I probably do not fit into the preconceived notion of a “rebel”.
I have no visible tattoos and minimal piercing. I do not possess a leather
jacket. In fact, when most people look at me, their first thought usually is
something along the lines of “oppressed female.” The brave individuals who
have mustered the courage to ask me about the way I dress usually have questions
like: “Do your parents make you wear that?” or “Don’t you find that really
A while back, a couple of girls in Montreal were kicked
out of school for dressing like I do. It seems strange that a little piece of
cloth would make for such controversy. Perhaps the fear is that I am harboring
an Uzi underneath it! Of course, the issue at hand is more than a mere piece
of cloth. I am a Muslim woman who, like millions of other Muslim women across
the globe, chooses to wear the hijab. And the concept of the hijab, contrary
to popular opinion, is actually one of the most fundamental aspects of female
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.
Compare this to life in today’s society: We are
constantly sizing one another up on the basis of our clothing, jewelry, hair
and makeup. What kind of depth can there be in a world like this? Yes, I have
a body, a physical manifestation upon this Earth. But it is the vessel of an
intelligent mind and a strong spirit. It is not for the beholder to leer at or
to use in advertisements to sell everything from beer to cars!
Because of the superficiality of the world in which we
live, external appearances are so stressed that the value of the individual
counts for almost nothing. It is a myth that women in today’s society are
liberated! What kind of freedom can there be when a woman can not walk down
the street without every aspect of her physical self being “checked out”?
When I wear the hijab I feel safe from all of this. I
can rest assured that no one is looking at me and making assumptions about my
character from the length of my skirt. There is a barrier between me and those
who would exploit me. I am first and foremost a human being, equal to any man,
and not vulnerable because of my sexuality.
One of the saddest truths of our time is the question of
the beauty myth and female self-image. Reading popular teenage magazines, you
can instantly find out what kind of body image is “in” or “out.” and if you
have the “wrong” body type, well, then, you’re just going to have to change it,
aren’t you? After all, there is no way that you can be overweight and still be
Look at any advertisement. Is a woman being used to
sell the product? How old is she? How attractive is she? What is she
wearing? More often than not, that woman will be no older than her early 20s,
taller, slimmer and more attractive than average, dressed in skimpy clothing. Why
do we allow ourselves to be manipulated like this?
Whether the 90s woman wishes to believe it or not, she
is being forced into a mold. She is being coerced into selling herself, into
compromising herself. This is why we have 13-year-old girls sticking their
fingers down their throats and overweight adolescents hanging themselves.
When people ask me if I feel oppressed, I can honestly
say no. I made this decision out of my own free will. I like the fact that I
am taking control of the way other people perceive me. I enjoy the fact that I
don’t give anyone anything to look at and that I have released myself from the
bondage of the swinging pendulum of the fashion industry and other institutions
that exploit females.
My body is my own business. Nobody can tell me how I
should look or whether or not I am beautiful. I know that there is more to me
than that. I am also able to say “no” comfortably when people ask me if I feel
as though my sexuality is being repressed. I have taken control of my
sexuality. I am thankful I will never have to suffer the fate of trying to
lose/gain weight or trying to find the exact lipstick shade that will go with
my skin color. I have made choices about what my priorities are and these are
not among them.
So next time you see me, don’t look at me
sympathetically. I am not under duress or a male-worshipping female captive
from those barbarous Arabic deserts! I’ve been liberated.