Why That Lenten Hijab Stinks to High Heaven

As per the latest buzz, Hijab for Lent joins fat suits for models, Ramadan for never-Muslims, fake female dating profiles for men, homo hand-holding for heteros, and food budgets for the rich as ways by which the privileged center their voices and experiences instead of believing marginalized people’s accounts of their own lives.

Frankly, I’m not only unimpressed by and sick of these tourists, I’m absolutely done with giving them any credit whatsoever.

In this latest iteration of the faux-jabi phenomenon, a white Christian lady thinks that experimenting with wearing hijab for Lent would not only be interesting, it would also teach her what it was like to be a Muslim woman in American society. Despite claiming to know lots of Muslims — or at least one who said it would be cool for her to do the “experiment” and evidently speaks for all Muslims with her stamp of approval — Jessey Eagen feels the need to do it herself and blog about it for the approval of the world. When her experiment is over, she’ll get to go back to being your average white Christian lady in society to the applause of all for her open-mindedness. Unless, in the grand cinematic tradition of her people, she dons the brownface she has threatened to do.

I envy how fun it is for these never-Muslim women to so gaily try out a thing that women not only face oppression for wearing in some contexts but also for not wearing in others. For people like me, being a proud hijabi meant being treated like a dangerous criminal as a small child and being a former proud hijabi means living with death threats and general hostility from Muslims. My fault for not having that shield called privilege, I suppose, having not been born white to a never-Muslim family.

Heck, I wonder why Eagen didn’t got full fake Muslim and adopt Ramadan-style fasting for Lent. After all, Ramadan is yet another “experiment” that never-Muslims do to get acclaim and attention but that affects every aspect of life for everyone in Muslim-dominated countries, even the non-Muslims. No food, water, or sex from sunrise to sunset is much more difficult than abstaining from meat and a single other chosen item.

The need for privileged people to experiment with being marginalized to the praise of other privileged people instead of listening to and believing the voices from those groups doesn’t end with hijab-wearing and fastingFat suit experiments, for one. Men posing as women online, for another. Straight men holding hands for yet another. For rich people for whom poverty porn is not enough, pretending to be poor.

When will this pseudo-compassionate condescending bullshit be seen for what it is? Or perhaps even end?

To anyone considering trying on oppression in the name of understanding, I implore you to take off the imaginary layperson lab coat and stop experimenting. You don’t need to if you give any credit to the marginalized voices all around you. The best way to use your privilege for good is to listen and to signal boost, not do oppression drag.

Why That Lenten Hijab Stinks to High Heaven

11 thoughts on “Why That Lenten Hijab Stinks to High Heaven

  1. 1

    Brilliant, as always, Heina. Brace for the “you like to see the bad in everything” comments that largely come from people who are (to their advantage) shielded from the injustices in this world. Perhaps this woman’s heart who will be doing this “experiment” might even be in the “right place”. But to hell with good intentions. Lots of bad shit happens under the facade of “good intentions”. It’s absolutely disgusting that people like her find a sense of fulfillment in appropriating the oppression others face.

  2. 2

    I don’t get why “allies” feel the need to pass themselves off as marginalized groups they’re not a part of in order to realize “OMG, bigotry exists!” Aren’t our stories enough?

    Folks have been doing this since the 1947 Gregory Peck movie “Gentlemen’s Agreement.”

  3. 6

    I’m not sure I’d agree.

    instead of believing marginalized people’s accounts of their own lives.

    That’s exactly the problem. It seems to me that the sorts of people who write about these experiments are addressing themselves to exactly the sorts of people who won’t “believe marginalized people” — the bigots themselves, in other words.

    You could write with the clarity and brilliance of Shakespeare, Gandhi, and King combined, but to the ears of someone who has successfully Othered you, a convenient mental filter will change all of your words into arglebarglegabgab. They have already decided that you have no value, so they literally CAN’T hear your words.

    To those sorts of people, the ones who can ONLY relate to the “People Who Look Like Me,” an account like this of one of their own who goes into Other territory and comes back to tell the tale might be the only words that can get through.

    I suppose you might say that it doesn’t really fix the problem, though. The Other is still the Other. But maybe that tiny bit of empathy generated by the tale might be enough to wedge open a few of the vault-like minds.

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