Ethics or Shame Policing?

Here’s yet another video campaign on why women should wear hijab:

This movie shows a woman stumbling through a dark and scary forest, running away from snakes and wolves and unknown–yet terrifying–dangers.

But all of that goes away when–surprise!–she puts on a headscarf.

The differences in the movie between life without a headscarf and life with one are startling. The movie shows a woman without a headscarf in a bright red dress (a color which often signifies visibility and sexuality), who is in danger (presumably because she isn’t wearing a headscarf).

But as soon as she puts on a white headscarf (a color which almost internationally signifies purity), the world is bright, safe, and no snakes or wolves (in the form of men) chase after her.

This movie is put on by Iltezam.org, an institution dedicated to a “code of ethics.” I’m willing to bet that their code of ethics requires Muslim women to wear hijab to avoid harassment, but doesn’t have any snappy movies about men harassing women and why that’s not acceptable…

Thanks to Dianna for the tip!

Editor’s note: This post is not about whether hijab is mandatory or not. This post is not about whether hijab will save you from harassment or not (it doesn’t). Please keep comments related to the movie discussed.

  • http://azizaizmargari.wordpress.com Margari Aziza

    Too bad hijab doesn’t stop harassment in Muslim communities. That’s why commercials like this annoy me. I’ve lived in Kuwait and Egypt, spent time in Morocco and harassment was a daily part of my existence, with or without hijab.

  • Humayra

    The thing that I thought was particularly telling about this commercial is that although the woman is wearing a dress which exposes the upper part of her chest, the rest of her body is covered. Overall, I thought she was actually dressed fairly conservatively–it reminded me of the traditional dress that some Kurdish women in Iraq wear for festive occasions, and it isn’t viewed as “immodest” by most people in communities where this is done.
    Ideas of what is or isn’t “modest” or “provocative” change, and this commercial illustrates the fact that these shifts don’t just somehow “naturally” happen. In this particular case, it is being engineered by conservative religious groups who do not have women’s or society’s best interests in mind.
    I’d love to see someone spoof these commercials. Or do a “role reversal” version where the woman puts an end to harassment with some cool martial arts moves… or better yet, pepper spray. Maybe through repeated spoofing, this harmful victim-blaming discourse will have less of a hold on people.

  • http://musicalchef.wordpress.com musicalchef

    Surely they are also going to make a video featuring Muslim men in little shorts on the beach being pursued by sharks, right?

  • L. Alahem

    I love the fact that I am responsible for the virtue of the random passing male. You know? Whether you are Christian or Muslim, in the states or over there, if a man harasses you, it must be because you are dressed or acted inappropriately, not because HE’S an ASS. ugh

    It’s even worse in Mexico.

  • Anneke

    And she was not even wearing a bikini!

    Pity white does not suit my lifestyle (babies and messy me), but I would love to be as confident and care free as whitehijabiladee.

    Oh yeah, was music not haram? Or was that the whole point, snakes, darkness and music while you are wearing a completely covered, but red outfit, is the ultimate no-no?

    Gosh, I do not think I am the audience, as I already wear hijab, but do not scare away from a red outfit, nor the presence of snakes in a forest. And men do LOOK at me! Must I be doing something wrong!

  • clare

    It’s also interesting that they had to find a woman who doesn’t wear hijab in order to make the video…does that fit with their “code of ethics” I wonder?
    @Humayra- I love your idea for a male version- you get the speedos, I’ll bring the sharks! ;)

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  • henna

    Promote Hijab.. If that is the campaign then why doesn’t it states truth rather than creating fear and boundaries.

    State the relevant verses in video with allowed music and people can do better. As a human believing in God it feels better to obey commandment rather than use Hijab as protection.

    I agree with Humayra that lady was conservatively dressed, though in red and with hair, face, neck showing which appears to okay.

  • Bulanikgirl

    Watching this made me furious. A woman or girl, no matter what her culture, MUST dress like a 7th century Arab, for security and respect? Once again, women are responsible for men’s conduct..a head cover is the symbol of chastity? How do we know if the woman in the commercial is still not ‘easy’ under a piece of white textile – because wearing one certainly does not stop men from harassing women and girls.


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