Monday, June 14, 2010

The woman's right to uncover vs the right to cover

I wanted to write about why muslim women cover and then I started thinking about all the women who do the opposite and the reasons behind it. By taking a look from "the other side of the fence" the view might be very different..We shouldn't judge the other side so harshly and think what we are doing in the west is the best thing or the other way around.

Why is it that it's regarded as a right if I chose to uncover certain parts of my body, however now that I choose to rather cover them, it suddenly becomes frowned upon and questioned as if I do not have the right to do so as a western "free" woman..On the other hand, muslim women are viewed as oppressed, the image is that they are forced to cover. Isn't the opposite then also true, to be "forced' to uncover is also oppression?

This is a controversial post on a very controversial subject. I'm going to be very blunt and honest here, saying things many people might not want to hear or admit let alone agree with me.. I just want to express my opinion, not offend anyone! Remember this is just my opinion, and the conclusions which I have come to after alot of reading, studying, critical thinking and self reflection. Afterall, it's my blog, if you don't like it then you can just click yourself away :D
I dedicate this post to ALL the wise, beautiful-minded, thinking women out there! I know you exist everywhere!

Women around the western world have the right to UNcover as they please. Most people won't question or look down upon a woman in very revealing outfits. It is considered a right for a woman to undress herself in public if she so wishes.
Think about it. Uncovering, or revealing clothing for women is more than welcomed, it's almost required to show at least some skin. If its not the cleavage, then it has to be something else like the legs, or a at least show her figure in tight or see-through clothing. Flaunt it is the motto of the day. Women in sexy outfits sell us food, deodorant, icecream etc in commercials on tv, in magazines, everywhere!

But why is this? Why do women agree to this? Does it make us feel more beautiful, accepted and secure? Then why is there an increasing amount of depression and other mental illnesses, eating disorders and insecurity among women, especially young women? As women grow older, plastic surgery, botox and the likes become a part of many of their lives. The world is getting more and more obsessed with how women look. Nevermind what they think or feel! In order for a woman to be accepted and valued in the western society seems to be through her appearance. In a way women are forced to uncover and look immaculate, and are thus oppressed. Anything that is forced on anyone is oppression in my opinion.

I see this is as just another form of men controlling women to suit their own pleasure. Undressing women is, lets face it, very appealling for most men. Women are brainwashed to think like this so men can have their pleasure of watching bare skin and feminine shapes, and women are fooled to think they are equal with men because of it! Women think all this displaying of bare flesh in public, media and practically in every media outlet is advancement! How is it going forward?

Women compete with eachother mostly with their looks, not their brains like men do. A beautiful woman is almost always seen as a threat to other women. Beautiful women dont have an easy life, good female friends are hard to find because nearly all women will be more or less envious of her looks. Being beautiful means getting male attention everywhere, this is a self-evident truth. Women tend to get extremely jealous of these women who get all the attention from men. All this because women think her worth comes from her looks rather than the inside. But is this how women percieve themselves, through the men? The more beautiful you are=the more valuable in mens eyes. Respect yourselves women! Respect your bodies whatever the shape and size!

All this jealousy and envy among women leads to even more "competition" who is the prettiest, skinniest, has the biggest breasts, longest hair, best legs or whatever else it is. This is just a waste of time and leads to women being evaluated by their looks, not whats inside their hearts and minds.

Then we have feminists who cry out for gender equality by calling for women to burn their bras and walk to the streets wearing miniskirts. Example from Finland: show up in parliament wearing miniskirt the width of a belt to make a fool out of yourself STATEMENT. Now HOW does this improve womens rights and equality? I think that is just absurd, can someone please explain? A Finnish politician Rosa Merilainen did just that. But what did Rosa achieve by this honorable act against for women's rights? The men in her party started having discussions "in the hallway" out of her sight. She lost all her credibility, and wasnt re-elected.
All this kind of nonsense just makes men laugh into their beards behind our back and in the process they get a nice view. But progress for womens issues? No way.

So lets take a look at covering then, in the western societies it seems to be mostly looked down upon and extensively questioned. Why do you dress like that? What's that rag on your head? Why do you want to look like a nun? Why do you want to spoil all the fun at a party?
The more the woman covers her body, the less she is accepted into society. Her value diminishes as the skin disappears. The most disrespected is the woman who chooses to cover even her face. How dare she?
When you see a woman covered from head to toe, what will you think, honestly? Poor woman, oppressed, miserable, abused, uneducated, backward, no self-esteem? Think again. How about self-respecting, content, independent, brave, satisfied, educated, free-willed? It could be either one or a mixture of both.

Why do women generally not have the right to cover in western world? They have already taken the right for muslim girls to cover their hair in schools in France, and now there has been discussion in many european countries about banning the veil altogether. Ok I understand that for verification of identity it essential. But otherwise, why not let these women cover their faces if they so wish? Its their own choice. The politicians supporting the ban say niqab devalues womens rights. How, since it is their own decision? Banning veiling actually takes AWAY from womens rights. Her right to cover.

First impressions tell us alot about the person we are dealing with. The way we dress plays a major role in how we are percieved by others. I guess everyone will have their own perceptions of what they define as either immodest or modest ways of dressing. That is why defining covering/uncovering is so difficult, its an individual opinion.
My message is this: western women live in a world mostly controlled by men. Why give them the right to control also our bodies and undress us?Why not keep our bodies to ourselves and say, its none of your business whats underneath!!
We CANNOT change the world on an individual level. Even how difficult this is to accept, women will mostly be viewed as some sort of sexual objects. Especially if we dress in miniskirts, revealing tops, microshorts and the likes. I've spent years rebelling, fighting and creating myself anxiety over this. When I realized that by accepting how things are, and trying to change only myself, not the world and the men, things got alot easier.

What we CAN do is change ourselves. Change how we present ourselves and send a message with the way we dress. The message is : I value my body and have the right to cover it as I wish! Respect me for it, dont judge me for it!
I'm not trying to say women shouldn't have the right to uncover. Everyone should do what feels best for them. I just hope this would provoke some thoughts, especially in women.

Neither does this mean I think all women should go around dressed in abayas, "black tents" or cover up everything, I'm all for individuality, moderation and style. But dressing modestly can be done by modern western style clothing also.
That way a woman shifts the focus from her body to herself as a thinking, feeling person. This is the wisdom behind the Islamic dress code for women. By no means is it oppressing, I would rather say LIBERATING from the pressures women face about their bodies being under constant scrutiny.
Take care and cherish your body, because it is beautiful no matter its size and shape. You dont need to display it to the whole world to get acceptance..Not every woman looks like Claudia Shiffer, so Islamic dress code makes women more equal and decreases envy and jealousy.

Try to think out of your comfort zone, try to ask yourself who are you really doing uncovering for?


Soile said...

Great post! Really makes you think, you're defenitely right!

Anonymous said...

Bravo , as a western muslim revert i understand the messgae you have so beautifully expressed as women we need to respect and support each others choices.

Layla said...

@ Soile, THANK YOU so much for your support!
I really appriciate it :)
Was expecting very negative comments..

Anonymous- yes I agree, women should stick together, support eachother, not compete with eachother..

Anonymous said...

I liked very much your post, although most of western women during everyday life DO NOT UNCOVER as you said!! After a whole life working after graduating, I can tell you that the more you are in a leading role on your job, the more elegance, style and care of yourself is required. The models you are referring at are for commercial purpose (TV or papers), or actresses (not all), or girls who have nothing better than playing the cards they have about beauty. But at work, in the streets or supermarkets, universities ecc, you won't find this sort of forced DUTY to uncover. And in the end, if I want to be sexy for an evening party, it's MY choice and I will not find anyone condemning me for that, or putting me in jail or giving me lashes for that! The point is that we still can choose.

Layla said...

Thank you and welcome!
I didnt mean to say all women in west always dress in miniskirts or so! just I wanted to say it emphasizes women being viewed as sexual objects..Sure I know very well how western women dress generally in everyday life..Again, we cannot generalize and it does also vary alot.
I agree either way shouldnt be forced on women anywhere.

Inal said...

Laylah hi
Question, why the two seeming extremes? I mean a woman in hijab with a loose shirt and long skirt, or pants; shalwar khamis; elegant silk coat ala Rajput with straight pants is covered... Why must it always be discussed in the extremes?

In a day I will go from shalwar khamis or Rajput styled coats and pants or shirts and pants with hijab; to scrubs and back before my work day is out.

And there are countless of women across the world that wear not the abaya and hijab; but the loose clothes with hijab. They don't all wear the dress type you show above. In fact a woman who is elegant by far doesn't wear what New Yorks call huchies- the name given to those who only wear clothes that is the wrong size, in the wrong place, at the wrong time... They have yet to get a ticket from the police; unless they are prostitutes- in which case they get arrested.

There are also various sects of Christians that wear long sleeve shirts and ankle length skirts...they don't cover their heads necessarily- some use bandanas, some caps like the Amish, some keep their hair tied but don't use a scarf.

So what is the definition of immodest? Only the lack of a hair cover, even though your whole body is covered in loose clothes, would make a woman immodest? Is the woman who wears same loose clothes and hijab only immodest because she is not wearing an abaya? Is the woman who wears an abaya and hijab, immodest because she is not wearing the niqab?

We women should see each other as human beings that we are in one gender. There are many issues in the world and as those who are Muslim, need to realize that the dress doesn't make them- its what is inside your soul and heart that counts toward your humanity.

Anonymous said...

So well written! And I agree 100%

Orchidthief said...

hmm... can't help but disagree. The vast majority of women in the west are not being forced to uncover due to peer pressure and to bend over backward to satisfy men. If men were really controlling our bodies, then we would all be dressing the same way out in publice(e.g. Riyadh) When I go out with my friends in Canada on the weekend, I put on heels and a short skirt for the simple reason that it looks cute and it's fun! It is not to please men, I just like to dress in a way I think looks nice and feels comfortable. I've never felt that my intelligence or moral character has been judged by my clothing in Canada, and I wouldn't judge the blonde for wearing a racy dress, she has probably paid quite a lot for her plastic surgery to wear those things (ha ha) so the power is hers if she wants men's jaws to drop. If women are sad that they don't look like celebrities in magazines, then boo hoo, I think that's their own problem. The reality is we have far more choices to wear what we want in the West, and I think we dress the way we do because we like to express ourselves, but that goes for hijab too - the majority of muslimahs interpret it the way they want to in the West and are very happy to have that freedom. As far as the niqab banning goes, I can only say that every country has its own culture - and individual rights to expression do not always trump a nation's values; living in Riyadh I'm sure we can all see that sentiment taken to extremes.

Anonymous said...

Very good points I like it!
Why did the woman in racy dress have plastic surgery?for herself?
It is shame women think they have change they body to look like its supposed to this day.maybe 70 years ago it be so different how women dressed and body type that is admired changed.
Women are sad if they don't look like her because they think that is way to be admired.
Its not nice to say too bad if someone is ugly!well I am considered beautiful but I don't like to wear clothes like that even I could "make mens jaws drop" I think there is better things to concentrate on and that is not my purpose in life to please men.
You think miniskirt is cute because you belive what you see in media why did not people think miniskirt is nice until it came into fashion?

Layla said...

Hi everyone and sorry for the late reply!
Thanks for the comments, however I would ask you to put your nick next time you comment because so many people seem to be commenting as Anonymous, to recognize who is giving the comment! Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Part One

I'm not sure how old the author of this blog is but I'm seen your generic view point expressed so many times. It has overtones of influence from living in a Muslim country and listening to one view point over and over. For most Western women, we are not slaves to what men want us to wear. But sadly the US idea is that both men and women should try to remain as young looking as possible no matter what their age. There are some people that take this to extreme. But for many they feel compelled because "age" is discriminated in the work place. Showing pictures of women and men celebrities as an example to justify your argument, is completely unrealistic. The style that "stars" from Hollywood dress like for attending celebrity events is a ridulous comparision. Stars are paid to spend money and time keeping their appearance extremely thin and young. They have to or they don't get jobs. The camera adds ten or so pounds, too. What I'm trying to express is that you may have started out with a good idea but it always drifts to this extreme idea that Western woman are walking around naked because we are forced to. Like other posters here said we have the choice of what, when and how we dress. And, I can tell you that in the professional world if a women dresses overtly sexually, she will not be respected and will be passed over for promotions and worse than that she will not be taken seriously. One of the worst cities in the USA for this is Seattle, Washington. Too much makeup or jewelry or too girly clothes and you can kiss your career goodbye. I'm not sure of your age but I can tell you that you have the wrong idea of how women really dress in the West. And, I've heard your same attitude from many revert Muslima. While Islamic women in the USA, for the most part, have the choice on what style of Hijab they choose. But for most women living in Islamic countries, they do not have much choice on on what they wear in public. It is legislated that they have to be covered. True in some countries they can get away with less. But the moral of the story is they don't have the freedom to wear whatever they want in public. I get really tired of reading about what and how Western women dress from someone who didn't grow up here and doesn't really know the true choices and what is behind them. Western women have not had all the freedoms we have for as long as you think. I'm in my 50's and I can tell you that for the first sixteen years of my life my options were mother, nurse, teacher or retail clerk. I remember trying to get a job in a warehouse because I wanted to make more money and being told that we don't hire women in the warehouse. After "women's lib" was successful, at age 14, I was finally allowed to wear pants to school. This was in the early 1970's. And, women working in non traditional jobs was not normal and accepted until the late 1980's. Sure there were women in the 1970's who were the pioneers in those jobs but they faced daily battles of sexual, verbal, and sometimes physical harrassment. And, that was before there were laws to protect them. I can remember that I fought to have a credit card in my name and get a mortgage even though I had a good paying job for over three years. So, please don't write these trite arguments about how we Western women are forced to dress exposing ourself. You just don't know what you are talking about.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Part Three

Don't get brainwashed by nonsense while you are in a controlled environment where the genders are kept separated. From living in an environment like that for any length of time and not being able to exist in a normal environment with both genders living side by side, when someone tells you that if a women wears clothes that reveal a bit of her body makes her someone wrong and a whore or dressing under the control of men, you need to get away from the vacum where you are living for a breath of fresh air. Remember that you are being told this whilst living under legislation that controls what you are allowed to wear outside and around men if you are allowed to be around any. Having to constantly being on guard emotionally about what may be exposed about your body under the threat of arrest or verbal harrassment can make you feel confused about what is over exposure and what is not.

You also have an outlet by working in a hospital where you work with men.

I'm wondering if you will even allow this post as it is so contradictory to your original post.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Layla said...


Yes my point was exactly about the freedom ie the right to for choice.
Why do you think a miniskirt looks cute, and is it in your opinion really comfortable?
Like someone mentioned before.. because something is in fashion that's why we percieve it as desirable and that it "looks cute". However before the 50's or 60's putting on a miniskirt in public would've not made you feel cute.

Regarding banning veiling, don't you think that it's exactly the model of saudi? restricting choices of how women dress?
In my opinion what these european countries are doing is actually worse than ksa. Women there had the right to dress as they wished, but now it's being taken away.

"the power is hers if she wants mens jaws to drop". I think you missed the whole point here.
What power are you talking about?
No matter how beautiful a woman is, making mens jaws drop should not be in her list of priorities.
I thought it was really arrogant to say too bad if some women don't look like celebs. Most women don't yet that's what they aspire to and for the most part its completely unrealistic, unhealthy and unnecessary.

Orchidthief said...

Well I guess I like the way a miniskirt looks because I like the way my legs look and I especially like the combo of my legs + the miniskirt. Plus I think they are much more comfortable in the heat than pants =D ...but back to your question - I mean it's the same as asking why do I like apple pie? Why do I like Henry Moore sculptures? Some people just like certain things because it is simply their taste. The maxi (full length dress) has come back into style during the recession but you'll never catch me in one. While media certainly plays into minor choices, I reject the insinuation I'm being controlled by it, and I also think that there is a degree of responsibility on the viewer's part to use some logic in how they apply things to their lives. I do not look like a celebrity and I really don't see why anyone should care to unless they want to be one themselves. If that seems arrogant, I don't know what to say - it's just rational thinking to me. I also disagree with your position of what should and should not be on the list of someone's priorities, especially if their interests do not harm anyone. You posted a picture of a woman working in the entertainment business who is obviously working to capitalize on the power of her femininity and her appearance. I really don't see anything wrong with that. Sometimes I watch Top Gun because hunky men play volleyball in it. While from a religious point of view you might not respect that, from my unreligious point of view I think it's perfectly fine. Who is to say which view is correct? I think it would be arrogant for either of us to answer that question.

As far as your opinion on how much worse it is that countries that grant women freedom of dress (with a whole host of other rights) are now putting limits on them in specific situations when it comes to the niqab in this politically charged climate, then I can see nothing I could possibly write would change your mind about it. With that, I'll just have to respectfully and completely disagree a thousand percent, but I hope it doesn't mean we can't be blogging pals.

Well I won't comment again after this because I hate long debates on the internet, but I am happy to get a chance to present my views on this very touchy subject. Kudos to you for being brave enough to put your opinions out there, even if I pretty much disagree with the whole kit and kaboodle ;D

p.s. to the anonymous lady who posted above me: you might have some valid points there but all I could see was anger =(

Layla said...

hi Orchidthief!
Thanks for your reply :)
Seems like we disagree on some points, so it's better we agree to disagree and leave the discussion like you suggested, it will just drag on!
But you made some good points there, some people like apple pie while others prefer chocolate cake ;) Debating on taste issues is endless mission!
Hope to be blog buddies in the future!
P.S I decided to delete the pictures because it caused too much confusion over what I meant+ my blog got blocked from my hospital because of "pornographic material"..

I also felt the anonymous poster has alot of anger in her system..Starting out with questioning my age is not the best way to bring forth opinions.
Second, I am not sure if she is aware that Finland is a western country?!
"I get really tired of reading about what and how Western women dress from someone who didn't grow up here and doesn't really know the true choices and what is behind them."
Either the poster doesn't know Finland is a western country, or then she didn't find out who I am, and just started her ranting.Or perhaps only the USA counts as a western country? No luck there either, I grew up in the actually there goes the whole argument.

sara said...

I was reading the comments from western women, why is it that if we choose to cover it's called being brainwashed and a woman who dresses to please men,even if she doesn't even realize it, is not brainwashed??? lol

Susie of Arabia said...

I really think that if women are given the choice, most will choose to dress rather modestly, except maybe younger women who like to flaunt it if they've got it. How one dresses should be an individual choice. I certainly do not choose to wear the abaya and the hijab in Saudi Arabia, but I do because abaya is the norm for women here, and I wear the hijab because my husband insists that I do - which I think is not the right reason for me to wear it. Dressing appropriately for the weather or the occasion should be the norm. I do see women showing more skin in Florida and Arizona - because it's hot there, not because men want them to dress that way.

NikkiK said...

Very interesting post. I do have a couple of points that I would like to make. First off, I will say that I am a non-Muslim woman, married to a Muslim and living in Amman.
I think the reason why Westerners look down on and question women covering is because for many women in the world it is not an option. I have read many blogs and articles of educated, normally well off women, often Western women who have converted saying "it is my choice", and for those women, I respect that. But many women in the world do not have the choice. For many it is mandated by law and for many others it is mandated by family. So when we look at a covered woman, we wonder, is she doing this because she is an empowered Muslima or because she is forced to? Think of Asqa Parvez in Canada or the yearly news articles of summer crackdowns on women's dress in Iran. This is why it is questioned. Also Western societies tend to have problems with outward displays of religion. Walk down the street in a "jesus loves me" t-shirt and you will likely get some negative reactions too. Don't forget that France also banned the wearing of crosses and yarmulkes in the public schools as well. But ultimately I don't think most Western countries have much of a problem with Hijab, it is the Niqabs and Burkas that cause real concern and have prompted the recent talk of bans. Covering your face is not a right and we expect that people will make their face visible to others as a matter of course in society. I'm from Canada, where it gets cold enough in winter that people sometimes have to cover their nose and mouth outside with ski masks or scarves, but when you walk into a building or even a bus you are expected to remove this. You said "First impressions tell us alot about the person we are dealing with." Amen to that! Now what will my first impression be of someone who's face I can't see? It makes normal interactions difficult and creates a barrier. But when creating a barrier is the point with face coverings, you can't then turn around and say that your rights are not respected when people don't like the barrier. In some discussions I have had with covered women, they indicate that they cover to set themselves apart from society and then complain that they are set apart. It can't be both ways. Anyways, that is my 2 piasters worth :)

Anonymous said...

I was going to comment on a few issues, but NikkiK's post expresses pretty accurately what I was going to post. I just have a couple more comments to add to hers:
1. I am a western woman and I disagree with the statement that most women in our culture dress to please men. Granted that some do, but most of us just dress the way we feel most comfortable and our style is usually a further expression of who we are. Why is it that nobody considers men wearing shorts or sleeveless t-shirts to do it for pleasing women, but the minute a woman wears a short skirt or a top, many think she does it for the men's attention? Furthermore, some state that the way we dress in the West makes us sexual objects. But I've never experienced in my society the type of harassment women experience in KSA for example. Although I'm from the south of Europe, I'm currently living in Scandinavia and if there's something I like up here, is the respect for one another, be it man or woman, regardless of how much skin he or she is showing. To be honest, Scandinavia proves that the more comfortable we are with nudity and sexuality, the less sexual harassment/rape takes place (proven by statistics).
2. I honestly think that, Laylah, many of your standpoints come from having to adapt to your new context. You need to think of it positively and I understand that. That's the key to survival. But I believe you've partialy lost your objectivity somewhere in the way. If there's anywhere in the world were females and people, in general, are most free, that's in the western world. And I base that on my own experience (I've lived in the US, several European countries, and several muslim countries as well) and my knowledge (studies and exposure to multicultural environments).

DB said...

Just wanted to say that NikkiK and Anonymous just after her said exactly what I think about this "covering vs uncovering" issue.

As NikkiK mentioned I must say I don't believe all muslim women are covering of their own free will in many middle eastern countries especially if they are wearing something like a burka. Burkas are highly restrictive and inconvenient and I wonder what woman would really choose to wear something that problematic instead of a simple headscarf. Your stories about the muttawa harassing women in public places to "cover their hair" is a prime example of this lack of choice in some countries.

The second issue I have is that in western culture looking people in the eye and seeing each other face to face is fundamental to our culture with regards to interpersonal relations and trust. Just as covering the hair and averting one's gaze may be a fundamental part of the culture of some Islamic/middle eastern countries. If we westerners must be forced to cover up when in Saudi Arabia why can't western countries enforce laws in accordance with their cultural practices?

And as Anonymous asked and as I commented in another post: How objective are you towards western culture nowadays? Since as I said you have chosen a new religion and culture which you deem to be good obviously you may be a bit biased here.

Though we disagree here I must say that I like your blogs. Yours is one of the few with anything interesting to say.

Layla said...

Hi DB and thanks for your lengthy comment!Glad you found my blog :)

Also thanks to Nikki and Lilith for your input, Sorry I didn't reply sooner,

I think the issue of women's dress will never be "solved" because we all have our opinions about what is the right way to go.It depends so much on the experiences we've had and the environments we've lived in I guess.

I have to add however that I do know more women that wear niqab from their free will than I know of ones who would throw it away if the society here would allow it. some women simply feel "naked" without the veil or "burkha".

I agree that seeing the face is a fundamental part of communication in the western world and
that's why veiled faces are so intimidating. We are used to seeing the expressions and feelings from the face, if hidden then it sends out a message of mistrust because we are not used to those things being hidden.

As to the question of how objective am I toward western culture nowadays, I thought about it for a while and it's difficult to answer. But what I can say is balancing the two cultures is always difficult. I think both have their good and bad and I try to take the best from both :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks Layla for this good blog.

I'm happy to see the Saudi women in Canada make the choice not to wear all black, or the full abaya. I recently told a Saudi friend that even as a Westerner, I believe men and women should dress modestly. I don't chose color and or print for my husband. I chose my clothes because I love them, and they are modest. I don't want to wear a uniform. Don't understand the point of a full headscarf while wearing a kilo of make-up, however, but I never will.

I understand that Saudi women dress to the 9's for their weddings. They love fashion as much as the western woman.

Thanks Layla.

Anonymous said...

Awesome post, can I please re-post it as a link on my blog? Its a topic I'm so passionate about! You worded it so well its like everything I want to say came out.

Layla said...

Huda-sure you can, be my guest :) Glad you like the post so much!

bigstick1 said...


You know your not going to like my comment here. Okay. First and foremost what women choose to wear is their decision. Modesty is actually a means that women are groomed into believing that their body is a sexual object. If you go on about dressing modestly then your consider yourself as such. There are tribes where people are virually naked that have no problems with the human body as they see it as a human body not a walking sex organ. In applying a modesty code or conforming to a such; you actually are making yourself into a sexual object as this is actually why you are covering up. The more you cover, the less of you is allowed to be free to be what you are and that is a person who is free to be themselves. The society you are in has ensured that sex is everywhere and the body is a sex object. The body is not a sex object it is a human body. In fact the biggest sexual organ is the brain. The brain can make anything into a sex object even a fruit. So when do you and others stop this insanity. You stop it by saying the sum of you is more than your sexual part. Your clothing doesn't define you as anything modest, indecent or anything else. It is your actions that do that. You can be in an abaya grinding away on a guy who is not your husband. I ask you did the clothing make you modest? I don't think so. So you can put on whatever if you have a mindset that a women is a sex object it simply doesn't matter what you wear, you are just that a sex object. In order to get away from this mindset is not to cover up but to deal with the mind and how your children are taught on the value of individuals and gender. Which includes having a person be of more value that the sum of their sex parts and window dressings that stand for nothing more than to says you are a sex part.

Anonymous said...

Hi Laylah,
Interesting blog post. I am living in Germany with my Indian husband, he is not the conservative type, but he is still amazed to see that women wear next to nothing in summer time. Women in his family usually wear salwar type dress (although with short sleeves), and older ladies wear sarees. We are living in a big city in a Turkish neighborhood, and I have to say that I do prefer the loose fitting neat tunics that I can find from Turkish shops to the nearly see through blouses available at normal shops here. I think that your views are like a breath of fresh air. I also come from Finland, and as you know, modesty is not exactly associated with "coolness" there. Although I do not share your faith, I think its great to find some encouragement from a blog like this, emphasizing that modest dress can be beautiful as well.

Tiffany Wacaser said...

Interesting post.

My only beef with your argument is that I don't feel like women really do have a choice here in Saudi Arabia, not with Muttawa running around, enforcing the dress code.

Do I have a problem with a woman who geniunely believes and follows the Islamic dress code? Absolutely not. On the contrary, I find her devotion and geniune belief in her religion refreshing and admirable. However, as one commentator stated, it is remarkably difficult to ascertain (for Westerners) whether Muslim women are donning the abaya and veils because they are geniunely religious or do so out of fear from the muttawa or out of family rules dictated by the male authority in their homes.
Likewise, it is difficult to see how wearing the abaya is not oppressive when you see Muslim men wearing western clothing without reprucussions. It doesn't feel equal to me and that bothers me.

I also agree that the immodest dress of many Western women is troubling. I really understand the point you are trying to make about western dress. I'm a Mormon and we embrace the principle of modesty, we teach it to our members, and strive to live it. I also understand, to some degree, the way Muslim women feel when in the West, and are treated poorly or discriminated against because of their wearing the veil or whatever, as I have felt that on occasion when secular westerners criticize me for my dress or my beliefs and implying that I am oppressed because I am religious and am a member of a conservative faith.

On the other hand, Saudi Arabia has decided to enforce their codes upon all people in their country. As a guest in their country, I accept those restrictions and do my best to abide by them. I don't necessarily like them as I would have chosen to dress modestly and appropriately in any case. I feel that element of coercion from the government that makes me uncomfortable.

Likewise, France has taken a stand, not just against Muslims, but other religions as well, in enforcing a certain code. If you can say that Saudi Arabia has the right to enforce this code, then the same courtesy ought to be extended to France.

I'm not saying either country is right in this. If you are going to praise one, you can't condemn the other.

From my personal opinion, I do think that countries, including Saudi Arabia, ought to respect the rights of religious people to demonstrate their faith in visual ways--so long as those ways do not infringe upon the rights of the majority in the society. Likewise, I expect (yes, I know this idealized) immigrants and expats to demonstrate respect for the prevailing customs and cultural rules of the country in which they reside. This means that westerns ought to dress more modestly in Muslim countries. Likewise, Muslims ought to respect that western countries are uncomfortable with total veiling of women's faces. There are safety reasons to add to the veiling--for example, identification cards, driving, etc.

I do feel that if Muslim women do expect others to respect their dress code, and particularly, the practice of veiling their faces, they need to be likewise respectful of customs of western cultures.

Tiffany Wacaser said...

I'm also linking this post to my blog because I think my readers would enjoy reading your thoughts.

I've also posted my additional comments on my blog.

Anonymous said...

When I see a woman covered head to toe I think "she's living her religion" I also hope it's her choice. If it is...good for her.

Here's the thing. In Saudi Arabia is a woman more likely to be raped if she doesn't dress head to toe? Would it be considered her fault? Is that freedom? Is that a culture which promotes respect for a woman's body?
In my understanding there is a HUGE underlying component of fear in teh life of a woman in Saudi Arabia.

I understand modest dress promotes seeing the woman as a whole instead of as an object. I am free to dress modestly. Only a teensy part of society would look down on me because I choose to not show cleaveage or knees or shoulders. And that negative view would be a flash and gone. I don't avoid dressing modestly out of fear.

Linda said...

Choices are always limited - there are laws, regulations, city ordinances prohibiting me from burning my own trash in my own backyard as the smoke bothers other people, rules of good manners that prevent me to saying that my uncle is an utter asshole - well, my mom, his sister, already told him because he transgressed good manners so many times and in very rude ways that my mom dropped her decorum and did some shouting.

I do wear headscarves pretty often. For very simple reason - I'm allergic to UV rays and I get nasty rash from too much sun exposure. The sunblocks are fine but not worth the bother for a short stays outside, it's easier to put on a scarf. I've got a fair dose of disapproving looks and an occasional nasty comment - so far for freedom in dressing in Europe.

I discovered your blog only today and it's interesting. The Arab culture is either vilified or its existence is outright denied because those dirty Muslims who force their women to wear black sacks can't have any culture at all, or it's overly praised because everything even slightly related to Islam must be the best thing ever. I like the insider info - how the people live, with their virtues or vices. Trash in the streets is something I can live without, the generosity and open hearts of Arab people - something to envy.

Continue writing, please.

Abigail said...

I'm interested to see the arguments that Western women generally don't dress for men. That's probably true, but I think those of us that do cover in hijab and whatever else have this concern: even if you're not dressing for men, you will be treated as if you are. I used to wear jeans and t-shirts, nothing immodest and not meant to catch men's eyes, but they still treated me as an object. That's probably the saddest thing of all. Not all Western women are sex-craving strippers (actually probably very few are), but unfortunately this is how our culture has designed for us to be perceived - witness the above-mentioned advertisements and TV shows. Religious reasons aside, I think covering is a necessary result of other people's lack of respect and self-control, not whether or not a woman thinks of herself well or not.