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Thursday, November 28, 2002
Googlers who have alighted on this weblog in search of information about Fawcett etc, should recognise that this page is nearly a year old. There's more up-to-date information on the entry for November 6th, 2003 which you wouldn't otherwise be able to find until the search engines update their indices. Click on 'Current' (best) or on the date range (11/01/2003 - 11/30/2003: NB 2003 not 2001) in the 'Archives' section of the left hand column - Josh

Headscarf solidarity day

Today is apparently headscarf solidarity day, or something similar, in Australia. The general idea is that women should all wear headscarves for the day. This is to show solidarity with women whose religion requires them to adopt certain standards of dress. I think this an excellent idea and I shall be making my own contribution to the massed support. I do hope that the campaign is successful.

Before I elaborate on my intended gesture, here is an appropriate story about the problem of religious and cultural persecution of women.

Three years ago, I was changing aircraft at a large, international, Western airport. A group of passengers was waiting in a boarding lounge when an Arab couple and their two children joined us. The man was much bejewelled, with rings on most fingers. He wore the most fashionable of smart suits. His wife was dressed from head to foot in a heavy, black burka. It was a very hot day and the children, aged about five and seven, were being particularly fractious.

Mr Pompous Arab strutted up and down, ignoring his family completely. His whole demeanour said, amongst other things, ‘ I am the Great I Am, I am,’ and that dealing with children was women’s work, i.e. beneath him. He did nothing whatsoever to help.

The woman’s garb was a terrible hindrance in her attempts to deal with the children. I felt extremely sorry for her. Here they were, far from home, not another headscarved woman in sight, let alone a veil or burka. The whole scene was farcical. The poor woman was condemned to wear a garment seemingly specifically designed to make her task more difficult. Had she taken it off, nobody would have noticed – she would simply have looked the same as every other woman, (presumably). She would certainly have been able to deal with the children more successfully.

Had The Lady been with me, I am sure she would have tried to help. Alas, no other woman, accompanied or no, offered assistance. As it was, I felt it would have been highly inappropriate had I attempted to intervene, much as I wanted to. No doubt superpig (insult intended) would have been outraged. Next time, though…

The imposition of headscarves or veils is a lesser form of tyranny, but it is tyranny, nevertheless. What a woman wears is up to her; it is not a matter for authoritarian patriarchy. Just because men are usually stronger physically than women, this is insufficient reason for allowing them to make the rules. As I see it, the treatment of women as second-class citizens is attributable to men’s fear of their susceptibility to women’s ‘charms’. In this case the problem is men’s. They should find a way to deal with it that does not oppress women. (Interestingly, the founder of modern Turkey, Kemal Attaturk, early in the twentieth century, banned the veil. The French education authorities have recently, I understand, banned the headscarf in schools. Progress, eh?)

Now, to my part in today’s affirmation of solidarity. I, too, shall be wearing a headscarf. It will be my way of saying ‘I think that cultures that prescribe/circumscribe women’s behaviour are misguided; religions that do so are nasty’. People are people first and sexual beings second.

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