Tabatha Southey has written up a response in the Globe and Mail about Kenney's legal meddling in what women can and cannot wear. Her article, part of which I've excerpted below, chastises Kenney for constricting women's choices. (Meanwhile, in the comments section of Canadian newspapers, one is accosted by the rabid racism and xenophobia that is surfacing in defending Kenney). In her piece, she compares her apparel choices with other women and suggests that whether the choice is high heels or a niqab, what business does the government have in restricting women's choices? Are we a democracy or are we not? I'm reminded of the phrase many years ago when a Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau (Liberal), asserted that "The state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation"....Those days of inclusive federal thinking are, sadly, gone. As dead as the tailing ponds of the Alberta Tar Sands and our government's Kyoto commitment.
Many people consider high heels and miniskirts to be degrading to women. High heels can restrict a woman's movements. Fitted clothes objectify women, which is intrinsically demeaning to them and prevents them from achieving equality with men – so the theory goes.
Yet women have never worn less and achieved more in the public sphere than they do now, and so – arguably – there goes the theory.
My own feeling is that if it were the men in our society who wore the four-inch Louboutins, we might well theorize that this reflects their privileged position in society: Men know they'll never have to stand all night, or chase after a bus, it would be said of the men in pencil skirts.
Mr. Kenney feels that veils are fundamentally at odds with 'Canada's commitment to openness, equality and social cohesion.' Many Muslim women have told him so, he claimed. But surely neither Mr. Kenney nor an unidentified lobby of concerned Muslim women should be making wardrobe choices for adult women, for any occasion – because that is at odds with Canadian values. He's the Minister of Immigration, not Anna Wintour.
Veils are spooky and challenging to many people. You might feel cut off from a woman if you can't see her face, and thus disadvantaged. I'm not sure why people feel they have a right to see a woman's face any more than another part of her body. When my eyes meet the eyes of a veiled woman at my No Frills when her child is yelling about breakfast cereal, they speak volumes, as does her body posture, as quite often does she.
If there's a barrier between a veiled woman and me, it's on my side. It's made of any preconceived notions I might have about why she's wearing what she's wearing, and what it says about her ambitions, education, self-esteem and status in her own household.
I refuse to make those assumptions and I regret any rule that enshrines them. Just as I ask those assumptions not be made about me, based on my shoes. Click, click, click.