By Eugène E.
As many a fashionista will tell you, fashion is about more than just catwalks, anorexic models, and aesthetics. There’s a social dimension to it as well: what we wear and how we look reflects, to a certain extent, the times in which we live. On some subconscious level, we project the prevailing zeitgeist, the spirit of our times, and its very pulse to the world around us to show that we’re “in it”, that we are au courant. As being fashionable – being trendy – entails being in the vanguard of things, fashion is also an effort to capture the dawning future; and, as such, it is an intimation of things to come. In a word, if you want to get an idea of where we might be going, take a good look around you.
One interesting trend has been what I call the juvenilization of society. Prophetically, José Ortega y Gasset wrote about the celebration of youth culture as a way of evading responsibility, and this is possibly more relevant today than ever. What is the primary difference between children and adults? It lies in their notions of rights and responsibilities. Children are only cognizant of their rights; as they mature into adulthood, the sense of what they are entitled to cedes ground to a sense of the obligations underpinning those rights (although, it must be said, the extent to which that ground is ceded varies widely among people).
It is curious, then, that there has been a noticeable trend among many adults to emulate youths. This is seen in popular culture, which caters to adolescents; it is observable in language, as more and more adults began to talk like their children; and it is evident in fashion, where it is quite common nowadays to see white-collar workers wearing suits along with, quite incongruously, sneakers, knapsacks or backpacks. Adults look up to children, whereas things should be exactly the other way around. Napoleon was commanding troops before his eighteenth birthday; today many men defer their coming-of-age as much as they can. An objection might be made that people lived longer in Napoleon’s time; but that still makes mockery of the word “progress”. The juvenalization of our society suggests that society is becoming more immature and less cognizant of its responsibilities. It is being dumbed down.
Another interesting fashion trend is the rise of the Taliban beard. We’re not talking about trimmed beards – beards à la French PM Édouard Philippe or Canadian leftist leader Tom Mulcair. We’re talking about the kind of beard that will easily pass muster on the plains of Kandahar or in the tangled streets of Cairo – an unappealingly lush beard that is all the rage among younger men in Western cities. More Ayatollah Khomeini than George Clooney on a day the actor’s cultivating a ragged look.
This is no accident. As the number of Muslims in the West (especially in Western Europe) has grown, receiving a further boost from Angela Merkel’s spectacularly misguided decision to let in more than a million migrants from the Middle East in 2015, and as the demographics favor the Islamic polity in Europe over its native population, Muslim customs become more influential. Heavy facial foliage, a rather typical attribute of Muslim men, is therefore finding adherents among non-Muslim men as well. The question is whether these bearded young men think sporting an Islamic-style beard is simply the “in thing”, or whether they are unconsciously adjusting to a future in which such beards will be de rigueur among, and perhaps even a requirement for, the male citizens of many Western cities.
On a side note, I notice that the beard of Omar Khadr is quite trim and, despite the man’s past, decidedly non-Islamic. Omar Khadr, of course, is the Canadian citizen who dabbled in heavy-duty terrorism while still a teenager and has recently received a taxpayer-funded payout to the tune of more than $10 million for having suffered abuse at the hands of a government that – hard to believe – was not the Canadian government. Nevertheless, the Canadian government still decided to reward him handsomely for his agony. Canada’s prime minister – the textbook definition of a lightweight prime minister and a complete nonentity in every aspect except for, possibly, that of looks – has justified the settlement by arguing that not settling would have been more expensive and that Canadian citizens should never be subjected to torture, however unlikeable they might be.
The first argument is contentious, the second certainly valid – but there’s something very disturbing about a million-dollar settlement for a citizen who has engaged in terrorist activity against either the country of which he is a citizen or against an ally of the said country. Has a Canadian citizen who fought for Canada ever received anything approaching this sum? This reminds me of a decision by a EU court a few years ago to compensate Somali pirates on account of some minor judicial infractions that had been committed against them. Criminals have – and should have – their rights, but these rights should never supersede either the rights of their victims or the prerogatives of common sense. A society in which they do is a society run by avaricious lawyers and no one else.
But I digress – we were talking fashion, not justice. What about women’s fashion? The Islamization of Western society seems to be bypassing Western women – for now, that is. There are certainly no overt signs of a lurch towards exaggerated modesty or a sartorial conservatism that conceals so much it offers nothing to the febrile imagination of a lustful male. Women dress no less provocatively than before and perhaps even more so; if it’s not provocative, it’s careless and unattractive, which is also a statement of sorts, calculated to announce to the world that the woman attaches no importance to what the world thinks of her, certainly the male part of it anyway – she will not let herself be objectified. Down with the oppressive patriarchy! To be fair, when it comes to drab attire, a lot of men are just as guilty: when Svetlana Alexievich wrote her Secondhand Time, she might have as well been writing about contemporary fashion in the West.
This is meant to be neither flippant nor frivolous. The fabled female intuition seems to have failed many members of the fairer sex in the West, where the fumes of raging feminism have obscured the view. Thanks to feminist propaganda, women see nothing but an endless advancement of their rights stretching into an indefinite future, whereas they should be seeing quite the opposite. The lot of women in Islamic societies is an unenviable one. Both Sunni Saudi Arabia and Shiite Iran have a mandatory dress code for women. Women in Saudi Arabia weren’t able to drive cars until only a few months ago. In Iran a sign of progress is when a woman convicted of adultery doesn’t get stoned to death. Under Islamic law, men are free to engage in polygamy and can dispense of a wife who has overstayed the husband’s uxorial hospitality by merely saying “I divorce thee” three times. In short, the nightmare of a Western woman, not to mention a Western feminist. Of course, the Koran is an old text and, as any old text, lends itself to interpretations. The problem is that there’s no shortage of people who insist on a literal interpretation of the Koran – both in the Islamic world and, where Muslim immigration has been strong, in the Western world – and those who insist on a literal interpretation often seem to carry the day. The number of these people can only be expected to grow in the years to come.
We now reach a striking paradox that does not cease to amaze me: the ability of ultraliberalism to at once champion the rights of women and promote tolerance of those who want to destroy these very rights. Ultraliberal indoctrination has been so powerful that many ultraliberals remain blind to this glaring contradiction. Many feminists, in fact, believe that wearing a hijab empowers women, since it is a form of self-expression. Just ask Linda Sarsour, an activist who is able to attend a women’s march wearing a hijab alongside many other women who have donned pink “pussy hats” for the occasion. We see two parallel trends in Western societies: an aggressive, boisterous feminism that legitimizes the hatred of men (especially, it seems, white ones); and a more subtle, but far more dangerous Islamization that is quietly amassing influence and that can be expected to give short shrift to “pussy hats”. #MeToo-ing miniskirts and Taliban beards – ultraliberalism makes this sort of thing possible. Of course, it’s a temporary aberration – many women should shudder at the thought of what jihadists will do to their “pussy hats” when there’re enough of them around.
As far as women’s rights are concerned, two high-profile women dominated the news this week, from different sides of the barricades. One was Oprah Winfrey, who, ever the opportunist, distinguished herself at the Golden Globes ceremony by delivering a maudlin, mawkish, and banal hodgepodge of a speech, unoriginal and unimaginative – just the kind of oratory that makes a good ultraliberal’s eyes get all lachrymose. Padded with all the right names and allusions, it was nearly ten minutes of cliché-ridden schwarmerei, which was enough, however, to give rise to murmurs about a possible bid for the White House. Oh, Hollywood! It is noteworthy that Winfrey, while talking about the vicious crime against an African-American woman, felt compelled to mention that the attackers were “five white men”. There’s nothing wrong with that description (they were white, after all, and probably very racist too); but, given the context of the speech, it is remarkable, since Oprah swiftly proceeded to say that “their time is up”, which was repeated several times, in case anyone missed the point. Whose time is up? She wasn’t talking about the racists. As the billionaire doyenne of the media world, the conscience and cradle of hope of ultraliberals and bien-pensants everywhere, moved from racism to – surprise! – the #MeToo campaign, it could not have been more obvious whom exactly she had in mind – the white man, naturally. White man, your time is up. The standing ovation at the end of the speech was predictable, but the sight of white males, who had just been told that they were being willed out of existence, clapping energetically was a peculiar one. Did they realize what they were applauding?
What’s troublesome is the corrupting, toxic influence that the #MeToo campaign will have on ordinary women. The #MeToo campaign is not a societal issue. It’s a Hollywood issue. It is the story of a number of female celebrities who owe their status not to their talents (since they often hardly have any) or their intelligence (which they often have none at all), but to the fact that they offered their loins for use at the right time and to the right man. Along come feminists to tell them that they are, in fact, highly talented and intelligent, and that they had been forced to offer their loins by powerful ghouls and ogres, and that an atrocity of the worst kind had been perpetrated against them. The origin of the #MeToo campaign is nothing more than a settling of scores. It started in Hollywood and it would have been better if it had stayed there; instead, it went mainstream, poisoning our society. For months, it has been ruining reputations, often gratuitously; creating a climate that could rival the worst excesses of McCarthyism; making misandry an official policy; and further weakening the foundations of an already fragile society. What does it say about our society if a man’s reputation can be ruined before a single criminal charge has even been filed, before the man has had an opportunity to defend or explain himself? What does it say about our society if the entire edifice of a man’s life can be destroyed on the say-so of a woman spuriously claiming to have been left traumatized by a vague indiscretion that took place decades ago?
But these are dangerous questions to ask. Feminism – and ultraliberalism in general – is to be accepted, never questioned. One doesn’t cast aspersions on the #MeToo campaign with impunity, as Catherine Deneuve found out earlier this week. Her crime? Along with 99 other signatories, the French movie icon dared to express criticism of the #MeToo campaign in an open letter – for the most part, a judicious missive with a soupçon of Gallic insouciance – published by the French Le Monde; and, predictably, the guns quickly turned in her direction. Deneuve was pilloried and excoriated on social networks for nothing more sinister than having expressed her viewpoint; but in the free, democratic, tolerant world of ultraliberalism, there is no place for dissent.
There is plenty of space for absurdity, however, which is doled out with no regard for economy. A Japanese professor of sociology with an interest in gender theory (you know you’re in trouble whenever the word “gender” floats in the academe) has recently opined that the princes in the fairy tales in which they kiss sleeping princesses are, in a way, guilty of sexual assault – the princesses haven’t given their consent, after all; and then a kiss is such a traumatizing experience! Japan, it should be noted, is undergoing gradual depopulation, and the prognoses for its demographic situation are bleak. With professors such as this one shaping national culture, it will only get bleaker.
It shouldn’t astonish anyone, then, that many men are taking measures to prepare themselves for the new reality, however unconscious these preparations may be. Responding to the nervous twitches of the society around them, they try to stay current, anticipating the advent of tomorrow, alert to new dangers and challenges. Just look at all those beards.