I really like this article. I have been very torn about the hijab. One the one hand, I believe it’s wrong to discriminate against someone’s choice of dress or religion. But on the other hand, most women don’t really choose this. If someone wants to wear a hijab, that’s great- I have no problem with that. But the majority of women who wear the hijab do so because they have to, or because they have been raised to believe that they must. When your family will shun you or you can get beat up for not wearing it, or when your religion promises negative consequences, or when you feel like less of a person for not wearing it, then there’s not really a choice- even if you convince yourself that you want to wear it.
I know it’s not exactly the same thing, but I once convinced myself that I liked clothing standards that I actually didn’t like very much too. The Bible college I went to was very conservative- skirts that covered the knee completely and tights to every class and church service, high necklines and nothing tight, no dangly earrings or flashy jewelry, no watching movies unless expressly approved by the staff (they only approved Christian films), etc. At the time, I convinced myself that I really didn’t mind the rules. They were for my own good, they made me a more modest person, I liked them. But I didn’t like them. I love dangly earrings and big jewelry! I loved them before college, and after college I rediscovered my love for them. Back then I would catch myself drooling over clothes that I could never wear there and lamenting because modifying it to be modest enough would have ruined the look. When the formal banquet came around, we had to do a modesty “hallelujah” test- we raised our arms above our heads, and if our armpits or shoulders were showing, we had to wear something else or modify our shawl placement. Many girls wore tee-shirts under their beautiful dresses or sweaters over them in order to meet this very strict standard. It looked friggin’ awful half the time if you couldn’t find an appropriate and stylish shrug and a prom dress with a high enough neckline. Some girls were able to make it look good, but most of the time the beauty of the dress was just lost.
In my particular case, and I think for many other girls I knew there, I believe this was a coping mechanism. In order for me to reconcile with my beliefs, I had to convince myself that I agreed with the rules, throwing out my ability to choose for myself. I told myself I dressed modestly because I wanted to- but that wasn’t really true. Not when I was truly honest with myself, which was very hard to do back then. I dressed modestly because I had to, because it’s what the other people in my faith did in that setting, because I was taught that I was “more spiritual” if I dressed that way. I fit in when I looked that way.
Of course I cannot say that all Muslim women are in the same position I was, everyone is different and their culture is vastly different- but in the few instances I’ve seen where they defend their love of the hijab, I see a similar reaction in them that I once had, except in this case it’s much bigger and more dangerous.
Women should never be oppressed, whether they choose to wear a hijab or not. I would NEVER support forcing a women to not wear one- but I would also highly support any programs that helped to give women a CHOICE. I am torn about the commercial featuring the hijab as a form of diversity- I honestly don’t know what I think. Women who wear hijabs in the US are often bullied for it, so in that regard I am glad to see diversity shown in a public way. But it is more often than not a sign of sexist oppression… should that be glorified in the name of diversity? I don’t know. But I do think this article opens dialogue that needs to be started. If you haven’t read it yet, please see the link above before commenting.