Tuesday, 17 September 2013

No. And if you come at me with a needle, I want another nurse

We are all debating the niqab.

No, is my short answer to Shark's questions. I don't like to see it because I like friendly smiles and the pleasure of seeing a face in my social dealings. How does putting a screen over a face facilitate the social moment for me?

I want to see your facial lines wrinkle, know what impact I'm having on you, and judge whether I'm pissing you off already. Veiling a face goes against all the cues I have learned in my social world. Incidentally, I do not want to unlearn those cues, nor say to my daughters Shark, Squirrel and Tiger that these social cues do not matter. Culturally, they do. I want them to continue mattering.

While I've got the keyboard under my control, I don't like what the niqab says about men. They can be their own champions and defenders, no doubt, but I do not like the suggestion that men cannot be trusted to walk down the street without wanting to leap upon all unveiled women. Screening a female face from the male, suggesting that a female-male interaction is nothing more than code for sex is, frankly, depressing. When I pick up the car from the annual service and discuss the changing of the brake fluid with Gordon, I do not want to be forced to think we are having a covert game of hide-and-seek little willy.

So, no. The niqab removes nuance; it creates an unfair platform where you can see mine but won't show me yours; it's insulting to the men in my life; assumes my cultural coding is worth less than yours; and rejects a long tradition in England of showing a face alongside the oath you state, the belief you declare, the vow you make, and the promise you give.

Women should not don the niqab to give evidence in court. Faces should not be veiled in the nurse's office, nor when sticking needles in my arse or arm. Girls should not be veiled in schools. Nor when taking exams, having the third attempt at your driving test, nor serving me at the grocer's.

Tell me, sure, that we should remember the woman behind the veil. Fine. Let me see the face and then I'll smile back.


Irene said...

I am surprised that you have not received any comments on this eloquent piece of writing. I have to say that I could not have put it better myself and that I agree with you completely. Thank you for giving me the words for stating my argument.

Grit said...

only three people read my blog, irene. you, me, and a woman in bristol. xx

Irene said...

Are you sure about that, Grit? You may want to check your stats. xox