Bluetooth-enabled "CharmingBurka"

Markus Kison's CharmingBurka is a Bluetooth-enabled Burka that sends a photo of the wearer to nearby mobile phones. From the project description:
 Img 2433The Charming Burka deals with Freud's idea that all clothes can be positioned between appeal and shame. The Burka was chosen, because it is often perceived in the west as a symbol of repression. A digital layer was added so that women can decide for themselves where they want to position themselves virtually. The Burka sends an image, chosen by the wearer, via Bluetooth technology. Every person next to her can receive her picture via mobile phone and see the women's self-determined identity. The virtual appeals can not be gathered by the laws of the Koran and so the CharmingBurka fulfills the desire of living a more western life, which some Muslim women have today.

Therefore the Burka is equipped with bluetooth antenna/micro-controller and uses the OBEX protocol, already working with most mobile phones.
Link (Thanks, Jason Tester!)


  1. What a great idea. I am sure the sharia judges will compliment the creator as they have the women flogged.

  2. Women are brutally executed for not wearing their Burkas straight, or accidentally “showing some ankle”.

    Yes, it -is- a symbol of oppression, because women in some parts of the world are forced to wear it, Muslim or not.

    I could see maybe something like this being done among women in Afganistan, as a subversive way to identify each other or something.

  3. Great! Now we have an excuse to stone women walking in public even when they’re wearing a burka and walking with a man. “Of course she was a whore! And the man too! He allowed the bluetooth signal to transmit!”

  4. Women are brutally executed for not wearing their Burkas straight, or accidentally “showing some ankle”.

    By comparison Janet Jackson got a slap on the wrist for her “wardrobe failure”, but most cultures of the world are terribly nutty about human anatomy, IMHO.

  5. “…The Burka was chosen, because it is often perceived in the west as a symbol of repression…”


    No, it IS a symbol of a repressive anti-female theocrasy.

    Maybe the “perception” is driven by all those Sharia floggings and the actions of Saudi Wahhabbi Thought Police?

    See the Islamist ‘War Against Valentines Day’ for further perceptual clarity…

    Enjoy the journey


  6. The burka is in fact a symbol of fear of exactly what these women have — “a desire for a more Western lifestyle”. This is of course a story of oppression of women, but the root of the oppression is the loss of control in the modern world. That’s why burkas are becoming more common, and why the headscarf is such a potent symbol in Muslim communities in the West, as it never was until recently. The “religious” authorities are afraid of us and what we offer, because they are terrified that they have nothing to offer in return, but ultimately they know that they are losing the culture war. That’s why this kind of religious extremism is on the upswing.

    It doesn’t have anything to do with Islam or the Quran or the Prophet; it has to do with fear.

  7. You silly, silly Western people! The Burka is not a symbol of oppression. What crazy ideas will you come up with next? Will you tell us that the Jews don’t like wearing special badges on their clothing? That women don’t enjoy being chauffeured in Saudi Arabia?

    Women love their burkas. They love them so much that they love it when Pakistanis threaten to throw acid in their faces for not wearing them. Only silly Westerners think women don’t love the burka. Markus Kison has it perfectly right when he says, “it is often *perceived* in the west as a symbol of repression.”

    [T]he Dukhtaran-e-Millat has been at the forefront of the campaign to impose the burqa on Kashmiri women. Its members threw acid and paint on the faces of women who dared to defy its diktat in the early 1990s. Last year, when a little-known militant group ordered Kashmiri women to wear the burqa, the Dukhtaran-e-Millat backed and helped enforce the immensely unpopular campaign.

  8. I may be a bit short-sighted in my reaction but women who are not wearing it solely out of pride or religion, who are forced to wear it (and this is a different subject, when someone is or isn’t forced) aren’t going to have access to this kind of garment, let alone the technology that comes with it. By that I don’t mean they live in technologically backwards areas, I mean what they are allowed and not allowed to have.

    It raises a lot of questions and I think a few people have already commented on a crucial aspect..e.g. #1. Women are killed for actions they aren’t responsible for (being raped) and if they are found responsible for breaking laws as this Bluetooth burka would immediately prove I don’t want to know what punishment they’ll subject the women to. Also, for the women who are in more liberal areas this may be celebrated..the excerpt claims that Islamic law doesn’t lay out technological restrictions but isn’t that really up for interpretation as most religious laws are? And wouldn’t that interpretation just be up to those who have the power to enforce it (the men, judges)? I’d be interested to hear reactions from women who wear burkas. Very fascinating..religion and technology intersecting with gender in the middle.

  9. Bluetooth is the work of the Great Deceiver, Satan! Stone the cell phone! Oh wait, then we won’t be able to blow up our remote car bombs! Damn! (oops)

  10. OK, so without trying to sound like flamebate or an apologist let’s try to make a go at this:

    “perceived in the west as a symbol of repression…”

    is a more accurate statement that “is a symbol of repression.” While agreeing that yes, the burkha is far and wide used as repression, there are women (who are not reactionary by any means) who believe that the burkha is liberating—at least, this is what I learned in my Global Feminist studies class in college (3 years ago).

    The burkha is viewed by some women as *liberating* from what they see as western style sexism and “oppression” that places a woman’s physical appearance as her defining identity.

    What is most interesting about the bluetooth Burkha is not that it somehow gets around Sharia law , but that it allows a woman to project *any* physical identity she wishes. It could just as likely be her own face as it could be an xkcd comic or her resume.

    As a man, even I would rather have initial judgement passed on something other than my big nose, poor teeth or receeding hairline.

    So yes, oppression of women is awful, but it’s not so black and white—though, yeah, it’s probably more black than white, but I wanted to give an opposing view.

  11. Maybe this is just my own ignorance, but whenever I see film or pictures of burkha-clad women, they’re in clusters. How can you be sure which of the women is the one sending you which picture?

    Second, I see a terrible opportunity for deception here. Similar to how American singles post photos of “themselves” online.

  12. Oh, geez. This is going to be co-opted by flashers and you are never going to be able to use this again without seeing some guy’s privates.

    /My theory is: Technology always goes to the kinkiest use first!

  13. I saw this exhibited at Seamless at the Boston Museum of Science. The Bluetooth didn’t work, and people around me were disappointed. I couldn’t gauge the reaction to the burka being used as it is, and honestly I’m not a big fan myself, but I think what we can take from this is an artist’s statement about subverting religious authority and (if we’re lucky or really stretching it) reclaiming female sexuality.

  14. #12, I understand that some, very few, women may find this liberating.
    Although I think you may be thinking of an Abaya, not a Burka.
    I know some Muslim women who wear one, but an Abaya is only supposed to cover the hair and part of the head.
    From what I understand talking to Muslims, the Burka is something that is usually only worn by women in Afghanistan, because they are forced to.

    I think, for an adult, in a free society, to choose to walk around with their face covered all the time is highly anti-social.

    If I walked around in public with a ski-mask covering my face all the time, and insisted that I was just doing god’s will, I think I would be arrested.

    That kind of behavior while tolerated, should not be encouraged, or even accommodated.

    Also, #12, nearly all women who wear the burka are oppressed, with a tiny fraction of a percent choosing to wear it of their own free will, therefore I would say that those few exceptions do not change it’s meaning.

    If a few people wore a yellow cloth star of David in a different context, would it no longer be a symbol of oppression?

  15. Ok, Muslim women wear Burkas because they are HOT!

    And to keep the men from straying from the righteous path, women cover up their ornaments of beauty except to their family in the house.

    To me it keeps those damn perverted no ass gettin’ muslim dudes on the street from oogling my sister.

    But the burka is not a divine law. It is a man-made thing for the cultures of the east. God simply says to lower your gaze when you pass someone of the opposite sex. It is better for you, if you only knew.

    The rule is simple to cover your head if you are a women. And by the way all my muslim haters, the same thing is prescribed for the jewish and christian women. Look at the nuns!!!

  16. This has got to be the most ill conceived notion ever. Talk about cultural blindspots.

    Seriously, its like some western, carefree product-design-school kids sat down and thought: ‘we’ll do something clever and cool’, entirely missing the reasons women might be wearing (or forced to wear) burkas.

    How quickly this garment belittles the problems of religious oppression, like the application of cheap technology is going to unburden the generations of women forced into submission and silenced.

    It’s like a band-aid on a bullet wound.

  17. #16: “From what I understand talking to Muslims, the Burka is something that is usually only worn by women in Afghanistan, because they are forced to.”

    you should see them all wandering around the streets of Gloucester, England then…

  18. i applaud anyone who is wearing a burka against their will and who is breaking the rules in any way they can get away with.

    Sure some women choose to wear the burka, but its really only a choice if you can go out without one without fear of retribution.

    Until then i guess little disobediences will get the snowball rolling.

  19. #15: The piece worked at SEAMLESS (you can see this in the video on the website), but with 1000 people around during the catwalk, the hardware needed some time to locate phones and send the pictures. Unfortunatly most people had problems on how to activate bluetooth in their mobiler phones.

  20. The majority of Muslim women that choose to veil (even in the Middle East and Muslim parts of Asia) there are places where women can choose to wear any number of garments–most wear an abaya with a niqab, which is not at all restrictive to the wearer’s vision (and often very elegant), which is the issue with some burkas. Burkas are a whole ‘nother bit of clothing.

    As #12 said: Please, don’t get in a tizzy over veiling being restrictive or misogynistic–I know plenty Muslim-American feminists that CHOOSE to veil as a statement against the “male gaze,” so I think veiling can be very feminist. This, however, is something altogether and I’m not sure what to think of it. Rather clever!

  21. >The rule is simple to cover your head if you are a women. And by the way all my muslim haters, the same thing is prescribed for the jewish and christian women. Look at the nuns!!!

    Can’t, god said so.

    Why don’t the men have to cover their heads?

    Pointing out other examples of crazy doesn’t make your pet crazy any less.

    >I know plenty Muslim-American feminists that CHOOSE to veil as a statement against the “male gaze,” so I think veiling can be very feminist.

    (One of) my issues with people reclaiming veil wearing as non-sexist empowerment is that it looks exactly like veil wearing due to oppression. Doesn’t upset very much social order at all, thus all the forced veiling continues on. I could also mention false consciousness here.

    In addition, I think if you want to tackle the issue of the “male gaze”, you should tackle the root cause, i.e. that the unwanted “male gaze” is objectifying, dehumanizing, and sexist because the male doing the gazing is sexist.

  22. Why don’t the men have to cover their heads?

    You mean, like the kippa (aka yarmulke)?

    “According to the Shulchan Aruch, a code of Jewish law, men are required to cover their heads and should not walk more than four cubits without a hat. Wearing a kippa is described as ‘honoring God’.”

    Muslims, Druze, and Zoroastrians have similar headgear for men (with varying degrees of requirement).

  23. Regarding my last post: I don’t know anything about the particulars of any of those hats — I’m not Jewish, Muslim, Druze or Zoroastrian. For more info, search engines are your friend.

  24. All feminism and cultural differences aside, when I saw this, I imagined the possibility that ALL people might wear a burka and rely upon thier avatars to interact with others. It was an interesting sci-fi thought experiment ruined by #14’s flasher scenario.

  25. #25 as soon as I hit post I thought hang on…

    That said, I still think the requirements for men as less of an imposition, and, notably the requirements differ between the sexes.

    Of course now we’re truly exposing the weirdness of compulsory clothing.

  26. Women are brutally executed for not wearing their Burkas straight, or accidentally “showing some ankle”.

    I’m no fan of this type of required head-to-toe covering, and I think that it is inherently repressive and misogynistic. That said, it would be nice if people could include a SINGLE citation to back up a statement as extreme as the one quoted above. I’ve heard about a lot of horrid things happening to women in the most “traditional” Islamic societies because someone in authority disapproved of what they wore, but I’ve never heard of an actual execution over a momentary lapse in coverage or decorum.

    As far as the actual garment/project goes … interesting enough as a thought experiment, but utterly useless as a practical item. It is one step closer to the day when we all walk around “wearing” digitally-created full body avatars, though.

  27. I’m looking forward to seeing this technology implemented in a bikini. Not seeing enough? Check your cellphone!

  28. “That said, it would be nice if people could include a SINGLE citation to back up a statement as extreme as the one quoted above.”

    thats a lot of legwork for something that is obviously the case. Now granted the showing an ankle thing is hyperbole, but requiring proof that women have been mistreated regarding the burka is like asking for citations of past lynchings in the south.

    but as proof that outrageous things CAN happen i’d offer.

    From the article:
    “Saudi Arabia’s religious police stopped schoolgirls from leaving a blazing building because they were not wearing correct Islamic dress, according to Saudi newspapers.”

    Things i’ve read on various human rights site say theres an element of vigilante enforcing that can happen with these rules of decorum, and not every one is going to make headlines. So i can’t speak as to a specific incident of ankle related brutality, but i would say that the situation is unacceptable as long as a woman feels she has to wear something she doesn’t want to, because otherwise she’s in fear of her own safety.

  29. “Of course now we’re truly exposing the weirdness of compulsory clothing.”

    Including the fascist imposition of having to wear pants just because you’re leaving the house. Bastards.

  30. Oh great, what swell tech. Next time, how about a gadget so that you have a full range of vision, instead of having to look through a three inch wide piece of screen? And something that helps you breath more easily, when you have to walk around in a giant sack? Or something that allows you to see, when you are riding in the trunk of a car? Or to leave the house without a male who is a relative escorting you, because after all, you’re just property. Even if you are widowed. You can’t work, so you can’t leave the house. So maybe some kind of cellphone where you can dial up money and food that can be transported to wherever you are living so you and your kids don’t starve to death. And sunshine, some sunshine through the windows painted black to block out the sun.

    Or maybe just a bluef*$kingtooth gadget that will help you kill yourself a little more painlessly than the swallowing of battery acid or the setting one’s self on fire that is the favored, yet so low tech way that so many women living under the nightmare rule of the Taliban do now.

    Oh yeah, maybe all they need is a f#%king iphone.

  31. Personally, I think any “law” requiring people to wear clothing is kinda retarded. But then I find clothing itchy, uncomfortable and far too hot at temperatures over 20C, and I know what humans look like without clothes.

    As for this Blue-tooth gadget: It may not be directly addressed in the Qur’an, but then, neither are those silly burquas. Morons with nothing better to do than control other peoples’ personal lives will find some way to misinterpret Islamic law so that it seems like there’s something morally wrong with broadcasting a picture that may or may not look like yourself. And then they’ll use that as an excuse to murder women who do this, as per the will of the same God who issued the famous “Don’t Kill” law (and as far as I know never rescinded it). These are, remember, the same twits who think that a picture of a person constitutes idolatry. (Seeing as they have no objection to videotaping & broadcasting bin Laden’s asinine rants, they figure it’s okay to worship him.)

  32. it’s art

    “Markus Kison served an apprenticeship as graphic designer at the “Berufskolleg für Grafik-Design“ in Ulm, where first interactive screen applications and free projects were developed. Afterwards he worked as cutter and graphic designer for a year. Following he studied physics and IT at the “University of Ulm“. He moved to Berlin in September 2003 to begin his studies on visual communication at the “University of the Arts Berlin“. Since winter semester 2004, he‘s working in the “Digital Media Class“ of Prof. Joachim Sauter, Prof. Jussi Ängeslevä and Prof. Kora Kimpel. Markus Kison received several international awards for the work “Roermond-Ecke-Schönhauser“ (2005). Amongst others, his work was shown at ZKM (Karlsruhe), Ars Electronica (Linz), Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography and at the SESI Gallery (São Paulo).”

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