Tuesday, November 27, 2012
Monday, October 08, 2012
Sunday, January 08, 2012
Saturday, August 27, 2011
Setting the Record Straight
A few days ago, Sonia Sarkar, a Special Correspondent of The Telegraph newspaper wrote me in a letter and questioned, “What exactly is Sense and Sensuality? The website gives me an impression that it is a common platform where women facing sexual harassment on streets can write about their experiences. But what after that? Is it only a platform of empathy or something more than that?”
I was stunned at her questions. I have been blogging here for not less than five years and my bloggings have been awarded as best blog by organizations throughout the world. In 2009, the Red Room, a literary website based in America, declared my blogging as one of the best blogs of the week in September of 2011. I have been awarded the Ladli Media Award of India for gender sensitivity for one of my bloggings. Many of my bloggings have been reposted, translated and published in different languages of the sub-continent. Google statistics show I have readers and visitors from all over the world. Moreover, the articles of my blogs have been published in a book form by a reputed publisher from Delhi. Still a Special correspondent of an English newspaper could ask me such questions. From that day, I decided to write a brief description of my motto of blogging and my ideas of feminism here, which I could publish as a preface in my next forthcoming book.
Who I Really Am
I have been repeatedly told that I am never an activist and basically, I am a writer. I have also told many times that as a feminist I am more a writer and as a writer I am more a feminist. Actually I don’t know if I am a feminist in any way or not because in my idea, I have found the ideas of Second Wave feminists as stereotyped. I am just a thinker and I write about what I think gender study should be.
I have found in India, some critics compare me with Simone De Beauvoir, though I differ from her on theoretical grounds. Once, The Tribune from Chandigarh described me as the ‘Virginia Woolf and Judith Butler of India’ in its Sunday, June 13, 2010 issue. But my readers know how many similarities these two eminent personalities and I have.
So, at last I have decided to list again some of my ideas on women in brief.
The Main Concept of My ‘Feminism’
For me, feminism is not a gender problem or any confrontational attack on male hegemony so it is quite different from that of Virginia Woolf or Judith Butler. I accept feminism as a total entity of female-hood, which is completely separate from the man’s world.
To me, femininity (rather than feminism) has a wonderful power. In our de-gendered times, a really feminine woman is a joy to behold and you can love and unleash your own unique yet universal femininity. We are here for gender sensitivity to proclaim the differences between men and woman with a kind of pretence that we are all the same. Too many women have been de-feminized by society. To be feminine is to know how to pay attention to detail and people; to have people skills; and to know how to connect to and work well with others. There will be particular times and situations within which you'll want to be more in touch and in tune with your femininity than others. Being able to choose is a great privilege and skill.
I think 'femininity' is the proper word to replace 'feminism,' because the latter has lost its significance and identity due to its extensive involvement with radical politics. Femininity comes from the original Latin word femine which means ‘female’ or ‘women’ and certainly the word creates debatable identical characteristics. It separates the female mass from a masculine world with reference to gentleness, empathy, sensitivity, nurturance, deference, self-abasement, and succorance. And patriarchy also sets the group alien from them in their traditional milieu.
There are many more differences in theories among scientists, anthropologists, and psychologist regarding the nature and behavior of the female mass. Biologists believe the role of our hormones, particularly sex hormones, and the structure of our chromosomes are responsible for such a dichotomy in gender, though some queer theorists and other postmodernists, however, have rejected the sex (biology)/gender (culture) dichotomy as a “dangerous simplification.” Psychology, often influenced by patriarchy, categorises women as different from the masculine world in certain behavioural, emotional and logical areas. Social anthropologists deny the concept of biology or psychology which keep women aside from the masculine world. Simone De Beauvoir’s saying “one is not born a woman, but becomes one” impressed social anthropologists so much that they create a different theory of feminine socialisation.
Here in my bloggings, I have constantly tried to analyse the ‘truth,’ as related by biologists and anthropologists. What I think true to my sense and sensibility, I have expressed without any hesitation. But still I don’t consider myself as a conformist because I consider myself more a writer and as a writer, I think I am always a genderless entity. In my opinion, a writer should not have any gender. But still, patriarchal society has prevailed; is there any possibility to have a genderless society?
How I differ from Simone De Beauvoir on ideas of Feminism
This section is from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Other)
( There are some grammatical errors in the Wikipedian text, which I did not touch as I treated it as a quote)
Simone De Beauvoir changed the Hegelian notion of the Other, for use in her description of male-dominated culture. This treats woman as the Other in relation to man. The Other has thus become an important concept for studies of the sex-gender system. Michael Warner argues that:
the modern system of sex and gender would not be possible without a disposition to interpret the difference between genders as the difference between self and Other ... having a sexual object of the opposite gender is taken to be the normal and paradigmatic form of an interest in the Other or, more generally, others.
Thus, according to Warner, Freudian and Lacanian psychoanalysis hold the heterosexist view that if one is attracted to people of the same gender as one's self, one fails to distinguish self and other, identification and desire. This is a "regressive" or an "arrested" function. He further argues that heteronormativity covers its own narcissistic investments by projecting or displacing them on queerness.
De Beauvoir calls the Other the minority, the least favored one and often a woman, when compared to a man, "for a man represents both the positive and the neutral, as indicated by the common use of man to designate human beings in general; whereas woman represents only the negative, defined by limiting criteria, without reciprocity" (McCann, 33). Betty Friedan supported this thought when she interviewed women and the majority of them identified themselves in their role in the private sphere, rather than addressing their own personal achievements. They automatically identified as the Other without knowing. Although the Other may be influenced by a socially constructed society, one can argue that society has the power to change this creation (Haslanger).
In an effort to dismantle the notion of the Other, Cheshire Calhoun proposed a deconstruction of the word "woman" from a subordinate association and to reconstruct it by proving women do not need to be rationalized by male dominance. This would contribute to the idea of the Other and minimize the hierarchal connotation this word implies.
Sarojini Sahoo, an Indian feminist writer, agrees with De Beauvoir that women can only free themselves by “thinking, taking action, working, creating, on the same terms as men; instead of seeking to disparage them, she declares herself their equal." She disagrees, however, that though women have the same status to men as human beings, they have their own identity and they are different from men. They are "others" in real definition, but this is not in context with Hegelian definition of “others”. It is not always due to man’s "active" and "subjective" demands. They are the others, unknowingly accepting the subjugation as a part of "subjectivity". Sahoo, however contends that whilst the woman identity is certainly constitutionally different from that of man, men and women still share a basic human equality. Thus the harmful asymmetric sex/gender "Othering" arises accidentally and ‘passively’ from natural, unavoidable intersubjectivity.
Why I differ from the Second Wave feminists or Western Feminists
For many feminist thinkers, after marriage a family breeds patriarchy. Happily-married women are considered false and double-crossing. The titles of popular feminist books from the early movement highlight the split between gender feminists and women who chose domesticity. Jill Johnston in her “Lesbian Nation” (1973) said married women who are heterosexual females 'traitors'; Kate Millett, in her “Sexual Politics” (1970), redefined heterosexual sex as a power struggle; whereas it was argued in Kathrin Perutz's “Marriage is Hell” (1972) and Ellen Peck's “The Baby Trap” (1971), that motherhood blocks the liberation of a woman. These feminists always try to paint marriage as legalized prostitution and heterosexual intercourse as rape. And they come to the decision men are the enemy and families are prisons.
My Thoughts on Marriage and Parenting
Betty Friedan and Germaine Greer were against marriage in their earlier thoughts. But they tried to skip from their anti marriage ideas in later periods of their lives. Marriage is a three-sided arrangement between a husband, a wife and society. That is, society legally defines what a marriage is and how it can be dissolved. But marriage is, on the other hand, for partners of the marriage; it is more of an individual relationship than a social matter. This is the main reason of crisis. Individually, I think marriage must be taken out of the social realm and fully put back into the private one. Society should withdraw from marriage and allow the adults involved to work out their own definition of justice in the privacy of their own homes.
Our feminist thinkers always try to skip the idea that offspring-begging is a natural instinct of a woman and it is related to our ecological and environmental situation. Anything against it may result in disaster. We find a woman has to pass through a different stage in her lifespan and there is a phase where a woman feels an intense need of her own offspring. Feminists of second-wave feminism have always tried to pursue a woman against the natural law because it is seemed to them that motherhood is barricade for the freedom of a woman. But if the woman works and has a career, doesn’t that mean that her working assignments would demand more of her time, more of her sincerity, and of course, more of her freedom? Where is the freedom there? If a woman can adjust herself and can sacrifice her freedom for her own identity outside her home, then why then couldn’t she sacrifice some of that same freedom and identity inside her home for parenting, when parenting is also a part of her social identity? And then what are the costs in both freedom and identity for women who have two careers -- one outside the home and one inside the home? It becomes good food for thought and debate.
And this double career of women could also be solved by rejecting the traditional patriarchal role of parenting. We have to insist on the idea of the equal division of labor in parenting. This equally shared parenting is now more common in the West where it has become an economic necessity to have two or more incomes just to survive. But still in South Asian countries as well as in many other parts of the world, we find shared parenting is a taboo factor because of the economic inequality between men and women, our crazy work culture, and the constrictions placed on us by traditional gender roles.
The conflict between American mother-daughter feminists Alice Walker and Rebecca Walker is a well-known chapter for Western feminism. Alice Walker, the mother, the second-wave feminist, obviously had an anti-motherhood idea as the other western feminists of her time. But Rebecca Walker, her daughter and a feminist of third wave discussed in her book “Baby Love” about how motherhood freed women like herself from their roles as daughters, and how this provided the much-needed perspective to heal themselves from damaged mother-daughter relationships and claim their full adulthood. What happened? This latest article is mired in unresolved childish hurt and anger (especially in the chapter “How my mother’s fanatical views tore us apart”), which would be all well and good except that she strikes out at her mother by striking out at feminism. I personally think the bitterness between her and her mother, as any woman who has ever fallen out with her mother knows, is a very painful experience and note to self, one that probably shouldn’t be written about too much in public.
In her book “Baby Love,” Rebecca Walker writes directly about unadulterated excitement and pride about becoming a mother. Rebecca argues that motherhood frees us from childhood. It is the most important step a woman can take because it creates another human being and because it makes a woman an adult.
I found this to be true for myself. In one of my stories in “AMRUTA PRATIKSHA RE” (Waiting for Manna )(1989), published many years before “Baby Love,” I discuss the queries of a woman after a lifetime of wondering whether to have children, wondering if the sacrifices are worth it, wondering if life is full enough already -- how does our generation of women decide to have children? How does any generation of women decide to have children? Or DO they decide to have children? Do they have the freedom to?
Why I Oppose Some Theories of Social Anthropologists: Natural Gender v. Learned Gender
I began the first article in my book “Sensible Sensuality” with “Bicycle and Me,” where I wrote of my experiences of childhood. As my father had an obsession for a male child, he wanted to see me as a boy and therefore, I was dressed as a boy; my hair was cut like a boy’s; and I used to play boyish games with boys instead of girlish games with girls. In my second article, I mentioned my Portuguese friend’s query, where he asked whether this being raised as a male child had any impact in my sexuality in later life or not. It is clear to me that these cross-gender activities did not make any difference in my later life, and I grew up normally as a woman.
When I studied more about gender theories, especially in anthropology, I found that the anthropologists tried to confirm that gender is not innate but is based upon social and cultural conditions -- in other words, it is learnt. But my mind did not accept the theory so easily. Margaret Mead, in her anthropological study in 1935, concluded the differences in temperament between men and women were not a function of their biological differences, rather, they resulted from differences in socialisation and the cultural expectations held for each sex. (See: “Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies” by Margaret Mead; New York: Dell.). This is, I think, the earliest study that led to the conclusion that gender is more a social and cultural factor than a biological one. According to this study, it is the social environment of the child, such as parents and teachers, that shapes the gender identity of a child. A child learns what to wear (girls in frocks and boys in shirt-pants); how and what to play (dolls for girls and cars for boys); how to behave (passivity and dependence in girls and aggressiveness and independence in boys); and how to reciprocate (gender-wise thoughts, feelings, or behavior). As a result, according to their theories, these ‘learnings’ confirm an appropriate gender-wise appearance and behavior, which leads to gender identity.
The sex/gender distinction, seen as a set and unchangeable dichotomy, does not help social scientists. They might have feared that “the set of sex/gender distinction serve to ‘ground’ a society's system of gender differences, [but] the ground seems in some ways to be less firm than what it is supporting.” (See the essay: “Transsexualism: Reflections on the Persistence of Gender and the Mutability of Sex in Body Guards” by Judith Shapiro in the book ‘The Cultural Politics of Gender Ambiguity’ (eds) J. Epstein and K. Straub, 1991). Other social anthropologists like Moira Gatens , Henrietta Moore, Pat Caplan dismiss the idea of a biological domain separated from the social. Even Pat Caplan declared that “...sexuality, like gender, is socially constructed.” From the preceding sentences, one can see that gender identities are grounded in ideas about sex and cultural mechanisms and create men and women from them.
But we also have to remember that biological sex is related to chromosomal sex, genitalia, assigned birth sex, or initial gender role which are rooted deeply in science and somehow proved rather than hypothetically assumed. Humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes within each cell; 22 of these are alike in both males and females. But when we come to the 23rd pair, the sexes are not the same. Every woman has in her cells two of what we call the ‘X’ chromosome. But a man has just one X and another Y chromosome. These sets of chromosomes are what make males and females different biologically.
Also, the sex hormones, primarily estrogen and testosterone, have a significant impact on the behavior of males and females. For example, why do boys typically like to play with cars and girls like to typically play with dolls? Social anthropologists think it is the impact of socialization while biological science thinks it is the role of these sex hormones which differentiate the choice children make gender-wise. Biology says the sex-specific differences in the brain are located both in the primitive regions, and in the neocortex, the higher brain region which contains 70 percent of the neurons in the central nervous system.
The neocortex is divided into two hemispheres joined by a 200-million fiber network called the corpus callosum. The left hemisphere controls language analysis and expression and body movements while the right hemisphere is responsible for spatial relationships, facial expressions, emotional stimuli, and vocal intonations. Females use both their right and left hemisphere to process language in certain circumstances while males just use one hemisphere. Females also reach puberty two years earlier than boys, as per biological science, and this changes the way they process social and sexual information.
There are still some characteristics and feelings that I think social anthropologists rule out for the sake of their theories. What about the voice pitch? Males have harsh voices and females have soft voices. This is a biological characteristic and it is related to gender. The crisis of infertility may create a serious trauma to a female, which a male cannot feel. This is a feeling innate with specific feminine gender and it is more a psychological and biological than a social problem. The menopausal psycho syndromes are totally biological and not categorised with this social gender theory. Social anthropologists emphasise that we are all trying to pass as a gender which is decided by cultural systems, not our biological sex. But that is only in a black and white world. But how about when it turns gray?
What happens in the cases of transsexuals who do not pass it? The operation does not make their bodies fully male or fully female. The genitals will not function as genuine genitals and their chromosomes cannot be changed. Voice pitch and other physical characteristics might reveal their transsexualism. Actually, the high level of testosterone in men drives them toward some specific masculine characteristics while the lack of high levels of estrogen in women creates a natural, biological push in the direction of feminine characteristics. So is this biological or is it social?
A Closing Thought
Each gender has different strengths and weaknesses. This does not mean that one sex is superior OR inferior to another. Being feminine is a woman's birthright! It is always hard for me to understand why any woman would want to give up this cherished possession. I feel proud and adore my feminine dress, grooming, carriage, posture, voice, and language.
I want to use an integrated analysis of oppression which means that BOTH men and women are subjected to oppression and stereotypes and that these oppressive experiences have a profound affect on beliefs and perceptions. I am against the patriarchy role model of society but it does not mean that I want to replace a matriarchal role model of society in place of the existing patriarchal one.
What I want is to develop equal mutual relationships of caring and support between all genders and I want to focus on strengthening women in areas such as assertiveness, communication, relationships, and self esteem.
I am here to stand against patriarchy and stand for all that it is not.
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Banning the Burqa: What’s Really Being Hid?
“After a hard day at work, an Afghan working woman usually changes out of her uniform, applies her lipstick, a dab of mascara, and a dusting of eye shadow and then she puts on her powder blue burqa and commutes home,” writes Kiko Itasaka, an NBC News producer in her blogging at NBC’ Blog. (http://worldblog.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2010/05/14/4376895-under-that-burqa-lipstick-and-high-heels).
Burqa, a full-body covered black gown and hijab (‘niqab’) a head/ face-covered scarf are modest Muslim styles of dress in general which were introduced into Arabia long before Muhammad, primarily through Arab contacts with Syria and Iran, where the veil was a sign of social status. [See: Ahmed, Leyla (1992). Women and Gender in Islam: Historical Roots of a Modern Debate. New Haven: Yale University Press. ISBN 0300055838.]
Wearing a ‘burqa,’ for a woman, is also not a pleasant experience.
When she moved to Saudi Arabia, Nesrine Malik, a girl originally from Sudan but living in London, had to wear a burqa and she tells of her experiences with that full-length cloak in her blog (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/personal-view/7896536/Burka-ban-Why-must-I-cast-off-the-veil.html). She commented, “On a practical level, it was cumbersome, hot, and uncomfortable. Eating or drinking in public became a chore, as food has to be maneuvered gingerly under the veil or taken abruptly in small bites. In Saudi’s overwhelming heat, temperatures regularly reach 45C and any physical outdoor activity, even walking, is out of the question. I became anti-social, hardly able to wait until I got home before tearing off the ghastly garb.”
In Kabul, more than half of the women wear burqas, while outside of Kabul, virtually all women are clad in head-to-toe covering. It was an astonishing fact for me that during my Bangladesh visit a few years ago, I found none of the women wearing burqas and very few in ‘niqab’ or ‘hijab’ on the streets of Dhaka and Chattogram or even in Cox Bazar. But during my visit to Kerala, I saw the majority of Muslim women walking on the street wearing that black long gown, covering their total body. One of my writer friends told me that these types of scenes were not common in Calicut at least fifteen years ago and the tendency to wear has been growing after the demolition of Babri mosque. After that evil incident, Indian Muslims suffered from an identity crisis and started to accept all religious conservatism as their mark of religious identity. I haven’t visited Pakistan, so it is difficult for me to say what is the status of Burqa there, but I encountered a question asked by an internet user at ‘Yahoo Answers’ site. The user has asked, “I went to India and Pakistan respectively for vacation and surprisingly to my knowledge, I expected Pakistani women to be dressed very ‘Islam-like,’ but from what I've seen, they were all mixing in with men with no head-scarfs on their heads, let alone burqas. Isn't Pakistan an Islamic state?” (See: http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20110417132757AAxwwfo)
I have an idea that the ‘burqa’ was imposed on women when the Taliban took over the country in 1996, but Kiko Itasaka says it was accepted by Afghanistan women before the Taliban when the Northern Alliance took control of Kabul in 1992. It was accepted as a tool to protect them from unwanted male attention as that was the time of violent crimes, many of them committed against women. (See: http://salaamafghanistan.blogspot.com/2004_07_04_salaamafghanistan_archive.html) I don’t know whether it is American propaganda or not but in India we are reading in news that the fundamentalist Muslim militants in Kashmir issue ‘fatwa’ from time to time that wearing ‘burqa’ for women is an essential of the female dress code. Recently in this year, Sesto San Giovanni, a small town in Italy, made national headlines after it decided to ban women from wearing burqas and to which Muslim women of Italy, who generally do not prefer ‘burqa’ came on the street to protest the authority’s decision stating that it is an unfair and unnecessary attack on their freedom of expression.
Recently in several European countries, a tendency to ban this full-body covering burqa or the face-covering ‘hijab’ has been seen and as governments there are trying to outlaw this dress code, which is pushing many countries toward a debate. At the end of April, the Belgian Parliament agreed unanimously on a law that would forbid full veiling in public. But the law must still be approved by the Belgian senate. France is set to be the second European country, after Belgium, to declare the full veil illegal in public places. The French cabinet introduced a bill that would also ban face-covering in public. If parliament agrees on the measure, wearing a burqa or a hijab could carry a fine of 150 euro (about US$188). Besides these two countries, other states like the Netherlands, Italy, Austria, Denmark, Switzerland and Great Britain also intend to introduce a bills in their respective law-making bodies calling for bans on burqas. But the European Council has voiced opposition to the burqa-ban ambitions of these countries and the European Council's Human Rights Commissioner, Thomas Hammarberg, has warned that a burqa ban would only increase the tension between religious communities. According to him, “two rights in the convention are particularly relevant. One is the right to respect for one's private life and personal identity (Article 8). The other is the freedom to manifest one's religion or belief ‘in worship, teaching, practice and observance’ (Article 9). Both articles specify that these human rights can only be subject to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are notably necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.” (See http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/mar/08/europe-ban-burqa-veil)
Interestingly enough the burqa was abolished from Egypt after the eminent Egyptian feminist Hoda Shaarawi started a movement against wearing veil for women in 1923. The movement was so successful that in 1958, an article published in the United Press Service stated that “the veil is unknown here.” [See: United Press Service (UP) (26 January 1958). "Egypt's Women Foil Attempt to Restrict". Sarasota Herald-Tribune (114): p. 28]. But the veil returned back to Egypt again and in 2007, Michael Slackman, a correspondent for the New York Times, wrote in its 28 January 2007 issue ("In Egypt, a New Battle Begins Over the Veil") that 90 percent of Egyptian women wore a headscarf or a hijab.
In South Asian and Southeast Asian countries, any type of veil for women was not in tradition. In 1994, the Malayasian Supreme Court said in a historic ruling that any type of veil or purdah, “has nothing to do with (a woman's) constitutional right to profess and practice her Muslim religion, because Islam does not make it obligatory to cover the face”. But later, during the rise of Muslim conservatism, the religious fundamentalists introduced ‘burqa’ and ‘hijab.
Interesting to note, Tunisia, Turkey, and Syria are some Muslim countries which have imposed ban on wearing burqa for school and university students. Recently, Syria has lifted its ban after the 2011 Syrian Protests. So it is also a fact to remember that all Muslims are not standing in unity with such veils but if anyone forcefully tries to impose a ban, it may gather an emotional attachment with these religious dress codes and people may return to the uncharacteristic cloak as happened in Egypt in the past.
But the question is why are these European countries really showing such interests in banning a burqa and other clothing identified with the Muslim faith? Do most of women show their obligations to these religious dress codes? Many Muslim women born and brought up in European countries do not show any fascination toward these veils. But enforcing any law to prevent these veils may create a crisis in their identity and they can feel themselves to be eliminated from mainstream.
I think it is totally undemocratic to dictate any code of living to anyone. Democracy means freedom of choice! If anyone has freedom to wear jeans, they should also have the freedom to wear ‘burqa.’ Leave women to wear what they want.
If we look at the history of the initiative in France, it was started with a secular view not against only burqa and hijab but also to prohibited all religious garb, including large Christian crosses, Jewish yarmulkes, and Sikh turbans. But the law was enacted with the specific intent to eliminate the Muslim hijab, or headscarf, from French public school classrooms. In March 2004, the French Parliament passed a new law that makes it illegal for students to wear any clothing or symbols that “exhibit conspicuously a religious affiliation” in public schools. On June 22, 2009, during his address to both houses at the Chateau of Versailles, French President Nicolas Sarkozy sparked controversy by saying the burqa is unwelcome on French soil and a violation of “the French Republic's idea of women's dignity.” President Sarkozy's remarks arrived on the heels of a call by cross-party members of Parliament, led by Communist Andre Gerin. The Parliament demanded a parliamentary commission be established to investigate an increasing trend of Muslim women in France wearing the burqa and to determine whether the burqa was compatible with “French secularism.” As a result, a parliamentary commission was created by the French National Assembly, which included 32 members of Parliament from various political parties. After a five-month study, the commission submitted a report stating that “the wearing of the full veil is a challenge to our Republic. . . . We must condemn this excess.” The commission did not call for legislation to outlaw the burqa in public spaces out of constitutional concerns, but did request that Parliament adopt a resolution calling the burqa “contrary to the values of the Republic.”
France’s attitude towards banning burqa or hijab made some fundamentalist intellectuals in Britain (there are a few judiciary people are also attached to the organization) started to celebrate Interantional Hijab Day on September 4 every year [Please see: http://www.mcb.org.uk/features/features.php?ann_id=386 ] Though Bangladeshi women were not fond of these type of veils, extremist intellectuals were trying to make a global protest for protecting their Muslim culture.
I never think these types of laws are motivated with the idea of feminism but rather, are more Islamophobia and resurgent nationalist sentiment which contribute to outlaw this religious dress code. It is no doubt that Islamic radicalism is a deeply disturbing danger developing in Europe. There is every chance that the of using this cloak may disguise any terrorist and it should be harmful. But we have to remember that accessing one’s face and banning ‘burqa’ are not standing at the same point. State authorities should have the right to check and verify the person disguised under that cloak. But no state should have the full authority to interfere in an individual’s choice and cultural beliefs of any citizen. To legislate against the extremes would be a highly intrusive extension of authority. But to mobilise the mechanism of the state to tackle Islamic fundamentalism via cracking down on the face veil is not the answer, in my opinion. To force a female to remove her veil is just as subjugating as forcing her to wear it. It then becomes a question of numbers: should the behavior of five percent create prejudice or discrimination for the other 95 percent?
In French there is a term ‘Laicite’ which sometimes used in English as "laicity" and dictionaries ordinarily translate laïcité as secularity or secularism. But the term is not exact to ‘secularism.’ To solve the church-state conflicts in Europe, Pope Gelasius I established the doctrine called “Gelasian Dualism,” which denotes with regard to temporal issues, the priest must obey the emperor and in spiritual matters, the emperor must obey the priest. This theory would later develop into the theory of laicism. If we replace the term ‘church’ with the term ‘religious belief’ in this doctrine, then the state should be obliged to allow ‘burqa’ and the ‘burqa-dressed individual should be obliged to obey the state. The state authority should then have a right to access the face or search the ‘burqa’ whenever the cloak poses a safety risk to the person wearing it and those around them.
I think each culture has things that make it special. Why should that right be taken away because a small fraction of the members of that culture ruin it for that culture?
What I find more a gender bias in this law is that this ban, in fact, would reduce the equality between men and women — whereas men are allowed to wear whatever they want, women again have their rights restrained. It is foolishness to think that by making any law or dress code, the institution making its rules can make people obey and follow as dictated. Rather, it usually serves to ignite emotions and increase the impulsive alienated attitude among some communities.
If Toronto can witness ‘slut walk’ for high heels or mini skirts, why couldn’t Europe encounter a march for the veil or ‘veil walk’ in the coming days? It DOES raise interesting questions.
(While blogging on this topic, I asked my Facebook friends whether ‘burqa’ should be banned or not and what they shared with me as their comments and opinions are being posted with FEMININE-FRAGRANCE. It’s needn’t to say that the comments are neither edited nor moderated.)