Write On: Letters to the editor

September 20, 2008

Beauty myth

I am writing in response to Pam Rankin's questions (Write On #767) regarding the way women dress and treat their bodies. To find the answer to who "forces" Western women to wax, pluck, chemical peal and worse, we don't have to look past the negative, yet pervasive, impacts of media and advertising.

It is not a religious code, this is true. It is the result of a constant multi-billion dollar reinforcement from women's magazines, TV ads and near-neurotic "beauty" campaigns stressing that women must fit a specially designed mould. Women (and men) internalise such ideas and become convinced that we want, and need, to change, reshape and twist our bodies to fit this mould.

Products, procedures and "fashion" brands are thrown at us in a constant attempt to tell us that our natural bodies are not good enough and we cannot be socially accepted without first accepting this "reality".

And it doesn't simply end here; the reinforcement becomes external. It is nearly impossible to go a day without noticing someone looking at your hairy legs. It is hard to confidently play sport with others recoiling at your underarms, or it is tempting to skip a lunch because you don't want the people around you to translate what you eat into a judgement of your weight.

The formalities of judiciary and legislation only go so far. Formal equality has not meant real equality for women, and this is no less true in terms of how we regard our bodies. In the case of Faiza Silmi ("Islam, Racism and Women's Rights" GLW #761) it has driven women's rights backwards; the denial of French citizenship for a choice to wear a burqa exposes the sexist — and of course racist — hypocrisy that remains today worldwide.

Jay Fletcher

Wollongong, NSW

Islam & women's rights

Pam Rankin (Write On #767) writes "These religions are totalitarian and absolute, and as long as there are fundamentalist religious groups, of any sort, there will never be equality of the sexes".

Specifically she attacks the Taliban: "It is fundamentalist organisations like the Taliban who murder women for not wearing the burqa."

The French State Council who denied French citizenship to Faiza Silmi because she did wear a burqa isn't quite guilty of murder.

But the racist anti-immigration policies that such decisions are a part of no doubt mean that many women who wanted to move to the West (not just from Afghanistan) stayed and died.

It's no accident that the same Western governments who developed these racist anti-immigration policies also used the excuse of the burqa to justify their invasion of Afghanistan.

By uncritically repeating those arguments we shore up racist policies — including both legal and physical attacks on women in the West who do choose to wear the burqa.

In the context of global imperialist aggression by the US, supported by Australia, it is fundamentally short-sighted of progressives to repeat the same arguments as our governments do to criticise the Taliban.

Who has the more economic, military and political power? The Taliban or the US?

Who could do more to end sexism? It's well understood that women are severely impacted by poverty, poor health and minimal education. The Taliban might exploit that situation in Afghanistan, but they are not the cause of those problems.

The cause is here, in countries like Australia. If we were really serious about putting feminist policies before profit, about ending poverty and discrimination, we'd support the women and men of Afghanistan to control their own resources and decide their own fate. Not steal their resources for our benefit and force them to have governments of our preference.

Obviously we should support the right of women to wear whatever they choose, wherever they live. But our own government — there are still Australian troops in Afghanistan — deserves harsher criticism from us than even the Taliban.

Karl Miller

Cook, ACT

Death in custody

In a very brief article in the Sunday Territorian newspaper on August 24, it was reported that a man had escaped from police custody in the Bulman area and was later found dead from gunshot wounds.

It was also stated that the death was not to be treated as a death in custody. This raises some disquieting questions.

First, how did he escape from armed police?

Second, did he shoot himself? If so, where did he obtain the weapon?

If not, who shot him?

Third and most importantly, why is this not treated as a death in custody? If the reports of this death are accurate there must be nothing less than a public inquiry.

Col Friel

Alawa, NT

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