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.

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

 From Ainee Fatima’s (the girl featured above) facebook

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From Ainee Fatima’s (the girl featured above) facebook page:

Many people have already found my feature in Seventeen Magazine, so I am really excited to finally talk about this after hiding it for two months!

As of May 20th, I am the first Hijabi to be featured in Seventeen magazine. I’ve read this magazine growing up and I had never seen anyone who looked like me but now I’ve been immensely blessed to be featured in an internationally known magazine around the world.

I’m really humbled and honored to announced that I’m working with Gucci, Beyonce for her campaign, Chime for Change and Seventeen Magazine to unite and strengthen the voices speaking out for girls and women around the world. 

I would like to thank everyone who has always continued to support me since I began writing. I would like to thank my parents and siblings for supporting me in their own weird way but being proud of me regardless. I would like to thank God for bringing these opportunities in my life, for blessing me with an amazing coach and slam team. Thank you to Rossie Rodgers-AlanisAris TheotokatosNoor Hasan, Hera Shakir and Chase Langston for being there when I didn’t have a voice and helping me find it through years of tears and even more laughter. Thank you to my coach, Mr. Bellwoar who pushed me to write and encourage me when no one else believed in me. Thank you to Kevin Coval and Robbie Q. Telfer for Louder Than a Bomb and it’s wonderful community, I wouldn’t be the poet I am today without this and the inspiration you guys give me. To old and new friends who have been by my side and supported the work I do.

The issue is in stores all over the world, on itunes, amazon and kindle. Please make sure to buy a copy to show your support, it would mean so much! – Ainee Fatima

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: