Today, we are celebrating a feminist holiday: #NoHijabDay. Feminists have long fought against gender policing, patriarchal violence and mandated hijab. You’re not a feminist if you refuse to support women who take off the hijab. I had to quit my job because they knew where I worked. I had to sacrifice health insurance and work 80 hours a week just so I could post a bikini photo on Instagram. I am envious of any woman who can post photos of herself in a thong bikini without fear of honor killing. I had to work diligently to experience this level of freedom.
The hijab was invented by men to separate enslaved women vs “free” women. Enslaved women were “permissible” to rape. This is why whenever a woman takes off the hijab, men (and women) begin to slut-shame, verbally abuse, physically beat, and even imprison them. The women they see as domestic slaves are realizing they actually have rights! Muslim men do not respect women. When they emigrate to a Western country, they have to take classes on consent. They have to be taught that a woman walking around half naked does not mean you can rape her. In Muslim-majority countries, women and girls are imprisoned for removing the hijab. State-sanctioned and institutionalized religious oppression remain active threats to women’s liberation.
The hypersexualization argument is rooted in misogyny. An adult woman choosing to wear a bikini because it’s scorching outside is not hypersexualization. Hypersexualization is a grown ass man “marrying” a 9-year old girl. I experienced incessant sexual harassment while wearing jilbaab. However, I went to a country where I didn’t know anyone, wore an extravagant costume, rode in Uber’s by myself, partied with locals and tried rum for the first time. And guess what? I returned home unassaulted. While wearing jilbaab, I was often groped, sexually harassed and verbally abused because I looked like someone who was too ashamed to report anything.
I was told that the world is too dangerous and violent for women, so they have to cover their bodies in heavy blankets and travel with male chaperones to prevent rape. Nothing bad happened to me in Colombia or Trinidad & Tobago even though I went alone. Ever since I started traveling solo, I have realized that the home is the most dangerous place for a woman. Domestic violence, forced marriage, honor killing, FGM, foot binding, breast ironing and the list goes on and on. Parents can be sex traffickers too. We need to center the stories of women and girls who risk their lives by abandoning religion. In my case, it is legal to kill me for leaving Islam in 13 countries.
Feminism is the only reason why I was not a child bride. No other movement protected my dignity, safety and right to a life without sex trafficking. Whenever hijab is being discussed, we’re only hearing the opinions that have already been approved by the Muslim community at large. We don’t get to hear about stories like my own due to fear of honor violence. Social media is making it possible for us to witness the struggles of women forced to endure theocratic dictatorships firsthand. #WhiteWednesdays is a digital movement led by Iranian women resisting religious oppression. Feminism uplifts the struggles of women in the Global South. I am a real feminist. I will never tell a woman to risk dying of heat stroke, so that men might respect her. Next time you go outside in a bikini, please think about the millions of women who will never experience this freedom because they’re afraid of getting beat to death. Think about my story.