Is it Oppression?





I ended up watching this video. It had some interesting parts to it as it relates to religion. It even has some interesting parts about challenging taboos  and social norms. All of which I thoroughly agree. Yet, then it took an interesting turn, especially near the end in question period. A turn towards oppression and taboos in general culture.


It started off interesting as a Muslim girl trapped in Islam. Fearing such silly things like sleeping on her stomach because that is how the people in hell do it. It probably draws on imagery of female oppression be it honor killings, severe social and mobility restrictions within Islam, the niqab, punishments for adultery...

Then of course, it gets interesting. As this is ultimately a girl who grew up in California, and she recognizes that her oppression is not their oppression. She is not suffering oppression at the hands of the Taliban.

One gets a slight hint of what she thinks is harm/oppression when she talks about the following dichotomy.


  •  When she was Muslim she thought her hijab and loose fitting clothing made her free, because of all the women in California who felt oppressed and they had to be skinny and dress well.
  • When she left Islam, she thought the Muslims still in Hijab were oppressed hiding their sexuality
She goes on with several more examples, and they get shallower and shallower. In the end, you really wonder if she is actually talking about oppression at all. What she is actually advocating is to be treated like in the way she wants without any standards or expectations for her.

Someone in the psyche, she drifts from taboos that oppress people to anything that could offend someone. There is an undertone of challenging all taboos that make anyone feel bad.

The World of No Standards/Expectations

This is ultimately what she is talking about. It doesn't matter how fat/skinny/good looking a girl is, she should feel no pressure to be better. People who work hard to look good shouldn't get extra attention from people. She lives in California. There are no laws forcing women to look good or be skinny. You're free to do as you like. You just accept what comes from it. The good and the bad.

I never quite understood this obsession against beauty standards. It takes a lot of effort to be good looking and healthy. It shows you eat right, have discipline, care about your sexuality, exercise, care about your health... And people who are inclined in that manner will take that into account. Men and women look at each other's beauty.

In a similar way, intelligent standards are there as well. It takes effort to be intelligent, well-read, conversational. People who are inclined in that manner will take that into account.

Men also have standard and expectations to have a good job, provide for the family,  handle gross tasks, handle tasks for strength, good looking...

I wonder what standards for men she has that are oppressing them?

She goes even further down the rabbit hole equating oppression when attending atheist events and it is expected that you partake and drink alcohol. Oh, how this reminds her of the oppression in her Islamic community where maybe people were expected to pray!.

The World is Full Of Expectations

Sadly, despite all of reality coming down on them, she refuses to accept that the world has expectations and standards. If you have friends, they will expect you to show up for their birthday. If you have family, they will expect you to take care of them. If you have a job, your boss will expect you to show up for work. If you are in a relationship, your better half will expect you to be there sexually and emotionally. If you are in a book club, you are expected to read and discuss the books. If you go to a party, you are expected to have fun and participate. If you join a sports team, you are expected to show up for practice, be on your teams side...

Freedom in a Free Society.

That the freer the society the more it leaves social norms, taboos, and rules to be your own choice. This is the difference from an oppressive society that does not give you this choice. There are legal punishments or authoritative punishment against it.

You are free to not care about beauty standards. Someone else is free not to date you.
You are free to reject religion. Religious people are free not to associate with you.
You are free to wear the niqab. People are free not to talk to you.

Note, in this section, I said the 'freer' the society, the more it leaves social norms and what not to be your own choice. I did that on purpose as it is a gradual line between freedom and oppression.
For example, many laws are crafted regarding the work place to ensure people can earn a living.
So for example, it is illegal not to hire someone just because they are Muslim.
Most free societies are not totally free, but they do try and maximize it for people.

Freedom means being able to choose the people you associate with. If the people you grew up do not agree with your values and you feel oppressed, freedom allows you to spend more time with other people more in line with your values.

To an extent, she acknowledges. Yet, still views it as a negative when/taboo/oppressive when people are made to feel bad/excluded...

It of course gets very complex when you have a sub-society that you feel you belong to. Your cultural community or even your family. In a way, your parents or elders or community leaders can appear as authority figures in your mind. No doubt, your parents were basically our own law for much of your life. If you feel oppressed there, it can definitely be painful, yet in the end, you are free to not associate. The community has many benefits for people, but like any association in life, it has its costs. In a free society, you must weigh the impacts.

In the end you could classify your family or community as either free or oppressive on a similar scale based on how much they will accept of your own life choices.

The family is a bit of an exception as that is simply who you are born into and have little choice as to who you grew up with and became close to for most of your life. Yet, for the rest of it, you have every choice. From friends to boy/girl friends, to husband/wife, to associates, to clubs...

Oppression is not Feeling Bad

Perhaps it is a classic case of a first world problem. She wants to go through life being treated in the best way by all people regardless of her beliefs, her actions... Never feeling rejected or excluded.
But of course, humans are group species. We don't have the time to know every single person on this planet of 6 billion people. We know and associate and care for the few in our group.

To any group, there is then going to exclude those outside the group. Each group has its own values and beliefs and things it considers 'good'. If you are found doing something bad according to their standards, then they will make you feel bad.

If you are too different from the norm of the group, you are bound to violate their social norms/tahoos and are likely to feel bad in some way.

Taboos Based On Something

To work around this, she tries very hard to come up with some vague notion of 'valid' taboos.That is to say, she thinks there are 'rational' social norms that are based on something meaningful. These are to be included in society.

Of course, all norms and taboos have a meaning.

Even something as pointless as 'Muslims not eating Pork'. That makes a lot of sense. Eating pork would offend Muslims. It shows your adherence to Islam. It shows that you are willing to not eat one kind of meat when everything else is available. Alcohol is harmful. That is a good reason for it to be taboo. The family unit should be strong. Extra-marital sex should be taboo. Women should be healthy for childbirth and good looking for their husbands. So beauty standards are good.

Most taboos she lists means something to someone in a very rational manner.
In the end, what she is really arguing for is taboos that she doesn't agree with (read as taboos that make her feel bad) must be excluded.

Rather than simply using freedom to do her own thing and hang around people like her, she seem to imply there is a rational set of taboos that she can use and only those can be validated. Mostly, it relies on taboos that hurt someone, but like I said, every broken taboo or broken cultural norm hurts someone.

Even something as non-controversial as an introvert not showing up to their friend's party. Their friend is hurt if they break the taboo and don't show up. The introvert is hurt because they are forced to attend.


Taboos and Laws


And of course, she makes the claim that this is just talk; she has no power to enforce it over someone? Yet, that is a pretty silly argument given the laws we have passed. There is always a mixing of social norms and laws.

In prior times, it might have been taboo for a man to leave his wife unsupported. But today, we have laws of alimony and child support. We have laws against sexual harassment. We have laws against freedom of speech. We have laws against nudity...

The history of social justice is not simply talk and to suggest otherwise is very disingenuous.





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