ABC News has photos of a fashion show, with the models faces covered, and then goes on to assure us:

The burqa is the wardrobe of choice for many Muslim women. It is worn over a woman’s daily clothing, usually covering her from head to toe. Today, the burqa has gone designer, popping up on fashion runways in the West, like at this show by Norwegian designers Marked Moskva in Norway earlier this month. Here, a burqa evokes traditional Norwegian dress. The designers reportedly say they are aiming their collection at Muslims and non-Muslims.
(Mattis Sanblad, Scanpix/AP Photo)

Um, not so fast, sir. How do they explain the “choice” part when local thugs in Paris and the morality police in Iran and Saudi have morality police to force women to comply with the dress code…even if this means they burn to death?

Not only can’t you tell a burqa from a chador…but you don’t seem to know that most Muslim women don’t wear the Burqa, or cover their face.

The veil is now becoming more widespread among Muslim women, partly due to the resurgence of fundamentalism, but in free countries as a sign of piety and a sign of rejection of the decadance of the west.

This is making the headlines in Europe. However, in the US, many small sects, from the Amish to the  Orthodox Jewish women to nuns wear modest clothing, including head coverings.

(Face coverings are not common in Islam, restrict vision to the extent of making walking and driving dangerous, and are “taboo” in western culture, yet one can reject extremism without acknowledging there should be a societal willingness to accomedate women’s modesty.)

So why the uproar about Harvard allowing female hours in one of their many Gymnasiums?

I am old enough to remember when many schools were unisex, and when most pools and gyms either were unisex (YWCA) or had female hours. It allows those of us who are old, obese, or just not quite ready for American Idol to to enjoy sports without the stress of ridicule or self consciousness.

The idea of modesty is not limited to Muslim women, as shoeblogger “Manolo” found out when he gently joked about oldfashioned swimsuits. Many Jewish and Christian women told him they though these fashions were a good idea. I myself wear a  modest suit, but put a teeshirt and sarong over it when I am out of the water.

But isn’t limiting gyms to a single sex discrimination?

Eugene Volokh says no:

“…antidiscrimination law, especially as applied to nongovernmental entities, imposes substantial governmentally coerced burdens on liberty and choice, both of businesses (and similar nonbusiness entities) and of would-be patrons….Single-sex exercise should be tolerated, both by government, and (for some of the same reasons I mention above) by social norms. That’s true whether people want it because they’re Muslim, because they’re from other religions that stress modesty, because they have nonreligious modesty concerns, or just because they think their bodies aren’t yet good enough that they’d be comfortable having members of the opposite sex stare at them. The law shouldn’t coercively interfere with people’s ability to choose single-sex exercise programs, and with businesses’ or organizations’ ability to offer such choices…”

As a doc, I had to fight for permission to use the (male) doctor’s locker room/lounge so that I could participate in conversations with my collegues (note: I changed in the locked restroom). Without such conversations, I would have been isolated professionally in those days when only 5% of physicians were women.

Yet with the “sexual revolution”, a lot of the “Unisex” changes ended up working against females, not only in the workplace but in society in general.

One needs to realize that if exercize is the main idea you are seeking, then allowing hours for women only, or seniors only, or parents with kids only, is actually a good idea.

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Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her website is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket. 

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