Modesty Comes to the Olympics

July 29 2021

At this year’s Olympics, the German women’s gymnastics team chose the sort of uniforms usually worn by athletes from religiously conservative nations, rather than more typical, and more revealing, attire. The Norwegian women’s handball team, meanwhile, has incurred fines for disregarding the regulations in order to wear something more modest while competing. Bethany Mandel comments:

The International Handball Federation requires women to wear bikini bottoms “with a close fit and cut on an upward angle toward the top of the leg,” per the New York Times. The sides of the bikini bottoms must be no more than four inches wide. However, men can wear shorts as long as four inches above the knee so long as the shorts are “not too baggy.”

The fact that it’s harder to find modest clothing choices as a female is no secret to women and mothers of girls everywhere. What’s encouraging about this moment is that the concept of modesty isn’t just becoming more mainstream outside of religious and conservative circles, but that women fighting for the right to dress as they please aren’t just battling for the right to dress provocatively anymore.

No, we’re finally acknowledging that it’s just as empowering to cover up as it is to flaunt our bodies. And that cultural encouragement girls feel to show more, not less? We’re finally acknowledging that it’s not about empowerment, it’s about sexualization.

These young ladies’ push for more control over their uniforms cuts to the heart of why they’re opting for more modest choices: they want to control how sexualized their bodies are by those who are profiting off of them.

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Read more at Deseret News

More about: Modesty, olympics, Sexuality, Sports, Women

Iran, America, and the Future of Democracy in the Middle East

Nov. 23 2022

Sixty-two days after the death of Mahsa Amini at the hands of the Islamic Republic’s police, the regime has failed to quash the protest movement. But it is impossible to know if the tide will turn, and what the outcome of the government’s collapse might be. Reuel Marc Gerecht considers the very real possibility that a democratic Iran will emerge, and considers the aftershocks that might follow. (Free registration required.)

American political and intellectual elites remain uneasy with democracy promotion everywhere primarily because it has failed so far in the Middle East, the epicenter of our attention the last twenty years. (Iraq’s democracy isn’t dead, but it didn’t meet American expectations.) Might our dictatorial exception for Middle Eastern Muslims change if Iran were to set in motion insurrections elsewhere in the Islamic world, in much the same way that America’s response to 9/11 probably helped to produce the rebellions against dictatorship that started in Tunisia in 2010? The failure of the so-called Arab Spring to establish one functioning democracy, the retreat of secular democracy in Turkey, and the implosion of large parts of the Arab world have left many wondering whether Middle Eastern Muslims can sustain representative government.

In 1979 the Islamic revolution shook the Middle East, putting religious militancy into overdrive and tempting Saddam Hussein to unleash his bloodiest war. The collapse of Iran’s theocracy might be similarly seismic. Washington’s dictatorial preference could fade as the contradictions between Arab tyranny and Persian democracy grow.

Washington isn’t yet invested in democracy in Iran. Yet, as Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has often noted, American hostility toward the Islamic Republic has been damaging. If the theocracy falls, Iranians will surely give America credit—vastly more credit that they will give to the European political class, who have been trying to make nice, and make money, with the clerical regime since the early 1990s—for this lasting enmity. We may well get more credit than we deserve. Both Democrats and Republicans who have dismissed the possibilities of democratic revolutions among the Muslim peoples of the Middle East will still, surely, claim it eagerly.

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Read more at Dispatch

More about: Arab democracy, Democracy, Iran, Middle East, U.S. Foreign policy