What Lies Beneath

Men’swear fashion brand Paisley is creating a stir with this spot featuring a day in the life of a burqa-wearer–only not quite.

Beneath that burqa with all the lingering gazes it attracts is something surprising.   So , before we’re quick to write it off as typical cultural misappropriation, there is this from the editors over at Ad Age:

{I}t also brings up interesting points about how people view the burqa — as a way for the women who wear it to “hide” their beauty, or a way for those of the opposite sex to do it for them. There’s also an interesting discussion to be had about gender identity and what it really means.

Okay, Ad Age, I hear you, and I watched the ad again–a good practice if you’re really trying to read any ad closely.  I imagined what it was to be on both sides of the burqa.  I am aware that the ad encourages us to think as life under the burqa as life in hiding–is it empowering for our business conducting burqa-wearer to be free of the objectifying male gaze or is the figure trapped in an invisible life?  The scenes are scenes of power and privilege–luxury autos, high end design, model-ly looking models–but our burqa babe moves silently through these scenes, seen and unheard.

In the final scene,  the body beneath the burqa is unveiled.  Well, actually the burqa is unzipped down the back–an interesting nod to the hundreds of scenes of women being disrobed by their paramour.  Disrobed, we are met with one final surprise–a simple code switch.  Who wears burqa and why they wear it is all worth questioning.  Paisley certainly isn’t shaking their fist at Muslim patriarchy, but with a little imagination, they might make you think.


Author: Susan X Jane

Susan X Jane is a diversity educator, speaker, and trainer and coach. A former professor and media literacy activist, she now consults with organizations looking to make sense of our current cultural shift. She thinks a lot about media and race…a lot...and writes and speaks about media…and race... and encourages everyone she meets to think about the way our identity shapes our experiences, ideas, and beliefs about the world. If you're reading this, she wants you to think about it too. Want to talk about it? Let's go.

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