There has been a lot of talk in the news recently about women who dress modestly because of their religion. Feminists groups have taken it upon themselves to campaign against the oppression of these women. Saying that hijabs and the suchlike are against feminism. Restricting women and their rights. However, is dressing modestly really anti-feminist? Or, is it actually a new kind of feminism?
There are many Muslim women who dress modestly for religious reasons. They will wear hijabs or burkas because they believe they shouldn’t have certain parts of their body on display. Although there are different interpretations of what should be covered up, many agree they should dress in a modest fashion. Recently, feminists have begun to fight against what they believe is female oppression. These Muslim women shouldn’t have to cover up because of men. They shouldn’t be made to dress modestly. What they don’t realize is that many of those who wear hijabs do so as their own kind of feminist pledge.
The Feminist Movement
Feminism is defined as fighting for equal rights for women. There’s nowhere that says one feminist group is good or that another group is off the mark. Essentially, all feminists work together to create a more equal planet for females. So, if a woman wants to wear a hijab to free herself from concentrating on looks or body image, then perhaps she too is a feminist. If one woman wants to wear one of the latest abaya designs to connect with her more spiritual self, then she too is a feminist. What makes you anti-feminist is if you start telling these women they’re doing it wrong.
The Oppression Argument
Let’s be realistic here for a moment. There are some women that are made to cover up by the men in their lives. There are some women who are genuinely oppressed when they’re made to wear modest clothing. This is a sorry state of affairs and is something all feminist groups should campaign against. No woman should be told what to do or what to wear. This article is not to detract from the fact that some women are oppressed when they’re made to wear hijabs or abayas. However, there are many Muslim women out there who have made the decision themselves to wear modest clothing. They don’t want to follow the latest fashion trends splashed all over magazine covers. They don’t want to wear bikinis and crop tops, just because society says they have to. They don’t want to be seen as sexual objects by men. These are the women who are not being oppressed. Yet, they’re still being targeted by certain feminist groups.
So, perhaps the next time you think, “poor woman” because she’s wearing a hijab, think again. This woman may feel empowered by dressing in a modest way. Perhaps she has made the decision to go against media’s definition of beauty, in which case we should be thinking: What an amazing woman!
Photo by Dingzeyu Li