Islam was the party religion, or, why it is lazy and essentialist to say that Islam oppresses women

Y’all may have heard about how the French are being super uncool about letting ladies wear whatever the fuck they want to the beach at the minute. Like me, you also might be having your various social media feeds blow up with a bunch of basic-ass Beckies trying to justify this.  “But Islam is just SO oppressive of women!”, they type.  Because in the West women are totally equal now, not paid less than their male counter parts, told what they need to wear, and blamed for their own sexual assault.  It’s totally fine here!

Yes, it is true that these fools are available as a part of Sainsbury’s reasonably priced own-brand range, cuz they basic as hell.  But would you like to explain to them the historical facts for why that is?  Sure you would!  Let me help.

Islam is near and dear to the hearts of most medieval historians because it is the only major world religion that began in the medieval period. In a very quick span of time it swept from the Arabian peninsula, across the top of Africa over to Spain, and out East across Persia, and unto the Asian steppes.  Islam was on fleek as hell in the medieval period.

One of the reasons why it was so popular?  Muslims were having way way more fun than their Christian neighbours.  Witness, my friends The Tale of Two Hasish-Eaters from the 1001 nights wherein Sharhrazad breaks us off to a balling ass story about getting too high on edibles, comparing dick size, and then pissing on the Sultan.  Truly it is a tale for the ages.

The Tale of the Hashish Eater (there’s just one guy getting high in this story) tells us all about how this dude, much like A$AP Rocky, loved Bad Bitches (aka fair women), ‘and spent his substance on them, till he became so poor that nothing remained to him’.  See, in the Islamic world it was possible to get high as FUCK and spit game at ladies.  The society was open enough that people were out and about in mixed company. This is not what was going down in Christian society, where as I have already explained, dudes were mostly sitting around holding their boners and looking at the married lady they lived with.

Hell, in the Islamic world women were allowed to train as doctors.  Yeah it was because men weren’t supposed to be checking them out, but in the Christian world women were specifically prohibited from practicing medicine after it became regulated and taught at university.  The women who continued to do so (mostly midwives) were then the subject of witch-hunts in the Early Modern period.  SUPER EVOLVED EUROPE.

Even the stories from the medieval period where Christians try to persuade us that Muslims are monsters make it look way more fun to be Muslim.  For instance, the martyrdom of St. Leocritia in Cordoba which appears in Eulogius’s Martyrs of Cordoba gives us a glimpse into a pretty awesome world for ladies.  Leocritia decides she wants to convert to Christianity (which was possible even in Muslim al Andalus because Muslims always let Jews and Christians stay in town in order to tax them). Off she goes to the local cathedral (cuz the Christians were so oppressed they were allowed to have whole bishoprics), and she and Eulogius make a PLAN.  Leocritia dresses up all sluty-styles (That’s a reclaimed word.  All praises to the sluts.) and tells her parents she’s off to party at some wedding.  They’re like, ‘K BYE BITCH!’, because in the Muslim world you could go full slapper and then walk off unattended to a wedding by yourself.

Anyway because Leocritia was boring as hell, and apparently wasn’t in to dressing up super-hot and going to parties, she went and hid in Eulogius’s crib instead.  Eventually the police show up and are like – ‘Yo priest dude, any chance that you’ve got a young woman sleeping in your house?  Cuz her parents are looking for her.’ And Eulogius is like, ‘YES.  AND SHE IS CHRISTIAN NOW SO YOU’LL NEED TO KILL US BOTH.’  The police are like, no seriously, just send the girl home and she’ll go back to parties and we’ll pretend this didn’t happen.’ Eulogius – ‘NO THANKS.  PLEASE KILL US BOTH NOW THANKS.’  The police, ‘Um, ok?’ Who is being awesome to women here – not the damn Christians, that’s who.

Now I’m not trying to say that it was a free-for-all for Muslim women in the medieval period. Their lives, like the lives of most women then (AND FUCKING NOW) were limited because of the patriarchy (which hurts us all).  They did, however, wield an impressive amount of power, and have fairly open lives, especially when compared to Christian women at the time.

The point is that Islam is no more oppressive to women than any other religion.  Hell Islamic society as a whole isn’t more oppressive to women than any other society. (Except that one in, like, interior interior Tibet/Nepal where the women run everything and have fuck boys come to their huts at night or whatever. Look it up. And pay attention in Anthropology class.)

Some governments in Islamic countries have been riding the coattails of Wahhabism since the seventies and using Islam as an excuse for treating women like garbage really hard, it’s true. That is some shit that took off in the last fifty years though.  And it’s not a part of Islam as a whole.  To say those douches are like Muslims as a whole is to say that the Duggars or the creepy Mormons who marry their sisters in rural Utah are representatives of Christians.  They are not.

Historically, Islam has been way kinder to women on the whole.  So maybe just chill the fuck out and let women wear whatever they damn well please to the beach – k?


For more on women in the medieval period see:
These hoes ain’t loyal – on prostitutes and bad bitches in medieval and hip hop culture
Such a nasty woman – on Eleanor of Aquitaine, femininity, reputation, and power

On women and desire
On Hotline Bling and courtly love
Let’s talk about Game of Thrones part 2: on marriage and Sansa

(This was originally posted 24 August 2016 here.)

Author: Dr Eleanor Janega

Medieval historian, lush, Kanye apologist.

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