Thursday, March 05, 2009

Common Knowledge

I get some people who read my blog leaving comments sometimes wondering why Muslim men just can't control themselves from looking at women, exhibiting the supposed "restraint" of Western men. If you go read my post about a Grocery Store Ogre you'll see I pretty much disagree.

The issue tends to arise with the matter of covering--something I try to avoid discussing too much because it just seems over-blogged among Muslims. But the recent article about men seeing women in bikinis as objects is just too good fodder to pass up. (Check it out, if you missed it.) Now, obviously, Muslim women do not cover because of National Geographic, or because men's brains go haywire when they see too much skin. The reason Muslim women cover is (or should be) simply because Allah commanded them to.

This little bit of scientific "proof" that covering is by most standards a pretty good thing (especially if you're a woman). But it's hardly shocking (for most people, at least... I hope...)

For instance, I brought up this article when visiting my parents last night. I mentioned it casually while indicating that scientists had basically proven this little nugget--that men see women as objects when they are even near-naked. And then my dad burst out laughing, saying, "Men have known that for years!"

Well yeah. Any girl who has had a dad can tell you this much--daddies don't like their little girls going around without hardly any clothes on. And why? Because they know how men think! Obviously. For instance, I've heard some of my male relatives and coworkers complaining about Hannah Montana, for instance, and the way she dresses. They are concerned because they see their daughters trying to imitate her.

Now of course these men aren't Muslim so they don't see the issue quite the same way I do, or the natural and obvious solution to the problem. Because really, a command from God is even more motivation for proper dress than brain scans. But it seems to really ring true, in at least one way, how Shaykh Hamza Yusuf said at ISNA last year that Muslim women are the last hope for the women of this country.

I recall a few years ago, when taking a World Religions class online, one fellow student who sincerely hoped that Muslim women (whom she viewed undoubtedly as victims of oppression) would soon feel safe enough in America to remove their veils. I replied back to her that I actually hoped headscarves would soon become so ubiquitous they could be bought at Wal-Mart!

Now it's been only 2 years or so, but my hope has come true, hasn't it? These pictures I took at a local Wal-Mart just a few months ago. I've had friends tell me they've been buying scarves at Target as well. So there it is--you can buy headscarves (hijabs--these are not neck scarves though some people wear them that way) at Wal-Mart.


taiyyaba said...

i *love* what you said to the woman about wall-mart :) well done, mashallah. great post.

Amber said...

I would *never* have been allowed to go out of the house dressed like Hannah Montana or any of those other 'teen stars'. My dad would have happily locked me in my room.

And forget brain scans, anyone who has ever walked through a mall and paid the slightest attention to the men can tell you that all higher brain function stops when half-naked women walk by. Heck, I know a guy who felt the need to *comment* on women, even when they weren't dressed like tramps, and he was commenting to a group of women. I finally told him that we all knew he was a dog, but there was no need to advertise it, and if he didn't stop, he wasn't invited out with us anymore.

I think, not just Muslim women, but women of other faiths are going back to more traditional versions of that faith, and that includes the modest dress, and for many, some form of covering for their hair. So we are seeing a resurgence of the availability of scarves and other things like that. I bought a handful of shayla-style scarves at Wal-mart, and I saw some at Macy's (but they were horribly over-priced of course).

mezba said...

walmart truly has everything now. here they also wish you Eid Mubarak and have Ramadan sales!

batoor102 said...

A study like this one bothers me a little bit because it treats male behavior as instinctive, or visceral and the implication seems to be that when men 'objectify' women it's something they can't help.

Maybe there is a natural reation this way, but there is also learned behavior. And whether disrepect toward other human beings-sexual or otherwise comes from 'nature' or 'nurture', it can be unlearned. One thing that I've noticed about myself is that now (since I converted) I drive with much less hostility toward other drivers, even ones who do things that are upsetting or dangerous. I really am finding a kind of inner peace just by keeping the idea of respect for others at all times in the forefront of my thinking. I do still stew at long red lights, but inshallah I will get better there too.

Of course driving and looking at w omen aren't the same thing, so I hope the analogy wasn't inappropriate.

Anonymous said...

I agree 100% Batoor. I think that if we were to push respect for ourselves and others rather than dictate a particular dress code it would go much much farther in advancing civilization.

I'm fairly confident that any 'God' would have been aware of this fact as well and that is probably why women were never commanded to cover. There is plenty of debate on this topic to prove that to you.

Anonymous said...

There are those of us who are fated, nay doomed, only to admire from afar.

Why must even this be taken from us?

Amy said...

Batoor, I don't think it matters so much whether the behavior is "instinctive" or not. At the very least, that man will have a much harder time stopping himself from objectifying women if they are scantily clad. Whereas sometimes women can be fully covered and men still objectify them. So okay, they have a choice. Be the more skin is shown, the harder it gets.

Amy said...

To the commenter who agreed with Batoor--

The least you can say I think is that men have a harder time objectifying scantily clad women. And that isn't something that will go away after successive generations, it's build in to the male mind, right, for him to think that way? So the men will constantly have to be taught otherwise. You may think our society is civilized, but in reality it's not, there are many men who haven't upheld the socialization some have tried to force on them, i.e., not to objectify women, even though their more natural inclination is to do precisely that, especially seeing them nearly naked.

I think the obvious answer is the Islamic one--for women to cover. That is the "natural" solution.

Amy said...

To the last Anonymous --

It never belonged to you.

batoor102 said...

I do agree with the Islamic solution, not just intellectually but because this is my religion and I put all of my trust in it...I'm sorry if I started any kind of controversy.