Guardian writer, Sara Wajid, interviews Alice Walker on her affair with Tracy Chapman, and the connection between the niqab and high heels.
I’m not convinced that women have the education or the sense of their own history enough or that they understand the cruelty of which men are capable and the delight that many men will take in seeing you choose to chain yourself – then they get to say ‘See, you did it yourself’. Like we wear these high heels that hurt us, well it’s foot-binding, you know, but we think by now, ‘that’s very sexy’ … “It’s very, very dangerous, that’s all I would say. I’m for women choosing whatever they want to do but they have to really know what they are doing. If I had to offer any counsel I would say [to British Muslim women] ‘Use some of this time not just to be on the defensive but to interrogate your own culture and see how much of it you really believe yourself in your heart and how much of it you can let go of. You don’t have to be a prisoner of your religion.'”
I believe that most women do understand their oppression by men and it is not a question of education – that is so damn patronising. Many women are constrained by their cutlure and society. Where are they supposed to walk away to? It is not an easy decision to make even when you know it is the right decision. It is a lot easier to walk away from oppression in the US or Britain than it is in Bangladesh or Nigeria. Even in the US it is not always that simple as we saw from the film Boys Dont Cry where difference can lead to rape and murder if you happen to live in the wrong place or are poor.
There is a big step between understanding your oppression and being able to step out of it. Women in the real world have to make pragmatic decisions about how to survive often with children, in societies where there are no support networks. Ms Walker is surely educated enough to know that class also has a part to play in what options are available to women and what realistic decisions they can afford to make at any particular time.
Tags: Alice Walker