September 5, 2016

Anything Goes

Sameea Jonnud

“In olden days, a glimpse of stocking
Was looked on as something shocking.
But now, God knows,
Anything goes.”

Actually I believe Cole Porter couldn’t have conceived just how apt his lyric would be today when anything really goes.

The subject of how dressed people are these days comes up with great regularity and in recent weeks has resurfaced when some French towns temporarily banned the ‘burkini’ (and any ‘religious’ clothing) on beaches – a move supported by many politicians including former French president Nicolas Sarkozy who has said if he becomes President he will extend the ban across France. The fact that the burkini itself isn’t actually a religious item of clothing means nothing and it leads to the hypocrisy of the Muslim woman fully clothed on the beach being illegal while the surfer in wetsuit and hood is perfectly legal.

The reasons for the ban included ‘hygiene’ (what even does that mean?!) as well as to prevent terrorism, because of course bombs and guns have always been hidden in women’s layers of clothing! But one other cry that is increasingly heard is that items of clothing such as the burkini and the niqab should be banned because they are a backward step in the progress of humankind..

These claims that Muslims should ‘move with the times’ are regularly brought up in regards to clothing as well as integration in general because some people feel that Muslims can’t in fact integrate unless Muslim women discard their veils. This has all resulted in the innocent Muslim woman becoming a target for hate, something even the much loved Bake Off winner Nadiya Hussain said she has faced.

In the West the clothing of past times was often seen as restrictive; in Victorian times all those corsets and layers of skirts plus the hats and bonnets. Men wore suits and neckties and didn’t go outside without a hat.

However this stage of being clothed came after Man was first created, unclothed; a state of covering up began afterwards, first with furs and skins then, after needles were invented, with something closer to the clothing of today. So really if Man is discarding his clothes this actually means he is regressing back to his primitive stage.

Except when you look at who is discarding their clothes you will see it is not the males of the human species but the females. It is women who have lost their ‘restrictive’ clothing while that of men has just been modified as often the only difference with the past is they no longer wear hats.

So we are now left with examples such as the male news presenter in a suit and tie sitting next to his female companion who is wearing a short dress with arms, legs and neck uncovered; and this is actually a more modest form of dress. When you see celebrity fashion, something difficult to avoid in news media and television, you will notice that whatever the occasion – awards ceremonies, music videos, advertising – the men will usually be fully clothed while the women will be in various states of undress.

Why do the female singers writhe around semi naked in their music videos? I don’t believe it is for the entertainment of other women. Why do women wear strapless, clinging ball gowns on formal occasions? They sometimes say it makes them feel good but it is the appreciative attention of men that brings on these feelings. Advertising, summer clothing, media; everywhere you look you can see semi-dressed women.

This hypocrisy is the reason I find the burkini debate so distasteful. There are significant numbers of people who believe it is acceptable for armed (fully clothed) police to force a Muslim woman to undress in public on the pretext of liberation even if they don’t believe it prevents terrorism. They want to ban the full face veil because they presume the poor Muslim women are forced to cover every inch of their bodies by their domineering male relatives. Thus the Muslim woman who decides to go to a beach with a full body swimsuit, as well as being provocative is also downtrodden and needs laws to liberate her.

In actual fact true liberation is giving women as well as men the freedom to choose how to live and what to wear; sadly though, it seems women are actually a long way from gaining liberation.