There is a strong undercurrent of powerful feminism in the wrap world. Far from being the submissive, oppressed, meek women that mainstream Western society assumes us to be, the majority of women I have spoken to agree that, yes, wearing a headscarf is profoundly feminist.
"In Our Own Words" is a series of blog posts exploring why we wrap, and how it makes us feel, in the words of our wrap sisters and siblings. In our first post of the series, we take a look at feminism and empowerment and, in doing so, the overwhelming strength of feeling is clear as to whether wrapping is a feminist statement:
"Heck yeah, it's a woman's choice to wrap and decide who sees her hair and when.
It's totally feminist."
"My body, I get to choose what I do with it and what I put on it."
"Nothing is more feminist than choice, the choice to cover or not to cover, how much to cover, when to cover. It’s US being in control. Choice is empowering."
"Wrapping to me says "Hey world! You don't own me! You don't get to dictate my day to day dress! I can do, wear, say what I want, and you can't stop me!" "
"When I wrap and dress a certain way I decide who gets to see what of me. I don’t let the media dictate how I look and when I get to show myself. That is freedom and empowering."
" "I decide who gets to see/touch which areas of my body, and I don't care if you agree with me on that or not" is a powerful statement."
"There is a lot of pressure in Western society for women to look a certain way. I've never fit that mould, and by wrapping, I set myself apart even more. That's my choice, as opposed to bending to conventional beauty standards that are seeped in misogyny still."
"I am not dressing to appeal to the male gaze or satisfy the over sexualized patriarchy of the West."
The feeling is clear: so many women who wrap are champions of bodily autonomy, advocates for choice, and are very in tune with modern feminist currents - in stark opposition to Western media and society. As women who wrap, we exercise our power in choosing what parts of our bodies are exposed, when, and how: "It is definitely a refusal to conform to modern standards of femininity which include long hair."
"A lot of 'femininity' seems to be tied up in hair - I got a horrendous shock when I decided to get a pixie cut a few years back and googled it: people (men) were saying really horrific and nasty things about women with short hair. It bothers me that women are expected to spend so much time and money and effort on their (expected to be long) hair. People have described head wrapping as oppressive, to which I point out what I actually find oppressive - being expected to have long and beautiful hair for others to admire."
It's amazing how worked up people can get about a woman wearing a scarf on her head. It's one of the big acts of non-conformity that a woman can proudly give to a society that simultaneously says that women who wear too little are sluts and have no shame, yet women who cover up are frumpy, oppressed, or obviously hiding their unattractiveness. No matter how a woman dresses, here in the West, she's mostly expected to have hair. Preferably long, short if you must, but they expect to see your hair. When you wrap your head, you're throwing that expectation a massive curve ball.
Wrapping can be independent from how you dress; many people who wrap team that with what they call "modest dress," especially those who wrap for religious reasons, but there are no rules. As wrappers, we call our own shots, dress ourselves how we want, and will not play by your rules, whoever 'you' may be:
"I think a lot of people believe that wrapping is forced on us to some degree. I believe that by showing them we all choose it freely that we can make our voices heard and maybe the women in places where they are forced to cover can be set free and allowed to choose for themselves."
"So much of Western media demands women dress a certain way or else they are undesirable. This can be because they are deemed to be wearing too much or to be wearing too little, but it all boils down to how they want you to be, and not how you want to be. When you make a point not to change to please someone else, your very presence is a disruption to the system they want to establish."
"It is a choice we should all be free to make and if a woman wants to cover she shouldn't feel ashamed or scared of the backlash that it might bring. I think it can teach confidence and help women learn to stand up for themselves and defend their beliefs and their right to choose whatever makes them happy."
"It says that I have the power to determine my appearance even in ways that aren't considered stereotypically empowering."
"Wrapping helps me feel feminine and beautiful. I am a fat woman and many people feel entitled to judge me over my appearance. And there are the beauty standards that say, being fat I should show off beautiful long hair and boobs to earn being tolerated. I don't want that. Dressed modestly and wrapped my appearance states: I am beautiful, strong and unique. I don't play by your rules."
"Wrapping lets you claim space in the world." And if there's one thing the world is learning, it is that as women, we are allowed to take up space, and we are growing more and more aware of that as times goes on.
It's been really hard to condense such a treasure trove of insightful and powerful quotes and opinions into one blog post. Perhaps we should publish all of the responses in their entirety at some point.
Does this post resonate with you? Do you wrap and agree? Have you assumed women who wrap are not strong feminists? Comment below and have your say.