In the Kitchen: Shakshuka

shakshuka 1

At the Tea & Trumpets residence, my husband does almost all of the cooking, in large part because he is an excellent cook and enjoys the process. When I cook, the food usually turns out edible, but there’s generally a lot of chaos in the lead up. Recently I was roasting us a whole chicken, and when we took it out of the oven my husband pointed out that I’d cooked the thing upside down. Three weeks later I tried to roast a chicken again and, taking it out of the oven I exclaimed, “Look at that chicken, beautifully right side up!” Which prompted my husband to point out that it was, in fact, upside down—again.

My trouble with chicken anatomy aside, I’ve been cooking more in the recent months. In efforts to be more mindful about what I eat, I realized that I need to be more actively involved in preparing my food. (I’ve also been working on educating myself on where my food comes from, but more on that later.) This week I successfully made a dinner that we liked so much I think it will be making its way into our regular rotation! This might be the only time you see a recipe on this blog, but I was so pleased with the results I had to share.

Shakshuka is both fun to say and eat. It’s a Middle Eastern tomato-based dish with eggs and feta cheese, all cooked in one skillet (easy clean up!). It’s delicious, hearty, quick and inexpensive. What’s not to love? I mostly followed Smitten Kitchen’s recipe, with a few variations.

Oversights that worked out just fine:

  • I didn’t have real garlic, so I used a bunch of garlic powder instead
  • I didn’t have parsley because I was tired and I couldn’t find the fresh herbs in my grocery store
  • I forgot to add the ½ cup of water until I’d already been simmering everything for 10 minutes. No worries! This dish could not be more forgiving. Added the water, cooked the whole thing for another 10 minutes.
  • I’m a little afraid of runny egg whites, so after adding the eggs, I baked the whole dish for 10 minutes, rather than let it cook on the stove top.

shakshuka 3

My one improvement on this dish and general cooking secret: Chickpeas. This is not a radical change; lots of people make this dish with chickpeas. But here’s the issue with adding chick peas to almost any dish—from the can, they have an unpleasant texture and can sometimes taste a bland. Unless you sautee them first.

Add some olive oil and onions to a pan on medium, let the onions soften, and add the chick peas. Let them cook for about 10 minutes, until they start to get ever so slightly toasted on the outside. This step gives them a great texture and a nice toasted, almost oaky flavor. I’ve used this in pasta and quinoa dishes, and now Shakshuka. Anytime I see a recipe that calls for chick peas, I do this first. (Whenever I’ve skipped this step in the past, I always regret it.)

shakshuka 2

So there you have it, my secret cooking skills: upside down chickens and roasted chick peas. Do you have any kitchen tricks and/or disaster stories to share? If you try this dish, please come back and let me know how it went!

How to Get a Beach Body

bathing suits2
As I mentioned yesterday, I spent last week at the beach. I grew up in a tiny beach town, and nothing could be more beautiful or perfect for me than the ocean. Sun, sand, salty-air, an entirely unstructured day. There is, of course, one dark shadow looming over the beach for most adult women–bathing suits. I largely stopped wearing two-piece bathing suits late in elementary school. The site of my shame has shifted over the years: My thighs in pre-teen years because of the confusing stretch mark, my breasts, large and victim to gravity in middle school, (I was almost 30 before I discovered bathing suits with underwire and bra-sizing. Get on that shit, people.) and later of course my belly.

When I got married, I wanted to take the upper hand on the cruel narratives playing on loop in my head. (My family calls these “old tapes,” an adorably out-dated turn of phrase, sure to confuse the young millennials.) Wearing a bikini at our pre-wedding cookout and the honeymoon–events centered around people loving me!–seemed like the ultimate safe spaces to tackle on these shitty narratives. So I rocked and (mostly) loved being plump in a bikini.

Eighteen months later, heavier, those two-piece suits felt more like a taunt. Wearing my bikinis felt impossible–gross. And wearing my one-piece felt like acknowledging my own failure–like a scarlet letter of gluttony and laziness. But some small part of myself knew that was bullshit, an old tape.

Fuck it, I thought. I’m wearing the bikini.

And so I did. Those first few days were fraught with insecurities and over-thinking and a few misplaced tears when my husband compliment my one-piece. (You mean you hate my bikini?!) And so I started writing a post in my head about the pressures of having a “bikini body,” the double standards for men and women, the pervasiveness of perfectionism, and the messed up ways that perfectionism prevents us from experiencing things–like a care-free day at the beach.

But an interesting thing happened. Day after day I lathered on sunscreen and pulled on my bathing suit, sometimes a one-piece and sometimes bikini, and gradually the post in my head started to grow stale. I still felt vulnerable with an exposed belly, nervous as a plus-size woman in a bathing suit. Who was I to jiggle and take up so much space at the beach? But the fierce narrative about the bullshit surrounding women’s bodies and bathing suits? Bit by bit, it somehow felt less raw.

I was still trying to find a way to speak to my experience throughout the week when I stumbled on a quiet passage in Yoga and Body Image that tore me open. In this book, Kate McIntyre Clere writes a moving essay about navigating the baggage we all carry about our bodies, and the desire to carve out a healthy and happy space for her young daughter. Contemplating a beach day with her daughter, Miro, she summarizes a possible conversation:

I am not feeling great about my body this morning. I don’t feel so great about wearing a bikini today. You know, Miro, sometimes my mind really believes these thoughts and it makes me feel really bad. So then I have to say to myself, it’s okay. Bodies change shape all the time. I’ve got a choice and I’m not going to let these thoughts ruin my day at the beach. Let’s go and enjoy ourselves!

Upon reading this passage, I started scribbling in the margins frantically. What if you could acknowledge the pain of living in an body, a body that may never be officially “good enough,” but still go on to love your day at the beach?

Sometimes, in an effort to confront negative body image messaging, it can easily feel like we’re left with two options: love your body or hate your body. And so we tell ourselves we will love our bodies–once they are perfect and we no longer hate them.

But what if there was a middle way? What would happen if we acknowledge the moments or the days that we struggled to love our bodies? What if we said to ourselves: I know this is hard right now, but there’s a whole world out there to enjoy and, fuck it, I’m going to enjoy it?

Wearing bathing suits for eight days straight was at times intense. It started off raw, sometimes painful. But gradually, somewhat unconsciously, I found my way to a truce. I know I don’t want to hate this body, but I don’t know if I can yet love it the way I want to. But what if I embrace this in-between–to neither love nor hate this body, but let both co-exist? And to let myself be in the midst of this messy soup of feelings and fears and joy. This new kind of vulnerability didn’t necessarily come easily in Mexico, but gradually the allure of a pleasant day at the beach overpowered the old tapes playing in my head. And the scales tipped–in my favor.

Breath, the Body, and Our War on Ourselves

yoga breathing

I don’t remember exactly when I first started to hate my body. Do any of us? I remember standing, looking naked in the bathroom mirror during middle school, and deciding which parts of myself I wanted to keep, which parts I would trade in. My straight nose and hazel eyes were okay. My pimply chin and my breasts, red with new stretch marks, were awful. I knew I was supposed to hate my body, and how could I not, considering how rapidly it had changed. I had been a puppy-like girl with comically overlarge feet, tall and clumsy–a clumsiness that came from long limbs and a near-complete lack of self-awareness for my own body. What sweet heaven. Suddenly I had breasts and zits and hair in all sorts of confusing places. In puberty our bodies become alien to us, and sadly I think that for most women they remain forever foreign–dark and dangerous places that have us trapped.

Employing some twisted logic, I think I was, even then, trying to give myself an alternative narrative. My body was betraying me, and I hated it for that, but I on some level I knew my body needed to remain home. So I found some safe places. My eyes, the birthmark on my right ankle shaped like Ireland, my height. I might not be beautiful, I was telling myself, but these individual parts were okay. And there was comfort in that, even as I was carving myself up and marking whole body parts for “discard.”

I also don’t remember when I first stated hating my belly, but in this war on my body she has become mortal enemy #1. I remember analyzing the girls in my high school, and longing for their tiny waists. I remember noticing, with sadness and jealousy, that a friend’s belly carried her weight in front, rather than to the sides like mine. She didn’t have “love handles;” she could hide it better. It gave me a perverse sense of pleasure when, years later, I gained enough weight that I started noticing it in the front, too. And years after that, when I was skipping meals in the dining hall, I remember laying in bed and resting my fingers in the space between my belly and my sharp hip bones, thinking how good it felt, and wondering how good it would feel to be just a little bit smaller.

Every outfit I have chosen, every day for over 15 years, has been assessed first and foremost for how well it masks my belly. My sense of fashion–this very personal sense of self in our capitalist world–has always always been shaped by trying to hide this “problem area.” I’ve read many a style guide for “apple shaped” bodies, cheered the return of slightly-higher rise jeans, and when I stand before the mirror, now fully dressed, my eyes have a laser focus on my stomach, to assess how it looks, always within the range of not-that-bad to catastrophic.

Sadly, I don’t think this story is unique. I tell you all this to share with you a recent realization on my part, from a beautiful weekend retreat at Kripalu Center, out in the Berkshires. But first, try something for me. Wherever you are reading this, take a deep breath. Breath deep and, with your breath, fill up your belly. Pay attention, for a moment to what it feels like to breath into your belly, and then pay attention to what it feels like as you soften and release the air. What sensations did you experience? How do you feel?

I hope your experience is different from mine, because I’ll tell you what I experience–nothing. It’s like someone gave me a shot of Novocain first. I have been practicing yoga and meditation, off and on, for years, and “Breath deep into your belly” is the equivalent of a layup; it’s a tool to warm you up, loosen you up, and get you centered. If you’re rattled or distracted, it’s a simple drill that can help you get your groove back. But, to stick with my basketball metaphor, for me it’s a Harlem Globetrotter-esque dribble-between-the-knees-and-shoot-from-halfcourt move. Focus on breathing into my throat? Breath deep to fill up my chest and lungs? There is a tangible sensation to all of these ways of being and breathing for me. But to breath deep into my belly, I can experience only as a void.

How can we wage decades long wars against our bodies, and not carry that hatred and anger and sadness in our bodies themselves? I can’t even look at myself without fear and derision for my stomach; how could I honestly feel what is happening here, what I’m feeling there. I’ve pushed my belly, emotionally, as far away as we can push anything that is physically attached to us, and, again, I don’t think I’m alone. I’ve ignored it and hated it like some kind of poor orphan child living under my stairs. And during years of on-again, off-again yoga practice, when “breath deep into your belly” was an empty experience for me, I assumed that I wasn’t concentrating the right way, that I was just breathing wrong. Again, the narrative I told myself was try harder, be better.

I don’t know how to fix this, exactly; I’m still living with the enemy, working towards seeing it (myself) as neutral, normal even. Good, even. How radical would that be? A voice in my head whispers, if you make it (your belly, yourself) small enough, you will like your belly, yourself. But I know that’s bullshit; I want to reject that narrative. The survival technique I came up with at 13, to carve myself up into good and bad (where at least there is still some good), isn’t working anymore. The new project is to like my whole self. Even writing that feel strange–simultaneously like an inspirational poster in a guidance counselor’s office, maybe with cats, and also like a lie. Maybe some meditations where I breath into my belly, sending love and kindness that way will help. Certainly more yoga, which helped me see the tangible effects of the cruel narratives I’ve been telling myself all these years. And, I suppose, openness–to myself, to the world, to breathing.

I wanted to title this “To be or not to be: Fat”: Signs I’m taking myself too seriously. Or terrible at titles.

While I was writing my last post, I used the adjective “fat” a handful of times, and I distinctly remember thinking “I hope no one feels compelled to tell me I’m not fat.” (In an honest-to-god Freudian slip of writing, I initially wrote for the first two drafts, “I hope no one feels compelled to call me fat.” Yup. Let’s discuss that later.)

In the meantime, let’s discuss my desire to leave let my fat identifier stand. In large part, this is rooted in the truth is: I am, technically speaking, fat. (This is new. I’m saying this online, but I’ve yet to say it in person.) Presently, fat has come to be shorthand for lazy, stupid, and ugly. I am not any of those things, and on a good day I believe that I’m not. When a plus-size lady identifies as fat, and everyone rushes to tell her it isn’t so, it stings in a particular way because you’re efforts–despite coming from a good place–reaffirm that fattness is a really bad thing. Ironically you’re reinforcing that fat = lazy, stupid, and ugly. And we all sure as hell know that your fierce friend is none of those things! But here’s the nasty secret–when we jump up and down about how NOT FAT a plus size lady is, we’re reinforcing that fat is inherently a bad thing, when in reality it’s just a thing.

I grew up in a house with beloved fat relatives. I also grew up in house where, if someone was an asshole and fat, their weight was a legitimate target for ridicule. There were lots of “fat idiots” on the chopping block. I don’t think this experience is unique.

In this moment of my adult life, I am, technically speaking. fat. However, I am not lazy, stupid, or ugly. (Feel free, in the comments, to tell me how active, smart, and beeeeautiful I am. Okay, just kidding.) I think it is a little bit my hope that acknowledging “fat” as a reality, but not a dirty word can take the sting out of all the implications that come along with that word. I am fat. I also have brown hair, glasses, and a birthmark on my right ankle.

And now to the “omg, don’t tell me I’m fat” thing. This, in perhaps obvious ways, is harder to write. I really want this blog to be an honest and feminist space. In order to make the former true, however, I have to give a voice to the negative battles I struggle with. So here’s my confession: I have at many points in my life, looked around to see “how fat I was” in comparison to the people around me. If I could find worse offenders, I could pat myself on the back–for telling myself I was better–whatever the eff “better” meant. (And here’s where I should disclose, despite talking about this as an activity solidly in my past, there’s a 50% chance I did this within the past week.) I’m writing a blog on body positivity, but I’m in this shit deep.

The truth is, I want to be okay with being fat. I also, desperately, want to wake up being 40 pounds lighter. I want to be liberated from the expectations and pressure of our society–but I also don’t want to be engaged in constant warfare with them. In my dream world, I wake up many sizes smaller and, magically, don’t give an eff. I want to both escape and beat the system in one fell swoop. On good days, I know that not giving an eff is more valuable than playing the game, but I’d be lying if I said that was an easy thing to see as truth.

I don’t have a neat conclusion to this post. I think tidiness would actually be really dishonest. Ultimately, it’s important to realize that my complicated relationship with my body is not actually tied to my weight. I’ve been 20, 30, 50 pounds lighter, and still struggled to find peace with this body. I’ve been strong enough to commute 20 miles round-trip on a bike, to run a half marathon, to hike mountains–and I was still at war with this body. Weight gain might bring these issues more sharply into focus, but I’m not struggling to see the strength and beauty of my body because I gained weight. I’ve struggled my whole life to accept my body–whatever it looked like–because the game is rigged; we’re bombarded with reasons to feel dissatisfied and uncomfortable. And, ultimately, what I’m trying to figure out is: can I just stop playing the game?

1000 Words on a Photo

Sometimes it is hard to create posts for this space. First of all, there’s nothing like trying to create honest and interesting content on a regular basis to make you realize that blogging is not necessarily an easy gig. Also, I think it is particularly challenging to write about something as loaded as weight and body image–because I feel different each day, sometimes each hour. (Maybe blogging about parenting feels similar?) I will write half of what feels like a great post, leave it unfinished because of other responsibilities, and by the time I return to the draft my perspective has shifted. While I can completely identify with the voice that wrote that piece, I can no longer access it. So I’m faced with two options–write a hackneyed ending and post it or leave it unfinished and unposted. (Guess which option has won out?)

I always remember this quote from Wordsworth (who I actually pretty much hate), “Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.” I think good writing needs a equal parts spontaneous overflow and tranquil recollection.  Maybe the trick is to make sure I complete posts in the initial rush of emotion. I can return later to edit, when the honesty of the experience is less raw, but shouldn’t leave writing the ending to the cooling-off period. I think that may be easier said than done. Even though I actively miss writing when it’s not a part of my life, I have a love-hate relationship with the process itself.

But I didn’t want this post to be about writing–for two reasons. 1) Half heartedly writing a blog post once every few weeks doesn’t qualify one’s self as a writer and 2) more importantly, reading things about writing is only interesting, at best, to other people who write. But fucked up perceptions of our bodies? I’m looking to all the ladies to give me a “what, what” in recognition.

Today alone has been such a roller-coaster. I have at turns felt super happy about my cute new t-shirt and shorts, fat, bad-ass for being fat and not giving an eff, insecure that other people judge me for being fat, etc. I took the following picture, which captures an interesting moment, and I want to share some background. My hair stylist (who should win all the awards for haircutting brilliance) is out on maternity leave for another two weeks. I don’t trust any other human to cut my hair (after a decade of hairdresser commitment issues and tragically boring–or worse–haircuts), so this maternity leave has left me with, well, what eventually turned into a mullet.

hair

I was sharing the mullet-related issues with my co-workers, and since we all work from home, I wanted them to enjoy the visual. So I took this picture. Here’s the funny thing about this–I pretty much look like a cross between this guy and this guy–yet, against all odds, I get a total thrill from the picture. In part, I know I can count on my lovely co-workers to take joy in the picture, the fact that I’m worried about my mullet, and the fact that I spent five minutes of my work-day taking back-of-the-neck selfies in my bathroom mirror. But it’s more than that. I took pictures where my not-skinny arm is very prominent, where my neck doesn’t look “skinny” (whatever that means), etc–and I feel pleased with the result. Maybe there was just something so freeing about taking a picture with the intent to make people smile that made me perfectly content about the amount of space take up in the frame. And I think that’s a big part of it–I can see the silly intent of the photo above all else.

One of my oldest, dearest friends was once working her way through a self-portrait assignment, and shared with me a brilliant observation. She said that we’re all so familiar with our perception of ourselves, with the view we carry in our head of our faces head-on, that an accurate self-portrait is next to impossible. Take a look at the greatest artists of our time, and compare what they actually looked like with their own self-portrait. It’s something twisted, familiar and wrong at the same time. To combat this, she set up a system of mirrors, so she was looking at herself from an unfamiliar angle, and drew one of the most life-like self-portraits I’ve ever seen.

And so maybe that’s why I kind of love this bizzaro picture of myself with a mullet.* This is an impossible angle to see without mirrors and cell-phones. I’ve rendered myself a stranger, and in doing so, I don’t feel compelled to bring judgement. You know how now, when you look at a picture of yourself, you look first to your area of insecurity, to see how prominent it is in the photo? In the picture, the joy, memories, and hilarity of the photo come after a thorough scrutiny of our own flaws. What would it mean to start seeing photos of ourselves as we do of strangers? To leave the scrutiny and self-hatred behind, and see the joy, memories, and hilarity we present in any given frame.

I don’t know what this means, and I certainly don’t know how to apply this perspective to the head-on-view of myself I’m familiar with. But it feels like an interesting tool to aim to have at one’s disposal–what am I seeing first–memories or faults? And, of course, how can I embrace the mullet?

*Please don’t feel compelled to comment on how I don’t really have a mullet. I kind of loved my my mini mullet. I have since received an emergency “bang trim but for my neck” and Julie-the-superhero-hairdresser is going to make me look fierce next week. Bonus: she’ll tell me all about her super cute new peanut.

ingenuity, devotion, merriment, vanity, and virtue

I first wrote this almost two months ago but resisted finishing or posting it because, you know, feelings. And vulnerability.

I had something of a come-to-Jesus moment this week. I was in the greater DC area, on a business trip. (Before I travelled regularly for work, this sort of thing sounded, if not glamorous, at least very exciting. Now I know it mostly involves frantically trying to get to your meeting on time despite getting lost five times along the way, finally reaching your destination and having to desperately search for parking, trying to send a professional email explaining that you are running a few minutes late–all while still looking for parking–and, due to auto-correct, signing your name “Lottery”. And then later getting a little bit drunk while marathoning HGTV or Law & Order: SVU in your hotel room.)

Anyway, for this business trip I had packed my standard Professional Outfits, a handful of structured dresses that I think make me look like a responsible grown-up who also has friends that went to art school. You know–professional but in a cool way. These are some of my go-to confidence building outfits.  Here’s where I tell you that I’ve been steadily gaining weight since getting married this past summer, and you all instantly know where this is going.

I found myself sweating profusely as I tried desperately to zip up my sharply tailored Ann Taylor dress, unsuccessfully sucking everything in, practically pulling a muscle in my shoulder as I flailed around for the zipper, and ultimately ripping it off with a deep sense of shame and frustration. At the last minute I’d packed a dress that I feel deeply ambivalent about: a bright clown-nose red number that looked much less bright when I saw it online,  but I kept out of laziness and a sense that it wouldn’t wrinkle in a suitcase (but mostly out of laziness). When I realized that none of my other clothes even fit, I threw on this bright red dress of shame (which, true to my theory, had not wrinkled in the suitcase) and ran out the door, already late for my first meeting of the day.

That night, on the phone with my husband, I found myself crying about my ballooning weight and my rock-bottom sense of self-confidence regarding my body.  I have a hard time talking about weight, body-image, exercise or my relationship with food.  (So much so that this was the point in my essay where I took a break from writing: right when I have to talk about weight and body image.) On one level, I am a proud feminist; I hate the ways in which women are valued according to their body; I think that culture’s obsession with women being *small* physically is directly tied to an attempt to keep women *small* in all sorts of other ways. I have watched loved ones wage war against their bodies and stood helplessly from the sidelines.

On the other hand, I’d love to walk into any store, knowing they carry my size. I’d love to assess new outfits, not by how well they hide my belly, but how colorful or sequined or comfortable they are.

From both of these perspectives, what I’m longing for is an ability to not give any fucks about my size.

My come-to-Jesus realization was that: ignoring my rapid weight-gain was not the same thing as not giving any fucks. In fact, I care deeply, in a repressed way that only a lonely hotel room in suburban Maryland can unearth. So I’d like to spend some time in this space talking about body image, weight, exercise, food, and the tangled relationship I have with all of those things. I’m hoping that committing to writing about these things through the lens of feminism and self-acceptance and a continual effort to be a bad-ass will help me shed some negative baggage.

If I were to set a goal, perhaps it would be that when I thought of my body, it would first be from the perspective of this poem, by the ever-brilliant Mary Oliver:

“As for the body, it is solid and strong and curious
and full of detail; it wants to polish itself; it
wants to love another body; it is the only vessel in
the world that can hold, in a a mix of power and
sweetness: words, song, gesture, passion, ideas,
ingenuity, devotion, merriment, vanity, and virtue.”
-Evidence

Femen Protest, where Islamaphobia Is Alive & Well

femen_do not need saving

A counter-protest responds to Femen’s Islamophobia

Femen is a feminist group that stages topless protests against a myriad of issues. A young Tunsania woman, Amina Tyler, recently posted two topless photos of herself to the group’s Tunsania page (which she stated), one with the words  “My Body is My Own and Not the Source of Anyone’s Honor” written in Arabic across her chest, and another reading “Fuck Your Morals.” After her family’s discovery of the images, Amina has since been placed in a mental institution. This is obviously a sad situation, and as feminists we are right to by angry and upset about the way Amina has been silenced, and to seek ways to support her. The grossly Islamophobic Femen protests that have since occurred are, however, not okay.

Here’s the key difference: Amina was responding to her own culture, her own lived experience. She can say “Fuck Your Morals,” because she is speaking against a specific oppression that she herself has lived with. Her protest speaks to the truth of her own experience. When Western Women engage without nuance in this issue, they risk ignoring their own privilege and the limitations of what they can see from their position.

There is a long, bloody and tragic history in which Western countries and people have oppressed and exploited Muslim countries and people, and we cannot escape or ignore that history when addressing global issues of gender. There is a world of difference when a Muslim woman living in Tunsania writes “Fuck Your Morals” on her naked chest and when a white, non-Mulsim woman living in the West–with all the privilege that brings with it–does the same. The former is activism, the latter is ignorance. In this image (NSFW), a woman has the crescent of Islam painted on each breast, the star covering her nipple, with the words “Fuck Islamism” painted on her torso. Perhaps she thinks that, by adding “-ism” to the end of the Islam, she’s not disrespecting an entire, complicated and multi-faceted religion and culture, with its millions of individuals, each practicing and engaging with issues of  gender and culture and spirituality and globalization in her or his own way, and perpetuating harmful stereotypes in the process. But that is exactly what she is doing.

Vilifying the practice of veiling and celebrating nakedness as freedom is an over-simplification of an important issue.  In her excellent book on the legal prohibition of veiling in France, Politics of the Veil, Joan Scott writes:

I do not mean to say that the system [of veiling] is not patriarchal; it is, of course. But the French system is patriarchal too; women are objectified in both systems, although in different ways. My point is that sex and sexuality are differently represented, differently managed in these two systems (161).

Women’s bodies are managed differently in various cultures, but as Scott articulates, the constant is that they are managed.  Concern over the various ways in which women’s bodies are sexualized and policed according to their appearance has been is a tenant of Western feminism, but here that is forgotten and instead there is an apparent investment of many Western women in championing one patriarchal system over the other.

When Western women cast veiled women as oppressed and their own nakedness as liberation, they are refusing to acknowledge agency on the part of Muslim, veiled women, which is another means of oppression, and they establish a false dichotomy in which their own choices are somehow free of the constraints of sexism and gender exploitation. They establish themselves as heros, bringing “freedom” to brainwashed/enslaved Muslim women everywhere, which is self-aggrandizing and also reinforcing the passive role Muslim women are perceived to occupy. Either she wears the veil, and is “stupid” (as Femen Facebook commenters have repeatedly said) and a victim of male oppression, or she absorbs the wisdom of the Western woman and follows her guidance. In this paradigm there is no agency granted to the Muslim woman; she is perpetually passive, a tool to reinforce Western notions of superiority, which in turn continue to justify a global climate that supports war and exploitation.