Please stop telling me I’m ‘oppressed’ just because I wear the hijab
If you choose to demean other women for their clothing choice, you’re not a feminist
by Roda Musa
If you’re a woman that likes short skirts and crop tops and perpetuate the argument that is ultimate feminist freedom, then stop.
If you’re a woman that likes to wear baggy clothing and long covering dresses, and you judge other women for their personal mode of presentation, then stop.
Both are judgemental – and we’ve all been on the receiving end of of the ill-thought out arguments. But perhaps the most offensive out of all of them is the so called feminists out there who target Muslim women for wearing hijab, as though this choice somehow makes them oppressed and less free.
We exist and live in a domineering patriarchal society, and to attack one another is to nonsensically continue this argument of the ‘real’ way to act, dress and behave into oblivion. Muslim women are targeted by liberal feminists for upholding patriarchal gender roles by dressing traditionally – at least, that’s what they tell us.
In reality all these different ways women find comfort and freedom in and choose to express themselves will always be tainted by the toxic society we live in. We cannot escape the male gaze, and that means in-fighting between girls who dress “traditionally” or choose to wear certain things to respect their religion, and girls who don’t, is ultimately futile.
When women approach with an inquiring tilt to their head, ready to cause conflict and stand for their beliefs, and ask me about my Hijab or headscarf, the result is always the same. On too many occasions it has sparked a debate on modesty – it’s as though they find my very clothing choices an offense to them and their choices. It’s ridiculous – I almost feel as though I should apologise for not checking with them in the morning before leaving the house in what I choose to wear. The argument marks women as some sort of sinister collective, as though we all have a uniform and have to adhere to it.
Modesty is a concept, and it’s possible we have different interpretations of it. Modesty is a way of life for some who choose to incorporate it into every aspect of their lives. Modesty is too often twisted and corrupted to benefit the status quo of the patriarchy.
What it comes down to is this: There’s absolutely nothing feminist in telling me wearing hijab or dressing modestly is oppressive.
There is no one way for a woman to present herself, men are afforded the privilege of being multifaceted individuals, while the word woman becomes a monolith. And that’s before even factoring in race, religion, personality, culture, context, heritage etc.
The male gaze makes it so men are reassured of their masculinity and their sexuality at the expense of denying women any ownership and agency separate from the male view. So if a woman chooses to cover up herself for the sake of modesty, and this gives her comfort and control back, it is understandable.
If a woman chooses the opposite in order to claw back control, again this is understandable.
Feminism is supposed to be about making our own choices – so don’t claim to speak on behalf of all women, or accuse other women for contributing to the patriarchy in their choices.
If you spend all your energy and time arguing with Muslim women, or really, any woman, on what they choose to wear, you’re preventing the progression of feminism. If you choose to attack or demean another woman for her clothing choices, you’re not a feminist.