Why I am in Support of Headscarves

Dear Egyptian men,

I fear for your safety when you stare at me as you drive past me really fast, and then lean your head out the window to look back at me. You’re going to kill yourself.

-Me

Several times a week I walk back from our bus stop to our apartment alone. I have never been concerned with my safety or wellbeing while doing so, even at night. However:

I am a white, young, female living in a culture where women are covered from head to toe – sometimes including even gloves and socks and a veil. I try to dress modestly, something hard in a hot, desert environment; I wear long pants all the time, and long sleeves when I’m not on campus at AUC, or with foreigners. I rarely wear my hair down, though I have not noticed a difference in the amount of stares whether my hair is down or in a bun.

I was walking back yesterday in long pants, tennis shoes, and a long, loose shirt that covered my butt, had three-quarter sleeves, and didn’t show that much of my neck. I thought I was going to cause a pile-up on the main road past our apartment. Really guys, focus on the road; you’re driving a motorcycle and there isn’t a speed limit.

*I will admit for the sake of honesty (keep it real dawg) that it appeals to some source of vanity within me. I  imagine that this is what it feels like to be gorgeous, to be Angelina Jolie, or Scarlett Johansen, and I pity them both for it. We have a very human fixation with beauty. But the appeal for me dies almost instantly. I become eternally grateful to the one man out of twenty I pass who honestly could not care less that I exist and who only glances at me once.*

As I was rushing back to our apartment pretending I didn’t notice the stares that followed me, it struck me that men in the States barely glance at billboards of half-naked women, there are so many of them. There is a Victoria’s Secret we used to walk past when we went shopping, and it hurt me how few people even looked at the poster sized images. Not only are these women naked, but no one even cares. Are we really that used to equating the female body with sex and pleasure that it has lost its appeal even to some men?

The issue has been rehashed a million times over, and it’s not my intent to do so again. Instead, I think I’ll propose something radical.

Young Muslim women are right to cover their bodies. 

Yes, I just went there.

Having interacted with multiple Muslim teenage girls or young women, I can assure you that the majority of them choose to wear the headscarves and long dresses for their own protection (and by protection I mean both physical and spiritual). Married or not, they understand that men respond to the female form (as they are supposed to, inside marriage) and take precaution to save their bodies for the enjoyment of their husband, whether in the future or presently. And I admire the heck out of them for that.

I have a very good American friend. She’s one of the most gorgeous people I’ve ever met, both internally and externally. She also is one of the most scantily clad girls I’ve known in my life. She is tall and lithe and single, and she enjoys it. Teeny shorts, or short dresses, sleeveless/ low cut shirts… she shows off so much of her body that she might as well walk around in a bathing suit all the time. I know she has a pure heart, and pure motives. But she is wrong to dress like this in front of her guy friends.

I hear the protests: “Oh but I look so cute! And I’m not trying to attract attention; I’m dressing like this for me!”

Men are not blind, and they don’t care if you’re dressing like that for you or for them. The only man I want staring at me is my husband.

And if being cute is higher on your life goals list than being pure, then by all means. Show off your body.

But I am in support of head scarves.

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4 thoughts on “Why I am in Support of Headscarves

  1. I never thought that much about it. I always felt bad for those women, but it never crossed my mind that they may willing do that. I just always chalked it up to men being possessive of their women. But you have an excellent point! and I would slap those men for staring at you, my friend!! :P

  2. On some level, I agree with you. I think our concept of modesty has become painfully diluted. In America particularly, we are confronted with nudity so often that we ignore it. I think there is beauty and independence in choosing purposefully to cover yourself. I think a cheekbone or a bare shoulder can be more beautiful and revealing than a pair of short shorts.

    But I will also add that modesty is heavily influenced by culture. I think wearing a tank top or shorts can be done modestly here, but I do think we, as women, should be conscious of the power our bodies have to communicate. We should not allow our bodies to lie about our hearts and say things our tongues would be ashamed of.

  3. By the end of my time in Indonesia I had grown to nearly scorn Indonesian men – all due to the years of being looked at like that, or walking through the market or downtown and having men say, “sexy, sexy” as I walked past. My sisters were the same when they left Pakistan.

    However, despite being disgusted by the men, I can say the same thing. I liked being perceived as attractive. However, I didn’t want to actually TALK to the men. Interesting how that works.

    Indonesia (at least where I was) rarely covered heads, though. I think in much of the world we’re stared at not necessarily because of our immodesty (though that can be an issue) but more because our white skin is associated with the loose women of Hollywood. I compare it to how men would react if women walked in or by in an outfit that identified them as Playboy bunnies. Even if they were covered, they would immediately be seen as a sex symbol and so they would be stared at in a way the same men might never star at an attractive woman they see as a peer.

    And so… unluckily for us… our white skin is our Playboy outfit. So – they stare. Thanks Hollywood.

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