The hypocrisy of the West when it comes to Muslim attire
The Met Gala, an annual celebration of art and fashion, is an event for celebrities to grab headlines, stir controversy and start heated debates over their outfit choices.
This year, true to form, Kim Kardashian grabbed most of the headlines when she turned up in head-to-toe black Balenciaga. The outfit covered Kim’s face, body, hands and feet, leaving just her signature sleek ponytail on display. While the average onlooker might have found the ensemble strange, fashion commentators and journalists rushed to Twitter to hail the look ‘innovative’ and ‘Avant-garde.'
However, not everyone was impressed.
The same praise and approval given to Kardashian for creatively covering up is still not given to Muslim women, who too wish to cover up but are either banned by their government or mocked and called letterboxes, also by their government – all this is in a progressive Western society, nonetheless.
The same praise and approval given to Kardashian for creatively covering up is still not given to Muslim women
Many others agreed and bloggers and journalists took to social media to call Kardashian out on her ‘distasteful’ choice of outfit.
A feminist Instagram page @girlsagainstoppression called Western media outlets out for their double standards and hypocrisy.
Lusyomo Simatele, one of the owners of the account, spoke up about Muslim women: “A lot of the things they’re demonised for, they’re marginalised for, you see a Western woman do the same thing and everyone’s like ‘oh look at her go’. When Muslim women are fighting for their rights, there’s a lack of sincere allyship”.
However, this isn’t the first time that Kardashian has been accused of cultural appropriation. She previously came under fire for darkening her face in a magazine shoot and faced criticism for naming her shapewear brand Kimono.
Fashion journalist Hafsa Lodhi also spoke up about the timing of the outfit in a column for The Independent. In it she said: “I can’t help but find this “trend”, for lack of a better word, to be terribly timed, not to mention utterly tone-deaf in light of the current situation in Afghanistan.
“When it comes to the full-coverage burka, some women do wear these cloaks, complete with face veils, out of choice. But burka, niqab and hijab bans in various European countries and Canadian provinces curb these women’s rights to dress how they please. Watching Kardashian be praised for doing the exact same thing is, quite frankly, mind-boggling.”
Hypocrisy in media coverage
The hypocrisy of media coverage when it comes to Muslim women is glaringly obvious.
Fox News, a media outlet known for repeatedly demonising women for wearing the burqa and niqab, was singing Kardashian’s praises for covering up. Had it been a female Muslim their outrage at her and her ‘oppressors’ would have been loudly condemned.
But this isn’t the first time that double standards over how Muslim women dress reared the hypocritical head in Western media. During the Olympics, which was held earlier this year, the headlines hailed the German women gymnasts’ modest choice of uniform as progressive and inspiring. The team opted to cover up with long sleeves and legs in order to: “show that every woman, everybody, should decide what to wear”.
Had it been a female Muslim their outrage at her and her ‘oppressors’ would have been loudly condemned
The media lapped it up, applauding them for defying social norms and taking control over their bodies.
While this is a positive step in female empowerment it only served as a low blow for German Muslim women, who have experienced discrimination for, essentially, doing the exact same thing. Face and head covering bans are rife in Germany and for years Muslim women have lost jobs and legal battles to have the right to choose how they dress.
These double standards are also evident amongst many Western governments who have banned face coverings, burqas and even the hijab, yet are quick to stand up for women’s rights and empowerment.
When the leaders at the very top are telling us that covering up, in a religious context, is wrong, it’s only normal that the media and society will follow suit.
As a result, Western society has created a two-tier system where those with the money, means and privilege are able to dress as they please. But the rest are faced with bans, legal battles and loss of jobs and earnings.
Their hypocrisy reveals a deep Islamophobia, which must be addressed and stopped.
Sami Rahman is a freelance lifestyle writer based in London.
Follow her on Twitter: @bysamirahman