Friday, October 06, 2006

Give me the future

niqabs and burqas

And may it not have any of these in it.

Good on Jack Straw, I think. It's a can of thorny old worms but it's about time it was opened.

Let me be clear on this one. I loathe veils with a passion.

I loathe body fascism as well. I loathe the fact that our (majority) culture judges women, and women judge themselves, against a physical ideal which is completely unattainable. Even the people who epitomise it don't really have it, in this age of Botox and Photoshop, but we want to believe it, so we do. I loathe the fact that women spend so much time measuring how far they fall short of this ideal and beating themselves up about it, and that this message is reinforced by a diet and beauty industry which makes billions from our low self-esteem.

It's a struggle managing all that, finding your style, working out how to dress, how to look, what to care about, what to let go, what to confront, how to age. There's a lot of misery involved, some of it mine (though, on the whole, I have been able to plot a navigable route through this particular minefield).

But even at its sharp end it's better, in my opinion, than only engaging with the public sphere with your face and body covered.

There's something about the veil in particular, and associated shapeless black stuff in general, that I find unpalatable to the point of unacceptable. I think it has to do with the idea that women must be modest so that men are not tempted to indulge their baser urges. If you can't see women, I believe the argument runs, you will somehow be freed from your thoughts of defiling them.

Q: On how many levels is this offensive (to both men and women)?
A: Plenty.

So good point well made on Jack's part I think (and I haven't said *that* for a while). In fact I think his is a better way in than mine. I can't believe that anyone really does want to cover their face up, but some of them say they do, and I think his argument is both delicate and effective.



Blogger Spine said...

Absolutely. and well done to Mr Straw for hitting the main issue, which is human contact, as mediated by these funny, flexible face things we have.

None of this is news here in Turkey, of course. The only puzzlement here is that it is taking so long for Europe's advocates of progressive politics and equality to understand what they are dealing with. Some educated (read passionately Kemalist) Turks see multi-culturalism, as manifested in the UK, as a form of protacted suicide by a society that once led the way.

You see all sorts of head covering here, naturally enough, and more ninjas than you do in Bath. But oddly enough, recent surveys show headscarf use is on the decline, and many women only feel the need to cover their hair when they visit a mosque or a cemetary.

I gather Straw was talking about his constituency surgeries. Turkish politicians don't really face his problem because they banned the headscarf in government buildings a long time ago. They call it ``public space''.

Yours with a fag on the street in Ramadan,

9:31 am  
Anonymous Peter said...

I agree too. As well as with your blog (since August, much of it anyway) have just been catching up on `The Bookseller of Kabul' which provides an inside view of the roles (plural) of the burka. In one it can indeed be liberating; in another it may enable deception; but all the rest of the time it offends human rights. That was not where Straw was purporting to come from, admittedly. Credit to him for once, however, I agree.

While I am it, I take the opportunity to say hello to you and M. Fingers crossed that you did the right thing on my birthday; guess you did.

2:13 pm  

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