An argument between two white Canadians about hijabs

So. This is a weird one for me because the person I was arguing with is a very strong-minded, smart, mostly liberal person who happens to be a white man. Not as white as me, but for those who know me know that’s a level of white impossible to achieve without either being born with albinism or an appointment with the late Michael Jackson’s plastic surgeon.

On this occasion, I think being a white male who’s watched too much news and been sleep deprived for a little too long might have had something to do with his opinion being so far from what I thought it would be.

We were discussing an interview Stephen Colbert had with Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad among other things, and my friend was astounded that I supported her wearing the hijab.

There’s good reason for him to be surprised. I’m anti-religion, feminist, queer,  liberal thinking and very stubborn in the face of people dictating what I should or should not wear.

He said my supporting the integration of the Muslim religion into Canadian/”Western” culture is hypocritical to basically everything I stand for. He also made a remark about how women only wear hijabs so they don’t have to style their hair every day. I’ll get to that one. Last. I’ll get to that one… just, lol, yeah… later.


Case the first: who is Ibtihaj Muhammad?

She’s an American Olympic athlete. The whole system had to change to accommodate women wearing hijabs in the games, and in this hate-filled prejudiced climate against Islam it takes a lot of guts to stand in front of not just a nation but the world and stand your ground. So yeah, in this case my feminism trumps my atheism. Mostly because I kind of see this emergence of Islam in the mainstream as not exactly a good thing, but a necessary thing. I think the more religions the masses are exposed to, the more likely everyone is to see the inherent problems within the systems of each organized theism. It’s kind of like a sunburn; with each “new” faith we’re peeling back the mystery, learning new philosophies and (hopefully) seeing religion for the opiate of the masses that it truly is. It also, I think, serves to normalize multiculturalism in a very visual unavoidable way. In the same way, it raises the discussion of feminism and makes us ask the question, is it more sexist to make a woman cover herself, or make it mandatory for her to wear little more than a thong as her “uniform.” Which leads to;

Case the second: Is the Hijab an affront to feminism?

Personally, my opinion is that it can’t be sexist if she chose to wear it. If she wasn’t coerced by the fear of hell, or being disowned by family, or beaten, etc. If it’s something that makes her feel in control of her own body and sexuality I absolutely see it as her right to wear it. If it wasn’t seen as a form of religious and ethnic appropriation, I would love to rock them some days. They can be absolutely gorgeous in terms of fashion. Definitely a much classier way to cover up than a hoodie. And in Canada? Perfect winter attire! No more frost-bitten ears, or having to wear both a scarf AND a toque to keep your head and neck warm. Plus, again it’s one of these visually unavoidable things that force people to have this female equality discussion. I hope one day the hijab debate is at the same level the pants over skirts debate from the 1920’s is today: Irrelevant and entirely dependent on what you feel like wearing that day. But of course I understand that not a lot of hijab wearers would agree with this argument because it is so central to their religion as to be inseparable in their minds. I’d argue though that in 20 years or less, for better or worse, it will become more a fashion statement favoured by professional women who are sick of their cleavage and calves being leered at in the office than a religious statement. One thing time and exposure does to cultural identity, and better than anyone ever expects, is water it down to what will make the biggest buck for the people who stand to make some money off of it.

Case the third: Hijabis just too lazy to bother styling their hair

I know he said this as a “joke,” but c’mon. I’m not letting you live that shit down, man.

first of all, what high-fashion rock have you been living under that you think girls with free hair aren’t too lazy to style it every day? How have you been able to avoid the greasy atrocity that is the “messy bun”?

Also, I have never worn one, but a quick google search shows tutorial after tutorial and not to mention the different kinds of scarves on the market, for styling your hijab. so it can’t be THAT much easier can it?

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