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Mark Wignall | Jamaican women, enjoy your fashion freedoms

Published:Wednesday | July 19, 2017 | 12:00 AM

Reports that Saudi Arabian authorities arrested a woman for wearing a mini skirt in an online video would have to be the norm in a country that has something called the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice.

Saudi Arabia practises the most conservative form of Islam where Saudi women must wear a black garment, called an abaya, that covers everything but the face, feet and hands. They must also keep their heads covered, and they are not permitted to drive or to interact with men who are not related to them.

I know of two Christian fundamentalists who would absolutely adore the adoption of those rules in the local Christian community. One said to me months ago, "I know I will never be able to convince you that if the woman submits herself to the authority of the man who is the head of the household, we would have a much more peaceful country."

I laughed then, not so much in derision but sorrow that he was a firm and far-from-flexible believer in his words.

"So, what about the freedom of the woman?" I asked him. "Must she be forced to find liberation and fulfilment even as you enjoy the power of repressing her?"


Not his slave


"A woman was made for man, as a mate for him. She is not his slave, but the Bible tells us that she must submit to the man," he said. Without even the hint of a smile on his face I was convinced to leave the discussion till another time.

Over a decade ago when we were into formulating a workable Values and Attitudes campaign, I am certain there were more than a few prudes who wanted to go all the way towards an entity like the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice. And at the heart of that push is always the basic belief that it was Woman who led Man to temptation and the fall from grace of mankind.

I was in my teens in the 1960s when London designer, Mary Quant, gave the world the mini skirt. What a glorious freedom it must have given to women who were hobbled in 'hobbles' and thought to be suspect in sexual persuasion if they preferred the ease of pants.

At Kingston College, the young female teachers were quite fashion-conscious and so they wore it around the campus and in the classrooms while having our undivided attention. And it was all my wife-to-be wore at work in the early 1970s.

There is much that our women take for granted in this country, especially whenever reports like the Saudi Arabian one comes up. While there will always be twisted men who will employ the extreme in authority over women - violence - in Jamaica, the ladies are basically free and have the protection of the state as guarantees of those freedoms.


In total control


A woman's first impression of herself is what she wears and that probably explains why women take so horribly long in making a dress decision. At some funerals in Jamaica, one could easily believe that one is at a strip club. At our nightclubs, the sky is usually the limit. Throughout the many communities in Jamaica our women are totally in control of what they wear.

In a few of our government institutions, there is still the 'strapless' rule where women are not allowed to conduct business with the government if the blouse is of the strapless type. In a tropical country, did the local regulators believe that women would show up at those offices in negligees, hence the requirement?

At the basis of Christian teaching in Jamaica is a conservative bent which is practised more in words than in deeds. Many of us are still in the hangover of that image of a semi-nude Eve tempting poor, conveniently gullible Adam in the Garden of Eden.

The Devil made her do it, and ever since that time a straight line of connection has been made between evil and woman, and maintained at the conservative heart of our religious culture.

I suspect that the world will be watching Saudi Arabia. Our women should weep for theirs.