At Paris Fashion Week, eyebrow-raising designs are nothing new, but I am alarmed by the degree to which misogyny held sway over this year’s show with its parade of gaunt models attempting to strut boldly in shapeless clothing largely designed by men—so-called fashion that strangled them at the neck, or hid their faces, or swaddled their arms, or bound their legs and feet.
Elsewhere in the world, women and girls were similarly bound by men who fear what their freedom of movement, and thought, might mean for male dominion. In Nigeria, for instance, Boko Haram insurgents, who in the name of Islam have slaughtered thousands of innocents since 2009, shot, slashed, or burned to death 59 sleeping boarding school students in the northeastern part of the country but this time spared the children in the female dormitories. “Go home and get married,” they were commanded, “and forget about western education.”
This terrible tragedy reminds us of the courageous Malala Yousafzai, who in 2009 survived a shot to the head by a brazen gunman who boarded her school bus in Pakistan’s Swat Valley and called out, “Who is Malala?” before taking aim. Later, she told the BBC that the Taliban attacked her because they “were afraid of the power of education.”
In the late 80s I became involved with a man from Iran who had fled his country’s 1979 revolt and resulting overthrow of the Shah. I remained with him for about four years despite a very troubling second date, where we picnicked in a graveyard. I remember only that I was describing for him a belief I held — though about what I cannot recall. “Did you come up with that idea all on your own,” he had wanted to know, “or did you read it somewhere?” Some time later he told me I probably would have been killed had I lived in Iran during the Islamic Revolution.