A friend of mine recently posted the following clip of two Muslim women discussing the niqab ban in France:
Both sides were very well-debated, which is a rarity on TV these days. On one hand, Mona Eltahawy (right), although she considers the reasoning behind the French ban to be racist, would like to do away with all facial covering. She calls it "the pinnacle of objectification" of a woman, to have one's primary source of communication and identity virtually erased. Definitely a valid point, of course, especially since many, many Muslim women are required to cover their faces, but that doesn't necessarily apply to women who choose to wear the niqab in countries where it is optional. Hebah Ahmed (left), a blogger for Muslim Matters, actually covers herself to avoid a different kind of objectification, the kind any woman living amongst men knows all too well:
Basically, I want people to know that when I choose to cover this way it’s because I am fighting against a systematic oppression against women in which women’s bodies are being sexualized and objectified. This is a different perspective and a different form of empowerment in which I think when I’m in public, my sexuality is in my control and people have to deal with my brain and who I really am and not judge me by my body. And if we want to really talk about the oppressive situation of women, let’s talk about all the eating disorders, all of the plastic surgery, all of the unhealthy diets that are being done, all in the name of having the perfect body. To me, this is liberating and this is empowering.
WOW, right? I can't really describe this as anything other than punk rock. In fact, it already has gotten me thinking on the image I present to the greater world.
When I was younger, I was very image-conscious, not in the traditional way of staying on-trend, but more like making sure I portrayed a small amount of rebellion and counterculture in everything I put on my body, and it gave people a little clue into what I was about. Nowadays, I just wear my mom uniform of t-shirt and jeans, and I do see people having difficulty sussing me out. The good part is people don't pigeonhole me into some simplistic caricature, but the bad part is when given nothing to go on (except for my obvious race and body shape), most people don't want to take the energy to get to know me even a little bit. There must be some happier medium.
One funny story: while I was engrossed in this debate, I didn't realize Isaac was also watching it behind my shoulder. When it ended, he was indignant on Hebah's behalf, saying, "But Mom, how can she do her job if she can't cover her face?"
I didn't recall them discussing her job at all. "Huh? What do you think she does, Bu?"
"Well, she's a ninja, right?"
I will never look at a niqabi the same way again!