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Coding clothing, or burkes who get upset about burqas

When I was seventeen I bought a beautiful Lewis Leathers bike jacket.

I even had  a motorbike.

My father said it made me look like a Hells Angel.

I bought it because it was cold on my bike, and I wanted to be safe. I didn’t wear a back patch, or a denim over-vest, but to my dad a biker jacket made me look like a Hells Angel.

Being someone who used to hang round biker pubs I knew what a Hells Angel really looked like, when they wore their colours. I knew, with certainty, why I wore a biker jacket. The two were not connected, not least because many of the Angels I knew either didn’t ride bikes very often, or didn’t wear their colours.

Do my classic test.  Imagine a woman wearing a burqa, telling her dad that wearing a burqa doesn’t make her a Muslim fundamentalist. Imagine me, telling my dad that my leather jacket didn’t make me a Hells Angel.

Spot the difference.

Clothing only means what the person wearing it intends it to mean. Nothing more. If we want to make assumptions about what clothing means, we are prisoners of our own preconceptions. Nothing more. If you want to know what a burqa means, ask the woman wearing it. Politely, after parking your assumptions, your privileges and your preconceptions. Otherwise, much as I love him, you’re no better than my dad, and he’s a sexist arse with an undertone of racism that he does his best to suppress.


3 comments on “Coding clothing, or burkes who get upset about burqas

  1. genderneutrallanguage
    November 9, 2013

    I disagree strongly. Your choice in clothing is an important and meaningful choice. When you choose clothing, you are choosing how to present yourself to the world. This presentation that you choose for yourself is the first communication that you have with every stranger. Even people that are going to talk to you SEE you well before they are in voice range and your choices on how you choose to present yourself have an affect.
    Calling this racist or sexist or wrong doesn’t and CAN NOT change that it is. The only real affect condemning this behavior does is prevents people from learning how to intentionally dress themselves to send the messages they actually intend to send.


    • jemima2013
      November 11, 2013

      Not sure about that, surely we can never be sure what “message” our clothing sends, and so the better response if for people to stop making assumptions based on the dress of others?


      • genderneutrallanguage
        November 11, 2013

        You can never be sure exactly what the nuance of the message you are sending is. You can be quite very sure of the broad strokes. If we stop the hystrionics over “Victim Blaming” with clothing choices we can do a better job of teaching boys and girls the same thing about how boys and girls present themselves. With boys and girls being taught the same things about coding clothing the message that boys and girls choose to send will be more easily and accurately interpreted. With boys and girls being taught the same things about coding clothing the choices on clothing will stop being guesses about what message will be received.
        Always and forever the sight of you will be first contact. This is an unalterable fact of reality. You see someone before you hear them. Just as people are more than their genitalia, people are more than how articulate they are. People are total packages this includes how they choose to present themselves, how they talk, their gender, how intelligent they are, their skill sets and many other things. We need to be judging total packages, not just gender or clothing. Judging the total package does by necessity include judging gender and clothing.


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This entry was posted on November 8, 2013 by in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , .

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