Days ago I was on an international flight when I struck up a conversation with a woman who was wearing a hijab with full face covering. We were chatting down the back of the plane when she removed her face covering and smiled. I told her what a lovely smile she had and it was a pity to have it covered up. She replied she covered her face when she was with “the men”. I know full well why she covered her face, she was travelling in a small group of women dressed the same along with a group of men. She explained they were from Indonesia and on their way to New Zealand for a visit.

I laughed and said no man is worth covering up for. She smiled and agreed with me.

The religion is the jailer

Seeing those women dressed like they were with their men acting as chaperones, or as I tend to think of it, their jailers, made me feel sad. I loathe seeing women trussed up in religious and social oppression trying to get through their daily lives. Lives wasted being guarded by a misogynist doctrine. I thought when I was growing up in the 60’s that I was heading for a time of freedom and modern life. We were all going to be racing around space in our spaceships free to do whatever we liked. Of course, it hasn’t worked like that, but I had no idea back then how much oppression woman would still face now.

It was supposed to get better, so what happened?

The Middle East exposed its religious dogma for all the world to experience. Seeing women covered from head to toe is commonplace, the reasons why they are is also known, and I like to think at least people understand how dangerous and repulsive this is, but sadly I fear very few really understand.

‘Unwittingly placing themselves on the side of the female oppressors’

Recently Julie Burchell wrote an article in the Daily Mail condemning the ‘modesty dressing’ by celebrities. She explained why she found this abhorrent, “… it’s not in any way ‘brave’ to cover up. These Western modesty dressers are unwittingly placing themselves on the side of the female oppressors; the imams telling women that not to cover themselves makes them a dirty sweet on the floor rather than an unwrapped delicacy for men to devour, obviously.”

What was disappointing was when I read the comments attached to her article it was clear none of the readers understood what she was saying.

Most were just upset about the style of the ‘modest’ dresses such celebs as Nicole Kidman and Gwyneth Paltrow were wearing in the accompanying photos. “They look like nightdresses", said one, “Thank goodness for a bit of a cover up. Done properly, it looks much nicer & more seductive than flashing everything” said another.

This is not freedom

Burchill also points out the hypocrisy of women’s magazines such as Cosmo devoting “pages to the voices of ‘brave hijabi’ women, talking about how they see this ultimate modesty dressing as a symbol of feminism.

Some call them ‘brave’ for speaking out against the discrimination they face daily by abiding by their ‘freedom’ to cover themselves.”

I find it hard to accept that our so called modern free culture is accommodating this, but unfortunately, it appears this is the case. This is not freedom, this is oppression, it is not modern, it is not fashionable.