I did not wear hijab to protect myself from creeps

I started wearing hijab exactly three months and ten days ago.

The most difficult moments of the journey so far were in the months leading up to me actually putting it on. I was so nervous. Being in my mid-20s, I already have an established network of family, friends, and co-workers who might have different opinions about it. What would they think? What kind of questions would they ask?

But I already made up my mind months before I wore it. I really wanted to wear it. I researched and I read. I talked to a few close friends and family who wore hijab and asked them questions on questions on questions about their experiences. I practiced wearing it here and there, to the grocery store or somewhere inconspicuous, to see how I felt. After deeply contemplating it, I had the desire burning inside of me. It was something I felt I needed to do on my own personal journey to strengthen my relationship with God. I made sure my intentions were in the right place and on October 18, 2013, I woke up in the morning and thought, Eff it, today is the day.

Ever since I put it on, I have never felt more comfortable. I mean, white people speak louder to me because apparently the piece of cloth on my head means I know less English, even though I was born and raised in the States. I still get almost the same amount of discrimination at airports and other places that I did before I wore hijab. I was always tan skinned. I also had to figure out how to eat and wear glasses while wearing hijab (note: I’m still trying to figure out how to do this with grace).

Despite some challenges, I have never felt more myself. Alhamdulilah. This is me.

One thing that has always bothered me before I wore hijab though, and what continues to bother me now, is the notion that wearing hijab protects you from creeps. This idea is illustrated in the poorly edited graphic below:

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I find this to be super problematic, and not just because of the hideous Comic Sans font.

Unfortunately, women will get negative attention from and sexually harassed by perverted men no matter what they wear. Insinuating that covering oneself with a headscarf is protection from sexual harassment perpetuates the notion that victims are to blame for the sexual abuse they experience, based on the clothes they wear.

Sexual abuse and rape are not the fault of the victim. They are the fault of the abuser/rapist and society at large for the continuous acceptance of sexual objectification. I don’t care if a woman is walking around naked. If she is sexually abused or raped, it is not her fault. It is the fault of the creep who thinks it’s okay to forcefully take someone else’s body and do what they want with it.

By saying that wearing hijab keeps the creeps away, we are simply buying into rape culture. Rape culture and sexual objectification are everywhere we go. Turn on the radio and you’ll hear Lady Gaga singing, “Do what you want with my body.” No, our bodies are not objects. We must not continue this cycle. We must challenge it and stop it wherever we see it.

Hijab is awesome, and I love wearing it. But I did not wear hijab to protect myself from creeps. In fact, if anything, there have been more creeps attracted to me since I put on hijab. That’s not my fault—it’s theirs. Thankfully I carry around mace to protect myself. I encourage others to do the same.

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7 responses to “I did not wear hijab to protect myself from creeps

  1. beautiful mashallah. you are such a strong and inspiring woman and that hijab ties it all together to make it astoundingly perfect. much love from your new cousin, AH 😉

  2. Sounds like you’re a strong, confident woman who’s got her head on straight! I definitely agree with the overall message of your post, but there’s one small thing that bothered me. You mention “white people” who speak louder to you now, as though there’s a group on one side (“white people”) and a group on the other (Muslims or American Muslims or Muslim women), and an inherent lack of understanding and empathy in between. I sometimes worry that the hijab does more to strengthen barriers than to tear them down; not by fault of non-Muslims’ perception of the hijab, but by our own subconscious feelings as the wearers of hijab. It can make us feel like noble martyrs, because we are inevitably misunderstood and mistreated, rather than encouraging us to connect with and relate to the human beings we share living, breathing space with in our communities and our country. It highlights a feeling of “otherness” that I think is almost gratifying because it can make us feel empowered for simply doing something different- and we can confuse that feeling with piousness and righteousness. At the end of the day, our common ground should always be our humanity, and I think we sometimes lose sight of that by entrenching ourselves in this identity of hijabi American Muslim first, and human being second. So sorry for the long post, just wanted to share some of my thoughts on it! Salaam.

    • Salam. Thanks for your post! You raise an interesting point, but I disagree. To me, the ‘otherness’ happens not because of us or what we choose to wear on our heads, it happens because otherness of Muslims and Arabs (and basically anyone who is not white/privileged) is already entrenched in mainstream US society. I was born and raised in the US, but I was always othered because I was never the “right” skin tone or religion. All my life I was an other, well before I put on hijab three months ago. I do not feel like a martyr. It is what it is, but I think sometimes it’s important to point out. Bridging our communities happens when we work together to resist and break down societal norms and de-construct power dynamics.

      Btw, I actually found it silly and kinda funny that some white people suddenly speak louder to me. I guess I added that part for a bit of humor.

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