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I Took Off My Hijab
February 10, 2014 10:52 AM   Subscribe

I Took Off My Hijab By adding more layers. A knit hat and scarf around my neck to be exact.
posted by frimble (90 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite

 
Well sometimes you have to add more layers to something in order to reveal something. More protection is sometimes more liberating then less.
posted by 0351wd at 11:23 AM on February 10


Here's a strange comment:
Apparently, the type of cloth you place or wrap around your head defines how you will be treated.
Isn't that the whole point?
posted by Edgewise at 11:33 AM on February 10 [8 favorites]


Pretty sure the point of the hijab is to not be treated with disrespect by non-Muslims.
posted by desjardins at 11:45 AM on February 10 [12 favorites]


So eliminating or concealing the outward signalling cues I display will reduce the degree to which other people respond to those cues? Brilliant.

I mean okay, I don't hate this piece, and I'm glad she came to some kind of realization, but I'm not sure if the realization really is "wearing a hijab makes people react to you differently" - which I thought was pretty well established by now - or if it's more like "I thought to get rid of my hijab and all that comes with it, I'd have to take it off, but covering it up works just as well!"

Which doesn't seem all that remarkable an insight when you think about it.
posted by Naberius at 11:48 AM on February 10 [6 favorites]


I'd be very interested in hearing about this woman's experience when the weather warms up, and how she feels about it. I wouldn't do well in her shoes.
posted by gurple at 12:00 PM on February 10


I think to a lot of non-Muslims, it's confusing what the point of the hijab is. We hear that it's to maintain modesty, to protect from the stares of men, to demand respect. Some people, certainly, use it as a profiling tool to take out their anti-Muslim scorn. But others may keep their distance out of respect, assuming that being too familiar (or even friendly) would be taken as a sign of disrespect. Cultural items that are meant to enforce distance between people do tend to do that.
posted by rikschell at 12:00 PM on February 10 [64 favorites]


Naberius: I think it's a case of realizing Just How Much it was changing her interactions with people. It's one thing to know intellectually, but another to experience it in all the emotional rawness.
posted by rmd1023 at 12:15 PM on February 10 [9 favorites]


I think it's a case of realizing Just How Much it was changing her interactions with people.

I don't think it was intentional, but, as she was "disguising" herself by dressing in layers, she found herself sort of trapped in layers of social expectations -- she was reacting to how she was imagining other people reacting to her, then realizing that her initial assessment was wrong and reassessing. I wish she was writing about this as an ongoing process rather than a single experience.
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:19 PM on February 10


Pretty sure the point of the hijab is to not be treated with disrespect by non-Muslims.

The point of the hijab is to maintain modesty. The disconnect comes because it is, by current western standards, an excess of modesty. The overlap here where western standards of comfort intersect is interesting, but not especially so. She presumably removes the hat and scarf—but retains the hijab—indoors, and apparently others refuse to don them outdoors. These are ultimately signaling choices and while we may deride how the signals are often read and reacted to, the choice is ultimately one that is negotiated by the individual, her community, and the larger culture.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:19 PM on February 10 [3 favorites]


I thought this was a pretty powerful piece, kind of like the Black Like Me short film I saw in school a long time ago. The interesting part to me is she gets treated better by non-muslims but worse by muslims, which is kind of a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation.
posted by mathowie at 12:23 PM on February 10 [9 favorites]


As an American man, I would consider it rude to be "familiar" or informal with women who wear the hijab. The uniform, if you will, represents something. I thought one point of the hijab is to prevent unwelcome familiarity from people who are not Muslim? Am I wrong?
posted by Chuffy at 12:24 PM on February 10 [5 favorites]


This was fascinating to me, because it was surprisingly relatable.

For what it's worth, as a woman, I found I dealt with the exact same behavior changes in strangers around me once I was considered (nearly overnight, as these things go) to suddenly be conventionally attractive instead of an ugly duck; and even now, when I leave the house in light makeup, a skirt (or hourglass-defining clothing), pretty hair, and nice shoes/boots instead of the usual gender-neutral slobberoo I can fall into on days off. Yes, it's about being a Muslim in a non-Muslim country where Muslims have been held suspect, but it's also about making yourself more or less "available," so to speak, as a female-gendered, sexualized entity. The hijab may in fact be working/respected as the modesty tool it is meant to be--as well as just creating the cultural "otherness" that can't be denied in the U.S.
posted by blue suede stockings at 12:26 PM on February 10 [12 favorites]


Pretty sure the point of the hijab is to not be treated with disrespect by non-Muslims.

But it does create an explicit divider between oneself and the rest of the world. This does tend to clash with Western culture. It's not a reason to be disrespected, but it's understandable to interpret this kind of clothing as a desire to be left alone or otherwise stand apart. Which it sounds like she's talking about -- I don't hear her being treated disrespectfully as much as being treated more warmly by Westerners and more coldly by Muslims when they don't perceive the hijab.
posted by Edgewise at 12:29 PM on February 10 [3 favorites]


but it's understandable to interpret this kind of clothing as a desire to be left alone or otherwise stand apart

C.F. Nuns.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 12:35 PM on February 10 [4 favorites]


I have a conservative Muslim friend who's wife wears a hijab and has fairly strong boundaries around men. In situations where I might give somebody else a hug, I don't even shake her hand and I try not overly familiar out of respect for her culture and beliefs.

I realize that a lot of woman who wear head coverings might not have boundaries that are quite so strict, and who may not want to be treated any differently. It seems a difficult line to navigate, especially before you get to know someone well enough to understand their own boundaries. I'm having lunch with my friend this week - I'll be interested to ask him his perspective on this issue.
posted by jpdoane at 12:36 PM on February 10 [3 favorites]


Interesting article. The past few weeks in Chicago everyone has been walking around with their heads and faces covered and I was wondering if it was making some people who dress like that all the time feel more comfortable.
I thought her focus on the interactions with cab drivers was weird in that it seemed like this is what she was most surprised about. 98% of cab drivers of all ethnicities treat me (someone who basically looks like her "new persona") the way she was surprised to be treated by Muslim cab drivers.
posted by bleep at 12:47 PM on February 10 [1 favorite]


Thanks for posting this--I found it interesting and thought-provoking. I would definitely be interested in hearing her follow up this post a few months from now, with further reflections.

I thought this comment by a reader was particularly interesting:
I'm a Christian and I cover my hair with a variety of things-- it doesn't really matter what it is, so long as it's covered. I always marvel at the difference in how I'm treated based on *which* head covering I pick.

In Chicago, if I wore something that looked more hijab-esque, I was often the last person people would sit next to on the train or bus and people seemed to have trouble making eye contact with me. Except hijabis or other Muslims-- hijabis smiled and salammed, like you said, and Muslim men often asked me where I was from, quickly followed by whether I was married.

If I wore something that looked more like an Amish kapp, perfect strangers would sit down next to me and tell me all about their life and their relationship with God.

When I covered with something that looked like it could be a fashion statement or for warmth (a cute knit hat, say), it was in between. People weren't especially forward with me and they didn't avoid me.

I think part of it is that overtly religious attire does mark us as different, it does make us set apart, and people respond to that difference. It is important to understand if you want to be different and what that's worth to you, I think. On the other hand, the fact that people respond to me differently in a kapp than in a hijab means that there's also some Islamophobia in there too. And that's worth combating-- I think we can do this though by talking about it like here and also hijabi women may need to make the first move more in friendship, because people may be uncertain about how "different" hijabis want to be.
Something that immediately leapt out at me: both the commenter and the original author found that Muslim men frequently asked about their marital status when it seemed the women were wearing hijab. (The original author says that when it wasn't obvious she was wearing hijab, "[t]he Muslim taxi drivers who would almost always say 'Assalamu Alaikum,' ask me where I'm from or if I'm single, or not allow me to pay for the fare became cold and dry. I would simply give the address, and the only dialog thereafter was at time of payment. It was puzzling" [emphasis mine].)

I'm curious how she felt about being asked if she was single when she was wearing hijab. Personally, I'd find it uncomfortable and intrusive, and I would dread it if I knew that was going to be a regular point of conversation with male taxi drivers. I don't like being asked by total strangers if I am married or single because I think it's none of their business, and it creeps me out when it's a man doing the asking. It's hard for me to tell if the original author found it problematic (like harassment) or if she found it comforting (she felt accepted and part of a group).
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 12:54 PM on February 10 [16 favorites]


it's understandable to interpret this kind of clothing as a desire to be left alone or otherwise stand apart

I think one thing worth bearing in mind is that although the origin of the hijab may be in "modesty" or whatever, at this point for a lot of women it's just something you do, part of the culture. It's not a choice you're making to be separate, it's just you living your life having the culture you have, in the country you live in. So it is odd and really quite shocking to be treated with fear and otherness just for wearing clothes. And to be treated so differently by different groups simply based on the clothes you go out of the house in.

And note, Muslim women who wear the hijab do not generally wear it inside the house, with their families. But it is traditional to do so when around strangers.

I thought it was an interesting story - thanks.
posted by iotic at 12:55 PM on February 10 [8 favorites]


I get asked if I'm single or married a lot. I don't wear the hijab or any other cultural signifier aside from "vaguely Western" clothing. I don't like it, and I've often considered buying a fake wedding ring for public transit.
posted by domo at 1:07 PM on February 10 [1 favorite]


i really enjoyed this when i came across it. i think it's perfectly valid for there to be complicated reasons behind the reactions of strangers, her to be intellectually aware of how strangers react to her, and still surprised in that moment by the change.
posted by nadawi at 1:08 PM on February 10 [3 favorites]


I'm glad she had this realization, but I think it may show more about her than about anyone else, as a lot of people here have already suggested. I'm not sure she really gets what it is she's discovered though:
It was fun feeling like everyone around me believed I belonged in their culture by default, and not as part of the begrudgingly adopted diversity piece of the pie.
I mean, maybe, but maybe not. The item of clothing we're talking about sends immensely complicated signals to Muslims and non-Muslims alike, and they're not all the same ones. To everyone, I'd think it would communicate a fairly high degree of seriousness and traditionalism about Islam. I think it also safe to assume that it communicates a willingness to be public about one's beliefs even when, and in spite of the fact that, they clash with the surrounding culture.

I'm betting that a Muslim would be able to garner a lot more information about the wearer's background than that. Things like what part of the world she and her family might be from, and possibly even what strain/tradition/school/whatever of Islam they follow.* It also would seem to implicate certain kinds of social interaction, i.e., "I can interact with this person as a Muslim, not just a stranger who happens to be a woman." To the extent that differences in manners and conduct regarding Muslims and non-Muslims exist, they'd be implicated too.

For non-Muslims, other information is communicated, though it may not be intentional or even accurate. Non-Muslims can probably be expected to know that the hijab has something to do with modesty, but unlike Muslims, we don't necessarily know what's expected of us as a result. "Modesty" can range from simply not wearing clothing that's too sexy/revealing (which is how most Americans understand it), to refraining from certain kinds of outgoing conduct and social interactions. As non-Muslims don't have the cultural background to understand that set of rules, it can be really difficult to know how to interact with someone wearing a hijab. Is she even allowed to talk to me? Am I allowed to talk to her? I don't know! All that's clear is that this person is following a different set of social and cultural norms than I do, and given the choice between being needlessly offensive/insensitive and just keeping my eyes front and mouth shut, the latter seems easiest. It may not be maximally polite in American culture, but it's probably more polite than venturing out into unknown territory regarding unfamiliar religious cultural expressions.

Basic point: if you wear something that is supposed to set you apart from the people around you, you may find that it sets you apart from the people around you. And expecting everyone to treat you like you're part of the local culture when you're wearing something that clearly communicates that you aren't doesn't seem entirely realistic.

*I fully admit speculating here. I'm not a Muslim, and my knowledge of Muslim/Islamic culture is rudimentary at best. But I think what I've speculated here is fairly safe to assume.
posted by valkyryn at 1:24 PM on February 10 [13 favorites]


I hope that she will eventually have the strength to get rid of the thing entirely.
posted by sour cream at 1:44 PM on February 10 [3 favorites]


I have a conservative Muslim friend who's wife wears a hijab and has fairly strong boundaries around men.

Same here. I tried to treat her like any of the other women in our peer group and she refused to shake my hand. I was kind of offended by that even though I guess I shouldn't be? I dunno. To me, the hijab says "AVOID ME."
posted by mattbucher at 1:45 PM on February 10 [2 favorites]


It's not about you.
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:49 PM on February 10 [19 favorites]


Non-Muslims can probably be expected to know that the hijab has something to do with modesty, but unlike Muslims, we don't necessarily know what's expected of us as a result. "Modesty" can range from simply not wearing clothing that's too sexy/revealing (which is how most Americans understand it), to refraining from certain kinds of outgoing conduct and social interactions. As non-Muslims don't have the cultural background to understand that set of rules, it can be really difficult to know how to interact with someone wearing a hijab. Is she even allowed to talk to me? Am I allowed to talk to her? I don't know! All that's clear is that this person is following a different set of social and cultural norms than I do, and given the choice between being needlessly offensive/insensitive and just keeping my eyes front and mouth shut, the latter seems easiest.

I will admit that this has been my first train of thought in the past. I have no idea if it's the best, or even partially correct train of thought, but my initial default reaction has alway been to leave some space unless otherwise indicated. It certainly doesn't come from a place of disrespect-- quite the opposite. Misplaced, out of proportion errant respect out of an abundance of cultural caution?
posted by Devils Rancher at 1:53 PM on February 10 [3 favorites]


It's not about you.

But of course it is. The whole article and the discussion here is about the reactions of people to the hijab or absence of it.
posted by sour cream at 2:11 PM on February 10 [25 favorites]


The free taxi rides didn't really increase my appreciation of the hijab, to be honest.
posted by smidgen at 2:16 PM on February 10


I'm really surprised to read the subtle (and outright) hostility in many of the comments here. It's a little window into a world that you don't inhabit and your reaction is to say that she's wrong in her interpretation or that she should give up the hijab entirely? That seems weirdly confrontational. She's having an experience from two different sides of a racial interaction and sharing that experience and how it's different. The reactions here seem to reinforce her conclusion that she's treated with less love and respect depending on what's on her head:
I never questioned that I was being given less respect and love, or that I was not as accepted. I always thought that the type of treatment I was exposed to was just how the world was. I didn't know people could be nicer.

Thank you winter. Thank you subzero temperatures.

I pray one day, and soon, that people will be familiar enough with all other cultures and beliefs that they are not afraid or have reservations, and that the thing that stands out to them is not the wrap around my head, but the smile on my face.
posted by stoneweaver at 3:07 PM on February 10 [24 favorites]


This is interesting, coming as I do from Jewish culture. Parts of which are actively redefining modesty over the last few decades for women, to the point of Haredi Jews of Northern European descent now wearing niqab or burka-like coverings (which is bizarre, considering many Mizrahi/Middle-Eastern/North African Jewish women took considerable pride in NOT veiling or conforming to Muslim modesty/confinement standards).

In Jewish culture, as far as women's dress is concerned, what's important is the level of modesty, but not the exact details of how it is achieved. Yes, there is social pressure, fashion (shuddering to call it that, but...) and in-group "we all buy our clothes from supplier X", but, to follow the FPPs example, covering by means of a long coat, high boots, large knit hat and scarf are just as appropriate as a long-sleeved sweater and calf-length skirt, opaque tights with sneakers, and a snood. Of course, if that were really true, observant Jewish women would go around wrapped in traditional (men only) tallit/prayer shawls - they're the size of a twin bed spread! We had an FPP a few years ago on modest fashion by major designers, where women from several religious cultures all could wear the same attire.

Patriarchy confuses me - women are responsible for men's thoughts, even though men are in charge of everything? Eh, what? We could teach men that their desires, thoughts, and actions are their responsibility, and it's not women's problem. Maybe all men need blindfolds, arm and leg restraints to prevent looking, touching, or quickly moving towards women. It would be a start, anyway.
posted by Dreidl at 3:12 PM on February 10 [21 favorites]


I'm also surprised by the casual hostility in this thread, and the willingness to speculate about the motivations of people various commenters have outright admitted they know little about.

The hijab is a cultural signifier as well as a religious one. Non-Muslim Americans have plenty of cultural signifiers, rules and taboos regarding women's clothing. There are rules about bra straps, about whether nipples can be visible through clothing, about when nylons are or aren't acceptable, about what counts as neatly styled hair, about what's too much or too little makeup for this or that setting, about whether or not it's okay to wear any number of things in public, the list goes on. I don't know where non-Muslim Americans get off pretending that they don't have plenty of rules regarding women and "appropriateness."

The problem is when women are forced or pressured to do something they don't want to do. It's insulting to act as if all Muslim women who choose to wear hijab were actually forced to do so by men. And if a woman has decided to dress in a way that makes her feel comfortable and that conforms to her personal identity, what right do others have to be jerks to her about it?

Honestly mystified.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 3:27 PM on February 10 [18 favorites]


I'm really surprised to read the subtle (and outright) hostility in many of the comments here. It's a little window into a world that you don't inhabit and your reaction is to say that she's wrong in her interpretation or that she should give up the hijab entirely?

It's interesting what you consider to be hostility. People disagreeing with her? Is there any way to disagree with the author which you not consider to be hostile? I must have missed the comment where it was suggested that she should give up the hijab.

Also interesting is your choice of words. Part of the thing that people are pointing out is that the issue is perhaps that she isn't inhabiting the same world as the rest of us, and is thus surprised at something that is not surprising to the rest of us. The very fact of her surprise suggests that she is not in touch with the culture she lives among.

But yes, my reaction is that, as you say, she's wrong in (part of) her interpretation. I hope she can handle that kind of hardcore xenophobic hostility! In all seriousness, I would suggest that you don't need to be defensive on her behalf.
posted by Edgewise at 3:28 PM on February 10 [7 favorites]


Something I noted on a previous visit to Israel was taxi drivers asking about my marital status. I'm a man, was in late 20s at the time. Possibly explicable as a conversational staple in any culture where marriage is IMPORTANT.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 3:36 PM on February 10 [4 favorites]


Is there any way to disagree with the author which you not consider to be hostile?

disagreeing with what though? her observations about her own life and experiences she had? i think it's a little loaded and maybe hostile to do that. it's fair to discuss your own reaction to women wearing religious garb and even specifically the one under discussion (although maybe more illuminating to also discuss men's religious garb). it gets weird for me when people (some in this thread) expand that to suggesting that her observations about her surroundings are wrong.


I must have missed the comment where it was suggested that she should give up the hijab.

this comment stood out to me.
posted by nadawi at 3:59 PM on February 10 [14 favorites]


I thought this was a great piece considering it is a short blog entry. It's a person sharing their experience. I don't get all the criticism.
posted by Roger Dodger at 4:01 PM on February 10 [7 favorites]


before getting married (and wearing a wedding ring) i was asked about my marital status just about everwhere i've been in the united states. in my experience marriage questions seem more important for women to answer than men, no matter what the culture.
posted by nadawi at 4:01 PM on February 10 [1 favorite]


I live in the Bay Area, where it is not uncommon to see women wearing headscarves. I confess to reacting in a way similar to Devils Rancher. I understand that the woman wearing the headscarf is probably following different rules than I am and my general approach is not to engage unless she initiates, lest I do something offensive or culturally insensitive. This article makes me want to go out of my way to be friendlier.

People don't usually get offended if you smile at them, right?
posted by chatongriffes at 4:30 PM on February 10 [1 favorite]


this comment stood out to me.

Like I said, I must have missed it (wasn't being sarcastic). I can't say I agree with that particular comment.

disagreeing with what though? her observations about her own life and experiences she had? i think it's a little loaded and maybe hostile to do that

I don't think anyone here is disagreeing with her experiences per se, and perhaps "disagree" was not the right word. I can only speak for myself, of course. But what I'm criticizing (that's the right word) is the notion that people should not be treated differently based on their clothing. My reasoning is that clothing can very much be a statement that others are free to react to, and in this particular case, it's reasonable for other people to feel that her hijab puts a distance between the wearer and non-hijab wearing Westerners.

As I said, I can only speak for myself, but I believe I have seen the same sentiment echoed by a lot of people in this thread. Perhaps you aren't including those statements when you're talking about the "hostile" reaction to the blogger's post, but you weren't super specific, so forgive me if I assumed incorrectly.
posted by Edgewise at 4:39 PM on February 10 [3 favorites]


chatongriffes, I confess I don't really know proper etiquette for American men greeting women in hijab, even though I live in an area of Michigan with a lot of women wearing them. I do smile and nod if I should make eye contact. Some smile and nod back, others just lower their eyes. Just like any other random person on the street or in the next car over.
posted by Roger Dodger at 5:03 PM on February 10 [2 favorites]


Maybe it's that I don't go around hitting on random women or initiating physical contact with strangers, but I've never felt doubt or need to treat women wearing hijabs or headscarves any differently from any other women. I also don't get all flustered over treating men from more conservative cultures any differently, a priori. Like with all people (especially strangers), I pay attention to how others are reacting to me and adjust accordingly.
posted by eviemath at 5:13 PM on February 10 [3 favorites]


Edgewise: it's reasonable for other people to feel that her hijab puts a distance between the wearer and non-hijab wearing Westerners.

Then, though, you're opening up a goddamn can of worms between group A who says "well fuck those people, they're a bunch of xenophobic assholes anyways", and group B who goes "Yea, but they exist, and you're being obtuse if you don't take into account a lot of people are like that, and a lot more have subconscious biases and reactions they'll have to it based on societal conditioning and whatnot, it's worth talking about".

And, unfortunately, a lot of discussions about this sort of thing are fucked to pieces by a circlejerk of the group a people going "well those people are assholes! are you an asshole too? do you hold those beliefs? sounds like it"

nadawi: disagreeing with what though? her observations about her own life and experiences she had? i think it's a little loaded and maybe hostile to do that. it's fair to discuss your own reaction to women wearing religious garb and even specifically the one under discussion (although maybe more illuminating to also discuss men's religious garb). it gets weird for me when people (some in this thread) expand that to suggesting that her observations about her surroundings are wrong.

I feel like this is a knifes edge thing. Because on one hand it's like, yea, don't shit on her ~lived experiences~, but on the other hand her experience is not universal and quite a few people are saying "this is how i've seen people react to this" or "These are the reactions i have" kind of stuff which is just as valid.

Is it as interesting or valuable as actually hearing it from someone on the receiving end of this crap? No, but this isn't black and white and it isn't completely valueless. And i definitely think that a lot of stuff in here is getting read as totally shitting on what she's saying when it's really just continuing the conversation.

Personally, i think this is interesting but i agree it's not deeply insightful or some great revelation. And i think that once again, people are gravitating to it either being worthless or amazing rather than somewhere in the middle and lobbing turds from each end.
posted by emptythought at 5:15 PM on February 10 [1 favorite]


Same here. I tried to treat her like any of the other women in our peer group and she refused to shake my hand. I was kind of offended by that even though I guess I shouldn't be? I dunno. To me, the hijab says "AVOID ME."

Are you being facetious, mattbucher? I feel like you're missing the point of jpdoane's original comment. Or maybe you don't know: In Islam, as in Orthodox Judaism, you're not supposed to touch unrelated members of the opposite sex.
posted by limeonaire at 5:44 PM on February 10 [2 favorites]


The free taxi ride thing is weird. Do they do that for Moslem men? Are they hitting on her?
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:04 PM on February 10 [1 favorite]


Are you being facetious, mattbucher?

No, I was being serious but I regret commenting in this thread at all. I was too flip and this is a complex issue. As jpdoane points out, It seems a difficult line to navigate.
posted by mattbucher at 6:45 PM on February 10 [3 favorites]


Same here. I tried to treat her like any of the other women in our peer group and she refused to shake my hand. I was kind of offended by that even though I guess I shouldn't be? I dunno. To me, the hijab says "AVOID ME."

Are you being facetious, mattbucher? I feel like you're missing the point of jpdoane's original comment. Or maybe you don't know: In Islam, as in Orthodox Judaism, you're not supposed to touch unrelated members of the opposite sex
.

Doesn't that just make a lot of people's points though? In secular western culture, people generally shake hands upon meeting. I'm going to go out on a limb here and state that it's also generally known that the hijab means "Muslim". Given those parameters (and not knowing a ton more), I think that it's reasonable for mattbutcher (or any other non-xenophobic person) to treat an Muslim person the same way that he would treat anybody else upon a first meeting. Yes, it's an act out of ignorance, but also obviously not out of hate or malice.

So, our non-asshole goes to shake the hand of a new hijabbed acquaintance and is rebuffed. It seems like "AVOID ME" is a reasonable connection to make between a woman and a hijab. Is this xenophobic? I don't think so... I feel like it's more acting out of respect for the way that hijab wearers choose to present themselves. There's obviously rules involved, but our non-asshole doesn't know them, but knows that interaction can break them, so chooses the safer path.

So, now take the author of TFA. All of a sudden, when she's not obviously wearing a hijab, some people are being more open (avoiding her less). There might still be a barrier there (I don't know the author's views on shaking hands with boys) but it's not being advertised anymore.
posted by sparklemotion at 7:12 PM on February 10 [6 favorites]


My reasoning is that clothing can very much be a statement that others are free to react to, and in this particular case, it's reasonable for other people to feel that her hijab puts a distance between the wearer and non-hijab wearing Westerners.

It's quite clear that this young woman was not expecting the level of distance that it was creating, and I don't think she's alone in this. I'm also really surprised by some of the comments in this thread--not in a "shame on you!" way (except for that turd about "the courage to give it up", which should've been deleted, IMO), but more by the prevailing assumption that only very conservative women wear hijab voluntarily or that it's intended to signify avoidance. There's plenty of writing to the contrary, which to me suggests that the problem here isn't with the author's assumptions, but broader ignorance about the diversity of motivations and political/social leanings of muhajabat.
posted by kagredon at 7:19 PM on February 10 [6 favorites]


When I was 14 or 15, my younger cousin, someone I'd known and played with since we were barely out of diapers, vanished to me. She's part of a radical Hasidic sect, and her family's modesty standards required that she not socialize with men outside of her immediate family. So what I'm going to say is colored by that experience, and by my decision to put most religious practices aside in my life.

Like everyone everywhere, we live in a society which has social conventions. Ignoring those conventions, or expecting them to not apply to you, is rude. You can choose to believe in a religion that obligates you to be rude to strangers, but both your belief and the degree to which you practice it are choices and you don't get to absolve yourself of the consequences of your own choices. Now the Hasidic folks pretty well revel in the fact that their weird outfits create separation and distance with unbelievers, it's part of the reason they wear them. If you don't want to be cut off from the society where you live, waving a big flag like a hijab, a strommel, or a 2-foot-high green mohawk is not going to help you much. And stoneweaver, that's what differentiates religion from race - you can't put on a hat and scarf and magically become a different race.
posted by 1adam12 at 9:28 PM on February 10 [2 favorites]


For what it's worth, I recently had a very similar experience to mattbucher --- greeting a colleague who was wearing a hijab in the same way I would any other, with a handshake. A moment of awkwardness ensued, but nothing catastrophic. But certainly being rebuffed when I was making a genuine effort to greet somebody did sting a bit. I'm not sure if "offense" is the right word for the emotion I felt, since it was also mixed with a bit of embarrassment.
posted by phenylphenol at 9:30 PM on February 10


Some social conventions are also just fucking stupid and/or primarily serve to exclude or other people.
posted by kagredon at 9:35 PM on February 10 [3 favorites]


As an American man, I would consider it rude to be "familiar" or informal with women who wear the hijab.

Yeah. It was a little weird to me when she compared the normal situation to bullying. Men failing to try to pick up on you when you're wearing a sartorial sign saying "I am not available to be picked up on" seems more hopeful than discriminatory.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:20 PM on February 10 [1 favorite]


Maybe just remember to smile once in a while, perhaps even say a few friendly words? It's really not all that difficult.
posted by iotic at 12:37 AM on February 11 [4 favorites]


I'd be fascinated to find out whether (and to what extent) the effect of her outfit would change if she was

- wearing some kind of out-group-marker clothing that doesn't have all the cultural baggage that Westerners bring to hijab.
- a man wearing identifiably Muslim clothing
- wearing a very western interpretation of hijab
- wearing very obviously modest western dress
- wearing flashy fashionable hijab

As far as I can see, a lady wearing hijab could be read as signalling "I'm a Muslim" but also "I'm religiously observant", "I'm a modest lady" or "I identify strongly with X country or X culture" and the responses to the hijab could be responses to any one of those things. It seems a little reductionist to lump it all in one bucket and call it a response to religious clothing.
posted by emilyw at 4:01 AM on February 11


When I was 14 or 15, my younger cousin, someone I'd known and played with since we were barely out of diapers, vanished to me. She's part of a radical Hasidic sect, and her family's modesty standards required that she not socialize with men outside of her immediate family. So what I'm going to say is colored by that experience, and by my decision to put most religious practices aside in my life.

I have a similar family experience - my father's sister and her family are strictly Orthodox, and for a long time were barely allowed to talk to us. The children are now adults and do reach out to the rest of the family more, and seem to regret that they were separated for so long from their own kin.


The hijab, while it CAN be a sign that someone is reluctant to interact with non-Muslims, is not, in and of itself an indicator that they can't or won't. Minneapolis has a large and diverse Muslim community, many of whom are recent immigrants. Some keep to their own communities for a variety of reasons, but as women in hijabs become more integrated into the fabric of society here, it becomes easier to read other social cues that indicate how they want to interact, and the hijab, while a religious and cultural signifier, becomes less and less of a barrier.

Of course, if you are wearing something that indicates to a group of people that you are one of them, they will treat you more warmly. And if you are wearing something that signifies that you are religiously observant, people will not want to offend you. But when that wall breaks down and we start talking to each other we learn some cool stuff.
posted by louche mustachio at 5:10 AM on February 11 [5 favorites]


Same here. I tried to treat her like any of the other women in our peer group and she refused to shake my hand. I was kind of offended by that even though I guess I shouldn't be? I dunno. To me, the hijab says "AVOID ME."

Not meaning to pile on and pick on just you mattbucher, you just phrased this thought, that other commenters had expressed as well, most succinctly and quotably.

It sounds like that individual opted out of a common (to her current location) social convention in a rather graceless way.

Generalizing from that one experience as you seem to indicate you've done is perhaps socially graceless as well.

As other commenters have pointed out, many different women wear hijabs for many different reasons and are comfortable with or seek many different levels of interactions with non-Muslims. Ignorance of this despite Muslim women in hijab being a growing demographic in some parts of the US is a perfectly acceptable excuse to treat the second hijab-wearing woman one meets ever in the same way that the first one told you she wanted to be treated, but once you get at least one differing viewpoint from a different woman in a hijab, the graceful response is to stop making assumptions; and perhaps proactively go out and learn more.

In any event, it is entirely possible to be welcoming and not othering toward someone while avoiding physical contact such as handshakes or explicitly sexual interactions such as hitting on someone. See, for example discussions as in past metafilter threads on how men can interact in friendly, social, and respectful ways with women at skeptics conferences or similar events (where the women, in any mode of dress, are in a minority and some male attendees may never have encountered other skeptical women in real life before, despite that being an increasing demographic in some parts of the US) without hitting on them or creepily cornering them in elevators or following them back to their hotel rooms.

On the clothing-specific front: no, making assumptions about what social interactions a person wants or doesn't want based on their sartorial choices is not really ok. It's not ok when someone assumes that a woman wants sex because of her clothing, and it's not ok when someone assumes that a woman wants to be socially ostracized because of her clothing.

The fact that the author seemed to be a bit bummed about losing a (relatively minor and backhanded) privilege of free cabs rides as one of the differences she noted when not obviously wearing a hijab does not invalidate this basic principle.
posted by eviemath at 7:30 AM on February 11 [3 favorites]


I'm really glad I read this piece and I'm glad she shared her experience.

(On a much sillier note, I am reminded of "I got it at TJ Maxx.")

My parents are from India. Cabdrivers from South Asia often ask where I'm from. Once in a while they sort of act like uncles - asking me how I am doing, whether I'm married and whether I have kids, in a caring way, the way people in my parents' culture would ask about their kids' friends. (If I'm feeling tired or nonsocial I can shut it down with one-word answers, but if I'm feeling chatty, it's nice to talk about our families.) The cabs I usually take are on a meter, so they can't just decide halfway through that the ride is free, but I fully believe that non-metered drivers would sometimes decide to give me a discount. I predict that male passengers would get into a "no no I insist" kind of haggling (I'm a woman and I would probably do this too).

If you are having trouble understanding it, maybe think of it this way: you get into a cab, and you and the driver recognize each other, because you used to live next door to each other, or he's an uncle you've met once or twice at family reunions, or you were in the same school and class. Now it's not just a customer service transaction; it's more like an acquaintance giving you a ride.

If I suddenly looked white to these South Asian cabdrivers, and we didn't make small talk about how often we go back, I'd feel a little sad.
posted by brainwane at 7:31 AM on February 11 [10 favorites]


it's not ok when someone assumes that a woman wants to be socially ostracized because of her clothing.

And yet a person is considered to be a boor if they don't pick up on the social cues of wearing earbuds or reading a book as an indication that someone doesn't want to be spoken to.

I'm with you that assuming that someone is available for conversation/flirting/sexual advances or whatever based on outward appearance alone is wrong, but assuming that wearing a symbol of a religious culture means that the wearer would prefer to interact with people of that same culture and not initiating engagement if you aren't part of her in-group seems perfectly reasonable to me. It's basically erring on the side of leaving her alone, which seems like a perfectly decent thing to do (but maybe that's just my introversion talking).
posted by sparklemotion at 7:55 AM on February 11 [2 favorites]


I'm really surprised by these comments by people who seem to think that women wearing hijab want to be left alone, should be avoided, or are deeply setting themselves apart from "Western" culture. Basically if you think that my guess is you're pretty sheltered. Wearing hijab is not the same thing as a nun's habit, or burqa, or even full Hasidic dress -like those things it's a signifier of culture, but it's also often a fashion statement. As has been said upthread, it's clothes.

Also I don't see how you can be "disagreeing" with the blogger here. She's talking about her experience. I think she phrases the reaction she gets from both Muslims and non Muslims in a questioning, intrigued way. She's noticing a new thing and trying to process it.

I feel like if this were from the perspective of a non Muslim person trying on hijab for a few days and blogging about it, no one would think there was something to be "disagreed" with.
posted by sweetkid at 8:03 AM on February 11 [9 favorites]


Men failing to try to pick up on you

what? that's not what this write up is about. it's really weird how focused this thread is on men and their interactions with women wearing a hijab since she wrote about how many different people reacted to her, women included.
posted by nadawi at 8:10 AM on February 11 [8 favorites]


There's probably a continuum here, but one can remove earbuds or put down a book if one's mood toward social interaction changes, whereas although one can take a hijab off or put it on as well, this is arguably far less common, since women often wear hijabs for reasons unrelated to introversion.

Even in the earbud and book reading cases, I think people can display the various signifiers with different intent. Sometimes, for example, public book readers are totally open to striking up a conversation, and that's why they took their book to the coffee shop and are looking up and around whenever people walk by; other times it is a way to avoid interaction when one needs to commute to work on the subway, and our reader has their head down, closed body posture, and is ignoring the world around them as much as possible. One can just as easily take cues around a woman in a hijab's openness to social interaction in the same manner.

In other words, I'm cool with the commenter above who said they had thought the hijab meant one thing based on an experience they had had, but were reconsidering and going to pay more attention in the future now that they had read the fpp and been exposed to an alternative. Reading the fpp and responding with "well what did she expect, the hijab is a leave-me-alone signifier" on the other hand strikes me a more akin to someone who would ignore a subway commuter's actual behavior of being closed, ignoring others around them, engaging intently in some solitary pursuit (reading, listening to music, whatever), and justify forcing social interaction on that person with "well what did they expect, subway riding entails being in close proximity with others?"
posted by eviemath at 8:18 AM on February 11 [6 favorites]


I feel like if this were from the perspective of a non Muslim person trying on hijab for a few days and blogging about it, no one would think there was something to be "disagreed" with.

That's a really astute comment. Coming at it from the other direction seems to be getting in the way of some people reading and absorbing the cultural differences. Which is a shame, because I always really value getting to read about someone's interaction of the world when it is very different from my own. It makes the world a richer place.
posted by stoneweaver at 8:57 AM on February 11


I want to believe that a hijab doesn't necessarily say anything about how a woman wants to interact with the world, but I have a hard time squaring that with statements like:

"...I started passing by hijabis on my walk to work who wouldn't acknowledge my existence. Here is the unspoken code: one stares until the other notices and then they exchange Salams. But it's as if I was just another passer by, with no significance to the wrap around my head."

So, here we have an author who strongly implies that there is a "significance to the wrap around [her] head", and she treats others differently based on whether they are wearing hijab or not. On the other hand, we've been given links to other authors who feel that it shouldn't make a difference. On the third hand, we've got guys in this thread who have anecdotal experience of violating boundaries getting chastised for "not knowing" about a tenet of Islamic culture that some women adhere to.

It's like the women at conferences example that was brought up before. Obviously, most women don't have a problem being spoken to in elevators by most men. Some women feel less comfortable about this than others, and some men are just creeps who say and do things that make women feel subhuman even in the most open of circumstances. Lots of men (and women) aren't super adept at reading when others might be feeling uncomfortable, so a reasonable rule is to err on the side of not initiating conversations with women in elevators. Not because all women need that, but because some do.

So, if it's not a settled issue, why is erring on the side of respect a bad thing?
posted by sparklemotion at 9:03 AM on February 11 [2 favorites]


Well what's erring on the side of respect here? Is it keeping one's distance so as not to inadvertently offend? Is it treating everyone exactly the same even at the risk of potential offense?
posted by Carillon at 9:20 AM on February 11 [1 favorite]


maybe it's just useful to consider that what some might think of as giving respect is actually ostracizing to the one receiving it. i really think she says it best at the end,

I pray one day, and soon, that people will be familiar enough with all other cultures and beliefs that they are not afraid or have reservations, and that the thing that stands out to them is not the wrap around my head, but the smile on my face.
posted by nadawi at 9:26 AM on February 11 [5 favorites]


i also really wish that the way men corner women to show their interest would stop being brought up. it's really not germane to the conversation.
posted by nadawi at 9:27 AM on February 11 [2 favorites]


(It's my understanding that) in places where wearing hijabs is traditional and everybody wears them, it's just a matter of being fully dressed when you're out in public. It doesn't really symbolize anything – though different styles of headscarves might.

It becomes a symbol of ethnic and religious difference or otherness when immigrant women wear them in places where wearing hijabs or headscarves isn't part of the local tradition, and isn't part of the local understanding of 'being fully dressed'.
posted by nangar at 9:49 AM on February 11 [1 favorite]


Maybe all men need blindfolds, arm and leg restraints to prevent looking, touching, or quickly moving towards women. It would be a start, anyway.

It has been suggested that blindfolding men would be a much more efficient use of fabric.

I stand by every woman's - make that every person's right to wear hijab or kippah or turbans or what ever way they feel that they should to fulfil their own sense of what is right and required.

But I roll my eyes so hard when anyone talks about the necessity of modesty so that bodies don't inflame eyes. Your eyes are your own responsibility - and if you don't like what you see, you should avert them already.
posted by jb at 10:13 AM on February 11


Well what's erring on the side of respect here? Is it keeping one's distance so as not to inadvertently offend? Is it treating everyone exactly the same even at the risk of potential offense?

That's a really good question. I feel like some of what's happening here is a situation of a little knowledge being a dangerous thing.

Most functional adults can make the connection between woman+hijab+existing in a culture where hijabs are not part of the mainstream dress=Muslim (usually). Lots of well meaning folks also have maybe heard a little bit about the social restrictions in some aspects of orthodox Muslim culture. They probably also (erroneously) assume some kind of a parallel between the level of religious conservatism of a woman in a hijab, and the level of religious conservatism a woman in, say, a nun's habit, or Amish bonnet.

So, a totally ignorant person would probably treat everyone the same. A well-meaning but still kinda clueless person might make the logical assumption than hijab=conservative=not super happy at having to deal with non-believers and err on the side of keeping his/her distance. A kinda clueless asshole would make the same connection and react in a hateful way.

I'd vote that "respect" means treating everyone the same, unless you are given a reason to treat them differently. Not to pick on mattbutcher _again_ but being told by a Muslim woman that she doesn't want to shake your hand is a perfectly valid reason to start to question how you treat Muslim women by default. Being told by other Muslim women that they don't want to be treated differently is all fine and good, but doesn't change the fact that you know that you do run the risk of offending some women. Is that enough of a reason to treat every woman you see wearing a hijab differently? I don't know.
posted by sparklemotion at 10:29 AM on February 11 [1 favorite]


i think the issue is taking what you know about one muslim woman and thinking it covers all muslim women. the internet is a wonderful and amazing place bursting with knowledge. if you meet someone from a culture unfamiliar to you and they react in a way you wouldn't expect, instead of saying "whelp, i guess i've learned to ignore muslim women so i don't get embarrassed again" someone could react with, "that was unfamiliar to me, i should learn more about that."
posted by nadawi at 10:33 AM on February 11 [6 favorites]


Well in this case it seems that learning means that there are a number of different reasons for wearing a similar garment and that's it's complicated. So in a general case when the individual in question is an unknown learning more doesn't seem to provide a decent generalized reaction to convey respect.
posted by Carillon at 10:37 AM on February 11


But the reason why this isn't like an xkcd comic, is that if someone tells you: "I want to be treated this way because I am X", it's not an unreasonable generalization to believe that "People who are X want to be treated this way". Getting more information is always admirable, but doesn't change the fact that you need to believe people when they tell you how they want to be treated.

The kicker of course, is when what you've learned about X is that interaction can be problematic, it makes it hard to learn about the wishes of the Xs around you.
posted by sparklemotion at 10:43 AM on February 11


learning more could clue people in that it's not always (or usually) worn to convey ultra religious conservatism which might change how they react in general to women who wear the hijab.
posted by nadawi at 10:47 AM on February 11 [2 favorites]


The kicker of course, is when what you've learned about X is that interaction can be problematic, it makes it hard to learn about the wishes of the Xs around you.

Except that you haven't learned interaction can be problematic, you've learned that some kinds of interaction may be unwelcome or interpreted differently, but rather than making note of that and adjusting the mode of interaction, you're throwing your hands up and saying "Well, I guess you and everyone like you just don't want to interact."
posted by kagredon at 10:56 AM on February 11 [4 favorites]


It's like the women at conferences example that was brought up before. Obviously, most women don't have a problem being spoken to in elevators by most men. Some women feel less comfortable about this than others, and some men are just creeps who say and do things that make women feel subhuman even in the most open of circumstances. Lots of men (and women) aren't super adept at reading when others might be feeling uncomfortable, so a reasonable rule is to err on the side of not initiating conversations with women in elevators. Not because all women need that, but because some do.

Omigod can we never bring up the elevator thing ever again on here? What a needlessly pithy bomb to drop by even bringing it up as an analogy.

Like, I'm on your side of this with the whole "using your previous experiences with people who seem to be part of the same group to shape what seems ok and respectful to do" thing here, but ugh.
posted by emptythought at 11:15 AM on February 11


Well right nadawi, but learning more would mean also knowing that it is sometimes and that it can be offensive. Not always, but without more information it's not clear which is which.
posted by Carillon at 12:20 PM on February 11


The way the word "respect" is being used in this thread is confusing me a little.

We're talking about women wearing hijab in settings where doing so isn't the norm/is relatively uncommon. So a woman wearing a hijab in those settings presumably understands that people she encounters may not understand the etiquette of her culture very well.

If the men she encounters when out in the world don't get up in her personal space, touch her or make flirty/sexual comments, then they've probably managed to meet her expectations of "respectful" behavior. Smiling briefly and saying "good afternoon" is probably not going to deeply offend her. It's part of the local culture and obviously innocent in intent.

Like this isn't very complicated, and honestly, that's how I would want strange men to behave around me, too.

Am I misunderstanding something?
posted by Narrative Priorities at 1:22 PM on February 11 [3 favorites]


Re: the handshaking -- Mom always taught me that when meeting a lady, a gentleman never extends his hand; it's the lady's choice on whether or not to shake hands.

Of course it sounds old-fashioned and even patronising; but the point of etiquette is to put the other person at ease, not to enforce social norms.
posted by phliar at 1:26 PM on February 11 [4 favorites]


"Men looked at me like I was actually approachable."

Given the point of the hijab (as I understand it) is to hide female beauty, reducing both female vanity and the lustful male gaze,... isn't this somewhat defeating its purpose? (Assuming by "approachable" she means in a romantic/sexual sense.)
posted by IAmBroom at 2:14 PM on February 11


Assuming by "approachable" she means in a romantic/sexual sense.

But why would you assume that? Aren't there plenty of other reasons for people to interact with each other in public, regardless of gender? Isn't "approachable" usually meant in a more neutral way than that when used in conversation?
posted by Narrative Priorities at 2:50 PM on February 11 [3 favorites]


brainwane, thank you for the explanation--it really helped me understand how it could be perceived as friendliness and familiarity without being overfamiliar/creepy.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 3:53 PM on February 11


Smiling briefly and saying "good afternoon" is probably not going to deeply offend her.

It's probably telling that you qualified that.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 4:40 PM on February 11


Telling.....in what way? And qualified how?
posted by Narrative Priorities at 6:26 PM on February 11 [1 favorite]


Telling.....in what way? And qualified how?

Qualified in that you chose to use "probably." Telling in that that's how a lot of the above reaction is couched. There's at best ambiguity if you choose to wear the hijab in Western society. Don't be surprised if the majority act ambiguously.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:34 PM on February 11


Smiling briefly and saying "good afternoon" is probably not going to deeply offend her.

It's probably telling that you qualified that.

Telling.....in what way? And qualified how?


If you have to use "probably", then the rules aren't as clear cut as we all might like. If you think that you might offend someone by doing something (even if you probably won't) it's a reasonable course of action to choose not to do the thing.
posted by sparklemotion at 6:36 PM on February 11 [1 favorite]


I used the word "probably" because I'm not Muslim or a woman who wears a hijab and I hesitate to presume to speak for that perspective.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 6:45 PM on February 11 [2 favorites]


By which I mean, I'm 100% confident that politely and non-sexually saying hello to someone on the street in an American city is a reasonable thing to do, but I hesitate to make difinitive statements about other people's perspectives and opinions on principle.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 6:50 PM on February 11 [3 favorites]


I used the word "probably" because I'm not Muslim or a woman who wears a hijab and I hesitate to presume to speak for that perspective.


As do those of us who don't presume to impose ourselves on them. Probably.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:50 PM on February 11 [2 favorites]


But how is being generically friendly and kind "imposing?" That's what I don't understand. And why the snide sarcasm?

This thread is completely mystifying.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 6:57 PM on February 11 [5 favorites]


So, fortunately, none of us have to presume in the case of TFA, because in TFA there is a Muslim woman who wears a hijab who is specifically telling us that she does like it when people smile and say "good afternoon" to her. In fact, in her case, having other people refrain from these simple daily pleasantries is something she finds unpleasant.

In my experience, she is far from unique in this perspective. In links that other commenters have provided as well, she is far from unique in this perspective. In my reading on overall cultures in predominantly Muslim countries, news reports from those countries, and reports and descriptions of people I know from those countries, Muslim women commonly and habitually exchange basic social pleasantries with people they don't know, men included. In my reading of news and cultural items about Muslim women in North America, they also commonly and habitually exchange basic social pleasantries with strangers. Anecdotes of Muslim women interacting with people in the non-Muslim world, happily and willfully, in fact abound.

There are probably more than one people, both Muslim and non, both female and non, who would be upset by someone else smiling and saying hello to them in a normal daily interaction between strangers. If your smiling and saying hello is really just smiling and saying hello, and not getting upset if the person doesn't smile or say hello back, or telling them to "give us a smile", or any of that obnoxious crap that women of all religions and cultural backgrounds also find obnoxious, then, again in my experience, it's more likely that the person has some other stuff going on in their mental or emotional life that makes even that small interaction difficult.

Muslim women as a general class, however, are not some bizarre alternate form of humanity who take offense at basic human verbal politeness, or who don't feel slightly unhappy and like they are invisible or being ignored when strangers they interact with don't acknowledge them or exchange simple pleasantries. Thinking so is ignorant.

But there are still parts of the US where one can never have met an actual Muslim person in person, and if one doesn't pay much attention to anything beyond local news, might never have heard of situation where Muslim women interact with strangers, so that's not a value judgement per se. Continuing to insist on this after you have been alerted to the reality of the situation, eg. in a metafilter thread such as this one where it has been pointed out that for many or most women who wear just a basic hijab, it's just clothes, falls under the heading of "That thing you just said was a racist thing to say."
posted by eviemath at 7:21 PM on February 11 [7 favorites]


Whether or not a random hypothetical Muslim woman wearing hijab will be offended by non Muslim people talking to her can be qualified by "probably" because Muslim women are not a monolith. They don't have committee meetings where they all decide how to interact with each other and non Muslims.

This is also why she describes apprehension when saying hello to other Muslim hijab wearers in the street - maybe they don't want to acknowledge or reach out in solidarity?

People are different.
posted by sweetkid at 7:29 PM on February 11 [5 favorites]


When I did mock job interviews with my Muslim students, we practiced refusing the handshake politely. It was something I hadn't thought of before and I'm really glad one of the kids asked about what to do because a lot of the students agreed that they were kind of worried about that.

Some kids thought they would just have to do it, despite religious misgivings if they ever wanted to get a job (with a non-Muslim interviewer) and were really relieved when we talked more about it. Most kids thought it was going to be this terrible thing right away when they met the person and it would ruin everything.

Only the kids who thought they would refuse had to practice it, but my class had more girls than boys, so we ended up with lots of girls practicing their refusal on other girls which everyone thought was so funny and reenforced the idea that it doesn't have to be this huge awkward thing.

Maybe the woman mattbucher met felt just as weird about it as he did. At any rate, I really appreciated this post and others that both allow me to see perspectives that are different from my own and encourage me to look again at parts of life I haven't yet examined.
posted by MsDaniB at 5:49 AM on February 14 [6 favorites]


Narrative Priorities: "Isn't "approachable" usually meant in a more neutral way than that when used in conversation?"

I don't know - but when I hear a woman saying "men find me more approachable now", it sounds like "men are more likely to flirt with me". YMMV.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:22 PM on February 14 [1 favorite]


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