France’s Misogyny Coin Flips From Modesty to Bigotry

I will never, ever be here for men policing what women wear or don’t wear. Whether that means a ban on a garment or a ban on breastfeeding, it is all the same: turning women’s bodies in battlegrounds for patriarchal and cultural insecurities, ideologies, and politics.

As The Guardian reports,

A 15-year-old Muslim girl […] was stopped from going to class earlier this month by the headteacher who reportedly felt the long skirt “conspicuously” showed religious affiliation, which is banned in schools by France’s strict secularity laws.

A long black skirt, y’all. Dear old freedom-loving France, where a long black skirt is considered potentially incendiary when it has the gall to swathe a pair of brown legs rather than paler ones.

Of course, there was a doubling-down on the part of a school official, who said that the student was sent home to change into “a neutral outfit” before she could return.

the regional education office hinted in a statement that wearing the skirt could have been part of a concerted “provocation.”

Provocation. Not-neutral. Conspicuous. Where else have I heard this? Oh, yes, when American school officials fret about toddler shoulders or teenage hemlines inspiring furious fits of desire in men.

1760s Court Dress
The description calls this an “English or French court dress, c. 1760, with wide panniers.” The mystery is solved: Definitely English, because it’s banned in France.

And where else have I heard about children and adolescents inviting lechery from grown male adults through their apparel? Oh, right, the version of my former faith I was taught and that I learned and that I internalized and that I practiced that told me my body was a source of temptation and sin at the ripe old age of 11.

It all boils down to the same thing: Control. Patriarchal societies want desperately to tell women what they can and can’t do, and the most visible decisions women make regard their respective appearances. Mix patriarchy with victim-blaming rape culture and you have the Islam that demands that women cover up so as not to incite men. Combine patriarchy with white supremacy instead and you get this bizarre Girls-Gone-Wild-esque “take it off!”chant directed at Muslim women. It’s equally as bizarre how often I find myself having to assert this, but women should be free to cover if they wish and reveal if they so choose.

Heina in a long shiny maroon dress at SkeptiProm 2014
photo by Steve Solomon

I mean, is my SkeptiProm dress from last year okay in France? Does its backlessness (not pictured) and dipping neckline redeem its length? It doesn’t quite cover my ankles, especially in the heels I wore with it.

#JePorteMaJupeCommeJeVeux, indeed.

{advertisement}
France’s Misogyny Coin Flips From Modesty to Bigotry
{advertisement}
The Orbit is still fighting a SLAPP suit! Help defend freedom of speech, click here to find out more and donate!

17 thoughts on “France’s Misogyny Coin Flips From Modesty to Bigotry

  1. 1

    I am afraid you miss the point of French ban. All kinds of religious attire are banned in French schools. If a Sikh has came with his turban – I think he would be banished from school too.
    And I do not think that dresscode applies to women only. If a French or (I presume) American boy came to school in his underwear he would be banned too – because his clothing would be considered improper. Of course girls have many more ways of dressing than boys so it might not be clear which way is proper and which is over the boundary.
    The rule “women should be free to cover if they wish and reveal if they so choose” is valid to a certain extent only – even in Western societies there is a (changing) tradition of modest and immodest dressing. You do not expect neither girls or boys to come to school naked, do you? And different rules apply to different circumstances – your (beautiful) evening dress is proper at the social function and would probably be not approved in most of workplaces.
    I understand your concerns about men trying to control the way women dress – but sometimes they control how men dress too and it has very little to do with their attitudes toward women.

    1. 1.1

      I don’t miss the point. Its alleged point has nothing to do with its enforcement in this case. There is absolutely nothing inherently religious about a long skirt. This is a case of bigotry, period.

  2. 3

    Grzegorz Lindenberg, #1

    I am afraid you miss the point of French ban. All kinds of religious attire are banned in French schools.

    A long dress is not Islamic attire. It’s too general an article of clothing.

  3. 5

    Did anyone consider that she was wearing a long skirt for the same reason I did today? Because it’s still a little breezy and chilly in the morning, and I only shaved to my knees.

  4. 7

    I’ts been my opinion for a long time that France goes overboard in suppressing religious expression. So the ban also covers Sikh turbans in schools? As if that makes the ban reasonable.

  5. 8

    Even if one were to agree with the notion of banning explicitly religious attire at schools, which I’m not (surprise!), I fail to see how a long black skirt constitutes explicitly or even implicitly religious attire. All those Goth chicks (and one guy) at my former school were secretly Muslim? Why would a pair of long trousers on a brown body be neutral, but a long skirt be crypto-Islamist? In what universe does any of that make sense?
    France fails.

    PS: Heina, you rocked that prom dress like whoah!

  6. 9

    Grzegorz Lindenberg

    I am afraid you miss the point of French ban. All kinds of religious attire are banned in French schools. If a Sikh has came with his turban – I think he would be banished from school too.

    No, you missed the point that it’s not an item of religious attire. It’s a skirt. A long black skirt, something probably more than 50% of women, no matter their religion, have in their wardrobes.
    It’s a perfectly neutral item that became suspicious for the one and only reason that it was being worn by a muslim girl who dutifully took off her headscarf before entering school.
    What’s next? Banning long sleeves? Will muslim kids be required to eat pork ham on their sandwiches because simply having cheese might be a show of religious affiliation (while it would be perfectly OK for a christian or atheist child to have cheese)?

  7. 11

    but sometimes they control how men dress too and it has very little to do with their attitudes toward women.

    actually in many cases it has a lot to do with attitudes toward women, as restrictions for men are often based around the idea of not looking feminine.

  8. 12

    also, before I accept the idea that school dresscodes are applied equally, you’re gonna have to produce some examples of guys being sent home lest they distract the girls from learning with their sexiness.

  9. 13

    I agree that the ban on the long black skirt is insane. A girl who wasn’t known to be Muslim would have gone unnoticed. However, you need to know, Heina, that French ‘Muslims’ are not often brown. They are usually of North African origin and can only be reliably distinguished from other French people by name, language or religious paraphernalia.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *