Veil your lollipop

This was written by Ursula Lindsay and originally published at The Arabist.

MMW thanks Forsoothsayer for the tip!


I was sent this image in an email forward.
The text says: “You can’t stop them, but you can protect yourself.”
Two obvious (and rhetorical) questions: Can we really not stop harassment? And does veiling really “protect” you?

Editor’s Note: This advertisement refers to women covering themselves up (with a headscarf, presumably) in order to combat sexual harassment.

Women are not lollipops. This is really just a new twist on the old idea that women are objects to be protected: glass, pearls, precious gems, what have you. Except now it has a sexual subtext that women are objects…that you can lick!

It also places blame on women who don’t wear headscarves: the old “blame the victim” mentality. “Well, she wasn’t wearing a scarf, what did she expect?” Meanwhile, the harasser is absolved of his mistreatment of a woman entirely.

The author of this post asks whether veiling can really “protect” a woman, and the answer is no. Women in predominately Muslim countries like Egypt know that a headscarf will not stop men from staring, making comments, touching, or raping a woman because these actions are about power and ownership rather than sexuality.

Nor will a headscarf stop other types of harassment: women who wear headscarves in the West know that it can open a woman to Islamophobic, xenophobic, or racist harassment.

For some more viewpoints, check out Les Observateurs.

  • Faith

    I live in the West and the hijab hasn’t stopped men from hitting on me. For some odd reason, men in the past few weeks have felt that they can say whatever to me, despite wearing the hijab and even jilbab. One old dude asked me if I was married and the proceeded to ask me if my husband “appreciated” me because if he didn’t he was going to give the number to a divorce attorney and have me get divorced and marry him. Because I really needed marital advice from a jackass at the bus stop. For some men, yes hijab serves as a deterrent. Unfortunately, for a lot of men, it doesn’t even matter. They’ll objectify women until pigs fly. They’ll feel like they can say or do anything they want to women simply because they’re men. Men need to be held accountable for this and we need to stop blaming women. That ad was just disturbing on so many levels. The irony is that people who make these ads think they’re helping women.

  • Faith

    Oh, wait, I just read the ad was advocating for niqab. Before I posted my last post, I was just thinking that some Muslims who read my story would think “well, wear the niqab!” One wonders where it will stop. If niqabis are harassed (and some surely will be) will we next say “stay in your homes!”? Enough is enough. Let’s teach men to be men and have respect for women.

  • Anonymous

    So men are flies? Geez, and they say the *feminists* are man-haters…

  • Ilyas

    You know, attempts to explain rulings of the shariah by contemporary standards usually fall flat (as the lolipop ad does) because at the end of the day it’s a matter of obeying God or not.Like male circumcision: There may or may not be physical benefits, but that’s not why we do it. We do it to obey God.Or abstaining from pork: Do we do it because pork causes disease? Because of what the animal eats?No. It’s because Allah has commanded it. Understanding this would help alleviate some Muslims doubts and also make explaining Islamic rules to others easier (instead of looking for justifications that don’t really work).

  • Forsoothsayer

    obviously monaqabat are harassed all the time, I’ve seen it. i am so very, very sick of living in a place which blames women for anything and everything. but when a religion dictates (as most Muslims seem to feel it does) that women cover their hair, it’s not unnatural that followers of that religion will believe that such a religiously mandated practice is for the good of women and society, and is in fact that natural order of things…not that Islam doesn’t dictate that men be modest and chaste as well. but who cars about that technicality.

  • Anonymous

    one excuse after another to not wear the hijab… jus accept that its part of islam“And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what must ordinarily appear therof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husbands’ fathers, their sons, their husbands’ sons, their brothers, or their brothers’ sons or their sisters’ sons, or their women or the servants whom their right hands possess, or male servants free of physical needs, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex, and that they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments. And O you Believers, turn you all together towards Allah, that you may attain Bliss.” (Quran 24:31).“O Prophet, tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to draw their cloaks close round them (when they go abroad). That will be better, so that they may be recognised and not annoyed. Allah is ever Forgiving, Merciful.” (Quran 33:59)

  • robby

    I totally thought this was about wearing condoms when I looked at the picture.

  • Duniya

    ‘If niqabis are harassed (and some surely will be) will we next say “stay in your homes!”? ‘Exactly! The problem is not women but the men who harass/assault them. If the problem really was women then one would expect women to get harassed/assaulted even if men were taken out of the situation. But that doesn’t happen. It is only when men are in the equation that women get harassed/assaulted. So who’s to blame then?

  • Sakina

    Women will get unwanted attention no matter what they do. They should be making ads geared towards teaching men how to behave themselves instead.and to be honest, after I started dressing more modestly, I got hit on more, for some reason.

  • Zeynab

    Anonymous, I think you missed the point.The problem with this isn’t that it wants women to wear niqab (although I can think of plenty of women who have a problem with that), the problem is that this advert puts the responsibility of men’s sexuality on women, when it should be on men. This puts the blame of harassment on women, rather than on the harassers.

  • I need my Sisters, where are You?

    So, I should just do it right? I should just wear it a hijab, or what, are you going to threaten me with sexual assualt. Are you going to consider me not Muslim, will you consider it heresy?Why should I accept it as part of Islam, because you said so, because other interpret it to be in the Quran? “Just obey it just accept it”, do you know what that sounds like, it sounds like dogma! It’s a point of view put forth as authoritative without adequate grounds. Just obey, you don’t need adequate grounds. “At the end of the day it’s a matter of obeying God”, no it’s a matter of obeying you and your interpretation of what God wants. Because, there’s only one interpretation, and that’s yours right?Because at the end of the day Islam is a monolithic religion, Islam is not a religion with diversity of thought and different schools. Islam to you might be a very exclusive religion where only your interpretation is valid and everybody else should just turn off their brains and obey. How do I shut down my brain, is it possible? If so, do you also want me to shut off my oxygen supply?How do you expect men to have respect for women, when people don’t even have respect for different Islamic school of thought. Honestly, why do we need rational thinking? We don’t need to question anything. We don’t need choices,I will obey, I will obey! If that is the cause, I need re-programing,I’m experiencing a short circuit.

  • Duniya

    ilyas:I can appreciate your view on Islam but personally, I believe Islam is about logic. Everything God has told us to do is for a logical reason. To me if it does not make logical sense then it is not really a part of Islam but rather an innovation. This is my own view of Islam, as it is of many others. So yes, God tells us not to eat pork but not just for the fun of it but because it’s not healthy. God says that Muslim men must get circumcised, again not for the fun of it, but rather for hygiene reasons. Therefore, when it comes to covering one should know the reason behind it and use the logic presented to decide whether it makes sense for oneself or not. anonymous:I’m sure you’re aware that those exact verses have been interpreted in different ways. They do not specify that a woman must cover her head therefore an interpretation that hijab is not mandatory makes complete sense using those exact verses. Therefore, there was no need to present those verses nor to debate the issue.

  • Ilyas L.

    Duniya:JazakAllah khair for your response.Definitely there are different perspectives on how to approach/understand one’s religion.That said, there a number of fiqh rulings for which there is no logical explanation. Among them are the majority of ahkam related to external appearance, such as the prohibition of gold and silk for men, the command to grow a beard, etc.I need my Sisters, where are You?:Islamic law, like any other law, requires a certain level of expertise. No rational person would “wing it” in a civil or criminal court based on their intuitive understanding of the law.Similarly, one shouldn’t try that with religious law, which is at least as complex and in which errors can be far more serious.So yes, Islam (submission) is about submitting and better to do so based on the advice of those who know. Ask those who know the scripture, if you do not know[Quran 16:98]

  • Duniya

    ilyas:I see what you’re saying but even the things you have mentioned can be rationalized.Gold and silk: So as to not show off wealth and so make oneself equal to all others. It is way of discouraging “luxurious” living. Regardless, this is not in the Qur’an but rather Hadith. Beard: It is not a commandment but rather Sunnah. I believe it is an attempt to emulate the Prophet. Men may or may not chose to follow it.

  • Forsoothsayer

    but it’s only men who are asked not to wear gold and silk. i was under the impression that this is because “tashaboh bil nesaa” – likening oneself to women.

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  • maysoon

    Yes, this is a disgusting way to make a point!! (If men are “the flies” then maybe we should treat them like we treat flies!!!!) But please we should try to be more understanding of this argument. It is not just bad and good. As Egyptians we have to look hard at the real issues. If you want a good understanding of this topic, see two articles from Arabs in Europe (both men!). Khalid Diab, Egyptian writer in Brussels and Faisal Al Yafai, Lebanese writer in London.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/sep/03/egypt.gender
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/sep/16/religion.gender

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