Macy’s recently announced that they would be releasing a hijabi-friendly clothing line, called the Verona Collection. Shocking to only coastal elites, the public response was not a particularly positive one. Hundreds of social media users pointed out the absurdity of watching Macy’s stand with Islamic “fundamentalists” (Also known as “Muslims who follow Islam”) pushing Sharia modesty law as women in Iran protest for their right to remove their headscarves.
I shared in their sentiment. There is nothing progressive about promoting the hijab in the free West. It is a symbol of declining freedom. It is a symbol of the oppression and subjugation of Muslim women across the world. It is a symbol of our tendency to exoticize something that should be ignored, if not actively countered.
And most of all? It is a symbol of adherence to an ideology that calls for the subjugation of the entire world under its laws. That is the reason I hate seeing the hijab. Not that women covering their hair is in and of itself a problem at all.
I wrote about this same topic quite recently, when the “Nike Pro Hijab” was proclaimed by Time Magazine as a top invention of 2017.
I’ve evolved on a lot of what I said in that article. Of course, I still find the whole idea of a piece of cloth as an “invention” to be very stupid. But there are a few things I have been feeling the need to clarify as of late. For example:
I think Yasmine (an atheist) and I (a complicated believer) differ a little bit on the nature of Hijab and religious modesty in general having an empowerment aspect – I think that they can, and I got the impression Yasmine found religious modesty culture to be inherently regressive.
Despite what the vast majority of my secular friends (including several ex-Muslim friends!) will think, I have to make something clear: I will no longer walk the middle ground on the issue of religious modesty.
I was very conflicted about the whole idea when I wrote that piece. Was religious modesty empowering? Was it always empowering? Should it be seen as a remnant of religious fundamentalism, to be rejected by the Secular Society™?
The comfortable place to be on this issue was right where I was in my previous piece.
But if there is one thing I always have to do, that I have promised to my readers, my Twitter followers, and those who watch Right Millennial, is to fearlessly say what I believe to be true. Regardless of popularity, regardless of embarrassment over having to admit I’ve grown or changed my mind on something, that promise still stands.
What I believe to be true is that modesty is not only not “the problem” in a secular society, but it is a beautiful thing that I want to keep on my mind when I get dressed, put makeup on, (dont) do my hair, and present myself to the world.
I really loathe this conflation of Western Sharia-compliance with general religious modesty. I am not offended by modesty. I think modesty is awesome. I am disgusted by religious subjugation appropriating it to spread Islam.
— Stefanie MacWilliams (@StefMacWilliams) February 7, 2018
I was raised in the Greek Orthodox Church, and I was taught that modesty is a virtuous thing. It was never about me as a woman being unclean or inherently sinful. It was about me serving God by taking some of the focus off of the physical so that goodness could shine through in other ways.
And, yes, feminists (and probably plenty of normal people as well): it was also about making it easier for my human, fallen brothers not to sin.
This idea, even to consider it, is so counter to our culture today.
“But it’s not a woman’s job to not be raped/harassed/stared at/etc!”
I agree, of course it isn’t. Ultimately, every human being is responsible for their own sins and their own decisions. Men are responsible for what they do with their lusts, for what sexual values they have, and for how they feel about the women in their lives.
And, to make it eminently clear, men are responsible for any act of sexual violence they commit- even if I was lying drunk and naked in the street, it would never under any circumstances be okay or excusable to assault me.
Why have we as a society become so horrified by the very idea of helping each other in leading righteous lives?
Look, I get it. Most people aren’t religious. It has been a deep, soul-level struggle in my own life, that is only extremely recently starting to work out.
But should the idea of a “righteous life” be some sort of archaic, religious thing? Must it be limited to the devout at this moment, and seen as unnecessary to the rest of us?
I have recently been struck with the realization that I really, really care about living out my values – to the point where I have had to make some excruciating decisions in my personal life to do so.
One of the areas where this hit me the hardest was in my relationship with men. A specific one – and men in general. Perhaps you want to read this as preaching. That’s fine, I understand. For me, this is coming from a religious basis.
But I felt this conviction that there was such a thing as a righteous life, and a righteous view of sexuality, long before I even considered coming back to re-thinking my religious views.
We feel a distaste for sexual promiscuity on a gut level – even if the exact definition of what we view as “sexual promiscuity” varies by person, culture, and religion.
And why wouldn’t we? I can think of dozens of reasons for it, far too many to list in this article.
But let me just look at one, that I feel in my own life.
I have never been intentionally promiscuous, because deep down, I think I have a lot more to offer than being someone’s conquest. And this feeling held true, despite all of my many mistakes, despite having obviously had sex outside of marriage, despite having had sex outside of committed relationships, and despite my most sexually liberal ideological phases of life.
I could not shake a simple truth in my own heart: sex is not simply an act. It has meaning.
I happen to think it’s a God given meaning. Maybe you think that’s stupid. But the idea that it is simply an animalistic and meaningless thing, that the pleasure of sex (even “safe sex”) itself could somehow be enjoyed absent any consequences is absurd to my thinking.
And if sex has meaning, would it not then follow that the actions I take in my life surrounding sex have consequences?
At this moment, though I haven’t figured out all of the specifics about what modesty means to me, or whether or not I’ll change very much about how I currently naturally present myself, I know a couple of things to be true.
How I present myself to the opposite sex matters.
A lot of people will think I’m crazy.
And that’s okay.