French Women Veil Faces, Bare Legs in Protest

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Two French women who object to that country's recent burqa ban have taken to parading (or "sashay[ing]," as Nesrine Malik at The Guardian puts it) down the streets of Paris in veil, minishorts, and heels. To be more precise, the women are wearing niqabs—the veil that covers head and face, but not eyes. Calling themselves NiqaBitch, they've posted a video of their exploits, including the amazed reaction from Parisian cab drivers who stopped as they cross the street.

"Somehow, the trite juxtaposition isn't as lowbrow as one would think," comments Nesrine Malik at The Guardian. "Like a good advertisement, it makes a clear, simple, powerful point." As the Telegraph's Henry Samuel recounts:

At one stage in the film, the two women approach the entrance to the ministry of immigration and national identity, only to be told by a policeman to go elsewhere. However, a policewoman also present is delighted by their clothes. “I love your outfit, is it to do with the new law?” she asks. “Yes, we want to de-dramatise the situation,” one girl replies. “It’s brilliant. Can I take a photo?” asks the policewoman, who will soon be required to fine public niqab wearers.

It's about "turning the classic representation that we have of the niqab on its head," the NiqaBitch team says at French stiet Rue89. Though one of the women is Muslim, they say they "do not feel themselves directly affected by the law," but merely "feel the need to express themselves on the subject." They don't think the state should be telling women what to wear.

Adds Malik at The Guardian:

Personally, I think it is reminiscent of a sinister orientalist fetishising, one that hides an exotic woman's face but lays bare her body as a faceless sexual object, mystified by lack of character but simultaneously made accessible. But that is just my own visceral reaction. Ultimately, it is about choice.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.