Sadly, in the Egyptian community, there is a huge deal of unnecessary emphasis on what women should and should not wear. What seems to be clear, however, is that our society will never be satisfied with what a woman chooses to wear, even when she abides but what she is told to do. If she’s veiled, she’s oppressing herself. And if she shows some skin, she’s welcoming sexual harassment with open arms.
The other day, I stumbled upon this picture on Facebook with what you would assume to be a tourist posing for a photo in a middle-eastern country, wearing provocative clothing. In the photo, women who wear the hijab are staring at her. The caption read: “birds born in a cage, think flying is an illness.”
We shall tackle an important point first before we get into the main idea. There’s this thing called cultural relativism, and it’s the idea where beliefs, customs, and morality exist in relation to the particular culture from which they originate and are not absolute. Basically, a person’s beliefs and values should be understood based on that person’s culture, rather than be judged on any other basis. That concept is very important when it comes to cross-cultural clash, as demonstrated in the Facebook post.
Now we come to the interesting part: the picture. The obviously western page that shared this photo and its very lovely caption with the internet hoped to imply with it that hijab equals oppression, which is absurd. The problem is that even people who live in Egypt – a conservative Muslim country – have actually adopted a similar point of view. The over-sexualization of women and the underrepresentation of Hijabis in the media has led many to associate wearing less with being freer. The constant pressure from society to be modest and to cover up has also led women to associate it with oppression, and the idea that women have not been considered to be sexual beings with natural sexual desires like their male counterparts have led people to create terms, like “slut”, and the negative impression they convey.
Although that may seem overly exaggerated, except that I do believe such ideas have been embedded into our minds, whether we recognize or agree with them or not. There is nothing wrong with choosing to wear the veil. Rather than a symbol of oppression, I find it to be an example of power in self-discipline. Hijab does not undermine your femininity nor is it a form of oppression. In fact, it’s actually challenging to choose to wear the veil in our very own Muslim country, what with negative connotations that accompany it and the increasing number of restaurant that do not allow veiled woman. That is why, hijab is but a symbol of power nowadays.