Islamic women in France – no win situation

Unbelievably, France has today outlawed the wearing of burkhas in public, including headcoverings (but! notably, excluding hats and sunglasses and western-type stuff). Women can be fined €150 for wearing them, and two women were arrested at the protests today.
Men can face up to a year in prison, and a €25,000 fine for forcing their wives or daughters to wear one.

Many of these women really don’t have much choice in wearing traditional dress (although some do, and there are advantages). It is grossly unfair that women can be subject to fines or arrest, when most really do not have much choice. Particularly as this outlawing is supposed to be about ‘protecting’ women from subjugation and a second class status – hardly legitimate when you arrest and fine them. This certainly is not the way to go about improving the life of Muslim women.

France has a history in religious persecution (Huguenots), and I suspect this might be at the root of it, although they have not outlawed the male Muslim attire (the jim-jams I call them), although many Muslim males do wear western clothing as well.

This whole thing is very anti-woman.

Edited to add some handy graphics that I nicked off the DM or somewhere:

11 thoughts on “Islamic women in France – no win situation

  1. noanodyne

    Yep, this is a completely no-win situation for women and a classic response by men who couldn’t care less that it is.

    But the truth is, wearing religion-based clothing or other articles is just like wearing gang colors — it establishes and encourages allegiance to the patriarchal order of things and hence, bigotry and violence. Religion is the second-most patriarchal of human institutions, after the military, and subjugates women accordingly. And women-based spirituality suffers from the same problem: as soon as you have to prove your alliance to a power hierarchy, the gig’s up.


  2. FAB Libber

    I can see also that this law would force some women to be more isolated and housebound than they already are.


  3. radfemcrafts

    I’m really against this bullshit. In fact Badiou and Nina Power have already said it better than I can.

    Let’s argue the following, then, a pretty strange point: the law on the hijab is a pure capitalist law. It orders femininity to be exposed. In other words, having the female body circulate according to the market paradigm is obligatory. For teenagers, i.e., the teeming center of the entire subjective universe, the law bans any holding back.

    -Alain Badiou

    The imperative for girls to show what they have to sell, to ‘hint at undressing’, to have the female body circulate as part of a strategy of employability and consumerism renders the hijab an object of angry, law-obsessed confusion. Aaronovitch’s uncertainty about whether it means ‘Don’t look at me’, or ‘Look at me’ is interpretable solely in terms of a generalized imperative that all femininity be translatable into the logic of the market. If the body is a useful part of the ‘package’, then all the better. Men too are increasingly prey to this imperative, to be an all-around self-seller, but it is in this heavily politicized continuum from (bad) hijab-wearer to (good) proto-porn actress that the contemporary ideology of work is most clearly seen — and it is primarly played out in the circulation of female bodies.

    -Nina Power

    When I was a kid I used to wish so hard my family could’ve been Catholic so that I could become a cloistered nun. In a sense, certain religious customs are literally the only out from a constant demoralizing capitalist patriarchy that are readily apparent to many girls and women. If I’d known lesbian communes were a viable alternative as a kid I probably would’ve set my goals toward that, but I thought I probably had to be a nun to escape it all (if you listen to young nuns today they say the exact thing, that it’s a huge burden lifted to just escape the shitfuckery of it all).

    I hate religion as much as the next radical feminist (can’t remember a single day of believing in god) and know it to be the patriarchal shit that it is but the patriarchy isn’t static and white male capitalism has a serious misogynist racist patriarchal stronghold.

    I deplore this shit.


  4. noanodyne

    Well, let’s start with arguing the real point, which is a law that bans “all garments which cover the face.” This is not the same as a “law [that] bans any holding back” or a law that requires “femininity to be exposed.” If a man is talking, I start with the assumption that he’s arguing on behalf of himself and Badiou is not known as a feminist (from what I know, he thinks feminism is just more identity politics, just like queer theory), so I’d have to wonder why he’s using false equivalencies to make a point and what his objective was. But even when women are talking about this, the law still isn’t about “the imperative for girls to show what they have to sell.”

    I don’t see anything in that law that says women can’t wear a long sleeve shirt, a bulky sweater, overalls, thick socks, boots, a hat, and gloves. It’s about covering the face. Even the most severe nun’s habit doesn’t obscure the expressive parts of the nun’s face. In human society, the face is a representation of all kinds of things and puts each of us firmly in the human family. When our face is covered, we become other. (Make-up serves the same purpose, so why would I argue against that, but see the face-covering burqa as acceptable?) This is why in the stories we tell, both superheroes and villains wear masks.

    It is a worthwhile discussion to have about the freedom in being able to hide one’s face — it is absolutely something that women who wear burqas talk about — but we also have to contextualize that with laws that have been passed after 9/11 disallowing wearing any masks in public.


  5. noanodyne

    Also, what a man thinks “femininity” is and what radical feminists say it is are about as different as two concepts can be.

    And none of what I’m saying is about blaming the women who wear burqas or habits. Wearing those in a patriarchy is like anything we do just to survive the constant onslaught. But when people conflate what women do to survive with what the patriarchy wants them to do, it’s a slippery slope just like the one the funfems got on and ended up in the cesspool with the patriarchs.


  6. radfemcrafts

    Badiou is a stupid pig, yes. And to clarify, I wasn’t purposefully obfuscating between hijab and burqa even though what they were talking about was hijab because at the time of writing hijab was on the table in France for banning. I used it because for me the premise still applies and the French government supplies its own support for a slippery slope argument. They tried for hijab, and couldn’t drum up support for it so went for the burqa instead and were able to get the support. They’ve already shown willingness to force, by law, greater exposure of women.

    Actual laws on the books forcing exposure is a 100% black and white unacceptable precedent for me. There is much that is grey when discussing the (un)choice between state patriarchy and religious patriarchy, but laws not just codifying how women can dress but a law enforcing a certain level of exposure for just women I would never in a million years be okay with. Especially not during a My Wife Is Famous For Being Naked presidency.

    I believe what Anwyn Crawford has said: we must create the conditions for women’s invisibility from the realm of images in order to become visible as historical subjects.

    I know that women in burqas largely live lives of terror and stunning oppression but they are also showing us a model that patriarchal western libertine culture feels massive motivating anxiety about: that if women can be invisiblized as images we might actually start making it into history books.


  7. jilla

    From the Globe and Mail:

    “For years, the Muslim Canadian Congress has urged for an end to the practice of wearing face-concealing niqabs and burkas, arguing the veils aren’t required under Islam, but are rather symbols of religious extremism and misogyny”

    However, on their website the MCC does not want this encoded into law.

    I do. So much of our gains as women came about because we demanded legal change. Of course, Muslim women aren’t marching en masse in Toronto streets. But I think many of these women who tell us they want their face coverings would appreciate a law that said NO. Then they could turn to their Nigel and say “Sorry, I have to”.

    I was told many Indo-Canadian women came to ESL classes saying their husbands didn’t want them to, but because it was mandated as part of their immigration the husbands had to allow it. For the several week period. Many did not return after that, but some did, for further optional classes. Their husbands relaxed with it, thought it was a good idea. Some got casual enough they sent the eight-year old boys to pick up mom and escort her home, instead of hubby taking time off work. They like that the wives and mothers were being taught by an older woman, who dressed modestly (for western standards). I wore long sleeves.

    Many Muslim women are hoping Canadian law will open their horizons, again.


  8. myrtle

    Well this is not so black/white; really it’s their husbands, fathers and brothers who should be jailed. As with women trying to survive sexual exploitation, these women know they will be punished much harder by their culture, even the women in their families (who do not want their daughters murdered, so plead with them to wear it).

    But if it’s law that they cannot wear them, then they have an out.



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