Feminism and Islam: Does it Mix?

by jdeena

The other day I posted the blog of the Christian woman who wrote about her decision to stop wearing yoga pants in order to respect her husband and the sanctity of their relationship. If she would have left her sentiments at that, I could have accepted it. After all, a woman has the right to save for husband what she wishes. However, she included in her post that before coming to this decision, she asked her female friends and her husband about what they thought of women who wear yoga pants, and her husband admitted that it would be hard for him “not to look” if a woman walked by in them.

Um, what? So your husband openly admits he might sneak a look now and then, and instead of telling him to avert his gaze, you make the decision to stop wearing them so other guys don’t look at you- because it’s disrespectful for your husband? What about all those other women still walking around in yoga pants? And now you will only wear yoga pants at home for your husband, but he is still out there looking at other woman in them. Seems like a useless decision.

This is what I have a problem with. Women who choose to stop wearing something “because men” something: can’t help themselves, might be tempted, might get the wrong idea about you. How about, men control their mouths, their hands, their thoughts? Don’t tell me men are animalistic by nature. Don’t tell me they are primal beings that have the gene of provider and pro-creator. We’ve come a long way from the Dark Ages.

As much as this topic is interesting, what I really wanted to get into was the debate that ensued after I posted this article. My point in posting it was obviously from a societal standpoint- that as women, we continue to be blamed for men’s reactions to what we wear. And that in order to get them to stop, WE have to change. As a feminist, that doesn’t sit well with me.

A few people came on to the post and told me that from an Islamic point of view, this is why we women cover- to avert mens’ gaze. However, I don’t believe that should be reason enough. And really, it is not meant to avert a man’s gaze, but more so to keep hidden the things you should only want to show your husband (which is subjective in my eyes, since I have many friends and family who have lived their life uncovered and are by no means bad people). Ok, so back to the comments. I was told that is a woman PROPERLY covers (meaning that I do not), she will not have men harassing her or looking at her in a lewd way. So basically, if I don’t want to be harassed, cover up.

BIG ISSUE HERE. Because I have had friends overseas who will cover completely, and men will still harass them. Men will cat-call a plastic bag if it has the right curves, okay? Regardless of what you wear, you will get harassed. I was wearing no makeup one morning, barely awake, and filling up gas. It was sunny so I had sunglasses on, and the guy at the pump next to me said “Hey ma, why don’t you take off those sunglasses so I can see your pretty face?” I’ve had guys hit on me at the gym (insert lame “let’s workout together” comment here) as I was red-faced, sweaty and panting for air. Some guys will just harass because they can. And yes…it IS harassment. It is unwanted attention, it is not a compliment. See previous post for rant on that.

Once I got everything out of my system on why men should not harass a woman regardless of what she wears, and once I advocated why women should be allowed to dress any way they choose without harassment, I was told that as a Muslim covered woman, I cannot support that ideal. Because my religion encourages women to cover, I cannot advocate on behalf of women who want to dress provocatively.

Wait, what?

So because I am a Muslim woman, I cannot fight for women to be able to wear what they want without fear of retaliation? I was told yes, because fighting for that goes against the very ideals that Islam instills in us. Which is that women should be covered and therefore will be protected. Of course, this did not sit well with me, as I feel a woman should be able to do whatever the hell she wants to do. I have many friends and family who are not covered, and so I will fight for their right to be uncovered and not harassed. It has nothing to do with religion, it has to do with the fact that women are HUMAN beings, not animals, and they deserve to walk out of their homes without worrying if a skirt above the knee will warrant unnecessary comments. Or that a pair of heels will not invite men to make disgusting comments about where else they can wear them.

So can I, as a Muslim woman, be a feminist? Well, I say yes, because here I am! I am fighting for women’s rights all over the world and I wear hijab and identify as a Muslim. Now, many people seem to have a problem with that, but guess what? I don’t care! Regardless of whether or not you think my ideals coincide with Islam, I am content with still upholding my traditional Islamic values while also fighting for female equality and proper treatment. I recently read an article about a woman who identified as a feminist while being Christian, and she spoke of many of the same issues I have discussed here as well (although she went a bit further). Here is a link to her post: http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/worldview/christian-cleavage-probably-isnt-problem#o97qZSH5dpz14m3H.01.

It does stem a bit further than just Muslim women, so really, can we say organized religion and feminism cannot mix? As far as I can tell, yes, it can….it is those who doubt the power of the feminist movement and have yet to believe in its cause that seem to think it cannot. If you want to seemingly hide behind your scarf and use that as your shield against the “harassment” you go right ahead. But I will have no problem continuing to prove you wrong.