Lingerie ad features woman in burqa (maybe NSFW)

Joi Ito turned me onto this provocative TV commercial for online lingerie shop Liaison Dangereuse.


  1. There are some problematic elements, but overall I like the message. There’s a tremendous tendency in the West to think of women who wear burkas as null values. As being people without ideals or sexual identities. These attitudes are the sort of thing that allows people to essentially and credibly(?) accuse a significant portion of an being thoughtless, mindless drones that have to have “liberty” imposed upon them. Not that a commercial lingerie ad will change their minds about it.

    1. a significant portion of a population as being thoughtless…

      Glah! Wishing there was an edit button.

      1. Glah! Wishing there was an edit button.

        Previewing is nice and all, but there’s still no better spell checker than the Submit button ;-)

        This stuff must be seriously haute; the swimsuit models look like they haven’t been exposed to actual sunshine in years….

    2. I think the tendency is to believe that cultures that enforce the wearing of Burqas are inherently misogynistic. I don’t think anyone in the West believes that the women themselves are null values.

      1. I don’t think anyone in the West believes that the women themselves are null values.

        The same West where abortion is constantly under siege, women still get blamed for rape, and where male is considered “default human?”

        Bullshit. There’s a lot in the West that’s part of a war of attrition against female humanity. Looking to other places where things are worse is just a popular way of distracting ourselves from that fact.

        Also, “the West” (and I do think that term is problematic -if convenient- shorthand) does seem intent on doing a little “enforcing” of its own.

        1. Bullshit? Do you need me to start posting articles about women being lashed for wearing trousers or school girls having acid thrown in their faces?

          The same West where abortion is constantly under siege, women still get blamed for rape, and where male is considered “default human?”

          The same West where legal protections are in place for each of those things. The same West where a woman can’t be stoned to death for the misfortune of being raped. The same West where women have made steady progress across all levels of society.

          The West is not perfect. I’m not claiming otherwise. The notion that I cannot point out egregious wrongdoings of other cultures because my own is imperfect is ridiculous.

          1. So it’s not bullshit that women in the West are not at risk of being dehumanized, but then in your last paragraph you admit that they are?

            Decide what exactly about my comment you want to disagree with and I’ll be able to help you, but right now it’s only clear that you dislike something about it- vaguely.

          2. Tu qoque is a valid counter to “Ea sol.” (or whatever Latin is for “them only”) Now you gonna make an argument, or is it just the rhetorical antagonism?

          3. I never said “them only.” To recap, my distracting friend, I took issue with your assertion that The West see burqa-clad women as null values. I said that “The West” typically sees these women as oppressed and the cultures that enforce them as inherently misogynistic.

            Then you replied with a whole bunch of “plank in your eye” silliness. Then we started tossing Latin at each other. And you accused me of not making an argument.

            Meanwhile, the two of us agreed on the need for a BB edit button. Are we up to speed yet?

          4. “As being people without ideals or sexual identities.”

            You come off as very naive on this subject with this sort of comment. The burqa and the niqab do nothing but deprive a woman of their identity in every sense; sexually, and physically.

        2. ‘The same West where abortion is constantly under siege, women still get blamed for rape, and where male is considered “default human?”‘

          While abortion is under siege in the US, men have absolutely no say in whether a woman has one. If a woman decides to keep the child, the man is legally required to support it. That is an unfair amount of reproductive power that women wield as though entitled. Most women don’t even question how unfair that is to men.

          If a woman levies a rape charge against a man, the man is entitled to defend himself against the charges however he can. Not all rape charges are honest. I don’t understand what you expect from our society? That a woman can accuse a man of rape and he’ll just be put in jail? No, you look at all factors and consider them judicially. Sometimes the woman doesn’t come out of that analysis smelling like roses. That doesn’t make rape a special case. It makes rape a normal part of the judicial process.

          I don’t understand why you think male is considered ‘default human’. The only explanation I can think of for that is in pronoun choice. Is that what you mean? Are you talking about language?

          From where I sit, women in the west are doing incredibly well. In some cases, the pendulum has swung too far in the direction of women.

          1. From where I sit, women in the west are doing incredibly well. In some cases, the pendulum has swung too far in the direction of women.

            I’d be interested to hear how you feel that is the case, given the continued wage disparity between men and women in the workplace, the continued hold of men on positions of power in the board room, government, industry, and management, and the sheer amount of continued rape apology by men in this country.

            As to men having no say in whether a woman has an abortion, who do you think makes the laws which are slowly stripping women of their autonomy in where and how they may go about obtaining one? Male-dominated government bodies (Congress and State legislatures) are continually assaulting a woman’s right to choice, by placing more complicated and onerous restrictions on abortion and abortion providers.

  2. Catchline translates as “Western modes of sexiness are for everyone, everywhere, even for you Muslim ladies, who may or may not like this.” Interesting Imperialist-Feminist fantasies!

  3. Catchline translates as “Western modes of sexiness are for everyone, everywhere, even for you Muslim ladies, who may or may not like this.” Interesting Imperialist-Feminist fantasies!

    IIRC the lingerie shops in Dubia, Abu Dhabi, Kuwait, etc do *roaring* local trade. Wanting to look and feel sexy would appear to be pretty universal. ;)

  4. “There’s a tremendous tendency in the West to think of women who wear burkas as null values. As being people without ideals or sexual identities.”

    I think the word “provocative” is best here. The religious/cultural value of the burqa is exactly that: to make those who wear it into “null values,” without a sexual presence that could (gasp!) lead men to sin. This commercial deliberately and directly challenges that notion. It says, regardless of the burqa, there’s sexiness hiding inside. Which is exactly what the burqa is trying to hide.

    It’s a potent shot. I’d love to see it run in Saudi Arabia. ;)

    1. I’m looking forward to some time in the distant future when we don’t have to kiss the wazoo of a despicable repressive regime just because we crave their ___________ (oil, in the case of Saudi Arabia)

  5. Granted, I have limited knowledge of the culture, but would any country or household where the women wear burkas actually permit the viewing of this commercial by women? By men on the sly, probably, but I doubt any woman would get to see it.

  6. So, of course anyone that would want to tear this up, could, and from multiple angles. However, something it points to that’s kind of cute, is that this is what women who don’t wear burkas do with sexy underwear too: wear something over it and revel in the private knowledge of what they have the power to hide.

  7. See – the issue I have is the assumption that being ‘sexy’ is naturally and essentially better than not being so; that a woman in a nation where she’s forced to cover up would desire to dress in western style ‘sexy’ underwear as if this is a universal law.

    Also, we live in a society that uses massive media pressure to make woman feel the need to dress a certain way. Are our women any less abused in that sense? Manipulating someone to choose oppression is no less oppression. I know I sound like I’m trying to show some kind of moral equivalence. I don’t think that’s the case – but I certainly don’t think that advertisers that pressure women to seek absurd physical perfection have any right preaching about women’s lib.

    1. What? I think you have an issue with evolution and natural section. That’s like me saying men are being oppressed because society is forcing us to think that financial success is naturally “better” than financial failure, and that we’re forced to choose to become good listeners, have healthy bodies, develop good personal hydgene, and have those fatherly skills like putting down the Xbox to play with your kids because that’s “socially” acceptable.

      1. I understand your point. But I think you’ll find humans were able to reproduce before the invention of the wonderbra.

      2. Sorry – my last reply was glib. Please note that I placed the word ‘sexy’ in commas. I was talking about our concept of sexy. Not the idea of being attractive to a mate. Clearly this makes sense. I’m talking about the assumption that a woman in the middle east would choose to be sexy in the same way that a woman in the west would.

        Muslims are as fertile as any other religious group. Clearly natural selection cares less about underwear than you might suppose.

  8. Although all women in Iran have to wear a chador when out and about (which does leave the face exposed if little else) there are fashionable clothes shops with the clothes on display (or used to be when I used to go to there in the early 90s, anyway).

    You can’t immediately tell by looking at someone in a burqa or chador or whatever what she really thinks about it. I remember seeing one Iranian woman in a chador at Tehran airport, waiting to board my flight to London via Vienna. She really looked grim, hatchet-faced and disapproving, and I assumed she was flying to the West because she had to for some reason and was looking forward to the ordeal with distaste, even disgust. Then in Vienna I saw her again, smiling as she came out of the ladies’ loo in a bright red miniskirt and red jacket and lots of flowing hair.

  9. All burqas do is drive guys crazy for beautiful eyes. My love of big dark brown eyes would go into overdrive.

  10. I never said “them only.”

    And so this?

    I don’t think anyone in the West believes that the women themselves are null values.

    You didn’t say, “by comparison”, or even “generally” (though I disagree with generally.) You said, “anyone”, a vast inclusive statement that is demonstrably false. Then when called on it, you decided that rather than mitigate it, you’d cling to it.

    And I’m saying that way the burqa is defined, coded, and discussed in “Western” society, is all about wallowing in superiority rather than focused on action and accountability. It’s the same problem I have with the ABC series, “What Would You Do?” It doesn’t change anything, or make people better, it’s just a way for people at home to point and say, “I’m a good person because I’m not scum like that!”

    I never said or so much as implied that any and all substantive criticism of burkas was verboten. You read that into my comment for reason I can’t know, but I suspect it’s because you’re clearly enamored of your privilege to call out other cultures at the exclusion of your own.

  11. point of nitpicking:

    what the lady puts on at the end of the ad is called a “niqab.” burqa cover the eyes with mesh.

  12. If women dressed for work the way this lady dresses, we would all die from broken necks – why fling your hair 800 times while putting on your clothes?

    In Dubai I could clearly make out the various vest and pant like undergarments that men wore under their white dishdashas too, btw. Made me all hot and bothered — and I am a happily married woman!

  13. I have personally seen women in full black ‘abaya & niqab shopping at lingerie stores in the middle east. Lingerie stores are EVERYWHERE over there, and their products are visible from the streets. So there is NOTHING unrealistic about the woman in the commercial.

    However, my problem with this ad is the sexist hypocrisy that it promotes. Any Islamic country that allowed this to air is saying, “yes we can show this (insert one of the thousands of arabic words for whore) on television, but if an actual Muslima exposed her body this way to complete strangers, her family would probably murder her before we even had a chance to arrest her.”

    I have no problem with the niqab for women who truly live in a society where no one (including family members) are forcing them to dress that way. Unfortunately in Saudi Arabia there is no choice. You cover up or they arrest you. You can’t get preachy about “cultural relativism” saying our pro-exposure beauty standards are just as contrived and oppressive as their anti-exposure standards. The difference is that I can still choose to dress conservatively without worrying that religious police will have me arrested at the mall for not exposing enough skin.

    **What she puts on her body is an ‘abaya with a built-in hood replacing the hijab, and what goes on the face is niqab. Burqa’ in arabic is just the face cloth with a mesh screen for the eyes, but in Afghanistan (not an arab country) burqa is that one-piece monstrosity.

    1. The difference is that I can still choose to dress conservatively without worrying that religious police will have me arrested at the mall for not exposing enough skin.

      The French are pressing to pass laws banning burqas, or at least dissuading women from wearing them. Apparently the French government doesn’t think you should have the freedom to look oppressed.

      In other European countries, such as Belgium, there’s a drive to ban such clothing stemming from its use in crimes (since it obscures the identity of the wearer).

  14. The Chemist, Lester, and Failix, could all three of you tone down the aggression in your comments? Especially Lester and The Chemist; neither of you is even really paying attention to what the other is writing.

  15. To give you a frame of reference, I am a late 20’s male. I was born in the USA, raised in the USA, and I’m so white that typing paper says “Dude, you need to get some sunlight.”

    Where I work I see women that come through wearing everything from Daisy Dukes + barely enough fabric to be a shirt, on up to niqab (and once in a while a burqa).

    You want to know something? The women wearing the conservative garments.. They’re more attractive than the long legged tanned blond woman with the cut off shorts and tank top that barely covers her mammories.

    Call me odd, but lend me your attention a smidge longer as I explain.
    Some of the garments sort of silhouette the overall shape of a woman. To the effect of emphasizing that she is a Woman, life giver and nurturer (please pardon me, as I lack the ability to more accurately articulate this perception). While the hijab frames and highlights the face and facial expressions. Thus when they smile, it is (in my perception anyway) magnitudes more radiant.

    While the women that are scantily clad do provoke some measure of response in my libido, they don’t incite an interest in actually getting to know them beyond fleeting moments of carnal knowledge.

    TL:DR version; Lots of skin showing = lusty thoughts, not much else. Hijab, niqab, etc = an actual attraction & respect
    (again I’ll point out that this is from my perspective / feelings)

    Yes I know I’m rather odd compared to most guys in my age bracket. Feel free to lambast my grammar, spelling, & etc.

  16. And, either way, it’s still all about the male gaze, isn’t it? I always love how these conversations about veiling/etc is almost always being had by men… And did she just walk down a hallway in heels… naked? Really? I mean, come on now! Male gaze all the way.

    Wait, what was that line from that song the colbert show would play a while back, when they were doing their run up to his week in Iraq? “We cover up their women, but we still get a peak?” Yep. Yep. Male gaze.

    1. Yes!! (Men grabed ‘gaze’ for themselves and ain’t lettin’ go.)

      We all see through the lens of male gaze –not too many see it, itself, nor past it. I must say, it’s an effective ad. The underwear with the little cut away in the back is really appealing. That’s the one ‘product’ I’m seeing, at least. She is the doe-eyed beauty I’m supposed to feel I am when I wear those undies (after I spend the $55 for the panties, of course). hahahahaha!

  17. “There’s a tremendous tendency in the West to think of women who wear burkas as null values.”

    Not just in the West: I believe the whole point of the burqa is to reduce women to null values, except to the men who directly control them.

    See Sahih Al-Bukhari Volume 1, Book 4, Hadith # 148.

  18. Fun fact, men who do not want to be found often dress in burkhas. They caught a bunch of Al Qaeda bigwigs dressed in burkhas, making the phobia of them even more prevalent…

  19. From a purely Western (read, American) standpoint, the ad is sexy and provocative. From a Middle Eastern standpoint, I’m not so sure this is explicitly forbidden, as I believe a woman may dress as she chooses beneath any of the various and sundry outfits (burqa, niqab, etc.), as long as what is underneath is not revealed to anyone other than her husband. My understanding may be sketchy, there.

    I think the intent was not so much a commentary on Muslim women, as an attempt by the boutique to show its wares in a non-traditional setting, to generate interest, not necessarily provoke a reaction. That they may have caused a reaction, simply bodes well for the amount of play it will get, and their exposure, as I’m not sure they are targeting Middle Eastern countries, so the chance sit will be seen there is small.

  20. I don’t know what you mean by the rape apology. I honestly don’t know what you are referring to.

    Statistically speaking, the issue of wage disparity is highly complex. Generally, wage disparity is misrepresented by failing to take different jobs into account. However, there is wage disparity along career lines. I am not claiming it doesn’t exist. That disparity coincides with a significant disparity in hours worked. Men tend to work a lot more than women which is also why you see more men in positions of greater power. We tend to make different life choices. We are different.

    Now, government bodies are male dominated. Yes. I don’t believe for a second that they actually care about abortion. That feigned “concern” is actually them pandering to the religious right, something that is not male dominated by any means. The Republican alliance with the religious right is a well documented, conscious choice that changed the very fabric of that political party. There is a building wave of discontent amongst people who are in agreement with the basic tenets of republicans sans the influence of religious leaders who also smuggle blood diamonds with the funds from their charities. These secular republicans call themselves libertarians and they are quite fed up.

    This is our quasi-democracy. It’s messy. Unless you have a better system….I prefer anarchism myself but I have strong doubts about how ready society is for the sort of direct self government that entails.

  21. I too have seen women in the middle east in abaya and niqab shopping. Lingerie – very expensive and very, very sexy lingerie – is one of the top selling commodities in the UAE. My impression is that this is not about the women buying them as much as it is about the man she is attached to. The abaya is for him and the lingerie is too. He owns and controls her sexuality. She is not free to do with it as she pleases. Her family’s honor is bound up in it. From birth it belongs to her brother and then from marriage to her husband.

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