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September 23, 2007

Comments

The belief that women who have sex outside marriage must die for it is expressed in conservative religious culture in the US by legislation which ensures that women will be unable to get contraception, unable to get a legal abortion, and unable to support a child.

The key difference is that the people who argue for anti-choice enforcement in general do so by deliberately evading the known and direct consequences - women dying.

This is on my mind because Amnesty International decided in April this year that they would support access to abortion as a human rights issue, in cases of rape or incest, and especially in war zones. The Catholic Church promptly withdrew all support from Amnesty, and recently a Catholic school in Northern Ireland that had an Amnesty group (writing letters to prisoners after school, probably - that was what ours did) has had that group banned and disbanded.

I like to think that if men like this one were actually faced with the victims whose anguish and pain they dismiss, they couldn't react so indifferently. But honestly, faced with the reality that men who think women exist as property will kill them close up and personal, and call it "honor", I suspect that these men who think women's pain and suffering is something to be ignored would be just as able to ignore it up close and personal.

This isn't something unusual and far away and strange. Honor killings in Syria or death by illegal abortion in the US: the result of a culture where women are regarded as the property of their families.

Amy, my co-blogger (and girlfriend) wrote about this as well, and tied it into the piece from earlier in the week about Dr. Haidt's desire to "extend the accepted categories of moral behavior beyond 'do no harm' and 'do unto others' to include 'loyalty,' 'respect for authority,' and 'purity.'"

I don't mean for this to come off as blogwhoring--I just don't have much to add to what's already been said.

then the intense focus on female sexual morality is a response to the collapse of most other forms of honor

*ding ding ding* We have a winner!

And it's a testable hypothesis, too. I bet (or hypothesize, anyway) that in pro-honor-killing communities men talk more to each other about women, and less about work, money, politics, or even sports. There must be few other arenas in which they have anything to actually talk (=boast) about.

How can your family members' involuntary acts possibly reflect badly on your honor?

I think you're right, hilzoy, to suggest that a culture that sees women as property contributes to this belief. I would also add that it's not at all unusual for us to feel ashamed of things that aren't "our fault", and that can extend to our families as well. Think of a man ashamed that his father was poor: A common enough scenario, hardly laudable, but psychologically understandable.

It's a very long way from there to an honor killing, which is of course an abhorrent practice, but maybe they're on the same spectrum.

Its very peculiar to me how cultures that allow/require honor killing view female sexuality. On the one hand, women are not allowed to own themselves sexually, their fathers or brothers or husbands must act as their guardians. Women are not allowed to have sex with, or even to marry, the person they prefer, they are not allowed to make these decisions for themselves.

On the other hand, women are seen as totally responsible not only for their own actions, but for the actions of the men who see them as sexual objects. At least, that's the only way I can explain to myself the strict requirements on dress, so a woman doesn't tempt a man to sin, and the blaming of the rape victim for her own rape.

This is the strangest part of this type of thinking, to me, how women can be seen to be simultaneously completely responsible and not responsible at all for their sexuality.

"...intense focus on female sexual morality is a response to the collapse of most other forms of honor."

That's an interesting hypothesis. You are not only suggesting an historical correlation but a causality between social collapse and honor killings. That's it, correct?

So my follow-up question:

Have all/most/many/any other societies in collapse adopted that intense focus? If the standard is something like "the political and economic situation is so bad that some degree of corruption is necessary to survive," then such condition has existed in almost every society at some point. How many of them have adopted honor killings? Or even just "intense focus on female sexual morality" in general?

More broadly, how common is honor killing either now or historically? Surely Syria must be comparable to may other societies? Say, South Vietnam in the 50s and 60s?

There have been many patriarchal/male dominated societies — in fact most or even all societies have been intensely male dominated at one time or another and then also have gone through crises of social order. No? How many adopted honor killing? Russia is I understand incredibly corrupt and basically run by gangs who are become the government; are honor killings widespread in Russia?

Further, is honor killing a new phenomenon in Syria etc etc? Or has honor killing been a practice in Syria for centuries or even milennia?

I think that questions like these would have to be looked into as part of examining your theory.

It's difficult to understand because it's a barbaric outrageous practice that just cannot be comprehended. And I say that as a muslim who follows traditional sunni Islam.

Religion is an excuse here. This is men, experiencing a loss of control over their politcal, financial and intellectual experiences in an oppressive regime, fiercely hanging on to the one thing they think they still own and control - their women.

every single time an honor killing is carried out, some brother or father or cousin has to stand, as Zahra's brother did, over the body of someone he loves, someone who has in some cases already been victimized, and kill her. That's a very hard thing to do.

Doesn't seem to be, at the rate it happens. And other women in the family can be some of the most determined enablers of 'enforcement' (I'm thinking of several cases of Pakistani women killed outside Pakistan).

This is a tribal practice, not Islam. It's a combination of the deepest woman-hating and a grim, hierarchical f****'ed up conception of property.

It's not only about sexuality, but about maintaining the tribal barriers. Marrying the 'wrong' person can be as lethal as being raped.

Great post.

In _From Beirut to Jerusalem_ there's a relevant parable (I think told twice) retold here:

An elderly Bedouin leader thought that by eating turkey he could restore his virility. So he bought a turkey, kept it by his tent and stuffed it with food every day. One day someone stole his turkey. The Bedouin elder called his sons together and told them: "Boys, we are in great danger. Someone has stolen my turkey." "Father," the sons answered, "what do you need a turkey for?"

"Never mind," he answered, "just get me back my turkey." But the sons ignored him and a month later someone stole the old man's camel. "What should we do?" the sons asked. "Find my turkey," said the father. But the sons did nothing, and a few weeks later the man's daughter was raped. The father said to his sons: "It is all because of the turkey. When they saw that they could take my turkey, we lost everything."

David Sucher: I don't think I was suggesting that when other forms of honor collapse, people will necessarily focus on female sexuality. I did mean to say: they might focus on something it seems to them they can control. (Likewise, when your neighborhood is collapsing around you, nothing about that fact dictates that you try to maintain, specifically, your upholstery in immaculate condition.)

Some people or cultures might not respond by clinging to anything. Some might respond by clinging to something. Whether that something was female sexual purity would probably depend on other aspects of the culture.

In addition to not understanding how "honor" works in these societies, I feel unable, as a product of this one, to understand how "shame" functions in much of the world. I don't understand how someone could be shamed by something s/he couldn't control, whether the behavior of another or by having contracted cancer. Somehow these exterior events create "shame." I literally don't know what that is.

Much of literature turns on the responses people have to having been "shamed" -- from curses invoked in the Psalms, to that misogynist masterpiece Kristin Lavansdatur, through the Georgian courtships in Jane Austen.

Obviously in more patriarchal cultures, women are prime occasions of "shame" -- but what is this "shame" anyway?

I read this article in the NYT, too. In fact, I just published a book about this same ugly phenomenon as it goes in neighboring Jordan. It's pretty much the same there. . .three penal code articles offer such leniency to "honor" killers that the average sentence is only six months.

However, I conducted a nationwide survey of the Jordanian public's attitudes and opinions about this. And a full 89% of the people in my representative sample support toughening the sentences for these crimes (another 3.5% are neutral, and 7.5% like things just the way they are). So the people seem to be far ahead of the leadership on this issue. One wonders why they just don't overturn those laws and treat these cases like other murders.

I, too, found the confusion among the public as to whether Islam condones these crimes. It does not, but about one in five people in my sample thinks it does and that, thus, they must kill when they believe their family honor has been besmirched in some way. There's definitely room in the mosques and in the schools to correct this misconception. And for people who know better to lean heavily on these folks.

About this notion of honor, since the phrase "honor" killing seems to be almost an oxymoron for native speakers of English, maybe it is easier to think of these crimes as killings in an attempt to cleanse or restore family honor. In most cultures in which these crimes occur, a family's honor resides almost solely in its women, not its men. That is supposedly the basis for the double standard that some of you have pointed out. And, yes, the notion of honor does seem to be very sex-centric. So the girls and the women of the family will be much watched over, protected, expected to be modest and covered, virgins on their wedding day, held to a different standard from the men. And even in cases as extreme as Zahra's, where she was raped, she was held to a higher standard of morality than her rapist because (the thinking goes) her actions brought dishonor to her family.

"Honor" killings are believed to have their origins in misinterpretations of pre-Islamic Arab tribal codes. Thus, they pre-date Islam. . .by centuries.

I hope this clears up some of the wonderments. It's nice to see people discuss this issue so thoughtfully. . .and to care.

Ellen R. Sheeley, Author
"Reclaiming Honor in Jordan"

Tearing knife thrusts to a woman’s head are relatively humane. It is worse for prostitutes:

http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5hyiTSmb03Z5Lf9osAxZ_m7JTQRBA

ERS, if these killings are unpopular in Jordan, why do they not lead to cycles of reprisals and hence make it prohibitively dangerous to carry them out?

I vaguely recalled a heated debate some years ago (in Norway), after someone claimed that honor killings were common in Norway (and in the west) as well, it's just that we expect the man to kill himself afterwards as well, and refer to it as a "family tragedy".

Do you think there's anything to that?

Amanda Marcotte recently cited a book called Why Do They Kill? based on interviews with men who had murdered their wives/girlfriends, and women who were survivors of attempted murder by a husband/boyfriend:

To the last one, the murders and attempted murders were the finale of a long history of increasingly violent domestic violence. In pretty much every situation, the man was attempting to control his wife or girlfriend through violence. Since it was an attempt to control, the violence escalated when the victim showed resistance, so unsurprisingly, most of the murders or attempted murders occurred after the victim left her abuser, made plans to leave him, or threatened to leave him. There were a few infidelities, but they were never the direct cause of the crime—most of the jealous killers made up the infidelity in their minds (some even accused their wives of having sex with male relatives like uncles or fathers, they were so out of their minds with paranoia) or attacked their ex-wives after the women terminated the relationship and moved on. Some of the killers were not jealous, but just killed or tried to kill because they were irate at losing their wives and the services/money they saw provided by their wives, but regardless of the nuances, across the board Adams paints a picture of men who feel that women are their property and who try to control their property through violence.

So, yeah. Men who feel that women are property are more likely to kill them or abuse them. (AFAIK, the pattern of murder-suicide tends to happen when a man kills his children, then himself, rather than when he kills "his woman", though a man who murders his children may also decide to murder his wife.)

Nobody mentioned Turkey yet? The topic became hot in Germany (and then in Turkey too) over a case of a Turkish girl in Berlin killed by her youngest brother (chosen becauee he was too young to be punished as an adult) because the family disapproved of her "Western" lifestyle.
Partially as result there is now also a crackdown on that in Turkey itself.
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The practice of honor killing (coerced suicide) was also common in ancient Rome (e.g. the case of Lucretia) and in (Konfucian) China. The idea in both cases is that women represent the family honor and have to prove their innocence in case of rape by suicide. For St.Augustine even that was not enough. He demanded that a woman should suffer death before rape. The North Germanic law tradition demanded that a raped woman either commit suicide or rise hell immediately after being violated otherwise she would be considered "consenting".
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A very bad "tradition" indeed, not just in Arab countries.

The problem certainly isn't limited to Muslim countries: there was a recent case in Britain of 'honour killing' in a Sikh family. It's also inherent in some Old Testament regulations (see Deuteronomy 22: 13-29). I think in cultures where this happens it's a combination of two traditions. One is a tradition of violent self-help by individuals/families (as in many countries with a weak state): you solve your own problems by your own rules. The other is a feeling that the individual is far less important than the family: an individual is just a means to the real end, which is the family/tribe surviving. In that view, an individual who doesn't contribute to the family or actively 'harms' it can legitimately be excluded from the family and/or treated as if dead. (Such an attitude has remained common until relatively recently, as in the social exclusion of those who married beneath them or fell from grace in nineteenth century Britain). When the two meet together you get a singularly nasty combination. Ironically, given all the Christian right's emphasis on family values, I think it's the anti-family strain in Christianity (that your alliegance to God comes before your family responsibilities) that is one reason for the development of a Western sensibility that individual rights outweigh those of families. (I don't know if there's a similar view on families versus individuals in e.g. Buddhist tradition).

Off-topic (or maybe it's not), Thomas Friedman used the turkey story (referred to above) to explain why the US 'had' to attack Iraq: that unless it protected its honour in that way, it would be attacked more fiercely. He ignored the obvious problem: that you end up with bloody, probably long-term tribal war over a turkey, because once you start violent responses, it's terribly hard to stop them.

Hartmut - I think you're wrong about St Augustine. In the City of God, Book 1 (chapters 16-20) he specifically condemns women who commit suicide either to prevent rape or after it, mentioning the case of Lucretia. He can see (at least there) that it's consent that matters.

@magistra,
Yes, you're right. St. Augustinus also considers that anyone raped is still a virgin in the spiritual sense, if she has not experienced pleasure during the rape.

Indeed, I think that the idea of honour killing is despicable. The rapist should be the one to suffer. Killing a defenceless woman instead of the man responsible is simply cowardice. Of course, it may be sane cowardice, as you may spark a blood feud by killing the man, but it is still cowardice.

You know, I am a fully Western man, and I have seriously pondered with some of my relatives beating up a man who kept a cousin of ours as a mistress without a thought of marrying her. We decided not to do it, but still, the idea was enticing. The beast is around, but it's easy to keep it in check when you know that the police would not appreciate.

Lurker: You know, I am a fully Western man, and I have seriously pondered with some of my relatives beating up a man who kept a cousin of ours as a mistress without a thought of marrying her.

As I said: the notion that women are property, to be disposed of by their family, is pervasive.

Ms Sheeley,
I'm wondering what the role of other women in the family structure is. Can you provide any insight into if/how women within the family structure participate in honor killings? I believe that this marks a difference between honor killings and the book reviewed by Amanda Marcotte, in that the cases described in the latter book arise because the women has little or no support, whereas honor killings, if I understand correctly, find the women relatives complicit in approving the action.

Magistra, maybe I was not precise enough. I did not mean that St.Augustine wanted the women to commit suicide but to resist rape to the death. The text I had in mind (no link, we had it in Latin at school long ago and it may be not from De Civitate Dei) insinuated that Lucretia could be guilty because she was given the choice between death and rape and did not choose the former. I think from the original context of the story it is clear that she committed suicide before witnesses in order to indicate the rapist, avert suspicion about her death, to clear her name (and that of the family) and possibly to incite the revolution. What St.A. does in my opinion is sowing doubt about her "virtue". I have to admit that I have a very low opinion of St.A. and consider him to be a major source of evil in theology/European history.
While we are at it: John Paul II. beatified a girl for resisting rape to the death.
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I think one main difference between the (modern) Western and the "traditional" view is that we consider "honor" a personal matter and not a life-and-death thing anymore, while the old view is that a person is defined as part of the family/community and that therefore the higher entity is responsible for and affected by the actions of any member. "Honor" of the whole in that context outweighs "mere life" of a part.
In some cultures that covers both men and women, i.e. a man is expected to take the final consequences for dishonorable behaviour too. The real problem starts when a woman's value is reduced to her "virtue" Some authors use the image of a leaky vessel (not a ship) that cannot be mended for a "fallen" woman, implicating that the reason of the leak does not matter.
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And to again indicate that the West is not necessarily superior in that, remember the Magdalene laundries (the last closed in 1996). To be "not above suspicion" as a reason for lifelong slavery comes from the same poisonous vein.

Several years ago in Cleveland there was a high-profile case in which a young woman was killed in an apparent "honor killing" by, I believe, her own father. (She hadn't been raped, nor had she been behaving in what a reasonable person would consider a wanton manner; she was dating a boy the father didn't like.) IIRC the prosecutor also tried to indict other family members on accessory or conspiracy charges, in part to bring attention to the whole honor killing issue, but I don't remember far enough back to remember the outcome. I'll see if I can find it later. I just remember thinking at the time, "If you don't like the boy she's dating, kill him."

if these killings are unpopular in Jordan, why do they not lead to cycles of reprisals and hence make it prohibitively dangerous to carry them out?

"Unpopular" is one thing; putting oneself and one's family at risk is another.

One can be willing to see the state punish lots of things that one wouldn't take the time, effort, or risk to punish on one's own.

Minor nit: Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah is NOT the "spiritual leader of Hezbollah" (though he's often referred to as the same) - Hizbullah's official spiritual leader is Khameini of Iran; many Lebanese members of Hizbullah take their lead from Fadlallah; he sometimes agrees, sometimes disagrees with Hizbullah's positions.

Also, with Anderson: It's likely that the popularity of honor killings is concentrated in certain areas, so the majority in those areas will approve of them. (And they're likely to be crazy, violence-prone rednecks).

Imagine a poll taken in the United States in the early 19th century: Slavery would come out pretty unpopular, as a whole. But only wacky religious radicals actually went out of their way to antagonize the slaveholders that lived in the parts of the country where it was popular, because hey, who needs to borrow trouble?

I think you have to go back one step actually and explore why some cultures view girls and women as property. I'm not sure that it's (only) a matter of "the collapse of most other forms of honor" as much as the collapse of what one has through which to identify oneself to the rest of society (i.e., what one owns). Or maybe it's even simpler than that. In some cultures, women are the one asset that families can exchange to better their position, and "damaged" goods are not as tempting to potential benefactors.

Indeed Western culture (see: French and/or English literature) is rife with narratives based on the dilemma of the pretty young woman being encouraged/forced by her family to marry the brutish, but rich, villian and NOT to lose her virginity to the dashing young, but poor, man she truly loves. The fate of the woman who disappoints her family may not be a brutal killing, but it's often rather gruesome all the same. All in all, the basic premise is perhaps the same, no?

How far back in Western culture does one need to go to find ample examples of women being treated more or less like property? I hope the Syrians are going through the same awakening we did such a relatively short time ago ourselves.

"First, every single time an honor killing is carried out, some brother or father or cousin has to stand, as Zahra's brother did, over the body of someone he loves, someone who has in some cases already been victimized, and kill her."

This reminds me of something Sam Harris said in the End of Faith, which I paraphrase, not having a copy of the book on hand: "Do men in countries without honor killing love their wives and sisters and daughters more than men in countries that have it? Of course they do."

That is to say, hilzoy, I think you misstep when you use the term "love" in this case. It seems to me to imply that love can be defined as nothing more than a sense of ownership or desire for control. Surely people use the word sometimes when that's what they mean, but is it what you mean?

Hilzoy: Apparently, many Syrians believe that honor killings are required by Islam. As I understand it, this is false.

I think you are correct here. IMO the strongest evidence is jahilayah. Before the arrival of Islam Arabs would sometimes bury their infant daughters alive just to insure that they wouldn’t shame the family in the future. Proactive I guess. OTOH Kurds also do this – so it is not just an Arab thing. More likely it is a regional tribal tradition of some kind.

I don’t think we can blame it entirely on men treating women as property because women support and even participate in honor killings.

If this is right, then the intense focus on female sexual morality is a response to the collapse of most other forms of honor. When you live in a corrupt dictatorship and you cannot uphold your own dignity by refusing to participate in corruption, by speaking up for what you believe in, by being honest and noble and brave and true, then perhaps you might think: well, at least there is this one thing I can still control: my daughters, my sisters.

I question this due to it occurring within immigrant groups in western society.
Europe, Canada, even the US IIRC.

Good resource here tracking honor killings world wide.

OCSteve: I don’t think we can blame it entirely on men treating women as property because women support and even participate in honor killings.

I think you'll find that in a culture where members of Group B are treated and regarded as property of Group A, some members of Group B will agree that they are property and cooperate with Group A in keeping all members of Group B in their place as property. See: female pro-life campaigners, or black slave-owners.

That women often support or participate in honor killings, dowry murders, pro-life campaigns, or other methods of controlling women and treating women as property, doesn't in any way prove that the source of these customs isn't women being regarded as the property of men.

OCSteve:

I think, though, that immigrant groups within Western society would definitely find themselves cut off from traditional sources of "honor" = male reputation.

And just because women participate doesn't mean it's not about men treating women as property. Women participate to ensure that they personally are treated as *valuable* property.

OTOH Kurds also do this – so it is not just an Arab thing. More likely it is a regional tribal tradition of some kind.

don't forget the Chinese!

I don't know if there's any point in saying it, but Jesurgislac, you have, if possible, become even more extreme since last time. You have used the opportunity for lashing out fiercely at anyone pro-life, three times already in this thread as far as I can count, and no one takes you up on it (unless you count this), yet you go on and on and on.

Yes, Jes, I _know_ you think pro-lifers are worse than waterboarding slave-owning wife-beating child-burying fascist dictators. Any chance of you limiting yourself to, say _one_ posting per thread to remind us?

I was under the impression that people who committed honor killings thought of them as mercy killings -- that the woman was suffering so terribly from her shame that killing her was a favor.

At least that explanation makes the moral deliberation come out a little more comprehensible, even if that hardly seems to be what went on in the cases discussed.

Please don’t misunderstand this as a defense of the perverse notion of honor killing but I think that there is a great misrepresentation in the formulation that so-called honor killings devolve from a sense that women are property. In much of the Middle East and in much of Asia the unit is not the individual but the family. I think this is particularly difficult for westerners to comprehend - that neither men nor women per se have existential value as we see it in the West but that the basic unit is the family, with the individual being only an (incomplete) particle of the unitary family. Out of this basic sense the growth of relation is then extended family, clan and tribe, all more or less fluid entities but entities which affect and have effect upon the family and upon which the family is mirrored, either in honor or shame. Anthropologically, the differentiation of male and female lies in the roles within the family- generally speaking women face inward and men outward such that the woman’s role is tending the nuclear family while the man deals with the outer world. Or women deal with the particular while men with the general.

The criticism that women are devalued in a western sense remains a criticism from outside, which cannot touch the structural sense in which such societies view the world. One can object to the view of the society but one should realize that such criticism is assuming completely different definitions of what makes up a functioning whole and is, in that sense, irrelevant.

Please don’t misunderstand this as a defense of the perverse notion of honor killing but I think that there is a great misrepresentation in the formulation that so-called honor killings devolve from a sense that women are property. In much of the Middle East and in much of Asia the unit is not the individual but the family. I think this is particularly difficult for westerners to comprehend - that neither men nor women per se have existential value as we see it in the West but that the basic unit is the family, with the individual being only an (incomplete) particle of the unitary family. Out of this basic sense the growth of relation is then extended family, clan and tribe, all more or less fluid entities but entities which affect and have effect upon the family and upon which the family is mirrored, either in honor or shame. Anthropologically, the differentiation of male and female lies in the roles within the family- generally speaking women face inward and men outward such that the woman’s role is tending the nuclear family while the man deals with the outer world. Or women deal with the particular while men with the general.

The criticism that women are devalued in a western sense remains a criticism from outside, which cannot touch the structural sense in which such societies view the world. One can object to the view of the society but one should realize that such criticism is assuming completely different definitions of what makes up a functioning whole and is, in that sense, irrelevant.

Please don’t misunderstand this as a defense of the perverse notion of honor killing but I think that there is a great misrepresentation in the formulation that so-called honor killings devolve from a sense that women are property. In much of the Middle East and in much of Asia the unit is not the individual but the family. I think this is particularly difficult for westerners to comprehend - that neither men nor women per se have existential value as we see it in the West but that the basic unit is the family, with the individual being only an (incomplete) particle of the unitary family. Out of this basic sense the growth of relation is then extended family, clan and tribe, all more or less fluid entities but entities which affect and have effect upon the family and upon which the family is mirrored, either in honor or shame. Anthropologically, the differentiation of male and female lies in the roles within the family- generally speaking women face inward and men outward such that the woman’s role is tending the nuclear family while the man deals with the outer world. Or women deal with the particular while men with the general.

The criticism that women are devalued in a western sense remains a criticism from outside, which cannot touch the structural sense in which such societies view the world. One can object to the view of the society but one should realize that such criticism is assuming completely different definitions of what makes up a functioning whole and is, in that sense, irrelevant.

sorry, I hit my browser back button and found I had tripled my comment

Harold: Yes, Jes, I _know_ you think pro-lifers are worse than waterboarding slave-owning wife-beating child-burying fascist dictators.

Actually, you made that up. Shame on you.

But yes: the indifference to women's lives - the belief that women are vessels, property, not fully human - is not just something that happens in a strange culture far away. It exists in Western culture, too, and not by Muslim immigration, either. Pro-lifers are an example, and an example (as I linked) in the news right now.

I agree with jesurgislac and I don't think there's any need for a limit on jes's posts any more than there is a limit on other commenter's making the same point over and over again in the course of an ongoing thread.

I think the point being made in the original post that honor killings focused on sex may fill a void in a civil society in which other forms of self/family honor are limited is a good one. That isn't to argue (and I don' thtink hilzoy is arguing this) that *all honor killings* take place in this vacuum or arise in a social vacuum. But I would agree with her that honor killings in a repressive and corrupt dictatorship probably come to occupy a space that would otherwise be taken over by *competition* within families for wealth and honor.

My point is this:
There are lots of forms of status conflict and competition *within* clans/families as well as between them. We tend to hear about the big ones--like arranged marriages, rape, and honor killings but there are lots of ways that younger individuals(males) and secondary families (outcast or despised wives and secondary families) suffer within a patriarchy as goods and services flow upwards to the patriarch and favored family members and elders. In a modern, industrialized, capitalist society a lot of those bonds break down and the patriarchy loses control over its sons *as well as its daughters* and over the joint property of the brothers. This makes the business, the money, the property and the sexual behavior of the component parts of the family of less common concern than under old forms of government. Nowadays in modern american society people are hard pressed to know their own second cousins once removed, let alone to care about their sexual honor or their economic standards. But in a repressive, still partly feudal or command controlled economy there are lots of ways in which membership in the family is the individual's ticket to life and sucess. This means that there isn't any life outside the family, there isn't any political advancement, education, or wealth outside the family and its property and assistance. That makes towing the family line on everything--from what to do with great uncle mustafa's rug to what to do with cousin sohrab's marriage--something to be managed jointly. The same intense struggle we see in lots of joint family systems over property we see over jointly held family "honor"--its not the *women* that are a kind of property (though they are that, too) but the family *honor* that is a kind of property, that can be added to, or lost, or diminished. And hilzoy's point is that in the absence of other ways of augmenting family honor all that is left is fear of its *diminishment* through female sexual activity. The very commonness of female sexual activity, the liminality of the position of women in two families, makes them a common focus of anxiety in a world in which individual men and men in families can achieve very little on their own.

aimai

what possible conception of honor could involve being so strict about sexual morality that even sex that's completely involuntary counts as a stain on one's honor, but so loose about murder that the killing of innocents can be tolerated by it, much less required?

It's a hard concept for Christians in the West to grasp, whose sense of sin is based on volition. For the most part, we've abandoned the concept of impurity as sin (thanks to St. Paul).

But imagine that impurity is sin: then intent has little to do with it. If you discovered one day that the tasty pies you innocently had at Sweeny Todd's for dinner last night were made of people, would the fact that you didn't intend to be a cannibal reduce your sense of nausea and need to find some way--any way--to make yourself be clean again?

Protection of the weak vastly outweighs purity in my sense of morality, so I can't empathise with that kind of sense of honor. But I can imagine how it might exist.

"That makes towing the family line on everything"

Toeing. As in keeping your toe in, or from crossing, that line. Nothing is towed.

I'm sure you must want to know.

A comment on the physics of towing a line.

Thanks gary and rilkefan, actually I *did* know that but having spent years pedantically reminding everyone that its "toe-ing" I've given up, this phrase has gone the way of many another such phrase and there is simply no point fighting the good fight. I've also been fighting "chalk it up to" which mysteriously lots of people write as "cough it up to..."

aimai

How far back in Western culture does one need to go to find ample examples of women being treated more or less like property?

You're seriously asking?

Not far back at all: until the 1970s and 1980s, some U.S. states' laws made it impossible for women to own property, and in others their property became their husbands' on marriage, etc. etc. etc. Napoleonic code.

Marital rape was extremely difficult to prosecute in many states until women's movement organizing and feminist lawyers had an effect.

The Jewish and Christian marriage ceremonies have more than a bit of vestigial women-as-property symbolism (the father of the bride "giving her away", the rings), as you might expect from religions that developed in tribal societies.

what possible conception of honor could involve being so strict about sexual morality that even sex that's completely involuntary counts as a stain on one's honor

Think of "honor" as like one's credit rating. (and, indeed, it can function as a credit rating -- to get loans, for instance.) If you miss credit card payments your credit rating will go down, regardless of whether you missed the payments because you forgot, because you're out of money, or whether you're just stiffing the company.

So the family honor is like the family credit rating: there's something impersonal about it, removed from the thoughts & feelings of the people involved.

But this just supports hilzoy's point: the focus on women's sexual "honor" is like people who have no jobs, no savings, and no house trying to compare credit ratings. There's nothing reasonable (money-related) to use as a basis for comparison, so they're using an essentially arbitrary and pointless index for lack of anything else.

doesn't in any way prove that the source of these customs isn't women being regarded as the property of men.

And just because women participate doesn't mean it's not about men treating women as property.

Fair enough.

I think, though, that immigrant groups within Western society would definitely find themselves cut off from traditional sources of "honor" = male reputation.

I’m not sure I understand this, but then I have to admit that I have no frame of reference for any of this. And I’ll admit that this crosses the line to the extent that I really have little interest in trying to understand it.

I always visualize a canal when I read 'towing the line'.

I got a mule and her name is Sal /
Fifteen miles on the Erie Canal...

I hope I am quoting/paraphrasing you correctly, Hilzoy: "....when other forms of honor collapse....people.....might focus on something it seems to them they can control."

Makes commonsense to me as a general social proposition.

But if it is true that honor killings are ancient social custom — as confirmed by Ellen Sheeley — and not a new phenomenon then why/how can honor killings be a response to a collapse in Syrian society? Some disruption of the past decades or century? What collapse? Was Syria ever an egalitarian/non-corrupt society? Where it was possible to "speak up for what you believe in" without fear? Are conditions in Syria now worse than they have been over the past several millennia or centuries? Greater corruption?With less personal freedom and dignity? And I don't mean dignity on the backs of another. (Questions meant seriously.)

Of course maybe the amount of honor killing is greater now than in the past but I don't know how we would ever develop such a statistic.

And no doubt like every place else in the world, Syria is going through a lot of change. And so some people feel they have lost some rights and the world is topsy-turvy. But if they had a lot of honor killing before then the these dramatic social changes would seem to be neutral.

And btw, should we take a statement like —

“Our parents tell us that there was an earlier day when honor meant that you were honorable in your work, that you didn’t take bribes, for example,” Kadi said.'

— as fact when it is a truism that parents (and people generally) always talk about how it was better 'back then?'

Overall this is a troubling and thought-provoking post — a successful post as it were — but I don't track your theory of "why honor killings?" even though I agree with your rubric.

grackle: Even if it were true that such criticism cannot touch the structural sense in which such societies view the world, that does not defuse the criticism.

It just means (if it were true -- and I would think Fayyez's testimony shows that it is not) that the society in question was conceptually unequipped to comprehend it. So I do not see how the criticism is made irrelevant.

Sorry: Fawaz's testimony, not Fayyez's.

Lurker: You know, I am a fully Western man, and I have seriously pondered with some of my relatives beating up a man who kept a cousin of ours as a mistress without a thought of marrying her.

Jes: As I said: the notion that women are property, to be disposed of by their family, is pervasive.

No offense, Jes, but that is seriously dumb and, it seems, willfully so. One can be motivated to help one's friends family members irrespective of gender and certainly without regarding them as property. I cannot even begin to imagine the mental gymnastics you went through to arrive at that particular nonsense.

If, OTOH, you genuinely believe this then you need to take a serious detour outside your own skull, because that isn't even remotely the way the world works. That it can work that way, sure; that it necessarily works that way is beyond extremist, it's damn near solipsist.

"beating up a man who kept a cousin of ours as a mistress without a thought of marrying her"

Anarch, not following your response.

I don't get how the above could be a good thing (not that that's your implication) from any reasonable perspective (though it's not a property argument as far as I can tell - in that case they would be considering beating up the cousin I suppose) - if they can't convince the cousin to leave the guy, and he's not harming her, why is it their problem? Surely they wouldn't consider beating up a woman who was keeping a male cousin of theirs.

Ara: So I do not see how the criticism is made irrelevant.

It's obvious that you don't, which is part of the problem with these discussions, but then you are not talking to Syrians, or even talking about seriously addressing their problems, so there is irrelevance to spare.

There's really little reason to respond directly to anarch's rather incoherent attack on jesurgislac but I'd like to point out that the very phrase "kept a cousin of ours as a mistress without a thought of marrying her" is utterly embedded in a series of ideas about women, sexuality, and marriage which have been well discussed in the literature (anthropological, sociological, feminist etc...) and jesurgislac's observation on that sentence can in no way be glossed as "extremist" (whatever that means) or "solipsist" (if by that anarch means idiosyncratic).

The idea that a sexual relation between an adult consenting man and woman can be reduced to his "possession" of her ("kept" her as a mistress) rather than a free choice by her to "keep him as a lover" is a perfect example of imagining that women and their sexuality are "possessions" the control of which is vested in male relatives. Its not only inherent in what the original poster said its quite common. I'd advise anarch to take a "serious" detour outside his own skull and just read a little human history or modern sociology before he begins spouting off about what is a reasonable reading of that statement and what is "damn near solipsist."

aimai

Why would you assume that Lurker would not have felt the same way if the genders were reversed? There's surely no evidence of that outside of your pre-conceived notions of gender relations. I had pretty much the same reaction as Anarch's 7:32 post, since it would seem perfectly normal to get angry at someone I didn't know who was hurting someone I cared for, without property or sex having anything to do with it.

hmmm, 'kept as a mistress' indicates possession, but 'diddling her on the side' doesn't, making the former worse than the latter?

A huge number of relationships are metaphorized into possession (Did you have that student in your class? Did you get what she was talking about? What possessed you to do that? Own up, you did it, didn't you? Don't talk to my wife that way.) so it seems more than a bit gotcha-ish to seize on the fact that because keep is in the past tense, the writer has some deep seated underlying notion of women as property. I'm sympathetic to the notion that these notions may drive social problems, but accusing individuals of holding such notions strikes me as rhetorical oneupsmanship.

grackle: What???

rilkefan: if they can't convince the cousin to leave the guy, and he's not harming her, why is it their problem? Surely they wouldn't consider beating up a woman who was keeping a male cousin of theirs.

First off, in case it wasn't clear, I'm not saying that I adhere to the position being described; I don't.

Second, you may be Solomonic enough not to wish some kind of vengeance upon those who've wrong friends of yours but many are not. It's certainly true that there are many gendered valences in this equation -- for example, the specific response of beating up the man in question is clearly gendered -- but the notion that somehow the desire to punish those who've wronged a woman you care about is necessarily born of an impulse to regard women as property is laughable on its face. Since that was AFAICT the sole thrust of Jes' post, that was the sole sense in which I responded.

In fact, I'll be even more explicit: modulo the specific nature of the reaction (i.e. the violence), yes, I've had almost that exact response when the toyer was female and the toyee male. [That is to say, the guy was the "piece on the side" while she "diddled around". I'm still pissed at the b**** to this day, in fact, and I'll never speak to her again if I have my way.] I'll go further and say that to dismiss the possibility of such a reversal is itself an explicitly sexist one; it implies that the power dynamic of the heterosexual relationship lies eternally and immutably in the man and never the woman. This is, to put it bluntly, crap. It could well be that the gentlemen in question do regard the woman as property -- I've no idea, and Lurker can doubtless defend himself adequately -- but the point is you don't know and there's absolutely no reason whatsoever to assume it thus.

aimai: "solipsist" (if by that anarch means idiosyncratic).

No, I meant solipsist in the sense that it categorically denies the existence of rationales beyond the rigid dictates of her dogma. When one circumscribes the limits of what is possible by what one is capable of envisioning -- and when that vision is appallingly narrow -- yes, I'd argue that's a form of solipsism.

And to be clear here: I like Jes just fine, it's her attitudes towards heterosexual relationships I find lacking... especially when I can, without even breaking a sweat, name plenty of counterexamples to her dogmaticism that I have personally witnessed.

[Also, more or less what LJ said on the phrase "kept as a mistress".]

Jes, I would like to suggest that you could at least consider using another concept, other than property. You wouldn't have to give up any outrage at unequal treatment of women. At least I don't think so (although IANA-anthropologist).

The honour killings case doesn't sound like a standard western conception of property, where the owners get to decide what to do with their property. My interpretation is that the relevant norms would positively count against encouraging or tolerating your female relatives having extramarital sex - or risk the perception of having it.

Of course, we might be dealing with a different conception of property, maybe family property rather than individual property. But my feeling is that it wouldn't fit very well either. I would guess that the family isn't allowed to make the stigmatised choices either.

Do the murdering relatives feel a duty or just a right? The latter would be easier to describe in terms of property.

Surely, norms can be oppressive, unequal and dangerous without being property-based??

I'm not going to deny that some men may kill their relatives, and justify it with a property-based narrative. But I can't see why we would think that these stories fit that account.

No offense, Jes, but that is seriously dumb and, it seems, willfully so. One can be motivated to help one's friends family members irrespective of gender and certainly without regarding them as property.

(Emphasis mine)

They weren't helping her - they were planning to harm her. She was willingly the man's mistress. They were presuming that she didn't want to be in the relationship (when the presumption should be the opposite way), and then considered the use of violence in response to her decisions as to who she should sleep with.

They were considering using violence to interfere in a consensual relationship of their female relative. It may not necessarily mean they view the female relative as property, but it does mean that they did not believe their female relative should be able to decide who she should choose to have a sexual relationship with.

Another thing about 'kept' in this circumstance - to me, the idea that the man 'kept' the woman as mistress strongly implies a one way choice. Compare "the man kept our cousin as a mistress" with simply "the man who was our cousin's mistress".

I think Jes' interpretation is appropriate in this case.

That is to say, the guy was the "piece on the side" while she "diddled around". I'm still pissed at the b**** to this day, in fact, and I'll never speak to her again if I have my way.

But the question is: did you respect their right to choose their relationships?

If you "seriously pondered with some of my relatives beating up a man", then you didn't.

Not liking someone's relationship is very different from actively seeking to destroy it. That difference is where the line is crossed between treating someone as a human being and treating them as something less - and from the (admittedly brief) discussion above, it appears that Lurker stepped over it and Jes called him on it.

The use of 'kept' is discussing the person who is doing the keeping, who was the bad guy. I don't have the magic mind reading hat to know everything, but using that suggests the commenter's low opinion of the man rather than any internal philosophy towards women.

I perhaps misrepresented my idea. In the situation I described, a 50-year-old married professor and our 23-year-old cousin had a relationship which was rather unequal. From our point of view, it definitely looked like an abusive relationship, as the young woman had left her studies and job to live with a man who seemed to have no notion about marrying her or even having a divorce. After about a two years, we could see that she was not happy and the man was starting to lose interest in her. We discussed the idea of beating the man, but refrained, as we did not consider it worthwhile. The eventual judicial punishment would be severe, and the woman in question would have probably disapproved. (Luckily, we were sober, not drunk.)

Later, we were proven to be right, when the man returned to his wife and sacked our cousin, causing her considerable financial trouble. At present, he is living with another female student, still married.

Afterwards, our cousin found another man, in her age and had a child with him. As they decided not to marry, she is now raising her child with the help of her parents and pursuing a rather nice career in university administration. The child regularly meets her father and both parents seem to be happy with their solution. We are happy for her and have nothing against the guy. In family occasions, she is by no means shunned or considered a worse person. In Finland, having a child outside the wedlock is rather normal.

In my post, I wanted to raise the point that even in Western world, the people may be tempted to use violence to solve family problems. However, we do not do it, because we have a functioning police force and judicial system.

Someone might argue that our desire to beat the professor in question was born out of the wrongly conceived ideal of monogamous marriage, but I would definitely not consider our thoughts to have arisen from the idea of women as property. Indeed, if the situation had been a young man held in thrall of a woman in a similarly unequal relationship, the women of our kin would probably been rather cross with her. (Indeed, in our case, what we actually did was to act with icy politeness towards the man.) Well, we men would probably not have pondered violence, but that is because of the taboo of violence against women.

I would like to point out the last part of my original post: The beast is around, but it's easy to keep it in check when you know that the police would not appreciate.

As you see, I do not advocate the use of violence in any personal (or even in political) relationships. The idea of using violence may be enticing, but it is something you do not do. Violence is simply not acceptable, whatever your motives. The tendency towards violence is a beast to be kept in check at all times. Happily, we have a system which motivates this. Not all the peoples of the world have.

I have received a massive amount of criticism for my post. Still, I'd like to point out that I confessed only a sin of thought, not of action. It is a different thing to ponder violence than engage in it.

I think, though, that immigrant groups within Western society would definitely find themselves cut off from traditional sources of "honor" = male reputation.

Sorry, but that's just incorrect, at least as far as certain parts of certain immigrant groups in Europe are concerned. The connections to their country of origin are generally pretty strong and one can make the case that perceived or real isolation or rejection within the host society strengthens the interest in those archaic elements from their home culture as a means of defining identity. It is by no means an automatic or inevitable reaction, since the practices we are talking about are a comparatively new phenomenon, while there always has been a certain degree of isolation among those immigrants within the host culture. Instead there has been a marked radicalization and refocusing on these archaic practices among some parts of second and third generation immigrants - and that is indeed quite worrisome.

Concerning "right" or "duty" in "honor killings"
The "Turkish model" is that the youngest male is chosen by the family council to commit the murder. Until recently "honor crimes" carried reduced sentences in Turkey and an underage executor/agent would even receive less. I think I have heard of cases where the "chosen killer" refused to commit the crime and was punished by the family for "failing in his duty".
This would indicate that the "honor killings" are not seen as a "right" but as a duty expected from a family to keep its reputation as honrable. In that it is related to the ancient idea that a clan should police itself first and ask for outside help only, if it was unable to do it (but that would mean a loss of reputation).
---
This is not to be construed as justification.

Anarch: ?One can be motivated to help one's friends family members irrespective of gender and certainly without regarding them as property.

You know, everyone else seems to have responded to this on my behalf (I had a doctor's appointment this morning and went to bed early) so, well: what aimai and slightly_peeved said. Also: When A and B have a consensual relationship (that is, we're not talking about domestic abuse, slavery, forced marriage, enforced prostitution, etc) no matter how badly that relationship is going, the "help" that A needs is never going to be her (or his) relatives beating up B. B is not going to want to marry A any sooner for having A's relatives beat him/her up. If A does not want to end the relationship with B, it's not for her relatives to decide to "help" by ending it for her by beating up B. (If A does want to end the relationship with B, and B won't let her go, that moves the situation out of consensual relationship and into domestic abuse, but it still seems unlikely that it'll be helpful to A, though doubtless satisfying to her relatives, to have B beaten up.)

-- it still seems unlikely that it'll be helpful to A, though doubtless satisfying to her relatives, to have B beaten up.

Jes,
I agree with you completely. The violence might seem satisfying and even morally acceptable but such urges must be kept in check. If a private person takes the law into their hands, there is no end to the violence. In addition, the violence does not really help the person for whom it was done. At the best, it makes them feel bad. At the worst, it may cause them to be targeted by someone else.

I'd say that the solution to honor killing in the ME, would be for everybody to move to Iran.

In response to questions, the Iranian leader asserted that “freedom is flowing at its highest level” in his country. “Our people are the freest people in the world, the most aware people in the world, the most enlightened,” he said. When asked about Iranian women, he said, “The freest women in the world are women in Iran.”

Plus, as a bonus, they don't have that homosexual problem.

Sorry, but that's just incorrect, at least as far as certain parts of certain immigrant groups in Europe are concerned. The connections to their country of origin are generally pretty strong and one can make the case that perceived or real isolation or rejection within the host society strengthens the interest in those archaic elements from their home culture as a means of defining identity. It is by no means an automatic or inevitable reaction, since the practices we are talking about are a comparatively new phenomenon, while there always has been a certain degree of isolation among those immigrants within the host culture. Instead there has been a marked radicalization and refocusing on these archaic practices among some parts of second and third generation immigrants - and that is indeed quite worrisome.

This seems to be a marked contrast to US society. The phenomena of Saturday night ethnics (ethnic behavior confined to set places and times) is well known. And the return of third generation to heritage culture is known, but is on a much more intellectual, less shared experience plane.

Suspect some of that is due to high class and economic mobility of immigrant groups in the US--the group differences rapidly become irrelevant and there's no point to going back to heritage culture.

Lurker: "Later, we were proven to be right, when the man returned to his wife and sacked our cousin"

In colloquial English English, "sacked" means "dismissed from employment" as far as I understand. If there was an employer/employee relationship between the two, that puts things in a slightly different light for me.

"I have received a massive amount of criticism for my post."

You've mostly just had the misfortune of catching us in a grumpy mood - please stick around.

No, there was no employer-employee relationship. The use of wrong verb was a result of my being a non-native speaker. Sorry.

hm, "I've received a massive amount of criticism..." but my post was about thinking about violence not doing it.

Lurker, I agree with rilkefan that you should stick around, if you have something to say, and go ahead and say it. But your post was about *explaining why certain kinds of violence* were socially acceptable, potentially socially and culturally necessary, and potentially emotionally satisfying *and* emotionally necessary. You certainly simultaneously explained that for a variety of contingent social reasons (including your view that the violence you thought natural and desirable might ultimately be counterproductive) you and your relatives hadn't engaged in the violent act contemplated. Your cyber-buddy Anarch then went on to compliment you and attack Jesurgislac. You got the cyber support (which you presumably didn't need) because your model of action was so "natural" and desirable that anarch thought anyone who challenged it in theory was some kind of solipsistic nut who lived only in his or her own head.

Well, obviously, not so. No one criticized you for being violent (you weren't, they didn't accuse you of it). They simply pointed out that your naturalization of certain social/cultural impulses were not particularly distinct from the social/cultural impulses and imperatives that underlie the honor killing that was actually the subject of the post. And they aren't. Very few people act, or dream of acting, on impulses they *really* think aren't meritorious or natural in some way. I daresay the guys who commit honor killings have great explanations for why it was necessary and desirable. And many who explain why they wanted to comply with societal imperatives to "protect" some part of their exgtended kin group actually never go ahead and do it.

If you didn't want a generic discussion of your impulses or family history I'd recommend *not posting them* on a public board. Or, if you really wanted compliments all around for *thinking about violence* while *not actually doing it* I'd suggest choosing your audience and reworking the story. You could a) rewrite it to be about the triumph of a personal struggle over cultural imperatives, b) rewrite it as a personal struggle against violence, c) rewrite it as a failed struggle to assert manly dominance in an unforgiving and feminized world. I've seen all of these versions of your story (because its quite common and not at all uncommon in most western and even non western countries) posted on a wide variety of sites from pacifist to white supremacist to men's rights bulletin boards.

Have at it.

aimai

aimai, as far as I can tell your comment above is entirely composed of mind-reading.

I agree with you, aimai. My point was, although I was clearly unable to state it, that the tendencies towards family-based violence exist even in our own Western societies. These tendencies remain mostly below the surface because our society actively discourages the defence of "honour" using violent means. These leanings are probably somewhat natural to us, and they must be guarded against. (Natural is not the same thing as acceptable.) If we only concentrate on wondering how terribly barbarian the middle easteners are, we may quite well forget this duty to guard ourselves. This has been seen a few times in the recent politics of some Western countries.

Rilkefan: aimai, as far as I can tell your comment above is entirely composed of mind-reading.

As far as I can tell, you are simply interpreting what Lurker said and what others said in response very differently from how aimai interprets it. But, rather than simply acknowledge that you see it differently from aimai and explain how you interpret it, you prefer to launch a personal attack on aimai and accuse her of "mindreading". Which personal attack is completely outside the posting rules.

Try again.

If I chose to rewrite my story, I'd choose d) acting exectly according to the societal norms without any particular struggle.

In my view, it is socially quite acceptable to feel strong irritation in the situation I described. However, choosing the non-violent (and in fact, almost invisible) means to convey this irritation, is also the societal norm in the Finnish middle-class. So, there is no moral struggle, just plain following of the social preconditioning. I'm rather happy that the preconditioning works this way.

Lurker: My point was, although I was clearly unable to state it, that the tendencies towards family-based violence exist even in our own Western societies.

So basically we were shouting in agreement. ;-)

Through the entire long series of posts I see no real response to Hilzoy's original query: how could someone murder his sister for being a victim?

I'm really, really surprised that no one has provided the obvious answer: the brother in question simply didn't believe that his sister was a victim. It can be difficult to get rape convictions in the USA, after all, even in circumstances where rational observers could hardly conclude otherwise. I can imagine someone faced with deciding between "my father is an adulterer and a family friend is a rapist" and "my sister is a promiscuous seductress" by rejecting the truth (the former case) in favor of a lie (the latter.) It's even implied directly in the text of the article: in rape cases the family blames the woman. Either they think she was willing or she recklessly exposed her family to humiliation.

In reality the brother is a brutal murderer and his sister an innocent victim. But the simplest explanation is that the so-called honor killers do not believe that they are killing innocent women.

"I have received a massive amount of criticism for my post."

Yeah, that doesn't start until after the thousandth critical comment in a thread.

In response to questions, the Iranian leader asserted that “freedom is flowing at its highest level” in his country. “Our people are the freest people in the world, the most aware people in the world, the most enlightened,” he said. When asked about Iranian women, he said, “The freest women in the world are women in Iran.”
I'm sure glad you'd never catch an American politician talking like this. That would never happen.

It's really hilarious if a furriner says it, but when, say, a Republican says it, it's only because it's twue.

And if a Democrat is more balanced or critical, why, that proves that Democrats hate America.

But those Eye-ranians sure are funny, with their ridiculous claims. Not at all like modest and realistic Americans! We're really the freest people in the world, and there's nothing silly when we announce that!

We're Number 1! We're Number 1! We're Number 1!

Let's now just continue laughing at the Iranians, until our ribs are sore. Silly Iranians!

"But, rather than simply acknowledge that you see it differently from aimai and explain how you interpret it, you prefer to launch a personal attack on aimai and accuse her of 'mindreading'. Which personal attack is completely outside the posting rules."

Characterizing text as "mindreading" may or may not be correct, and is perfectly debatable, but is in no way a personal attack, and is, in fact, a comment on someone's text and claims; it is, of course, completely legitimate.

Rilkefan,
Gee, where I come from actually *reading* and commenting on someone's post is called "reading and commenting" on someone's post. Accusing me of mind reading, as you point out, isn't really a "personal attack" its really just an almost childishly random choice of words aimed at negating my comments without addressing them. I read hilzoy's post, and this thread, in its entirety and I chose to comment, where I chose to comment, in good faith and with due consideration of the comments posted before mine. If you object to the actual meat of my comments, you are more than free to engage me directly. Of course you *could* choose to skip my comments and simply interact with/read/respond to someone else's. Why don't you do that? If you've got an actual point to make, why don't you make it instead of merely objecting to me (and to other posters) who won't make it for you? That, of course, really would require some mind reading on our parts.

aimai,
I'm trying to understand how, after someone relating a personal anecdote, one draws the conclusion that he feels women are property is not a personal attack, especially after it is revealed that the commentator is a non-native speaker of English (which also kinda punctures the 'kept as a mistress' evidence, since the phrase is rather dated, and might be something altogether different in Finnish).

I'd also note that when you ascribe alliances between a long time poster and a newbie (at least newer than you), as you did with Anarch and Lurker, one might draw unfair conclusions concerning your powers of reading, commenting and deduction.

Of course, this has nothing to do with whatever point you wanted to make about honor killings, but given that your animus is concentrated on one commentor and their 'cyber-buddies', it might help to restate precisely what point it is about honor killing that you want to make.

"its really just an almost childishly random choice of words"

No, "an almost childishly random choice of words" would be "Giant squids, teddy bears, giant squids eat teddies". Which would in fact have been sufficient to refute your above comment, but it's a bit prolix, and I believe in verbum sat.

If you had civilly asked me to point out particular instances where I thought I saw mind-reading in your comment, I would have bothered to do so, but I think I'll do just as well with "yummy yummy teddy bears, oh".

Why do I suddenly have an urge to ask Rilkefan about Rilkekind's condition?
I hope you are not grumpy because of health problems?

'Fawaz sounds like a very decent man.'

Fawaz sounds like a relatively decent man.

Accusing me of mind reading, as you point out, isn't really a "personal attack" its really just an almost childishly random choice of words aimed at negating my comments without addressing them.
A) Rilkefan appears to have pointed out no such thing.

B) While, as I said, the accuracy or inaccuracy of an accusation is completely debatable, your description of the charge is completely wrong; this is presumably out of ignorance with the usage of the term in online debate as it's evolved over the past couple of decades.

What "mindreading," as an illegitimate form of debate, refers to -- and you are free to point out where you feel it is utterly inaccurate as regards your comment; personally, I'm not stepping into that actual debate -- is to allege that someone's statement is dependent on knowing things inside another party's head, and thus is not legitimate.

Simply put, if an argument is made based upon statements made by another, that's desirable and legitimate.

If an argument is made based on someone's deductions, or interpretations of what someone has said, that's questionable, and may cross over into "mind-reading," which, given that human beings can't actually do it, is illegitimate.

If an argument is made based clearly only on imagination and interpretation of someone's beliefs, and that the person actually holds those beliefs is not confirmed by that person, than that's clearly "mind-reading," and illegitimate.

The person who makes the illegitimate argument, the fallacious one (which is what mindreading is: a fallacy, a confusion of one's own opinions about someone else's opinions with that other party's actual opinions), loses the argument.

Thusly, you may be perfectly correct that Rilkefan's comment that "as far as I can tell your comment above is entirely composed of mind-reading" was incorrect, or unfair, but your claim that is "accusing me of mind reading [...] its really just an almost childishly random choice of words aimed at negating my comments without addressing them" is clearly confused, wrong, and false.

Rilkefan may also have been wrong, but in no way was it "an almost childishly random choice of words aimed at negating my comments without addressing them."

Hey dm, if I'm grumpy it's just a character flaw. Rilkekind has a fever but it's nothing in the great scheme of things.

My point was, although I was clearly unable to state it, that the tendencies towards family-based violence exist even in our own Western societies.

So basically we were shouting in agreement. ;-)

Well, other than your first response. telling him that he viewed women as property. But otherwise, yeah, complete agreement.

BTW, how the heck does does Lurker's story compare in any way, shape or form with "honor" killings?

I think the point was that even in the West, 'family' can incite us to act, so the gulf between honor killings and our own thoughts are not so far apart. The second point is that a strong rule of law acts to suppress these kinds of acts. I'm not sure if I agree, but a lot of that depends on the general acceptability of honor killings, which is not clear to me. Are the majority cowed by a small religiously radical minority or is this generally acceptable to most in the countries where this occurs? How do we tell?

Gary, Rilke,

I've got no dog in this hunt. I was interested in Hilzoy's very important post, and many of the very interesting posts by other commenters including Jesurgislac and Lurker. As someone who has read widely in the field of Arabic culture and issues surrounding property, women's rights, law and culture none of the issues raised, or even the classic posts in response (I can't understand these people! they are so evil!) were terribly surprising to me. Honor killings aren't new. Western responses to honor killings aren't new. You could read similar stories and similar western responses going all the way back to the days when western writers encountered arab societies *even at the same time* that honor killings in western society were being cele brated as "crimes of passion" and a man's right to kill his wife and her lover, under certain circumstances, was celebrated and enshrined in french culture.

When I read Lurker's touching story of how he nearly committed violence on his cousin's boyfriend for not marrying her I didn't really think it was that big a deal. It certainly wasn't *surprising* to me just as it wasn't, apparently, surprising to Lurker. The fact that lurker is a non native speaker of english doesn't strike me as a big deal probably because the linguistic issues embedded in the phrase "having" or "keeping" a mistress are secondary issues to a cultural interpretation of the story. Its a basic european/christian interpretation of sexual relations and marriage that is at issue. Lurker represents his story as fairly typical/understandable and it *is* perfectly typical and understandable given our shared european cultural background and certain shared assumptions about family, marriage, sexuality, permanence, etc...Its an instance of a fairly typical social pattern associated with fairly stereotypical familial relationships in a modern western society.

Its not an insult to lurker, or a stretch of the imagination, to say that lurker's understanding of the issues in his cousin's sexual history is grounded in notions of female sexuality and marriage that have their roots in very old traditions of seeing female purity/innocence as something that is lost through sexual contact unless sexual contact takes place within marriage, within a socially approved marriage, within a sucessful marriage. That marriage has historically been bound up with property, and that women have sometimes been that property, is inarguable to anyone with a passing familiarity with western legal traditions (though I can't speak definitively about finnish law). That also happens to be true, according to some accounts, of female sexuality *and even the female vagina* in some muslim countries.

Its not an insult to any person, male or female, to talk about property, sexuality,a nd law or to try to discuss the cultural threads underlying a common sense account of a particular incident in a given person's life. So, to jeff, its not an insult to say that some aspects of lurkers story relate to a notion of women and women's sexuality as gthe property or joint concern of the men in lurker's family. And its not some kind of insult to talk about the ways clan and family loyalties underlie honor killings in societies which produce honor killings.

I am continually astounded by how basic anthropological, cultural, legal and historical *facts* like the ways in which women and junior men in many societies are treated as property get fed through some bizzarro lens and become insults when they are mentioned in a theoretical discussion of law and culture. I just don't get it.

And please allow Lurker to speak for himself. He has not been attacked, and doesn't need any defence.

aimai

"And please allow Lurker to speak for himself. He has not been attacked, and doesn't need any defence."

I'm quite unaware of anything I've done to interfere with Lurker speaking for Lurker. Quite quite unaware.

Or of having, you know, written a word about Lurker, or related to Lurker, in any way.

I simply clarified the meaning of "mindreading" as a criticism.

I haven't said a word about honor killings, either.

Jeff: Well, other than your first response. telling him that he viewed women as property.

Suggest you re-read aimai's comment analyzing the choice of words used by Lurker. (To be fair, if I'd realized Lurker was writing in a second language, I'd probably not have picked him up in that way - but I didn't know because his English is excellent.)

Lurker:

If you just thought about it, cool.

It sounded (and, if I'd known you weren't a native english speaker, I'd have just let it go) like you'd discussed it with your relatives. Which seems a bit more serious.

In the end, if you believe in respecting other people's decisions about relationships, then we're all pretty much in agreement and just arguing over who's interpreted who's argument fairly.

In which case, welcome to Obsidian Wings!

Gary dear,

Since my comment included comments to two other posters please do just try to skim and deal with the parts you feel are fairly addressed to you. Or, just ignore them totally! Since you are not interested in anything I have to say, except to carp, you would do us both a favor if you would simply jump past my comments in future. I certainly intend to jump past yours. And let me assure them, if they are reading, that that goes as well for Rilkefan and probably for Jeff. I'm interested in informed comments on any number of topics, but I see no reason to cede any time or energy to mere captiousness.

aimai: "Since you are not interested in anything I have to say, except to carp,"

See, that's pure mind-reading.

And wrong. That's why that sort of thing serves people so badly. Best to ask, and not to assume.

It's also wise to assume the best of people, rather than the worse. It's easier on one's self, in making it easier to get along with the world, and easier on the world, and it's also, I find, more often right, than wrong. YMMV.

I find that assuming hostility where none, in fact, exists, tends to work out poorly. Delightfully common as that unnecessary tendency is on the interwebs.

But I don't mean to give unsolicited advice. Do what seems best to you, of course.

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