Lifestyle & Belief

What should women wear in public? That depends on how you ask

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Credit: Courtesy: Karl Sharro (Karl reMarks)

Lebanese satirist Karl Sharro created this fictitious poll about what is most appropriate for American women to wear in public. He was spoofing an actual poll done on Islamic women in the Middle East.

Researchers at the University of Michigan's Institute for Social Research asked people in seven Middle East countries with Muslim majorities what style of headwear is appropriate for women to don in public.

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It turns out that those in Tunisia, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey prefer that women completely cover their hair, but not necessarily their faces.

But it's how they asked the question that has some people shaking their covered, or perhaps uncovered, heads.

The survey was conducted visually. Each respondent was given a card and asked to choose between six images, each one depicting a style of women's headwear.

The styles ranged from a full-hooded burqua covering the entire head to the less conservative hijab and, finally, a woman with no head covering at all.

"It's almost like putting Muslim women on a scale from 1 to 6, from being fully covered to not being covered at all, which I think is pretty absurd," says Lebanese satirist Karl Sharro, known for his blog Karl reMarks

Sharro believes there are inherent biases in the entire exercise.

"Instead of looking at the complexity of women, we're not even looking at the full way they dress, just the headdress," Sharro says. "It's a particulary harsh way of doing this form of abstraction."

Sharro responded by doing his own "survey" of female head coverings, in the University of MIchigan style (as in the picture above.)

"It's an equivalent survey of American women based on Arab or Middle Eastern stereotypes of American women," he says.

Sharro adds that the emphasis is on stereotypes.

"The stereotypes are fast food, money, the cheerleader, baseball, the statue of Liberty."

So among the choices are a woman wearing a cowboy hat, another with a giant hamburger on her head, and yet another wearing a baseball cap.

"This was a way for me to visually spoof the image and a way for me to say that stereotypes work both ways."

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