More DW Blogs DW.COM

Women Talk Online

A forum for women to talk to women

Violence in a burqa

Illustration by Soofia Says

I am a woman trying very hard to prove my worth and standing up against patriarchal mindsets every day. One of the peculiarities I have developed in this quest is the adoration of female super heroes. A woman icon who kicks butts reminds me of my own alter ego and indirectly satisfies my sick fantasies of throwing a punch or two at some men I have experienced.  So when I heard from my female friends about the launch of a Pakistani animated cartoon series called “The Burqa Avenger,” I was curious to know more. Here it is pertinent to mention that I am not a fan of the concept of burqa (the headscarf).

I may have enjoyed watching the gorgeous Uma Thurman in Kill Bill or may have even leered at the unbearably beautiful six packs of the Spartans in the film, 300, but I do not allow my child to witness violence as entertainment. You can call it hypocrisy or just my inclination towards being a better parent, I DO NOT believe in cartoon characters who promote violence, even if it is for a good excuse. I DO NOT buy toy guns and swords for my daughter.

I want her to know that physical superiority over others doesn’t make you a hero, at least until I know she is ready to simply enjoy a film for its graphics and beauty and not get influenced by its “message” of violence. So on that count, the Burqa Avenger fails miserably.

I agree violence is a reality today, be it religious, racial or sexual, but when that reality is glamorized for children for the sake of high television ratings and for cashing in on an international fad, I would rather steer away.

Coming to the concept of “burqa,” I abhor it, but I do try not to promote a bias against women who wear it. Just as I expect they won’t harbor animosity towards me for not choosing it. But one has to admit that it is not that simple an issue. From the burqa ban in Europe to the use of this attire in suicide bombings, from it being a stereotyped symbol of piety in some places to being a reflection of suppression in others, the burqa has become nothing but a controversy across the world. A superhero donning a burqa to “avenge” sends me mixed signals. I still haven’t gotten over superman’s red underwear worn outside his very tight body suit. How do I reconcile with the “use” of a religiously notorious costume in a children’s TV series?

Education is an important cause in the third world, the education of girls even more so. But ever since Malala garnered international recognition, it has given the media and politics a “positive” reason to justify the war. Don’t get me wrong, I am strictly against fundamentalism and terrorism of any kind and I am completely in favor of education combined with awareness, but I do feel that this cause has now become political- more so than ever.

The Burqa Avenger has taken the concept of “education as a weapon” to a whole new level. A level so literal that it hurts my feelings. As a child, I was scolded if I threw a book or if my foot even accidentally touched one. I was taught to respect words, knowledge and my own skill to absorb and utilize them. The whole concept of education being empowerment was based on respecting the “goodness” in it. Using books and pens as batons and arrows is something that would have never occurred to me (thank God for that).

It is one thing to show violence, it is another to use the symbols of truth and enlightenment for that violence. Tomorrow will we be showing cartoons in which mothers are using their babies as bazookas as they depict the “enlightened” future of our nation? Hmmm…I think I may be on to something!

Author: Soofia Says

Editor: Manasi Gopalakrishnan


02.08.2013 | 9:02