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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

[–] BluecatSarah 2 points (+2|-0)

When I taught in a women’s college in the Arabian peninsula some students said they liked it that nobody knew who they were.

And that they wore it to “protect their brothers”.

And that they wouldn’t get hassled (but they were: I witnessed it).

Some felt it was their choice. For a few who remained covered even in class it was part of the deal they made with their families to be allowed to come to college.

[–] IronicWolf 3 points (+3|-0)

I don’t think it can because it is rooted in the idea that women’s bodies are inherently sinful, women are responsible for men’s sexual desire, it is up to women to try to get men to behave, women’s hair is sexual, only certain have the ‘right’ to see a woman’s hair and the scarf protects her body from unauthorised views from men without ownership rights, and that what you wear influences your vulnerability to sexual assault.

Many women speak of being groped in the crowds during hajj. Nuns in enclosed orders and full habits still get raped.

Rapists rape because they are rapists. Men perv because they have no self control. Women cannot externally influence men into being better humans by adding constraints to their lives.

[–] mg2000 [OP] 3 points (+3|-0)

I understand your point of view. I guess it's a very individual experience for each Hijabi. My friend told me, that less men looked at her when she goes out in public, since she stopped wearing make up and started to cover her body and she felt like she was less interesting to men, than in the days where she embraced her femininity and beauty. Many women feel empowered by that, because men don't analyze their bodies, but see them in a similar way that they view men. They see a person, not a body. It's disgusting and tragic but I understand these women and feel like they are empowered and protected by keeping their beauty private.

[–] IronicWolf 2 points (+2|-0)

It’s still a form of sexualisation. It also relies on the fact that men will ogle other women instead. Men don’t consider women not readily available for sex as people; they don’t consider them at all. Men freely admit that their interest in women begins and ends with how f***able they see a woman is. It is not empowering for men to see women as background furniture any more than it is to see them as animated sex dolls.

[–] mg2000 [OP] 1 points (+1|-0)

what does empowerment look like to you, when it comes to clothing? Because if both (revealing/covering) isn’t empowering, what is?

[–] Medea 2 points (+3|-1)

If that's the case, then what's the purpose of sex-segregated places? What's the purpose of objecting to make-up and the male gaze? Men will be rapists and perverts. Single-sex bathrooms can be infiltrated, just like a fully-covered woman can be violated. Some women use it as a defense, just like sex-segregated spaces are a defense.

I wouldn't go as far as to say it's empowering, since it's still a mitigative measure. I don't, however, see why feminists are rapidly against head coverings in certain circumstances in the West, where women have liberty within a hypersexual society.

[–] IronicWolf 2 points (+2|-0)

The purpose of single sex spaces is usually privacy, dignity and to allow women spaces that are not dominated and controlled by men who often prevent women from speaking or acting. They are to reduce the possibilities of male intimidation, assault and harassment.

The male gaze is a problem of men sexualising women when they just want to live their lives. Why shouldn’t a woman feel able to wear shorts on a blistering hot day? Why do women joggers get hassled for just running and wearing the appropriate gear? Covering up is also a form of sexualisation because it is agreeing that your body should be viewed as inherently sexual and tempting to men.

[–] Medea 0 points (+2|-2) Edited

Why shouldn't a woman feel privacy, dignity, and the ability to speak and act in all areas of the public? Why do we need sex-segregated spaces? Because we don't live in that world.

A woman who chooses to dress modestly doesn't "agree" to being sexualised - it's the inevitable lived consequence of a patriarchal capitalist system. Does a woman who wears shorts in the summer agree to be sexualised, when a man inevitably takes a creepshot of her? If whatever we wear, whether it's a head scarf or hot pants, will result in our sexualisation, what is an acceptable uniform for feminists?

Out of respect for and sisterhood with the Ovarit members who are Muslim, can we please not use this platform to single out Islam for criticism?

I have already seen on another platform a woman say she can’t join Ovarit because she’s religious, and Ovarit doesn’t welcome religious women. How tragic is that!

[–] zuubat 4 points (+4|-0)

Just sayin’ I for one am fiercely anti-religion, but I am not anti religious people. I truly value seeing all kinds of GC women on this site, including those who describe themselves as pro life, Republican, and/or devoutly religious.

[–] Avadavat 3 points (+3|-0) Edited

I'm a woman of faith (Christianity), but do not expect Christianity to be exempt from criticism on this platform...especially conservative Christianity or even my own progressive Christianity, which is quickly being captured by gender ideology (in some circles in my church, it's more acceptable to state publicly that "trans women are women" than it is to state publicly that "Jesus Christ is Lord"...at least outside of hymn-singing and the liturgy).

True...in many western societies Muslim women are in a delicate situation...even more restricted in autonomy in their own Muslim communities than their secular, Christian, Jewish, or Buddhist sisters, but then...often not fully accepted in the wider society. But, that does not mean that we cannot discuss misogyny in Islam specifically...especially in response to a post that asks whether the hijab can be empowering...as long as we do so respectfully...mindful of the fact that gender critical Muslim women may be reading the comments.

Yes - your last sentence - that’s what I was trying to say

Refreshing to hear you say you don’t expect Christianity to be exempt from criticism here, although tbh I’ve only seen threads criticising Islam - none criticising any other religion, which is why I decided to try to make a pre-emptive strike here, albeit rather clumsily.

Shocked to hear what you say about your church. Can you explain why that is? It seems quite bizarre...

[–] mg2000 [OP] 4 points (+4|-0)

noone is criticizing muslim women. It should be possible to criticize all religions though. How come noone says anything whenever christianity is being criticized? There should not be a difference and religion definitely should be discussed in feminist circles.

Sorry @mg2000, I should have worded that better - it wasn’t aimed at you.

I’m just very aware that on other threads criticising Muslim women has - well, it’s reflected Western society where politicians and media encourage this to the point where it has become an “acceptable” form of racism, to be blunt.

And I guess I get annoyed that the hijab is often singled out like this, because tbh we could ask this question about literally any item of women’s clothing. We are all, constantly, aware at some level of the male gaze and are either pandering to it or trying to avoid it.

Hell, I even had one male friend say to me once that my plaits turned him on! I only wear plaits when I have a headache coming on and I know I’m not gonna be able to brush my hair for a few days, so the plaits are simply to stop a birds nest appearing - and now even that is subject to the effing male gaze!

And it starts so early... A while back, someone did a comparison of T-shirt’s and shorts on sale for children. Consistently, those on sale for girls where shorter, tighter and of flimsier material than the ones marketed for boys.

[–] Medea 2 points (+3|-1)

I don't see your post as a critique of Muslims at all, OP. I partly agree with your careful wording: in some cases the hijab can be a feminist statement. Wouldn't go as far as to say it's "empowering" since it's mitigative, rather than an actual remedy, comparable to sex-segregated spaces and antinatalism (concepts espoused by radical feminism).

The hijab is oppression under Islamic regimes because of the Islamic underpinnings which subjugate women; lack of independence, freedom, few legal protections for women, are examples. Without the religious and cultural ramifications, the hijab can be a symbol of defiance against hypersexualisation. More Muslim women in the USA wore the hijab as defiance and trust in the USA's freedom.

[–] HesitantHyena 2 points (+2|-0)

Men tell you to strip because you're a fun object for their consumption or men tell you to cover up because you're an evil object of their seduction or their property not to be shared. Whatever the case, you're still the object and not your own person.

[–] [Deleted] 3 points (+3|-0)

the thing is, this gets caught up in defences of 'culture.' living in a deeply islamophobic country i can understand why muslim women feel the need to cling to what is used as a stick to beat them up. at the same time, to paraphrase someone else, i feel like this is a war that women did not begin and are pretty much forced to fight. hope they can overcome it.

[–] sapphicafemme 4 points (+4|-0)

Not exactly. Choice does not exist in a vacuum and veiling based on the fallacy that it’ll protect you from the male gaze/sexual deviance is inherently supporting the idea that what a woman wears determines whether she will be harmed by a man or not. Also, it really depends on what liberation looks like for the region the woman lives in. Showing skin may be “liberating” in conservative places in the Middle East but covering up may be “liberating” to women in the west who are encouraged to show skin.

[–] edieandthea 8 points (+8|-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...

[–] 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 1 points (+1|-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.

[–] Sunkised 11 points (+11|-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.

[–] RadfemBlack 9 points (+9|-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.

[–] overandout 7 points (+9|-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.

[–] LadyGlum 4 points (+4|-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.

[–] 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 (+2|-1)

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.

[–] 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

[–] 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.

[–] overandout 2 points (+2|-0)

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

[–] Medea 2 points (+3|-1)

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

[–] maypelsyrup 2 points (+2|-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

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

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