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.