Z. (of It’s the Thought that Counts) sent in this image (found at Andrew Sullivan’s blog on The Atlantic magazine’s website):
According to Sullivan, the text says, “You won’t be able to stop them (i.e. guys), but you can protect yourself. He who created you knows what’s best for you!”
Neither Z. nor I have been able to track down the origin of this image, which is supposedly a pro-hijab PSA, beyond what Sullivan provides as a source–I can’t find any evidence online of any first-hand accounts of people seeing it displayed anywhere or of what groups might be displaying it (the online references I’ve found make vague statements about it being from Egypt). I was really hesitant to post it, but it is available on the website of a major U.S. magazine, and I’m hoping maybe some of our readers might have information about the image–who put it out, if it’s actually on display anywhere, etc. If it is a real pro-hijab PSA (or even just a proposed one), it’s a great example of the way women are often portrayed as having responsibility for controlling and preventing men’s sexual advances, since men are believed to be incapable of controlling their own sexual desires. Whoever made it clearly uses that discourse about men, women, and sexual attraction; the question is, who created it?
While I was doing some online searching for it, I came upon the site Protect Hijab, a site dedicated to “the protection of every Muslim woman’s right to wear the Hijab in accordance with her beliefs and for the protection of every woman’s right to dress as modestly and as comfortably as she pleases.” Among other things, the site provides links to news stories about laws regarding hijab, including the interesting situations that come up when, say, the city of Antwerp (in Belgium) outlaws employees from wearing hijab (or any other symbol of religious or political affiliation) but then allows them to wear bandannas.
Then I came upon this video, which has the description, “A PSA Parody/Satire intended to protest the use of the veil by women. Ban the veil and ban the berqa. A Hijab is okay, however. Free Arab and Muslim women from male religious oppression.”
I’m always interested in things like this video because there is a tendency for groups with no connection to Islam to protest the hijab as a symbol of women’s oppression. This often occurs while the voices of Muslim women who argue that they don’t find the practice of hijab to be oppressive OR they have many other issues that are higher priorities are ignored or silenced. The statement “Ban the veil and ban the berqa. A Hijab is okay, however” also brings up some of the interesting aspects of attitudes toward hijab–who gets to decide what is oppressive? Why would, say, a veil be immediately and always oppressive but hijab (however the author was defining hijab) is “okay”?
Finally, I ran across this video, called “Top 10 Funniest Things a Muslim Woman Hears,” which presents 10 questions Muslim women often get about hijab/veils/scarves/etc.:
I like some aspects of this video–I’ve had Muslim students tell me they are asked these types of questions, some of which are clearly due to simply curiosity and lack of knowledge and others of which are rude. On the other hand, just like the previous video, this video is also constructing the practice of hijab, and the women who wear it, in a particular way–as something “obligatory” for Muslim women once they hit puberty. Clearly not all Muslims agree with this interpretation.
These could be really useful for a discussion of attitudes (both pro and con) toward the practice of hijab and the way it (or the version different groups portray of it) has become a symbol of Muslim (often defined as the equivalent of Arab) women’s oppression to some and of religious freedom and devout Muslim faith to others.
It could also be useful for a general discussion of whose voices are powerful in cultural conflicts. Who is speaking out against the presumed oppression of “Arab and Muslim women”? What is their interest in the issue–that is, is there a genuine concern about sexism and gender inequality, or is the issue of hijab a convenient avenue to express anti-Islamic sentiments? Which Arab/Muslim women are they claiming to speak for? Similarly, who is behind the pro-hijab activism? Are the voices of actual Muslim women represented? Do they play a role in the content of the message? To what degree do they represent the voices of (some groups of) Muslim women expressing their personal preferences and interests and to what degree is it an effort to pressure women to adopt hijab? Again, which Muslim women are they speaking for/to?
For other posts about hijab and other issues concerning Muslim women’s clothing, see here, here, here, here, and here. Also see these images of advice on modest clothing at Brigham Young University for a comparison.
Dubi — September 7, 2008
I love how the last video includes a song praising the wearing of a hijab in the first person, SUNG BY MEN (I wonder if Islam, like orthodox Judaism, bans the singing of women among mixed crowds).
Seriously, now, it's annoying to me to see Muslim women deny that some girls *are* forced to wear the hijab, and others are raised so as never to even think there might be something wrong with that. Yes, banning the hijab is limiting the rights of some Muslim women. Allowing Muslim minorities to force the wearing of it via group pressure, "cultural" education and various other means is just as much a limit on rights.
And, frankly, a society that rejects liberalism simply cannot base its claims on the concept of rights. They deny the rights of others, they cannot demand those rights to themselves.
Gwen — September 7, 2008
Yeah, that's what struck me about the contrast here--on one side you have a group saying hijab is *always* oppressive, no matter what, and on the other side you have a group saying it's *never* oppressive at all. Both sides portray hijab as a single thing and Muslim women as a single group, and it's unclear to me that actual diverse groups of Muslim women have had much input on either end of the debate about what hijab means to them, in what contexts, etc.
Trevor — September 7, 2008
As an aside, wouldn't the first image be a fantastic condom ad?
Dubi — September 8, 2008
Gwen - but that's religion, isn't it? It's all or nothing. If you think it's the word of God or Allah or whoever, then you think anyone not obeying it is dead wrong, and at most may be tolerated and pitied. If you reject that this is the word of Cthulhu or what-have-you, then those doing it are just being a bit silly, and at most - again, may be allowed to keep doing it and looked down at in pity for their primitive ways. I can't see a middle way without turning the hijab (or any religious attire) into a cultural thing, which quickly devolves into mere fashion (see, e.g., that case where an air stewardess sued an airline for firing her because her hair was in cornrow braids).
Village Idiot — September 8, 2008
"He who created you knows what’s best for you!"
In that case shouldn't we all go naked?
Whoever created this ad has a pretty low opinion of both men and women. Interesting that it doesn't assert that manflies are justifiably swatted if they touch a sweet ladypop without her permission (ah, but she lacks arms to swat with or legs to walk away with and can only just lay there passively covered in manflies I suppose).
edna — September 8, 2008
Dubi, not only is it sang by men, but it also cunningly paints women who wear make up as "not pure". This video is offensive in many ways. Let's look at the lyrics, shall we?
- this body that I have no strange has the right to see.
- This mark of piety, a simple cloth to preserve her dignity.
- see the billboards and magazines with their phony painted faces and their airbrushed smiles".
- you call it freedom and I call it anarchy
So, whoever made this video wants the freedom to walk in a hijab, which is something we should support... it's about choice, right? however, those who do not adhere to such "choice" are tramps, not pure, have no dignity and are anarchy personified.
Yes, this is what I call tolerance and acceptance of differences!
Sociological Images » GENDER IN AN EID MUBARAK SONG — October 7, 2008
[...] diversity that exists in the Muslim world. As we’ve talked about before on Soc Images (see here and here) , in the U.S. Islam is often associated very strongly with “the veil” or even [...]
Ben Zvan — January 1, 2009
Pardon my American ignorance but do the British spell "infinety" differently or do people with law degrees?
Hijab styles — October 7, 2009
this is not true Hijab is my choice not oppersion. we are proud of our hijab.
Flower girl — October 21, 2009
To 'Hijab styles'
You first say that it is your choice to wear the hijab and that you do not feel oppressed. Why did you then use the inclusive pronoun of 'we' - do you represent the majority of Muslim women? I fear you have missed the point entirely. This is an argument of freedom - individual choice and representation. You would have been better off closing your argument with 'I am proud' as opposed to 'we are proud' as you in turn are oppressing the individual rights (to expression/thought) of the massess of muslim women you claim to represent.
bollywood songs — November 15, 2009
we muslim women love our Hijab.
Asif Zardari — November 16, 2009
why world not understands that Hijab is the choice of muslim women.
Islam Ali Mohammad — November 18, 2009
even bible speaks about hijab. Marry mother of Jesus pbuh use to do hijab.
bernie — December 18, 2009
I am opposed to Muslim women wearing the hijab. Catholics, Buddhists, etc. can wear it if they like, I don't care. The reason is simple: if an infidel wears it, it is certainly a matter of choice. Muslim women should be banned from wearing it in civilized countries to protect them from coercion.
As for using the issue of hijab as a convenient avenue to express anti-Islamic sentiments, who needs an excuse to express anti-Islamic sentiments? I am an Islamophobe for the same reason that I am a Naziphobe. It is not unreasonable to fear an ideology bent on world domination.
Ertuğrul — August 7, 2010
The problem with wearing hijab is it sexualizes every human contact, regardless of the context. Covering your body constantly reminds others that they possess dangerous sexual drives that can only be inhibited by making an extra effort.