Adbusters

First World Oppression

Third World Liberation?

Eric Lafforgue/Calvin Klein Ad

In a society surrounded by Western images of the sexualized female, the veil allows for a post-modern alternative, a post-face society.

If we are truly to believe that the veil symbolizes submission to men, what are we to believe Western clothing symbolizes?

My claim is that contrary to Western conceptions of “third world women,” the veil is a motif of liberation for some, a barrier between the female and exploitation. Away from the pressure of the media's ideals of perfection, the veiled woman overcomes her own body, can create her own ideals of beauty, and is respected as more than a physical entity. This is not to say that the veiled woman has a suppressed sexuality, but that this sexuality is funneled towards her marriage – in the home.

Is it so hard to believe that Muslim women consider dressing scantily in public a repressive choice, and covering up a liberating experience? “If you've got it, flaunt it.” WHAT DOES THIS EVEN MEAN?

-Sylvia Lucas, “ Unveiling of the Veil.”

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23 comments on the article “First World Oppression”

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Anonymous

"what are we to believe Western clothing symbolizes?" hopefully some part of the expression of the freedom to dress as they choose, without their morality or character being questioned.

The veil is an impractical limiting garment, a symbol of exclusion from society, a symbol that they are in some way owned by the men in their lives, that they or men cannot be trusted with their own sexuality.

Trying to present it any other way is an interesting exercise, but one which must exclude the reality of the status of women in communities which commonly wear the veil.

Anonymous

Even through this argument, the veil is oppressive. There are generally two arguments to support the veil:

1) It allows women to "keep" there sexuality in that it is not visible to men

This is still oppression since women feel a need to "keep" their sexuality. They should be able to walk around without feeling like they are being objectified.

2) It allows women to absolve themselves from the need to conform to the sexualized image

Women shouldn't feel this pressure anyway. By doing something in hope that they relieve the pressure, they are being influenced by the pressure, and thus oppressed.

To be fully free, women shouldn't choose their actions in response to the external pressure of sexualization. They should dress in any manner they want as an inidivdual and not fear objectification. Any dress in response to the pressue is giving in to the pressure.

AlyssaR

Both of these comments seem to be missing the point. I don't think the author is advocating that the veil is ultimately better than Western clothing, she is just opening the conversation and showing that there can be more than one view.
The fact is, some women are forced to wear the veil and many women in the Middle East are oppressed by men in all areas of their lives. That being said, many women choose to wear the veil and feel that it allows them different freedoms that Western dress may not. This doesn't make those woman "anti-feminist" just because they have decided not to show skin. They just view it differently.
On another note, I am always wary when I see Western people imposing their Western views on others, as if women cannot make their own choices because of some defect of their own or because their culture is intrinsically backwards in some way. Yes, women are repressed in the East, but they are also repressed in the West in different ways.

Tylerr

It's amazing that in the West, we are taught that our ideas are superior to all others who don't agree with our morals, politics or ideals. People forget that language creates difference in all forms. Oppression means something different in each culture. Who are we to pity other women because they choose to wear a veil, and who are we to say that those who choose/must wear the veil are oppressed. As a feminist, I believe that every women should have equal rights, but I cannot impose MY rights on others. What is considered feminist in the West, might not be considered feminist teaching and thought by those in the Middle East who have different values. Who say's those values are not the same, they are not wrong. (There is an issue on basic human rights, but that is for another discussion) As a human, I am oppressed every single day. I am trapped with ideas that are not my own. ingrained by the media and The Man. The scandal and the joke is that we are ALL trapped by ideas created by the OTHER. The one who makes capitalist believe that their system is the superior and 'humane' one.

Alexandria

Every woman is different. In the end the woman has the choice and from where inside the woman's mind that this choice is made makes the argument different. Some women may expose themselves to liberate and other may cover up to liberate themselves. Some will do it because it is law and some will be insuboridate to the law. Some can choose to not wear the veil at their own risks with family and state, and some embrace the idea. It is different for each woman, in the USA the woman has the choice; she can either wear it or wear as little as possible. Either way the human form is beautiful and a woman can decide how she wants to portray it.

Tylerr

It's amazing that in the West, we are taught that our ideas are superior to all others who don't agree with our morals, politics or ideals. People forget that language creates difference in all forms. Oppression means something different in each culture. Who are we to pity other women because they choose to wear a veil, and who are we to say that those who choose/must wear the veil are oppressed. As a feminist, I believe that every women should have equal rights, but I cannot impose MY rights on others. What is considered feminist in the West, might not be considered feminist teaching and thought by those in the Middle East who have different values. Who say's those values are not the same, they are not wrong. (There is an issue on basic human rights, but that is for another discussion) As a human, I am oppressed every single day. I am trapped with ideas that are not my own. ingrained by the media and The Man. The scandal and the joke is that we are ALL trapped by ideas created by the OTHER. The one who makes capitalist believe that their system is the superior and 'humane' one.

Anonymous

Sure. Because a key instrument in the oppression of women is suddenly the key to their liberation.

Haven't met one woman in America who was forced to not wear sufficient clothing to cover her entire body if she so desired, whereas I'm given to understand that women in many Muslim areas *are* forced to cover even their faces.

Indeed, women in America who show too much skin outside of strict settings are also at risk for having their complaints dismissed (everything from "if you don't want them to stare at you, don't dress like that" to "her racy outfit was practically written consent to have sex!")

And many in America are still too bizarro about breasts to the point where if they see as much of a woman's breast as shown in the Calvin Klein ad above while that woman is *breastfeeding* that they will get the evil eye and perhaps asked to find somewhere private to do that.

How on earth does having to cover up more change any of this?

Shelagh

In the Western world, we don't stone, imprison, shoot or burn women if they choose not to wear a Victoria Secret's Bra. Anything becomes oppressive when choice is taken away.

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