, "disrespectful" to women.

Keating, like many other pundits who are having their say at the moment, just doesn't get it. The issue is not about whether people are in some sense "disrespectful". For what it's worth, Hilali probably treats women with (a strange kind of) respect. The issue is about the suppression of women's sexuality, and about acts of terrible cruelty and violence that, quite rightly, led to some rapists in New South Wales facing long prison terms.

Call me an unreconstructed nerd, but I'm no great admirer of football players, most of whom strike me as little better than narcissistic thugs. Still, if there are women who enter willingly into group sex with football players, I call that an exercise of their freedom. Good for them, if that's what they want to do; I hope they enjoy the experience, and I'm glad to live in a society where it is allowed - if not exactly admired.

As long as they are consensual, the sexual antics of footballers or anyone else have nothing to do with Hilali's medieval view that women are meat, should be covered, and deserve what they get if they show their beauty outside the home. The comparison is trivialising and obnoxious.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Greetings from the other side of the world Russell, I'm a bit starved of philosophical discussion here so I've been reading your blog, and until now silently nodding my head.

I just have to say that I disagree with your brief description of footballers as a broad generalisation. Admittedly, it was hardly the well thought out point of the article, so perhaps unfair of me to target it. I think you have to understand that the minority of footballers who gain media attention do so for their bad behaviour. The majority of footballers are hard working role models who perform a lot of social work (usually they are contractually obliged to).

If the media focused on philosophers to such an extent, I wonder what their (our?) stereotype would be.

PS. However, I do agree that most are slightly narcissistic, but when these kids turn 17, they get paid $100,000 to play a sport, get swamped with attractive female interest, and thousands of people read anything they say with enthusiasm. As a result, some mature earlier, many mature later, and those that do have a heightened sense of self image. Can you really blame them?

Stuart Peace said...

Sorry didn't sign that properly.

Russell Blackford said...

Haha, I was wondering who "anonymous" was ... until I got to the second post.

Russell Blackford said...

On the point you make about footballers, btw, you may be right for all I know - I was only mentioning an impression in passing. If you're right on this point, it doesn't weaken the overall argument (I was about to say that it strengthens it, but that's probably not true).

How are you going, anyway? Are you studying on that scheme I think we once discussed?

stuart peace said...

Yes my point doesn't weaken nor strengthen your argument, it's just that I know a few footballers and they do a lot of charity work and are generally wholesome guys, so I guess I am a bit defensive. They are never in the papers because they don't go out drinking and fighting and the rest of it.

Anyway, last time we spoke about my course I was doing a double major in English and Philosophy but since have been forced to drop English so I could study overseas, which wasn't a big deal. Studying in Latvia is a lot of fun, a lot easier, lots more history and politics and a lot less philosophy.

However, due to a long story I think I am being kicked out of the country in a week which will make finishing studying here hard (but not impossible).

Otherwise I am on track to finish my degree next year and go on to honours 2008 and then hopefully some postgrad philosophy work.

Hope all is well.

Russell Blackford said...

All fine with me, Stuart. Good luck. Guess I'll be seeing you back in Melbourne soonish, then. :)