Thursday, May 19, 2005

Hide and show

It was quite strange that when I saw the person on the bench at Sheffield station on Tuesday, I felt drawn to watch and to try and understand.

The shape of the person's body under the clothes suggested to me that this person was uncomfortable with being there, feeling awkward, definitely not wanting to be seen.

Yet I was drawn to watch.

I also thought that when the man with his drink and cigarette sat there, he looked incongruous. At times he turned to look at the figure closely. He leaned in to see.

I hope you don't mind that I took the photo to show you and I have thought about it a lot.

But you cannot see who the figure is at all and I think the photo says something, (but am not sure what.)


The person's identity is protected by the clothing hiding everything; but I think, I feel, the clothing shows things too.

It is strange, as the scene reminded me of this photo I took in the Berlin underground (U Bahn).

who's that? Stadtmitte

When I was in London I was very lucky to receive a gift, which was this:


I have already read quite a lot and it is very good.
It gives a range of narratives about women and their relationships with their clothes, how the clothes affect them and how identity interacts with clothing. It talks about freedoms and restrictions and it talks about how clothing affects their relationship and interactions with others.

But it does not tell me about the burkha.

And I want to know and understand.


Kate said...

There was a great letter in the Guardian yesterday which read:
'And while we're about it, as well as outlawing hooded tops, why not dispense with those funny hoods that pass as wigs on judges? Surely both forms of headwear are making a certain statement and prevent proper identity.'
Can we have a posting on hoodies Dr Joolz?

Joolz said...

Yes a posting on hoodies is v important.
I saw a girl in class last year and under her burkha she ates LOADS of sweets and drank a can of pop through a straw. All concealed beneath her burkha.
It was v transgressive.
I pretty much enjoyed the performance.

pupski said...

Found your posting on Burkhas very interesting. I thought the girl/woman(?) in the picture was in the pose of someone who was feeling threatened and a bit defensive - possibly by the man who kept looking at her.

I have thought a lot about Burkhas and sometimes I think they could quite empowering, noone would know who you are, noone could judge you on your physical appearance, you could make faces at people who annoy you and noone would know, you wouldn't have to smile at everyone. A friend of mine who lived in Kenya for a while told me that women found it easy to have affairs as in their burkha noone could recognise them. But this is all assuming that it is the woman's free choice to wear it in the first place.

On the other hand it could make a woman more vulnerable, lack of visabilty could put a woman in danger from muggers and traffic, it could also be very isolating, not being able to make eye contact with people when you talk to them makes them uneasy and there is something about the armour like appearane of the garment that makes the wearer seem unapproachable...

Joolz said...


In fact the woman loked really defensive even before the bloke arrived. It was quite intriguing how this seemed to show through all that apparent disguise. But despite all the cloth it did not disguise at all ...

the arguments about it being liberating under the burkha have been quite strongly put by some feminists I think; but I feel that real liberation comes from being able to do what you want while not having to cover up.

When I was walking with my waterproof kagool (sp?) on the other day with the hood up I nearly got run over as I did not see a van coming . It really obscures your view when you have something round your face like that I think.

When I first started my blog I did a post on burkhas here .

pupski said...

Yes I agree with you about real liberation being able to wear what you want! What I would like to know is whether the Burkha was designed by a man or a woman - if it was designed by a man then there is no way that it can be liberating in my opinion.

Joolz said...

OOoh I don't know about this - I suspect by a man!! Does anyone else know?
I know that some women chose to wear it and that some husbands tell their wives to wear it.
There are days when I purposefully wear clothes I can hide in a bit and don't feel confident. But then I can choose which days.

I saw on an Islam discussion board once that the Quoran (sp?) says that men shoulddress modestly too but I don't know. Has anyone else ever looked at such boards?

Sandra Weber said...

This comment, alas, has little to do with burkas (although, as an aside to Dr. Joolz, the chapter by Roxanna Bahramitash called "Revealing Veiling and Unveiling" in my book Not Just Any Dress has some bearing on veiling). I am just writing to share with the readers of this blog my experience of meeting Dr. Joolz for the second time in one year. What an amazing, captivating, and intelligent speaker she is. I heard her in London last week presenting her fabulous work about girls and websites, not long after she snapped the burka photo. I could tell from her presentation that she really listens to others, and is so respectful of the people involved in her resesarch. And of course her enthusiasm seems boundless (where on earth does she find the time and energy to post so many interesting things on her blog while carrying on with all her work?). She's one super person. And her work on literacy and media is some of the most exciting I've seen anywhere.

Joolz said...

You are a sweetheart Sandra!! Thanks for visiting the log and leaving a comment ...
I will be keeping an eye on your sites too .
By the way have bought a copy of the book as a present for a friend.

Anonymous said...

Hello, doll.

If you are really interested in the identity and reasonings behind purdah, the burkha, e. cetera, then consider reading The Death of Feminism by Phyllis Chesler. She goes in death on how Purdah is effecting women in the modern day Nations of Islam. It was really enlightening and shocking to hear about all the things that have happened.

Joolz said...

Interesting reference here thanks. I will check out the book you mention thanks ... (Very funny being called Doll, especially in this context.)

About Me

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Sheffield, South Yorks, United Kingdom
I am an academic interested in New Literacies, Digital Lifestyles, Informal Online Learning.