Muslims will declare that hijab (modest attire is worn by women) is the answer to hypersexualization and gender-based violence. Well, I disagree. I felt more hypersexualized in hijab than I ever have in a minidress. The problem with hijab is that it reinforces purity culture. Purity culture describes women’s bodies as sinful, tempting and shameful. Hijab puts the onus on women to prevent rape. I’ve always felt uneasy about being responsible for my own sexual assault. I’ve written about why hijab is not a choice. In this post, I discussed coercive practices that undermine personhood and self-determination. As someone who’s worn hijab from ages 6 to 26, I can honestly say that it was never a choice. I knew if I took it off, I would be ridiculed, lose social standing, financial support and basic respect and decency from my family. But I did it anyways.
I often discuss self-determination, bodily autonomy, and personhood on GabarIskuFilan because these are terms that I once believed didn’t apply to me. I felt more hypersexualized in a hijab than in a minidress. When I was younger, I was told I had to cover my ankles because they could entice men. So, I wore knee-high socks. Then, I was told my neck had to be covered because it was an “intimate” part of my body. So, I was always bundled up. And then, I was told my earlobes also had to be covered because they could lead men astray. So, I wore a jilbaab. I thought to myself, Damn, what’s next? My voice?! Well, actually I was also told my voice could be tempting to men, so I was forced to speak behind a screen. How can earlobes be slutty? This oppression continued until I was entirely covered from head-to-toe without freedom of expression, choice, and autonomy.
This onslaught continued until my entire personhood was minimized. I was pushed into the margins. I was invisible. I discovered activism in college and for the first time in my life, I realized that I actually love being seen. Being seen is an incredible feeling! I can’t quite describe what it’s like to be recognized, praised and revered for my work. I’ve learned through blogging that I don’t have to hide. I do belong in this world. I am entitled to take up space. I’ve learned from solo female travel that I shouldn’t be scared. The most dangerous person in my life is actually a male intimate partner. I also drive Lyft and I’ve never had any negative experiences. Hijab taught me that I had to deprive myself of liberties, fun and solo travel because I could be assaulted. It’s funny how depriving myself of a more enriching life is easier than holding men accountable.
Hijab is rooted in purity culture. Purity culture is also anti-feminist. Feminism is about women living self-determined lives without violence, coercion or oppression. It’s about the right to make choices about our careers, partnerships and reproductive rights without influence or control. Feminism is about dismantling systems and gender stereotypes that put the blame on women for virtually everything. As a feminist, I felt stifled by the hijab and Islamic dogma. I couldn’t truly be free. I’m happy to say that I’m much happier now than I’ve ever been. This a personal testimony of just how much beauty there is in letting things go.
GabarIskuFilan is a radical Somali feminist solo female travel blog. Support my work by sharing, commenting and subscribing. I post new content twice a week.