The story is that a fine arts student from Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, B.C. took a photo of her friend wearing a niqab -- a veil covering her face -- and an abaya -- a full-body cloak -- holding up a bra as she sorts through her laundry.
It's been met with outrage. A staff member of the school "tore it down" from where it was displayed with the other student photos. The Saudi Arabian Embassy also has their knickers in a twist and is involved (how, I don't know). And generally, you'd think... a Dutch magazine had published cartoons of Mohammed. But no, it's just a photo of a woman holding an under garment that is just as, if not more common in the Middle East than it is in North America.To her credit, Chapin explains the reasons behind the exceptional popularity of lingerie in a nation that represses women horribly, denying them any public persona by forcing them into all-encompassing shrouds:
...many women use lingerie as a way to express individual style. Much in the same way those that can afford it buy expensive hand bags and shoes to accessorize, lingerie gives them a sense of individuality Muslim veils often conceal.
Then there are other, darker reasons why women wear lingerie. In Syria, for example, it's common for a man to have multiple wives, and buying sexy undergarments is a way for a woman to gain his favour over the others. As a result, the lingerie markets in Syria (yes, these exist) have bras and panties that would make full-grown North American women blush. Think light-up Tweety Birds on the crotch, buttons you press to hear music, and a lot of feathers.Er, thanks, but I'd rather not.
It's in her wrap-up that Chapin loses me:
The least we can do as citizens of a country where women are apparently "sexually liberated" is celebrate this photo, perhaps for the very fact it wouldn't be allowed in the Middle East. What kind of a message are we sending about our own country to insinuate this portrait of daily life is "offensive?"Au contraire, Angie. The least we can do is tell the Saudis, who do not run Canada (not yet, anyway) to take a giant chill pill. The penultimate least thing we can do is send the message that it offends our values and way of life to want to hide chicks in Wahhabi body bags--no matter what sort of Looney Tunes froufrou they happen to be wearing underneath.