Friday, February 12, 2010

The Burqa and the Thong

It's popped up yet again. These days you can't look at any news medium without finding an instance of the Western obsession with what Muslim women wear, whether they are coerced and how do we, in the West, handle the notion of veiled women.

The real question, of course, is what any veil means as a symbol, and to whom. Symbols are cultural expressions of social conventions. As such, they do not have fixed and absolute meanings or values.

There is no greater reason than custom and historical happenstance that a blue, white and red cloth should represent France; one could represent France with a boar's head on a stick or a bottle of Beaujolais or a photo of Brigitte Bardot.

So what is a burqa, other than a dress that covers the wearer from head to toe? Why is it more demeaning to women than, say, the miniskirt or the thong?

Just as some people argue that the burqa shows women's submission to men, others argue that the miniskirt and thong show the objectification of women as bodies made to please men.

As for the in-between costume, a veil or headscarf, the cri de guerre in French schools, I am told that it is an teenage girls' fashion. Daughters of immigrants rebel against assimilation, or simply to shock or break a rule.

Apparently, in France one can see girls with expensive, fashionable clothes, makeup, and a veil that is also as luxurious.

Isn't the headscarf a reverse miniskirt, just like the reverse of a burqa is a thong?
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