Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Should women cover their hair in public?

It is only relatively recently that Ireland has had a significant number of immigrants and so seeing a woman wearing a burqua  is still something strange. I was recently having a conversation on the topic and it is interesting that the male and female reaction seems quite different.

I don't have strong feelings on the topic. I think it is slightly ludicrous as a fashion statement, but if women want to dress this way I see no reason to stop them. The women in contrast felt strongly that the wearing of a burqua was a terrible thing and should be strongly discouraged. They also were quite convinced that no woman chooses to dress this way of their own free will and that the real people to "blame" were their husbands and/or fathers who make them dress in this way.

I don't really know any  burqua wearing females (the outfit tends to discourage casual social chat), but I don't think that they are forced to wear the burqua. Instead I think it is just a social taboo against uncovering their head in public in much the same way  that Irish society has a taboo on women uncovering their breasts in public. Irish fathers and/or mothers don't explicitly tell their daughters to cover up, but girls just pick up the taboo by observing older girls and women.

In France it is considered socially OK for women to sunbathe topless. In fact the practice is so common that visiting Irish women who leave on their bikini tops look out of place in much the same way that burqua wearers look out of place in Ireland.

We would rightly be outraged if laws were enacted to force Irish women to remove their bikini tops if they didn't feel comfortable doing that. In the same way it is natural that Muslims would be outraged if we tried to restrict their freedom to wear the burqua in public if they want.

Some people say that burqua wearing women are a scary sight. Ironically Catholic nuns used to dress in very similar outfits when I was a child. Mind you they were very terrifying for a young child to encounter - but that is another days discussion.

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