It is important that our stance against fashion policing also opposes criticism of women’s conservative clothing choices. Patriarchy and misogyny force numerous women into clothing choices they do not approve of. It is common for us to voice support to such women. To support women who have to hide behind a pallu or a burkha for the entirety of their lives. But what if a palla over head or a headscarf or a hijab is a voluntary choice? Do we criticise such women or do we stand by them, because it is their right to wear what they like?
This debate has again raised its head with the news of a 20-year-old Muslim woman, Sarah Iftekhar, all set to become the first beauty queen to participate in the Miss England finals while wearing a hijab. While she is not the first Miss England contestant to wear a hijab, she is the first to make it to the final stage of the competition, reports RT. However, this news wasn’t received well by many, who think of hijab as regressive, and hence representing the conservative mentality we are trying to fight.
20yo Muslim woman set to become the first beauty queen to participate in the Miss England finals while wearing a hijab https://t.co/DSldjeNCxt
— RT (@RT_com) September 3, 2018
But Iftekhar is wearing hijab out of choice, not compulsion. Thus isn’t it our duty to stand by her? Isn’t it her right to wear what she wants to and not what we approve of?
Every woman has the right to dress as per will
A woman have the right to wear whatever they want to, even hijab, unless she does so out of free will. Our battle against policing of women’s clothes is on grounds of forcing choices on them in name of customs and culture. Of blaming toxic male mindset on their clothes, and not on male upbringing and regressive traditions which lead to a sense of entitlement among men.
- Sarah Iftekhar is all set to become the first beauty queen to participate in the Miss England finals while wearing a hijab.
- Her selection has not gone down well with many people who consider hijab to represent conservative mindset and policing of women.
- But if a woman is wearing hijab or burkha from her free will, then we must support her choice as we do when women wear short skirts or jeans.
We cannot advocate freedom to choose clothes as per their will for women, and then criticise those who opt for conservative clothes. Because that negates our argument. People need to understand that for women who have spent all their lives living a conservative life, our flash of modern clothing is too much to handle. For them, their full-length clothes or clothes which hide their face are an inseparable part of their identity. They don’t want to wear a bikini or a short skirt as they feel uncomfortable in it. For them, even the transition from burkha to hijab or pallu over their face to slipping it back to cover just their heads is a radical and bold move.
So the same hijab and burkha become a tool for both patriarchy and our struggle for right to choose. The key word here is free will.
Liberation has different definitions for each and every woman and we must support each one, irrespective of the one we live by. It must not be a small feat for Iftekhar to compete in Miss England. Her decision to compete in hijab is her way of telling girls from conservative parts of this world that they have a chance too. That they can match steps with this modern world and embrace freedom, albeit in measured doses, and according to their comfort.
After all, freedom from policing of clothes is not about the length of the skirt or about wearing salwar kurta and not jeans. It is about having the right to make this choice for ourselves. Of putting our liberty and comfort before what others consider appropriate or right for us.
Picture Credits: The Times of Israel
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.