What is the big deal?
Maggie sent the following question in (through the submit form and not the ask form, which is why I can’t reply directly):
What I think about this blog? Who cares? Lot of women wear hijab and others take it off-what makes you guys so special? I wore the Hijab 4 years ago and I am very happy with my choice-but its not a big deal-I have family members who don’t wear it as well; to each their own, but I don’t understand why you guys have made this into this big thing…who cares? You are not the last one to take off a hijab and also there will be many others who will CHOSE to wear it…
Well, Maggie, as for who cares…apparently you do, since you took the time to make your bitterness known. If it’s immaterial, why does it matter so to you?
As for what the big deal is…
Women have been treated like objects of discord and shame, they have been devalued—indeed, reduced to the value of their bodies—and treated inhumanely because they are thought to be shameful, sinful, and lewd. That is the big deal.
Women’s bodies have been policed and controlled, that is the big deal.
Women’s bodies have been treated as gateways to familial honor, bartered as prizes to settle disputes, exchanged for dowries to husbands they had no power to choose for themselves. That is the big deal.
Women’s bodies have been treated like the property of their husbands, to be smothered from the rest of the world and then exposed and used at the will of the husband, because how can one rape what one owns? That is the big deal.
Women have faced violence and aggression for daring to show their skin, that is the big deal.
Women have been deprived from feeling the sun, the wind, the water on their skins, that is the big deal.
Women have been kept from touching other people and being touched, loving and being loved, have been isolated from intimacy and the world. That is the big deal.
Women have been kept from making what they will of their lives and their selves because of the fear that they might interact with men, that is the big deal.
Women have been taught to view their bodies as temptations and to understand their roles as lesser and limited, because they have been told that is their place. That is the big deal.
Women who have tried to run away have been tracked down, imprisoned, beaten, and unlawfully committed to insane asylums where they have been tested upon. That is the big deal.
Women have been treated like inferior, subhuman creatures, their bodies dirty temptations, their limbs and hair and skin as targets that would arouse the predatory in men, that is the big deal.
Women who have tried to choose their own paths have been socially ostracized and disowned, have lost their jobs and their children, have been shunned and treated as pariahs. That is the big deal.
Women have been deprived from making choices, only allowed to do as much as their fathers and husbands bid appropriate. That is the big deal.
Women have had their sexuality demonized and denigrated, that is the big deal.
Women have been arrested for daring to pull their scarves off and dance to a happy video, that is the big deal.
Women have been forced to stifle their own breathing, movement, and ability to eat if they wish to be in public, that is the big deal.
Women have been stoned, attacked with acid, whipped, and hanged because of their perceived immodesty, that is the big deal.
Mere children’s bodies have been hypersexualized, their hair and limbs treated like sexual objects of temptation that must be covered up. That is the big deal.
The hijab is not and has not been a discrete piece of cloth for these women. People *need* to stop pretending like it’s just a morally neutral mode of dress that has no normative content in it, that is thus a matter of taking it or leaving it. It is intermeshed with doctrine, with law, with cultural norms, with social dynamics in way, way too many places. It has been an entire behavior code of modesty that has reduced a woman’s fortune and demise to the “honor” of her body, has dictated how, why, when, and where women were allowed to be. Often even without the literal headscarf being enforced—we’ve had submissions from women who’ve been restricted by imposed modesty doctrines but who have not had to cover their actual hair—as if it is reducible to that. It is not. Stop making it about the cloth. It’s about the norms. And modesty norms have shorn them—us—of agency, stripped us of personhood, made us small.
You know why this project is a big deal?
Because it’s a big deal to women who have never been acknowledged, who always been made small, who have only broken free at great personal cost and who have not had anybody who could understand their histories. And they now have a space to finally do and say whatever the fuck they want about their bodies and their lives. They have the space to let their stories be known, to know that they are not alone, are not obscure, are not forgotten, are cared about and listened to. It’s THEIR turn. On THEIR terms.
And just because you and people like you have been supremely fortunate enough to have a choice regarding hijab does not give you the slightest reason to dismiss others who have not been so lucky, to begrudge them this space, to make light of their stories and lives and the stake they have in the matter of modesty doctrines.
This is a big deal. And every woman who has submitted her story, and every woman and man and genderqueer who will submit in the future, is a BIG, BIG DEAL!