Cultural Norms: Burqa, Headscarf, Rash Guard
Cultural Norms: Burqas, Headscarves, and Rash Guards
Westerners have the idea that Muslim women are required to cover up. It is commonly thought that women are repressed and controlled by the head scarves and modest clothing. We tend to think that women are hidden in long coats to hinder their participation in the world and show that they are beneath men.
In a word – WRONG. It is simply UNTRUE.
While it is hard for us to believe anyone would choose to cover up – especially in the heat, women CHOOSE coverings.
You read that correctly, women CHOOSE – the coverings are not required. As a matter of fact, for a while in an attempt to make Turkey more western, headscarves were outlawed in schools and places of government. It was against the law to wear one. But, instead of dancing in the streets from being ‘free’, women quit their jobs rather than bare their heads. Without what they felt was a choice to wear the headscarf, they felt LESS freedom, not more.
Exploring and understanding cultural norms is part of the wonder of travel. Let’s start here with burqas, headscarves, and rash guards.
Cultural norms: Consider Australia
Due to very high skin cancer rates, Australia has a public service campaign encouraging locals to cover up in the sun. Slip. slap, slop.
Kids are encouraged to wear hats at school recess. Rash guards are common at the beach and sunscreen clothing is popular for outdoor activities. No one is suggesting that Australian women who protect themselves from the sun are ‘repressed’ or ‘controlled by men’.
Cultural norms: Consider China
Fair skin is prized in China and women go to great lengths to obtain it. They have taken sun protection to a whole new level with these face covers called Face-Kinis. These get lots of reactions from Westerners though reactions are hard to decipher through all the laughter! Again, these women are not repressed or controlled by men by their fashion choices.
Cultural Norms: Consider the beach in Turkey
As our family adventure only took us to two beaches, I can’t speak for them all, but we went to a national park which was full of locals – away from the tourist filled area. My daughter had on the only one piece swimsuit there. Women of every age, size, and fitness category had on bikinis. With probably 200+ people in swimsuits I saw one woman wearing a long shirt and headscarf – just one. I felt a kinship with her actually as I cover up from the sun myself. I was wearing long sleeves, long pants, and a sun hat – all with the fantastic sunscreen fabric I love! (Were they thinking that was a way for my husband to control me??)
Travel opens your eyes. When you see new things try to understand them, rather than just go with your knee jerk reaction. Discuss what you find with your kids and make them global citizens by considering cultural norms.
Happy fashionable choices and travel,
Natalie, The Educational Tourist
Thank you google.com, dailymail.co.uk, and AFP Getty Images for the fantastic photos.