February 22, 2012

Should My Mom Wear A Bikini?

The banning of burqas by the French government has lead to debates.


Can we make an absolute statement that women who wear burqas are oppressed. What if women willingly wear them?


Has anyone done a survey among the women of France asking them whether they would like to wear burqas or not? What would the results of such a survey be if conducted among the Muslim women across the world?


I think a majority of women will say that they do not mind the veil. But what does that say? Dresses are so inextricably linked to the culture of a nation.


I can attest only to the fine differences of what is appropriate and what is not that is prevalent in our own culture in India.


We can take the majority of Indians who happen to be Hindus. Do all Hindu women have an agreed viewpoint about what is appropriate to reveal in public and what must be hidden?



I think in most parts of India, the mothers of young women would have an apoplexy if their daughters went outside wearing various tight clothing such as jeans, etc.


And yet, in the big cities, the standards of decorum is slowly shifting so that it's common now a days for young women to wear jeans to go to the marketplace or to the office.


I am not sure how the parents of these ladies feel about their daughters wearing tight clothing. I have a feeling that the parents would probably prefer their daughters to wear something more conservative but they have made their peace perhaps with an internal sigh as a concession to the times we live in.


Compared to women in Western countries, there's perhaps less use of skirts as a high fashion garment to be worn. One does not quite observe the bikini as having become the de facto dress for ladies on a sea beach.


The attraction of the beaches at Goa (well, if I must be specific ... for male Indians at any rate and perhaps not confined to only those who are unmarried) has apparently got less to do with the quality of the sand or the sea there and more to do with the fact that more bikini clad tourists are to be seen there.


One could keep pointing out very fine nuances of what's appropriate and what is not. The use of a bra comes to mind. Min skirts ...


So, what's the answer in all this confusion. What's the solution? Clearly there's no one absolutely correct answer.


And yet, the direction that we want to move in is very clear. Clearly, taking a poll among women and asking them about what they thought was appropriate clothing would give a wrong answer.


I think if polling were to be done, the answer would be rather uniform in one aspect. Ladies in all the different societies would probably give the majority opinion that the clothing they wore was in fact the appropriate clothing that should be worn. No more and no less.


The Hindu ladies in India would mostly opine that a burqa would be too much of a bother and yet short skirts and bikinis are simply too much (the meaning should be clear here). A Muslim women would say that the burqa was just right and that salwars are too little. And a Christian women in a Western nation might say that shirt skirts are okay but being completely naked is a little too much (again, the words are to be interpreted in this context and then the meaning is clear).


The answers will be what they will be because mostly people do not proceed from first principles. If everybody was questioning conventional truths, then everyone would have the potential to realize that energy and matter were interchangeable and that space could get curved by the presence of matter. Only Einstein was able to make those bold predictions.


Not everyone goes around wondering if there might be life and civilizations on planets around other stars in the other spiral arms of the Milky Way galaxy. The profession of Radio astronomy or astrophysics or science fiction writing is after all a vocation for a few thousand people on the planet. And there's only one James Cameron who made Avatar.


BTW, when do girls start wearing burqas in societies in which women do wear burqas? I do not have the knowledge myself. Is it age-related or menarche-related? Interesting question.


Because, I can't imagine that if you try to put a 6-year-old in a full body covering burqa, she would but resist it.


So, the way to proceed towards solving this conundrum would be to avoid moral relativism of any sort and agree that burqas clearly are a product of religious dictates which originated more than a thousand years ago and which have no meaning or value or relevance today.


The Islamic tradition is unfortunately mired in extraordinarily ancient traditions. While at one point in history, Islamic countries were among the leaders when it came to architecture and astronomy, since many centuries nations where Muslims are in a majority have mostly been unchanging while the rest of the world has gone through the most astonishing changes.


Only a few Islamic nations in the Middle East can claim to have some amount of wealth and that wealth is attributable to fossil fuels and the need for fossil fuels around the world because of inventions of modern science & technology.


The people in the nations that follow the Islamic faith have no choice really. They must somehow learn to make their religion a less important part of their lives. It will take generations of course for deep rooted cultural sensitivities to change. There is no one so great on this planet who would be able to persuade the burqa-clad women of Islam to instead opt for bikinis.


So, should my mom wear a bikini when she goes to a beach? I hope not. I have very strong opinions about that. And my mom would agree with those opinions as well which is a rare thing.


Conservatives and liberals can have some agreements after all.
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