Can see x-ray glasses through clothing

The truth is not naked

... and that is why bans on veiling do not help us any further.

The World Is Not Enough ”is the name of a“ James Bond ”film from 1999 in which the agent wears blue sunglasses. With this he can see through people's clothes and determine whether they are armed. The glasses were a cheap piece of the department store rummaging table, the director had to assert again and again. Because the rumor persisted that there might actually be something like this: X-ray glasses. Glasses that reveal the truth about a person by making their clothes disappear.

Some moviegoers probably remembered the “Yps” magazines from their childhood. There, too, gimmicks were regularly advertised that promised to unearth some hidden truth with the help of some puzzling technique. As a child, you could never quite believe that it would work. But don't rule it out either. And because today's “Yps” magazine is the iPhone (including gimmicks called apps), an application with an X-ray function is presented on YouTube: Hold the iPhone camera on it and you can see what the person you're talking to looks like underneath. It was all just a joke, it soon turned out. But Apple was almost trusted to do it.

All of this shows that disclosure is a powerful fantasy. One believes that one can penetrate the naked truth of the other by tearing the disguise off his body.

“Naked and bare” was, in fairy tales, a synonym for “innocent”. This motive is also echoed in the debate about the naked scanner: Those who show their bare skin cannot hide anything and do nothing, is the hope; if one succeeds in completely exposing the other, one can be sure.

It is quite possible that this wishful thinking is also found in the burqa dispute. The ignorance of the other religion and culture; the uneasiness of meeting people in everyday life who insist on being different; the uncertainty of who you are dealing with: How nice it would be to be able to remove all of this in one stroke - by tearing the veil off a single woman's head!

But we can be pretty sure: it will be of no use. The political magic trick doesn't work, any more than the x-ray glasses and the “Yps” gimmicks didn't work. We do not get a millimeter closer to the veiled woman by forcibly unveiling her, and we do not even begin to contribute to her liberation. Rather the opposite.

Incidentally, the Afghan men, who only saw burqas day after day, achieved a certain mastery in guessing the bodies underneath. From the look, the walking pace, the posture and the movements they could precisely read the age, status and level of education of a woman. They came closer to the X-ray vision than 007 with his glasses.

But this is another story.

Sibylle Hamann is a journalist in Vienna.


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("Die Presse", print edition, April 28, 2010)