Archive for the ‘Women, money and power / the social side of economics’ Category

Walking Out: How the Coronavirus Has Changed Socializing

Monday, July 6th, 2020

(originally published in The Bulwark 4/19/20
The coronavirus shutdowns have caused people to look for safe ways to connect with each other. Ironically, some of these ways have involved reversion to an older way of socializing—one not based on the conspicuous consumption entailed in going to restaurants and bars. Instead, we are talking and establishing connections together-apart through simply walking. This enterprise is free. It is another instance of the de-commercialization of the public space since quarantine measures have been imposed.

With a visit to someone’s apartment probably involving a risky sojourn in the lobby and elevator, the social walk is an attractive alternative. It sounds trendy but it’s ripped from the pages of Jane Austen.

I am not joining the chorus of praise for solitary walking—for one thing, I could hardly hope to add anything fresh to the copious and distinguished literary genre established by Charles Baudelaire in 1863. Read Thoreau for the solitary walk in nature and Thomas De Quincey for the solitary walk in a city. In fact, this is the perfect time to dive into the more contemporary but still philosophical treatment in Rebecca Solnit’s Wanderlust. But I am interested in the way the walking date involves you in a shared enterprise, however small, so it builds intimacy more in an organic way.

As events were canceled and numerous New York establishments were closed, Mel Magazine reported on the rise of walking dates in the city: “People are more open, vulnerable and emotionally available than ever before, and though no one is happy about the state of the world, the novel coronavirus has made dating novel again, too. . . . going for a distanced stroll—though risky—has the potential to feel just right.”

Walking, you understand your friends more clearly. First of all, you can hear them since you’re not in a loud restaurant. (These days even Manhattan streets are quiet enough to have a well-heard conversation.) Second, there are fewer distractions. Because there’s no food involved, you’re focusing on the conversation, including body language and tone. Since you’re not drinking, your judgement remains unclouded.

You no longer have to worry about the typical traps and faux pas of wining-and-dining dates where the stakes and expectations run high. There is a New York type who always knows the most recherché restaurants, the hot new chef, the most bohemian outpost. That knowledge is temporarily worthless. Instead it’s cool to know where to walk, to know unusual neighborhoods to visit, obscure buildings to look at, the history of the city.

Podcast episode cover image
PODCAST · JULY 06 2020
Josh Kraushaar on Base-First Politics
On today’s Bulwark Podcast, Josh Kraushaar joins Charlie Sykes to discuss base-first politics and the 2020 election, Mt….
You can learn a lot about a person by what they notice and don’t notice and do and don’t do on a walk, maybe more than you learn by what people consume or don’t consume.

Of course this is another arena in which the economic and social disparities between the urban and rural environments across America are being thrown into stark relief. What I say here describes the urban New York City version, but with modifications it would apply to many smaller cities and to the suburbs I grew up in.

New York has an urban infrastructure unlike anywhere else in the United States, with many neighborhoods and streets intact from the early 19th century. By contrast, suburbs—due to poor planning and inaccessibility—tend to make it more difficult for their denizens seeking out the experience of walking that city-dwellers take for granted. The problem is acute enough that, in many locales, people have had to take matters into their own hands to press officials to make streets more walkable. Perhaps the post-pandemic world will take the need for accessible roads and public spaces more seriously as a matter of public health.

The New York Times on “‘Walking Out’ Together,” May 17, 1888
The walking date is reminiscent of the kind of one-on-one or small-group peripatetic socializing that was well known to our ancestors, rich and poor alike.

You can find it in the popular culture of the 19th century American working class for whom “walking out” meant dating leading to an engagement, and in 18th- and 19th-century English novels. In both cases, being outside was a way to escape social surveillance. It was also one of the few types of socially acceptable exercise for women.

As Sally Palmer summarizes in Persuasions: The Jane Austen Journal:

In Pride and Prejudice the Bennet girls find that “a walk . . . was necessary to amuse their morning hours and furnish conversation for the evening.” Confronted with a walk in the rain to see her sister Jane at Netherfield, Elizabeth Bennet points out that “‘The distance is nothing, . . . only three miles’”; Persuasion’s Mary Musgrove protests that she is “‘very fond of a long walk’”; and the Dashwood sisters of Sense and Sensibility discover interesting sights a mile and a half from their cottage.

I hope that as commerce reopens in New York we can keep some of the perspective on dating and consuming and spending that the pandemic has forced upon us.

A Modest Proposal: The Burkino, for Men

Saturday, September 3rd, 2016

originally published in the New York Daily News, September 3 2016 (

Introducing the burkino: A modest proposal in the spirit of equality

Why not men too? (NEIL HALL/REUTERS)
BY Judith Miller Ann Marlowe
Saturday, September 3, 2016, 5:00 AM

Fashion Week is coming. So in the spirit of audacious runway creativity, here’s a new sartorial concept for the Muslim Middle East — and a way to at least partially solve the French “burkini” challenge: the “burkino,” full-body-covering beachwear for men.

Brimming with cultural outrage, French officials from 30 municipalities recently decided to protect precious laïcité , or secularism, by banning women from wearing full-body bathing suits, calling the mere choice of modest swimwear a “provocation.”

Free-speech advocates have strongly objected. How can France, which shattered social convention back in 1946 by inventing the bikini and whose national motto starts with the endorsement of of liberté , tell women what they can and can’t wear at the beach or pool? Indeed, France’s highest administrative court recently struck down one town’s burkini ban on grounds that it violates civil liberties and that the garb poses no threat to public safety.

Yet the bathing suit battle seems likely to continue, as towns continue insisting that the burkini is actually a veiled (so to speak) attempt by Islamist fundamentalists to impose religious dress, and hence Islamist values, in what France considers religion-free public space.

Now, with tongue in cheek, a long-time fashion insider, Kym Canter, proposes a bold compromise: appropriately demure beachwear for men.

Rather than making it illegal for women to cover one’s hair and body, why not offer Muslim men an opportunity to express solidarité — another French value — with their shrouded wives and sisters? In fact, in the name of gender neutrality, why should France not insist upon it?

Many Islamic scholars argue that the modesty imperative applies to both men and women (though over time, patriarchies being what they are, women have borne the brunt of the prophet’s insistence that women should cover their “adornments” and that men and women dress and act to avoid temptation).

“Tell the believing men to lower their gaze and be modest,” instructs the Koran. So let us level the sartorial score.

Canter, a fashion trend-hunter and entrepreneur, thinks the potential market could be huge. She would like to offer the burkino in four basic colors — black, navy, gray and safety orange — and in all sizes: small, medium, large, extra and super extra large. She would also like to offer a paunch-concealing model, in all sizes.

Consider the side benefits. Until now, devout Muslim men have looked enviously at their heavily covered wives and daughters, shielded from public view, wondering how they, too, could enjoy beachwear consistent with the modesty that some interpretations of their faith impose on women in public spaces.

The burkino would also end the fat-shaming that affects so many male beach-goers. No more need Muslim men fear that their imperfect bodies will be the object of scorn or search in vain for an alternative to standard male beach attire — bare chests and baggy shorts, or, worse, form-fitting Lycra briefs.

And European beach-goers will no longer be able to accuse Muslim men of hypocrisy for dressing like secular Europeans while insisting that their wives cover up.

But wait, there’s more. Devout Muslim men, like their mothers, sisters, and wives, would no longer have to worry about getting sunburned.

Yes, it’s a bit tricky to do the breast stroke, or the butterfly, in the burkino. But isn’t that a small price to pay for the psychological, physical — and spiritual — security burkinos would provide?

Some men might resent being asked to give up water skiing, for instance, in the name of Islamic modesty. But others will take the plunge. For the brave, the burkino’s moment has come.

Miller is an adjunct fellow at the Manhattan Institute. Marlowe is a visiting fellow at the Hudson Institute.

Libya’s Hidden Minority (orig. pub. Daily Beast, 9/2/11)

Sunday, September 11th, 2011

Libya’s Hidden Minority

Long stifled under Gaddafi, an ancient Libyan group called the Amazigh is beginning to quietly reclaim its voice, culture—and freedom.

by Ann Marlowe | September 2, 2011 7:59 PM EDT

From the U.S., Libya may seem like a homogenous place, the setting for a distant war. But Libya’s scant six million people are surprisingly culturally diverse, and Libya’s indigenous inhabitants, Berbers known in Libya as Amazigh, are part of an ethnic group that spans parts of Algeria, Morocco, Egypt, Chad, Mali, and Burkina Faso. They have a written language whose oldest inscriptions date from 200 B.C.—but it fell victim to Muammar Gaddafi’s idiosyncratic Arab nationalism and was harshly suppressed to the point where most Amazigh adults cannot read or write it.

Today, as Libyans awaken from their 42-year-long bad dream, the country’s estimated 165,000 Berbers are proudly reclaiming their culture. Berber revolutionaries painted the “Z” symbol of their people on their pickup trucks, and wore T-shirts with the Amazigh flag on one side, the Libyan on the other. And the Amazigh women of Jadu in the Nafusa Mountains—free since the end of February—are flexing their muscles in their own way.

The moment you step inside the headquarters of the Sun of Freedom women’s association of Jadu and see the sketch of the Amazigh flag on the wall, it’s apparent that this charitable organization is as much about reviving traditional Berber culture as it is about aiding the roughly 5,000 internally displaced people, many Amazigh, who have fled from Tripoli, Zwara, and other coastal cities to take refuge here.

The Amazigh people have long struggled against Gaddafi, and during the fighting against him—now in its sixth month—as many as 150,000 people have been displaced. For the Amazigh, the struggle is not just a struggle to unseat a despot; it’s a struggle to reclaim their ancient language and traditions.
Berber women celebrate

Women celebrate the Tripoli intifada in the street on the night of Aug. 19, 2011., Ann Marlowe

In Jadu, a town of about 10,000 Amazigh set on a mesa high above the plain that runs north to Libya’s west coast, a group of women, mainly teachers, have been preparing meals for the internally displaced people, and teaching Amazigh children. With Ramadan turning schedules nocturnal, the women are preparing daily breakfast meals, called iftar.

Before the Feb. 17 revolution here, women weren’t allowed to be active outside the home, says Amal Kahber, one of the 15 or so women active in the Sun of Freedom organization. Thought they were permitted to be school teachers, they did not spend time in public or interact with strangers. But now, she says, times are changing. In addition to cooking for the refugees, the women have tutored children in Arabic, English, and Amazigh. Schools here, as elsewhere in “free Libya,” closed in late February and have yet to reopen, although there are plans for some to do so next month, according to the Transitional National Council Education Minister Suliman el Sahli. The women also ran a charity fashion show featuring young girls in traditional Amazigh dress.

A Libyan girl from the Amazigh (Berber) community wears a headband sporting the traditional symbol of peace, the Azoul, as she attends a class in her ancient language at the Ezefran center in Jadu in eastern Libya on July 17, 2011., Marco Longari / AFP Photo

But beyond more conventional charitable works, the Sun of Freedom organization is devoted to the Amazigh culture, long ignored by Libyan Arabs and actively suppressed by Gaddafi. Until Jadu freed itself of Gaddafi’s control in February, even speaking Amazigh in public was forbidden. The language wasn’t taught in schools, and today, only the older generation and a few younger people know how to write the 32-character, 2,200-year-old phonetic language. “I’m the only one in my family who can write Amazigh,” says 16-year-old Amani Giadwi, a Tripoli banker’s daughter, in perfect English.

Amani and her sister Nada interrupt each other excitedly as they explain the history of their culture. They assert that the Amazigh are the original inhabitants of Libya, and gave the country its name. “Gaddafi said that all Amazigh are Arabs—but we are not!” Amani exclaims vehemently. The Berber culture encompasses many of the indigenous people in North Africa including those in Algeria, Morocco, Libya, and Tunisia, although their dialects vary.

Despite their devotion to the Amazigh cause, the women’s knowledge of Berber culture is fragmentary and local, just as Gaddafi wanted. They have never heard of the magnificent rock carvings at Slonta, Berber art near al Bayda on the east coast that predates the Greek colonization. In turn, the urban population on Libya’s east coast has little knowledge of the Amazigh—several Arab freedom fighters told me they had known nothing of the Nafusa Mountains until their brigades from other parts of Libya came to fight and train here.

Amazighs look like other Libyans, but the feel of their culture is more free and open. Compared to the Arab town of Zintan just 15 or so miles away, Jadu seems more liberal. Women walk in small groups to the “supermarket” downtown here, and are dressed less conservatively than in Zintan. And the Giadwi sisters drive around without a male escort—something that would make news in Zintan.

What the future holds for these Berber women will depend on the outcome of the still-intense fighting going on for control of Libya.

Still, this is no feminist paradise. An iftar I attended last week at a Jadu mosque was otherwise attended only by men, and women are never seen out at Jadu’s only coffee shop. Within the Nafusa Mountains, culture differs from town-to-town and among the Berber towns as well. I was able to verify for myself the claim of Senussi Mahrez of Zwara, who commanded 200 fighters at a camp in Jadu, that Zwara is more liberal than Jadu. He also called the Berber town of Nalut, which I did not visit, “the Amazigh Zintan,” for its conservatism.

What the future holds for these Berber women will depend on the outcome of the still-intense fighting going on for control of Libya. But it seems likely that their ancient culture and its fascinating language will enjoy an unexpected revival. Encouragingly, on the night of the Tripoli uprising that sent Libyans into the streets in joyous sympathy all over free Libya, the women of Jadu came out spontaneously and for the first time in history celebrated in public with the men.