Some time ago, I watched a brilliant French video. The idea was a simple gender reversal, putting women in the role of men and vice versa. However, as part of the protagonist’s day we have a brief situation involving an Al-Amira. The character wearing this is told “you don’t belong to anyone, you understand?” The other character replies “It’s the law, you know” and promptly walks away, implying she has no choice in the matter.
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.
For some people, on seeing a person wearing a burqa, their attitude is of sadness, involuntary pity. We presume the person wearing this garb is one who has little choice or is forced to wear one. Yet when you look at the West no one can deny that there is pressure to conform to rules or cultural ideas. The idea of neknominate was most likely not one people would have chosen before it exploded into everyone’s newsfeeds. Is this not the same social pressure we would pity for anyone wearing this type of Islamic clothing?
The concept of wearing leggings emerged in the 1960s with great success and a new fashion style was born. However, would your average person have accepted these new ideas if they weren’t encouraged by friends, celebrities and an entire culture? ‘everyone’s doing it’. We follow our celebrities as others follow their religion. You can take almost any object in our society and see that we have been pressured, probably not unwillingly, into wearing, using, even eating it. I’d never tried frozen yoghurt until a couple of years ago.
And that’s the point: Who are we to judge? How can we presume that the person we see walking down the street is intimidated or controlled? If you were intimidated would you not contact the police? Perhaps this last statement is a little naive, others may argue “perhaps she’s too scared”. Yet if this were the case and anyone wearing certain clothes was too scared to go to the police, we would hope that someone would have noticed by now.
We live in a wonderful country where we are consistently emphasising the freedoms we have. But only up to the point where people use their freedoms as we do. I am free, therefore I will get a tattoo, a piercing; I shall wear a skirt or jeans. But the moment someone wears something traditional or religious (essentially, not originating in this century) it must be because they are limited or forced to do this. We judge not harshly or even consciously. Perhaps we should not feel it is because they have no choice but simply they have made the choice we would not.
Feature image credit: Remyumksoa/Wikipedia