Recently I watched an excellent French film. The idea was a complete gender reversal, men being women and vice versa. Despite some unusual acting the film elegantly underlines the dismal double standards that exist in society and how women’s lives are still constrained. There is, however, one scene that particularly stands out in which Islamic dress is discussed. A character wearing a Hijab, an Islamic headscarf, is told, “you don’t belong to anyone, you understand?” He / she responds “It’s the law” and promptly walks away. The implication is clear; this oppressed Muslim has no choice but to conform to the wishes of a patriarchal society.
Although this is an exaggeration of what the director feels – that by wearing a head scarf you are constraining yourself to a set of rules that you do not necessarily believe in – it does raise a serious issue.
Secular or religious, we are all influenced by our surroundings. In a secular culture many new social customs, fashions and ideas are encouraged by advertising, friends and social media. Yet this acceptance of secular influence often falls short of appreciating more traditional identities.
We live in a wonderful country where we consistently emphasise the freedoms we have. I am free, therefore I will get a tattoo, a piercing; I shall wear a skirt or jeans. However, choosing to wear an object of religious value implies coercion or limitation. This double standard between secular and religious expressions is rarely conscious but still, unfortunately, exists.
Feature image credit: Remyumksoa/Wikipedia