Queer this: NiqaBitch

| 3 Comments

In response to France's ban on the burqa, or niqab, two women, one of whom is Muslim, started a small web-activist operation called NiqaBitch.

They explain the purpose of NiqaBitch here, but it's entirely in French, so here is a very rough translation. In addition, here are a couple of responses from the Guardian and The Daily Femme. You can even follow NiqaBitch on twitter.

3 Comments

I always enjoy some form of performance art, or an activist act. The way they presented the issue was very eye-catching and seemed to poke fun at what French women's values are. Because they presented their argument by wearing something that covered their face while revealing their legs, I felt that it was a great way to really expose the truth behind who is allowed to own these women's bodies. With the two ladies wearing mini skirts, made the issue more interesting in the sense that they are also trying to question what is it that makes women appear more erotic? Whether it is the face veil, or their mini skirts? Although it was interesting to see how they approached this issue, I still felt like the women made themselves objectified because I only saw a lot of people staring at them and taking pictures of them or with them. There was no real interaction with the ladies or questions as to why they were dressed the way that they were. Not only that, but do most of the observers in the video know about the ban on face veils? I would like to see what else Niqabitch comes up with for next year.

Great! Sex is a powerful tool which can contain the power to uphold patriarchy or challenge/threaten it's validity. A fem woman that struts her stuff in a sexual way in public is a powerful force. The veil was a nice touch but i believe in the context i experienced the viewing of the video the performance act put the spot light on sexuality and it's social and political implications.
My view is that the women were subject to much harassment rooted in fear while being sexual in social space. I truly believe this is because the very nature of patriarchy uses sexuality and gender as means of social control. Anything outside the norm has the potential for violent ramifications. The harassment (the men that expressed their obvious sexual objectification of the women-which is dehumanizing because it lacks recognition of the perceived other (assuming we're all one) in a human way- because objects cannot be living) highlights a system of power that is responding to the threat of lost privilege and power. One group may believe fucking is a right and normal socially acceptable form of expressing dominance. I can say with complete confidence being a sexual fem in this society means freedom to know and express ones sexuality is very empowering esp. in public. The more one does it, in public the more they may find along side the threat of violence, may be a level of recognition thats deep. The use and intention of sexuality can mean so much more than fucking. It's important to stay true to form with performance art and activism. Keep that expression real. Can't get more real than love. It's my ultimate truth. When i see queer acts i feel a more "fuck you," than "love you," vibe and this is a reason i don't find this movement very effective long term.

@cookiekidd,

I think we can assume that everyone in the video was at least superficially familiar with the political controversy surrounding the niqab in France. I read most of the public's reactions as shocked, but more or less supportive, which the Guardian has an interesting opinion about:

Some have observed that the public's reaction is less unfriendly than usual because it's clear the two women are not wearing the burqa for religions reasons, which highlights the Islamophobic aspect of opposition to the niqab.

Nesrine Malik, of the Guardian, sees the NiqaBitch women as posing for pictures because they are making a political statement, not necessarily a religious one. Judging from Malik's statement, we can infer that, generally speaking, Parisians are usually not as friendly to Muslim women in public, particularly those who choose to wear the niqab. So, what is the significance of viewing this act as a political statement as opposed to a religious one? Isn't it both - isn't the religious also political?

The article from the Guardian also has some similar questions about fetishization/objectification that you raise:

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.

Your choice of language about this point, though, is particularly intriguing to me, you say, "I still felt like the women made themselves objectified..." So, you are gesturing to their own, autonomous, political agency involved in this act -- which is important when dealing with the contradictory logic of the ban itself -- while also saying that they relinquish this power, this agency through the objectification of themselves...

@happy tree,

I don't know if I would call the public's reaction in this video "harassment," especially since we see the women pausing to pose for their pictures. It's important to remember that these women are actively doing something in protest to something that is being done to them, against them, because of ignorance, because the French government is applying and enforcing their own, Western point of view onto Muslim women -- people who they do not know anything about and clearly do not intend to ever understand. Here's what the two NiqaBitch women have to say about their own performance (as quoted in the Guardian):

Portmanteau in name and in dress, they merge the sacred and the profane. The footage is tongue in cheek, all rather typically French. "We were not looking to attack or degrade the image of Muslim fundamentalists – each to their own – but rather to question politicians who voted for this law that we consider clearly unconstitutional," they said. "To dictate what we wear appears to have become the role of the state."

In response to your last statement, "When i see queer acts i feel a more 'fuck you,' than 'love you,' vibe and this is a reason i don't find this movement very effective long term," I don't know that NiqaBitch affiliates themselves with any so-called "queer movement," per se, at least I have not read anything that either refers to them as queer or read anything where they refer to themselves as queer. As far as a "fuck you" versus "love you" response to oppression goes, I think that the ban itself can be read as a blatant "fuck you" to Muslim women, or Muslim people in general. The French government's logic is that Muslim men force Muslim women to wear the niqab, and thus the niqab promotes the inequality of women -- yet the ban itself violates women's freedom of choice. The French government is also forcing its authority on Muslim women. It mimics classic colonial logic wherein white men justify their oppressive acts under the pretext of saving brown women from brown men.

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