Wednesday, 6 October 2010


a friend on facebook linked to this video:

it's a protest against the burqa-ban in france, which i suppose is a good thing. and it's certainly calculated to garner attention, which the women in the video get plenty of.

on the other hand, the women are doing exactly the opposite of what women who choose to wear the burqa want to do. for some women, the burqa is about not being on show, not being available for public consumption as a sex object. i know most people disagree with the burqa as a solution to that particular problem, which is fine, but that's how burqa-wearing women want to deal with it. i'm not sure many of them would support a protest in this particular form.

still, the women seem to have a good grasp of the issues:

"To put a simple burka on would have been too simple. So we asked ourselves: 'how would the authorities react when faced with women wearing a burka and mini-shorts?," asked the students, one of whom is a Muslim.

"We were not looking to attack or degrade the image of Muslim fundamentalists – each to their own – but rather to question politicians who voted for this law that we consider clearly unconstitutional," they said.

"To dictate what we wear appears to have become the role of the State (as if they didn't have other fish to fry ...)."

and i do actually admire the fact that they are willing to oppose the ban so publicly.


Lee C said...

I suspect that if they tried this in some places, they would be buried up to their necks and stoned to death. ironically, perhaps by the very staunchest advocates of the views they appear to be at liberty to defend. So to me it is a rather perverse point they perhaps think they are making about females' liberty to do as they choose..

stargazer said...

which is exactly the kind of thing they are protesting against lee: they don't believe the state has the right to tell women what to wear.

Scuba Nurse said...

It's a really really interesting campaign and gave me mixed feelings. As you say, brave to get out there and protest, but is it the best way?
I noticed that people found the head being covered much less confronting when they had pretty legs to look at. It made me think of how used we are to just looking at parts of a woman. Legs alone for a beer commercial etc. Is our way of dressing to conform and please men any less constrictive than a burka? But we have a choice, and Therin lies the rub.
A little off topic, sorry. That was where my mind went to while watching.

stargazer said...

no, i think you're completely on topic. it's the choice that's the important part, and you've actually encapsulated the thing that made me uncomfortable about this much better than i did!

Lee C said...

But that is part of my point stargazer - it is a 'safe' protest in this context - so perversely, it could be upheld as an example of how the French 'state' is superior to say the 'Iranian' state. As a protest, it neutralises itself in this respect. It's also raises issues about the merits of secular versus religious or even democratic versus totalitarian states. Even in the context of the way this protest is scened - globalism versus nationalism. So thought provoking it is - I'll be using it in a class soon. But as a political protest, it reeks of patronising eurocentricism, by inferring that once again, the West's tendency to reduce every issue to one about sexualisation of women appears to be the limits of our rather puny philosophical discourse. Don't get me wrong - those on the other side of the divide are no intellectual giants either -

stargazer said...

well, there's the fact that there is so much more open condemnation about what happens in iran - the majority of recognise and agree that it's wrong. yet, there is a lot less condemnation of the french state's decision to dictate what women can wear, or of the syrians & turks doing the same. in the end, these are both sides of the same coin. so in that sense, a protest like this one has a definite place.

also, from what i hear colloquially, things are starting to shift in saudi - small steps that will hopefully lead to bigger ones. i think maybe it's more important to connect with and support the women in these countries that are pushing for change to see what works for them, rather than taking actions that may actually be unhelpful (not that i'm saying the video above is unhelpful per se, but it has troubling aspects).

Flynn the Cat said...

... noticed that people found the head being covered much less confronting when they had pretty legs to look at.

I just wanted to comment on this, because I was having a similar reaction to the video (i.e. I was actively responding that way and noticing it). Part of it's probably the 'pretty legs', but part of it, I think, is that it shows there's a human under there. If the face is uncovered, staring at someone's face is - feels - more blatant and intrusive than if you can't see it. The hiding of the face removes them somewhat from interaction, making it easier to look at them - but a head to toe covering has nothing to look AT. If they wore jewellery, or had a cutout on their backs, or had some kind of eye-catching bag, it would have the same effect, I think. [And the hiding can be masks, hoods, burqa... although it would have to be a plain mask, one with a design would stand in as a face/draw the eye on it's own).

The other thing I noticed - and it's very hard to draw reliable conclusions from a few minutes of edited video - is that everyone who stepped forward and took a photo was a man. Which makes me wonder if in that place they just felt more secure about approaching strangers, or if they were asked/others were edited out, or if it's some extension of 'girls => for looking => take pictures' whereas a woman may not automatically assume they have the right to photograph them. (Unless they were a photographer who is in the habit of thinking that).

Flynn the Cat said...

...also I think I was way over thinking some of that :D

Ad that the soundtrack needs a NSFW warning.

Scuba Nurse said...

oooh, this is what I love about these blogs, such cool interesting people. lots of food for thought...