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How it became offensive for women to wear too much clothing

Suddenly it’s not lack of clothes that’s the issue but the wearing of them. It seems that from the neck down, where the private parts are located, no one cares, but all hell breaks loose when the woman puts clothes on north of the larynx.

burkini in Nice

by Rafe Mair

Yes, yes, yes, I know, Mr. Editor, we’re in the last stretch before the last stretch just before a big, real last stretch going into next May’s election and I should be thinking wall-to-wall BC politics. Well, sir, I’m not going to do that today, for a couple reasons.

I have commented till hell won’t have it on the incompetence of the premier and her quasi-government. I have said plenty, for the nonce, on the invisibility of the Opposition and, surely, all that needs saying about the pathetic display of a Green Party many of us expected much more of.

Don’t take from this that I’m having an exotic boozy blast on Capri  – it’s just that I need a little time to see how some of these issues settle out in real terms.

Besides, I’m overwhelmed by the international concern about what women should wear, where not long ago the issue was whether women wore any clothes at all.

It’s not that fashion has not been of interest going back to the famous fig leaf. We may not be quite sure what  Elizabeth I looked like throughout her life but know what she wore. Literature is replete with descriptions of clothing or lack of it and fashion magazines for both men and women abound and are expensive. It’s very hard to believe that any aspect of clothing or unclothing has not been dealt with by society and that which is deemed by it to be immoral or truly harmful dealt with by the criminal law. For a criminal action to be taken, there must be an evil needing correction, otherwise there is no point.

Well, the Criminal Code, whose encodement started 125 years ago and has never stopped, with 28 parts, nearly 900 sections has not a peep about women’s clothing styles.

In recent years the criminal code has spent almost no time on the lack of clothes because since Hugh Hefner, Playboy, topless waitresses, bottomless dancers, the naked female body in all its contortions has gone from being sexy and seductive to about as provocative a litter of cats. There was a time not long ago when a Vancouver city councilor set her hair on fire over nude people at Wreck Beach (where I skinny-dipped as boy – now there was a sight!) but that’s no longer an issue. In short, dear friends, if you want to see naked females, that poses no problem – just take a Sunday drive. We even have just the beach for you here in sedate old Lions Bay.

Suddenly it’s not lack of clothes that’s the issue but the wearing of them. It seems that from the neck down, where the private parts are located, no one cares, but all hell breaks loose when the woman puts clothes on north of the larynx. It’s a big deal, apparently, if a woman wears anything that covers her face and head, especially if the item is black.

Now, by an amazing coincidence, it’s an even bigger deal if  the lady happens to be Muslim. No one has yet tested a Catholic or Anglican or Jew or follower of Zoroaster on this point, I suppose because this attire is not fashionable with them. I should add that in the days when Catholic and Anglican nuns wore “habits”, clothing that covered the face although not the eyes, no one seemed to complain. It was clothing based upon religious belief but, of course, that was different.

Wasn’t it?

Suddenly it’s not lack of clothes that’s the issue but the wearing of them. It seems that from the neck down, where the private parts are located, no one cares,...
Now we mind a great deal but it’s excess clothing that’s such a problem on the Riviera, with women in black swimsuits that cover every square centimeter. The once-mighty nation of France, home of the Folies Bergere, the Can-Can and famous the world over for its volume and variety of hooker, banned wearing this kind of swimming suit, called the Burkini, not for offending morals but flaunting Islam. The court just threw out this law.

Even in usually rather temperate countries like Canada, rage rises at the sight of women in black from the neck up, even – nay, especially – if it happens to have a scarf involved. But it really hits the fan when the woman wears a veil covering her eyes. This to some is an egregious abuse of those who happen to see her and should require the utmost penalty the nation can impose. (Of course there would be an exception made for Christian women getting married, attending a baptism or Easter Sunday Services).

I mean that’s different!

Isn’t it?

There are a many reasons given as to why this outfit is so serious – it’s not our way of life; it’s not how we do things; I want to see the face of the person I am talking to; it’s a symbol of men’s domination over women…and then the lesser reasons come out.

Now, Canada is a country of amazing coincidences and by an amazing coincidence, the only women who habitually wear veils along with the other black headgear happen to be Muslims and, as we all know, Muslims are terrorists, and would cheerfully murder all white Christians in their sleep.

If one has a sensitive memory about things like this, one is taken back about 15 years or so to that deadly serious issue as to whether or not a man wearing a turban in a Legion was insulting the queen by wearing a hat. It took a while but somehow we got over that.

The argument that the outfit symbolizes male domination is troubling but scarcely unanimous. And while this is a legitimate concern of some Canadians, as is the question of female priests, married priests, and gay marriage as a sacrament, it is not a question for the Parliament of Canada, as the Supreme Court has been trying to tell it.

But let’s bring this mercifully to an end. I have an opinion and I really don’t care if no one in the world agrees.

I think it is all racist bullshit. I couldn’t care less what a woman wears anywhere on her body except as a matter of good or bad fashion or, put another way, sexual attractiveness. If she wishes to wear orange and green hair covered by a baseball cap, even a Blue Jays one, to church with a fake moustache and beard, I would consider that to be distinctly unfashionable but I certainly won’t feel threatened by it.

If people demand to see the eyes of those they speak to, then they should not speak to women wearing a veil.

If they object to women wearing dark facial covering and dark scarves, they should simply walk away, as they would from someone wearing a clown suit top only.

To those of you whom I have insulted and who feel very strongly that they have God and righteousness on their side, as far as I’m concerned – pooh.

I don’t believe you for one moment, nor do I think you believe it yourself. You just don’t like people from certain other religions or traditions displaying that fact. If First Nations folks came to your church next Sunday wearing feathered headdress and deerskin trousers you wouldn’t raise a peep because it’s not fashionable to say unkind things about them, nor should it be. It is very fashionable, however, in some circles to be very unkind to Muslims and instantly link them to violence. It’s the politics of Trump and Palin and I want no part of it.

You can hate me for this view but, in the words of Rhett Butler, “frankly, I don’t give a damn”. You should all give your heads a shake and redirect your anger at social problems, poverty, homelessness, that need attention in this country of plenty.

Rafe Mair, LL.B, LL.D (Hon) a B.C. MLA 1975 to 1981, was Minister of Environment from late 1978 through 1979. In 1981 he left politics for Talk Radio becoming recognized as one of B.C.'s pre-eminent journalists. An avid fly fisherman, he took a special interest in Atlantic salmon farms and private power projects as environmental calamities and became a powerful voice in opposition to them. Rafe is the co-founder of The Common Sense Canadian and writes a regular blog at rafeonline.com.


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