Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
March 10, 2015

On Men Cross-Dressing in Kabul, Istanbul in Support of Women's Rights

“If a miniskirt is responsible for everything, if [wearing] a miniskirt means immorality and unchastity, if a woman who wears a miniskirt is sending an invitation about what will happen to her, then we are also sending an invitation!”

— AP via Mic.com

I wonder if you saw this story recently about men in Turkey protesting in solidarity with women. In response to a woman who was killed recently after resisting rape, men have been marching, or posting selfies on social media, wearing skirts.

Given the repressive attitude toward women, the fact men would give up their role as “the ones who wear the pants” is powerful.

At the same time, when you look at so many news photos, you come across single (and singular) examples of things all the time. It only takes one more similar photo story, however, especially from somewhere else in the world, to hint there might be a pattern.

I’m referring to this story which I saw about a week or so later. If the demonstration in practice caused some confusion, the caption read as follows:

A male Afghan women’s rights activist poses for pictures in a burqa to show solidarity to Afghan women ahead of International Women’s Day in Kabul, March 5, 2015. A group of Afghan men marched through the capital, Kabul, on Thursday to draw attention to women’s rights by donning head-to-toe burqas that for many people worldwide have come to symbolize the suppression of women.

What we’re seeing in both cases is an usual degree of empathy for women in cultures that have been highly traditional and often repressive when it comes to women’s rights. Could there be more to it than that, though?

I’m wondering if these displays might also reflect a shift in consciousness in the Eastern world when it comes to sexual identity and gender roles. Specifically, it occurs to me that the protesting and cross-dressing is also a way, largely under the radar, to also give homophobia a tweak.

— Michael Shaw

(photo 1: via YeganeAyhan/Twitter. photo 2: photo by Emrah Gurel/AP.caption: Men wear skirts to show solidarity with women who have been protesting against violence against women since the recent murder of Ozgecan Aslan, a 20-year-old woman, in Istanbul, Turkey, on Feb. 21, 2015. photos 3 & 4: Mohammad Ismail/Reuters. caption 3: Male Afghan women’s rights activists wearing burqas hold up a banner to show solidarity to Afghan women ahead of International Women’s Day in Kabul on March 5, 2015. caption 4: A male Afghan women’s rights activist poses for pictures in a burqa to show solidarity to Afghan women ahead of International Women’s Day.)

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