In today’s New York Times Sunday Review, Frank Bruni interviews author Joyce Carol Oates in a piece called “Tweeting toward sacrilege.”
I hadn’t realized that the literarily prolific Oates had a Twitter feed—nor that she was an atheist—and it seems uncharacteristic, but she does use Twitter (here) and is quite prolific. As Bruni reports, her recent tw–ts dealt with the problem of sexual harassment and rape in Egypt:
On her Twitter feed she saw a statistic that chilled her. And she tweeted, “Where 99.3% of women report having been sexually harassed & rape is epidemic — Egypt — natural to inquire: what’s the predominant religion?” [Bruni, by the way, notes that the 99.3% figure is questionable.]
. . . She also wrote, “ ‘Rape culture’ has no relationship to any ‘religious culture’ — how can this be? Religion has no effect on behavior at all?”
Fellow writers and intellectuals freaked. On various byways of the Internet, she was blasted for anti-Muslim bigotry. A “furor,” The Wall Street Journal called it, and in a headline no less.
Oh, for crying out loud? The Islamophobia canard again. If people claim that misogyny in Muslim cultures has nothing to do with religion, they’re blind, and I won’t engage them. Oates is eminently sensible in her interview:
Oates calls herself a humanist, rejects the conventional notion of divinity and told me, “I don’t have a sense that there are sacred institutions. To me, all religions and all churches are created by human beings.” In that regard, she added, “They’re not that different from, say, the whole legal culture or the medical culture or the scientific culture.” About which you can say or ask almost anything at all.
SHE finds certain barriers and etiquette curious. “If you thought that women were being mistreated 50 miles from where you are, you might want to go help them,” she said. “But if you were told it was a religious commune or something, you’d think, ‘Uh-oh, that’s their religion, maybe I shouldn’t help them.’ It’s like religion is under a dome. It gives an imprimatur to behavior that shouldn’t be tolerated.”
Is she saying that Islam oppresses women?
Although she expressed concern about Shariah law, she didn’t go that far, and she noted that most religions were patriarchies.
Islam stands out for her in terms of the extra-special sensitivity surrounding discussion of it. . . “We can have cartoons about the pope,” she said. “Making fun of the pope just seems to be something that a Catholic might do.” She added, “But if you have a cartoon, or make a film, about radical Islam, then you’re in danger of your life.”
Oates is surprised at the media kerfuffle her tw–ts engendered, but if she’d been following the Islamophobia crowd like Glenn Greenwald, it was entirely predictable.
She shook her head, looked toward her llama-less yard [she's buying a her of llamas] and said, “It’s a little surprising to me that social media have turned out to be kind of prissy and prim and politically correct.”
And racist towards Muslims, who aren’t expected to behave as well as everyone else. Really, whose fault is it that you risk death by publishing a cartoon about Mohamed? The West’s?
h/t: Greg Mayuer