Clothes as magical objects

Oh, ffs. How many spurs to blog ranting can a woman take before noon on a Sunday morning?

The Big Question on BBC is debating the question “Should Britain ban the burqa?” (The basis of the topic is French president Sarkozy’s burqa ban) The answer is so obviously “NO” that you wonder how small a question has to be to qualify as “big.”

There follows a fair bit of debate about the burqa and its religious and social significance. There’s a burqa-clad woman saying it’s a religious issue for her. Another one defending wearing a veil as a personal choice. A male muslim scholar saying that burqa-wearing is not an integral part of Islam, anyway: it’s purely a cultural, rather than religious, garment. Nobody really deals with the implications of a ban.

Fortunately, there are no overt BNP speakers, this week, but the show does bring on Peter Hitchens… (Mail on Sunday columnist. Paleoconservative, scourge of political correctness. Christopher Hitchens’ brother – could be seen as almost his Evil Twin.)

The discussion never focuses much on what the concept of a burqa ban really means.

You have to dismiss instantly the argument that banning burqas will somehow “liberate” muslim women. In Europe, there must be already be many avenues of recourse for women who feel that they are pressured into wearing islamic dress, without having to compel those women who want to wear it – for whatever reasons – to abandon it. (Just like the careworkers who feel their very being is threatened if they can’t wear crosses at work.)

It doesn’t matter if their choices are incomprehensible to the rest of us.
Dress or ornaments are forms of communication. If the things being communicated seem absurd or offensive, surely we can challenge them or – Toutatis forbid, on current showing – just live and let live.

If the state gets engaged in ruling about what communication is acceptable, it comes bang up against the concept of freedom of expression.

And Sarkozy as feminist spokesman, indeed. A man whose only interest to the non-French world is his trophy wife.

(A wife who seems to have blithely overlooked Sarkozy’s lack of physical or mental charms, on the basis that he was the French president, in a way that seems unlikely to have happened if he was a shop assistant. Which makes even his wife seem like an odd feminist, unless you can expand the meaning of “feminist” to imply – “does whatever it takes to get wealth and power for herself”.)

Even a Spectator columnist, Rod Liddle, pointed out that
“Saqrkozy’s burqa ban panders to racism not feminism.”

Spot on. A burqa ban is a symptom of racism, not secularism, nor feminism.

Indeed the whole idea could be designed to polarise French society and provide new recruits for muslim extremism – in the same way that the Xian fundies are using every worker who’s told to remove a cross or promise ring to recruit people to their mad groupings.

As if the world isn’t dangerous enough, without creating more and more intolerance. Ah, there’s finally a convincing explanation on NewsBiscuit

39 thoughts on “Clothes as magical objects

  1. First, you inherently assume there’s no direct, material effect of a burqa on a women’s well-being. This is obviously false. Secondly, you assume that non-governmental coercion is trivial and unimportant. This is also false. Third, you assume that if some racists affirm some statement, anyone who asserts that fact. This is also false.

    Indeed, by assuming that brown women would “voluntarily” anonymize and desexualize themselves, you reveal your own profound racism.

  2. Barefoot

    That is bullshit. I don’t assume that wearing a burqa is good. How could you reach that conclusion?

    The move to ban items of clothing on ideological grounds is bang out of order.

    It is indeed a manifestation of a burgeoning racism in Europe. Or if not, why are the French not banning clerical dress for male priests or wearing nun’s habits?

    Non-state coercion is irrelevant. If women refuse to resist this, is it OK to just decide what they should be resisting and apply it from outside.

    There are plenty of women who think it’s reasonable to walk around covered from head to toe. I don’t.

    But I feel that it’s not my place to tell them not to. No more than it’s my place to tell women not to shave off all their body hair or get breast implants, or whatever.

    These things speak of female subjugation, although in a different Western voice. I certainly wouldn’t feel that I would be doing the woman who do these things a favour by banning them.

  3. let me get this straight then, barefoot, white men telling brown women they cant wear a certain item of clothing is neither racist or sexist? ok……

    surely anything which removes choices for a certain sub-set of society is discriminatory? or have you confused the idea of being allowed the option of wearing a burka with being forced to wear one? at the moment muslim women in france are not forced to wear a burka, but some choose to do so out of a misguided understanding of their religion (or out of cultural pressure). enacting a law to prohibit this will do nothing but feed the desires of racist groups and create even more cultural pressure for people to protest and wear burkas. imagine if a law were passed prohibiting you from wearing jeans; how would you react?

  4. don’t assume that wearing a burqa is good. How could you reach that conclusion?

    I don’t reach that conclusion, that’s not what I said. So you’re a liar (or are linguistically incompetent) as well as a racist. I said you have to conclude that wearing a burqa is not bad; ethical reasoning being three-valued (good, bad and indifferent).

    If wearing a burqa is bad, then it is not necessarily oppressive to ban it. In much the same sense, you could argue that a ban some behavior was necessarily racist (i.e. unqualifiedly “not feminist”) if and only if you consider the underlying behavior ethically neutral. If, for example, some (brown) Muslims were to complain that the ban on beating their wives contradicted their religion, you would not consider a ban on spousal abuse to be racist, even if it were true that it affected mostly or exclusively (brown) Muslims, precisely because you disapprove of the underlying behavior.

    The move to ban items of clothing on ideological grounds is bang out of order.

    Why? You have not made a case other than that what people wear is necessarily ethically neutral, that the motivation is unqualifiedly “not feminist”, i.e. cannot possibly be anything other than racism.

    You might perhaps be correct that a ban is bad, but if wearing a burqa is indeed bad, then the argument would have to be that a state ban is a bad means to a good end, an argument you do not actually make.

    Non-state coercion is irrelevant.

    That’s complete bullshit. If I coerce my a person (physically or economically), that’s ethically relevant, and the state has some say in the matter, even if I myself am not using governmental power to coerce them.

  5. barefoot – you seem to equate insults and abuse with a reasoned argument. interesting. some might see this as a lack of argument, but i will be more charitable.

    “If wearing a burqa is bad, then it is not necessarily oppressive to ban it.”

    indeed if it were true that wearing a burka made your hair fall out or your skin peel off then a ban would make sense. the fact that wearing a burka is simply something other people take offense to is not the same thing.

    your analogy of wearing a burka to wife beating is pretty much off the mark and verging on idiotocally clueless. again i will be charitable and assume you were not attempting to compare the two.

    until such time as you can demonstrate that there is something inherently wrong with giving brown women the choice to wear the burka if they want then your support of a prohibition is both racist and sexist

    how can it be anything else?

    do you support a ban of hats for orthodox jews?

  6. Blimey, who would have thought something like this would get so many comments.

    Heather / Bzzt – I broadly agree with you. Banning people’s choice of clothing simply because said choices appear unsavoury to our western eyes is wrong.

    Barefoot Bum – you are talking nonsense.

    You have not made a case other than that what people wear is necessarily ethically neutral, that the motivation is unqualifiedly “not feminist”, i.e. cannot possibly be anything other than racism.

    There is no case to be made. Heather is not advocating everyone must wear burkas. You, and President Sarkozy, have yet to make the case that all instances of wearing a burka is ethically wrong.

    There may well be some instances where people are forced into wearing a burka when they dont want to (although I would like to see some evidence for this) but this does not mean a ban is a good thing, nor will it protect those who are in such damaging situations. Sarkozy is simply pandering to the French right-wing and building on the fear of evil Muslim Terrorists.

    In addition to the suggestion of Jewish hats, can I suggest we ban dresses and skirts on the grounds that it is sexist to allow women the choice of wearing them? In a similar manner, devout Christian groups will place significant cultural pressure on their female members to wear long dresses and skits (and other “feminine” attire) so we must ban it to protect them.

    Like I said before. Nonsense.

    Sometimes people get so carried away with the Evil Muslim that logic flies out of the window. Not all middle eastern cultural values are to be frowned upon and banned. Wearing a burka is not the same as stoning a woman to death. If you cant see that there are some issues that really do need to be addressed.

  7. Bzzt:

    “white men telling brown women they cant wear a certain item of clothing is neither racist or sexist?”

    I’m saying it’s not necessarily racist or sexist, especially when the “certain item of clothing” is in fact profoundly sexist.

    “surely anything which removes choices for a certain sub-set of society is discriminatory?”

    Bullshit. Anything? Discrimination is not always wrong; it matters what specifically is being prohibited or enforced. If some sub-set of society chose to beat their wives, prohibiting domestic violence would be discriminatory, but not therefore wrong.

    “have you confused the idea of being allowed the option of wearing a burka with being forced to wear one?”

    I have not, *you* have.: In general, we can conclude (conclude, not assume) that any woman who wears a burqa is indeed being forced to wear one.

    “at the moment muslim women in france are not forced to wear a burka”

    They are not forced *by the government* to wear a burqa, but we cannot conclude that their “choice” to wear one is uncoerced. “Cultural pressure” can be oppressive too, and there is at least *some* justification for the government to take active measures to counter it.

    “enacting a law to prohibit this will do nothing but feed the desires of racist groups and create even more cultural pressure for people to protest and wear burkas”

    Does nothing but? Would enacting a law to prohibit domestic violence do nothing but feed the desires of racist groups and create even more cultural pressure for men to protest and beat their wives?

    “imagine if a law were passed prohibiting you from wearing jeans; how would you react?”

    Neither wearing nor not wearing jeans is inherently oppressive in the same sense that wearing a burqa *is* inherently oppressive.

    you seem to equate insults and abuse with a reasoned argument.

    I know the difference. The insults and abuse are a *bonus*, no extra charge.

    “the fact that wearing a burka is simply something *other people* take offense to is not the same thing.”

    That’s not a fact, that’s an opinion. Many Muslim women do in fact take offense at being coerced to wear a burqa. Unless you assume that it’s completely unreasonable that a woman would, if she had a truly uncoerced choice, choose to be anonymized, oppressed, desexualized and depersonalized by wearing a burqa.

    “your analogy of wearing a burka to wife beating is pretty much off the mark and verging on idiotocally clueless.”

    What were you saying about the difference between reasoned argument and insults and abuse?

    Yes, I am comparing the two. They differ only in degree, not in character: both are in fact oppressive, dehumanizing and force women into submission. But of course it’s not *your* problem if those icky brown women are forced into submission.

    you can demonstrate that there is something inherently wrong with giving brown women

    Let me quote my wife, who was in fact forced for many years to wear a burqa:

    I see such shrouding as dehumanizing and very antithetical to women’s freedom, even Muslim women’s Islamic-feminism style freedom.

    There are few women who will not be more comfortable in the west if they can wear something that looks a little bit more normal, that allows them to blend in, interact with people – even if they’re just shopkeepers – with more ease and with less of a chance of being othered. Covering the face is inviting people to shun you. It’s very discombobulating to be confronted with a person whose features you can’t discern, who can’t smile at you to show goodwill, whose age and race and personality are entirely hidden from you. And it’s very easy to dehumanize such faceless apparitions. Other people’s discomfort with your presence and your person is relevant to you as a person who exists in society.

  8. barefoot bum
    Wearing a burqa does not equate to “domestic violence”

    Some women may be subject to violence for not choosing to wear it. That would count as criminal.

    My point is that women in Europe should have enough recourse to the law to prevent such coercion.

    Your assumption that they are always compelled to wear one doesn’t fit in any way with my experiences, which I suspect involve a lot more interaction with Muslim women than yours.

  9. Larry,

    Obviously this is an issue close to your heart. This may have clouded your judgement on the matter. With this in the back of my mind, let me address some of your points:

    Bullshit. Anything? Discrimination is not always wrong

    This is two unrelated issues. If you pass law which affects a subset of the general population (as the example stated), then yes it is discriminatory. Do you have any examples to the contrary?

    You can argue that discrimination is not always wrong – indeed people try to encourage positive discrimination – however it nearly always has a negative effect. Most instances of “Positive Discrimination” (such as police recruitment campaigns) act as a rallying point for those who discriminated in the first place.

    In general, we can conclude (conclude, not assume) that any woman who wears a burqa is indeed being forced to wear one.

    Nonsense. Complete nonsense. This is like saying we can conclude that any woman who wears a long skirt in the summer is being forced to wear one. Your conclusion is based on a false assumption.

    They are not forced *by the government* to wear a burqa, but we cannot conclude that their “choice” to wear one is uncoerced.

    Again you are making a conclusion based on a false assumption and a large generalisation. Some women will be coerced into wearing one, but you can not assume that every adult woman in France is being forced into wearing a burka and needs the law to prohibit it to make her free. That is so crazy it almost defies words.

    You repeatedly equate wearing a burka with domestic violence – which largely seems to trivialise domestic violence. There are already laws to prevent acts of violence and organisations which will (should) protect people in danger. For those women who are coerced against their will into wearing a burka, what will change if the burka is banned? They will still be in an oppressive cultural situation and in danger of violence. Nothing will have changed other than their outfit. Conversely those women who feel the burka is an acceptable part of their cultural expression will have had that taken away. A ban does not protect those in danger and simply offends those who are liberated.

    How is that a good idea?

    Neither wearing nor not wearing jeans is inherently oppressive in the same sense that wearing a burqa *is* inherently oppressive.

    To who? You may think that being allowed to wear jeans is not oppressive but I feel that the constricting nature and gender neutrality of the item of clothing de-sexualises the wearer and men should be prohibited from wearing them. Likewise, I think that women should be prevented from wearing anything that does not cling to the outline of their body – any shapeless dresses, trouser suits or the like are oppressive.

    Banning an item of clothing is daft at best.

    Does nothing but? Would enacting a law to prohibit domestic violence do nothing but feed the desires of racist groups and create even more cultural pressure for men to protest and beat their wives?

    Talk about false analogy. Its ironic that you feel laws telling women what they can and cant wear based on the wider societies idea of acceptable standards is a good thing.

    Yes, I am comparing the two. They differ only in degree, not in character: both are in fact oppressive, dehumanizing and force women into submission. But of course it’s not *your* problem if those icky brown women are forced into submission.

    Hmm. Do you know Bzzt’s racial and religious group? Or have you assumed it is a white male you are responding to? Banning the burka in France will not emancipate middle eastern women. Allowing women to have the choice and educating them about broader society issues so they no longer feel the desire to wear a burka may be successful.

    Thank you for the link to the more reasoned posts on the Apostate blog. It raises many more interesting topics, most of which are already debated in the comments section. I would like to highlight, however, some things which spring to mind:

    1 – As mentioned, this is an almost unenforceable law. What will happen if a woman wears a burka? Will she be arrested and imprisoned (way to go for womens rights!). Will she be fined? Sent home? None of these “empower” the women to engage with western culture and none of them help her emancipation.

    2 – How did Christian women get away from the oppressive and subjugating regimes enforced upon them without having items of clothing banned? If it was possible for them why not for the brown skinned women?

    It falls down on a point made earlier on. It is not a freedom for brown skinned women if they must obey the restrictions placed upon them by white skinned men. No matter how people may think “they know better” it still smells of racism.

    – Aside: I notice you have blocked access (at least to me and heather) to your blog. Is there a reason for this?

  10. My mind is boggled…how can anyone in his/her right mind think that the burqa is not oppressive to women? Why don’t MEN (brown or otherwise) wear the damn things? Could it be because they’re impractically awkward to wear, limiting visibility, heating the wearer to beyond sweating point and posing a trip hazard? Heather, have you ever worn a burqa? Wear it for a week and tell me it’s not oppressive and cruel. Why do so many Muslim men wear western clothing, which is obviously more comfortable as well as suitable to the modern world? Why don’t women CHOOSE what men wear? The fact that the (brown) (Muslim) men CHOOSE to wear western clothing whilst keeping their women in medieval garb to ‘protect’ and ‘respect’ them is pretty sick and twisted. Why can’t the likes of Heather and Bzzt see what is so patently obvious? I say again…my mind is boggled.

  11. I must be getting really shit at expressing myself.

    \My point is that it really doesn’t matter what I think is oppressive to women. Or you think.

    If some women choose to wear it- it’s up to them.

    There is no legal obligation for western muslim women to wear any defined form of islamic dress. So, we have to take it those who do have almosrt certainly made that choice themselves.

    I can’t see how forcing those women to conform to our culturally-biased ideas of which clothing denotes “liberation” for women is going to help any women who aren’t being forced into wearing it.

    (And any women forced into wearing it is pretty well doomed, in any case. She needs more important measures to help her achieve self-determination than for the state to prescribe western dress)

    Some reminders of how cultural meanings of clothes come from nurture rather than nature :

    Most men in the world “choose” to wear trousers” The extent to which this may sometimes be a forced choice can be shown by thinking about what would happen to a man who wore a skirt. Speaking as a woman, who can culturally acceptably choose to wear skirts – skirts are generally much more comfortable than trousers, and only slightly less practical for some activities. Would forcing every man in the west to wear skirts – for their own good – be welcomed?

    Most women in the west wear high heels on occasion (myself included) These are known to be damaging to the spine and other bones. They make us less capable of movement than we would be in bare feet or flat shoes. Would we welcome a law that banned the wearing of high heels?

    These arguments seem unanswerable to me, I have little patience with people who see the various dress codes of the Islamic countries as more intrinsically oppressive by their very nature.

    And the whole issue falls on the fact that such a measure is inescapably racist in intention (under the UN definition) and would be very much so in practice.

  12. At the risk of keeping this discussion going well passed its sell by date, and repeating some of the points Heather has made:

    My mind is boggled…how can anyone in his/her right mind think that the burqa is not oppressive to women? Why don’t MEN (brown or otherwise) wear the damn things?

    The second question does not support the first question in any way. You or I may think the burka is oppressive, and as a result we would exercise our right to not wear it. Other people may not find it oppressive and may choose to wear it. Removing that right does not emancipate women and does not give freedom to vulnerable people who are being oppressed by their families. This is an important point to make, so I will do it again.

    Banning the Burka will NOT rescue women who are living in oppressive family groups.

    As for why dont men wear it – there are numerous items of clothing men choose to not wear (at least in public) – starting with bikinis and heading down the road to dresses, high heels and veils. In the west we do not view these items as oppressing women because we are culturally indoctrinated to thinking it is normal for women to wear uncomfortable, non-functional items of clothing in public. Men do not dress like that, but we dont view it as oppressive.

    Why not?

    As Heather and others have said previously, women who live in situations where they are being forced into wearing a burka completely against their will have many more issues to resolve, and fortunately there are also numerous laws to protect them should they need it. Banning the burka will not help. At all.

    There is, possibly, the argument that some women are culturally conditioned into thinking the burka is acceptable when they shouldn’t, because we (predominantly Caucasian westerners, mostly males) don’t. If you cant see that as being both sexist and racist, let me know.

  13. Mind further boggled…..
    I don’t think I ever said that banning the burka would rescue women who are living in oppressive family (let’s be honest here…Muslim…I’m not saying there aren’t other oppressive religious/cultural/familial groups, but the burka is a specifically Muslim tool of female dehumanisation) groups…I just can’t believe that anyone can find a way in his/her mind to deny the oppression it blatantly represents. Talking about putting men in skirts is an attempt to skirt the subject, and a pretty feeble attempt at that.
    “…women who live in situations where they are being forced into wearing a burka completely against their will have many more issues to resolve, and fortunately there are also numerous laws to protect them should they need it.” But would they seek help if they are ‘culturally conditioned’ to accept that those issues are part of their lot?
    I can’t see why people are so afraid to say out loud that the burka is blatantly oppressive to women. If you think I’m sexist for recognizing said oppression, so be it. Again, please wear one for a week and then get back to me (I have one I can lend you if you like). :)

  14. gobbycoot

    The question I was talking about wasn’t the issue of whether the burqa is a tool of oppression.

    I was talking about the French plan to BAN wearing it. With all the potential for a racist implementation that such a law implies.

    That is the issue.

    Insofar as I brought up other clothing that may be oppressive, I was trying to make people examine their assumptions about the meaning of dress. I think that’s a potentially interesting debate.

    But, I think that such debates must be secondary to the real-world impact of imposing a ban on muslim women who choose to wear a burqa ( no matter how much I would not personally agree with that choice.)

    I don’t know how many ways there are to say this. Freedom of expression must include dress. Women in Europe who choose that form of dress either do so because it is their own choice or because they are forced.

    As TW says above, there are many other remedies in Europe for women who are forced into it by their families or communities. If the remedies don’t work, they should be strengthened.

    Denying the choice to those women who want to wear the burqa is not the answer.

    Choices about what to wear are always culturally shaped, but we experience them as our own choices – expressions of ourselves.

    There are very few circumstances in which suppression of freedom of expression doesn’t make things worse.

    We should surely have the humility to let other people make their own decisions as to how they express themselves.

  15. Sorry…i posted too soon…just one more thing…
    “Would forcing every man in the west to wear skirts – for their own good – be welcomed?”
    Not only does no specific group have the power to do so, but I don’t think we should force men to wear skirts…that would be oppressive to men….thanks for reinforcing my point.
    Toodle loo :)

  16. That may have been your original intention (opposing the banning of the burka), but then you accused Barefoot of racism and sexism when he pointed out the oppressiveness of the garment. And you continue to deny the oppressiveness of it by excusing it and explaining it away as ‘freedom of expression’. My mind is no longer boggled…I understand now. Thank you. :)

  17. No
    I didn’t accuse him of racism or sexism at all. I said the measure was. RTFM

    This is crazy. He called me a racist fucktard in a burqa ffs.

  18. *hands up* I retract my libelous statement and profusely apologize for confusing you with Bzzt.

    Nevertheless, the measure is way less sexist than the burka…

  19. (The thread continues to run)

    I don’t think I ever said that banning the burka would rescue women who are living in oppressive family (let’s be honest here…Muslim…I’m not saying there aren’t other oppressive religious/cultural/familial groups, but the burka is a specifically Muslim tool of female dehumanisation) groups

    Fair one. What do you think is the justification for a burka ban? I can think of some reasons, some of which you may agree with, but none make any sense to me. Crucially however, the argument started because of the suggestion that banning the burka would help women being oppressed.

    If you have other reasons, it may make sense.

    I just can’t believe that anyone can find a way in his/her mind to deny the oppression it blatantly represents.

    Interesting but I cant see how you can justify this. Forcing a woman to wear clothes against her will is oppressive. I can agree on that 100%.

    However moving into the realm of cultural pressure to dress in a certain way – well that is a different matter. In most western cultures women (and men) are expected to dress a certain way and are subjected to a degree of social stigma if they fail to conform. This is no more or less oppressive than the burka – the fact that the burka doesnt meet your ideas of acceptable dress for women is not an issue.

    Preventing a woman from wearing her choice of clothes is oppressive – we dont seem to agree on that. If legislation were passed to prevent any women from wearing jeans, would you think that was OK?

    But would they seek help if they are ‘culturally conditioned’ to accept that those issues are part of their lot?

    Probably not, but then that needs addressing in a separate manner.

    I can’t see why people are so afraid to say out loud that the burka is blatantly oppressive to women. If you think I’m sexist for recognizing said oppression, so be it.

    There is nothing wrong, nor does it disagree with anything here as far as I can tell, with saying you think the burka is oppressive to women. Most if not all westerners think so. Oppressing women, by controlling their choices is oppressive. I am sure Heather would agree with that, and I certainly think that.

    Banning an item of clothing does not “undo” the oppression and does not emancipate the women. It continues to oppress them but in something viewed as benign to westerners. For women who do not share our cultural values this is going to cause problems.

    A law which only affects one gender is almost certainly sexist. A law passed by men because they dont approve of an item of womens clothing is almost certainly oppressive. I didnt see anyone calling the recognition of oppression sexist.

    Again, please wear one for a week and then get back to me (I have one I can lend you if you like).

    This is meaningless. I wouldn’t want to wear high heels for 30 seconds, but I dont think they are oppressive…

    “Would forcing every man in the west to wear skirts – for their own good – be welcomed?”
    Not only does no specific group have the power to do so, but I don’t think we should force men to wear skirts…that would be oppressive to men….thanks for reinforcing my point.

    I cant see how you are still missing the point. You think controlling the dress of men would be wrong, oppressive even, but no one would have the power to do this. However controlling Islamic women is OK as long as its done by “benign” westerners who know more about what is oppressive to her than she does.

    Do you feel that it is not oppressive for white western men to dictate that middle eastern women can not dress in a certain manner, even if they want to?

  20. TW, thank you for your long attempt to make me understand. I actually understand perfectly where you are coming from because I probably would’ve written exactly what you did 3 years ago. I do think that banning what I see as a human rights abuse (which I don’t in fact think the women would choose to wear if not for the oppressive cultural pressure) would send a clear message that we don’t accept the oppression. Calling the burka a freedom of choice is a complete fallacy. You say your wearing it would be meaningless…good use of dismissal. I disagree and think you might after wearing it for a week…go on….try it. You probably wouldn’t last the whole week because it’s such an awkward and (sorry for the repetitive use of this word, but it is what it is) oppressive bit of kit. I believe the burka to be a human rights abuse. You believe banning it would be. You can’t see how I’m missing the point. Let me explain…we have diametrically opposed points of view. We just have to live with that. *shrug* :)

    In the meantime, the burka remains, and thank GOODNESS because it’s preventing the provocation of uncontrollable lust the world over!!!

  21. Gobbycoot: thank you for responding and clarifying your point of view. I will admit I would have probably shared your reasoning twenty years ago, before I learned more about how different cultures interact with each other.

    I do think that banning what I see as a human rights abuse (which I don’t in fact think the women would choose to wear if not for the oppressive cultural pressure) would send a clear message that we don’t accept the oppression.

    This is a key issue but there seem to be a mix of points here..

    Forcing a female member of your family to wear a certain item of clothing is certainly abusive. There are laws currently in place in most of Europe to protect women in this sort of situation.

    Stating that women are prohibited by law to wear an item of clothing that You find offensive is most certainly an abuse. Just because neither you nor I would voluntarily wear it doesn’t mean no woman would ever choose to wear it. The argument that any woman who chooses to wear a burka is weak as well.

    Abusing rights does not send a message that we dont like the abuse of rights. It says to Muslim women in France that they have no input into society and that the white men running the country get to call the shots on how they dress.

    This is not a good thing.

    Calling the burka a freedom of choice is a complete fallacy.

    Why? What research has been conducted to show no women voluntarily wear a burka?

    You say your wearing it would be meaningless…good use of dismissal. I disagree and think you might after wearing it for a week…go on….try it.

    This is still nonsense. I was dismissing it because it made no sense. There are dozens of items of clothes I would not willingly wear for an hour, let alone a week yet you do not demand any of them are banned. Why not?

    Why dont we look at banning high heeled shoes? These items serve no purpose and have been shown to cause injury to women who wear them long term. Their use, even in the short term, damages toes and heels. Wearing them increases the risks of accidents and they are only worn because women think it makes their legs look more shapely or gives them an apparent increase in height.

    Shall we ban these? They are an oppressive item forced upon women by cultural pressure and no woman in her right mind would ever willingly wear a pair. I mean, would any man walk around in them for a week? I certainly wouldn’t. I cant imagine why any one would suffer that much so it must be oppression. By banning women from wearing high heeled shoes we will send a sign that we are opposed to oppressing women’s choices.

    Why stop there?

    From http://web.archive.org/web/20071102091508/http://www.sspx.ca/Documents/Bishop-Williamson/September1-2001.htm

    Canadians strike me as a gentle people; but “strike” is the word! Ten yeas ago I was innocently asked in Canada whether women should wear trousers. … The deep-down reason is the same as for the wrongness of women’s trousers: the unwomaning of woman.

    Lots of Christian fundamentalist groups prohibit their female members from wearing anything other than skirts and dresses. This is, in no uncertain terms, oppressive behaviour with no basis on their religious doctrine. Surely the only way we can free these women is to ban the wearing of skirts and dresses. They may be useful in the summer, but provide no protection from the cold and are cumbersome for lots of daily tasks. No woman in her right mind would wear them so it must only be through religious oppression from her immediate cultural groups that cause it. Banning them would show this sort of oppression is not tolerated.

    We could go on for some time here.

    Basically, no matter how you try, two wrongs do not make a right and just because you cant see a reason for an item of clothing doesn’t mean other people wont willingly wear it.

    Banning an item of clothing only worn by “brown women” is both racist and sexist, and not in a good way.

  22. “just because you cant see a reason for an item of clothing doesn’t mean other people wont willingly wear it”

    But i CAN see the reason for the burka…it’s oppression…haven’t you been listening?

    Foot binding was a cultural thing in China…does its cultural basis make it any less cruel than it was? The burqa is cruel. I don’t really know if the right answer is to legislate the burqa’s banishment, but your apologetic excusing it as a freedom, all in the name of tolerance and multiculturalism, will certainly not help the burqa’s proponents to figure out that it’s so last human age.

    “before I learned more about how different cultures interact with each other.” Very good bit of condescention and presumption…I like it. What, pray, have you learned about how different cultures interact with each other? Is this about cultural interaction? Or is it about recognising a cultural injustice and attempting to do something about it?

    Comparing high heels with burqas is ridiculous at best…they represent opposite ends of the freedom spectrum. High heels allow us to express and accentuate our sensuality if we so choose. I know you’re just trying to make a point (I hope so anyhow…otherwise, I’d have serious questions about your IQ), but it isn’t washing.

    “Lots of Christian fundamentalist groups prohibit their female members from wearing anything other than skirts and dresses. This is, in no uncertain terms, oppressive behaviour with no basis on their religious doctrine. Surely the only way we can free these women is to ban the wearing of skirts and dresses. They may be useful in the summer, but provide no protection from the cold and are cumbersome for lots of daily tasks. No woman in her right mind would wear them so it must only be through religious oppression from her immediate cultural groups that cause it. Banning them would show this sort of oppression is not tolerated.”
    SERiously? You’re comparing the sweat-inducing, vision-obscuring, de-humanizing, de-individualising, de-sexualising burqa to a dress? You have no concept of degrees, do you? And you’ll never know just how oppressive a burqa really is because you’re too afraid to wear one, even on an experimental basis.

    “Banning an item of clothing only worn by “brown women” is both racist and sexist, and not in a good way.”
    …and not in a good way? can racism and sexism be good? It’s not racist anyhow…Islam crosses all races, doesn’t it? And not all Muslim men imprison their women in burqas. How is it sexist to try to rid the world of misogynistic tools of oppression?

    *sigh* You are you and I am I, and ne’er the twain shall meet……….

    In conclusion,
    “Why dont we look at banning high heeled shoes? These items serve no purpose ….”
    Serve no purpose??? They make me look HOT! lol

  23. Gobbycoot

    Can you really not see the contradiction between
    (a) recognising that old chinese footbinding was bad (because it involved deforming feet)
    (b) “High heels allow us to express and accentuate our sensuality if we so choose.” (By deforming our feet and damaging our bone structure? How delightfully sensual. )

    What precisely is the difference – western cultural values.

    The burqa represents – in a cloth format – aititudes to women in some cultures. No one would be more supportive of the desire to reject it than I would, when that choice comes from the women who object to it. In countries where it is is culturally or legally enforced.

    The French case is completely different. Women who choose to wear the burqa in France for reasons they feel as valid (cultural identity for instance: maybe they feel it accentuates their sensuality, ffs.) should not be denied that choice.

    The burqa-banning is racist – not because Muslims are a “race” There are no such things as races, in any case. It is racist under the United Nations definition of racism. As I said, read the wikipedia definitions.

  24. Hi gobbycoot,

    But i CAN see the reason for the burka…it’s oppression…haven’t you been listening?

    I have been listening. You have stated, repeatedly, the burka is oppressive. I dont really disagree with this, however the crucial point is that SOME people willingly choose to wear this item of clothing. Why they do this may well be alien to you or I, but it doesn’t make it wrong for them to want to dress in this manner.

    I want to restate something I think is a very, very important point here. Taking away someone’s choices (in this case of clothing) is oppressive. Forcing someone to wear a burka is oppressive. Forcing someone NOT to wear a burka is oppressive.

    Foot binding was a cultural thing in China…does its cultural basis make it any less cruel than it was?

    No. That is not the issue. If person X willingly chooses to undergo a certain cultural ritual, does that make it something we should ban?

    Choice is the key part of the debate here. Forcing someone to do something against their will is oppressive. Forcing someone to NOT wear a burka is oppressive.

    The burqa is cruel.

    To echo a phrase you have used several times, are you equating wearing a burka with having your feet bound until they are permanently disfigured?

    What is your response to women who say they want to wear a burka?

    I don’t really know if the right answer is to legislate the burqa’s banishment,

    It isnt.

    but your apologetic excusing it as a freedom, all in the name of tolerance and multiculturalism, will certainly not help the burqa’s proponents to figure out that it’s so last human age.

    Here you have massively misstated my position, and I assume Heather’s position. I am not “apologetically excusing” the burka. I would never choose to wear it and I would hope my daughters never chose to wear one.

    Banning clouds the issue of freedoms, as is shown by this thread. Banning something does not give people more freedoms and does not remove oppression. It sends a signal to the oppressed that they continue to be oppressed, but now not only by their own culture but by the culture which claims it wants to free them. I am sure that is not a goal any of us actually want.

    Very good bit of condescention and presumption…I like it.

    Thank you. It was styled on your previous comment.

    What, pray, have you learned about how different cultures interact with each other? Is this about cultural interaction? Or is it about recognising a cultural injustice and attempting to do something about it?

    Lots and both. One of the first things I learned was that just because I found something strange and crazy, didn’t mean people from other cultures would think the same. I have no tattoos and find them strange and alien, why anyone would want endure pain solely to scar themselves for life is beyond me. Despite this there are people the world over who get tattoos..

    Comparing high heels with burqas is ridiculous at best…they represent opposite ends of the freedom spectrum. High heels allow us to express and accentuate our sensuality if we so choose.

    They are not at opposite ends of the freedom spectrum, you think they are because you have a preference for one over the other. A burka allows a woman to mask her sexuality from onlookers should she so wish, while high heels are used to enhance that. In a free society, both are choices a woman can make. In an oppressive society they aren’t. Banning a burka is not the act of a free society.

    I know you’re just trying to make a point (I hope so anyhow…otherwise, I’d have serious questions about your IQ), but it isn’t washing.

    I am sure you have serious questions about my IQ anyway, but it doesnt matter. You missed the point I was trying to make.

    Some women are happy to exaggerate their sexuality and to alter their appearance when in public. There is nothing wrong with this. Some women wish to go to the opposite extreme, and again there is nothing wrong with this. Most women will fall somewhere between each end – again this is OK.

    If we ban one extreme – on what ever grounds – then why not the other extreme? More people in the UK suffer serious injury as a result of wearing high heels than burkas. More women suffer long term damage as a result of high heels than burkas. High heels serve no purpose other than to enhance a woman’s sensuality in the eyes of people around her. There are no jobs made easier by wearing high heels and no “good reasons” other than the cultural pressure women are under to “look good.”

    That sounds mightily oppressive to me, but we don’t ban them because in western eyes forcing women to over emphasise their gender and appearance is considered a good thing.

    Its ironic that we would berate and deride a middle eastern country that banned short skirts, short tops and high heels on women, as being oppressive – but we think banning burkas is ok.

    SERiously? You’re comparing the sweat-inducing, vision-obscuring, de-humanizing, de-individualising, de-sexualising burqa to a dress?

    Erm, yes. Re-read what you are saying and you can see it is only in a western cultural context. The utility of most womens clothes is beyond a joke, so vision obscuration, while a problem, is equated with the restriction in basic range of movement caused by a fashionable dress. Try running in high heels and a mini skirt to see how useless these items are.

    If de-individualisation is the key – then this applies to the vast majority of western clothes. I spent most of my adult life in uniform – pretty deindividualising, but hey? no one will ban that. I now work in an office where pretty much everyone wears the same style of clothing. Shopping at Gap is not “individualistic.”

    De-sexualising – is not a bad thing. Women wear trouser suits and countless items of clothing that do not exaggerate their gender. If only women wear a burka it is not de-sexualising.

    As for sweat inducing, try wearing a dark suit on a summers day. The sooner we can ban them the better.

    You have no concept of degrees, do you?

    Actually, yes I do.

    And you’ll never know just how oppressive a burqa really is because you’re too afraid to wear one, even on an experimental basis.

    You have no idea if I have ever worn one or even something similar. You need to stop jumping to conclusions based on your own experiences.

    For example, do you assert that no woman would willingly wear a burka? If so, and I could show you at least one woman who does willingly wear it, would you concede the point?

    and not in a good way? can racism and sexism be good?

    No, I was making a joke about a previous comment.

    It’s not racist anyhow…Islam crosses all races, doesn’t it? And not all Muslim men imprison their women in burqas.

    The burka is not fundamental to Islam, as you say yourself. A ban on burkas would only really affect a group of women from a limited cultural group or race. How is it not racist or sexist?

    Imagine a similar ban on Amish dresses (damn, they chafe while you are collecting the grain), or african neck rings (enforced deformity)…

  25. Well, why didn’t you SAY so?? If it’s ‘racist’ under the UN definition (and it’s on Wikipedia, ffs…what was I THINKing???) to ban the oppressive item of clothing, it MUST be wrong to consider banning it. I stand corrected. I’m really sorry I upset you so. You’re also very astute about high heels being just like Chinese foot binding…it’s exactly the same thing. Likewise, wearing a burqa is no different to wearing a big hat and high heels to Ladies’ Day at Ascot…perhaps I’ll wear a burqa to that next year, with flat shoes, of course…no more oppression for THIS girl, I can tell you, and both of these particular items of attire will prove to the world that I am NOT oppressed.

    On a very serious note, you’re absolutely right…women should be free to allow themselves to be oppressed anywhere in the world, especially France. Thanks for your insight…I see the light now.

  26. Hi gobbycoot,

    Well, why didn’t you SAY so??

    Heather did say so; a couple of times.

    no more oppression for THIS girl, I can tell you, and both of these particular items of attire will prove to the world that I am NOT oppressed.

    The irony is that it will prove you are not oppressed. You live in a society where you get to choose what you wear, not the government. You are calling for a change in this to make a world where the government gets to say what you can and can not wear.

    And you do this in the name of fighting oppression.

    On a very serious note, you’re absolutely right…women should be free to allow themselves to be oppressed anywhere in the world, especially France.

    On an even more serious note, sarcasm aside, you are calling for the replacement of one form of oppression over another. Oppression by white French men is not inherently better than oppression by people in their own ethnic group.

    It seems like you have become so accustomed to your own freedoms and choices, that you no longer see them as such.

  27. Thank you. It was styled on your previous comment.
    lol…i was only stating a truth that I thought a certain way (not too far from your way) before moving to a particular place but don’t think the same way after having lived there. Hope you’re keeping score because I’m not…

    Here you have massively misstated my position, and I assume Heather’s position. I am not “apologetically excusing” the burka. I would never choose to wear it and I would hope my daughters never chose to wear one.
    Sorry…maybe I used the wrong word there…I meant apologIST, not apologetic. I do apologize.

    Blah blah blah…All the anger vibes are getting a bit much for me. You strongly (seemingly almost militantly) support something that I view as a human rights abuse. I’ve already stated that we have diametrically opposed views, but you keep trying to make me see the truth you choose to see. I’m happy for you to believe what you like. I’m very sorry it upsets you so much that I believe what I believe…..

    I’m done…you win. :)

  28. lol…i was only stating a truth that I thought a certain way (not too far from your way) before moving to a particular place but don’t think the same way after having lived there.

    Indeed, and in a similar vein prior to spending a large portion of my life in hot and dusty countries I used to have a viewpoint very similar to yours. However, after meeting more and more people from different cultures I realised that my idea wasn’t always the same as everyone elses.

    Hope you’re keeping score because I’m not…

    Score on what?

    Blah blah blah…

    Excellent response.

    You strongly (seemingly almost militantly) support something that I view as a human rights abuse.

    On the contrary. I am sorry if I have given you the idea that I thought people should wear a burka. I had (obviously incorrectly) thought I’d stated that I thought it was oppressive.

    As I have stated repeatedly, and you so succinctly condensed into Blah blah blah…, being forced into wearing something against you will is oppressive and abusive. Being forced to not wear something that you want to wear is oppressive and abusive.

    There is no truth as I chose to see it. There are some simple facts – and there is no difference in oppression between You Must Wear XYZ and You Must Not Wear XYZ. If you think that oppressing a certain subgroup of Muslim women with your particular sartorial code is not-oppressive then you are mistaken.

    I am not, for one moment, upset by your point of view. Why should I be?

    I’m done…you win.

    Ok. While I never viewed it as battle which would have winners and losers, thank you.

  29. I’m sorry if it sounds racist to some, but i do not understand one thing here.
    Why do we have to respect their religion/history/culture/whatever to the point of sacrifing our own it allow theirs to fit in ?
    Aside form all the “oppressive” aspect of wherthere or not allowing/forbiding burquas is oppresive ( which is kind of amusing since you ARE expected to wear decent clothing whenever in public : try running around in a bikini in the middle of a church, or a bank, and see how long that’s tolerated … XD), i think there’s the simple fact that it renders someone anonimous while in public, it forbits alot of what is considered normal interaction ( ie: shaking hands), and on a whole the burqua just makes a barrier between them and the others. It’s the epinome of segregation. And that should not be tolerated.
    If they are so high on Quran and islam why no go to a Islamic run country, see how wonderful it is there ?

  30. This topic may never die.

    Ayashi, on Heather’s behalf, thanks for your comment.

    Why do we have to respect their religion/history/culture/whatever to the point of sacrifing our own it allow theirs to fit in ?

    What part of our religion / culture / history is being sacrificed? I certainly haven’t sacrificed anything nor can I see how I am being asked to.

    The normal flow of societies evolutions seems to be taking more away if you ask me.

    i think there’s the simple fact that it renders someone anonimous while in public, it forbits alot of what is considered normal interaction

    I also dont see how either of these are a problem, especially on the scale we are looking at here. Speaking for myself I rarely shake hands with strangers in the street, but it could create a cultural pressure against the burka if people wearing it found it harder to progress in business. Sadly the type of person who wears a burka is already massively disadvantaged there so I dont see how that would actually work in practice.

    On my journey to work each day I share a train with countless people in bland grey suits. I have no idea what any of them look like. Their choice of clothing effectively renders them anonymous, yet it is viewed as the correct way to dress. Likewise, at weekends I often visit places where there are lots of bikers – all in a unique dress that renders them, to my inexpert eye, looking the same – and different from my idea of what is acceptable.

    It’s the epinome of segregation. And that should not be tolerated.

    I agree that forcible segregation should not be tolerated, however you cant force people to blend into a free society. Assimilate or die is not something a western democracy should aim for.

    If someone chooses to be different from the mainstream we are, in theory, supposed to welcome that as being part of lifes rich tapestry. Are we going to say Goths and Punks are not allowed to dress as they choose?

    If they are so high on Quran and islam why no go to a Islamic run country, see how wonderful it is there ?

    Maybe its because they thought they could go to a free democracy where they would be allowed to live as they want rather than be forced to live in a certain manner by the state.

    How wrong they were.

  31. You’re right, TW. They’ve come to a free democratic country, where they are free to be oppressed just as they would be in their Islamic home countries! Yayyyy! :)

Comments are closed.