Image description: An Afghan woman sells handmade crafts during the opening of a women's shelter in Afghanistan’s Kapisa province Dec. 13, 2007. The Bagram Provincial Reconstruction Team provided more than $86,000 in support of the shelter's construction, which was accomplished by local contractors. Photo by Staff Sgt. Mike Andriacco, USAF. From Wikipedia.
As I’m sure you’ve read elsewhere, the burka, hijab, niqab and other religious head-coverings have been banned in France. This is Islamophobic, racist, and sexist on a number of axes. It assumes a Western definition of what these articles of clothing means for Islam and for Muslim women. It makes the outsider view of Muslim women the official, legal position. And it denies the experiences of actual Muslim women.
This law is another entry in the long history of legal measures designed to satisfy the patriarchal and kyriarchal need for control over who women are, what they look like, and how they present themselves. Legal management of women’s bodies is an expression of sexism, whether it pertains to reproduction, weight, birth assignment, disability, sexuality, or clothing.
The French government is ordering women to express themselves in certain ways. They are determining the meaning of women’s clothing and bodies for women; they are mandating exactly how much is okay to cover up and exactly how much is too much. Sarzosky is forcing women to show their faces to the outside world, forcing them to place their bodies up for public consumption - whether they want to or not.
This is yet another example of the French government making decisions about women’s bodies for women, as they did in telling Delphine Ravisé-Giard that she is not a woman until her breasts are a certain size. Women are not free to negotiate their own bodies in France; the paternalistic government has decided that they know better.
Nothing that women do with their bodies - how they clothe, feed, exercise, enjoy them - is necessarily, objectively indicative of oppression. The stated reason for banning face and head coverings - that it makes women prisoners, that it is debasing - has nothing at all to do with what burkas and hijabs actually are and what niqab actually represent.
This law is not about intrinsic respect for women. It’s not about liberating women. It’s not about creating a country that sees women as full, independent human beings.
This law is about limiting women’s religious expression. It’s about disrespecting what women want to wear. It’s about disregarding how full, independent human beings wish to express themselves, their marginalized background, their identity.
This ban is not about ensuring that women have “a social life”, not about keeping women from being “deprived of an identity” . This ban is about depriving women of their identity: their religion, their culture, their social interactions, their deeply held beliefs.
It’s about men, once again, deciding exactly what women should and should not, can and cannot, will and will not, dress, wear, and be.
It’s about Western men, individually and systematically, controlling Muslim women - not about Muslim men individually and systematically controlling Muslim women.
Aaminah Al-Naksibendi wrote two excellent posts on the subject yesterday at her Tumblr thingsimreading. This is from also, whether the face veil is “a part of Islam or just culture” is COMPLETELY BESIDE THE POINT:
Her post oh for cripes is also excellent.
The veil ban is about privileged people maintaining, perpetuating, and exercising their kyriarchal power over Muslim women. It’s about fear and hatred of Muslim modes of expression, of belief. Women are expressing their ideals and independence in ways that clash with Western perceptions of what constitutes freedom and choice, and so: they must be silenced, they must be uncovered, they must be displayed against their will.