Public interpretations of veiled women and prostitutes as inherently embedded in the sexual sphere, and therefore as bound to remain “private,”hidden in their homes for veiled women or in the bedroom for prostitutes, contradicts the fact that both figures appear in public. Prostitution has a long tradition of being understood ideologically rather than through the lived experiences that compose prostitutes’ social realities.42 The use of legal instru- ments to make prostitutes and veiled women disappear from public view ironically becomes a means to make their bodies conform to the stereotypes on which the state relies to justify their exclusion: it is because they are subservient and oppressed that they should be excluded from the public sphere. Yet, veiled women in France have joined universities and are making their way in public transport and in non sex-segregated swimming pools, wearing burkini. As for prostitutes, their presence in the streets highlights the possibility of making sex a commodity and the sex market a market in which (at least) some of them are able to act as “independent workers.” Arguments used to make them disappear from the public sphere, according to which veiled women and prostitutes would be under the control of men, do not match the social reality exemplified by their public presence.

Billaud, Julie; Castro, Julie, “Whores and Niqabées: The Sexual Boundaries of French Nationalism”, in:  French Politics, Culture & Society, Volume 31, Number 2, Summer 2013 p. 93-94


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