TORONTO – I was culturally offended at the Ontario Science Centre the other day.So many people seem culturally and racially offended these days that I thought I’d get in on the action.My family has a membership at the OSC and I was attending the excellent IMAX film on the building of the Canadian railway, Rocky Mountain Express.The host of the film was a person in a full burka; face covered with only the eyes showing. Based on the voice on the microphone, it was a young woman and not the boy Sun News Network host David Menzies sent in to successfully buy booze at the LCBO recently.What I found off-putting was that the lady was not someone going about her own business, which is none of mine, but the “face” of the OSC at that particular event. I am not sure very many people would feel welcomed and comfortable having to deal with a faceless person at reception desks, ticket booths and counters around the city.While many see the burka as a symbol of the subjugation of women, I see it also as an insult to men.Most of us, while certainly programed to notice and appreciate women, are not slobbering rape machines set to explode into violence at the mere sight of a pretty face. I, for one, do not appreciate being assumed to be and treated as such.Our popular culture uses the covered face quite often as a sign of evil. Darth Vader of Star Wars and Bane, the villain in the new Batman movie, are both faceless. So are Batman and Spiderman some of the time, but they spend most of their screen time as Bruce Wayne and Peter Parker respectively, so that we learn to know and admire them as “real people” to whom we can relate. This is not to say a woman in a burka is evil, or a bad person. She may be a victim herself. It is to say a welcoming exchange flows in more than one direction. A covered face is suspicious and edgy; not conducive to a quickly comfortable engagement, as we should have a right to expect in business interactions both public and private.Hats, toques, turbans, yarmulkes, head-covering scarves, and the attire of Catholic nuns all leave the face exposed. We meet the person.When meeting someone, especially for the first time, it is polite to remove dark sunglasses in order not to appear aloof, arrogant or ignorant. We certainly would not expect to see mirrored sunglasses on a bank teller.When I ride my motorcycle, I wear sunglasses and a full-face helmet, which is more than the law requires. I am completely covered. I am on my own time and concerned about my own safety. I wouldn’t wear them if I were to meet you at work.Accordingly, we shouldn’t prevent people from wearing burkas in their private lives, but I believe we should prevent it in any position that engages the public.It’s good to see people display some modesty in these days of short shorts, tiny tops and string bikinis.But uncovering your face while engaging the public in Canada is not immodest. It is polite, engaging, hospitable, accepting and tolerant.
Public face of modesty