Bikini or Burka: Pick One!

textI read Frank’s article, The Veil in the Western World, which he wrote in response to a Huffington Post piece by Jennifer Izaakson.

“The Veil Issue” is a quagmire of racial distrust, religious intolerance, perceived misogyny, and a clash of cultures.

Anyone concerned with women’s rights, the abuse of women under the guise of religious traditions, and the objectification/ownership of women, will see a woman wearing a veil as an affront. Well-meaning people are projecting their own indignation onto what they perceive to be male-dominated and dogma-fueled oppression. Others see the veil as a defiant refusal to assimilate into a new culture or a silent condemnation for the society that they should be embracing. Still others may feel that the veil will antagonize racists in the community and put the wearers’ safety at risk.

And to some extent, every one of those opinions is true, which unfortunately can turn an article of clothing into a flying banner of contention.

Personally, when I see women who cover their hair or shroud their entire bodies, I feel sorry for them. I see them as having embraced religious or cultural practices that, to my mind, diminish them, not only as women, but as human beings. Regardless of my own ideas of what constitutes appropriate public attire, the fact that a woman’s choice of dress, from a miniskirt to a burka, is seen as tacit complicity with a society that will label her a whore or victim is disturbing.

To my mind, if a person’s culture or religion does not cause physical or mental harm to themselves or others, they should be left alone. However, violence and cruelty under the guise of religious freedom or cultural tolerance should never be accepted by the rest of society.

So, unless you’re sitting next to Lady Gaga and she’s wearing a razor ribbon dress, don’t fret about what a woman’s wearing. Your time would be better spent considering the validity of your own prejudices.

2 Comments

Filed under Opinions & Rants, Women's Rights

2 Responses to Bikini or Burka: Pick One!

  1. JMF

    A few years ago I visited a mosque as part of an adult-education class I was taking. Our hosts were wonderful, the pastor/Imam made a nice sermon about how God frowns on robbing others for money (which clearly made some of the suits in the congregation annoyed; they started using their smartphones at this), and the classic Midwestern meet-n-eat afterwards was a blast. People from my class could ask the dumbest questions about them, and the mosque members could ask the dumbest questions about our perceptions of them, and since the atmosphere was genial nobody got offended.

    (Incidentally, I’d suggest this as something more American mosques should do; meet-n-eats. Don’t bring haters to a service, but do have food fests where people from different faiths can say hi. Provide scads of one group’s comfort food for the timid, and scads of the other’s for the culinary adventurous, talk about local schools and car wash fundraisers and such. This shit works.)

    What boggled my friggin’ mind was the whole sexism thing. Before the service, women and men mingled and talked. In the meet-n-eat, they mingled and talked. During the service, the women have to enter the sacred chamber through a different entrance, and be separated from the hungry eyes of male attendees by a partition. They can hear the pastor/Imam, they kneel and bow and such at the appropriate moments, yet the men cannot see them lest, I dunno, some orgy ensue.

    That image you have here at the top epitomizes, to me, how capitalist and religious depictions of sexuality don’t differ all that much. When I was in Denmark, visiting some friends, I could watch TV ads — including those during afternoon children’s cartoons — featuring naked boobies and schlongs. (These are humorous rather than erotic.)

    I’m not a Bertrand Russell-level nudist (I like me a bit of mystery, plus here in Minnesota it gets awfully cold), yet it strikes me that veils/burkas and bikini shots are kinda the same thing. This is a hidden treasure, a prize for the most worthy (the richest, the most devout.) Nakedness is fetishized, making it not about the person you want to be naked with but about the other person’s weakness in disrobing for your rightfully-won viewing pleasure.

    I mean, if Islam really wanted to eliminate erotic daydreams from higher meditations about spiritual matters, it would go full Denmark. That country has one of the lowest teen-pregnancy rates on the planet. The girl you pine for behind the partition is going to be a hell of a lot more distracting to your spiritual thoughts than if she could kneel next to you during the service, you could whisper and elbow each other during the duller moments, and share a mystic hope for finding something sacred in the parts you both found transcendent.

    In short, to my Western, capitalist-trained eyes, I find the bikini babe hotter. But I’ll bet many hetero Muslim men find the burka babe hotter, thinking the bikini one is just too revealing for fantasy (like those Danish TV ads are for me.) It’s all quite a muddle . . .

  2. Andrea

    Women’s clothes today, like children’s toys, leave so little to the imagination that they’re uninteresting. I was never a flaunt-it-while-you-got-it sort of person (I didn’t realize I had it when I had it), but girls today have no understanding that modesty is not necessarily a term of oppression: modesty can actually be flattering. I’ve seen plenty of young women who would be doing themselves (and those of us with eyes) a great favor to cover up a bit more. Or maybe just try a dress instead of jeans that makes them look like a denim anaconda got as far as their thighs and then began choking.

    Islam has taken modesty to an absurd and very unhealthy extreme. Whether through choice or defenselessness, women who allow themselves to be treated as chattel will be treated as chattel. Men, raised in a society with a foundation of religious dogma, will have no tolerance for female autonomy. Any expression of individuality or indication of unrest will be taken as an affront and a threat to male authority. I equate it to the mentality of American slave owners: keep them down or we’re fucked.

    It is, perhaps, the undercurrent of sexual frustration which leads to such suspicion, hatred, and violence toward women. Some men, wanting a pretty bauble they can’t have, project a malicious intent on the object and become infuriated. Rather than teaching their sons that gender does not predicate humanity and that everyone deserves to be treated with respect, parents instill in their boys a sense of false superiority and entitlement. As men they will not have learned tolerance or self-control and the cycle continues.

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