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Where Burqas Meet Strippers

Could the traditional burqa-clad woman and the modern Western exotic dancer be two sides of the same coin?

Think about it:

The tradition of the burqa/headscarf is the product of a patriarchal system that is geared towards and tailored to pleasing men by placing the responsibility of curbing male lust primarily upon women.

Similarly, the modern stripper is the product of a patriarchal system that is geared towards and tailored to pleasing men by catering to that lust.

Both are designed to sustain the dynamics of a male-dominated society.

Both presume and maintain the status of women as sexual objects -- whether it's by having them covered from head to toe, or exposed from head to toe -- depending on whether the men in the immediate environment want to curtail their seemingly uncontrollable sexual urges or exercise them.

In effect, the burqa fosters the objectification of women just the same -- but in reverse.

Both can be seen as insulting not only to women, but to men, perpetuating the stereotypical notion that men have virtually no self-control over their testicular physiology, and no discretionary sense.

That said, many women who choose to wear the burqa/headscarf or be exotic dancers do so out of choice, pleasure, and sometimes, for liberation. Whether we agree with their views or not, these choices, like anything else, are personal and individual, shaped by many complex circumstantial and environmental factors.

We have heard women who defend the burqa/headscarf say that women who choose to uncover themselves are treating themselves as commodities.

We have also heard women who oppose the burqa/headscarf say that women who cover themselves are oppressed.

President Obama defended the rights of women who choose to wear the headscarf in his speech in Cairo.

President Sarkozy, on the other hand, has declared unequivocally that burqas are not welcome in France.

Muslims have come out in large numbers in the past to protest bans on headscarves in France and Turkey.

However, there hasn't been any organized protest from them against the mandatory imposition of headscarves in Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Headscarves, strippers, burqas, bans, mandation, objectification, oppression... where can we get some consistency?

Only from the same core values that have always been consistent when we've faced these kinds of complex social issues:

Equality and Choice.

I am not opposed to a woman's choice to wear a burqa. Nor am I opposed to a woman (or man) choosing to be an exotic dancer. I am in opposition only to the idea of banning any individual from choosing the life they want to lead -- whatever we may think of it.

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