I wish I could introduce this year’s Literary Horror issue, Volume 3, Issue 4 of Club Plum, with something light, paying homage to breath-stopping make-believe horrors that entertain or instruct, or nodding to wondrous non-horror works, bringing it full circle to this issue. But we are in the midst of real horror that I must speak to instead: Schoolgirls are being murdered for refusing to wear cloth over their heads. There is so much to say here–volumes and millennia to say here–but I will only say a breath’s worth, a hijab’s worth, just one layer of the many heavy truths one piece of material contains, and it is this: the head-covering is a lie. A trick. To make one think a certain way. If you don’t believe me, wrap some fabric around your head–man, woman, other, it does not matter. Instructions: Drape a long rectangle of cloth over your head, tie it under your chin, then tie it again at the back of your neck. Look at yourself. What do you see? How do you feel? It is quite the transformation, no? Now remove it. Do you feel shame? Liberation? Are you judging yourself?
I speak from experience. In a previous life, I wore a head-covering at a church for all the reasons women do this, for all those reasons imposed on us as we are brainwashed, as women are plugged into categories. Men have made the rules, the rules of their created gods, and have given these rules to the world, and it just so happens that these rules benefit men and subjugate women. People, listen: There is no such thing as modesty. This is a man-made construct. There is no such thing as a whore: this is a man-made label. Both terms oppress women to empower men. I could unpack this more, but I won’t do that now. I will just ask the men of Iran to ask themselves a question and to voice the answer back as they look in the mirror: Why does the girl who shows her hair threaten me?
If your religion is so fragile that the appearance of girl hair cripples it, then you should rethink the tenets to which are devoted. Men are murdering girls. If this pleases your god, then your god is a monster–the monster, the god, that you created. You are murdering girls to please you.
You have tried to control half of humanity. But you cannot. And you will not.
Women and girls are fighting back. They are protesting in the streets. They are creating art and song. They are writing. They will not be snuffed out by a male ego, no matter how big.
Yours in freedom, words and art,
Thea Swanson is a feminist atheist who holds an MFA in Writing from Pacific University in Oregon. She is the Founding Editor of Club Plum Literary Journal, and her poetry, fiction, essays and reviews are published in places such as World Literature Today, Mid-American Review and Northwest Review.