A sweet little propaganda morsel in the Bennington Banner instructs us that women covered head to toe in black is beautiful. We are to find this beautiful.

Nowhere in her celebration of invisible women does the propagandist remember to add that we are also to find children – just little girls, of course – covered head to toe beautiful; or that we are to find compulsory female covering in Iran and other countries beautiful. Varied, beautiful, and you’re going to jail for a long time if you and your children don’t veil.

“Many modern nuns have abandoned” their black coverings, the author notes, and I wonder why. And I wonder why it doesn’t occur to her that there’s a difference between modern nuns free to abandon old ways and millions of Afghan and Saudi women (ordinary women, not people who have joined religious orders) who face imprisonment and even death if they throw off their robes. Who at the very least face physical attacks on the street from men who see them uncovered.

The author tsk-tsks all the weird unwoke anti-burqa legislation coming out of Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, but never inquires about whether that legislation means anything other than (as she believes) visceral hatred and fear.

“Within our own country and around the world, religious garments say, ‘I believe this.”

Sometimes they say that. Sometimes they say I revile what I’m wearing but I can’t do anything about it. Sometimes they say There are places in the world where men can legally fully cover women, or intimidate them into being fully covered, but this secular republic shouldn’t be one of them.

And it matters what this is, doesn’t it? Are we really not allowed to judge people who say “I believe apostates should be killed”? What about people who say “I believe we should bring back burning at the stake”?

One way to avoid writing propaganda is to read a little bit about your subject. The question of veiling is not solved by agreeing to judge something that a lot of people find appalling beautiful. The matter is complex. One might start here.

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