i'm posting this here for those that don't read the big blog and want a more intimate place to express their opinion. if you want to be part of a larger discussion, you can find it here: feministmormonhousewives.org
As a western woman with the freedoms to wear whatever I want (as long as it’s garment worthy) I secretly snickered when I heard that French president Nicolas Sarkozy wants to ban the wearing of burqas by Muslim women on French territory. Apparently, he wants to protect the dignity of women.
After all, a *burqa is an article of clothing designed to conceal a woman from head to toe with only her eyes to be seen. To my half-white, middle-class American mind, the wearing of a burqa is just crazy. It forces a woman to be “invisible”. She is no longer a person, she’s property.
And as a feminist, it makes me uncomfortable to be around.**
But, my silent and fleeting satisfaction quickly turned to thoughts of the potential harms of such laws.
Religious tolerance and personal freedoms were first to my mind.
And the women. What happens to the women who have been forbidden by law to wear their coverings in public?
It’s easy for me as a feminist to almost intuitively think that any kind of forced covering is wrong. I mean, she’ll never be equal to anyone as long as she’s hidden behind a veil, right?
the religious person in me thinks that legislating what religious apparel is ‘unacceptable’ is just establishing a precedent for doing away with any form of outward signs of religion (garments? yarmulkes?). And what about cultural clothing?
What if a government decides that traditional [insert any traditional immigrant to the new country] clothing is not in keeping with the standards of cultural acceptability?
I know that many women wear the head scarf or burqa do it out of choice–out of religious duty. I understand and can respect those arguments. As a person who wears the garment to, in part, protect my morality and encourage modesty, I am not much different.
I also know that many women are forced to wear coverings. If I were to visit Saudi Arabia, I’d be required to cover-up in public.
So, what is the difference? Assuming their is one.
Where is the line drawn when respecting one country’s customs and laws and infringing on personal freedoms?
Where is the line drawn when respecting one group’s religious and cultural practices and protecting the rights of women/children/animals within the new host country?
What of the women who cannot wear their coverings in public? Will they be forced to stay indoors? Or will they obey the ‘laws of the land’ but be subject to sanctions by their religious and social community?
I don’t have the answers and I don’t really know what to think on this issue.
However, this does come to mind and whether or not it’s a similar scenario to you, it does help provide a starting point for me when considering France’s potential new law:
Years ago, women used to have their feet bound. Even here in the United States. Do you think we (Americans) would be so forgiving of such cultural practices now?
* If I have totally misrepresented anyone’s beliefs, please accept my apologies in advance.
**as a person who absolutely loves and celebrates religious and cultural diversity, I find myself in a world of confusion on this one.