Thursday, July 8, 2010
Headscarves, Burqas and Panties - Oh my!
Do read the fine print in the illustration ;) (click to zoom)
I googled the word “A’abaya” randomly one day and came across a website for an Islamic boutique that specialized in designer A’abayas.......AND lingerie. WTF!
I was intrigued, to say the least…I clicked on the link to discover a world of the sluttiest underwear I’ve ever seen. It made me laugh, because I thought lingerie in an Islamic boutique would cover most of your body – like an Islamic bathing suit. A stupid assumption, because lingerie… is lingerie. It has one purpose, to come off…quick – and I suppose that these Muslim lingerie buyers like to get it on something fierce, behind closed doors. Hey – as long as it’s legit, and you’re married I guess that makes it okay! The reason it made me chuckle was 'cause these women are buying shapeless cloaks to hide their body and crotchless panties to flaunt their body at the same bloody place. An ingenious business idea – yet it somehow seems wrong that you would use religion to market lingerie. Maybe wrong is not the word I'm looking for.... but umm...odd?
As weird as that combination of products being in the same store is, there's definitely a market for it. The lingerie market is driven mostly by men (as is the a'abayah/burqa market), if it were up to women, I'm sure we'd choose comfort over butt floss!
Anyyyhoooo.......thought I'd share that fun little story, before I got to the more serious stuff.
The notion that men will be men and have an insatiable sexual appetite is widespread throughout Pakistan. Women typically cannot enjoy sex, want sex, masturbate or show any sort of interest in it. They’re baby making machines and blow up sex dolls, that also cook and clean. Perhaps the imbalance spreads from the caveman days when men’s physical power allowed them to beat us women into submission and drag us by our hair into a cave of their choosing. *shrug* it’s a theme that resonates around the globe in different intensities.
Of course, no offense guys, I dont mean YOU in particular... and there are lots of awesome men out there... but lets face it, the caveman-types that use their wives just to make children definitely still exist in ridiculous quantities.
Steve (from the last post), the self proclaimed generic white boy thinks of attractive women in colourful veils when he thinks of Pakistan. We sure have plenty of those and with that imagery he reminds me of a place our maid used to tell me about, while I was in Karachi. I spent many afternoons listening to her stories about her village in the province of Punjab. She would tell me about young girls sneaking off into fields or behind haystacks to meet a lover. I was fascinated by these tales of unauthorized sexual activity (and in a small village too!).
Apparently, this is common…there is so much sex going on it’s hard to think of these women as repressed. Some of the women are married to other men and some are unmarried girls…and everyone’s having a great time. But soon enough, the bubble bursts when you hear about these same women being forced into marriage by their parents, or being beaten by their husbands or pressured to produce a son. They do have their small moments of sexual freedom – and good for them…but generally these women are confined to a life of all kinds of repression… and oppression.
When Steve states that he doesn’t associate sexual repression with any Muslim country, it strikes me as odd and I wonder if he’s just trying to be polite…but then I read on and he explains that extreme misogyny is the culprit in his opinion, “Repression is possibly involved, but I think it has more to do with hatred of women than hatred of sex.”
What Steve says here is an incredibly powerful statement. I…..can’t get my head around it, fully. I want to agree, but it’s almost too disturbing to accept as reality. It could be and I’m sure there are plenty out there that agree. But to me, the more I think about it the more speechless I become. It’s actually hurting my head – wow, that’s really disturbing.
So, I can see the Pakistani in me coming out – I don’t want to deal with what Steve said, so let’s move on. Denial, ah – a national pastime. Our children don’t have premarital sex…Pakistani’s don’t get Aids…Our son is not gay…
Although, he mentions that he doesn’t see this extreme misogyny in Pakistan, but associates it mostly with the Taliban, and Saudi Arabia. I can see where he’s coming from, more so about the Taliban than about Saudi – because I had a perfectly beautiful childhood in Saudi Arabia. I didn’t know that crime existed; I didn’t know that poverty existed…but then again, I never knew what was going on outside my Americanized compound walls. But that’s a whole other blog in itself. This one’s about Pakistan.
I’m glad Steve mentions that there are extremist groups in Pakistan like anywhere else in the world and recognizes the repression involved in other religions as well.
I remember when my husband and I moved to Karachi from Toronto as newlyweds…we were walking around the bazaars holding hands, until we noticed all the stares we were getting. We were literally stopping dirty old men in their tracks. In fact, I remember crossing the street once while holding his hand and a woman (with her face covered) almost ran us over and drove past yelling for us to let go of each others hands. Me, being the rebellious type – I naturally didn’t want to be told by the public of Pakistan what I was or wasn’t allowed to do.
So I was quite upset when my husband (being the more rational, cautious person) said he didn’t want to stir up any trouble or get into arguments with other men because they were staring at me. I decided he was right and although I should have the right to hold his hand, it was probably easier to just let it go. The funny thing is, a lot of these guys that were stopping to stare were usually holding hands with each other. It’s quite strange, but thats a common practice amongst 'lower income' men in Pakistan. They walk around holding hands all the time, apparently. Yet they still stop to ogle women.
So what’s up with that?
Well, I can only speculate, but I think since it’s widely accepted that this is how they display their friendship for each other. They aren’t necessarily gay, although you would think so if you had a Western understanding of homosexuality. They seem incredibly absorbed in each others presence, these strange hand-holding, woman-ogling males. Sometimes you will even see the occasional ass-grab exchanged between the two men, but then you see them stopping to stare at a woman – their jaws hang open, their eyes light up and you know they are undressing her with their eyes at a rate that’s unimaginable.
They don’t have access to women, so their playful ass grabbing turns into a homosexual encounter – but only out of necessity. It’s like men in prison, when you have limited interaction with the opposite sex, you tend to satisfy your urges through other means. This is one example of how men too are sexually repressed in Pakistan. Women surely win the race, but men are in there somewhere.
James (see last post) says that sex is the single strongest drive in the healthy human being and cannot be successfully repressed – I could not agree more. When people’s natural sexuality is restricted it tends to manifest itself in other ways. A lack of sex education and a taboo surrounding any such topic results in unwanted pregnancies…which trap the poor in a vicious cycle of poverty. Such restrictions sometimes come out in the form of incest, bestiality and pedophilia… People are afraid to speak up and uneducated predators take advantage of this situation.
It cannot be repressed entirely but such extreme attempts to box it and suppress it result in an explosion of all kinds of hidden sexual activity.
James goes on to say that suppression just changes the spectrum and makes you more sensitive to the slightest trace of sexuality, where a simple coy smile becomes all the more attractive. I’m reminded of seeing women with covered faces whose eyes were particularly striking. Even girls with their hair covered, they’re actually highlighting the beauty of their face even more – because there isn’t any hair to distract you from it.
It’s like…a quick glimpse of a bare wrist can be attractive if you know you’re not supposed to see it. It’s just a heightened level of awareness…most of us are desensitized to a lot of things because we’re constantly inundated with prepackaged, airbrushed, high definition images of female sexuality. In the West, we can’t get away from it – and seeing a pair of bare breasts on TV has just lost its novelty.
Billy sums it all up when he says:
I think Pakistan is a little more repressed than other Muslim countries, namely because religion is part of their identity.
And that…is key. We are a nation formed because of our religion, and no matter how much the core of those beliefs have dissolved and degraded we continue to cling onto them in a very hypocritical manner, one that is addressed by Merve when she compares Pakistan to Turkey. Life in small villages is very different to big cities; people are divided into several separate worlds and have separate sources of repression. Some are held back by society and keeping up appearances whereas some are burdened with a lack of education, poverty, strict family policies and religious misinformation.