Burqa, babes and breast cancer

Published: October 13, 2010

The protesters tried to raise awareness about the burqa ban in France by pairing the niqab with bare legs.

When I saw the video  of two women (one of them Muslim) walking around Paris veiled faces and bare legs, I couldn’t figure out what the purpose was. Yes, they want to bring attention to the burqa ban, but what is their stance on it?

Regardless of whether I am for the ban or not my only thought was: well, they look silly, and the video certainly wouldn’t change my take on the matter. If their intention is to support freedom of dress, I suppose they are making a statement (along with creating a great photo op for everyone on the street who would gawk for two seconds, then continue on their way).

But if the purpose is to support Muslim women in France who will soon have to pay a fine if they cover their face, I would say it would be offensive to them, as their dress is being ridiculed by being cut up and worn with a pair of hot pants. Obviously, the purpose of covering your face is defeated by revealing your legs and coupling the word ‘niqab’ with a word often used to degrade women is also offensive. Why protest in a manner that may hurt the sensibilities of the very people you are fighting for?

When it comes to controversial campaigns, viral breast cancer awareness ones are not far behind either. They are not as graphic, but certainly cause a stir, mainly on Facebook. First, it was women mysteriously naming a colour as their status. Turns out, it was the colour of a certain undergarment they were wearing at the time. More recently, statuses have changed to “I like it on the….” to be completed with the place you like to keep your handbag, such as “desk” or “chair”. But to poor ignorant souls (usually men), it sounds like something completely different and the curiosity this entails is supposed to raise awareness. I Googled what it meant and then moved on, much like the pedestrians in the video.

Isn’t the campaign doing a disservice to the cause by adding to the notion that breast cancer only occurs in women, which is far from the truth? Maybe the rule should be that after a day, the status should be replaced by a website which gives you details about the disease and how you can help.

I agree that these campaigns have online forums alive with debate but it’s easy to get people worked up about the most trivial things on the internet. The question is, what do they achieve in the real world?


Saleha Riaz

An LSE graduate working as a sub-editor on the editorial pages of The Express Tribune

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.