Un-hijacking The Hijab

I remember clearly the day when one of my workmates asked the loaded but innocent question: “did your father make you wear it?” Innocent, because it was a question born out of genuine concern and sympathy; loaded, because it carried with it a range of assumptions stemming from my Pakistani and Muslim background.

It is very easy to brush this under the carpet. It is also quite easy to say that such assumptions are understandable, given the media perpetuating stereotypes galore. In simple and honest terms, though, it really is not ‘okay.’ It is emotionally exhausting to watch keyboard warriors wage wars in the name of protecting my “right to be free” as a woman, not once pausing to consider what I may have to say on the matter. It is demoralising to be told that I “have done well for a Pakistani woman”, as it collectively demeans and patronises a whole group of women who are working hard to reverse the stereotypes slapped upon us over the past few decades.

We can all play a small role in the abolition of gender stereotypes. If we question what we are spoon-fed by our familiars and the media, engage in some critical thinking, and avoid forming conclusions without engaging in conversations with women of diverse ethnic, religious, and socio-economic backgrounds, then it is inevitable that the stereotypes we have grown up with will eventually dissipate. Given the current socio-political climate, silence and passive resistance are no longer luxuries one can afford to indulge in.