20 Apr 2011

Joan Smith speaks sense on the niqab/burkha in today's Independent

"It's a fact often forgotten in cultures where women's bodies are on more or less permanent display, but you don't have to take off all your clothes to attract attention...When women go to disproportionate lengths to cover themselves up, they always end up looking so outlandish that everyone stares at the them anyway. I once went shopping in West London with a woman who was wearing black robes and a niqab and I can't say I felt much sympathy when she complained that people were staring at her in the local supermarket. Unless you have a very big point to make, there's really no need to hide your face when you're buying a bunch of carrots."

"As supermodels and Hollywood stars become thinner...we're starting to forget what the natural female body looks like; add an outbreak of religious puritanism which finds women scary and disgusting, and it's no wonder that the female body has become the site of seemingly endless cultural conflicts."

"I'm never sure whether to laugh or weep when Muslim women in Western countries demand the right to cover themselves from head to toe, but I don't doubt that they've internalised fearful male attitudes towards their faces and bodies. It's a weird species of liberation that blanks out the chief signifiers of a woman's identity and individuality."

Couldn't have put it better myself.

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