By Julie Joy Clarke
I find it offensive that the French Government has placed a ban on Muslim women wearing a hijab. In a country of about 5 million Muslims, only about 2000 women wear the full veil and the powers that be, have decided that they know best and these women must be saved. Or could it be that the government wants to save the French people from this most terrible of atrocities, a female body that cannot be seen .
There are a number of assumptions in the government’s decision to act. They infer that women who wear the hijab are being oppressed not only by their husband, but also Islam. Heaven forbid that these women are cognizant beings able to make decisions for themselves. If the hijab is a symbol of male power and oppression, the question arises why should Muslim women be punished for their compliance? The argument then follows, if these women are not being oppressed and choose to wear the hijab or burka then they must be rebels flaunting western culture and as such, should be punished. It seems either way that men in power have decided that these women must be punished for acquiescence to Islam or their lack of obedience to male power structures in western societies. Never mind Islam, how dare you defy our will!
Non-Mulsim women throughout the world have the freedom to choose their own style of clothing, which tends more and more to reveal rather than cover their bodily parts – note the recent trend of women wearing short shorts, which occasionally creates an almost pornographic revealing of the pubis and buttocks of the wearer and the tops that get lower and lower, revealing more and more of female breasts.
But we live in a capitalists society where the body and bodily parts are highly marketable and women are encouraged to show their wares. The Muslim woman who covers her body transgresses male desire to see and female (but not all female) desire that others desire to look at them; male desire considered primary!
I’m beginning to think that countries that ban the hijab do so not because they actually think the item of clothing is divisive in a religious sense because there’s already a division between Islam and Christianity, but because the hijab has become like a red rag to a bull that flags the notion, we dare to be different in a different way than you have condoned!
And where do western, educated women in gender neutral jobs figure in all of this? Used to competing in obvious and non-obvious ways with their body (after all, isn’t that what people see first – groomed, beautiful and as perfect as they can be with up to the minute fashions) they know that they are no challenge to those not selling. How can they be better, thinner, more beautiful than the woman who keeps it all under wraps?
The ground lines may have shifted, but from what I can ascertain, men are still holding the chalk.
Intro of Author : Dr Julie Clarke has an MA in Art History and a PhD in Cinema from the University of Melbourne. She is a sometimes painter, poet and photographer who has worked in community development and the media. She has been an arts worker for the Melbourne Fringe Festival, private organizations and individuals, and has worked extensively for the University sector. She is currently an Honorary Fellow and casual tutor with the University of Melbourne. She has published extensively on the posthuman, and in particular on the work of Stelarc. Her artwork has been exhibited in numerous group exhibitions locally and overseas.