A Guest Post
By Anne Margaret McKenzie
Her plight is inhumane, her persecutors barbaric. The horror of her case makes the social, judicial and political landscape for women in New Zealand look almost trite. We have our battles, but we do not face such tyranny or forces that crush women so completely, even a fair trail is improbable.
In that awful week as ‘headscarf Friday’ brokered a standing ovation to the hijab I thought about Nasrin.
I studied her face, her expression, the substance of this woman with such a commanding intellect and good, sturdy heart.
I cannot imagine 148 lashings. I cannot imagine this woman’s life at all, staring down brutality in trying to access the very freedoms I was born into.
I can be this person. No questions. I have an empowered reality. I can learn, make choices, be independent and authentic, think for myself and gather my own gods.
It’s a free country, wear the scarf if you want. Call it a simple ‘gesture’ if you must. And don’t forget to take the selfie.
In my world view however, the scarf is not uncomplicated. I would never wear it. My head is my wellspring, it generates my whole self, my capacity to feel, process information and take action. It means everything to me. I will never, ever use it as a billboard for female oppression or to mimic that which I am not. Moreover, after thirteen years recovering from a devastating head injury I’ll hold my naked head high. That’s what you do when you are delighted, thrilled beyond words at how far your head has repaired itself. It’s an emblem of power and betterment; it is not a turkey to dress up for political feasting.
In the call for unity, diversity and inclusion nobody should have to relinquish their culture or their god, or follow a dress code on the secular streets of Christchurch to validate their support. I will hold the hand of any woman if she will hold mine; identity of the group should be irrelevant in the true sense of solidarity.
I’ve read of New Zealand women now suddenly ashamed to be white and wanting to denounce their ‘white privilege’.
I wonder how far they’ve thought this through?
Will they hide their head in public forever?
Surrender their choices?
Would they honestly rather be Nasrin?
Thinking on Nasrin, I cannot reconcile her situation with images of a scarf-adorned feminist PM (who can remove it at her convenience), getting promoted the world over.
And, like this over-inflationary reaction isn’t obscene enough when attention should have been on fifty broken families, she’s been touted for the Nobel Peace Prize.
For orchestrating what, exactly?
All I see is feminist hypocrisy, the fair-weather feminist who picks her battles like there’s no correlation between them and a subtle drip of appeasement to head-covering – oblivious to any controversy attached, that does nothing to help the real life of Nasrin.
The PM is good at compassion.
But she’s no more compassionate than me or any of the decent New Zealanders I know.
I just don’t need to wear the badge or patrol a fleet of rolling cameras to prove it.
Plus, I’d be shockingly uneasy about my suddenly cloaked head hijacking a skyscraper when so many had perished under my governance.
But there goes the clout of an extroverted PR magnet, a path I shall never ponder.
I have kindled my submissions to the collective pool of devastation in my own private settings, stared long and hard from my porch out to Sumner Bay watching the locals ‘paddle out’, doing what they know in their act of respect. My daughter was there, bobbing in the waves. My beautiful vibrant daughter.
What mother could fathom her child taking a bullet at the dawn of their life?
In Christchurch’s week from hell of abhorrence and grief, kids as little as three had fallen. But sadly, the genuine outpouring of emotion was stalled when news came through that the PM’s baby had started to crawl.
HOW could the Madonna-ed PM let that happen?
While cloth, empathy and sorrow designed the face that flood-lit every earthly ocean, the inspirational stay-at-home boyfriend was busy on the family branding.
Something crept up my spine at this.
I sat on my steps proud of my family, my friends and my community, not proud of a Prime Ministerial household which – in the aftermath of the most atrocious violence on our country’s soil, not only threw Nasrin’s chances under a truck, but managed to reach peak narcissism.
The Nobel Peace Prize belongs to Nasrin.
It’s only fair to share! :-)
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