I can not breathe Itches. I can not see it correctly Liz Jones describes her week wearing a burka

Liz Jones had the challenge of spending a whole week wearing a full burka

Nobody tried to publish a letter in me. When I entered a NatWest, nobody pressed an emergency button, thinking I was about to stop them.

My main concern, when a few years ago I spent a week wearing a complete burka, with only a small space on the fabric that allowed me to see and breathe, was if some kind of wiggle could throw me into the air and try to hit me. on a network, so close I look like a slow flyer.

And today, at the end of a week, when a few meters of black cloth have once again been the subject of heated debates, its place in a liberal society shaken by men and women who (for the most part) have never put on that damn thing, I thought that A reminder of what you feel inside those folds may be appropriate.

Liz Jones had the challenge of spending a whole week wearing a full burka

Liz Jones had the challenge of spending a whole week wearing a full burka

I remember that during my week I could see my reflection in the window of a shop in Knightsbridge. Instead of seeing me, I saw a woman hunched and shuffling. A dark and depressed alien. A stain To nothing.

I have been antagonistic to women who wear the burka for a long time. I saw a woman in the streets of London, a black raven next to a husband or relative, and rolled her eyes. I put the rights of women and girls to dress what they want to the rights of people of any faith in particular. How dare you demean yourself this way? He would think as he passed. You insult all the women who died fighting for your rights and your freedom.

The burqa has its origins in the Middle East before Islam, when men and women covered their faces to prevent sand from entering. In Afghanistan, the burka is known as the chadri; It has a thick grill over the mouth and eyes, and is the one I chose to use. The chadri only became common when the Taliban came to power, forbidding women to wear cosmetics and shoes with heels: it was said that the noise of a heel on the pavement was too exciting for men.

I remember that in Kabul I met former television presenters, businesswomen, who once used Manolos and lipstick, forced to cover themselves up. They were intimidated, mere shadows of what were once, now unemployed, able to sit at home.

During my week in the shadows, I soon discovered why: there is no way for a woman to work in one. Every time I had to go find me or interview someone, I had to take off my helmet. I could not even see to write. Most important, I could not think clearly.

That first day, I was afraid to put it. When I regained my courage, I felt suffocated, as if forced to live inside a dark tent. I got into my car to go to the station and I realized that there was no way I could drive safely with my eyes grim like a racehorse. Already deaf, the cloth turned off any residual sound.

On the way to the station I could barely breathe. My shroud made me burn, and my lashes hit the cloth. Recently, a friend returned from a spell working in Qatar and said that every time he drove he had to keep straying to avoid hitting the flocks of women who were hitting the roads. & # 39; They are like children. They must be guided by men. None of them speaks. It's like the Middle Ages. "

I felt scared, vulnerable.

I walked to the kiosk to buy coffee. "Mumble mumble," I said to the young man who served. To his credit, the station is in a rural area, so I'm sure this was the first time he came across a full veil, he did not flinch and he smiled. I pointed I automatically raised the cup to my lips. Oh How was I going to do this? I tried to put the cup inside the fabric, making an elaborate template on the platform, but I stayed halfway.

Later that day, in a coffee shop in Fulham, I sat at a table in front of a sandwich and a coffee with milk. While my hunger weighed, an Arab shouted insults to the white and male photographer sent to the chronicle of my day. I have no idea what he was saying, maybe he should not have been eating in public, but the interesting thing is that throughout the experiment, he was the only person who abused me.

Women with burka, clothes that cover her whole body shopping in a bazaar

Women with burka, clothes that cover her whole body shopping in a bazaar

Women with burka, clothes that cover her whole body shopping in a bazaar

The only time I was enraged by my treatment was when, for a domestic flight, I passed safely for safety, when I was usually forced to take off my jacket and shoes. This smelled like PC pander. However, I was encouraged by the fact that, during the whole week, I had only found friendly hands.

Getting into a taxi in London they still called me & # 39; sweetie & # 39; by the driver. Upon leaving the booth, a decorator who passed by opened the door and grabbed my purchases: a burka makes you clumsy, slow, helpless; I spent most of the week feeling like a disabled person.

In fact, the only curious looks I was attracted to were the little children and my border collies, who started barking like maniacs.

One day, I had lunch with a friend in Primrose Hill. She walked past my table three times. I waved my Prada bag, which I thought she could recognize.

"How fantastic," he said when he finally realized it was me. You do not have to bother to put on makeup or wash your hair. How much free time you should have! "This was a common response from my well-groomed friends, often poorly dressed.

I admit, too, this rather jocular response, as someone who never leaves the house without having my roots retouched, it crossed my mind. Are we not in the West equally imprisoned by the pressure to be perfect?

But after having brought my burka (it's still up in a box, like the ashes of a dead pet), I find that naive attitude. Telling women to throw it away, making a joke of how they appear, is disrespectful to those who are forced to use what amounts to a mobile prison for fear of being beaten, or worse.

You become not only a woman, you become inhuman. I had used perfume all week, something I never normally do, so convincing was the feeling that I had to be feminine in some small way.

During my sentence in purdah, I was supposed to wear sneakers so as not to expose the "cleavage of the feet", but I got so hot that I resorted to the flip-flops: the steam had to escape somehow.

The burqa has its origins in the Middle East before Islam, when men and women covered their faces to avoid the sand

The burqa has its origins in the Middle East before Islam, when men and women covered their faces to avoid the sand

The burqa has its origins in the Middle East before Islam, when men and women covered their faces to avoid the sand

The second most common response from Western women was that, thank God, at least men will not look. Well, this is not a problem that I face on a daily basis. Yes, of course, it is useful not to walk through dark alleys with miniskirts and boob tubes, but let's not forget the extremely high incidence of rape in countries where the burqa prevails. Extreme modesty does not generate security.

The ridiculous claim that the burka protects women from male harassment was once again rejected at Women's Hour. A British Muslim woman defended her "choice" because not only did she bring her closer to God, but because "before I used to make men ask for my number, can you have dinner with me?"

I have no idea how it looks, but to evoke that answer it must be there with Ava Gardner. She continued: & # 39; I will not stop because people are ignorant. I've had so much abuse on the train. "

Well, obviously he has never traveled with First Great Western. On my trips back and forth, I met passengers and staff politely. At one point, after a particularly hot day in Regent's Park, trying to lick a 99, I staggered to the car and muttered to a G & T. "Would you like ice with that?" Asked the young, expressionless.

Instead of being the worst part of the abuse, I felt that by wearing a veil, I was the one who was being rude. I had to keep picking up my hair, like Audrey Hepburn when she disappeared forever, I married Christ in The Story of the Nun and I began to wonder: what is so disgusting about the female form that should be hidden?

On another perfect summer day in Hyde Park during my covered week, I saw a crocodile of schoolchildren, about nine or ten years old. Several of the girls wore handkerchiefs on their heads: only the small moon on their faces was exposed. For the first time I knew how they felt: different. Hot. How about, too, marginalized, objectified, kept cool only for the eyes of their male relatives?

After only a few days, what I felt the most was exhausting myself. I asked a young Muslim woman who lives in Bristol how the hell she managed and she replied: "You just have to get used to it. & # 39; I prefer not, thank you very much.

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