by Guest Contributor Ethar El-Katatney, originally published at Muslimah Media Watch.
They’re popping up everywhere in harmless-looking packaging: shame cartoons.
A quick search online will turn up a multitude of articles, op-eds and full-on rants appealing to women’s sense of shame (One particularly delightful article was titled “I appeal to your sense of shame my Muslim sister.”)
And then we have cartoons.
The first kind are pretty straightforward: they want you to get veiled. But rather than engage you in discussions about interpretation of hadith or Qur’an, they try and shame you into wearing it.
As expected, most come across as being judgmental, preachy and rude. And ones that focus so much on women’s dress kind of miss out on an important point: what you put on your head is not necessarily more important than what goes on inside it.
The “hijabi shame cartoons” start from the fairly innocent “the veil is an obligation just like prayer” written next to a woman covering her hair and praying, to the more extreme: I’ve actually seen one of a woman wearing niqab (face veil) which shows her eyes standing in front of a fire (!) because according to that author, showing your eyes is haram (divinely forbidden).
First off, it assumes that there is only one correct interpretation of hijab (veil),* and that those who wear it ‘improperly’ (let alone not wear it at all) are in the wrong, wrong, wrong.
Second, it equates dress with behavior, which in some ways is even worse than stereotypes of veiled women (oppressed, asexual, powerless, helpless, low IQ etc). Hijab is seen as the be-all and end-all. I’m a proud hijabi myself, but that doesn’t mean I was automatically transformed into a perfect Muslim the moment I wore it. Just because a woman wears a veil doesn’t meant that she doesn’t struggle with temptations just like any other person, or that she’s better than an unveiled girl.
(I particularly like the touch of designing the cartoon so the face of the veiled woman is ‘glowing’ because she’s so ‘good’).
The second type of shame cartoons are a hundred times worse. Because not only are they trying to shame women into dressing (and acting) in a certain way, but they’re trying to make them think that if they don’t veil and dress ‘properly’ they’re at fault if they get sexually harassed. Continue reading