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Sunday, July 06, 2008

The Hijab And The Muffin Top

Today I took my family to the Detroit Zoo. At the excellent kids playground (near the Penguinarium), I saw a sight common to Metro Detroit: a young Muslim family. The mom was wearing a hijab dress, which covered her hair, arms, and legs, but kept her face open, similar to the photo below. Muslim Mom had a playful side to her otherwise very conservative outfit, she had fancy checkerboard shoes.

Exhibit A: Example of Hijab

If you pause to think about it, there is some wisdom to this style of dress, even if it is very alien and threatening to us Americans. By being so explicitly modest, the Muslim woman forces you to look at her face--you can't talk to her chest, or any other physical part of her. In other words, you are forced to consider her as an individual, not as a sexual object. I don't think this is the case, by they way, with the more restrictive forms of muslim garb, like the burqa, which by hiding the face of the woman seems to me to nearly dehumanize her.

The Muslim woman, in her modest dress, really stood out because she was surrounded by average blue collar Americans, on a sunny 80 degree day. That means women in flip flops, tight shorts, tank tops, many of which were too large to pull off such revealing clothing gracefully. Not to mention all sorts of tattoos, muffin tops, whale tails, butt cleavage, and so on. What does the sloppy, revealing clothing say about the women who wear it? Doesn't it say, "I don't care what I look like as long as I am comfortable", or maybe "go ahead and look, this is my best asset"?

And what about the competition this sets up? The thin, pretty women in revealing clothes will be compared, by men and by women, to the not-so-thin and not-so-pretty women. But the modest women are competing on a higher playing field, they have to be judged more by what they say and do, not by their physical shape.

Exhibit B: (mild examples)

Given the choice between seeing hijab and d├ęcolletage at the Zoo, I would pick hijab. And I'm not a Muslim!*

Update: I am not saying that women should be required by law to adhere to some dress code, as some of the commenters seem to assume. I am saying people should be more thoughtful about what their mode of dress portrays.

*In fact, the rulers of Iran would like to "purge" some of my "Zionist" relatives.


Jake said...

well said

Anonymous said...

Freedom isn't always pretty, and we don't have to like the results in every instance. Better to allow people to be unpleasant while working on building a stronger culture of responsibility and personal character.

Anonymous said...

In this country we have the right to choose. That is the most important thing. You may not like looking a woman who are dressed for warm weather but that is your choice. Hijab doesn't make a woman a saint nor more than a tank top and shorts makes a woman a prostitute. Don't get so confused in your love of hijab you miss the bigger picture that in the US we are free. That means the woman in hijab can were that and so can the woman in the tank top. Men here intead of blaming the woman for their own inability to act like a decent human have to learn to deal with woman socially. If you like the hijab and abaya so much perhaps you would enjoy living in Saudi Arabia. There they don't have the choice and all you will see is a see of black. Good luck. For me I'd rather see muffin tops and the like and enjoy the freedom to wear what I like.

Unknown said...

Thanks for being so open minded. Nice to hear some common sense.

Anonymous said...

I have to admit enjoying the company of my Mennonite friends and going to services there on Sunday rather than my own church, because (among many other reasons) the women still know how to act like women, and admit something that most of western "sillivization" cannot or will not, and that is that women and men are different, have different roles, different G-d given responsibilities and so forth. Both the men and women, boys and girls dress in a modest way.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Unknown said...

Wow, I had no idea blogger could handle Arabic script... crazy. I have no idea what that last comment says.

Unknown said...

To onigirifb and anonymous, I never said I wanted to force/require women to dress a certain way. I just wish the culture wasn't so coarse, I wish people would think more carefully about what they are doing.

Jess said...

While you didn't actually say you wanted to FORCE or REQUIRE women to dress a certain way, you implied that women who are total strangers to you should for some reason be concerned with your opinions about what they should wear, and should dress to impress you. Who are you to judge which women are too large to wear tank tops and shorts "gracefully"? And for an outing to a casual place like the zoo, why shouldn't I dress like "I don't care what I look like as long as I am comfortable"? God knows men dress like that all the time and aren't criticized for it. If you gave equal treatment to men's clothing choices in this blog post I wouldn't find it so offensive, but as it is it comes off as incredibly sexist.

Forsoothsayer said...

let me tell you, covered up Muslim women are NOT accorded more respect or protection than otherwise. I have lived in a Muslim country my entire life and know what i'm talking about. everyone deserves to be treated with respect. how come men don't have to cover up and dress modestly? why must all of us women be slaves to your assumptions and desires while men are not?

DomHyo said...

Never thought about it this way lol. Good post.

Anonymous said...

Beyond the veil

My modest dress that you see
As a sign of oppression
Is for me the symbol of ultimate liberation

It urges you to look beyond the veil
To peel the skin
To peep through the physical
The limited… the confined
Straight into the essence
The infinite … the boundless

It’s a glaring statement
I am more than just a body
I am a mind… a heart
And a soul

Don’t just stop there
At the door
Come in
Get to know me
For what I really am

It gives me contentment
And great satisfaction
With my femininity

It gives me dignity
As I refuse to be portrayed
As a sex object

It gives me freedom
To choose my dress
Not only wearing what men desire

It gives me protection
From all undesired attention
For my intimacy I only share
With the one I love

Does that make any sense to you?

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Nice to meet people who are nonmuslim and openminded. Thanks! There are not many of you ou there!