Friday, 14 May 2010

Hijab - Unveiling feminism

This blog entry has been in the back of my mind for quite some time.
The need to write down my thoughts has steadily increased side by side with the tabloid media and politicians catering to norwegian right wing interests.
I want you to read these earlier entries as well, to inform you on where I stand in regards of respecting religion and on women's liberation.
This blog will deal with the matter of freedom, and the freedom of choice.

The debate has gone on for years now in Norway: "The oppression of women in the name of Islam"Several countries have banned various forms of Islamic headwear. All in the name of "women's liberation". Women are fined for wearing a burka in public. Women are forbidden from wearing their headwear of choice to school, in the pool, while driving a car, at work.
In the west a liberated woman wears what she wants, whereever she wants. The radical feminists preach that a woman should, by principle, walk down dark alleyways wearing skimpy clothing, to prove her strength and to stand her ground: I, woman, can do anything, go anywhere.
The same feminists argue that women working in the porn industry, prostitutes or strippers, are not liberated. The same feminists argue that the hijab is the very core of female oppression. These radical feminists and the politicians, seem to have this idea that their subjective emotions should be universal.

Feminists are afraid of public sexuality, it's a fear founded in Victorian morals and the protestant view on sin. The hijab is a recognition of female sexuality. Women start to wear a hijab once they hit puberty, marking a sexual awakening. The feminists can't deal with the fact that pornography and hijab are both part of a sexual iconography. Pornography is all about exposing sexuality, and hijab is about not flaunting sexuality, but reserving it for the proper context. Despite their different intentions they are both symbols of sexual self awareness.
The feminists want to de-sexualize the female body, as in : Don't look at my breasts, look at my eyes, respect me. The hijab focuses on and frames the eyes - ergo causing respect.
A woman who wants to cover her body - the very antithesis of the women's liberation movement in the west.

The liberation of women seems to be an idea that all women must work collectively to reach a common goal. Freedom to me is the complete opposite: individual freedom - the right to decide what is right for you and only you. If I were to limit my freedom to a collective sisterhood, I would limit myself way beyond freedom and venture deep inside a restricted world of rules. If I am to accept that the state is the right power to decide what is the definition of freedom, I would willingly and openly be accepting a totalitarian state.

Most of the people so passionate about refusing women their personal freedom, don't understand that their resistance is founded in xenophobia,and in many cases even racism. Many of these people would never accept an islamic woman. No matter how integrated she might be in our society. The islamic woman could have a Ph.D., she could work full time, speak fluent Norwegian, be a 3rd generation immigrant, but as long as she wears a hijab, they want her excluded from society. A woman wearing the hijab, can never be a liberated Norwegian woman. And many of these people would not accept her even if she took off her hijab. She is still a Muslim. She is still different. The veil is actually used as cover up for discrimination.
Reveal yourself.

Norwegian women who are not radical feminists, have a slightly different view on the matter.
Why would a woman _want_ to cover her hair? Western women spend millions on their hair. It's their crown of glory. A dyed, cut, bleached crown of glory. Flowing hair has historically been seen as erotic, and a signal of sexual power. Letting the hair flow freely down the back has been seen as a symbol of the untamed woman such as Lilith and Mary Magdalen, and you can read more about that here.
In films, when the woman is about to engage in sex, we often see her with a sultry look as she unleashes her long hair, shaking her crown of glory, stating: I am ready, I am willing. I am your succubus. There is something dangerous about a sexually liberated woman.
When women cut their hair short in the 1920s as a fashion statement, it was also a liberating act: I, woman, can wear my hair as I please.

When ever the hair fashion change, there is a feminist agenda behind it. Albeit subconsciously. Everything a western woman does and doesn't, is an extension of the woman's liberation movement. Don't you dare try tell a western woman she cant. Because she can, with a vengeance.
So to these women covering up the very symbol of sexual liberation, seems dogmatic. To these women the liberation lies in the revealing of the body. The right to wear short skirts, the right to wear a deep cleavage and at the same time get infuriated at men staring at their breasts. They see sexual liberation as throwing their sex in every ones face, and they are not willing to understand the reactions: How dare you treat me as a sexual object!

And then we have the children. Some politicians go as far as claiming that children wearing the hijab are sexualized by their parents. Reasoning that young children should not be covering up their hair, because they are not sexual beings. These people seem to have the idea that their own western view on sexuality and its symbols are the same all over the world. Parents who dress their children in the hijab, are raising them according to their religion. The veil is the symbol that separated man from God: wearing it is perhaps a liminal state, signifying the difference between the profane and the profound spheres of life. As in the mosaic temple the Jews carried through the desert after leaving Egypt.
Muslim parents are not forcing sexuality onto their children, the western world however is.
Muslim parents, as most parents, want their children to look proper.

When I grew up I was not allowed to wear what I wanted, my parents had strict rules. No short skirts, no bare belly, no tight pants, no deep cleavage. And my neighbours and friends of the family would call my mother and tell her if I wore something that was not acceptable. Most parents want their children to look decent. And most parents gets frustrated and ashamed when their children refuse to do do. I see my mother pulling up my 14 year old niece's neckline when it's too low cut. Muslim parents and western parents are not as different as you might think.
Forcing children is wrong, whether it's forcing them to go to church, or to wear a hijab. That is a whole different subject. Not to be mistaken with love, affection and most importantly: good intentions

The media portrays muslim women wearing a hijab as weak, with scared eyes. Always with a black hijab, eyes pleading for help from the western readers. Never once have I've seen a picture in a Norwegian newspaper of a smiling muslim woman wearing a colorful hijab. Like the ones I do see every day In Oslo. They are beautiful, some are simply stunning. I bought my own hijab last year because I think it looks so pretty. I have not worn it in public, but I've made numerous promises both online and in RL that I will wear the hijab, a burka or a niqab if a ban ever is to be implemented in Norway. And the police, politicians, feminists and racists would have a very hard time explaining why I, a liberated western woman wearing this garment of my own free will, was fined for being out in public. A very hard time indeed.

We in the west have alot to learn about respect. And far too many of us need to learn that today integration has a meaning similar to assimilation.The women's liberation movement, the french revolution, the black power movement all led to the rights we in the west have today.

It never ceases to amaze me how unwilling we are to grant these hard earned rights to newcomers.

Check out this blog for more amazing hijab styles.


  1. Right on.. love the post.

    Informative and interesting in our forms of social norms and mores... it all seems to be telling women what and when to wear.... I say ripped punk tights & a mohawk, a hijab, or a mini should be under a woman's discretion. However, covering for modesty should be a free sexual choice.

    Hijab is an awesome way to accessorize; you'll be quite fashionable.

  2. Thank you for that!
    I find my self studying tutorials on youtube on how do wear a hijab. I would love to learn!
    I forgot to link to where I find so many stunning pics :O
    Head up high, girl! ;)

  3. There's been an hysterical debate about the hijab and burka here in Australia too, mostly from xenophobics. I don't think that woman should be forced to wear a hijab, or a bra (my mrs rarely wears a bra, despite her ample bosom) or a bikini or a dress or whatever, but we must understand and respect that some Islamic women prefer and want to cover up for the sake of the religious belief in modesty. If we claim to be a freedom loving people, then let a 1,000 flowers bloom.

  4. We fear what we don't understand. It's in our power to educate our self and learn, not to judge. Keep up the fight in Australia!

  5. There are three forms, hijab, nikab and burka. Unfortunately people often don't know the difference between them, let alone the cultural background of it. But militant separatist feminists see oppression everywhere. If there would be no oppression in the world they would have to cunstruct it just to keep alive their raison d'etre.

    I saw this documentary on muslim young women who wore nikab and they believed it to be a political statement against the modern society and how women choose to wear as little as possible. They called it a sort of reversed striptease. And I can understand it. For me personaly I find a girl dressed up with as little skin showing as possible more attractive than one in just short shorts and small tank top. That is because there is a certain mystique in the dressed up girl, one fantasises more about her forms.

    If you're out at a bar trying to pick up girls seeing a loose dressed girl is like watching a trailer of a movie where you get all the key plot points and the ending and afterwards you're like "ok so I know the whole story and how it ends, do I need/want to see the entire movie? Do I even need to pick up that loosely dressed girl? I can pretty much already see how she is naked if I glance 4 seconds at her." So basically and paradoxically the less you wear the more desexualised you get. And that is what those muslim girls meant by consciously making a political standpoint.

    Plus that it does imply freedom. Women today are slaves to media and fashion industry, stripping them away from any individuation. "Ten fashion articles that will give your man a hard-on. Ten ways to improve your sex life. Ten things your husband likes in bed that you have no idea about because we at this magazine know you better than you know yourself." And in a sense it is true that magazines know you, but that's because they constructed and formed you in the first place. To reject this is to liberate yourself and that is what the wearing of hijab, nikab and burka can signify. But the society tells you it's not good to not be a part of its consumeristic lifestyle. Wether you're a punk, nikab wearing woman, wear only clothes you've made yourself, they tell you that you are oppressed, a misfit, a dubious person. But never that you are free.

    Oh brave new world!

  6. Thank you for that interesting comment! And I agree 100%. It's such a mindblowing consept to modern people. Covering up as an act of liberation, or that it can be like you wrote, political. I don't think we will see a change sadly. But we will see more people protesting this supression of freedom.

  7. How can it first be a "recognition of female sexuality" whereas you later write that children wearing it wrongly are put into a sexual discourse by a western perspective??