A few things give me joy like watching a woman remove her hijab. It’s incredibly fortifying. I could watch loops of women removing their hijabs for the remainder of my life because I just love it so much. This is what women’s liberation looks like. When we talk about women’s rights, we must include the voices of women who’ve been denied decision-making power, agency, and freedom. What I’m trying to say is: my feminism will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit.
Back when I was brainwashed, I would argue that wearing a bikini wasn’t freedom. I was omitting the fact that I was afraid of homelessness, brutality and physical violence if I even dared to say the word bikini out loud. I was embarrassed to admit that I couldn’t. Not because I didn’t want to. In fact, I did want to wear a bikini on the beach somewhere in the Caribbean and remain alive after doing so. However, I couldn’t take such a risk. I wish I was more honest with myself and with the people around me. I was miserable. Being coerced (and often forced) into wearing something you do NOT want to is a form of violence.
Look up the hashtag #WhiteWednesdays on twitter or Instagram. Follow Masih Alinejad who’s advocating for a woman’s right to remove her hijab in Iran. Imagine being imprisoned up to 20 years for taking off your hijab. This is gender-based violence legitimized by Islamic edict. I was also forced into wearing jilbaab—the dress form of hijab. I was told that if I didn’t wear a jilbaab, I’d be homeless. I resonate with women living in Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia because I experienced similar restraints and oppressive standards of womanhood. Performing purity, modesty, and obedience, so that I wouldn’t be raped, violated or homeless. This is no way to live.
I wish someone would’ve told me that it’s okay to take off my hijab. I wish they would’ve also told me it’s okay to leave Islam, travel the world solo, and choose a self-determined life. I wish someone would’ve told me it’s not my responsibility to prevent rape. There are places in the world (i.e. Colombia) where women wear short-shorts and bikinis in public. Isn’t that wild?! Men around them actually understand that dress ≠ “God-given” right to rape. Isn’t that incredible? I’m grateful for the privilege of solo female travel. It has truly opened my eyes to see that I do not have to perpetuate my own oppression and degradation. Mental chains are harder to break than physical ones. But it’s so worth it. My liberation is more important than my fear.