Is it just slightly disturbing to anyone that a Head of State would make a pronouncement on women’s fashion? Is it even more disturbing that he would make a pronouncement on fashion that supports a woman losing her job for exercising her freedom to practice her religion? That’s what Tony Blair has done.
In a nutshell Tony Blair is supporting others in the idea that Muslim women in Britain should not be wearing face veils. Period. Some choice quotes:
“You can’t cover your face; you must be seen,” Mr. Prodi told Reuters. “This is common sense, I think. It is important for our society.”
Is it me or is this as frightening as being told that you must not be seen? And when pronouncements like this are made from on high, where do we draw the line? Personal freedom is paramount. In situations and countries where Muslim women are not free, that’s something important to speak against. But Muslim women who are deeply religious and follow their religion by covering their faces are exercising their personal freedom and it’s important that we all respect that.
"The discussion spills over into Britain’s broader embroilment in the campaign against terrorism and the war in Iraq. Mr. Blair and others say Muslims must do more to police their own ranks,"
So is covering one’s face about to become part of the ever growing list of things that make one a suspected terrorist? I’m sure that will prove fruitful.
It’s one thing to oppose the burqa or to refuse to travel in Saudi Arabia where women are essentially imprisoned. But it’s quite another to tell a woman that because we think she’s been brainwashed by Islam or is following its teachings to the extreme, and therefore conforming to an unnecessary level of modesty, that she should be willing to show men her full face whether she’s comfortable doing so or not.
Some women post pictures of their breasts on the internet, which is something I would never do. Unless, perhaps, if I had a rack like Catherine’s, then I might. But when the era of nursing two babies came to an end… well I don’t have to explain to most of you why I don’t flash my boobs here. Though my three year old is still very much into groping them, so I guess they’re not all bad. Ever since he weaned over a year and a half ago, he has obsessed over them, in fact. He will say, “Let me see if there’s any milk in there Mama.”
And I’ll say, “Mama’s milk is all gone.”
Then he’ll demand, “TAKE OFF YOUR SHIRT AND LET ME CHECK!”
And in good feminist form I’ll respond with, “Do the words sexual harassment mean anything to you mister???”
Which is met with a blank stare followed by, “Let me SEE if there’s any milk in there.”
(Perhaps he intuits that even though this is technically my “workplace,” I have something closer to slave-status than employee-status, so perhaps I’m not protected by such laws anyway). I have tried everything to get him to stop patting them and talking about them, but nothing works. I asked my husband, “Isn’t this sort of disturbing?”
And he said, “Well… not as disturbing as it will be if he doesn’t stop by the time he’s twelve.”
Oh sorry… enough about boobs, this is supposed to be a serious post!
Perhaps my unwillingness to wear pants that show my butt crack are a result of my Catholic brainwashing. Or my feminist brainwashing. Or my crazy right wing midwestern heritage brainwashing. Who knows? But should I be told by the leader of my country that I must reveal that which is a private matter to me in order to fit in with the rest of the butt-crack flashers at the mall these days? Conversely, to some conservative Christian women I’m immodest in my jeans. I might think it’s silly for them to only wear long dresses, but who am I to tell them they shouldn’t?
Modesty (or lack thereof) is a highly personal issue, and has everything to do with a woman’s comfort in her own skin. We really don’t need to tell a woman, who feels uncomfortable showing her ankles to a man who isn’t her husband, that these matters are no big deal. She needs to be true to her own self.
Presumably if a woman lives in Britain, she has physical freedom to at least some degree. If her spirit leads her to rebel against the veil (and don’t get me wrong, the veil concept pisses me off too – I’m not defending it here) then certainly she can. And if her spirit leads her to conform, then we need to respect her autonomy as a woman and leave her alone. Furthermore, can these guys think of nothing more important going on in the world to worry about than to waste their time being outraged by a few women who choose to cover their faces in public? Who are they hurting? And who cares?