Covered by Choice Does Not Mean Oppressed
I belong to a group called Covered in Light. It is a group for Pagan and Polytheistic women who cover their heads (and/or hair) with a scarf or veil as part of their religious observance. Why would a Pagan veil? WitchVox author Nar goes into some of the reasons, and I’ve written about veiling as well.
Recently, one of our sisters was wearing a hijab style cover (which is most typically seen in Muslim dress) on her way to a meeting when a woman spat in her path. You can read more about this account at It’s Only Cloth, a blog that one of our Sisters started to help share similar stories.
Let me reiterate that for you – a woman spat in the path of another woman simply because of what she was wearing.
This happened in America – land of the free. But I guess that only means ‘free… if you don’t appear to be Muslim’. I am appalled, though not surprised that this happened. There is a fairly large Muslim community in my city, and one of the schools here has a high percentage of Muslim teachers and students. My children attended this school for a while, and I heard all kinds of derogatory remarks made in my presence with the assumption that I shared their bigoted worldview because I was ‘white’. These experiences prompted a local mother’s group to host a discussion on raising non-racist children in an area where racial tensions are high, to learn how to talk about racial issues and how not to pass along biases to our kids.
What seems odd to me is the number of people who focus their anger and discrimination on Muslim women, many of whom are easily identified because of the hijab, or headcover, that they wear. It’s odd to me because the same attitude is not reflected towards women of other religions who cover – Catholic nuns, Amish women (though they are admittedly few and far between in my area of Texas) – their covers are met with respect and decorum. Their covers are seen as signs of religious devotion – something to be respected and honored, not reviled. And yet Muslim women, who also cover for religious reasons, are viewed as ‘oppressed’. I am confused about how a woman’s choice to wear cloth on her head equals being oppressed; how wearing cloth on your head prevents you from doing or saying or being anything one wishes to be.
Want to be an individual? I think she’s got that covered. There’s nothing ‘brainwashed’ about this woman in her hijab. She is expressing herself fully, as she wishes. Whether this image is a joke or not, the point is made that she is in control of her appearance.
And this lady? Which scenario is more likely – that this woman chose her outfit and took time to carefully arrange it, or that someone told her that she ‘had’ to wear this to practice her art? I don’t know about you, but she doesn’t look like a woman that anyone TELLS to do something.
I want to be clear here – certainly there may be women (of ANY faith) who are compelled to cover for reasons that they did not personally choose – maybe it’s a cultural thing, maybe it’s a familial habit, maybe it is a religious thing that their family practices and they’re just not old enough to be outside of parental jurisdiction… certainly this situation can and no doubt does happen – but that’s not what I am talking about here. I am talking about women, of age, who have made the choice to cover in *any* style – a cap, a hat, a bandana, a scarf, a tichel, a hijab, a niqab… there are women who CHOOSE this style of dress, for a wide variety of reasons.
My post is in support of a woman’s right to choose what she wears and her right not to be discriminated or abused for it. Much in the same way that we have fought for a woman’s right to wear a short skirt or a low-cut top without implying that she is ‘asking’ to be abused or raped because of what she is (or isn’t) wearing, so too, do the Sister of Covered in Light want the same sort of respect for women who choose to veil.
In an effort to raise awareness for this cause, we invite you to participate in the First Annual International Covered in Light Day. We’re asking all women, regardless of faith, to ‘put yourself in her scarves’ for the day – wear a cover, a headscarf, a veil – something to stand with and stand up for the rights of women who choose to cover. We are not oppressed. We are not subjugated. We are Covered in Light, Covered by Choice. Please help us spread this message!