Friday, September 29, 2017

Pink lego and baby hijabs

Mina Ghabel Lunde, a knowledgeable and angry woman, is writing about the trend (in Norwegian) to permit very young girls to wear a hijab in schools in Norway, and the acceptance of this practice. I am really happy she does, even if I am one of the women she is attacking. I am one of those who don't think there should be a separate girls' lego, but that the traditional designs should have more colours - including pink - and more designs, not to mention more girl options in the existing designs.

This is, compared to the issue of tiny girls being considered sexualised individuals, who men can not look at without being tempted to sin, a pretty innocent problem. It might look like a problem for those who have no real problems. That doesn't mean I have never thought about the fact that young girls wear hijabs.

The hijab is a hypersexualising piece of clothing. This may sound weird, as it is not revealing, like a bikini or a cropped shorts leaving half a tiny butt hanging out, but its purpose is to point out that the person wearing it is a woman, a sexual being, a temptress who can unmake men's resolve if they get but a glimpse of her body. It holds immense promise, even more than the revealed body, because it states a power so strong that it needs to be controlled severely, or it will unmake the men who face its raw nakedness. If you can see the least lock of hair, men can lose their minds, the hijab claims.

So why have I not written about it before? It's not like I haven't thought it. Lovely, modern-dressed mothers with their tiny daughters, in matching hijabs and sparkling nails. Large, covered and veiled women with young girls I can only guess the age of through their size. And to address the fact that the need to cover their bodies keeps these girls from learning to swim: families on the beaches around Copenhagen, the women veiled in the shadow, preparing picnics and looking after the little ones, while the men lounge in shorts or jump in the water. Oh yes, I can see them.

But faced with this, I also have to face my lack of knowledge about the better options. What can I offer a girl in a veil? If I complain about her being on the beach without swimming, I may not help her remove the veil, I may take away from her the right to be on the beach. If I question the wisdom of putting a hijab on a 10-year old, I may not help her to feel the wind in her hair, but take away her opportunity to walk freely with her mother on the street. When I complain about the extreme pinkness of girl clothing, I know there are other and better options available, which will not restrict the girls further. I know the consequences of having a wider colour range available for girls and boys, and it is not isolation, restriction and alienation. I don't know the consequence for the girl in the hijab.

That is why it is so important that women who do know the consequences, who know the communities, the families, the cultures and the rules, speak up for their sisters, and help us, who would like to speak but who fear to do it wrong, to learn how we can speak of this correctly and not restrictively. So thank you, Mina Ghabel Lunde, for speaking up and pointing out the problem. I will still speak up when I think Lego behaves stupidly. I will not start speaking against little girls in hijabs, because I still fear I will say something stupid, and make things worse. But I am very happy to help signal boost your arguments, and look for ways to help, because yes, I do think it is a problem to sexualise little girls and little boys, no matter how it happens. Let them just be children, with all the options open, for a while yet.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Beaches of research

This isn't a metaphor for how knowledge accumulates like sand to create the volume of knowledge which we can traverse - although that might actually have worked. Instead it is about real beaches and the process of writing.

First time I heard about the idea of writing on a beach was way back in the late eighties, as my fellow student told me she had written her master's thesis on the beach. I was green with envy, but also quite incredulous. It was a great thesis, but I didn't believe in the kind of work that could be done without a huge stack of books, a hard chair and the musty air of a library or reading-room.

Then I started to have to get academic work done, no matter what. I spent a too-hot week in New York not in the city, but in lovely Greenport, because there was a cheap hotel by a pebbly little beach on the North Shore, just the place to be while the city was melting.

That worked, so when I had a chance to go to Italy for some weeks, I brought the computer to Urbino and ultimately to Pesaro, which has a spectacular beach. I won't recommend trying to work there in the season though, it's crowded and hot and noisy - but in September October it's quiet and lovely. 

Then follows a list of beautiful Italian experiences. Alghero, with or without beach, is definitely a place where it is possible to work, but Bosa became a special place. The lovely town with its spectacular beach was where I went with two colleagues for the first serious academic bootcamp - a concentrated period of lovely surroundings, great food and intense work. 

In between this I moved to Denmark, and for a while had an office which was unbearably hot during the hours with direct summer sunlight. Since that's not all that common (perhaps 5-6 days a year), it was acceptable to work elsewhere during those hours, and I started taking my work to the nearby beach. I read, reviewed and commented on endless papers, articles, exams, books, during those beach hours. There is a certain amount of guilt to it, I guess. If I am to have such a lovely time, I had rather work, to prove that I am not just there on vacation. Daughter of a deeply protestant work-ethic as I am, having a too good time is not good at all, but if I can be productive, it makes up for it. 

This has brought me to where I am today. I am currently on sabbatical in Australia, visiting at the RMIT. However, they have winter here at the moment. (Insert Scandinavian rant about insulation, architecture, windows and temperatures indoors.) While I love my friends in Melbourne, the city has some of the best food to be found anywhere (gluten free dumplings, and spectacular ones!) and RMIT is a very interesting University, winter in Melbourne is a definite meh. After 10 days were lost to the flu, and I spent most of my working days wrapped up for below zero when it was around +10, and still freezing, I decided to stop feeling sorry for myself, and go north to find some warmth. And here I am:

I even took a picture of the work I am doing, just to prove that I do work, but it was showing too much of the text of a fellow researcher for random publication. in the three days I have been here I have finished reading and graded two 100+ page final dissertations, finished up editing an article after review, send off another article for peer review, and reviewed the work of said colleague. All this while listening to the surf, and applying sunscreen. And in between writing this blog post, I have been working to administrate the reviewing of a journal issue. Guilt. It's a powerful thing, and right now I feel guilty for not sticking with the winter. But I guess I will get enough of that when I return to Denmark in October.