It's been about 9 months since I started veiling-- covering my hair-- but it's been awhile since I've talked about my experience, so here's an update:
There are definitely things I like and things I don't like about veiling. Overall, I've gotten very used to covering my hair and I feel like it's now a part of my daily routine. There have been very few times that I've forgotten to put on my headscarf before I leave the house-- this happens when I'm in a major rush, and I end up with my scarf half tied on my head as I run to catch the bus to school or work. I'm used to wearing a scarf daily, and it feels weird when I'm not wearing it outside the house (which hardly ever happens). For the most part I feel very comfortable wearing scarves on my head now. The downside is that I'm very OCD about how my scarf is tied on my head. It has to be tight, it has to not move around, it has to cover my hair a certain way or else I get really irritated and anxious. And although covering my hair is very comfortable, at times when I come home I can't wait to take it off-- these are the days when for some reason I feel like it's not tied right, or I keep tying it too lose, or it keeps sliding off my head-- I seriously rip it off my head in exasperation. I also only really have one way that I tie my scarves, and I wish I knew more ways to ties without feeling like I'm appropriating anything or like it won't stay on.
That being said, I do very much enjoy covering, and I find it a little liberating. Maybe it's just part of my personal... transformation? Maybe this liberation actually has nothing to do with covering and more to do with the experiences I've been having at Mills and with assisting with this research project. Maybe it's a little bit of both, or a whole slew of other things I haven't thought about.
This weekend while I was at the NWSA conference (post about that coming soon!), one of the interns for the association asked me if I was Muslim (because of my covering). Usually I just say no, and leave it at that. I have a (pretty rational, in my opinion) fear of people getting freaked out over my spiritual/religious practice, so I usually just don't talk about it with people I don't know. But here I was, at this conference where people it is really the obligation of those in the field to be open minded and understand those on the margins, and paganism is a marginalized group in some ways, and I thought, if I don't feel safe enough to share my story here, then I'm not going to feel safe sharing anywhere (except on this blog). So I told her that no, I wasn't Muslim, but that I do cover my hair as a religious observance. I told her I identified as a pagan, and I covered my hair in reverence to the Divine, as a reminder to be thankful, and as an impetus for prayer-- I told her that I wasn't required to cover by religious doctrine, but I chose to cover as a personal choice. And I was surprised to hear her say that choosing to cover gave the act itself even more power, although I do think that's true in some aspects. I think that forcing a woman to cover herself-- her hair, her whole head, her entire body-- has a lot of social power on the part of the patriarchal society, but does it carry a significant amount of spiritual power? Are you truly connected to the Divine if you are forced to do something? I think making that choice, choosing to honor God or Goddess or The Big What Is by covering is spiritually very powerful. Not only that, but it can also be very political, and can also lead to social power as the woman I was talking to pointed out (who is Muslim herself, but chooses not to cover). It was nice to... have my choice to cover validated? I think that's the word I'll use. Because I don't want to appropriate a practice from Muslim women, who are marginalized in so many ways, here and around the world, and I don't want to add to that. That being said, Islam does not have the patent on veiling-- there are plenty of other religions that encourage, require or at least have a history of veiling for women and sometimes men. Perhaps keeping this in mind will encourage me to branch out in my covering style. I'm in dire need of a fashion change, I need more styles in my arsenal, so to speak.
Before I end this, I wanted to share a few links. I found this great photo exhibition by Kiana Hayeri, an Iranian-born photographer, on a blog I follow called wood turtle-- written by a feminist Muslim woman in Canada. Definitely take a look at her blog, but also be sure to check out Hayeri's photos, which take a look at the lives of young Iranian women and how they push the boundaries of hijab for their own empowerment. The first is called Your Veil is a Battleground, and the second is called Phase Two. I'll let the photos speak for themselves. If you want to see more, you can check out Hayeri's blog here. You're welcome.