“Gurka” is the Swedish word for cucumber: in Italian, we call it “cetriolo”, with all its double meanings. A cetriolo is an allegory for the male sexual organ, and it represents the dominating stick. A “burka” (o burqa) is a piece of female fashion clothing, serving the scope of hiding women from the eyes of men, degrading them to objects and ultimately negating their identity.
A burka, is not very different from an Italian gurka. In a way, or in the other, the narrative of the cetriolo, and the imposition of heavy garments on female bodies, promote the very same objective.
I remember when my evil cousin tried to convince my grandma that my Kurdish-Swedish girlfriend was wearing a hijab. Poor nonna, she said that she was afraid to meet her. Then, I remember not seeing many women — if no women at all — wearing hijab, chador, burka or other Islamic veils and garments, for all my childhood. Maybe nonna never met any of them ever, in all her life.
Convento di clausura
Or maybe not. Maybe I am wrong, and my memories were just brainwashed. There were women with long black heavy cloths, women with their head covered by a hijab, women whose virginity was accounted as a gift to some imaginary god (all gods are imaginary — just for you to know). I also remember visiting a closed place where a group of women, wearing full burka (their face covered too), were living in a prison-like building with fences and bars at the windows. I went there with my school, and we were allowed to access just one dark room. The lady talking to us, all covered head-to-toe in black, was just a voice coming from behind a heavy metallic grating.
That place was a convento di clausura. A cloistered convent: a place where supposedly-virgin women allegedly self-reclude themselves for the sake of some not-diagnosed psychiatric disorder. Or, as they prefer to say, for the glory of god, the love of Jesus, the service to his Church.
Obey the magic stick!
The main difference between muslim men forcing their spouses and daughters to wear burka, and christian men imposing burka on their nuns and gurka on their wives, is that there is no difference. While in Islam women should get covered up from the day they get mens (well, most of the time, since they are just children, not even women), and then they are subject to the law of gurka — in Christianity, supposedly-virgin women are covered in black and whores (all other non-vergin women) should obey the magic stick.
What essentially Christians do not understand of Muslims is that the former do not have sexual intercourse with nuns, the latter like to do so. (This is not entirely true: there are several reports of nuns having sexual relationships, mostly with local priests and bishops).
Every second woman
Having soon a daughter, I wonder often in which kind of world I am welcoming my child. According to a 2014 study published by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, approximately one third of all women in the EU were said to have suffered physical and/or sexual abuse. Every second woman in the EU has experienced sexual harassment at least once since the age of 15.
Gurka or burka, I want my daughter to grow up safe and happy. I do not want her to be treated differently because of her gender, and I cannot tolerate that people would see her as an object for their distorted view of the world.
Sexual abuse and harassment exist in every culture. In countries where women are forced to wear burka, chador or hijab, rape is as common as in liberal western countries. If not more. If you look at statistics, the number of women who has been harassed at least once in their life is 81% in Sweden, 80% in Denmark. However, there is a strong correlation between higher levels of gender equality and disclosure of sexual violence.
Should this make me to feel better?
I cannot go out there and hunt down all people who might harass my daughter. And I am afraid that I will not be able to physically defend her for all her life. So, what can I do? How can I provide her with the instruments she needs to protect herself? How can I give to my daughter a safe life?
A strong individual
Talking, informing, discussing. Yes. But also, making her to feel that gurka and burka are no options for women. No one has the right to discuss and control your body and your soul on the ground of your gender. There is no such thing as “good girls”, nor “appropriate for girls”. There are no “toys for girls”, “colors for girls“, things that “girls should” and especially “should not do”. I will not protect her saying “don’t travel, it is dangerous for a girl alone”. If I would say so, my message would be “you are weak because you are a girl“, “you are a prey”, “you are a victim”.
The best I can do, is to treat her as a strong, independent, valuable individual. To listen to her opinion, to support her own personality. Play with the toys you want to play. Dream the life you want to dream.
Supporting her NO!
It also means to listen to her “no”. And this, is the most important of all. If a child learns that her “no” has no value for the dominating adult, she will eventually repeat the same pattern in life — and accept that her “no” is a weak, silent statement. A “no” of a child needs to be reinforced, supported, rewarded. A child who can say “no” and whose parents will respect her opposition, this child will be able to say “no” to an abuse, for all her life. This person will know that “no means no“.
You see, I remember asking to people around me “don’t smoke!”, when I was a child. And I remember that no one listened to me: I lived for years with their passive smoke. My sister asked to our mother not to put her shoes on, one morning. My mother did it anyway, and only in the night we found a big insect between her shoe and her feet.
I saw parents slapping their children for a “no”. Those children just learned that they should accept everything is done to them. A child’s “no” should never be unheard. I remember that many of my “no” were dismissed.
My daughter’s “no” will be celebrated!