Thursday, February 23, 2017

Lady Mary Wortley Montague

I had never heard of Lady Mary Wortley Montague until Hammy's presentation.  Once again in this class I was presented with a woman who was ahead of her times.  She flouted societal norms, thought outside of convention, and was well read and educated.

To Lady Mary, Turkish women "have more liberty than [English women] have".  She found that woman were respected more and were had way more autonomy even if they were expected to wear a garment that covered all of their body. Lady Mary even said that though they were not Muslims they "didn't commit one sin the less for being Christian", indicating that she believes that they are morally the same despite having differing religions.  I applaud Lady Mary for coming to her own  conclusions about the Ottoman Empire rather than agreeing with the "extreme stupidity of all the writers that have given accounts of them."

The observations and conclusions she came to are conversations that are still being had today.  Not too long ago I watched on CNN two Muslim women arguing over whether the niqab or burqa is inherently sexist and oppressive. ( From the woman who supports wearing it she brought up a point that never even crossed my mind: when she wears the niqab she is actually freer because she no longer subject to the objectification specifically by men could make about her.   Personally, I'm torn.  On one level I believe that a woman has every right to wear what it is she wants but also, requiring a woman to cover every inch of her body reinforces the notion that a woman's body is inherently sexual and sinful.  Interestingly enough, I read that no where in the Quran are women explicitly required to cover themselves.

Even today with increased travel and the presence of social media, the Middle East is still viewed as a world away.   Even Islam with followers amassing billions it is still ridiculed and looked at was some scary backwards religion.  The words of Lady Mary did not stay in the 18th century and will not stay in the 21st century, but in fact this topic will continue to be a source of controversy for years to come.


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