Monday, February 4, 2013

The way of the burka

A Saudi cleric thinks that the way to stop adult men from raping baby girls and female toddlers and little girls is to require the burka for little girls:
A Saudi cleric has called for all female babies to be fully covered by wearing the face veil, commonly known as the burka, citing reports of little girls being sexually molested.

In a TV interview on the Islamic al-Majd TV, which seems to date back to mid-last year, Sheikh Abdullah Daoud, stressed that wearing the veil will protect baby girls. The Sheikh tried to back his assertion with claims of sexual molestation against babies in the kingdom, quoting unnamed medical and security sources.
But Saudis commenting on Twitter, according to the article, widely criticized this decree, and the cleric in question appears to have issued his decree without official approval.

It seems to me that this sort of thing exemplifies, albeit in an extreme way, why it is important in discussions of modesty in dress to avoid seeing modesty as only a matter for women and to avoid thinking that women bear all of the responsibility for a man's struggles with lustful thoughts.  Nobody sane or healthy can possibly think of a female baby girl or a female toddler or a little girl as enticing in a sexual way, no matter what she's wearing.  Anybody who can be scandalized by seeing a baby of either gender who is clad, on a hot day, in a diaper and not much else is not thinking straight (and on a cold day one's only concern ought to be whether the child is comfortable that way, not whether he or she is being immodest).

But the difference between thinking that a baby is being deliberately immodest and thinking that a woman wearing a short-sleeved top (not skin-tight, just normal cut) and a skirt that is only three inches below her knee (as opposed to the "holy" length of eight inches below the knee) is being deliberately immodest is a degree of difference more than a degree of kind.  Because a woman wearing the kind of shirt and skirt I mention is welcome in the Vatican (and she can even wear slacks!).  In some cases, the immodesty really is in the eye of the beholder, and the solution is not to start a company selling Catholic burkas.

In other cases, sure, a woman (or even a man) might be rather indecently clad, and if they are indecently clad in such a way that is calculated to arouse sexual thoughts and feelings in their beholders, then they are, at least objectively, being immodest.  The solution to such problems is education first and foremost; we live in a culture which no longer has any clear-cut standards of dress, and some people really are clueless about how they look in public (as witness the phenomenon of people wearing their pajama bottoms to the store--they may be modestly and decently covered, but I can't help thinking they look rather silly, especially in the sort of pj bottoms that have teddy bears or penguins or something on them and thus can't be mistaken for actual clothes).  Anybody who thinks that the solution is to admire and emulate the way of the burka is forgetting that the burka eventually leads to people thinking that the human female form is so inherently sexual and arousing that even three-year-old girls or ten-month-old baby girls must be covered from head to toe, lest they entice somebody to rape them.  Alas, I've read more than one male Catholic blogger write approvingly of the burka as better than our present standards, so my concerns in this regard are not as hypothetical as I could wish they were.


B et G said...

ugh. I met a Catholic family in which the parents made a specific point of making sure the baby girls/ toddler girls were always fully clothed in front of their brothers. That kind of thing gives me the creeps and IMO is more likely to have the effect opposite of the one intended, by sexualizing things which should not be viewed as sexual.
(Rebecca in ID)

Deirdre Mundy said...

Wow.... how would you even manage that??? My babies (of both sexes) strip off clothes and streak every chance they get...

But hey, all my modesty energy is spent trying to find jeans for my 9 year old that don't show her underwear if she bends over, so I have no time to worry about the fact that there's a naked baby giggling maniacally in PLAIN SIGHT of her brothers.

beadgirl said...

No kidding, B et G. The more extreme different communities get about modesty, the more I think they show that they assume the ONLY way men and women can relate to each other is sexually.

Common sense would go a long way here, but very few people have common sense when it comes to sex and gender.