This past Friday I read an article about Leila Hatami, an Iranian actress who shared an entirely chaste bit of cheek kissing with an elderly French gentleman at the Cannes Film Festival. This article would never have been written but for the fact that some people in her native country are calling for her to be flogged for her transgression against what passes for law and decency in Iran. I was so angered at reading the article I immediately busted out three tweets about it. Later that day when Al Jazeera posted news of Hatami’s apology, my anger wasn’t cooled.
Fast forward to Saturday and Twitter, along with the rest of the nearby Internet, goes positively apeshit over the latest American mass shooting, perpetrated by Elliot Rodger. The tweets were coming across my feed at such a furious pace that I felt it best not to post but rather read and absorb the event. I did managed to post one tweet during the frenzy, in response to Kim Moore:
The tweet doesn’t bear much relation to where I’m about to take this post. (Or does it?)
Further ruminating on Elliot Rodger along with the lingering anger over Leila Hatami’s situation prompted a realization that these two events are not unrelated. In Iran, legal and religious strictures which have their origin in male dominance manifest as an environment in which women must clothe themselves and behave within a set of constraints intended to preserve them as, “symbol[s] of chastity and innocence.” In the US, the price women pay for freedom from such laws is the alternative expression of male dominance that permits men to view women as sex objects, slut-shame women when they fail to conform to ever-shifting behavioral expectations, and, as in the Elliot Rodger case, produce one of a small number of outcomes worse than fifty lashes.
We are all of us, all over the world, living under a collection of delusions which share the same modus operandi, only differing as to cultural methods of expression. People are to be classified, not seen as human but as componentry in systems of oppression. When Leila Hatami failed to conform to her society’s expectations in even the most seemingly trivial way, she was made to apologize. Her apology may not be enough. When women failed to conform to Elliot Rodger’s expectations of what was his due, no apology would have stopped him from dealing death to as many as he could put his sights on.
If you who are reading this happen to be a woman, and find yourself in the peculiar position of being willing to take some advice from this heterosexual white American male, try this: Don’t apologize.
Edited to add: It’s one week later, June 1, 2014, and I get some unintended postscript help from Mohammed Ali Jinnah, via Haroon Ullah: