Yesterday our family was invited for dinner to the home of a Lebanese family whose son is friends with our son Adam. They live in a residential compound where women can walk around the grounds without an abaya or having to cover their hair. I was very excited because I would get to meet the boy's mom (a new potential friend - yay!), plus another couple from South Africa. I had already met the South African lady through my blog and I was looking forward to seeing her again. I made a salad to take with us as our contribution for the meal, took a shower, and got dressed.
About an hour before we left the house, I told my husband that there was a possibility that both of the other women we would be visiting with that evening may not have their hair covered. If that was the case, I went on, I would prefer not to be the only woman there with my hair covered. Well, basically my hubby told me that if I wanted to uncover my hair there, that he would not be going with us. So I had two choices: (A) I could agree to keep my hair covered and have him be there with us; or (B) I could uncover my hair and make up some lame excuse for why he suddenly wasn't able to come with us.
The arguments for his position included that we are in Saudi Arabia, it is a Muslim country, and that Allah requires women to cover their hair. He feels now that a woman's beauty, including her hair, should be revealed only to her husband. He says that he is a Muslim man and his wife should cover and he should be respected by everyone else for feeling that way. I, as his wife, should obey and please my husband, and to a certain extent I agree, but what about MY feelings and my comfort?
My hubby does not regularly read my blog, but he has seen it. A photo of me showing my hair for the entire world to see is posted on my blog, and he has not asked me to remove it. What is the difference, then, if I uncover my hair in a private setting with two other non-Saudi couples present? And, if the other women at this dinner party weren't covered, why must I? I told my hubby that I like to feel good about myself and I honestly feel ugly wearing the hijab (head and neck covering). I feel plain and invisible and I don't like feeling that way. I find it uncomfortable and it makes me hot. It makes my neck itch. I know that there are many Muslim women out there who feel beautiful wearing the hijab, but I personally don't. I know that there are many Muslim women out there who feel empowered wearing the hijab and the abaya, but I feel the opposite way. I know also that there are many Western women married to Saudis who love to cover and may even veil, but I’m not one of them. Do I resent them or fault them for it? No! If it suits them and they like it, good for them. It's just not my thing.
There are many Muslim women around the world who do NOT cover their hair and do not wear a black abaya. So definitely, this is a cultural issue here. But the problem for me lies in the fact that ALL the reasons I’ve ever been given for WHY women have to dress like that here ARE religious! To me this boils down to man’s interpretations on imposing THEIR personal beliefs on women. I have asked my husband many times to show me any passages where Allah has instructed that women specifically must cover their hair and neck or dress up like a nun, and he has yet to show me anything. I believe that all religions here on earth are manmade and this is the root of my problems with religions. Since religions are made by man, as a woman I have a problem especially with those teachings in religions that seem to be directed only to women and are not applied equally to men. For example in Islam, how women should dress, how women should act (lowering our gaze, not letting other men hear our voices), and that men are allowed four wives, etc. I find these religious rules unfair to women. I am not putting anyone down for believing whole-heartedly in these values. I just don’t buy into it myself. Honestly I wouldn’t have a problem with it if these rules were applied equally to men.
All my life before we moved here I was fine without shielding my hair from men – over 50 years – and I don’t recall having any problems from men because of my hair. So I asked hubby why he didn't make an issue out of me not covering my hair for the 30 years we spent together in the states? His answer was that he was stupid then! If it’s because he didn’t want other men seeing my “beauty,” I could better understand that if I were still younger, cuter, and thinner. But the truth is, I just don’t FEEL as attractive as I once did – let’s face it – I’m pushing 60! Covering now at this point in my life when I didn’t when I WAS cute blows that "beauty theory" out the window as far as I’m concerned. It makes no sense to me.
You'll be glad if you click on the links below to check out some other really interesting posts about Islamic women’s dress that have cropped up recently by some of my favorite fellow bloggers. There are also some amazing photos, interesting history, and great comments too. Don't miss these must-see posts:
Aafke of Clouddragon entertains with a post called "Women, Dress, Undress and Religions."
American Bedu pens a provocative post titled "Saudi Arabia – I Dared to Go Out Without An Abaya."
And Achelois looks at history in her post called "Uniforming the Muslim Woman."
Also check out Saudi Woman's post about "Confiscated Abayas!"
Oh, and FYI, Adam and I went to the dinner party WITH my husband, and I wore the hijab the whole time. The other two women did not cover their hair. My husband and I set aside our differences and we all had a lovely time. The food was fantastic and our new friends were delightful. But deep down inside, I was not happy about having to wear the hijab!