Hey Girl, You Got It Covered

The ladies of MMW recieved a link to this video on Twitter. For the videophobes and those who don’t want their brain to melt and leak out of their ears, it is a song apparently about hijab called “You Got it Covered.”

A sampling of the lyrics is as follows:

“girl, you’re more than just some skin and a fashion trend”

“you remind me that you’re more than just a pretty face/ you remind me that you’re more than just a pretty waist/ that’s the reason that I love you/ you got it/ you got it covered.”

“and I’m lowering my gaze/ mama said “don’t look directly into sun rays”

The beat is nice and has a certain catchy low-fi slow jam quality to it. However, the song lyrics struck a chord (har har) with me as a blogger, a Muslimah, a “de-jabi” and a woman, so I felt the need to respond to this tweet and the song it contained.

Before I talk about hijab, let’s have a tangent about Moonlight Sonata. As a child, I played piano (HARAAM, yes I know, days of Jahiliyyah, etc.), and each year I entered a series of formal piano competitions where the students all performed songs from a list of approved classics.  My piano teacher had a complete and total ban on any of her students playing Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. Her explanation was twofold: 1. people are tired of listening to it, so the judge will fail you for being boring; and 2. everyone has played it, so everyone has their own opinion about what it should sound like, and chances are the person judging you will think you are playing it wrong.

Writing a song about hijab (yes, and then writing a blog post about how I feel about this song) is kind of like playing Moonlight Sonata- everyone has an opinion, and you really can’t say someone is wrong or right. But there are two dangerous things going on with “You Got it Covered.”

One, no one can say anything about hijab that we haven’t already heard a million times, and to assume otherwise is intellectually irresponsible. And this isn’t just my privilege talking – what Muslim woman on the planet hasn’t had the heart-to-heart with herself about how she feels about hijab? Of course, yes, some women live in places where they “don’t have a choice” about wearing it… but that doesn’t mean they haven’t thought about it, and to suggest otherwise is disrespectful.

Let's try for a little less of this...

Secondly, the song raises a number of serious questions about the representation of women’s bodies that apparently in all of the singer’s good intentions he is trying to counteract. I think it is great that our musical friend wants to elevate the discourse past the Kardashians and tell us that we are “more than just a pretty waist,” but apparently we are not more than our hijab, which is very bad. Why is everything about our Islam-ness tied up into our hijab?  Why is someone else’s opinion about our worth as Muslimahs more important than the truths we hold dear to ourselves as human beings?

So “You Got it Covered” is playing it wrong because very little anyone can say at this point will mean anything to anyone about the merits (or lack thereof) of wearing hijab. It is funny, because many of the platitudes spouted about wearing the veil is how it is all about how we are judged for our minds and not our appearances.  In other words, the BS we get fed is that hijab is supposed to take us out of the Hollywood culture. I’m not so sure; I think girls in hijab get judged double and triple for their appearances.  In fact, our entire worth as members of the ummah is sometimes tied up in our scarves.  Let’s ask our musical friend again, who reminds us that we are “more than just beauty on the outside” but at the same time, he wants us to know that “it’s even more beautiful/When you’re covered/In your colors.” So is it or is it not about what we’re wearing? Because for me, while being an ode to the Covered Muslimah, “You’ve Got it Covered” is still all about our clothes.

In fact, the song takes it one step further: because our muse is covered up in her colors, our singer reminds us that “I would never disrespect you/You got it covered.” My problem is that when people talk about the black and white of “hijab=respects herself”/ “no hijab=not on the deen” they ignore that we as women are on a continuum. For every girl who puts on hijab and may think finally people will shut up, there are five more people down the road who will blast her for not wearing jilbab too. I will never get how we decide someone’s deen by their clothing choices.

It also amazes me how people (like our singer friend) think they understand how we think; the lyrics say: “Wishing you get noticed /Like the girls in the magazines/I bet you didn’t know this/But you’ve always been a queen to me.” First, I don’t want to be noticed and it can be argued that some women who choose the hijab, besides doing it for Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala OF COURSE, do so because they don’t want to be part of the circus around mainstream beauty standards, so why would some of us die to be noticed or be, as mentioned in the opening lyrics, “scared to go outside”?

... and a little more of this.

Taking the logic further, if we were donning our hijab for God only as we are supposed to do, why would we care if some random dude thought we looked like a queen while doing so? Finally, as a fat woman, I’m not convinced that putting on hijab equals moving past gendered and sexualized notions of beauty, because in the end our pretty waists (or in my case, the lack thereof) are still part of the discourse and part of this song, even if they are supposed to be covered up. Seriously, as an uncovered Muslimah with no waist to speak of, I must be extremely low on the human respect scale.

I should be fair here and admit that it could be argued that hijabis are this dude’s type, and who am I to rant at him about going against type? Furthermore, it could be argued that this guy is being altogether congratulatory about hijabis and saying nice things about Muslimahs and, well, who can be mad at him for that?

I can. Because when you read or hear the song lyrics, when you negate the phrases, it means a girl who doesn’t wear hijab isn’t worthy of [his] love or respect.  Does that mean that he spends time looking at the “pretty waists” of non-covered girls? What about some hijabis who happen to wear boleros that show off aforesaid pretty waists? What about the waists of covered girls (I know I used my jilbab to cover a muffin roll many a time) that may not fall under the description of “pretty”? Furthermore, why is it our job as human beings to make sure he knows we are “more than just a pretty waist”? Don’t we deserve basic human respect (waits for troll comment: “nooo because you don’t dress respectfully”)? Really, what about the girls who don’t have it covered? Are we not sisters in Islam?

Dance Is How I Get Close to God: An Interview with Dancer and Upcoming Actress Isha Farha
From Gaga to Malala: Muslim Women as Stereotypes and Exceptions
#SuitablyDressed: A hijab is perfectly suitable attire for a courtroom
I know, I know, hijab makes you beautiful
  • http://www.inutiburkan.wordpress.com SmurfBurkan

    It WOULD be nice if people, in particular men, spent less time focusing on other women’s clothing (or lack thereof) and a little bit more on themselves. Noticed how some men are sooo happy when their daughters, sisters and wives put on hijab (or niqab, wow then mashaAllah she is REALLY a WOMAN) but themselves look like any other dude on the streets. It annoys me every time…

    • Maryam Hajar

      Yes, it really is annoying to see Hip-Hoppy husbands with covered wives, and NOW have the nerve to rap and create insulting memes?? argh..my pet peeve!!

  • Maryam Hajar

    I have one thing to say: http://www.saudilife.net/saudi-arabia/nation/240-covered-yet-checked-out-by-perverse-men

    to some men, it doesn’t matter whether you are covered or not! They are supposed to LOWER THEIR GAZE! That is the second part of ‘hijab’ ..that each gender do that, not write ridiculous songs preaching to us about it.
    Maryam Hajar

  • Maryam Hajar

    BTW, I do wear hijab and abaya and support women who do.

  • http://www.simplyrealist.wordpress.com Laily Fitry

    nice to read your piece, sister. A short comment I have: “we – the women – will never be freed from those superficial judgements from those shallow-minded masculinists, unless they understand what does it mean to take some feminists’ view” (note: masculinists in this context, refers to either men or women who judges one’s faith from their clothing)

  • http://musicalchef.wordpress.com musicalchef

    Not to mention that songs about hijab are unbelievably cheesy :-/

  • emily

    Also, even more worryingly, there is often the implication – even a direct threat – that what a woman wears is what causes her to be raped. This is something that all women regardless of race, religion or class need to speak out against.

  • Eren Arruna Cervantes

    Nicole! I love your post, it is not only hilarious but you bring very important points. I still find the “feminist memes” a bit troubling in the sense that once again it seems that authority or likelihood to make women feel better about themselves lays on a man’s words (and in this case a celebrity). Yet, I must acknowledge that unfortunately many discussions around hijab and even women’s leadership in Islam are debated across the gender/sexuality divide…
    Great analysis though!

  • mmeeaagghhaann

    “I think girls in hijab get judged double and triple for their appearances. In fact, our entire worth as members of the ummah is sometimes tied up in our scarves.”

    It is sad, and unfortunate, that the ummah always made wearing the scarf harder for me than non-Muslims did.

  • umm sharif

    Everything HAS been said about wearing hijab ad nauseam, and mostly by “de-jabis” and non-hijabis. I respect ALL, hijab or not, and have come to the realization long ago in a rude awakening that not all hijabis are necessarily religious. I believe wearing the scarf is between one & her Creator and therefore, certainly does not need affirmation, acceptance nor approval of any mortal. Very interesting piece.

    This comment has been modified according to MMW’s Comment Moderation Policy.

    • http://www.nicolecunningham.ch Nicole

      salams umm sharif,

      I’m not quite sure what you mean by “mostly non-hijabis and dejabis”, because right now that sounds like a dig against my current hijab status?

  • http://muslimahspeaks.com/ Laura Sultan

    Thanks for this article. It drives me crazy that a woman’s ‘Muslimness’ is so closely tied to what she wears. Unfortunately, the men aren’t the only ones to blame. There are just as many non-hijabis slamming on hijabis for not doing it right as there are hijabis slamming on non-hijabis for not wearing a headscarf at all. So annoying.

  • Yousuf

    Unfortunately you’ve made a mistake and interpreted this song entirely incorrectly. I think its quite clear right here at 0:36 seconds into the song:

    “And I wanted to let you know that it’s even more beautiful when you’re covered.”

    The Islamic tenant being referenced here is that wearing a hijab actually will assuage the struggles you might face as women. What a concept!! WOW…..your alternative? Objectification of your body, sexual oppression, massive stereotypes, nazr (the power of an evil gaze), attracting the wrong person, zinna (fornication), etc etc…

    Wearing the hijab is increadibly hard, yes. But the last time I thought about it jennah isn’t handed over to you on a silver platter. May Allah reward your efforts in facilitating this discussion and may He open your hearts and minds to the truth of this deen.

    Asalaamu alaykum wa rahmatulahi barakatu

    • http://www.nicolecunningham.ch Nicole

      Salams Yousuf,
      Thank you for the clarification on a detail of the song, of which I have taken note.

      However, the other points of my article still stand even taking this detail into account, namely: Why yet another song about hijab from a guy?

      Wa salam

    • Rochelle

      Hey Yousef –

      Good to know that my choice as a woman is either wear hijab or “Objectification of your body, sexual oppression, massive stereotypes, nazr (the power of an evil gaze), attracting the wrong person, zinna (fornication)”.

      Thanks for clearing that up for me. I guess now we can all feel free to go ahead to harass those nonhijabi sluts, amiright?

    • Tonestaple

      Speaking as a non-Muslim, I just have to point out to Yousef that all of those things he mentions as a consequence to women of not wearing hijab – Objectification of your body, sexual oppression, massive stereotypes, nazr (the power of an evil gaze), attracting the wrong person, zinna (fornication) – are all behaviors of others.

      Behavior is truth, always has been, always will be. Behavior reveals the truth of the person who is behaving: objectification of a woman’s body is something someone does to her. Ditto for sexual oppression, massive stereotypes, nazr, contact from the wrong person, and fornication (or at least the intention to commit it). If a man chooses to objectify a woman’s body, it is his action or thought, not hers. She cannot ever control what goes on in his head and cannot be responsible for his thoughts or desires.

      This is attested to by a video I saw recently. I think it was taped in Saudi and two totally niqabed women were walking down the street and two men saw them and started harrassing them, even grabbing them, much worse behavior than I have ever witnessed on a street in America. All the fabric in the world will not stop a man who CHOOSES to behave badly.

      To get to work, I used to have to walk past a taxi stand at a large downtown hotel – a nice place, not a dump. I know that the cabbies were mostly Muslim as I saw them with prayer rugs at various times. I am an overweight middle-aged Christian woman and my hair is clearly going gray, so I wasn’t some sweet young thing. Yet these men leered at me in a truly disgusting fashion. I know enough of the Koran to have wanted to walk up to them and screamed “Oh you who believe, lower your gaze.” But I wasn’t willing to cause such a scene so I finally started staring right back at them as murderously as I could manage and the finally stopped leering.

      I know men are visual creatures and it is in their nature to look, but that’s not ever my fault. In short, you cannot logically blame a woman for a man’s thoughts. It is always, always, always a person’s responsibility to control his or her own thoughts or desires or behaviors. It is utterly irrational to put the responsibility for your behavior on to someone else.

  • Lara A

    Yousef – In light of your grand claims about the hijab, I’d like to share a story with you.

    A few years ago, I appeared for all of two minutes on a news channel talking about the UK elections.

    I am a very average looking woman and I was wearing a black winter coat, plain white hijab and no make up. I was also carrying my child while talking to the journalist.

    I still got sleazy messages on Facebook from so-called “brothers” telling me how they liked my hijab amongst other things.

    Yes, that’s right, they sexually objectified me because I was wearing hijab, it didn’t protect me, they saw it as a form of encouragement.

    That is why all these dudes doing hijab-praising videos are missing the point, because they’re all about the clothing and not about women as actual people.

  • Anneke

    And then yet again, hijab as a turn-on. Have never received much attention from the other sex, until I started wearing hijab. Gosh, marriage proposals, adhan recitals in trains, phone numbers in the bus, it was a busy time for me….

    It made wearing hijab harder, and I became a de-jabi for a long period of time. The last drop was a guy who performed certain acts of my picture in hijab. And had the nerve to tell me! Oh yes, for the ummah! And I had it covered!

  • sharrae

    Lara A, your experience signifies that there is something that we need to be conscious of. The hijab, intended by Allah is yes, to protect women from the oppressions that would she would normally be up against. However, there is such a lack of respect for women, her person, and body, that sadly the hijab in today’s day isn’t a guaranteed protection. I am not suggesting that this means that there is no purpose in wearing hijab, and I entirely believe that it is a woman’s choice to decide if she desires to wear it or not. But in order for us as an ummah to protect one another, we need to acknowledge and address the realities.

    So my brother, Yousef, yes the hijab is supposed to protect women, however with the increase of globalization, entrenched patriarchy (which I argue is incongruent with the teachings of the Prophet (peace be upon him,) and other structural and institutional systems of oppression, a hijabi can also be objectified, and even further, exotified for her choice of dress. This is something that is both outside of Muslim circles, and within (as highlighted by Lara’s experience, and the experiences of many other women as well.) And has someone said earlier, the hijab is a two way street. Brothers need to be accountable for their role in maintaining the dignity of a woman, covered or uncovered.

  • http://faridmusiconline.com Farid Alhadi

    Thanks for posting the song and having a discussion about it. I do think the review and some of the comments are making some inaccurate assumptions.

    Here’s my detailed response: http://www.faridmusiconline.com/general/muslimah-media-watch-response-you-got-it-covered/

  • Anneke

    What bothers me most is that the tiring emphasis on wearing hijab. A real woman wears hijab and if she doesn’t God is there to judge her (right Farid?), like it is one of the 5 pillars… Guess how many hijabi’s do not adhere to the five prayers, for example… Same number perhaps as non-hijabi’s, as the hijab doesn’t equal ‘religiousness’.

    There are the non-Muslims who identify Muslims with hijab and vice-versa, and then there are the Muslims, who do the same thing. Just as if without hijab, one does not really exist, either as a good Muslimah or as a ‘problem’.

    With my hijab, I do not want to be treated like a queen, and without it not as a whore either. Because I am neither one of that, I am the same person, struggling with the same issues, with or without it. One cannot make any assumptions on what I feel, what I go trhough, the level of my ‘deen’/’religiousness’ based on the piece of cloth I often wear when I go outside. It is part of me, but does not define me. My reasons of wearing it, and struggles while wearing it (or when I’m not wearing it) are unique, I do not think that I can tell any other woman that I completely understand her issues and relationship with the hijab. Let alone that I need a guy, to tell me that I am much more than ‘skin and a fashion trend’. I am ALWAYS much more than skin and a fashion trend. And so is every woman. It would be actually going against Allah’s creation to say that we weren’t. We were all, believers, non-believers, hijabi and non-hijabi and who-ever else, created with a conscience. With a mind. To think that only hijabi’s need to be reminded by that, that is narrow-minded….

  • http://www.mamamona.blogspot.com Mona

    This is such a great discussion and I agree with a lot of what was said already in the comments. Why is it that men love to talk/sing about hijab? One of my biggest peeves. Just move along and lower your gaze. Women are already under enough judgment about everything, leave our hijab to the women to discuss and while you’re at it go put on a thobe for a day and see how that goes.

  • Bill

    I’m not a Muslim, but I’ve known and worked with hijabis in the past. Anyone who thinks that hijab is a cure for unsolicited sexual interest is mistaken. I found myself thinking at times, “Hhhmmm, I wonder what she looks like under that jilbab?” I don’t think it was just because I’m not Muslim, either.

  • Tex

    SO not entirely sure what got me to this blog since I started out reading a couple of the atheist blogs I frequent, but personally I do treat ladies wearing any kind of Muslim head covering differently but not for the reasons most would think. (Also sorry to refer to them simply as head coverings, but I wasnt sure of the wording to designate that as opposed to individual styles of the scarf/covering)

    Im living in Louisiana right now, and I think its a pretty safe assumption that women who wear the head covering or really anyone down here with any obvious designation as Muslim or Arabic in general catches grief for it on a regular basis from the locals. So I try to put forth an extra effort to give them a smile and a kind word if I can in the hope that it helps to make their day just a bit easier. Granted I think the religious reasoning behind it all is at best a myth some people find useful in guiding their lives, but really if it makes someone happy to fallow a faith and they aren’t hurting anyone in the process shouldn’t we all be nice to one another?

    I suppose that sentiment isnt going to stop anyone judging based on physical appearance, but judging someones physical appearance is something everyone does anyways because it does tell us about the person. It still shouldn’t mean we treat them less dignity or kindness though, and I think when people treat others harshly simply because of something like a hijab or being overweight, (or wrong hair color/skin color/height/ect) it is more telling of the deep character flaws present in the person doing the judging.

    (sorry thats kind of ranting and disorganized, but Im operating on a rather large sleep deficit due to school)

  • Sk

    As a hijabi, I have two major peeves when it comes to this topic (actually, the second is way more than just a peeve):

    1. It irritates me beyond comprehension when I hear a guy singing about hijab! There’s almost no authenticity in it! Like, really what does it mean that this girl covered up is a “star” or a “jewel” or whatever? So only covered things are special? That is so demeaning to women. Allah never said to ONLY treat the women who cover in a respectful way! Plus, what hijabi woman, in her right mind, goes around thinking that she’s this “pearl”/”star”/whatever-cheesy-thing-of-the-day anyways? Artistic integrity please!

    2. I rarely rarely rarely see guys singing about their part of the whole modesty bit (something that is mentioned in the Qur’an BEFORE hijab): LOWERING THY GAZE. I mean, I have witnessed countless guys being extremely nitpicky about the women in their families following the covering rule but these same guys have absolutely no problems watching/leering at women who are NOT covered. The excuses they give are that it’s really hard to avoid Angelina Jolie in her latest movie – but aren’t you the same guys who say that, sure, hijab is hard but getting to janna is hard too?

    I want a song from a Muslim guy called: Hey, I’m Ready to Do My Part, I’mma Not Gonna Stare Real Hard!*
    That will be the day…

    *But please make it with a better title!

  • Nicole

    Nicole where can we follow you on Facebook??