On Burqas and Being Subordinate
Last Halloween I saw a white teenage boy dressed as an Arab man. His friend wore a burqa — and a rope around (his/her?) neck, which the “Arab man” held as a leash. He kept pulling “her” around and shouting orders. I was shocked and wondered what their motive could be.
It got me thinking about women and rights.
I am a devout Muslim woman who wears hijab, a scarf to cover my hair.
Why do I do this? Because I am inferior and subordinate? Because it is my job to control men’s sexuality?
I grew up hearing that men are sexual predators who are incapable of looking at a woman who isn’t covered from head to toe without wanting to rape them, or “mentally rape” them.
But that’s not why I cover my hair.
In fact, while some say women must dress modestly to keep uncontrollable men from sinning, I don’t buy it.
I believe that men’s lust is not a problem for women to solve — or a problem that we could possibly solve. After all, most men who rape do so to feel powerful and manly. So shifting the blame to women just enables sexual assault.
And covering shouldn’t be about protection from harassment. It doesn’t work anyway. Egyptian women are some of the most sexually harassed women in the world.
Covering up doesn’t solve anything. Men can always get worked up over necks and calves, hands and whatever they can lay their eyes on.
No. Everyone – men and women – must learn self-discipline, and nurture their mental health to avoid harming themselves and others. We should all respect and honor everyone as human beings.
I stumbled upon a comic that brilliantly addresses the issue. A bikini-clad girl passes a fully draped woman and thinks, “Everything covered but her eyes, what a cruel male-dominated culture!” The covered-up girl is thinking, “Nothing covered but her eyes! What a cruel male-dominated culture!”
I believe women from both kinds of societies seek the validation and approval of men in different ways. For me that is where the issue lies. The problem isn’t modesty, it’s men telling women what to wear and denying our autonomy.
Girls should have freedom over their bodies, beginning at a young age. My own mother let me cut my hair if I wanted to, and so I got command over my own body. And I was never forced – or even encouraged – to cover my hair. In fact, my parents tried to dissuade me from wearing a scarf when I put one on after 9/11. They worried for my safety. But I wanted to proclaim pride in my religion. I also felt the headscarf gave me power to control what men could see.
This type of freedom teaches a young girl that she is in control of her own body, and free to celebrate her personality and express herself through what she wears — covered up or not.
One of my students wrote this and gave permission to post on my blog.
Posted on October 30, 2013, in feminism, psychology, race/ethnicity, sexism, women and tagged burqas, feminism, hijab, inequality, Islam, psychology, racism, religion, sexism, women. Bookmark the permalink. 28 Comments.