A variety of the world’s nations can be characterized by specific traditions and rituals. Many cultures also have their national consumes. In several European and Western countries, national dresses are considered an archaic tradition that is appreciated and given respect to occasionally on the days of national celebrations.
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At the same time, there are nations that promote wearing traditional garments as the only right way of dressing. Among such countries, there are many Islamic, Buddhist, and Hindu states. There is an opinion that the promotion of modest dresses and valuing of virginity enforces the devaluation of women in society. In my opinion, these two phenomena are not necessarily related and “appropriate” garments also can be viewed as the symbols of women’s independence and dignity.
As stated by Leila Ahmed, in Islamic cultures, the issue of wearing hijab is not only of a religious character, but it is intertwined with cultural, aesthetic and anthropological views of certain ethnic groups (Marginalia Review of Book). Hijab in Islam represents many different notions.
For example, it can be seen as a symbol of women’s obedience before men, as well as an element of fashion. The former view is rather common in the contemporary world, as the vast majority of Western feminists tend to view veils as the results of male domination and oppression of women. At the same time, many Muslim women, including the ones that live outside of the Islamic world, state that wearing hijab is their initiative because being covered helps them feel protected and secure.
The value of virginity can be found in many cultures, yet it is not always connected to certain types of clothing. When virginity is viewed as the main feature that makes a woman valuable, this certainly is a sign of devaluation of a woman as a person and a society member. When virginity is promoted as a reasonable and responsible lifestyle, it adds value to women prioritizing activities other than sexual behavior.
The dress called “appropriate” in the cultures dominant in Islamic countries includes long garments as well as hoods and veils covering women’s chests, heads, and faces. In this case, such clothing is not only excellent protection from sun radiation very dangerous in the desert areas, but also a good way to be dressed in a stylish, yet dignified way.
Women all around the world argue about the meaning of showing too much skin and the message it carries. Feminists typically protect women’s freedom and independence, yet they often forget that revealing outfits are mainly designed to attract the opposite sex, while modest and strict clothing is viewed as classy and elegant. This way, the women’s preference of modest clothing is the sing of their freedom from the social pressure to find a mate at any cost.
Of course, the cases when a certain way of dressing and behavior is politically forced on people based on religious reasons should be seen as a dictatorship. I support the secularist opinions, which suggest that political leaders should not employ religion as the tools to manipulation their citizens (Columbia university). The “appropriate” clothing and “valued” sexual behavior are rather limiting. Strong morals and values can be taught to individuals without using civil and corporal punishments to control the social conduct of the nation.
Columbiauniversity. Beyond Security: Third Panel: Secularism and Feminism. 23 Jan. 2012. Web. 14 Jan. 2014. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0nNSz0rHWRo&list=SP1C71FABD8DBB9E56>
Marginalia Review of Books. Leila Ahmed Talks to Ingrid Lilly about Islam and Feminism. 3 July 2013. Web. 14 Jan. 2015. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d_CTrbVqWW0>.