The New York Times has discovered that some women, of the Islamic faith, wear hijabs, head coverings. And not only that, but these women want to be stylish while decorous and modest as indicated by the constructs of their cultures. Which just goes to show, if it’s in the Times’ style coverage, it ain’t exactly breaking news. Just read any of New York Magazine’s coverage of this ‘style’ coverage. The Cut, NYMag’s fashion blog, slices and dices with sarcasm and irony that will curl your toes.
The relatively new twist, as covered by Hannah Seligson in the article “A Makeover for the Hijab, via Instagram” in The Sunday Magazine, is the role that digital media, particularly Instagram, plays in allowing young media savvy Muslim women to express their sense of style, and self. Yet, the bigger pictures of to hijab or not to hijab as well as the role of gender is glossed over with depressing quotes like this one:
“People used to feel sorry for us Muslim women and think we must be ashamed of ourselves for covering up, but now they see all these pictures online of us smiling and looking happy and fashionable and realize it’s not a sign of oppression,” [one interviewee] said.
Because ashamed and oppressed are the same thing? And that people who are oppressed never present a front? Is there a perception in the non-Muslim world that Muslim women are wearing hijabs to cover some self conscious factor like a jelly belly, bad hair or a scarlet A and I’ve missed it?
As Sara Yasin explains in her earlier post for the Times (which is much stronger on feminism than fashion) the true freedom is having a choice as to whether or not to wear a hijab. At heart, this is the same freedom that is argued over choice in the United States. A woman ideally would have control over her own body, including how it is clothed.
Seligson’s article takes on non-muslim internet use. The “online fashion space” is a place “typically reserved for those who expose more skin or wear body-hugging clothes.” (Huh, the last articles I read on WWWear was all about how to make boyfriend jeans office friendly and don’t even get me started about how much time I waste on Tomboystyle.) The majority of Seligson’s interviewees are in the US or liberal, prosperous Muslin countries. Not shockingly, she qualifies the tension created by followers of a faith that frowns on photography leveraging their images to create style and inspire others is not just that of fashion and faith, but “as one between American and Muslim values.” Who knew.