26 June 2009


Further thoughts on the subject:

The "when in Rome, do as the Romans do" axiom comes to mind here. I understand wanting to be respectful of the culture and wearing a scarf if it is a custom when traveling to foreign countries, but one is not required by fear of punishment by the state to do so. If a woman is traveling to Afghanistan, she is not required by the state to dress in a certain way, but it becomes a matter of personal safety as she would be punished by warlords for not wearing a burqa, which is oppressive and denies freedom.

My original comment comes from a feminist perspective. A historical misogyny in the form of male-dominated government control of women's bodies in the Arab world is merely being shifted to another end of the moral spectrum where women's bodies are once again being controlled by the state, but this time in the Western world with France's decision. I am talking about women's bodies and how women are pawns in a game of dueling moralities. Do any of these laws affect men?

A government telling women what to wear is not freedom, in France or Afghanistan. No, we cannot be nude on the street in France, but the particular case of the burqa is different and has political, cultural, and historical considerations that must be taken into account. This desire on the part of France to rule on Muslim women's dress is not only misogynist, it is the cultural anti-Arab/anti-Muslim sentiment of the French people rooted in colonialism, which always employs racism in order to function. That racist, colonial legacy is being played out today in this contemporary situation and the female body and the behavior expected of women as "le deuxieme sexe" is the battlefield.

I want Muslim women to be able to choose to wear the burqa as an individual liberty. I doubt this would be a personal choice - I don't know. I would rather the state not be involved in this. The punishment of a woman for not being covered enough is the same as the punishment of a woman for being covered too much.

1 comment:

Sarah J. said...

I totally get where you are coming from but I actually do disagree. The majority of women do not choose the burqa, it is chosen for them by their husbands, families, and communities. However, what's going on now that Sarkozy is taking a stand is the same type of response we saw when Western feminists marched into Africa in the 70s and 80s and said that female genital mutilation was wrong and should be banned--the women rose up to defend the practice citing cultural and religious reasons. They felt attacked so they rose up to defend something that was actually killing them. And they will do the same now. The only time cultural/religious change EVER works is when it comes from within. As we have learned since those first Western feminists landed in Africa with their bullhorns, change will indeed come. Now female genital mutilation is on the decline because local women from various areas throughout Africa are taking a stand against it. The West is still involved in this fight but just as facilitators of the programs already started on the ground by the local women and girls, and this recipe is working. Thankfully!!!!! In terms of the burqa, as often happens with immigrants, they hold on tighter to parts of their cultures that their fellow countrymen are literally dying to get rid of. It's why when we do FGM campaigns in Africa, we have to do them in Europe and the USA as well, because people bring their traditions with them with a tight grip. Personally, I am vehemently against the burqa. I cannot tell you how upsetting it is for me as a woman to be walking down the street and see these women in them. It breaks my heart and makes me feel scared for them--I wonder what their home life is like. I wonder if they had the chance to speak without fear of repercussions what they would say. Most women who wear the burqa cannot and will not stand up against it because they would be in danger of backlash from their families and/communities. Again though, they are most likely to see it as you did, a cultural attack and rally together defending something they probably don't even want to wear. Just like FGM though, it is not rooted in Islam. It was conceived of by men who believe that women are responsible for a man's sexuality and sexual drive and for making him act out sexually. It's disgusting. Women are punished because men can't keep themselves under control. I'm sick of it, and I hate seeing representations of this fact, and I hate that women are still paying the price for men's atrocious behavior. Sarkozy is never eloquent, so I'm not surprised his comments came out wrong, but ultimately I support him. I don't think women need to be told what to wear but they VERY WELL SHOULD FEEL SAFE ENOUGH TO MAKE THE CHOICE THEMSELVES and they don't. One day, the movement will come from within, just as we're seeing in Iran right now with the pro-Democracy movement and in Africa with FGM. It will happen eventually, but I sincerely hope that it's sooner rather than later!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!