Kanye’s Paris Fashion Week mask violates France’s niqab ban. So where exactly is his fine?

From the highly anticipated Kenzo show to Schiaparelli’s glorious haute couture show, Paris Fashion Week is Kanye West’s current sartorial scene. Headlines discussing his appearances over the past few days have largely focused on the woman with him – his new girlfriend Julia Cox – and the cheesy, matching outfits they were wearing. But forget double-denim outfits and all-black leathers — there’s something much more pressing to say about her attire, especially when it comes to her current go-to accessory.

Julia Fox and Kanye West arrive at Schiaparelli's show - David Fisher/Shutterstock

© David Fisher/Shutterstock

Julia Fox and Kanye West arrive at the Schiaparelli show

-David Fisher/Shutterstock

During Schiaparelli’s couture presentation on Monday, Kanye wore a black mask that covered his entire face except for two small slits for his eyes. “He added drama with a black mask,” reads one Harper’s Bazaar story, with the nonchalance better suited to describing colored shoelaces than to a mask evoking images of bank robbers. Publications have repeatedly called Kanye’s masked aesthetic “bold” and “rotating,” and even called the black mask “a must-have Paris Fashion Week accessory” when he wore one at the Balenciaga show in Paris last July.

But what most haven’t noticed is the fact that Paris Fashion Week’s supposedly must-have accessory is actually legally banned under its 2010-1192 law. The “law prohibiting the concealment of the face in public space” in France has been in force since 2011, prohibiting the wearing of niqabs, balaclavas and masks in public spaces. Those who violate this law can be fined up to 150 euros.

In 2020, France controversially confirmed that it would continue to maintain this ban, even making masks compulsory due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It is completely unreasonable, not to say unfair, to require your citizens to wear a face mask while prohibiting Muslim women from wearing niqabs, or face veils, which essentially cover the same area of ​​skin as masks. medical facials. This inconsistency has inevitably cast a spotlight on the country’s Islamophobic motivations for implementing the law in the first place, made more evident with the introduction of recent rulings: its separatism bill, passed last July, bans the wearing of hijab on minors, and just last week the French Senate voted to ban the hijab in sports competitions.

Time and again, Muslim women are painfully sensitized to the double standards that dictate societal trends and political policies. Concealment is seen as elegant and wise when “modesty” becomes a buzzword that influences the mainstream Western fashion industry, but carries connotations of oppression and patriarchy when seen on Muslim women in color. Women who wish to wear the niqab in France face fines and ‘citizenship education’ courses, but Kanye is free to walk down public streets and at high-profile fashion shows with his face fully covered. covered. He is photographed by paparazzi and his images go viral, inspiring humorous memes on social media, all in a country where his head-turning accessory is supposedly banned. But his fame, it seems, saves him from such scrutiny; he’s allowed to don his full-coverage face mask because of his privilege and celebrity status — and possibly also because he’s male.

Kanye has been hiding his face for a long time. Whether to attract or avoid publicity, everyone knows, but he has already worn face-concealing accessories at public events, even in Paris. In a particularly poorly worded headline, Australian menswear website DMARGE claimed that Kanye committed “style terrorism” with his mask at the Balenciaga show at Paris Fashion Week last July. And, in 2013, just two years after the implementation of France’s face covering law (which explicitly mentions balaclavas), Kanye was seen wearing a red balaclava in Paris. Now, nearly a decade later, balaclavas are back in the limelight after gaining popularity on TikTok, with Muslim women pointing out the hypocrisies associated with the widespread glorification of this knitted headwear trend.

Kanye’s mask-wearing peaked at his strong excitement donda listening event last year, where he completed his look with a completely form-fitting black mask once again. A similar design, complete with zippers for the eye slits, is available from its donda merch, for the modest sum of 230 euros. Variations of the ‘veil’ are glamorized with Kanye’s celebrity cachet while elsewhere such gruesome masks would be seen as extravagant, intimidating and threatening to security – the latter being an alleged cause for burqa bans in some parts of Europe and Canada.

Ye’s penchant for masking even made a rather unfortunate impression on his ex-wife, Kim Kardashian, who opted for an all-black, face-covering Balenciaga ensemble at the Met Gala, and was called “pissed off” and of “mysterious”. Her inappropriate and culturally insensitive ensemble caused a backlash because she wore it following the triumph of the Taliban in Afghanistan, when burkas, which similarly cover the wearer from head to toe in black, were used. as symbols of fundamentalism. and anti-feminism in the mainstream media.

In October, NSS Magazine published an article exploring Kanye’s obsession with masks, concluding that for the rapper they can be “a way to hide, to escape his ego, but above all a collective illusion with which to live. make fun of us again”. .” Needing a serious reality check, Ye has to read the play. If Muslim women are forbidden to cover their faces because of their deeply held religious and spiritual beliefs, it is not right that it can be done for fun, for art or for the expression of self – certainly not in a country where veiled women are not only vilified, but themselves deprived of this freedom of expression.

Kanye’s masks should never have boarded the jet with him to Paris. At the very least, he should be fined 150 euros under France’s face covering law – pocket change for the billionaire rapper.

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