As the heated debate about banning the face veil rages in France, a journalist with the women's magazine Marie Claire decided to put on the controversial cloth and walk the streets of Paris for five days.Which is exactly how Muslim men who insist that women wear the veil think of them.
In an article entitled "Ma semaine en Niqab" (My Week in a Niqab), published with photos in the May issue of Marie Claire, journalist Elizabeth Alexandre described her experience.
"I wanted to know what it feels to be fully veiled," she wrote. "I wanted to feel the fabric on my cheeks and forehead and see the world from this tiny slit. I also wanted to know how the world would see me."
"I felt as if I am inside a tent. I couldn't see my feet and when I walked the garment rolled around my legs and I had to slow down. I was terrified I was going to fall on my face."
She then went to a café where she found it very hard to drink her coffee or smoke a cigarette from under her veil.
"I had to keep lifting the veil in order to take sips from the coffee or to smoke. This was very difficult."
The full veil also proved impractical when Alexandre tried to read as couldn't wear her glasses because her entire face was covered. The fabric of the veil also rubbed against her eyelashes making it very inconvenient for her to blink.
Getting on the metro, Alexandre realized that people were reluctant to talk to her because they did not feel at ease talking to someone whose face they cannot see.
"They looked at me then looked away. I tried to start a conversation with the passengers, but I failed. I felt isolated."
When she went to her office in the magazine pretending she had decided to wear the face veil for real, her colleagues started treating her differently.
"I found out that I could neither see nor hear properly and that made team work nearly impossible."
Going back home and taking off the veil made Alexandre breathe a sigh of relief. She felt she was free.
"I discovered how the face veil isolates the woman as it turns her into someone who cannot interact with people. I felt that after only three days of wearing it."
On the fourth day, Alexandre drew the third conclusion: the full veil made her extremely self-conscious and overly sensitive about anything related to her body.
"I felt that I am both invisible and too visible. It felt like I was placed in a window ship and everyone was invited to watch."
Alexandre explained that wearing a full veil eliminated any feelings of vanity or self-esteem and made her ovely self-conscious whenever the smallest part of her body was revealed.
"Being totally covered made me feel that my body is a disgrace. All men around me turned into sexually obsessed beasts that want to devour me.
It is then that I felt I need the veil to protect me from this imminent danger. For the first time in my life, I felt I was a sex bomb and a source of sin."
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