Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Ups and Downs of World Hijab Day

You know what the world needs? A straight white males perspective on World Hijab Day. That's right. It's the opinion you all have been dying for. I know you have all been clammering, waiting to hear viewpoint from a white man. Sure, there are plenty of, say, Muslim women, who talked about this topic today, but it's really the white guys opinion you want, right? No, you say? Oh.

Well, I'm going to write a blog post about it anyway, because that's just what I do, dammit. I stick my nose in everywhere. I have an opinion about anything, and I have a few things to say about this one. 

I spent much of the day following (and sometimes posting to) the twitter hashtag #WorldHijabDay. I knew this day had been coming. I saw the tag days before. I anticipated the excitement. This was going to be awesome. What was going to be said on this hashtag? Gawd only knows. 

Here's what I did see. I saw a lot of Muslim girls and women who seem very proud, happy and blessed that they wear a hijab. To them I say, "Kudos!". If you like it, good. Wear the sucker, I don't care. If it gives you a positive feeling, then that's good, right? Of course not everyone is forced to wear the hijab. There are many people who choose it and love it and that point was driven home to excess today. Mind you, this was mostly by Western based Muslim women who have never had to live in a country where they didn't have the choice. But, that's just a small issue....sort of. 

Of course, there have been a small number of Western countries, France being the main one that I know of, that has banned face veils although not hijabs. There has been debate and controversy in other places, including here in Canada, in Quebec about bans or restrictions of some sort. Quebec is working on a law that would ban headcoverings and religious wear from provincial government institutions. My feelings on that? Complex. I would need another blog post. And, when I lived in Turkey, women weren't allowed to wear hijabs in government institutions or Universities. That has since been overturned but, there you have it, a country with a 90 percent Muslim population banning hijabs. Doesn't just happen in the West. Doesn't just happen in non-Muslim countries. Actually, for the most part, people are quite free to wear what they want in the vast majority of the West. Not so much in the Muslim world. 

Now, there are also many tales of discrimination, dirty looks, and even violence towards women wearing a nijab. What? Come again? WHY??? Why would anyone attack anyone for wearing the hijab. That is appalling and disgusting in so many ways. No way, in any society, should this ever be looked at as acceptable. I am not going to play stupid and naive. I know it has happened. I have read sad, sad news stories about it. I condemn this in the fullest. Attacking another human being for what they are wearing is low, disgusting and wrong. Don't do it! Don't! Just don't. No. Not acceptable. Ever. 

Okay, so that is out of the way. 

The other major thing I learned today is that not everyone was happy about World Hijab Day. A fresh new hashtag came on the scene: #notohijabappropriation. Oh boy. Just when things seemed simple and straightforward, this one came along. 

So, the thrust behind the main campaign, the World Hijab Day, was more of a "Walk a mile in our shoes" sort of thing. Come on, try the hijab for a day, it ain't so bad! You'll like it! See what we go through! Seems innocent and well meaning enough. No. It isn't it turns out. Apparently, all these innocent, well meaning people are guilty of appropriation for taking part in this world wide campaign in 100 countries. This irked me a bit. Here are all these people being stopped in malls and schools and on the street and asked to take part in the event, and then another group comes along and accuses the people of appropriation. Well, that backfired spectacularly. If you took part and didn't get the full Muslim experience, you are screwed, you have appropriated, you evil, evil person (sarcasm). 

Now, despite me saying that, the anti-appropriation crowd had the far better argument. You can't understand a culture/religion or the lives of the people living it by putting a scarf on your head for a day. Fair point. Can't argue with that. I agree. It's like someone dropping into Winnipeg in July for a few days, going home and telling everyone who beautiful, warm and friendly it is. Unless you are here year round, when the snow is chin deep and the temperatures will freeze your appendages off, and your car won't start, and you can barely drive on the poorly maintained roads, you don't know what Winnipeg is truly like. Bad analogy? I'm sure someone will think so. 

Really, all you are doing by putting on the scarf is....putting on a scarf. That's the argument anyway. Can't argue against it really, unless one really invests the time into finding out the trials and tribulations of those who wear it everyday in the name of their religion, you really can't know what it's like. In others words, if you aren't a Muslim woman who wears the hijab faithfully, you won't get it. The message from these folks? Don't just stick on the to Muslim women, get to know them, get to know what they experience, find out. As was pointed out, the hijab is not the sole defining point of a person. It is an important part, but there is much more. And, the experiences that come with being a Muslim woman and wearing the hijab can't be duplicated unless you are in that position. Makes sense. Can't argue with that. However, it seems that telling other well meaning women off for taking part in a highly publicized campaign is a bit....mean. Maybe break it to them gently? Just a suggestion. 

Now, the hijab itself? Honestly, people swear it is not a sign of oppression, it's a sign of freedom. Okay, well, if that's what you feel, good. You can't tell someone who feels free that they are oppressed. That makes no sense. It's hard for me to understand this freedom that is often talked about, but that's okay. It's not up to me to understand. If someone says they feel free, good for them. But then, all of these lovely analogies popped up. Oh, the analogies. "A women in a hijab is like a pearl in a clamshell!" or "Would you rather a peice of unwrapped discarded candy? Or a new, fresh wrapped candy!" Oh dear gawd. I've always hated these analogies. People aren't pearls. They aren't candy. They are people. So, reading these things again was just painful. But, if someone wants to see themselves as a precious piece of candy, that's up to them. 

The biggest, biggest problem I have with the whole hijab thing? Along with the defending of the hijab comes the innevitable slut shaming of women who don't wear the hijab. Oh, man, how many times did I read about how a woman in a hijab is far more beautiful than a woman walking around half naked. Of course the hijab means you have more respect for your body (sarcasm). Wearing the hijab means that people look at your mind, not your body (sarcasm). UGH! This makes me want to scream! Basically, the implication is, "What? You don't wear a hijab? What an immoral slut you must be!" Exaggerating? Yes and no. Depends on the person making the comment and the ferocity of their opinion on it. But, come ON! Can't you enjoy the hijab and what it means to you without slut shaming other women or implying they are immoral, indecent or don't have respect for themselves?? That doesn't help the image of the hijab at all. If a person wants to wear a bikini, that isn't saying they are immoral or they don't have respect for themselves. It's saying, "Right now, I've decided to wear a bikini." And there is nothing wrong with that. The thing is, we all have bodies. We are humans. We know what flesh looks like. The vast majority of us can go through life seeing women in bikinis and NOT be driven to rape. Many of us can look at another being with maturity and confidence and not just want to have sex with them. We can do that! So, don't shame us folks who aren't buying into this whole modesty trap as being essential to a well oiled society. Just as you have your views on what you want to wear and want respect, so does everyone else. For that matter, I want to be able to wear a Jesus and Mo t-shirt and not be threatened with death....:) (Sorry, that is in reference to another "scandal" I have been following on twitter lately, the Mo Ansar and Mo Shafiq vs Maajid Nawaz face off over the posting of a Jesus and Mo cartoon)

And for gawd sakes, I wish I could read a tag like this and NOT feel like a dirty rapist. Look, I don't have lustful eyes for every woman on the planet. Please don't look at me or see me as someone who does. More likely than not, if I see a girl in shorts and a tank top at the grocery store, and I go up to her, it's to ask where she found the toilet paper in her basket and how much it costs and not even notice anything else. You know what? A good number of us men really are like that. We just do our thing. Men, just as women, just as Muslims, just as anyone else, are diverse. We are not a homogenized block of humans who all act and think the same. Please, before you say how you are protecting yourself from the lustful gaze of men who sometimes just can't help themselves when they see someones hair from molesting them, count me out of that equation. I'm not part of that. If this is how you see men, then I am not one. I am other than that and don't wish to be put into that category, okay?  So, yes, there is an element of this that I do find personally insulting....and insulting to many men. 

So, with all that said, everyone go back to wearing whatever suits them best, relax, enjoy, chill out and do your thing. If you are thinking of assaulting anyone for any reason....DON'T! We only have one life to live (despite what religious folks might say). Do we really want to spend the whole thing judging each others clothing choices, and their personal morals and values? No. We don't. Yes. I did just answer that for you. 

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