The Online Hijab Narrative and Policing Women’s Bodies

wood turtle recently wrote this great post on a tired, patriarchal online sport: policing women’s bodies by dictating ‘proper’ and ‘improper’ hijab. I reccommend reading the full piece, entitled “beard memes and the proper hijab narrative.” wood turtle’s post includes several examples of this online trend, so go check it out! I’ve excerpted parts of the post below which get to the heart of the issue:

In this online narrative hijabis receive the message that there is only one type of hijab and only a “true muslimah” wears it. Women who don’t wear the hijab aren’t even factored into the equation. They don’t register on the pious Muslim scale, except to slander and shame women who wear the “wrong” type of hijab.

Who is deciding what constitutes the “right” hijab and a “true Muslim woman?” According to more than one of the infographics, the judgement comes from our fellow “brothers in Islam.” Not scholars. Not women. Not God. It sets a dangerous precedent when men feel they can freely comment on and define women’s bodies. These memes and infographics are shared thousands of times over social media. They’re fun, fresh, snappy cartoons — reinforcing the message that women have no agency to decide what makes a good hijab for them, whether fully covered or not at all.

This proper hijab narrative completely sexualizes the headscarf and standards of modesty — turning fellow Muslims into slut-shamming caricatures responsible for the chastity of men. The additional unfortunate subtext of this trend, is that even when women wear hijab according to the requirements of the Sunnah, they’re still not covered enough. Condemned to hell via a whore/Madonna hijab dichotomy.

It would be so nice if people could practice their ideals of modesty without this guit, shame, and gender inequity baggage showing up on Tumblr and Facebook. To be modest and Muslim “just because.” Because it’s stylish or comfortable or just to create a personal connection to the Divine.

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It was honestly so much easier back when I only had to explain I wasn’t a nun. Whereas now I have to explain how Im not a terrorist. #Islam— Assia Amry(@Libyan4life) May 22, 2013

headscarf perk #5

Hilarious questions I’ve gotten for wearing a headscarf:

“Do you shower with it?” (absolutely; it’s great for hygiene)

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“Do you have hair?” (no, i don’t need hair, i have a headscarf)

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“Can you hear with it on?” (what?)

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“Can I see your hair right now? Just really quickly?!” (of course, honey)

…but no.

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“Do people, like, have to bow down to you while you’re wearing that in your country?” (YES, i am queen)

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“Do you know the guy you’ve been arranged to marry?” (yes, he’s gorge – looks just like Chris Pine, only 50 yrs old)

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“But you can take it off when you go clubbing, right?” (obviously. a girl must ‘club’)

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“Omg, does this mean you can write in, like, hieroglyphic or whatever? Can you write my name?” (lion doodle, lion doodle, eagle, phallic symbol, disguised smiley face, lion doodle)

        > “Omg, you’re welcome.”

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headscarf perk #4

A few years ago (give or take, who cares anyway) the universe was introduced to those bluetooth earpiece phone-thingies. You know, the ones that make well-dressed businesmen look like absolute head-cases in public venues because they look like they’re talking loudly to themselves but they’re actually wired to the earpiece thingy and are in the middle of a legitimate phone call? This guy says it all:

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Okay, well GUESS WHAT. Headscarf wearers are way ahead of you. Have been for years, in fact. So here’s perk 10: Headscarves = automatic phone holders. Please, see below (and weep (jk))

Seeee??! If you look closely enough, there is a phone tucked into her scarf. Now she can ride her bike (she’s on a bike) without having to use one hand to converse on the phone. In other words, she hasn’t handicapped herself and is now a much safer rider. This makes her less of a danger to pedestrians/cars. Now, I’m not a logician, but…apparently, headscarves can save LIVES. Not even figuratively.

Here’s another one for ya. This one is an action shot of a lady putting the phone into the headscarf. Fascinating:

headscarf perk #1

You get to have that awesome feeling every day when you triumphantly remove your head scarf the minute you get home (not resentfully, of course – triumphantly). Headscarf-wearers will understand the unique pleasure in this part of the day. For non-headscarf-wearers, it’s kind of like taking your killer heels off at the end of the night after your feet have been trying to commit suicide for all the time you’ve spent walking/dancing/schlumping around painfully.

How you feel after you take your headscarf off: