My First Email with Jennifer Bardi, the Editor of the American Humanist Association’s The Humanist Magazine in 2010, including the never published piece Sexual Objectification Tourism about Ni Putes Ni Soumises and the Burqa Ban

I have decided to post the pdfs of the entirety of my email correspondence, that I still possess, with Jennifer Bardi, the Editor of the American Humanist Association’s The Humanist Magazine in 2010 and 2011. The American Humanist Association, and, in particular, Jennifer Bardi, created a cottage industry out of trying to get me killed and trying to destroy my life and lifelong human and civil rights academic and legal careers in 2018. She LIED about everything, including the extent of her involvement in crafting the pieces I wrote for her, her mentorship relationship with me, and the fact that she absolutely loved and lauded the pieces I wrote for her, and the fact that she knew me as a human and civil rights activist who would never engage in racism ever. She knew every word she printed about me in 2018 was a complete and utter lie. She knew that there was absolutely nothing racist about the pieces I wrote for her in 2009-2011, for The Humanist Magazine, which is why she had to remove them from the site, so that people wouldn’t be able to read them and see that there was absolutely nothing racist about those anti-oppression essays. I am shocked that she has not yet resigned in abject shame for what she did to me. She almost got me killed for moral outrage industry profit and gain. She should be utterly ashamed of herself. She should publicly apologize to me. She should beg my forgiveness for what she did to me.

This is the first email in my correspondence with Jennifer Bardi that I still possess. This first email is pretty bland, but it includes the never published piece, Sexual Objectification Tourism, about cultural relativism and obscurantism, and Western attitudes thereto, and Ni Putes Ni Soumises. Ni Putes Ni Soumises seems to be on its way out, which makes me sad. It was a fierce women’s rights organization comprised primarily of women from the ghettoized predominantly Muslim immigrant suburbs surrounding the major cities of France, which fought against cultural relativism and obscurantism as part of their mission.

Yes, it is super weird to read something you wrote ten years ago and haven’t looked at since. I don’t recommend it. But, here we go.

Here is the email:

Here is the never before seen piece, Sexual Objectification Tourism, written in January, 2010:

Sexual Objectification Tourism

By Sarah Braasch (January 2010)


I had a conversation with someone recently that disgusted me to my very core.  I was so shocked, and left in such a state of dismay and disarray, that I didn’t respond as I wish I would have.  

So, I’m responding now.  

(I may or may not have altered some or all of the identifying characteristics of those described below.)

I have been working as a Fellow at Ni Putes Ni Soumises (NPNS) in Paris, France.  Ni Putes Ni Soumises (Neither Whores Nor Submissives) is a women’s rights organization that espouses an uncompromising approach to women’s rights as universal human rights.  They unequivocally condemn cultural relativism and obscurantism.  They support the potential burqa ban in France.

NPNS recently held their annual fall conference, or Universités Populaires, in Paris.  I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the conference in its entirety.  I was particularly looking forward to a panel discussion / debate on the anticipated burqa ban.  

NPNS lined up a virtual pantheon of women’s rights luminaries to participate in the conversation.  I was especially excited to listen to Lubna Al Hussein, the Sudanese journalist who had risked 40 lashes of a whip and imprisonment for wearing pants in Khartoum, as well as Amal Basha, the fearless Yemeni women’s rights activist, and Elisabeth Badinter, the famed French feminist philosopher.  The panel was, admittedly, pro burqa ban contingent heavy.  I had no problem with this, as I am also pro burqa ban.

While we waited for the debate to begin, a colleague and I struck up a conversation with a young woman seated next to us.  She was a lovely, young American woman of European descent from the Pacific Northwest.  She was well educated.  She was mildly Christian.  She spoke both French and Arabic.  She was studying Linguistics and Middle Eastern Studies at school.  

She was decidedly anti burqa ban.  She stated unequivocally that anyone with the gall to suggest to a woman that she shouldn’t be wearing a veil or headscarf should and could and would get a “beat-down”.  Not by the woman, of course, but by her male protector.  She said this with an edge of barely veiled violence, almost as a threat.  

Her fount of authority on all issues hijab and niqab and burqa:  her recent study abroad experience in Egypt.  She insisted that Egyptian women regard the hijab as a fashion statement. She averred that women don the hijab as an expression of defiance towards Western oppression.  She bragged about wearing the hijab herself to, “keep the heat off”.  And, without a hint of irony, she spoke about the hijab being a symbol of the lower classes, disdained by elitist upper class women, and employed as a tool of class segregation and marginalization.  

I suggested that imposing Islamic dress codes upon women might have more to do with the identity politics of the Muslim Brotherhood or the Wahhabization of Egypt than women’s fashion choices.  I decried the loss of Cairo as an international capital of culture and freethought, as well as the exponentially increasing severity of the restrictions being forced upon women by their families and their communities. I cited the numerous recent articles in the international press describing the near total loss of the café and lounge culture of prior decades, how even hotels and towns that cater to tourists are afraid to serve alcohol, how the niqab has spread like a virus, how the Islamists threaten the new library at Alexandria as un-Islamic, and how women are afraid to leave their homes, due to the ubiquity of undeterred physical and verbal sexual harassment on the streets of Cairo.  

I referred to a study in Egypt that indicated that around 85% of Egyptian women claim sexual abuse in public and around 95% of foreign women claim the same.  The men who responded to the study felt no shame and were very happy to admit their transgressions.  Additionally, it appeared that veiled women were actually targets of these crimes. The perpetrators apparently believed that they would be too meek or too ashamed to defend themselves or to speak out. 

She feigned ignorance about the politicization of the veil and the Islamization of Egypt.  She actually stated that she felt that Egyptian society was becoming more liberal and open, not less.  But, it was her response to my claims of the rampant, public sexual abuse of women in Egypt that left me verbally paralyzed, verbally stricken by utter revulsion.  

She not only concurred, she relished the thought.  A huge smile spread across her face.  She gleefully recounted her own experiences as a victim of sexual harassment.  

“It’s true.  You wouldn’t believe the things that happened to me.  This one time, this guy masturbated to me, right in public, right on the street, right in front of me.”

As she described this horrific account of sexual violence, she looked fit to burst with pride.  She even made the universally recognized hand gesture for a masturbating male.  

“But, they know they shouldn’t be doing it.  They know it’s wrong.  Yeah, it makes no difference whether or not you wear the hijab.”

I just stared at her, completely and wholly incredulous.  

She continued, “Yeah, this one time, I was in a taxi, and the taxi driver started saying really disgusting things to me, and I made him pull over and let me out.  And, he took off, but I ran up to this group of men, and I told them what he said and did, and they wanted to run after him.  And, the taxi was long gone, but they still tried to run after the taxi.  They wanted to get him and beat him for treating me like that.  They were so upset.  In the US, I feel like you could tell someone, and no one would care.  They would just be like whatever.”

The debate began at that moment.  Listening to Elisabeth Badinter, Lubna Al Hussein and Amal Basha was like a soothing tonic to counteract the lugubrious effects of this young woman’s bizarre ode to the sexual objectification of women.  But, as the debate continued, I kept thinking of how I would have liked to respond to her polemic.  Her absurd assertions kept intruding on my thoughts.  I was furious with her for keeping me from enjoying the discussion on stage.

How could she say these things?  Those men were not offering themselves up as her protectors and defenders out of a sense of magnanimous altruism.  She offered herself up as sexual property.  They were offended that a lowly taxi driver should consider himself entitled to that which obviously belonged to them.  Did she really think a society in which women require protection as the sexual and reproductive property of the men in their families and communities was to be preferred over a society that offers judicial and legal and police protections?  

The young men who harassed her in the street, who masturbated in front of her in plain view didn’t “know” that their behavior was wrong. They had no deterrent whatsoever. She was the transgressor, not them. They were punishing her for violating their religious mores.  She had ventured out into the street un-chaperoned by a man.  She was free for the taking.  She was unclaimed sexual goods.  

Sure, women in the US have to take care of themselves, just like everyone else.  But just like everyone else, they may claim judicial, legal and police protections. They may claim equal protection under the law and the Constitution.  I don’t know about you, but I would rather be protected by the Constitution than my brother or my father.  That’s the thing about relying upon people instead of institutions.  People are far too fickle and self-serving and cruel for my tastes.  Societies require strong institutions to inhibit them from devolving into religious Darwinism.  

But, she’s not the only one.  I’ve known so many other young women just like her.  This deranged cross-cultural rhetoric of misogyny apologetics is nothing new.  Everyone is drinking the cultural relativism Kool-Aid nowadays.  I even experienced this phenomenon among the students within the human rights program at my law school.  Everyone is competing for the cultural relativism / obscurantism paragon prize.  The attitude is this:  I’m so multi-cultural; I’m so tolerant of other cultures, that I will even subject myself to sexual victimization and then laugh it off and apologize it away like a shrunken human head in a curio shop on the boardwalk.  

I think this is nothing more than condescending claptrap. This is just more othering of the savages, the barbarians, the primitives.  The Muslim world as a petting zoo of exotic, untamed beasts for young Western women.  They get to play at Muslim handmaiden for three months or six months or a year before heading back to civilization to regale their cohorts and classmates with wild tales of their foreign adventures in hinterlands.  Then they bandy these experiences about as if they bestow upon them some sort of authority to speak on behalf of all Muslim women.  They apologize for the sexual violence perpetrated against Muslim women on behalf of all Muslim women.  It disgusts me.  

And, it shames me.  Because I didn’t have more courage to speak out against this practice more forcefully than I did while I was in law school.  And, I didn’t have the courage to speak out about my own experiences more forcefully than I did.  I knew I would be denounced as a racist Western cultural imperialist.  And, I was so denounced.  

I spent a summer in Rabat, Morocco working for a human rights organization as a legal intern during my first year of law school.  I was admittedly naïve and didn’t take the necessary precautions to protect myself.  I was appalled by the sexual harassment I experienced, but I was determined to stay.  I placed myself in the protection of a group of young men who worked in the city center.

When I returned to school in the fall, I was scared to tell anyone what had happened to me.  I was really scared to tell anyone how I had dealt with the situation.  I held back.  I knew everyone wanted to hear how wonderful it was, how wonderfully I was treated, how wonderful the culture is, the people.  I didn’t lie; I never lied.  But, I didn’t paint the complete picture either.  I knew I would be condemned for my lack of cultural sensitivity, for my inability to assimilate.  

About a year later, I wrote a short piece about my summer in Morocco, which found its way online.  It is unflinchingly honest and frank.  It rails against cultural relativism apologetics.  The essay continues to elicit strong reactions, both pro and con.  The con element includes a lot of blaming the victim tactics.  My detractors condemn me as hysterical; they condemn me for not speaking Arabic; they condemn me for not wearing the hijab; they condemn me for wearing Western attire.  Often they suggest that I imagined or fantasized the whole thing.  Or that I asked for it by placing myself in a dangerous situation.  Or that I must have been dressed provocatively.  Or that I planned to write a derisive piece from the get go, and I sought out risky situations.  Or that I behaved provocatively.  Or that I was a sex tourist.  Or that I am just a racist Western imperialist bitch.  

For those searching out racism, look no further than the fetishizing and sexualizing of foreign cultures and countries as exotic nether regions and bastions of savage barbarity.  For those seeking to lower the racism club, turn your thoughts to those who regard the “East”, the “South”, the Arab world or developing nations as incapable of grasping the concept of human dignity.  For those eager to crack the racism whip, direct your righteous rage at the women touting their experiences of sexual victimization in Arab countries as authority to apologize on behalf of all atrocities perpetrated against women because of Islam. 

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