My stilettos, my choice. Your Hijab? You’ve been brainwashed!

c1492d1b9a40d95336eb738d895c9ae2Ever hear anything like this? “It’s shocking that Muslim women have so little say over what they wear. They say it’s their choice to wear the Hijab. They’ve been brainwashed! Their free will has been corrupted and they have no idea what real choice and real freedom is. Not like me. I know real freedom.”

You stand there in your size 9, 4 inch stilettos crammed with your size 9.5 feet, toenails painted and cuticles trimmed, leg hair ripped out by the roots with hot wax applied regularly. The shoes hurt but they make your legs look great.  You know you could wear flats… you choose to wear heels.

Your $12 ultra sheer super control top pantyhose do their best to contain that tiny tummy bulge but what it can’t hold in is managed by your Spanx. Your dress is exactly the right mix of professional and sexy so that your meeting today will go well; if your ideas don’t dazzle them, they’ll be hoping for a peek to determine of the colour of your $65 underwire push up bra and wondering if it matches your thong and whether you’re landing strip or clean. You choose to wax because it makes you feel sexier…

Your skin glows… it should, after being religiously scrubbed, buffed and exfoliated. You moisturize twice daily of course, to stay smooth and silky. Your makeup only takes a half-hour now, and you’ve narrowed the routine down to about 15 steps and products. The cost is alarming, but that’s how it goes. You choose to use good skin care and cosmetics; they are much more expensive, but they make you feel prettier…

Your hair… well, it continues to be a struggle. You are going grey and would like very much to let it go, let it happen. In your profession though, grey hair is an invitation to the younger, bolder, hipper folks to step in. You’re not quite ready to let that happen so it’s cut, trim, dye, streak, highlight, foils… you name it. You choose to colour your hair because you know it makes you look younger and sexier…

You pull on your exercise gear and go for a run a few times a week. You hate it hate it hate it and it hurts your knees but you only have a little time to exercise and you seriously don’t want to gain any weight over the winter. Your body needs to be bikini ready when you head to Mexico for a winter break. You may be getting older but you sure don’t want to seem like you’ve given up! And your man, well he likes you looking slim and hot and you want to keep him looking…

Women in the west are the most brainwashed in the history of the world, I would wager. I’m one of them. I have bought into the Virginia Slims, Coca- Cola-Calvin Klein-Betty Crocker-Cosmopolitan femininity construct as much as the next woman. I have no place, no right and no authority on which to judge the choices of any woman anywhere. My choices are the result of the brainwashing I’ve undergone my entire life. Here in the West, that’s celebrated as personal freedom.

There are lots of reasons to be angry about the treatment of women in other countries, under other regimes and political or religious systems. Squawking over women’s lack of choices is hypocritical at best so long as we continue to be pummelled with messages about how to be prettier, fitter, sexier so long as we keep making dolls for our daughters that look like little anorexic prostitutes. We can’t keep offering our own women the choice between being being blow-up doll bitches or perfect Pinterest moms while condemning the choices of others. We need to think about this…

Moral authority? We don’t have it.

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7 thoughts on “My stilettos, my choice. Your Hijab? You’ve been brainwashed!

  1. I appreciate everything you have written. It is eloquently put. I completely agree that Western civilization has created a ridiculous “beauty culture”. However, I do believe one thought is missing in your comparison between our brainwashed Western view of beauty and the hijab. Should you choose to wear flats and no make-up to work, you get told you look tired. You may even get taken less seriously during that important presentation. However, you do not get taken out to the street and stoned to death by your own father and brothers. I personally feel that comparing the very real and dangerous oppression of women in other cultures to your feelings of being trapped by your own beauty routine was a bit of a stretch. That being said, you did make many thoughtful points 🙂

    • Some countries and families have incredibly repressive regimes which oppress women horribly. I referred not to the burqa in my post, and not to the systematic suppression of women’s rights and freedoms. I have heard a lot in the press lately from the likes of comedian turned political commentator Bill Maher that women who choose to wear the hijab do so because they are brainwashed. I point out that for many Muslim women, the hijab is a choice. I am not comparing the forced burden of the burqa and hijab by extremist regimes to the choices made by moderates. I remember as a child, women wore head coverings to go to mass. Even today, many “moderate” faiths or churches have some degree of expectation as to how women dress while attending worship services. In North America we have a strong movement of “modest women”, fundamental Christian women who “choose” to wear skirts, have long hair and accept the husband as the master of the home.
      What I’m getting at is that we can’t, in the West, choose a single group like Muslim women who choose to wear the Hijab and measure them and their choices with a different yardstick. It’s insulting to the many women who choose this outward statement as a testament to their faith and their relationship with the God they believe in.
      My choice to wear stilettos reflects no such commitment, and no conscious decision making.
      I condemn oppression of all women everywhere; here in North America and elsewhere. Sometimes we fail to recognize it in ourselves though, while we judge others.

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