The burqa is a dilemma. This ugly expression of religious contempt for women has no place in modern society.

 

The initial question one has when confronted by this fashion vulgarity is why would anyone want to wear such a hideous thing? There is no convenient or simple answer.

 

The strident defense of the burqa by some apologists begs a deeper question. Why is it that religions need to dictate to their believers what they think, do and wear? Can we allow - or prevent - the normalization of extreme religious beliefs? 

My view in the case of the burqa is that it is both a form of control and a social signaling device.

Although many religions dictate the clothing of women, only islam has a full body and face covering like the burqa.

The burqa is problematic. Undeniably;

  • it is sexist; muslim men have no equivalent; and
  • it isolates muslim women from the greater community and hinders civil participation. In the process it dehumanizes women.

Critics of the burqa argue:

  • it literally covers domestic abuse of muslim women. Muslim community leaders often reject the notion that islam permits violence against women. The fact is some muslims do believe it is permissible to discipline your wife.
  • muslim women are forced to wear it. The greater the religiosity of the muslim woman and her community the less choice she will have in wearing the burqa.
  • it is a security risk. If you doubt this, then try entering a bank or service station wearing a motorbike helmet and see how far you get.

Against this is the view that to ban the burqa would undoubtedly foster or enable further spurious claims of victim-hood by islamists. There is also the practical difficulty in enforcing such a ban. And a ban may lead to less interaction in the general community by muslim women who are forced to, or forced to choose to, stay indoors.

As a signaling device the burqa says many things. To non muslims it says I am different - it says I dont want to belong. It says women are unequal and must be segregated.

To muslim women it says if you dont wear the burqa you are a slut. It says you must be docile and observant and subservient. It is a tool of blackmail and intimidation. Undoubtedly it has been used to justify the sexual assault of non muslim women.

Has there been any greater symbol of the religious subjugation of women in modern times? But what would a ban achieve? It wont change the convictions of islamic zealots and it might alienate the less observant muslim. It will divert attention from addressing the root issue of the normalisation of extreme religious beliefs.

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There is an argument that the objective of the burqa is to divide.

All societies, in one way shape or fashion, dictate what is, or what is not, appropriate attire.

Each society member, typically, is raised to believe that THEIR appropriate attire is the baseline, and OTHER societies are exposing too much, or, are too prudish, etc.

In some societies, these baselines are incorporated into laws.  Indecent exposure, public lewdity, and so forth, are common examples of that.

In other societies, the laws may be more specific, and, instead of saying a minimum level of coverage for example, they may add the specific garb that is required, not just what it has to cover, etc.

All of these laws are really just part of the same spectrum of dictating behavior.  Saying what can, or cannot, be worn, is the same thing whether it applies to just covering genital openings or oral openings, or eyes, and so forth.

In reality, there is no way I can see a moral issue in dress issues....they are all basically cultural mores incorporated into laws and/or social norms for a location.

In places where people run about naked, because its more practical....the children are not "protected" from seeing a naked person...as its simply what people look like, to them.

In places where genitals are covered, but not nipples, children are "protected" from genital views, etc...but seeing nipples is "normal", etc.

In other places, a male's nipples are ok, but a female's are not, and so forth up the line until seeing a woman's eyes is not ok...etc.

So, to be fair, as people are RAISED to view these issues in that context, an American woman who showed up for work at Amazon, the way an amazonian rain forest denizen might, would be fired/sent for psychiatric help, etc...as her behavior would be viewed as too different...lewd, etc.

Offices have dress codes to standardize corporate appearances/meet potential customenr expectations of appropriateness.

Justifications can include statements that your attire reflects the respect you have for others...so, dressing down is an insult/indicates you don't respect the other party, and so forth.

A Muslim girl raised to believe that showing any skin at all is slutty, WILL feel uncomfortable if she shows some skin.

Context is of course the MAIN issue, for all people in that environment, in that that office worker might be considered fine in a two piece bikini, at the beach, but, not at a board meeting.

So, should the government step into this morass?

Should they ban certain garb?

I don't like the precedent it FOLLOWS.

If the garb is voluntary, to me, that's fine...but, I also know its not REALLY voluntary, any more than you'd wear a 3-piece suit every day for work if you could wear jeans and a t-shirt, etc....but your peers are in the suits.

Appropriate attire is defined by culture and ought to always be a matter of choice in terms of fashion. And no doubt what is covered and what is exposed varies greatly with the era and the geography. And hell i could care less if persons go bare-assed, have crazy piercings, tattoos, or threads so at odds with the norm that strangers almost always stare. 

Interestingly, when i was a kid there were exchange students from remote south sea islands who only recently had  exposure to western civ. When the girls went to Honolulu and into a department store (for the first time) they just took off their tops and exposed their breasts. Their hips however were always covered. Showing hips was taboo. Government has no cause to interfere with these matters even when contemporary standards of propriety have become Victorian.

That is not the issue. At issue is the display and exhibition of a powerful symbol of a dangerous cult in its steadfast insistence on preserving ancient and inequitable social order. Symbols are so very powerful. The symbolic representation of misogyny, sexism and subjugation of women represented by the garb in public is repugnant to the interests of modern civ and decent values. The west has made a largish mistake in its practice of cultural relativism. Cultures are no more equal than humans are. Some better. Some worse. The misogyny is not ok. 

We can't ban the religion. But we can stop Muslims from exhibiting their slaves in full regalia. And if the loudest proponents of freedom to wear the slave costumes are aghast at the government ban (Muslim women) then it is the clearest indication of their failure to perceive their subjugation and all that it entails. And for those many many women born into Islamic slavery who cannot openly oppose the garb think how they benefit in the ban;  way more than the brainwashed are penalized in it. How liberating it has to be for those imprisoned by Islam to have a glimpse of freedom. The pious and brainwashed can stay home where they belong and stay covered. 

The 3-piece suit analogy is inapposite. We know what we are getting into if we choose white collar work. In most cases there is a penalty to be paid in terms of having to conform to dress code. Women born into the cult, however, never had that choice. And even if one chooses white collar work there are environments in which 3 piece suits are not de rigueur. Tech comes to mind.  

I am not judging conservative clothing based on how prudish it may seem (as though it is better or worse than any other culture and their attitudes towards modesty) I am judging it based on the extreme level of prejudice towards one gender and the unproportional burden that one gender is obliged to carry. It's not a "hey you should do this" it's a "if you don't do this your family will be shamed and something very grave will have to happen to reckon that".

If the happy citizens of Afghanistan all wore very modest looking clothing covering up most of their body, both hiding their form, their hair and making themselves look as least attractive as possible...I could respect their dress code (to some degree). But when men can go around in shirts buttoned down half way with their head entirely uncovered and their neck open and the form of their chest, shoulders, biceps and crotch all clearly defined under their clothing.....and yet  the temptress woman must wear a clothing prison that covers everything remotely sensual about the human body (best if there is just a mesh screen so that nothing at all can be seen) then it is impossible to respect it. The concept of modesty is so ludicrousely one sided and absolutely not optional in many countries, that it takes away almost every morsel of personal identity and presence in public society (not to mention the personal shame and deference that comes with it).

The western world has opened up incredibly on apparel and to an extent between the sexes though covering the genitals is an agreed limit that applies to everyone, men and woman. One unfair and onesided restriction however is exposing the chest, which men are allowed to do and women are not in most places (The province of Ontario made it legal due to a ruling by the provincial supreme court). It seems to us that the exposure of the male chest is not as provocative or disruptive as exposing the female chest. Keep in mind that in other cultures it is considered immodest and provocative for anyone to expose their chest. This is definitely an unfair restriction. It is also the case with western formal dress in most social arenas where receptionists are expected to wear high heels and exposed legs and uncomfortable ensembles..,while men must wear constrictive ties and belts and suits that get hot. Luckily dress policy on high heels is being legislated against in the UK and parts of Canada (and Spain) and ties seem to be slowly fading out.

But this kind of discriminatory dress policy on high-heels and exposing the chest is one that we can admit is unfair, and people are protesting it and we certainly would not coerce our friends or family under the threat of corporal punishment or worse because they flaunt these dress codes. The burden between male dress and female dress is not even remotely as lopsided and unfair and most open societies are slowly breaking down the few forms of prejudice left.

The burkah is as sexist as sexism can be and underlying it is gender power and control. I critique this dress code under the extreme embedded sexism and gender imbalance and that alone. They can be as prudish as they like or open as they like with their clothes....I don't care. But they are still brutally sexist if one gender is coerced under extreme duress to take 90% of the burden and their own identity and self worth is degraded in the process.

I think the second picture is kinda of mysterious and sexy, makes me want to see more. :)

Where I live, it's against the law to wear anything that covers your face when entering a bank.

I had to quit wearing my ski mask on cold days...SUCKS!

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