On Tuesday, I quoted the comment of a Muslim woman who felt western commercial interests had enslaved women, convincing them to use their bodies to sell products. “And they are made to believe that this is freedom.” (Blog 4/7/15)
Certainly, there is more than a grain of truth to this observation. The female form advertises products as diverse as cars, stilettos and baby diapers. But is a model being exploited by her work? If asked, she might say, “I’d rather be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company.” And yes, women do need to break through a few more glass ceilings. But is the job exploitation? Does It reflect a lack of freedom? Probably not. Being a model is a choice, albeit an option taken from a narrower range than afforded a man.
The irony is that a Muslim woman should raise this objection, as though she were oblivious of the narrow constraints placed upon her by her culture. I’m no expert, but I’m not aware that the Koran requires a female to cover her face. Yet some cultures seek to confine females to the anonymity of a burka and a veil. That one half of a population should exercise such control over the other half is more than tradition. It’s tyranny. Not even the Catholic Church, that bastion of male idolatry, any longer dictates that a nun wear a habit.
Recently, in western cultures, like France, there have been efforts to ban face and head coverings. Some people have voiced their opposition in the name of multiculturalism. And, needless to say, some Muslim women argue they are being denied their right to choose their manner of dress. No one should be surprised. A portion of women are always ready to rise up against themselves in favor of the status quo. If that weren’t the case, women in the United States would enjoy the true freedom afforded by the Equal Rights Amendment.
I am indifferent to whether or not a woman wears a head covering and a veil, if that is her choice. But whether she wills it or not, I object to that manner of dress if it reflects the “mandates of their men folk,” as Christopher Hitchens once wrote. (“In Your Face,” from Arguably, a collection of essay by Christopher Hitchens, published by Twelve, 2011, pg. 424.)
Still, if I am to be honest, I see no virtue in shrouds of any kind. As Hitchens pointed out, they did little to elevate the morality of the Ku Klux Klan. And I agree with him that “the right of women to show their faces… easily trumps the right of their male relatives or their male imams to decide otherwise.” (Ibid pg. 425) To choose is the essence of freedom whether it be to wear the veil or sport a bikini in front of a sports car.