7

liberal feminism celebrates women, who sexualize their bodies for the male gaze. Some feminists disagree with that (so do I). So I wonder, if a hijab can be a feminist statement sometimes? If the woman wears it as protection against gross looks from men and/or statement against the constant objectification and sexualitation of the woman? Most Religions are misogynist, I know, but if that‘s her personal reality and if that‘s how she chooses to protect herself, isn’t that like a radical feminist woman, recognizing patriarchy as a reality and covering herself, not because of religious reasons, but her feminist values. I mean, women in both cases cover themselves and the root cause is misogyny, so why do people see a difference with a hijab?

liberal feminism celebrates women, who sexualize their bodies for the male gaze. Some feminists disagree with that (so do I). So I wonder, if a hijab can be a feminist statement sometimes? If the woman wears it as protection against gross looks from men and/or statement against the constant objectification and sexualitation of the woman? Most Religions are misogynist, I know, but if that‘s her personal reality and if that‘s how she chooses to protect herself, isn’t that like a radical feminist woman, recognizing patriarchy as a reality and covering herself, not because of religious reasons, but her feminist values. I mean, women in both cases cover themselves and the root cause is misogyny, so why do people see a difference with a hijab?

59 comments

[–] crispycherrypie 40 points (+40|-0) Edited

It can never be feminist because the whole point is that women are a temptation to men and must therefore be covered.

Choice “feminism” cannot be feminism as it focuses on the individual and not women as a class.

[–] ellienoire 5 points (+5|-0) Edited

Exactly. Whether she chooses to wear a bikini to appeal to the male gaze or wears a hijab to hide from it - the problem isn’t her choice. The problem is that men will sexualize her no matter what she’s wearing because she’s nothing but an object to them. This isn’t even touching the misogynist cultural views of which parts of a woman’s body are inherently “sexual” and “titillating”

[–] BlackCirce twam thursday 29 points (+29|-0)

This is the classic double bind Marilyn Frye talked about. Women can choose to engage in public life and be sexualized or choose purdah and retreat from public life. It’s two bad choices and women are forced to pick one.

[–] Medea 0 points (+2|-2)

What's the difference between purdah and sex-segregated spaces, those we fight so hard to protect? A headcovering doesn't prohibit a woman from participating in public life, just like wearing modest clothing doesn't. Only with it's Islamic underpinnings does the hijab restrict a woman.

[–] maypelsyrup 22 points (+22|-0)

I think that covering your hair, limbs, and neck to avoid the male gaze is counterintuitive and plays into women's obligation to form their appearance around what is acceptable to men. The male gaze happens to anyone who is a female; hijabis still get raped and still get sexualized focus from men, especially in countries where it is customary.

I don't believe overtly covering yourself is productive to liberation, it just moves the goalpost of what men will sexualize, and I don't want necks to be sexualized. The root causes need to be addressed before hijabs could be considered empowering, even when you view it from a secular level and aren't considering the religious piety implications of hijabs.

[–] WatcherattheGates 20 points (+20|-0)

If that is really the reason (that is, no religious reason at all), then it's a capitulation not a victory. Just like female-only buses. Doesn't affect the perps at all--just makes your own world smaller. And they'll harass you even with a hijab on. Even with a burqa on they will harass you!

Now, the burqa and niqab also erase a woman's face from the public square, and that is more than a capitulation; it's a retreat. Women should never be erased like that.

[–] bellatrixbells 7 points (+7|-0)

"Even with a burqa on they will harass you"

I don't know if it's everywhere, but a friend of mine is Algerian, and apparently over there niqabs are for "unusually attractive women" who are supposed to recognize their attractiveness and hide themselves in order not to tempt males.

What do you think happened when she tried it on !!!!

[–] IronicWolf 3 points (+3|-0)

If you wear a niqab, you’re still slutty for having beautiful eyes that men find attractive. Women can never win.

Afghan women in full burqas are beaten for daring to be outside the home. It’s not enough to be fully covered, you shouldn’t have an existence outside the home at all.

Men will always push boundaries until women’s worlds become smaller and smaller.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/iran-blog/2015/sep/15/iran-hijab-backfired-sexual-harassment

[–] proudcatlady 3 points (+3|-0)

I feel like if that were my culture I’d become a niqabi despite being very average and I’d make myself as hideous as possible. Then whoever gets gifted me as a wife-slave gets a huge disappointment.

[–] Stealthygal 14 points (+14|-0)

Hijab is a scarf. Men are still going to objectify her. It just signals to people that she's Muslim is all.

My understanding is that the scarf was adopted by a lot of women in the Muslim world as an intermediary method of being able to participate in society outside the home while still sporting a marker of faith that would remind men that these are "sisters" and not to be messed with. So a compromise rather than a fully feminist action. Though in some places just removing face veils was a hugely feminist action. It's complicated by the way veiling has become a marker of rejecting Western colonisation for women in some countries.

[–] maypelsyrup 8 points (+8|-0)

My understanding is that the scarf was adopted by a lot of women in the Muslim world as an intermediary method of being able to participate in society outside the home while still sporting a marker of faith that would remind men that these are "sisters" and not to be messed with.

I've heard similar things. I've also heard that thousands of years ago Mohammad commanded the use of hijabs in order to prevent rape in vulnerable women, where being veiled creates a conglomerate of women that balances the power from grouping with the power from anonymity that lead to more men being persecuted for rape. The same thought process doesn't really apply to the current age.

[–] BluecatSarah 1 points (+1|-0)

I believe the origin was that elite women - starting with Muhammad’s family - “spoke through a grille” to men outside their family.

This got developed into a portable “grille” that women wore.

In the Ottoman Empire something similar happened to the Caliph - who ended up retreating to the palace and communicating only through viziers - who predictably enough ended up running everything.

[–] Sunkised 10 points (+10|-0)

After a girl from Pakistan gave a speech to us about why the hijab is evil. I feel sick seeing it. She told us they were taught because they are women they were sexual deviants that needed to be covered. She felt shame all the time and was sexually assault constantly by police, teachers, and family.

[–] moody_ape 10 points (+10|-0)

i think the only context in which wearing a hijab can be empowering is if women were not allowed to do so. like if it was a crime or if they faced negative consequences for wearing a hijab. than it would be defiant to wear one and being able to do it could be empowering.

[–] Medea 2 points (+2|-0) Edited

I don't even think it has to be that extreme. Dressing modestly and wearing a head covering can be politically motivated. In the West after 9/11 a lot of women started wearing hijab out of defiance and trust in America's freedoms. In the West women do have freedom of expression, and I can imagine the hijab is a symbol of defiance against hypersexualisation.

It is oppressive in Islamic countries because of the religious underpinnings and legal/cultural ramifications of non-conformity. Women are ostracised in the West for being a prude and they're ostracised for covering their bodies in non-conforming ways, doesn't that count as a negative consequence?

[–] moody_ape 1 points (+1|-0)

i think it makes sense. however, it's not something that happens consistently. it depends on which circle the woman is inserted. women who are prudes can be ostracised in liberal circles and praised in conservative circles. i'm not sure how empowering it can be if it's considered defiant onl in liberal circles. but i see what you mean.

i once saw a short documentary on youtube about how in north korea wearing make up is a illegal. women there have to do make up smuggling. meanwhile, i'm here trying to appreciate my bare face and saving up my money. it's so weird... what is imposed upon me might be forbiden to other women.

[–] RadfemBlack 8 points (+8|-0)

No. It’s a symbol of religious misogyny. It absolutely can protect women from this kind of objectification, but it’s an individual cope for a systemic problem.

[–] edieandthea 7 points (+7|-0)

I dare you to ask any women in a hijab if she feels like an empowered free woman wearing it. I grew up around quite a few Muslim women and the average answer would be “if I don’t wear this my father will withdraw me from college / my husband will threaten me / my family will not speak to me.” I knew a few Muslim women who would still have physical safety, a family, and a job if they choose not to wear hijab. For them it is a choice but (in my area at least) usually not.

[–] bellatrixbells 2 points (+2|-0)

Some of them argue that they are more respected when they wear it, but the ones I've heard arguing this were very young and lived in areas where people are uncomfortable with religion.

I suspect the additional respect they perceived was actually people walking on eggshells around them for fear of being perceived as racist...

[–] overandout 6 points (+8|-2)

I think it can be in Western society where 'modest dress' can be looked upon with derision. I have met a few women like this who wear veils because they believe their bodies are not for public consumption.

It seems a bit hypocritical to me to laud Billie Ellish's previous style and then say that hijab is wrong. Of course hijab comes with the attendant problems of coercion, religious attitudes towards women and other issues. But the mere act of veiling is no different than wearing baggy clothes or other things to de-emphasize your body.

[–] maypelsyrup 6 points (+6|-0)

It seems a bit hypocritical to me to laud Billie Ellish's previous style and then say that hijab is wrong.

baggy clothes aren't the same as covering your hair, neck, any skin of your legs, most of your arms, as well as your body shape.

And being at risk of a beating or having acid thrown in your face if you’re not wearing it “correctly”.

[–] Medea 2 points (+2|-0)

Why not? What's deemed "too much" modesty vs "too much" provocation?

[–] maypelsyrup 0 points (+0|-0)

What's deemed "too much" modesty

When you can't wear clothing showing any limbs or simply uncover layers of scarves on your head in hot weather without being thought of as immodest

[–] overandout 2 points (+2|-0)

It's still covering or obscuring parts of your body due to the male gaze.

[–] LadyGlum 3 points (+3|-0)

What about Mormonism, which mandates certain body parts be covered? The WHY of these "choices" women are making is incredibly important. There are some non-Muslim women who would wear a head scarf but I doubt most of them would care if hair was peeking out, and all the other little rules about how it's proper to wear the hijab.

There is a huge difference to wearing "modest" clothing because you don't want people to look (although still, why? If the female form was not hyper sexualized you wouldn't be thinking in those terms?) and wearing clothes that a man centuries ago decided might reduce the amount of men raping women even though it didn't actually work.

[–] proudcatlady 2 points (+2|-0)

Yeah, a lot of this isn’t super different from a lot of fundie Christian sects and the women in those aren’t doing so hot

[–] overandout 1 points (+1|-0)

I personally don't see much of a difference, sorry. One is in a religious book, sure, but the reasoning is the same as it was hundreds of years ago.

[–] Medea 1 points (+1|-0)

So I wonder if a hijab can be a feminist statement sometimes?

The OP already established that there's caveats, and the intention of the wearer is obviously a big one. Coercion through religious and cultural ramifications (strict adherence like you mentioned) is not a feminist justification.

wearing clothes that a man centuries ago decided might reduce the amount of men raping women even though it didn't actually work.

Sex-segregated spaces are intended to reduce the risk of assault, too, and they're not fool-proof. Yet these spaces are protected by radical feminist thought (if women weren't subjugated, you wouldn't be thinking in those terms?) We live in a hypersexual society where men take creepshots and up-skirts of strangers on the street; yes, dressing modestly is not fool-proof but it can act as defiance against hypersexualisation.

[–] Avadavat 5 points (+5|-0)

I'm uncomfortable with the idea that the hijab might be empowering...after all, there are conservative Islamic countries where the wearing of the hijab and even more conservative clothing is strictly enforced in public. I am comfortable with the idea, however, of examining whether more loose-fitting clothing or even clothing that covers more skin can be liberating. German gymnasts, I believe, are starting to wear less revealing body suits...suits that resist the sexual objectification of female athletes.

[–] Dionaea 0 points (+0|-0) Edited

I agree. I think the important difference is that a hijab and similar accessories/garments are strictly for women while the gymnasts' unitards are simply akin to the standard gymnastics uniform for men. It's similar for looser clothes: They're pretty normal for men. Basically, the latter two things are about allowing women to do something that is acceptable for men to do while the first imposes something specifically on women.

Load more (6 comments)