Thursday, September 22, 2005 Barbie pushed aside in Mideast cultural shift

It's a good read and explains a number of eternal truths. Advertising can be made to sell anything and parents will tend to buy the lesser of two evils. So apparently there's this doll that has the same specifications as barbie (which was in turn modelled on a german adult toy doll *cough* which explains the unrealistic proportions that barbie has). The only difference and the reason why this doll is flying off the shelves is because of its modest dress, 'Islamic values' (which is pretty hard to define considering that there are at least 4 schools of Sharia each of equal viability) and presumably because it's not barbie.

Anyway, certain women rights groups are upset because they see it as homogenisation and conservatism by stealth. Such that even though more and more people put on the hijab by choice, the result is societal pressure to conform. It's a little hard to guage how accurate or pervasive this trend is considering that we don't seem to see much surveys done on this issue. But I suppose there would always been some element of truth in the situation. It's hard to go against the crowd, especially so when one is young (and wearing hijabs is becoming fashionable).

And I suppose it would be a little nitpicky to point out that some groups would say that even the doll is not modest enough seeing as she face is unveiled and I think it looks like she is adorned with make-up. But it does bring me to the point that this issue of modesty in Islam has no real set standard. If I'm not wrong, the sura talks about drawing a veil across one's bosom (which makes sense because of the prevelent practice of going topless then in certain arabic/african areas, and even today that's still true). So a huge question mark could be drawn over this need to wearing a headscarf or a burkha or well anything except something to cover one's breasts. But hey, the ulamas call the shots.

But on the other extreme end, we have good muslim women who honestly and reasonably believe that no one should look at them except their brothers, husbands and brother-in-laws. And can we honestly say that they are being oppressed as such?

Here, we really have the classic problem of what exactly constitutes oppresive behavior and when such behavior is reasonable, acceptable and a real choice. And I suppose, arguably, there really isn't a real choice in so far as you have roving morality militias who would beat up women they consider indecently dressed and have prevented girls from escaping from a buring building because they were inappropriately dressed. They burned to death by the way.

This is a question is no real answers and I suppose that with growing automony and power by women, what constitutes a real choice and not should become clearly.



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