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State Misogyny: France’s Colonial Unveiling History Against Muslim Women

by Léopold Lambert

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“The state’s forceful unveiling of the colonized Muslim women is thus fully part of the universalist project envisioned explicitly by the colonial regime — universalism being calibrated on the French vision of society, of course — but we should also read it through the spectrum of patriarchy and misogyny; that against which it claims to be mobilized. A 1959 colonial poster enjoining Algerian women to “unveil [them]selves” through the ambiguous question “Aren’t you pretty?”, shows that beauty, a seemingly innocent and benevolent value, is a weaponizable concept in the establishment of this universalist project by either colonial or imperial power. In this regard, France is not the only entity that constructed such an ideological narrative around this value.”

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