I’m just going to say it: I’m sick of old white guys telling women what to wear.

And I’m certainly not fond of them doing it under the guise of protecting women’s rights. Forcing a woman to do anything with her own body is not protecting her rights. Just stop.

Okay, backing up. For those not following the current Canadian election, there’s been some debate lately surrounding the right of Muslim women to wear a niqab during the Canadian citizenship ceremony. It’s not an issue of identification; the niqab is removed at another time to confirm identity. It’s purely the idea that wearing this particular garment is oppressive and “unCanadian”, in the opinion of the Conservative party and Prime Minister Stephen Harper (who I might as well go on record now as not being a fan of).

I was sort of ignoring this at first, to be honest. For my own sanity, I like to limit my exposure to infuriating news. I’ve just been quietly trying to decide which Non-Harper candidate I will be voting for on election day. But this came up on my Twitter feed the other day, and hurt me with its stupidity:

Oh come on, dude. Don’t try to equate trying to keep a handful of female Muslim immigrants each year from covering up to their personal comfort level with telling your young daughter it’s wrong for a woman to show her face. I’m not going to teach my daughter that she has to “cover her face because she is a woman” either. I’m also not going to tell her that any man should be able to force her to reveal any part of her body that she doesn’t want to because he thinks his values are more important than hers.

I hate the notion of a patriarchy controlling how women can dress. I hate the idea that any woman, in any part of the world, is forced to dress in a way she doesn’t want to. I think it’s great that in Canada, I have a relatively high degree of allowance in how I can dress without being deemed improper. And if a woman from a different country moves here and decides she wants to change how she dresses because she prefers the looser standards of modesty in our culture, good for her! But can we please refrain from forcing her to do so in the most violating way possible? Can we not make reasonable accommodations to women who do not feel comfortable revealing their faces for cultural and religious reasons, rather than bullying them into assimilation?

If you truly are concerned that these new Canadians are being hurt by the value system they are coming from, the last person you should be trying to legislate against is the woman herself. Harper is now talking about banning the niqab for public servants, as if this would have any effect other than limiting job options for Muslim women. I’d like to see these new Canadians welcomed into the workforce, whatever their beliefs, without having to put up with Harper’s vision of how they should dress. The Canada I love is okay with people who dress a little differently from the majority and have a variety of religious beliefs. I would hate to see that change.

(Editor’s note – While trying to find a picture for this post on free stock photo sites, which are normally very good to us, there were no pictures of: women wearing niqabs, Muslim people, or women wearing clothing and also having a head. There were a lot of photos of old white men. Make of this what you will. This old guy feeding pigeons probably has a lot of opinions on women’s clothing. – J)