The hijab and liberation

 writes in today’s UK Guardian an article entitled, “The hijab has liberated me from society’s expectations of women“.
I’d like to address some of her claims, but first I better make a couple of things clear.

The term “hijab” refers to a head covering worn by Muslim women, in other words its just a fancy scarf, we are not talking about a Burka. For an example, see the picture of the article’s author on the left.

I have no problem with this, people should, and indeed are, free to wear whatever they damn well like, its a personal choice.

So why am I blogging about it? Well basically because some of the claims she is making warrant some comment and should be challenged.

She asserts:

…From perfume and clothes ads to children’s dolls and X Factor finals, you don’t need to go far to see that the woman/sex combination is everywhere.

It makes many of us feel like a pawn in society’s beauty game …

…for me the hijab is political, feminist and empowering

Well, there are a few points to raise regarding this …

  • She is judging others by the manner in which they dress and so claims that those who do not dress as she now does to to be reduced and demeaned … really!!! … says who?
  • She can choose to wear it or not because she lives in a modern, pluralist democracy. Most of her sisters in theocratic hellholes like Iran and Saudi have no choice at all. I don’t really care how “empowering” she finds it, it’s still a symbol of female oppression in the vast majority of the world.
  • The first thoughts that spring to mind when seen by most is “doormat” or “religious fundamentalist”, so in what way is adopting it feminist and empowering?
  • She has also clearly said, “I don’t want to be part of a system that reduces and demeans women” … well then, it’s good that she lives in the UK, because within many Islamic societies, women are compelled to wear either a head covering or a face covering, either by their society or their male relatives. If she truly wishes not to be part of a system the reduces and demeans woman then she should seriously consider not adopting the religious symbol of a belief system that does exactly that.
  • Claiming that this is a feminist statement is akin to me claiming that a white robe and pointy hood is a multicultural statement.

So as I said, she is quite free to wear whatever she wishes, I’m quite OK with that. What I can’t digest are the associated claims, she should not in any way fool herself into thinking that a religious symbol of female oppression is in any way feminist or empowering. In fact, for women who live in Saudi, not wearing either the hijab or a burka would be truly feminist and empowering.

2 thoughts on “The hijab and liberation”

  1. Perhaps this is one woman’s interpretation of a cultural symbol that she chooses to wear. I agree that anything is problematic and certainly not feminist if it is forced upon women through societal pressure. However, your critique of Ms. Takolia draws upon the same things that you dislike about her initial analysis of the hijab. You wrote the following: “She is judging others by the manner in which they dress and so claims that those who do not dress as she now does to to be reduced and demeaned … really!!! … says who?”. I think you have committed the same error in critiquing her argument. Perhaps you should allow each woman to determine what she deems feminist or not.

  2. I think this woman had serious self-esteem issues if she had to wear a hat and sunnies because she didn’t have makeup on. She doesn’t look made-up in the photo…is the hijab a make-up precluder? Maybe she had some points about images few of us can live up to if we even feel we should try (I personally just don’t…like me or lump me), but it seems her hijab is her band-aid for her low self-worth. She is free to delude herself about it however she likes. “Secular women can wear them too! It’s not about Islam!” Pffft! Whatever next?


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