On Burkas, "Liberation", and "Oppression".

This is something that I have been thinking about for a while and I doubt that this is going to be coherent, but I think that the blog Oppressed Brown Girls Doing Things is far more well-informed about this than I currently am and I recommend that you read it! 

I have seen THIS picture (NSFW) doing its rounds on the blogosphere a lot recently, captioned as 'Muslim women protesting against the Burka'  and tags like 'freedom' 'oppression' - along with several incredibly uninformed comments making me feel a mixture of amusement and disgust. At the time of writing, this has 82143 notes on Tumblr.

My personal favourite unenlightened comment is: 'It’s great she had the balls to do that but now shes more than likely dead, stoned to death... not many people look like models without working out and I doubt Muslim woman are given time to exercise. Also if any of what I just said sounds racist it wasn't intended to be and it doesn’t seem offensive to me but someone else might'. (Just... what?)


When you're on the internet, it's not incredibly difficult to find the original source of this picture if you happen to be in possession of common sense and access to Google. In fact, the only reason that it took me a whole five minutes instead of a mere two is that I had to sift through entries that were Islamaphobic and/or commenting on her breasts. 

It was taken at a Spanish festival called 'Carnaval de Cabezo de Torres' by someone called Guillermo Carrion. I took German and French at school, so I'm relying on Google Translate's translation of the caption which says: Hundreds of people took to the streets to watch the carnival of Cabezo de Torres full of light and sound that greeted the streets of the town despite the cold.

While it's not certain what the intentions behind the attire are (I've heard that it was in fact an occasion where Islam was being mocked), what we know for sure is that it's not of a woman protesting the Burka. Instead, it's been publicised as such because someone on the internet thought 'oh look, it's a woman in some sort of Islamic attire, let's just jump to assumptions without being bothered to fact check'. Furthermore, I saw a few bloggers who described themselves as 'feminists' but ranted about how 'barbaric' the Burka is and one or two of them even mixed it up with the Hijab and the Niqab. Here's a handy guide to the differences between them.

A recent PostSecret.
Some orders of nuns cover their heads, as do women attending mass at some particular Catholic churches - they're not being called oppressed but Muslim women need to be 'liberated' by Western ideals from the horrible 'barbaric' Middle-East. It's correct that we should speak out against abuse in a culture, but it's an error to assume that all the people in that culture are abused. Or, you know, you could actually listen to what Muslim women are saying about their own lived experiences for a change.

1 comment:

  1. Ahhhh, I love your blog posts! I completely agree with you, I remember back when I was in sixth form (a year ago), in French class we had a practice debate on whether the French government should ban women from wearing the Burka. The majority of people in my class were completely in favour of the ban. However, I too think that France's ban is as 'oppressive' to these women as people believe the Burka or Hijab to be for them. It is a complete attack on their right to choose whether to wear them or not.

    I think what is particularly difficult about this issue is that, for many Westerners, the Hijab, Burka and other forms of Islamic attire have all become associated with the oppression and abuse of women.