A one-time school project gone terribly, terribly wrong.

22 January 2007

Just Back From Shooting Off My Mouth

Over at Raincoaster's.

Eventually someone commented to cheer for fashions made for those who have to be fully clothed from brow to Birkenstocks. My response?

"Coming next: the mink burqa, symbol of freedom."

It felt like a cheap shot, so I figured I'd try to expand on it here.

Background: I would feel a hell of a lot better if I really believed women would voluntarily dress like this in a free society. Even as it is, when I see a woman in chador or hijab in North America, I always find myself wondering if it's her choice.

I have no trouble in accepting that devout women or men of a faith will follow the strictures of that faith as their consciences guide them. My mother, a devout Catholic, adheres to the dietary strictures and observes all the feast and fast days. Conversely I know devout Jews who wear tattoos, gay Christians, and some fairly odd Buddhists. I know people who have rediscovered their faith comittments, and changed their dress or behaviour to suit. Fair enough.

But how many men or women--not only Muslim, but of any faith and culture, are forced to conform to some cultural "norm" or made to obey the strictures of a religion under the pain of ostracism or worse penalties.

When individual freedom clashes with religion, I believe the former must always win out. This does not mean that the church must adapt itself to the individual, but rather that if an individual chooses to do something that's clearly outside the pale of their church, then they are free to leave without fearing penalties, and free to continue to worship in their own way. In this vein, churches must also accept a reasonably wide range in behaviour--that which is not prohibited should be permitted.

In Iran there's no public debate on the topic. Not by anyone wishing to remain alive, anyway. The bias is culturally engendered, socially enforced, and legally binding.

Holding a "fashion show" in a place where a woman's free will is sublimated to her government, her family, and (only then) her religion is simply a demonstration of power:

"We make the rules. You wear what we tell you."


At 4:43 p.m., Anonymous archie said...

And any attempt to leave Islam means a religiously imposed, and Koranically endorsed, death penalty!

At 1:24 a.m., Anonymous raincoaster said...

That is what a fashion show is everywhere, Metro.

But it seems to me that the fashion week in Tehran is more about making the best of what they can than about submission to oppression. You're right that the world would be a better place if women didn't have to wear the chador, but as long as they do have to, isn't it right that they express the principle of beauty in their dress insofar as they are able? That's what I feel this is about. Nobody's going to hop into a chador just because it looks fierce.


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