The Right to Bare Nipples but Not Wear a Scarf

Humans are such painfully confusing creatures to me some days.

I have never been male, so I can’t imagine what it is like, but when you are born a woman, people constantly police everything about you. Your voice – it’s volume, it’s pitch, how excited you can and cannot be about something you love while talking; how fast you blink, how you move your arms. Are your shoulders covered? Does your skirt touch the floor if you kneel in front of a bunch of old men?

Is your hair loose? It might attract lust. Oh no, now that you have it in a bun you’re boring. Fancy updo? Such vanity!

Is every inch of skin under your neck covered so you don’t inspire desire in a stranger or a member of your church?

When I was growing up I was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I’m pretty sure I’ve been excommunicated for my strong opinions, and I’m perfectly okay with that.

What I’d like you to understand is that growing up, I was constantly told how to behave and think and dress by various men of varying degrees of authority in my life. Boys my age sometimes tore my jewellry off me because it offended their religious beliefs about idolatry, for example, before going to a dance, in front of the elders, and no one blinked — that object in question was a gift from a Native woman of an eagle with a blue eye in his claws made from silver and turquoise.

Girls were routinely humiliated at church dances by wearing clothes that violated the standards, and forced to kneel on the floor to prove their skirts touched the ground at the entry way of the dances. I always wondered why they violated the standards the way they did; I chose to protest by wearing scarlet silks and a Nine Inch Nails shirt that met the modesty codes but sent a clear message about my opinion of their policing of my clothing choices, with work boots and heavy socks.

Jason Kenney stated that the niqab issue is about whether or not a woman’s right to her individual rights and choices regarding her safety and clothing choices and freedom to expression is separate from the wishes and choices of her brothers and father.

In order for me to choose to wear what I wish, I have to fight my society every day, simply for the right to wear something that covers my hair without breaking it, while men can just throw on a ballcap and go out the door, I find myself in opposition to not just my real family, but with my government’s opinion as to what my ability to express myself freely in my country is.

Even if the whole niqab at the citizenship ceremony thing was or should really be a big deal on an actual policy making level without simply being inflammatory social engineering provocation during a particularly nasty election, the point remains that we are looking at discarding the expression of freedom of expression precisely at the time that we are taking on Canadian citizenship rights, freedoms, priviledges, and duties.

The niqab is to me an expression of fear and superstition, but it is one that I can understand. Born of the Taliban’s fear-fuelled persecution of women, women of all professional backgrounds were attacked with car antennae on the street by roving street gangs if they did not cover their face. To call it religious ignores its’ true evolution, and to deny the need to express faith in God (Allah) for these women is a slap in the face. Should it be encouraged in Canada? No. Of course not.

But if it is in keeping with someone’s personal convictions to the same degree as a Christian’s believe in Jesus Christ or a Sikh and his fully encased dagger or a Jew and his phylacteries or a Ukrainian and his hand gestures to the Chinese spitting…….. Why is it an election issue? Why aren’t we calling out the Amish?

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