The Magical, Mysterious, Mighty Power of Uncovered Meatdom

Mike forwarded me this article, asking what I made of it, about a Muslim cleric in Australia who blamed women for being raped.

"If you take out uncovered meat and place it outside ... without cover, and the cats come to eat it ... whose fault is it, the cats' or the uncovered meat's?"

"The uncovered meat is the problem. If she was in her room, in her home, in her hijab, no problem would have occurred."
The cleric, Sheik Taj Aldin al Hilali, is being (rightly) lambasted for his statements, and has said he doesn’t condone rape. (Gee, thanks.) But the surprising thing about this incident, as far as I’m concerned, is not that it was said; it’s that people are so outraged about it, nearly unanimously, when things like this are said—and reinforced, via action and attitude—about women all the time, to little response. It’s one thing to treat women like pieces of meat, but actually calling them meat, all bluntly and shit—now that just crosses the line!

The idea that a woman who dresses “a certain way” is either asking to be raped, or shouldn’t be surprised when she is, is still a fully functional—and largely acceptable—idea in Western society. It still plays out in courtrooms (and media) all over America, as rape victims’ appearance, along with their sexual histories, social habits, and all other manner of irrelevant nonsense when it comes to answering the basic question “Did she say no?” are introduced as evidence, speaking not to overt consent, but implied consent. The notion of implied consent is still widely regarded as defensible by many Westerners—even those who see no hypocrisy in denouncing a Muslim cleric for stating more plainly the very same principle. What’s the difference between saying an uncovered head is the problem, and saying uncovered legs or cleavage are the problem? Nothing—the arguments just draw the line about women’s modesty at different places.

Also wrapped within al Hilali’s “uncovered meat” analogy is the implication that women have a supernatural and inescapable power over men, wielded primarily through their bodies. It’s a concept we have seen advanced not just in defense of rape, but in everything from 15th-century witch hunts, when only witches would dare to have “wide hips, prominent breasts, conspicuous buttocks, long hair,” to a modern-day justification of dress codes, as girls’ bodies are charged with distracting boys from their work. We’re all Eve, tempting every Adam by holding out ripe, delicious, forbidden fruit—and when he cannot resist, it is the fault of the woman who led him astray.

What curious irony that women, with the magical, mysterious, mighty power of uncovered meatdom, somehow have managed to nonetheless find themselves subjugated through most of human history. The same men who claim helplessness, defenselessness, lack of control in the presence of uncovered hair or a shapely calf have yet managed somehow to hold the upper hand in virtually every culture since the beginning of recorded history. You’d think if all it took to render a man mortally vulnerable were the throwing off of the hijabs and hoes that bind us, we might have done so long ago (and taken over the world—mwah ha ha ha!), but it hasn’t quite worked out that way.

Could it be, do you think, that perhaps uncovered meatdom doesn’t really hold any intrinsic control over men? That men who rape and blame women for it, or blame women for bewitching them, or distracting them, aren’t really out of control? Could it be instead that the objectification of women, and inevitable rape and blame and all the rest, are in fact the means of control?

Surely not. That would mean that men who assert a collapse in virtue at the hypnotizing force of uncovered meat were lying, that maybe the fault lies with the cat.

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