Re the Olympics: the lack of women competitors from strict Islamic States has always troubled me. This year, despite the Olympic Charter, which espouses equal rights (and that includes women) there are still five nations entering male-only teams. (in 2000 there were around 34 – so things are improving, but there has not yet been a total ban on restrictive practices such as there was for Apartheid.) The women have to wait for special Muslem Women Olympics which are closed events.
It is hard in this time of racial tension to be seen to appear intolerant of cultural practices, however, customs which seek to keep women subjugated are not something I can condone. This is all highlighted by the burka-debate. Moderate Muslems will no doubt claim that the burka engenders respect for women, but I am with the Sunday Times reporter who sees any device that hinders freedom of movement and expression as being a restrictive practice that makes women invisible or insignificant. To be fair, I have to include high-heeled shoes and tight underwear in that category. Interestingly, I understand that in Iraq, shoes and the more extreme the better, are a sign of emancipation. A semi-hidden snipe at authority.
When I was twelve years old I realised that life for women was not fair. The wonder of it is that I am pleased to be a woman. Even an older woman.