I came across a Buzzfeed article today talking about certain types of clothes that have been banned for women in certain places this year. As this is a class that has a large focus on feminism, I thought it would be interesting to talk about this issue a bit. I researched the topic a bit, and I found that currently there is a public face-covering ban in France that was upheld this year. This includes masks, scarves, and other clothing items that cover the face, including many cultural face coverings used in the Middle East by women. This had led to a lot of debate and frustration from both the French government and it’s people. It is generally either argued that the law protects the public at large or it denies freedom to certain groups. The government’s argument is that it is hard to protect people when they or others cannot be facially recognized. What if a masked individual commits a murder or other crime in a public place, and is able to get away because no one was able to recognize them or know what the individual looked like? On the other hand, most of the people who wear face coverings in that country do so for religious reasons. Wouldn’t having a ban on these items take away their individual freedoms to wear what they want? Obviously not every person who wears a face covering is a murderer, so why ban it?

The issue is a giant mess of opinions. Some say the ban should be upheld, and some say it should be stricken down. If I mentioned all the arguments for or against it (and these are just the ones I came across) this post would be a book. Personally I don’t think the ban is a good idea, and from what we’ve learned so far in class, targeting certain groups and forcing them to do things they don’t want to do is considered generally a bad thing, and it’s not going to further equality in any way. I just thought I’d inform you guys that this is still a thing that is happening today. Stereotyping is not a thing of the past, and we need to be aware of that.

(Sorry for the long post, also if any of my info is wrong please let me know. It is not my intention to spread false information!)

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6 responses to “

  1. Is this the piece? http://www.buzzfeed.com/rossalynwarren/items-of-clothing-women-have-been-told-they-shouldnt-wear?bffb&utm_term=4ldqpgp#34sjibq The hijab has been an issue in France, back and forth, for 15 years or so; I’d missed the situation in Australia recently, though.

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  2. You’re right that the issue is a giant mess of opinions, and that Buzzfeed article did a horrific job of explaining the context of the ban on public face-covering. I can see how both sides of the issue arrived at their conclusions, and that it isn’t simply Islamophobia. Feminists seem split by the issue, as do politicians on both the left and right, all for different reasons.

    It’s worth mentioning that France (and Western Europe in general) is riding a long streak of enforcement of secular values, especially in public places. Partly because of its own violent history regarding religious struggles, France tends to come down on hard on the display of religious symbols. We tend to think of France and Western Europe as more liberal, and in many ways it is, but they are not as opposed to government control as Americans tend to be, and when it comes to conspicuous expression of religion they unapologetically reject it. And since the Islamic community is large and growing there, the hostility has shifted to those expressions as well. And the bans enjoy popular support in those countries: according The Economist, a majority of citizens supported the ban on burqas in France, Spain, Britain, Germany, and Italy (interestingly, only 33% of Americans polled would support it). My thoughts are that such a ban is too strict and doesn’t allow for personal choice, but I also realize that there are solid reasons to support a ban. I would suggest attempting to persuade and educate before I would vote for a complete prohibition. I would encourage everyone to research this topic for themselves before deciding one way or another,

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  3. I remember hearing about this issue a few years ago actually. I can see both sides, but honestly, I think it’s a bit Islamophobic. Wearing burqas and other types of veils related to Islamic practices in public are not the same as wearing a ski-mask to make a deposit at the bank or a Guy Fawkes mask to get a permit from city hall. I clearly don’t know enough about the issue to make a truly informed opinion, but I’d have to say that it seems like an infringement of religious freedom.

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  4. It would be silly for me to pretend that this law isn’t meant to apply to Islamic customs, but there were several reasons I said it wasn’t simply about Islamophobia. For one thing, as far as I know there is no requirement in the Koran for the covering of the face. Also, the charge of Islamophobia (and racism, sexism, etc.) is often used as a crutch for arguing against things that one doesn’t agree with. If there is justification for disagreeing with the law (and there is), the argument shouldn’t hinge on the fact that the law is targeting one faith. There are many precedents for outlawing specific religious practices deemed to be contrary to the public good; for example, the anti-polygamy laws in the US could be said to target Mormons, but does that make you a bigot if you agree with the prohibition on polygamous marriage? The same question applies to the issues of female genital mutilation, circumcision, and any other harmful religious or cultural custom. Third, to call the law Islamophobic would ignore the support for the law among some Muslims, particularly Islamic feminists and certain clerics who resent the rise of fundamentalists who seek to force women to wear the veil. For every woman that claimed that the law restricted their personal choice, there was another who could say that the law liberated them from family members who abused them and forced them to become faceless. Even in some Muslim countries, head and face-coverings have become illegal in government buildings and universities.

    But all this pales in light of the legitimate argument made by supporters of the ban, such as Christopher Hitchens, who wrote that the French were instead “attempting to lift a ban: a ban on the right of women to choose their own dress, a ban on the right of women to disagree with male and clerical authority, and a ban on the right of all citizens to look one another in the face.”

    Sorry about the long text, but it’s important to not ignore the points made by the French who see themselves as upholding the rights of women and a secular society, not tearing down the rights of Muslims to practice their religion. You and I may disagree with the law, but there is a case to be made for it.

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  5. You guys! Great conversation! Keep it going.

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  6. Wow, I didn’t think I’d get this many comments on this post! Thank you guys for your input! First of all, yes that’s the right article, sorry I forgot to add the link! And like most of ya’ll are saying, I can definitely see both sides of the argument having some valid arguments, but I didn’t make any bold opinions or assumptions because to be honest I don’t know all that much about France or the issue, but I do agree that the problem is not whether it is decided one way or another, but that the decision allows these women to chose whether or not to wear it. It’s the maintaining of that right which should be the crucial factor, no matter what decision is made. For example, maybe if the law was upheld but with an exemption for religious purposes, it might be more well received? But others might not agree. I haven’t made a solid opinion on the matter, like I said, but I do think one of those arguments that fundamentally boils down to peace of mind for some and freedom for others, and these kinds of issues have been present throughout recent history. It’s definitely worth keeping an eye on.

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