I was waiting for the metro when I saw a contrast typical of Turkey. A woman with jet black hair was talking on the phone; she wore her bangs straight across her forehead, big red glasses, and a ring through her nose. Under her midi skirt were fishnet stockings, and on her feet black army boots. Her other arm was slung through her friend’s. Her friend was wearing a black headscarf, a very cool black coat and black boots.
I see women in groups and pairs half wearing a headscarf and half not, or one/without and the others with/without all the time. it doesn’t matter. The only people who do care are the staunch secularists or westerners who equate wearing a headscarf with submission. It seems that what matters most is what the headscarf represents to the viewer rather than the wearer.
It’s a political pivot point, as a recent NYT’s article succinctly pointed out, “the headscarf has long been emblematic of the struggle between the country’s secular and religious factions.” The writer uses the headscarf (hijab) and the veil interchangeably, as if they are the same thing never mind that they are two types of clothing worn differently. This prejudice needs to be called out for what it is.
Just as the state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation, so too it has no business telling women what to wear or what not to wear. The headscarf has been used as an excuse to deny women entry into university. Be it in France, Iran, at home or on the street, it’s used as a symbol of a greater ideology by the powers that be. If a woman wears a headscarf under duress that is a social problem, if she wears it out of choice that’s nobody’s business.
Controlling what women wear whether by fiat, legislation, or pressure is a power game. It’s time that women’s clothing is emancipated from politics.