Sunday, 28 June 2009

France, the Burqa and hypocrisy - for the Huffington Post

Another cross-post - I'm sorry my loves, these will stop soon when I'm home from my holidays. But I think you'll like this one; it should at least annoy Divine, Mark and our other friendly neighborhood Tories enough to keep them happy:


In which I talk about sartorial control, my own experience of wearing Hijab, and what might REALLY liberate French women. Of course, I'm not unaware that as a middle class whitegirl who wore the veil in public for two weeks I'm getting more of a platform here than thousands of Muslim writers who've worn it all their lives. But I hope the points I make are valid, and not disrespectful. Please do comment - the debate's getting really interesting.

44 comments:

  1. Love the article, hate the comments. I had to stop after the first few. :o/

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  2. I liked this article. Nice one.

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  3. Are you seriously asking the reader to believe that a devout Muslim woman went to the shops in a skimpy outfit while you wore her garb? I'm not that gullible.


    Earlier this year I quite like that story about you being dirt poor, broke way before pay day, living hand to mouth. Of course we now know that that was pure tripe because you're in New York on a month long holiday. Who can afford that?

    What's next JACK-A-NORRY ?

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  4. Bill Corr in Dhahran29 June 2009 at 05:14

    I write from a land in which all Fatimahs are obliged to wrap up decently and modestly in blackout curtains.

    SUGGESTION:
    Have various heroic souls enter the London Marathon in full-length Afghan-style burkas ... and a few riding bikes around London wearing them from time to time.

    I'd suggest sending squads of Fatimahs in full Mohammedan regalia to every corner of each electoral area in which a British National Party candidate is standing - my guess is that seeing the enemy up close would boost the BNP vote by at least 10% and maybe a lot more.

    Bill Corr
    Dhahran
    Saudi Arabia

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  5. As the burkas dressed females approach the election they stop. Out of the basket the sound of a strip tease tune emerges; der der der duh der der der duh. Oh you knw the one.

    The ladies do a dance, oh you know the dance. .. down to the knickers in a trance. The election queue loses interest in its initial endeavour. The dance last for a while and like a sliver of snaking hash it captivates.

    And then when the fully undressed moment is about to be revealed, burlesquely they disappear, pedals flying, the audience crying and election papers all a flutter.

    You're talkin trash man. Yea prove it.

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  6. I think the proposal itself has more to do with the French sense of self than it has to do with either women or Islam. Although, that's not necessarily wrong. If the French people want a government that asserts its sense of self over people's clothing choices, who am I as non-French citizen to tell them otherwise.

    Not sure the debate really reveals anything much in the absence of the people actually affected by it.

    It would be interesting to hear from some women explaining why they chose to wear a burqa - and also from some men explaining why they ask they ask their wives or daughters to do so.

    It would even be interesting to have a French secularist putting their side of the story.

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  7. France isn't anti-Muslim, it's anti-religion. Yet covering women from head to toe isn't about religion either, it's about misogyny.

    The idea that women shouldn't be allowed to show an inch of skin stinks. I'm sure some women do wear the burqa out of choice; I'm equally sure that many more do not.

    I have nothing against hijab, but my Western secular values (so sue me!) are offended when I see someone disguised from head to foot. Just as I'm intimidated by people walking down the street in balaclavas, I'm intimidated by burqas. If I can't see someone's face, I'm instinctively wary of them. It's why coppers' helmets cover their eyes partly - to intimidate.

    If I could be certain that every woman had had a completely free choice as to whether to shield herself from society's prying eyes by covering every inch of her skin, then I'd be more comfortable with the principle. The nature of the burqa - the fact that it disguises identity - however means I'll never be comfortable with the practice.

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  8. This is what a French securalist told me:

    And as the tour of France enters its final stages the burqa team decides to make its move. Robes are up-nitched and held together by elastic bands bearing the tri-colour in three D. The crowd, who previously booed the burqa team for the past 2000ks, now sing in unison the country's national songy and clap as they glide past.

    The breakaway of unidentified sex machines occurs in plain view of the googling world press. Half way up the Prix de Penis they have an unbeatable lead they will carry all the way to Paris.

    It would be interesting if everyone forgot this topic and moved on to communes and cooperatives.

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  9. As I`ve said before, I have no problem with doing away with dress codes, codes of behaviour or whatever with the proviso that anyone suggesting such a policy also suports my right to go to work wearing my penis gourd. Oh and my right to behave in any other obnoxious way I can imagine.

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  10. I hasten to add that banning any form of clothing across the whole country is an act of lunacy...

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  11. Lazy Student: you're certainly living up to your moniker with that comment.

    Telling women what to wear or not to wear is always misogynistic. That's a given. But that means enforcing a code of NOT wearing an all-over covering is just as misogynistic as enforcing a code that says no skin at all may be shown!

    What PennyRed's little experiment in role-swapping revealed is that it's not the nature of the control that matters, but the fact that control is being exerted over women at all.

    On your other point - "I'm instinctively wary of them", you know - that's your problem, not theirs. Other people are really not responsible for your irrational fears of them. It makes as much sense (or possibly, even more sense!) to say that "when I see someone wearing a football shirt (or sporting a Chelsea FC tattoo) I am instinctively wary of them". That is no reason to ban the wearing of football shirts, or Chelsea FC (or tattoos relating to them).

    Oh yeah, and as Penny's article pointed out, if women are being forced to wear a certain garment, then banning said garment is not going to make their lives any easier!

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  12. Rather to my surprise, I am very much in agreement with Penny's article.

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  13. Mark
    There are many types of clothing that should be banned.. visit Essex and you shall see. Seriously, if you think about it, there is restrictions on clothing in different places.

    PS My penis gourd has worn out .. any chance of borrowing yours .. providing of course that it's extra large and has red velvet lining.

    PPS What do you think of being labelled a 'Tory' by Penny Red? It's cutting me up something rotten.

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  14. "you're certainly living up to your moniker with that comment."

    OH SNAP! LOLZ.

    Where did I say I wanted to ban the burqa? Don't criticise me for something I didn't say. Of course people have a right to wear it, I'm just uncomfortable with it. Is that not allowed?

    I'm not allowed to be wary of someone who's covered their face? I'm simply being honest about insecurities that many people - not just me - have.

    The football tattoo is a ridiculous comparison. Even if they were covered in tatoos saying I LOVE LIFE AND EVERYONE IN IT, but had their face covered I would still be wary of them.

    x

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  15. "Telling women what to wear or not to wear is always misogynistic."

    My boss tells me to wear a tie. What`s that?


    Mr Divine - I assumed she was talking about someone else.

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  16. voluntarily wearing a veil for a fortnight: cultural tourism? wearing it at home where it would be unnecessary for a moslem woman? Yes, you are into the frilly nickers and spike heels pathology there. Is there some kind of mind game with yourself there. How does being in possession of a cultural tourism fetish qualify you to say anything on the subject of islamic dress?

    Don't you think that western societies control men's bodies too? Or doesn't that offend you?

    I know some of the kind of wanting-to-get-out muslim women like your your friend and I know what it looks like when the sexuality that is present there gets let out occasionally, as your friend did, but I also know what they think of "immoral" women... its an interesting but hardly defensible combination, the censorious oppressed. Do we oppose the outward forms of islamic misogyny (and do some good) or oppose french anti-clericalism (and maintain some freedom that I'm not sure is making women better off)? I suppose islamic misogyny is more temptingly tourist-y than the French anti-religiosity.

    Oh... and its not about respect. Respect is a convenient cover for the inconsistencies in white western liberalism.

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  17. Single White Gentleperson30 June 2009 at 15:59

    I'm all for the Burqa when fat, old, ugly women wear it but am against it when it come to beautiful, young, curvaceous women. In fact I'd go so fare as to say that in the former case the Burqa should be compulsory whether the wearers are Muslim or not! Younger better looking women of all races and religions should be encouraged to wear a little as possible and "Get 'em out for the lads!" as often as possible.

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  18. Thank you to SWG for expressing as a parody the lascivious attitudes that might make young, attractive women think the burka has its attractions.

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  19. Col Bloodnokk (ex MI5)1 July 2009 at 13:57

    Some of our best operatives used Burqas.
    Very useful when staking out nightclubs, working men's clubs Far Right jamborees and so on.
    Always preferred a basque and suspenders meself
    but then I'm old fashioned in some ways.
    As you've probably noticed

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  20. I couldn't agree with you more Vanilla but don't you think that it's quite funny? And the thing about sexual attraction is that it does rely on being able to see the flesh of the opposite sex and/or the shape of their body. We are first and foremost animals that have sex drives. It is society that tries to organise those drives. But are bodies are made to reproduce and while we may fight it with clothes of protection our minds can not be denied. It seems coarse to flash it on the table like a sausage without any chips and demand that that melons be open and exposed. Yet ultimately it is purely flesh, beautiful flesh.

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  21. I think this article is astonishingly ignorant and inappropriate. How about actually speakign to muslim women rather than enjoyign your fetish for cultural appropriation. How about researching laicité and the French tradition of secularism and anti-clericalism that is enshrined in the first line of their constitution "La France est une République indivisiable, laique, démocratique et sociale.' How about mentioning that far from hijab being the only target they have also banned large crosses, yarmulkes and the sikh turbans in schools so it is far from a straightforwardly feminist issue. How about talking to or about the French Islamic womens' group 'Ni Putains Ni Soumis'.
    You could write an insightful piece that looks at the controversy as it appears in france rather than purely from Britain's multicultural approach. You could do nuanced reading rather than just write about yourself as a catalyst for half arsed analysis. Better yet, you could have turned the commission down and suggest they get you to interview French women about it, especially French muslim women.

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  22. I approve of the burqa.

    It levels all women physically to a subordinate level to men and helps to keep them obedient and in their place. This in itself reduces the need for husbands and fathers to administer corporal punishment to their wives and daughters as much as might otherwise be the case. The burqa also reduces the chance that some stray women's sexual attractiveness might inflame the carnal passion of some innocent man passing by who happens to spy her and force him to overposwer her, strip her naked and savagely and repeatedly rape her incurring a blot on his soul as a consequence.

    You can all see the reasonableness and good in the burqa, from a Muslim point of view, now that I've explained it to you can't you?

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  23. Anonymous
    I'm sure your suggestion would be perfect for a nerdy-do-duh-day person intent to waste their time on another pointless Phd. However, Penny Red is a cool spunky chick who zaps her time round her job and her brilliant blog.. and 'other' things.

    You've got to admit that her blog is the best: it's zappy, funny and open. On some blogs you write something and the administrator jumps down your neck and can even ban you because you call them a little Miss pony earwig( I mean what is that?).

    No Penny Red don't retreat into a pathetic Phd nerdy-do-der-day but keep with the zap and spunk.

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  24. The best thing about all this, Divine, is that I don't need to ban you from commenting. You do a better job of discrediting yourself than I ever could.

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  25. The eye of the beholder. Actually I was complimenting you seriously. I mean, you fulfilled the requirements of the job. You needed the dosh and the exposure so you took it. I wasn't taking the piss.
    When it comes discrediting: how much credit do I have to dis? Oh no I've only got 5 credits left! Oh no that makes 4. Oh no. Better stop now before I ...what happens to me?

    I hope this means I am not completely discredited. What shall I do if I have no credits left?

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  26. You have to return to the start of the mission, create a new character and choose a whole new skillset. I suggest you choose 'believes women are people' - it also gives you an extra 2 points to spend on charisma.

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  27. OK I'll think of a new character .. it might take a while. I'm not sure if I can manage believing that women are people though. But charisma .. wow. that's a great carrot.


    It's great going new places eh.. I really miss it. Lucky you.

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  28. Mr D wrote, "And the thing about sexual attraction is that it does rely on being able to see the flesh of the opposite sex."

    Not always, or at least not always all the flesh. A couple of my friends saw my recent burlesque performance on my techno-savvy pal's i-pod and they said it was sexier than they had anticipated, from what I had told them. I was a bit taken aback (I mean, it was meant to be slightly sexy). I pointed out that I had been wearing a bra, underpants, corset, knee length skirt and blouse throughout. After all, burlesque does not necessarily involve stripping as we understand the term stripping in today's Britain!

    They said that wearing clothes made it sexier. But then, they are female, although two of them do seem a bit on the bi-curious side.

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  29. I once had a Paki girlfriend and she was hot! Up for anything and no mistake! Wow!

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  30. Dear Vanilla Rose

    I totally agree with you that clothing can be more alluring than flesh. When I was 13 I was totally in love in with a girl who wore a medium-short length skirt and white tights. I would follow the girl around doing all sorts of attention seeking Humpty Dumpty things. At night, in fact most of the day, all I could think of was her shapely legs in those white tights.

    Eventually I followed her home and across the street I yelled out, " Will you go out with me. "

    'No way" came the reply.

    I wasn't heartbroken. thankful in fact. The thought that I could take those tights and pull them down left me. Such leg fetishes have never occurred to me again.


    Vanilla , is it possible for you to perform a burlesque 'dance' involving white tights and a medium to short skirt? And post it to me either on the internet or privately?

    Yours sincerely,

    Mr. Divine

    PS She used to wear medium-high thick black platform shoes.

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  31. Mr. Divine, the Internets already have white tights fetish videos, mostly involving skirts in them. Why bother Vanilla Rose for more?

    Much of sexual attraction does seem to stem not from what you can see but from what you can not.

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  32. Anon001
    Did you know that sexual attraction is heightened by conversation?

    And I've been having a kind of conversation with her for some time. And did you know that she's a highly acclaimed burlesque performer? Do you get my drift? Besides it's only a request and so it'll be interesting to see Vanilla's answer.

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  33. I'm sorry, Mr D. I'm only planning to show the video to people I know quite well.

    It's probably best for you as well as me. The real me might not be quite as good as the imagined me. The people who are going to see the video of my performance already know what I look like.

    Thank you Anon001, it was thoughtful of you to be concerned about me.

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  34. Of course this is a massive blow for me. However I hold no grudges and it was only a request.

    Perhaps you will get to know me better so that I will become one of your friends and thus able to see a performance, one with white tights.

    Oh yea I googled 'Burlesque' about a week ago and found a very interesting article in the Guardian! Apparently you can be a performer on a performer, and as a writer! But you've got to be careful that you don't reveal that you know.

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  35. Performer on a performer? Did I get up too early?

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  36. I'm slightly confused that no one appears to have mentioned the Ken Livingstone / Bernard-Henri Levy debate on this issue. I watched this with genuine objective interest as I could see merit in both arguments.

    However, Ken asked Bernard-Henri whether his defence of women against religious custom might extend to the Catholic Church, considering they are forbidden from holding office there. Unfortunately Bernard-Henri response to this was to suggest this wasn't a remotely relevent comment and that it was the Muslim requirements of women and only this, that was the question up for debate.

    I'm still undecided in my own precise views on the Burqua and Hijab. But ultimately what that exchange higlighted was that whatever the French government's concern is in this issue, it is not primarily the rights of women.

    Joanne

    PS: I'm having problems posting this so am doing so as anom, but tis me!

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  37. 'Performer on a performer? Did I get up too early?'

    I'm still trying to figure the answer to that question? Too early. Well you're a burlesque dancer are you not? Well I thought I'll be a burlesque writer. We made love burlesquely!

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  38. Vanilla Rose

    Obviously you've got a different name to your blog one. I kind of wonder of what your real name is and your existence.

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  39. Vanilla
    I kind of think I know who you are in real life, lots of clues on your blog and here. It would be nice to see a picture of you on your blog.

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  40. OH NO VANILLA YOU TEASE

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  41. @ Vanilla Rose

    Won't you spank and wank me, please, on stage in public or privately?

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  42. The Burqa/Hijab are inherently sexist, few things scream patriarchy like the Abrahamic faiths.

    Muslims have declared a culture war on France(among other places), the French people have every right to strike back to preserve their native culture on French soil.

    If Muslims do not approve and/or will not assimilate into French secular society, they are free to migrate to some overpopulated, poverty ridden Islamic state, problem solved.

    As for societies deciding what women can and can not wear in public, they have always done that - try going about your daily life topless for a week, see how well that works out.

    As society demands I keep my breasts covered, I don't see why it can not demand Muslim women not wear Burqas or Hijabs.

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  43. http://muslimahmediawatch.irg/2009/08/11/burqa-tourism-at-its-finest-how-to-become-an-expert-on-muslim-women-in-just-one-week/

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