And now I’ll spell out exactly why I think the Collective Response is so wrong and bad.
The hijab is a statement of female subordination, and it’s also a statement of loyalty or obedience to a ferociously misogynist and coercive religion. Some people are “offended” to be told that. It doesn’t follow that it’s not true.
Women who wear the hijab without being forced are making a mistake, just as nuns are making a mistake in being nuns. Both sets of women are endorsing a religion that systematically and explicitly bars them from leadership positions in the religion and declares them subordinate and inferior overall. That’s a mistake. It’s not “racist” to say that.
The Collective Response claims that wearing the hijab is a matter of choice.
What we do find deeply problematic, however, is the questioning of women’s choice to wear the niqab and the presumption that this decision is rooted in a “false consciousness.”
To us, it is deeply troubling to be patronized by a person who insists the hijab is never a choice made of free will.
Note that in the first mention they say “niqab” – which takes their wrongness to a whole new level. They said in a comment that this was a slip of the tongue (some slip!) but they decided to leave it “in hopes of sparking a multilayered discussion that engages understandings of the hijab as well as the niqab.” This just underlines their fundamental frivolity and callousness. Yes let’s also spark a multilayered discussion that engages understandings of stoning to death and girls married off at age 9 and girls’ genitalia carved up like a roasted duck and girls and women murdered for saying No. Let’s treat it all as a “site” for “multilayered discussion” of “intersectionality” and perhaps another publication in The Journal of Pious Horseshit. Yes let’s have a fun detached multilayered chat about women wearing cloth bags over their heads with only a tiny slit in front of the eyes.
Moving on…They find it problematic that Wilde-Blavatsky questions women’s “choice” to wear the niqab and the hijab. Really? It’s clear from their use of jargon that they consider themselves highly sophisticated, but what is sophisticated about taking the notion of choice and free will as transparent and unproblematic? What do they think they mean? How would it be possible to make a free choice to wear the hijab? Free how, free in what sense? Free of influence of any kind?
The idea is ridiculous. We don’t do anything social that way. We certainly don’t wear clothes free of influence – our “choices” are shaped by what’s available and by what’s “normal” – no matter what choices we make, they’re shaped by constraints of that kind. If we “choose” to wear a leopard-pattern loincloth, that choice is shaped by various influences just as a choice to wear jeans and a sweatshirt is – and just as a choice to wear the hijab is.
And the hijab is what it is and not something else. It’s not a baseball cap or a scrunchie. It’s not secular. It has the meaning it has, and there is no “choice” that women can make that alters that fact. It’s a religious garment, with an extensive history of coercion and even violence – a lot of violence – that can’t be erased just by calling it a choice. Imagine a Jew in Amsterdam or Paris in 1946 making a “choice” to wear a yellow star. No “choice” could have erased the meaning of the yellow star. No “choice” can erase the meaning of the hijab now.