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Hijabistas
May 23, 2009 10:48 AM   Subscribe

Chances are, if you live in a cosmopolitan urban centre, you'll have noticed how young muslimahs are growing ever more adventurous in their fashion choices. But taking the veil is no simple matter: the aspiring hijabi will need tips on how to tie her headscarf, as well as ideas on how to stay covered up and stylish all year round. Modesty is clearly no barrier to urban cool, as Elenany's see-them-want-them graphic-print dresses prove, although this year, certain trends are off limits. (previously)
posted by Elizabeth the Thirteenth (95 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
ANY FABRIC THAT HIGHLIGHTS YOUR CURVES THE WAY JERSEY DOES IS A DEFINITE HIJAB DON'T!

And it's a good thing, too, because men are all potential rapists who cannot control their urges when confronted with the seductive outline of a woman's figure.
posted by you just lost the game at 10:53 AM on May 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


Nice timing. I'm fresh from a walk along the Arabian/Persian Gulf.

Suffice to say plenty of Arab women have come up with all sorts of ways to cover their bodies, wear a headscarf and look fashionable, lovely and in some cases, sexy sexy sexy.

One example: mini skirt way above the waist and all the legs covered by thigh-high white boots.
posted by ambient2 at 10:56 AM on May 23, 2009


I'm embarrassed to admit that though I must have seen thousands of young muslim women walking round, I only noticed that they were wearing more typically "Western" clothes, and not that this might be a conscious and deliberate process. I just thought they were simply trying to adopt these fashions as much as possible while remaining within their cultural norms, not that it had its own rationale.

To be honest though, I've seen some women get it kinda wrong. I remember a few weeks ago a group of three women wearing tracksuits and hijabs to satisfy the religious need, and short skirts and low-cut tops over the top of that. Seriously interesting predicament/statement.
posted by Sova at 11:04 AM on May 23, 2009


thigh-high white boots.

Was it warm there? Because that sounds incredibly uncomfortable.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:04 AM on May 23, 2009


Mini-skirt above the waist? I've seen some pretty skimpy mini-skirts over the years, but...
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:05 AM on May 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


And it's a good thing, too, because men are all potential rapists who cannot control their urges when confronted with the seductive outline of a woman's figure.

Under Sharia law, women are blamed for rapes and are punished for them, along with the men. Hiding themselves as thoroughly as possible would seem prudent.
posted by Malor at 11:05 AM on May 23, 2009


> Under Sharia law, women are blamed for rapes and are punished for them, along with the men. Hiding themselves as thoroughly as possible would seem prudent.

The fact that women are still punished for being raped, even if they're covered head to toe in the most modest and figure-concealing outfits imaginable, suggests to me that idea behind the hijab may not be entirely about protecting women.
posted by you just lost the game at 11:11 AM on May 23, 2009 [7 favorites]


Nice post, thanks. (Can we skip the LOLRELIGION trolling this time around the track?)
posted by languagehat at 11:13 AM on May 23, 2009 [7 favorites]


And it's a good thing, too, because men are all potential rapists who cannot control their urges when confronted with the seductive outline of a woman's figure.

You really don't understand the concept that there are different cultures and different ways of looking at the world other than your own, right?

Cool and interesting post.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:15 AM on May 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


It's not trolling veils are the definition of "uptight' the very opposite of "cool". Next thing we'll be having post about how rock and roll Christian punk bands are, and yes the usual Metafilter scolds will scold you if you laugh at them, too.
posted by dydecker at 11:20 AM on May 23, 2009


Awesome links, awesome fashion, awesome post. Is it weird I kind of want to start wearing the hijab sometimes now?

Pros: No more bad hair days, looking super cute in my stylish headscarf
Con: Getting harassed by xenophobic rednecks

Outcome: Tossup
posted by Captain Cardanthian! at 11:27 AM on May 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


When I cover myself, I make it virtually impossible for people to judge me according to the way I look. I cannot be categorized because of my attractiveness or lack thereof.

On the one hand I feel like that is an internesting point, but on the other hand, I wonder if it is a rationalization for why her parents make her dress like that.
posted by silkygreenbelly at 11:35 AM on May 23, 2009


My college (go Hunter!) had a huge amount of Muslimahs who wore the hidjab and I was always impressed with how natural they made it look. There was a band of indie-punk girls who wore black jeans and chucks with simple hidjabs. What can you say really? Even if you disagree with the principles behind it, its up to them in the end. Great post, I'm fascinated by the Western hidjab now and wonder what it looks like to Muslims in countries where Sharia law is the determining factor.
posted by thankyoujohnnyfever at 11:46 AM on May 23, 2009


er, way above the knees. It's a crisp 80-85 at night so I assume it was comfortable.

We tend to run for warm coats when it dips below 60.
posted by ambient2 at 11:55 AM on May 23, 2009


While I wouldn't want to be required by my religion or society to dress in a certain way, especially for the sake of modesty which is a value I don't believe in, the snark going on in this thread is pretty overheated and obnoxious.

I think when commenting on a culture that is very different than one's own, or with which one has limited experience, it is wise to dial back the sarcasm lest one come off as insensitive.
posted by mai at 11:59 AM on May 23, 2009 [5 favorites]


And regarding the post itself, I think the diversity of fashions adopted by women wearing hijab is interesting given the way it highlights tensions between modesty/not wanting to be seen as a sexual being or sex object on the one hand, and on the other hand an interest in fashion and appearance to the outside world.

A tension which, I might add, happens for non-hijab-wearing women too, just on different terms.
posted by mai at 12:02 PM on May 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


The drive behind the Elenany brand is a DNA-deep commitment to designing for our customers’ needs
Sorry, in any culture that is an alarmingly bad brand statement. Ugh.
posted by Antidisestablishmentarianist at 12:03 PM on May 23, 2009


One thing I've noticed about the hijab wearing girls around Montreal who are my age- They all put more effort into their costume than I do, in the name of modesty, and end up coming across as more feminine and sexual in their form fitting tunics and perfect makeup than I do stomping about in my loose sweaters and ponytail, sans makeup. Maybe they only do it to dress up, and on off days they look just like I do on mine. However, if you have more frills than a sea anemone, it's not modesty, it's chastity, and when you see girls in full head wraps tottering about on spike heels, sometimes it's just a different culture, and one that makes a bigger deal out of sexuality than the one I'm used to does.
posted by Phalene at 12:03 PM on May 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


Great links! A lot of the muslimahs where I grew up had pretty lax restrictions- mostly just a headscarf beyond normal clothing (plus the standard Seattle hoodie), but I could totally see them rocking some of that.
posted by yeloson at 12:03 PM on May 23, 2009


Toronto is fairly cosmopolitan. Seeing traditional dress from many different cultures is no longer notable.

I've had the chance to work closely with several Muslims, men and women, over the years. In my experience, they were charming, eloquent, easy-going, and fun-loving, and they were tolerant in the extreme of our cussing/drinking/looser ways, without abandoning or betraying their own dignity and values.

Observing and interacting with my Muslim friends has shown me how obsessed Western mainstream culture often is with being 'BAAAAD'. It is, after all, still possible to hang with friends without necessarily drinking, fighting or wrecking stuff, or to have a relationship that requires jumping in the sack after 3 dates. And - surprise - a young Muslim woman in jeans, fancy shirt and jet black hijab... not unattractive.

It's important to me that in our culture no one is obligated to wear something if they don't want to (within the current social norms, sorry nudists). At the same time, I don't think less of someone for freely choosing to follow other customs or beliefs. Rock that hijab, girl.
posted by Artful Codger at 12:04 PM on May 23, 2009 [7 favorites]


Minneapolis has a sizable Somali population, and there's definitely a spectrum in how seriously women take the hijab requirements-women walking around in black jibabs, women wearing headscarves and long, flowing skirts, women dressed all in western clothing but covering their head, women walking around with their cell phones tucked into their headscarf for hands-free phone use, women with the headscarf tied so that they can show off their array of ear piercings . . .

It's clothing, not an instrument of evil. Nobody should be stoned for not wearing one, but nobody should be treated like they're inferior for wearing one. I don't go around walking around in only a bra-not because I think I'll be raped because I don't have a shirt on, but because I'd feel weird and embarrassed and don't want everyone to stare. I don't feel all that oppressed by this fact.

Besides-this is Minnesota-everybody gets weird looks for going outside without a headcovering some months of the year.
posted by dinty_moore at 12:06 PM on May 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Really interesting post.

Also, I couldn't differentiate the song in this YT clip about how to tie a hijab from anything on Christian pop stations (except, of course, for the references to Allah). I guess it didn't occur to me that there would be "mainstream" English-language Muslim pop. Anyone know the artist/title?
posted by desjardins at 12:09 PM on May 23, 2009


While on the one hand I am happy that Muslim women want to be sexy and fashionable, despite what the Muslim orthodoxy says regarding mandatory hijab for women once they hit puberty, the whole hijab-can-be-fashionable-and-pretty movement demonstrates what is so wrong with those who ascribe to the Muslim orthodoxy (including those who believe that women must cover their heads/not reveal their hair): for a woman to not have her head covered is immodest, but to wrap an innovative hijab or one with flashy colors is more acceptable!? The Muslim orthodoxy is totally sexually repressed, hypocritical and totally confused; it is an anachronism begging for a reformation.

Whenever I read about th hijab, I am always reminded of something one of the most coquettish and sultry (Muslim) women in our Parliament said to the leader of a religious (and generally odious) political party: Respected Cleric, why does Islam have such a problem with women's hair? After all, all chemistry occurs between the eyes? Needless to say, the cleric was unable to muster a retort.
posted by Azaadistani at 12:16 PM on May 23, 2009 [4 favorites]


Building on Artful Codger's tangent - I knew a few guys from Qatar when I was in college. They were complete gentlemen to me and other women, and they were utterly baffled as to why their classmates felt the need to go out drinking and get laid every weekend. I went to a music festival with two of the guys and they were probably the happiest, most enthusiastic people there, despite being the only sober ones there. I hate to extrapolate from 3 guys to an entire culture, but I have to wonder if the hijab affects how they treat all women, since there are very defined boundaries that they do not cross. I felt totally respected and I knew I wouldn't be hit on.
posted by desjardins at 12:16 PM on May 23, 2009


Respected Cleric, why does Islam have such a problem with women's hair?

It's not just Islam.
posted by desjardins at 12:19 PM on May 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm a totally live-and-let-live person, but hijabs drive me crazy. Of course, I wholeheartedly believe in anyone's right, male or female, to wear whatever they wish however they wish, or to wear nothing at all. I think public nudity should be perfectly legal.

The frustrating conundrum for these women is that their culture tells them they must wear the hijab to protect their modesty, and our western culture tells them that to wear the hijab is to support the oppression of women and the infantilization of men. Either way they are the victims of someone else's scorn.

In the end, when you are used to wearing something your whole life and are surrounded by people wearing the same thing, it seems natural, and when you don't wear it, you probably feel naked. For example, many men would feel perfectly comfortable wearing Speedos in the swimming pool, but would freak out to be seen walking around in public in only a pair of bikini briefs. There's literally no difference between the two, and yet one is acceptable and the other isn't because of culture and social context.

The truth of the matter is, protecting your modesty and shielding yourself from judgment do not require a hijab. Hundreds of millions of Western women do it every day. Teaching our children, male and female, to respect others, not to judge, to love themselves and not to be bothered by the judgments of others can be very effective, without the need to say "if you're afraid of judgment, simply hide yourself from those who would judge you."

From my point of view, wearing the hijab is simply a cultural artifact, and arguments about the hijab protecting modesty and shielding the wearer from judgment are simply rationalizations for a cultural habit -- a habit as perfectly legitimate as men wearing suits and ties, but a habit nonetheless.
posted by PigAlien at 12:23 PM on May 23, 2009 [6 favorites]


PigAlien: Habit or cultural norm, it's still very difficult to support or encourage something primarily based on misogyny. It's very interesting how the habit has been adjusted to fit the more contemporary reality of our time, but it's still disheartening in the extreme.
posted by odinsdream at 12:43 PM on May 23, 2009


Odinsdream: just to clarify, I don't support or encourage the hijab. I was simply pointing out that for those women for whom it is a cultural habit and are living in a Western world, they are in a difficult situation where they are scorned no matter which choice they make, and that their justifications for wearing the hijab when living in our Western culture are simply rationalizations of what amounts to a cultural habit.
posted by PigAlien at 12:58 PM on May 23, 2009


pigalien, odinsdream... could it be possible that some Muslim women wear the hijab as a voluntarily-worn public acknowledgment of their faith, and not out of fear or habit?

Or are you prepared to also take on the sartorial eccentricities of Orthodox Jews, or the Omish, or Sikhs?

The problem with "political correctness" is that when you get down to it, no-one's got it 100% right, and what's PC today will be vilified tomorrow. Besides, maybe we're the stupid ones for NOT covering the head during the daytime.
posted by Artful Codger at 1:04 PM on May 23, 2009 [4 favorites]


While stories like this are interesting in their descriptions of creativity in the face of repression, I just wish people would realize that lots of Muslim women, including religious ones, do not wear hijab. The many women in my family don't (except for a couple of crazy ones). I never have and never will. It is something that has driven me mad for a number of years. Until there is mandatory hijab for both sexes, I am not interested in wearing it and I do not support it. Most of the women I've known who don it are either new converts or from deeply repressive families where there is no chance that the female children will receive a secondary education. I know this is not the case throughout the Islamic world but I have a hard time believing the arguments for hijab.

That "Islamic Don't" site is frightening, talk about angels dancing on the head of a pin...
posted by nikitabot at 1:06 PM on May 23, 2009 [6 favorites]


Sarah Maple's art relies purely on her being attractive and Muslim. Much of her inspiration originated from being brought up as a Muslim, with parents of mixed religious and cultural backgrounds. Understandably, issues of identity are of huge interest to her.
posted by netbros at 1:13 PM on May 23, 2009


The simple fact is, much of Western fashion in general seems to overlook the fact that modest clothing is generally more beautiful and elegant. But when it comes down to it, less fabric not only means generally less stylish, beautiful, elegant clothing... it means more profit for the big companies making the clothes.

They run a BIG business predicated upon selling you as little as possible, at the highest mark-up they can get. Why would they ever market you fashions that were more elegant, if it used additional fabric to do so?

Can anyone honestly say that women who dress inappropriately garner equal respect or are equally appealing as those who do not?

I like what Sarah Ansari, a Californian small business owner, had to say about the hijab:

"Challenging traditional gender roles, I tried to reconcile my dreams with the reality of being a Pakistani Muslim woman. I never could understand how God, the Fair and the Just, could create one half of humanity inferior and subservient to the other half. . . Islam came over 1,400 years ago and gave women rights unheard of in those days: right to marry of one's free will, right to divorce, and right to inheritance. It was Khadijah, a business woman, 40 years old and widowed, who first proposed to and married the Prophet Muhammad, who was her employee and 15 years her junior. That is pretty emancipated even by today's standards - and it happened 1,400 years ago!

Yet in my modern day experience, everywhere I looked, regardless of geography, culture or faith, it seemed that women were valued for their youth, their beauty, their bodies . . . used to sell everything from beer, to cars to cigarettes; but it was men who represented intellect, and sold information and ideas.

My girls were bombarded with a never ending stream of latest fashions and fads . . . But we happily walked the tightrope, balancing our Islamic faith with our American culture. . .

Then 9-11 happened.

Everything changed. The hijackers didn't just hijack airplanes and kill thousands of innocents, they hijacked our faith . . . What did it mean to be a Muslim woman? . . . Why was the . . . hijab such a politically charged symbol? . . . What represented being civilized? Being covered, or being naked? . . .

What does a modest dressing woman stand for? Regardless of faith, she stands for the belief that a woman should be appreciated for her intellect and not valued for the shape of her body. In electing to cover herself, she is not oppressed: She is empowered. She challenges people around her to look past her exterior, to the strength and beauty that lies within. To me this notion transcends geography, religion and culture."

posted by markkraft at 1:23 PM on May 23, 2009 [4 favorites]


I do not think this is a new trend. I recall, while living in Philadelphia, the diversity of dress that the black muslim women would wear. Riding Broad Street line to downtown there were women dressed in full head-to-toe black garb, some wore muted color headscarfs and sober dress and other women dressed in sexy skintight urban-wear and glittery shiny hijabs.

Also, I recall being at a fabric store in Philly (can't recall the name) and a young muslim woman coming up to me and asking me for help in picking out fabric she could use for her hijab. She seemed very interested in the most brightly colored and expensive looking materials in the store. I told her I knew nothing about fashion (I was there with a girlfriend) but I said that I was a big fan of pink and green together. I pulled out a roll of pink and green striped material and gave it to her. She seemed to really like it.

This was almost ten years ago.
posted by runcibleshaw at 1:28 PM on May 23, 2009


AAnd it's a good thing, too, because men are all potential rapists who cannot control their urges when confronted with the seductive outline of a woman's figure.

posted by you just lost the game


Epony-frickin-sterical.
posted by jokeefe at 1:31 PM on May 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


"could it be possible that some Muslim women wear the hijab as a voluntarily-worn public acknowledgment of their faith, and not out of fear or habit?"

Well, since I believe that faith is generally a habit, the two do not contradict each other... After all, most people in the world share the same faith as their parents and the broader culture to which they belong. Even when people change faiths, they enthusiastically adopt the cultural habits of the faith community they join in an effort to feel more closely identified with that community.
posted by PigAlien at 1:32 PM on May 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


It's still very difficult to support or encourage something primarily based on misogyny.

Like pretty much all western wedding traditions, including the very definition? American laws preventing women from going topless like a man? Christianity? Every Western government?

Not so difficult. We find ways to manage.
posted by Hildegarde at 1:37 PM on May 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


Does hijab also apply to the men? This is where I am always struck by the disconnect. I thought the point behind hijab was modesty, so how is it that the men are not also covered (so to speak) by this restriction? Hands, face and feet seems like it should be the standard across the board, regardless of gender, and in traditional Arab dress, at any rate, this is what you see. So why do Muslim men in western cultures get a pass, while the women don't?

Great post and discussion.
posted by nax at 1:38 PM on May 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


I rather liked this. I love the imagination that went into many of these designs.

"When I cover myself, I make it virtually impossible for people to judge me according to the way I look. I cannot be categorized because of my attractiveness or lack thereof."

- On the one hand I feel like that is an internesting point, but on the other hand, I wonder if it is a rationalization for why her parents make her dress like that.


I can understand that, but I've heard a number of Muslim women of varying ages say this as well. Some were raised Muslim, others converted later in life. It does seem to be a common POV.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:38 PM on May 23, 2009


Chains made of gold and silk are still chains
posted by bottlebrushtree at 1:42 PM on May 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


"I think the diversity of fashions adopted by women wearing hijab is interesting given the way it highlights tensions between modesty"

"They all put more effort into their costume than I do, in the name of modesty"

"for a woman to not have her head covered is immodest, but to wrap an innovative hijab or one with flashy colors is more acceptable!? The Muslim orthodoxy is totally sexually repressed, hypocritical and totally confused; it is an anachronism begging for a reformation."

"The frustrating conundrum for these women is that their culture tells them they must wear the hijab to protect their modesty"


These are absolutely false assumptions. And in fact, directly buying into the patriarchal misogyny that people say they are against, in trying to understand why precisely Muslim women cover their hair. All you're doing, is listening to the loudest orthodox voice.

Speaking as a former hijabi, there are many many many different, overlapping, and frequently clashing reasons why a Muslim woman/girl wears hijab. Sometimes it is for modesty, yes.

Buy Sometimes she wears it because it gives her status and respect.
Sometimes she wears it because it's a fun, cute fashion accessory.
Sometime she wears it not because the men or elders in her family force her, but makes her feel more comfortable in her group of peers.
Sometimes girls wear it as a direct "fuck you" to the over-sexualization of women.
Sometimes girls wear it because they want to feel sexy.
Sometimes they wear it for religion.
Sometimes they wear it for strictly cultural reasons.
Sometimes they change their mind and take it off entirely, re-adopt the hijab, or switch their reasons.
Sometimes they wear it to send a "fuck you" to their very "assimilated" Muslim parents, and as an attempt to re-find their heritage or roots.
And maybe when your progressive Muslim dad tells you not to wear it, you wear it to piss him off and rebel against him.

I've known Muslim girls and women who've worn it for all of these reasons and more.

Buying into this modesty business is directly buying into what the conservative fundies want you to believe - you may say it's such a backwards concept, you may say it's a way of trying to control a girl or woman, you may say it's making women feel guilty or ashamed of their sexual power. But you're just supporting the same exact game of telling a Muslim woman what she should or should not do, instead of asking her what she wants.
posted by raztaj at 1:50 PM on May 23, 2009 [33 favorites]


Can anyone honestly say that women who dress inappropriately garner equal respect or are equally appealing as those who do not?

Dressing inappropriately and dressing immodestly are not necessarily the same thing. Both things are so dependent on one's culture that generalizing across cultural boundaries is very difficult. For instance, it may be inappropriate of me to remain clothed at a nudist beach. At such a beach, it would be neither inappropriate nor immodest to be naked.

In electing to cover herself, she is not oppressed: She is empowered. She challenges people around her to look past her exterior, to the strength and beauty that lies within. To me this notion transcends geography, religion and culture."

Implicit in this is the notion that still it's okay for other people to judge you based on what you wear. I know we don't live in the ideal world, and that people will and do judge other people based on their clothing (or lack of it). But this statement from markkraft's link could also work the other way around: "In choosing to wear whatever makes her feel most comfortable and best represents who she feels she is [even if that's short-shorts and a tube top], she empowers herself. She challenges people around her to look past her exterior, to the strength and beauty that lies within."
posted by rtha at 2:09 PM on May 23, 2009


Nice post, thanks. (Can we skip the LOLRELIGION trolling this time around the track?)

It's a post about religion. How are you going to escape criticism?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:10 PM on May 23, 2009


You really don't understand the concept that there are different cultures and different ways of looking at the world other than your own, right?

In my culture, it's acceptable to club women on their heads with dinosaur femurs and drag them back to my cave. If I create a blog celebrating the different kinds of dinosaur femurs I can use to club said women, am I being a jackass? Or am I being "multicultural?"
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:14 PM on May 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


CPB, I'd recommend reading raztaj's comment if you really do think this post is about religion.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 2:22 PM on May 23, 2009


Raztaj, you're point that women wear the hijab for many reasons does not make the statement that their culture tells them to wear the hijab for reasons of modesty untrue. My mom can tell me to go take a bath because I need to be clean, and I can take a bath because I like the feeling of water on my naked body and playing with rubber ducks! The two are not mutually exclusive. Whatever reason women give for wearing the hijab, the islamic culture from which it stems -- and many other, such as the jews, catholic nuns, etc. -- declares that they should cover their heads and/or bodies to preserve their modesty. You cannot deny that. You only reinforced the very point I was trying to make -- women who cover themselves in Western society cannot win; whatever choice they make will be criticized. In the end, they should be allowed to wear whatever the hell they want.

As for women oppressing habits and customs in Western culture, such as the aforementioned Western wedding traditions, those are continually challenged and are constantly evolving. Most women no longer promise to 'obey' their husbands...
posted by PigAlien at 2:23 PM on May 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


In what respect do daisy dukes and a tube top challenge people to look past someone's exterior?

It may be a fashion challenge, certainly... but unlike more modest clothing, it doesn't actually *lend* itself to looking past someone's exterior, to the strength and beauty that lies within.

What the writer was clearly indicating was not that the hijab is a challenge, but that men -- and sometimes even women -- frequently have a hard time taking other women as seriously as they take men.

That's the challenge being put forth by the writer... most certainly not this one.

Now, of course, you may think that's unfair. But hey... this guy might feel the same way too.
posted by markkraft at 2:24 PM on May 23, 2009


OMG, "your point"... How could I make such mistake? LOL Haste!
posted by PigAlien at 2:24 PM on May 23, 2009


"such a mistake?" okay, no more corrections, I shall in future live with my errors!
posted by PigAlien at 2:25 PM on May 23, 2009


It's a post about religion. How are you going to escape criticism?

Um, no. It's a post about fashion and its social agendas. Sorry to disappoint.
posted by Elizabeth the Thirteenth at 2:27 PM on May 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


At my university there were lots of girls who wore hijabs. There was also a girl who wore a full burka. She always looked lonely to me until I saw her hanging out and laughing with a bigger group of friends than I had at the time. Stupid snap judgments.
posted by odayoday at 2:31 PM on May 23, 2009


PigAlien,

I am not denying that some women/girls are forced to wear the hijab. I am not pretending that some of the the originating reasons of how the issue of "modesty" became to be a relevant issue in Islam (in part from pre-Islamic, in part from Muhammad's jealousy) is pretty twisted. (I highly recommend Fatima Mernissi and Leila Ahmed if you want to know more about the originating developments about women in Islam. They are brilliant)

But what Muslim women wear or don't wear now doesn't really carry the same value as it did then, just like you and your bath. I don't think this is that much about overly exoticizing Muslim women - I mean to an extent, yes, but it is a double edged sword for women in the United States (and most places); what they choose to wear, and why is public, it becomes public domain, up for public debate, criticizing, etc. But you mentioned this. And I agree with you that conventional subservience of Women in "the West" is changing - the problem is, if you think this is not also true for Muslim women, you're either only listening to the loudest voices, and still somehow categorizing Muslim women as somehow "not Western," and as something forever foreign. Like, as if these are opposing, instead of overlapping categories.
posted by raztaj at 2:43 PM on May 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


you may say it's such a backwards concept, you may say it's a way of trying to control a girl or woman, you may say it's making women feel guilty or ashamed of their sexual power. But you're just supporting the same exact game of telling a Muslim woman what she should or should not do, instead of asking her what she wants.
posted by raztaj at 1:50 PM on May 23 [9 favorites -] Favorite added! [!]


you may say I'm a dreamer... but I'm not the only one
posted by infini at 2:54 PM on May 23, 2009


This discussion saddens me in many ways, particularly the "patriarchal OMG oppression" reactions. I suggest listening carefully to what these women are actually saying before jumping in with "Help help she's being repressed", you know? I had a professor once who in the course of addressing this subject noted that "What's better? Compulsory nudity or compulsory covering?" On one hand, you have the fashion standard for Western women which demands the display of the female body and which judges that body by rigorous, even viscious, standards; on the other the covering of the body occuring in a context of legal and social inequality. I'm not sure it's my place to make judgements on why Muslim women might choose to wear the hijab, but I certainly appreciate the creativity evident in these links, and the resistance to objectification. (Also, those dresses by Elenany are fantastic.)
posted by jokeefe at 3:00 PM on May 23, 2009 [4 favorites]


There are quite a few hijab wearing women at UBC (Vancouver, Canada) and their dress is as diverse as anyone else not wearing hijabs from frumpy-going-to-morning class to cute/hip to dressed-to-the-nines outfit-costs-my-paycheck.

Also, isn't the allure of lingerie, to a certain extent, to conceal and hint at what's underneath?
posted by porpoise at 3:04 PM on May 23, 2009


right, time to speak up here, its not just muslim always to have/want to cover oneself in loose shapeless clothing. unlike far more 'conditioned' OECD countries where yes indeed half the population doesn't try to rape you constantly with their eyes, the problem in much of the developing world where sex, sexuality, dating etc is highly repressed or submerged by local cultures, is the local equivalent of all pervasive 'eve teasing' (as she is known)

now, in a situation like that, you can either be an idiot and walk around in mini skirt and then scream about the half a billion men who'll take you for fair game OR you can blend in with your clothing, pragmatically, for peace of mind

on the ground, in the field, until the day comes when you change the thinking and mindset and value system of half a billion men or more, you just gotta get real and wear that veil

c'est la vie

i don't know what this means, to be honest, on the moral, ethical, philosophizing platform and women's rights, I just know that when I went to India in the early eighties after high school I just couldn't deall with the 'hungry male look' that was constant and all pervasive
posted by infini at 3:09 PM on May 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


In what respect do daisy dukes and a tube top challenge people to look past someone's exterior?

It may be a fashion challenge, certainly... but unlike more modest clothing, it doesn't actually *lend* itself to looking past someone's exterior, to the strength and beauty that lies within.


I suppose it depends on what the "modest clothing" is, but if it's something as culturally loaded (in the U.S., at least) as hijab, that isn't going to encourage (most) people to look past the exterior of a woman wearing it. Amish women also dress modestly, but the style and type of their dress sets them apart (as it is meant to), and I can't imagine that most people who see someone wearing clothing like that is going to go "Oh, she's dressed modestly, so I'll pay more attention to what she says than what she's wearing." It's a marker, and most people are still going to pay more attention to the marker itself - at first, at least - than they will to the person wearing the marker.

Here's an average person (let's stipulate American, male, heterosexual) who sees two women walking down the street, one in hijab and one in a tube top and daisy dukes (thanks, by the way - I had brainfreeze when it came to that name and couldn't bring it mind when I posted my earlier comment):

About the daisy dukes wearer: Look at those (boobs) (legs)!

About the woman in hijab: Look at that Muslim!

In each case, the viewer has certain preconceived ideas about those women, and each set of preconceived ideas interferes with the ability to see her inner beauty and strength.

The idea that wearing hijab communicates only what the woman who wears it intends to communicate is as false, since no one operates in a vacuum.

Clothing is costume is performance is message, and the wearer doesn't always have much or any control over how people interpret that message. Wear what you like and be who you are. If hijab makes you feel comfortable and confident and empowered, go for it. Likewise the daisy dukes and tube top. There's no use pretending that just because you dress "modestly" people are going to ignore the way you dress, or are going to think more about your inner strength and beauty than they are about what you wear, because that's not how most people work (again, in the U.S.).
posted by rtha at 3:21 PM on May 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


STUNNINGGGGGGGGGG !!!!!!!!!!!
posted by vorpal bunny at 3:44 PM on May 23, 2009


Living in my (majority Turkish/Muslim) neighborhood in Berlin has helped drive home the truth of raztaj's statement, and helped me see the variety of ways women wear the hejab and the reasons why the wear it.

The comment reminded me of a picture I took of some of the girls in the neighborhood on the day of the Germany/Turkey soccer match last summer that I thought embodies the creative license available to women within the framework of hejab and the avenues for individual expression that it can offer those who chose to wear it. If you'll forgive the self-link, it's here.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 3:52 PM on May 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


Raztaj, I didn't mean to imply that modesty or the desire not to be sexualized are the only reasons for women to wear hijab. That certainly isn't true of the women I know who wear them. I was pointing to this particular tension as highlighted by the links in the post, the last one of which makes a big thing about modesty and how it should dictate the way women dress.
posted by mai at 4:27 PM on May 23, 2009


The comments in the "previously" Mefi post are making my head hurt. Bigotry ahoy! and wtf borneo cannibals?
posted by divabat at 6:03 PM on May 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


I had a professor once who in the course of addressing this subject noted that "What's better? Compulsory nudity or compulsory covering?"

You and your professor both know that nowhere in the world is nudity compulsory, unlike in countries like Iran, Saudi Arabia or places like Aceh in Indonesia where women must cover their heads by law.

I feel most sorry for feminist theories when they have to make false allies out of the most bigoted and backward strains of thought in the world. "The enemy of my enemy is my friend" in action.
posted by dydecker at 7:34 PM on May 23, 2009


I feel most sorry for feminist theories when they have to make false allies out of the most bigoted and backward strains of thought in the world. "The enemy of my enemy is my friend" in action.

I can't really see how you can extrapolate from jokeefe's comment in any way, shape or form that she condones repressive government practices, seeing how she is quite specifically imploring that people listen to what the women have to say about their reasons for wearing what they wear, and that the women featured here are living in democratic countries. I also find the "enemy of my enemy is my friend" remark confusing, in that I don't know who the common enemies of both feminists and repressive regimes are.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:59 PM on May 23, 2009


I don't know who the common enemies of both feminists and repressive regimes are.

No, in the feminist mind, the common foe between themselves and Muslim women is the men who are telling them what to wear.
posted by dydecker at 8:03 PM on May 23, 2009


or the society if you get what I mean.

Anyway, i find the whole thing bogus. I spent a few years of my life listening to what conservative Muslim women (and men) have had to say in places like Malaysia, Indonesia and India, and you'll never find a demographic of greater defenders of repression, oppression and unfairness if you tried. All in the name of "religion". It's nonsense, and there is nothing fabulous about its symbols at all.
posted by dydecker at 8:10 PM on May 23, 2009


I'd recommend clicking the links. The women featured are living in Manchester and Norwich. But it seems whatever they say for themselves, on their own behalf, in a democratic country, you've decided they're brainwashed or lying, so I guess there's no point.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:30 PM on May 23, 2009 [4 favorites]


Like pretty much all western wedding traditions, including the very definition? American laws preventing women from going topless like a man? Christianity? Every Western government?

Not so difficult. We find ways to manage.


I don't recall mentioning my support or encouragement for arranged marriages, dowry, etc., repressive laws, christianity or "western government" whatever the hell that has to do with it.
posted by odinsdream at 8:39 PM on May 23, 2009


No, in the feminist mind, [X].

Please refrain from doing this.
posted by Captain Cardanthian! at 8:44 PM on May 23, 2009


Why?
posted by dydecker at 8:45 PM on May 23, 2009


It's an ideology and a theory, therefore people who subscribe to it subscribe to its tenets and write and think in a certain manner. Do you object to "In the Republican mind" too?
posted by dydecker at 8:47 PM on May 23, 2009


I feel most sorry for feminist theories when they have to make false allies out of the most bigoted and backward strains of thought in the world. "The enemy of my enemy is my friend" in action.

And then there's that strain of feminism which acknowledges that non-Western women don't necessarily like being lectured to by their Western sisters, or having the terms of their political engagement judged by certain kinds of Western standards. Worrying about wearing of the hijab amongst Muslim women (some of whom not only live in the West but consider themselves feminists as well) sits pretty low on the scale of political importance compared to other heinous forms of oppression experienced by women worldwide. My thought is that Western feminists should support the fight for political and social freedom by women in other cultures and take an active role when invited; but sittting around complaining about what women choose to wear, when the reasons for wearing hijab are as various as those outlined in this thread, is kinda useless. And that's why we're better off listening than casting aspersions.

And I don't know how you can construe that to mean that I, or any Western feminist, would thereby be making false allies "amongst bigoted and backwards strains of thought in the world". The idea is to make real allies amongst the women of the world, and part of that is respecting their right to their self-determination.
posted by jokeefe at 8:56 PM on May 23, 2009 [11 favorites]


dydecker: "It's an ideology and a theory, therefore people who subscribe to it subscribe to its tenets and write and think in a certain manner. Do you object to "In the Republican mind" too?"

Not usually, no, as I'm not a Republican or at all active in that community. As such, if someone were to say "In the Republican mind, [X]," where [X] was just some random assumption somebody made up about Republicans as a whole, I might not notice it. If, however, I were a Republican who knew lots of other Republicans, each with his or her own unique viewpoint on each individual issue, I'd likely speak up and say "Hey now, that's not quite right," which is my intention here.

I mean no disrespect to you, but your blanket generalization of "the feminist mindset" combined with phrases such as "I feel most sorry for feminist theories when they have to make false allies out of the most bigoted and backward strains of thought in the world" seem like the opinions of someone who doesn't have much firsthand knowledge of the movement.
posted by Captain Cardanthian! at 9:28 PM on May 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Here's an average person (let's stipulate American, male, heterosexual) who sees two women walking down the street, one in hijab and one in a tube top and daisy dukes . . .

About the daisy dukes wearer: Look at those (boobs) (legs)!

About the woman in hijab: Look at that Muslim!

In each case, the viewer has certain preconceived ideas about those women, and each set of preconceived ideas interferes with the ability to see her inner beauty and strength."


So, basically, you're saying that most American male heterosexuals are both pigs *AND* bigots, then? Perhaps that's their problem, and something they should deal with?

That said, I never said that one of the goals of those wearing the hijab was to not appear Muslim. That's ridiculous. The goal of modesty and not appearing as merely a sexual object is one, by your own example, has been achieved... even if the aforementioned white American male can't get over the fact that they're *Muslim*!

(Perhaps they should expand their horizon a bit?! Maybe get to know a few Muslims? Go to a concert or a festival?)

I've gotten to know several Muslim women during my life. I've never overtly sexualized them, but there are some I would certainly consider being friends -- or more -- with, because the ones I know are amazing, intelligent, lively, creative, wonderful people.

A good friend of mine fought in Iraq, only to have his girlfriend cheat on him while he was deployed overseas. His deployment was hard, and he came home pretty isolated and disillusioned. Recently, he fell in love again with a really smart, kind, Muslim woman he met through Facebook. They started communicating regularly, and he recently visited her and her family in Lebanon. It's great to see, after years of being very isolated, how much of a community, a comfort, and a home he's found. He plans on converting soon, and marrying her soon.
posted by markkraft at 9:33 PM on May 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


"in the feminist mind, the common foe between themselves and Muslim women is the men who are telling them what to wear. . . or the society if you get what I mean."

What about the societies that are trying to tell them what they can't wear, especially if it's of great significance to them?

About six years ago now, I met a very brave, incredibly intelligent young woman who was blogging from Iran. She certainly had disagreements with her government's leaders, but at the same time, she wore the hijab and fiercely defended it. It didn't hold her back... indeed, she is one of the smartest, most creative, most dedicated programmers I've ever met, specializing in software related to machine translation.

Certainly, her country didn't hold her back. She's currently in the US on full scholarship, studying an advanced degree at Carnegie-Mellon.

My question, really, is why people feel compelled to tell others who, in many cases, are far smarter and more educated than themselves, that what they choose to wear is merely a tool of oppression against women?

Could someone accomplish the same great things as my friend if they wore daisy-dukes and a tube top all the time? Perhaps. That said, they'd have to deal with a lot more distractions and inappropriate behavior, I am sure... and it would be a lot harder for them to be taken seriously.
posted by markkraft at 9:46 PM on May 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


So, let me get this straight- a lot of people here are angered by scarves? How.....backward.
posted by Gamien Boffenburg at 10:42 PM on May 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


My question, really, is why people feel compelled to tell others who, in many cases, are far smarter and more educated than themselves, that what they choose to wear is merely a tool of oppression against women?

1) Just because an individual or individuals really like doing something or finds it empowering does not mean that on a societal level it's not problematic. They were a lot of smart, educated women who argued against the passage of the 19th amendment.

2) It is a tool of oppression. Not really in the West, but in some predominately Muslim countries.

3) Racism & Islamophobia

4) White Wo/man's Burden

5) Women in the Western world pretty much have their legal rights. The remaining feminist movements are focused much more on social change than legal. So, when they look around the globe, they look for similar issues in other woman's rights issues. I think it's much easier for a Western feminist to identity with a fight against hijabs, than a fight to go to college or leave the house without a male guardian.


Personally, I put the hijab in the "at heart it's a sexist tradition but whatever" category with high heels and women changing their name when they get married.
posted by nooneyouknow at 11:04 PM on May 23, 2009 [2 favorites]


There are so many subtleties that one can miss when one is trying to be clever or dismissive.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:07 PM on May 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Just because an individual or individuals really like doing something or finds it empowering does not mean that on a societal level it's not problematic."

I see. And clearly, you're someone who believes that you should have the right to make a personal choice for women, when their behavior is problematic... like when they cover their head without permission of the state... or when they kill their unborn babies, perhaps.

Well, if you feel that it's problematic, it basically puts the onus on you to make your case. How, prithee, does it negatively impact U.S. society -- one which allows women to choose whether to wear the hijab or not -- if someone in the U.S. who has that free will chooses to do so?

Do you feel that a special exception should be made for the U.S.? What about for all those democratic Islamic states which -- like the U.S. -- legally allow women the right to not wear hijabs? Can you point out why they should be treated differently than the U.S.?

Perhaps American women shouldn't be given the option of wearing Frederick's of Hollywood, thongs, going on diets if they're within 30 lbs. of norm, or getting breast implants if it's judged that they were influenced by their oppressive male partners, who may have berated them for not being sexy enough?!

I have heard disgusting white trash men openly criticize their partner's bodies in the most demeaning and degrading of ways that would never be publicly tolerated in Islamic countries, and I have seen terminally victimized American women with zero self-esteem, openly talking about whether it would be a good idea to mutilate themselves in order to try and fulfill unrealistic ideals... Barbie dolls are still widespread, young kids are being told by some teen magazines that date rapes should be shrugged off and left unreported, and you can't drive down a highway in SoCal without seeing the big roadside ads for cheap plastic surgery.

... but you want to take away the right of women in this country from dressing modestly in accordance with their faith, if they so choose?!

If that's an ugly social aspect of Islam, well... I know a lot of local quirks which are just as ugly.
posted by markkraft at 3:52 AM on May 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


I think it's much easier for a Western feminist to identity with a fight against hijabs, than a fight to go to college or leave the house without a male guardian.

posted by nooneyouknow at 11:04 PM on May 23


zigatly, which in a way is what the wearing of appropriate modest clothing is all about in many of these cultures [having fought to go to engineering college and live on my own while doing so etc]

btw what I've really not understood is what's wrong with modesty, must we bare our bodies in order to proclaim our independence? given a choice i'd rather have that degree, scholarship, achievement, financial independence and the right to marry whom I choose than the right to wear a string bikini. that's the tradeoff

and that's an interesting nuance too, where 'feminism' has been minimized to the debate of "to veil or not to veil" rather than empowering women to be more of who they are, as complete people rather than 'what cosmo tells you to do'

its ironic that during my previous decade in the united states as a professional adult woman, albeit an oppressed asian one in an arranged marriage, i found myself far more confident of my intellectual abilities and prowess to hold my own than most women i knew. in high school my 'oppressive' asian parents would make me study and wouldn't let me date or go out, I hated it, but as an adult, looking at the evolution of those who'd strived to be popular in high school, I'm glad it was 'alright' for me to have *not* focused on my looks, boyfriends, popularity etc life is more than just four years of high school or college and the social systems in play do not encourage the full flowering of anyone's innate talents or abilities tbh, not just women

/end surprisingly derailed rant ;p
posted by infini at 4:16 AM on May 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


markkraft: "young kids are being told by some teen magazines that date rapes should be shrugged off and left unreported"

Wait, what?
posted by Captain Cardanthian! at 5:47 AM on May 24, 2009


and that's an interesting nuance too, where 'feminism' has been minimized to the debate of "to veil or not to veil" rather than empowering women to be more of who they are, as complete people rather than 'what cosmo tells you to do'

This is the crux of the issue in a lot of ways. I don't argue with their choice to be veiled or not but the reasoning is spurious in a lot of ways. A lot of hijbais use the idea that men/other people will see them as an individual rather than a sexualized/objectified being. But it always neglects to address that men need to learn to control themselves. Why are they always given a pass? Why is it just accepted that women should do this because men are like that? Too often discussions about Islamic feminism regarding veiling/not veiling take center stage over real issues like education, social welfare and political power.
posted by nikitabot at 6:26 AM on May 24, 2009


Too often discussions about Islamic feminism regarding veiling/not veiling take center stage over real issues like education, social welfare and political power.

Probably because the veil is a visual, tangible symbol, and things like the progress Islamic women are making in politics, feminism and the media, even in more conservative Islamic countries, involves actual reading on the subject to express an opinion on it.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:57 AM on May 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


So, basically, you're saying that most American male heterosexuals are both pigs *AND* bigots, then? Perhaps that's their problem, and something they should deal with?

Oh good god, no. Is that all you got out of that?

I'm saying that people judge people based on what they're wearing. If what they're wearing shows a lot of skin, they're going to notice. If it doesn't - well, they're also going to notice, especially if the modest dress consists of clothing that marks the wearer as culturally "outside" (e.g. Muslim, Amish).

Would it make you feel better if my scenario went like this:

"Here's an average person (let's stipulate American, male, heterosexual) who sees two women walking down the street, one in hijab and one in a tube top and daisy dukes . . .

About the daisy dukes wearer: Look at those (boobs) (legs)!Look at that sunburn!

About the woman in hijab: Look at that Muslim!

In each case, the viewer has certain preconceived ideas about those women, and each set of preconceived ideas interferes with the ability to see her inner beauty and strength."

That said, I never said that one of the goals of those wearing the hijab was to not appear Muslim. That's ridiculous. The goal of modesty and not appearing as merely a sexual object is one, by your own example, has been achieved... even if the aforementioned white American male can't get over the fact that they're *Muslim*!

(Perhaps they should expand their horizon a bit?! Maybe get to know a few Muslims? Go to a concert or a festival?)


My point, which I'll restate since I communicated it so badly above that you missed it, is this: People judge other people based on what they wear. The judgments are sometimes value-neutral and sometimes not. The author you quoted seemed to be saying that wearing what she wears allows people to concentrate on her words or deeds instead of her sex. What I'm saying is, that might be true, but what she wears still sends a message that people are going to interpret in whatever way they interpret it, regardless of what her intent was. If it reads as "Muslim" then that's how some people are going to see it. To others with a more nuanced view (and a greater understanding of Muslim cultures) it might read more closely the way the wearer intended it.

I hope I made myself clearer.

(Also, it's interesting that you said even if the aforementioned white American male can't get over the fact that they're *Muslim*!, because I actually didn't stipulate his race.)
posted by rtha at 8:43 AM on May 24, 2009


Women who believe liberal values exploit their sexuality have something much greater to fear - the jackboot of dictatorship, says Clive James
posted by infini at 10:55 AM on May 24, 2009


Clive James: And since many western feminists are still convinced that the social stereotyping of the West is the product of fundamental flaws within liberal democracy itself

Um, wrong. Jesus, that's insulting. Feminism is part of the tradition of liberal democracy-- where does he think its roots lie? The great battles of women's rights in the West-- the vote, for one-- were battles won in courtrooms, through a system of justice fundamantally rooted in the ideas of democracy.

This importance of democracy, or at any rate of an amelioration of tyranny, should have become clear when, after Saddam Hussein was deposed, the first provisional government in Iraq included women members.

Um, no. Iraq was a secular nation, and pre-invasion the women of Iraq had more legal protections and freedom than in the theocracies such as Iran, and that after the invasion there have been continuous and multiple attempts to roll back women's rights. To wit:

Islamist militants and terrorist groups also pose a particular danger to Iraqi women. Many women’s organizations and activists inside Iraq have documented the increasing Islamist threats to women: the pressure to conform to certain dress codes, the restrictions in movement and behaviour, incidents of acid thrown into women’s faces and even targeted killings. After the U.S. invasion in 2003, many women in Basra, for example, reported that they were forced to wear a headscarf or restrict their movements in fear of harassment from men. Female students at the University of Basra reported that since the war ended groups of men began stopping them at the university gates, shouting at them if their heads were not covered.

Mandatory wearing the hijab because of fear of violence is a different matter to wearing it in Western countries as a sign of identity or religious commitment, because you can always take it off-- you have the choice.

Anyway, as far as Clive James and his out of date neo-con take on things goes, he's just wrong, plain and simple. Life has gotten worse on many levels for women in Iraq, not better. It wasn't perfect before, but it's far harder now.
posted by jokeefe at 11:47 AM on May 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


And if Clive James and his ilk are so exercised about women's rights, then they can go and invade Saudi Arabia.
posted by jokeefe at 11:50 AM on May 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also, Clive James might want to read this, from February of this year:
[I]n a rare show of public muscle-flexing by an Iraqi woman in a high-profile role, [Nawal] Samarai has quit in a rage, saying she had been given a Potemkin Cabinet post created to fill a quota for Sunni Arab lawmakers such as herself, and make it appear that the Shiite-dominated government cares about women’s issues.

“I tried. I tried hard, but every time I asked for authority they’d tell me it’s not a real ministry, it’s just an office,” the former parliament member said Monday, four days after submitting her resignation as minister of state for women’s affairs.

Samarai and lawmakers who supported her efforts for more power say the post to which she was appointed last summer was nothing more than an 11th-floor room in the run-down Council of Ministers building in the fortified International Zone, also known as the Green Zone. Because she was a “minister of state,” Samarai lacked the power of Cabinet members with full portfolios. There are 11 such ministers of state, holding posts that critics say were created to satisfy demands for Cabinet positions from various sectarian and ethnic groups.

“It’s not a real ministry,” said Nada Ibrahim, a Sunni Arab member of parliament. “It’s one room with a woman, no budget, no staff. It’s a trick.”
posted by jokeefe at 11:59 AM on May 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


[/rant]
posted by jokeefe at 12:00 PM on May 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've been looking for information about the origins of the hijabi movement. I haven't found anything definitive yet but the rise of it does seem to coincide with rise of more orthodox Islam and Islamism, especially in places like Pakistan. I remember only the occasional Arab woman wearing it back when I was a kid (in the 70s/80s).
posted by nikitabot at 12:47 PM on May 24, 2009


[/rant]

Hey, I added 'em to favorites all the way down; those posts got me through yet another pretty typical MeFi thread on Muslims and women: come for the "enlightened" sexual politics, stay for the White Man's Burden.
posted by Amanojaku at 1:19 PM on May 24, 2009


Meaning what exactly, Amanojaku?
posted by jokeefe at 2:15 PM on May 24, 2009


Nikitabot, you might want to look at the books and articles by the two women that raztaj suggested, Fatima Mernissi and Leila Ahmed, if you haven't already.

Leila Ahmed has a chapter in her book Women and Gender in Islam on the discourse of the veil. She's also written an interesting book about Feminism and Islam that I can't remember the name of, but is easily Googleable.

Fatima Mernissi has written extensively on the subject of the modern movement to adopt the veil. For example, there's The Veil And The Male Elite: A Feminist Interpretation Of Women's Rights In Islam as well as the one that I've read and can recommend, Beyond the Veil: Male-Female Dynamics in Modern Muslim Society, which is specifically focused on Morocco but still very interesting for all that.
posted by librarylis at 8:12 PM on May 24, 2009


Meaning what exactly, Amanojaku?

Meaning that the stuff that tends to crop up in discussions about women and Islam is pretty predictable: racism, either in the form of lazy generalizations or good old White Man's Burden thinking ("Those poor Muslim women can't possibly understand the significance of what they're doing"), and faux "feminist" thought, where people who are supposedly for a woman's freedom of choice in whatever respect manage to be dismissive of choices that fall outside a narrow window.

In your comments, you noted the irony/hypocrisy, and I hoped that my adding them to favorites (was my previous post really that unclear?) at least showed my agreement and appreciation.
posted by Amanojaku at 11:44 PM on May 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


This post came about through my interest in all things sartorial, and a desire to get beyond the simplistic Western perception that the hijab is misogynist in concept, and a woman who wears one and looks attractive or stylish at the same time is some sort of hypocrite. Having watched the rise of hijab fashion over the last 10 years, it seems to me that in certain contexts it's gone beyond anything the mullahs could have imagined, and is making a transition into the mainstream. So, to all this brilliant discussion, which I could never have anticipated, I'd like to add a humble fashionista's perspective.

Azaadistani makes an interesting point that it's a reflection of how out-of-touch and confused the mullahs are that something they promote as an object of concealment on the right head becomes an object of adornment. That same confusion is visible all over the "hijab fashion dont" site, which is walking a very delicate line. But lolreligion aside, this is not much scarier than some of the commentary you'll find on mainstream style blogs of the "fashion police" variety: people can be amazingly shallow and judgmental of each other's choices, and religion just gives them an excuse to be holier than thou. At the other end of the spectrum, I can understand the appeal of dressing modestly: as a girl who "cleans up nicely", let me tell you that life is definitely less complicated in spectacles and no make-up. Add to all this a strong assertion of identity in a multicultural community, and the hijab becomes a young woman's shortcut to looking radical, rebellious, smart or sexy. No wonder it's catching on.

Although I wouldn't rule it out, I find it really hard to believe that all of these women are motivated by familial pressure or religious extremism. I think raztaj nails it when she says a woman puts on a headscarf for all sorts of reasons, but labeling the hijab as a badge of oppression, or a symbol of religious orthodoxy, risks making it so, when in many cases it is not. It's just something people do - at the end of the day, it's only fashion.
posted by Elizabeth the Thirteenth at 9:09 AM on May 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


In your comments, you noted the irony/hypocrisy, and I hoped that my adding them to favorites (was my previous post really that unclear?) at least showed my agreement and appreciation.

Amanojako, thank you. I just had my defences up after reading/commenting in the thread and it took me a bit to realize that you might have been complimentary. Cheers.
posted by jokeefe at 9:42 AM on May 25, 2009


It really amazes me that women who wear headscarves get SO MUCH press, but men who cover their heads with a yarmulke get next to no notice.
It will be nice when the hajib falls to the same level of "eh, whatever" in our society.
posted by Kellydamnit at 12:54 PM on May 25, 2009 [1 favorite]


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