Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Burqa and mini skirt-Symbols of liberation or oppression?

Symbolism is of a great importance for any civilization, various symbols can convey messages about our culture, habits, traditions, and values. The clothes we wear are one such symbol, any society where people are free to wear whatever they want based on their own needs and taste can claim to be a free and tolerant place. Societies, where the dress code is strictly implemented against the wish of people, and they are forced to wear a certain type of clothing can not claim to be a free society. Our clothing is a type of self-expression, may of us try to express ourselves using the way we dress, actually, this is one of the reasons why we wear different dresses for different occasions. I am not a supporter of a dress code (school uniform is a different ball game, it has a special purpose). I like to wear clothes in which I feel comfortable. I hate the idea of being forced to wear a certain type of clothing against my own wish, wherever possible I have resisted these things. Social pressure or peer pressure can be considered as other two important factors which force people to follow certain clothing habits.

Many times Burqua (or a veil) is propagated as a sign of oppression of women. It is true that forcing women or for that matter anyone to wear a certain type of clothing against their wish is wrong, but what if they are doing it out of their own choice? Can then we call it as a freedom to choose or we need to look deeper? I think, it is not that straightforward, we need to ask, under what circumstances that choice is offered? Is there any indirect pressure to dress or appear in a certain way to satisfy social norms? Is there a peer pressure or serious social and professional repercussion if they don't dress in a certain way? These questions might help us to understand the situation in a better way, rather than concluding anything based on dress. I have seen women wearing dark burqas on extremely hot summer days and mini skirts and high heels on extremely cold days, their clothing totally defied the need for weather conditions around them. I always wondered which one of them can be considered that she was free to choose her dress? Maybe none of them. Just because someone is wearing a burqa doesn't mean that person is living in an oppressed culture and just because someone is wearing a mini skirt doesn't mean they are living in a free society. The real freedom means people make informed choices, they chose what they want based on their own needs and requirements, not based on what society expects from them. One lady mentioned to me that it is not easy to be a woman even in developed countries as there are very high expectations about the way they should look or dress. She told me that most people think that women should not have any body hair except on head, eyelids, and eyelashes, I was shocked to know about this expectation. It is very natural to have body hair, it is a natural part of being a living organism, but to force a someone to get rid of them just because of some ridiculous beauty standard, is ridiculous, but it seems there is such an unreasonable expectation and many women subscribe to this. The reason offered is also a very serious one, it seems that if they don't then the social and professional penalty is severe. 

Women need to fight this stereotype on their own, this is one way of subjugating them by putting the burden of unreasonable expectations about external appearance. Forcing a burqa is as bad as forcing a miniskirt, there is no difference. Wearing a bikini or jeans doesn't make you a forward or liberal, at the same time wearing a burqa doesn't make you a backward or oppressed. A person's character should not be decided by the type of clothes they wear. Our clothes should be one of the ways to express ourselves, they should reflect our choice and should be based on our own decisions and needs. Our dress is not the true reflection of our personality only when it is our honest choice, based on free will. Burqa or miniskirt, they both can be symbols of oppression or freedom depending on what circumstances people wear it.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright: Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing.]

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