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Provocative Lingerie Ad Features Woman in Burka

Provocative Lingerie Ad Features Woman in Burka

I’m honestly not sure what to make of this German lingerie commercial, produced by the online store Liaison Dangereuse, which shows its product being worn underneath a burqa.  The campaign itself is little old (from last fall), but a few sites have picked it up in the past few days, and it raises some truly difficult questions that remain extremely relevant, especially in the wake of agitation in France over the burka.  The ad itself, which you can view here, is potentially NSFW.

If you didn’t watch it, the ad is a pretty standard lingerie commercial – a woman (with what looks like distressingly “exotic” eye makeup) is shown silhouetted, naked – she towels herself off, walks down the hallway naked in high heels (never fear, all of this is tastefully blurred), dons black panties and a bra, looks herself over in the mirror, adds black stockings and garters, admires herself some more, and finally slips a burka on over all of it.  The last shot is of her eyes above her veil, with the tagline, “Sexiness for everyone.  Everywhere.”

My first issue with the ad is the music, which along with the makeup creates a sense that this woman is something foreign and exotic.  And of course I object to the idea that “sexiness” means the same thing to “everyone, everywhere.”  Certainly, this is one extremely culturally specific idea of what it means to be sexually attractive, but the message that women who veil can also be sexy according to Western standards falls flat simply because it’s such a narrow definition of sexiness.  This isn’t “sexiness for everyone, everywhere” – it’s “sexiness for sexualized female bodies which conform to rigid and idealized standards of beauty, even if they’re not always on display.”

That said, it’s possible that the advertisers were trying to do something radically inclusive by making women who veil part of the cult of Western sexiness, despite the fact that they don’t outwardly conform to Western standards of beauty.  In a way, it seems like a weird kind of olive branch – as if to say, “Don’t worry, you don’t have to look like us on the outside, we know you’re like us on the inside.”  But I’m not convinced that this was their intention, and if it was, it certainly wasn’t successful.  In addition to the subtly exoticized body displayed in the ad, the company presented a narrow vision of the female sexualized body that many women actively resist by choosing to veil.  It tried to be provocative – and at that, it certainly succeeded.

What do you think?  Is this ad effective, and what message does it send to women who find cultural resistance in Europe because of their choice to veil?

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Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

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217 comments

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10:48PM PDT on Aug 3, 2010

I haven't seen the ad, but I'll just say that underneath the burka a lot of Muslim women (or at least, Arab women) wear some VERY sexy clothing. One notices these things when one has previously lived in an Arab country - however, I don't agree with the practice of covering your whole body (and sometimes, the face) simply because you're a women. But then, I'm not Muslim, and apparently many Muslim women are okay with that.

4:29PM PDT on Jun 27, 2010

RAY?

3:38PM PDT on Jun 26, 2010

Well; when I mess up ,I do a good job.
And here I was Thinking I was talking to Ray.
And it's P.
And so my apology.
........................P?

2:51PM PDT on Jun 26, 2010

Ray P; precisely; " if I; a muslim woman"; are you going through some identity issues?
Further evidence of a presumptuous manipulative controling behaviour.
With some fundamental insecurities rooted in childhood?
Perhaps a dose of humility, not feigned; is in order.
It could be wiser to manage the affairs of your own person before you assume the right to speak for a woman.
Or think for her.

8:27AM PDT on Jun 25, 2010

Lindsey 'It's because they're women, of course ....So it has nothing to do with religion. But with sexism"

REALLY Now lindsey, If I, as a MUSLIM WOMAN, am stating the TRUTH of MY Reason for wearing it and YOU still wish to BELIEVE YOUR OWN Assumptions as the TRUTH then by all means believe 'WHAT YOU WISH'. I have NO intention of FORCING you to accept MY TRUTH. Take Care. God Bless.

Scott according to some people ONLY IF IT concerns ISLAM then the Muslim MEN and Muslim WOMEN should DRESS EXACTLY the SAME otherwise "IT SEXISM". I wonder WHEN in the Western world both the MEN and WOMEN will start wearing DRESSES and BIKINIS; WHEN the MEN and WOMEN will wear HEADSCARVES to church - I could go on and on. I wonder if they consider ONLY WOMEN falling pregnant also a FORM of SEXISM.

6:47AM PDT on Jun 25, 2010

It is actually recommended that all Muslims should dress modestly. Male and female are under identical obligation but obviously Men and women have different physiology and therefore the details are different. One example of the dress code is that men should always cover from the navel to the knee with loose fitting clothes that are not see-through. There are some Muslim men who don’t take their obligation to dress modestly seriously enough but this is due to them personally and it is not that the Teachings are flawed or gender biased.

There are many logical reasons not to suggest Men cover their hair although many Muslim men also do this. There are obvious differences in attitudes between men and women regarding their vanities and triggers for impure thoughts. I do not wish to generalise or get stuck on details because Almighty Allah (sub'hana Wa'ta'ala) knows best.

5:53AM PDT on Jun 25, 2010

Men who have heavy breasts, Ray, do sometimes actually wear bras!

What you seem to be acknowledging is that there is a double standard. That a woman, say, who wears a facial veil isn't really doing so because she wants to feel closer to god or enhance her spirituality. If that were the case, then some Muslim men would also feel that hiding their faces from the world would also enhance their own spirituality.

It's because they're women, of course. Muslim society sees nothing wrong with men showing their faces to the world at all times and Muslim men feel they can be perfectly spiritual without hiding their faces.

So it has nothing to do with religion. But with sexism.

5:52AM PDT on Jun 25, 2010

Lindsey my sister, you are an atheist and I dont have a problem with that. I am Not interrogating or questioning you as to any of your beleifs or trying to ridicule (if thats what you are trying to do; if you Not, then I apologise). So can you please STOP asking me such ridiculous questions as I am NOT ASHAMED or Embarassed to tell you I Honestly DO NOT have ANSWERS for EVERY SINGLE QUESTION of YOURS. All I do Know is that I Luv GOD and HIS Creation and will do whatever I FEEL will PLEASE HIM in my OWN LITTLE WAY to get spiritually closer to HIM.

Hope You understand where I am coming from. Take Care and Peace to you.

5:44AM PDT on Jun 25, 2010

Lindsey please its like you wish to know from me "Where are the BRAS for men???"

5:36AM PDT on Jun 25, 2010

And where are the facial veils for Muslim men, Ray?

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