Who gets to decide if it is a choice?

No, no, this isn’t a pro-life post (sorry to disappoint!) But I was listening to The Diane Rhem on NPR last week and they were discussing the proposed ban on face-covering veils in France. The discussion got a bit heated among the panelists and I found myself yelling at the radio at times.

I can understand the worry of the French Parlament, burkas can be used to conceal explosives of suicide bombers and face-covering veils can obscure the face rendering facial recognition software inoperable but does that still make it right for a group of politicians to dictate what a woman can and can’t wear?

Let’s be honest here, for the most part, the Western World is not known for being the most modest place, especially for women. I mean, here in the US, we seem to have a HUGE problem with breastfeeding in public but we don’t blink an eye at a 12 year old traipsing around wearing a belly bearing halter top and booty shorts a la Lolita. In talking to some people about this, I’ve heard a lot of comments along the lines of “If they want to wear the covering, why don’t they live in a country like Saudi Arabia where it wouldn’t be so obvious? Hmmm.

Additional arguments for the ban take on a “feminist” perspective in that for some women, the wearing of the burka or hijab is forced upon her by male relatives. While that is true, what about the women who choose to wear the burka or hijab? Should they be forced to shame themselves in the sight of their God because of the laws of man? Why don’t we address the treatment of women by radical Muslim men instead?

Where would the line be drawn? Would nuns and religious sisters be required to dress in short shorts and tank tops because “everyone else does?” What about priests? Should we ban Roman Collars because the collar is a clear religious symbol that is unduly pressed upon our non-religious brethren? Would we have to restrict the wearing of saris and buddhist robes because they too are long and could be used to conceal weapons?

I personally love wearing my veil to Sunday Mass and I have been known to take a long, black pashmina and wrap it around my head, hijab-style, on particularly bad hair days. Now granted, the proposed ban does focus on face-covering veils, but who is to say that the ban will not become more far reaching and attempt to secularize all types of religious dress?

I don’t know the answers to any of these questions, but it does make for an interesting discussion. Should governments mandate what can and cannot be worn by its people? Or is it better for society to exert the pressures?
What’s your opinion? Thoughts? I know you have one!

Pax Christi


Filed under breastfeeding, Catholic, feminism, life, race, wednesday, world

4 responses to “Who gets to decide if it is a choice?

  1. Colleen

    France is depriving Muslims of their religious practice. Telling followers of Islam they can’t wear their traditional hijab is just racism from the French government. Muslims have a right to wear what they want, and in this case their traditional head dress. This is harmful to nobody and is simply racism. Just my opinion.

    What is the harm? Are they Islamaphobic?

  2. In philosophy, this is known as the slippery slope. “We’re just starting with this one thing.” “Oh, and this thing.” “Whoops! This one, too!” “Okay, seriously, follow this list of things. Or we’ll arrest you.”

    Despite the popularity, or lack thereof, of a minority, their rights must be as inviolate as the majority. I’m hopeful the French judiciary will laugh at this law and use it to change their oil.

  3. I agree that it is a slippery slope. I do think everyone should have to show their face say, when going through airport security, but that would only need to be for a moment. There is no reason to ban the face coverings for people walking down the street!!!

  4. J.

    Slippery indeed. Oddly, what I’m not reading on the sites explaining why this ban is a “good” thing, is what’s related to a question that came up…somewhere (?) a few years ago, which is, what does a woman who always wears a face veil do for her driver’s license picture? There was a woman who insisted on having said picture taken with the face veil on, which kinda defeats the whole “photo id” purpose, you know? (Oh, here she is: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sultaana_Freeman) But in a way I could sort of understand that one…for a bunch of legislators to ban something like that because it makes people “not look French enough” or something, that’s just not right.

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