Powerful talk on headscarves and unconscious bias

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I’ve been thinking about how hot and uncomfortable it is for me to wear a headscarf, plus its negative effect on my hair, and of course the horse blinders effect. A comparison to high heeled pumps came into my mind: they’re uncomfortable, affect the ease with which one can walk about in the world, and are a physical reminder that women are bombarded from birth with subtle and not so subtle reminders that everything we wear has to do with what men want. When we say it’s what we want too, that we’re choosing to buy and wear an unnecessary and physically restricting item of clothing…is that really true?


Except in the case of headscarves, in the Western world, it’s the opposite - men don’t want women to wear them, and even go so far as to bar children from an education for dressing too conservatively. Wearing high heels doesn’t get you discriminated against, subjected to violence, etc.

I hear you.

For many people, their religion and/or culture is the fundamental core of their identity. For me, every single moment of every single day is affected more by being a woman than either of those other identities, so that’s the lens I use to look at the world.

If it’s about what men don’t want instead of what men do want, to me that’s still the same problem.

Also, I would argue that wearing heels does affect how women are treated by others and how likely they can get out of a dangerous situation.


Then why wear a headscarf if you don’t want it to make some kind of statement (however benign or trivial)?

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Maybe because it’s raining?


Growing up in a fundamental baptist setting it was all this. Cover knees, neck, arms. Cover how God made you YOU because…he made men so they are unable to control themselves? Made no sense to me. I’m all about letting people live the way they want but I admit that whenever I see a women wearing a headscarf it rubs me the wrong way. On the other hand…nuns don’t bother me. Hmmmph I should try to figure that one out.


It’s absolutely a persons choice to wear a garb thats format has become traditional through many years of oppressive misogynistic hegemony.

One can certainly choose to assume agency in wearing such garb and so reclaim it for their own purpose from such traditional influence.

It’s the measure of that persons surrounding culture as to whether or not the extant ideology is such that it would punish them if they chose not to.

Some are freer than others to make that choice. Doing so in a country where you may be physically punished for committing the taboo of not adhering to traditionally established dress codes is a very different proposition to choosing to adhere to the tradition in a country that does not culturally require you to.

Would someone who routinely wears a hijab or burka feel comfortable dressing in attire that did not include those pieces of clothing, in public, even in a country that does not ‘require’ it? Is there some form of continuing oppression inherent in the tradition itself?

Serious questions, I have not come to any concrete conclusions, it’s just a headscarf to me. Although I suspect that even the people who have reclaimed agency over those traditions and continue to wear those items of clothing anyway are still under some form of the influence of its traditional, oppressive roots.

Am I wrong or am I wrong or am I right?

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I’m just going to leave this here:

Statements are an act of communication, and so an act of intention. A persons unconscious biases are not a form of communicating with people, but rather a substitute for it.

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Hard to say…
This young woman, Saima Chowdhury, seems to choose to wear the headscarf while not exactly following the other dictates to a “T”.
Which, of course, leads to getting crap from all sides…
Are you a real Muslim? (the (annoying, but wonderful) image below is the final few frames from her exasperated response to a number of such queries)


Also it’s just an item of clothing, people without any connection to cultures which require it also wear it. I was wondering allowed if people who do wear it and have reclaimed it from a traditional function, would feel comfortable not wearing it. Is it only a fashion choice or is there still some element of oppression, following the item around like a dark cloud.

Maybe the real answer is ‘who cares?’ Maybe that’s the real answer to all continuing traditions formerly embedded within oppressive frameworks and now set free to continue as a choice. Maybe not.

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Within fifty years, the US southwest from Texas to California will probably be a complete desert. Somehow I suspect that desert fashions like headwraps will ironically become popular there.


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