Friday, April 22, 2011

Veils in France

So, last week, France's law banning face coverings came into effect.  It is widely believed that this law was brought about to stop women form wearing the burka.  However, I don't believe the law specifically mentions the word burka.  I think I've talked about this before, but I'll talk about it again.

This is a fairly drastic law that has been enacted to stop a handful of women, (about 300 or so, I believe), from wearing the burka.  It is being enforce din the name of equality and ending oppression.  Now, maybe I'm being a little naive here*, but the idea of fighting oppression with yet more oppression is not only ridiculous, but unworkable.

No woman, no human, should be forced to wear something they don't wish to.  Women shouldn't be forced to wear the burka if they don't want to.  But this law won't address this issue of force.  For those women forced to wear it in public, there is a high possibility that now they simply won't be allowed out of the house, i.e. out in public.

For those women choosing to wear it, how on earth does this law help them?  How does banning their wearing of it make the banners (the government) any better than the people who force other women to wear the burka?

How does taking away women's choice help us achieve gender equality?

Mind you, I don't really believe that this law is about achieving gender equality.  France has always been very protective of it's culture, very keen to preserve the French language and French way of life.  Radio and TV stations must play/show a certain amount of French language songs/TV programmes, for example.  It's a secular country and doesn't have a lot of time for religion.  It also doesn't particularly like immigrants, or anyone un-French.  I get the impression it can be rather racist.

I think these things have led towards the ban on the burka,  I think that mentioning feminism and gender equality is just lip service, and that these terms are used only because it is politically convenient.  France is not free of sexism or misogyny (where is?) and this ban on face coverings does not further the feminist cause.  If this law is to be followed to the letter then I expect to see fancy dress masks and carnival masks also banned.

I don't expect this will happen.  Why not?  Because the French government cares about how French  (as in the degree of Frenchness of a person) people look on the outside.  Muslims in the burka do not look French, so they should be got rid of.  Out of sight, out of mind and all that.

For those that argue for a ban because seeing a women in a burka makes them, the onlooker, feel uncomfortable, well, if you think that you're a prat.

I think the French government would prefer Muslim women to wear more Westernised clothes - no doubt fashionable garments, probably tight and accompanied by high heels.  I.e., swapping one sort of clothing conformity for another, ugh.

No, this ban on the burka and other facial coverings does not help women at all.  There are more effective ways to help abused and oppressed women, whatever their religious or cultural background, but this stupid and downright offensive law is not one of them.

Discussion and comments welcomed.

*Here's a hint. I'm not.


Ruwayda Mustafah said...

The legislation which was approved did not mention 'women' or 'burka' despite it affecting them mostly. What's ironic is that, it also covers e.g. bee keepers (they too wear a veil) and any other form of face-coverage whether for artistic or other purposes such as a person with severe burns.

Saranga said...

Thanks for the info!

Eyz said...

Well, I'm not french, nor live there but I'm quite close to france (geographically) and know stuff about it.
They're usually quite a mixed population. It's perfectly natural to come across various people from Portuguese, Spanish, Arabs, Iranians, etc.. there.

But there's clearly some tension amongst "groups" of population.

I'm guessing they'd hope to stop the dispersion of various religions, which is something (religion) looked down upon in France. Be it Catholics, Muslims, etc..
Perhaps looked from the UK or the US, France looks a bit ethnocentric, or even "racist", but I'm guessing just as much as when us - outlanders, look over the US and the UK.

There's just as much diversity over there!
(apart from the religious aspect which they're trying to ban/get rid off in the workplaces, etc..)

Saranga said...

Thanks for your point of view Eyz. :) I'm always grateful to hear from people who are closer to whatever it is I'm mouthing off about.

I'm aware that in the UK we tend to feel quite seperate to the continent, to the extent of referring to the continent as Europe, like we are somehow not part of it. It's a bizzare little islander attitude that's all tied up with feelings of Britishness, which I have no truck with.

When mentioning racist attitudes in France I was thinking of those inner city riots that happened in Paris a few years back. I have no idea what the rest of France thought of them, but it gave me the lasting idea that France is a bit racist. That is not a reasonable reaction to have, so thank you for pulling my up on it.

And yes I agree, we in the UK probably do look racist, and in a lot of ways, we are, there's a lot of direct and indirect discrimination in the UK.
But I didn't mean to imply that the UK is better than France.

I agree that France's attitudes towards the veil are probably more motivated by it's secular stance, but anti islam sentiments seem to be tied up withr acist attitudes, esp since 9/11. How do we seperate them? Can we? It's a hard question to answer.

Thanks again for your comment. :)