Many of us are aware of the viral and currently circulating video, 10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman by Hollaback, an organization that wishes to eradicate street harassment, intimidation, and catcalling of woman around the globe. The video featured a young woman walking around Manhattan for 10 hours all the while being harassed by men, whistled at, and even forced into conversation with a man who, for a consistent 5 minutes, insisted on having her number. And what was this woman wearing? A t-shirt and jeans.
These results are, to many of us, not at all surprising. According to the National Street Harassment Report,
“Sixty-five percent of all women (two out of three women in the United States) said they had experienced some form of street harassment, as had 25% of all men (one out of four men in the United States)”.
Most people who were street harassed experienced both verbally and physically aggressive forms. Furthermore,
“More than half of all women (57%) said they had experienced verbal harassment and 41% of women said they had experienced physically aggressive forms, including following, flashing, and groping. Among all men, 18% had experienced verbal harassment and 16% had experienced physically aggressive forms.”
A few days ago, in response to this viral video, Karim Metwaly from “Are We Famous Now” released a video comparing two situations of a woman walking through NYC for 5 hours: one wearing pants and t-shirt, and another wearing the hijab and a full black burka. Although it is true that no vulgar comments were addressed to the women later dressed in the hijab and burka, this video gives out the wrong message. Metwaly essentially states the notion that women must cover themselves up from head to toe in order to be free from harassment and cat-calling; when in actuality it is a man’s responsibility not to sexually harass a woman. It is the choice of a woman to wear what she deems comfortable and walk down the streets free from the fear of sexual abuse.
Not only is this video placing undue restraints on a woman’s choice of clothing, but it also places the hijab in a very male-centric light, as if the whole purpose of donning the hijab is for men, when it’s supposed to be a personal commitment to God’s love of modesty, the fulfillment of a commandment to his servants, and for the love of their religion. It is also a man’s responsibility to adopt modest practices and lower his gaze; the clothing of a woman is entirely her choice and should not be the reason she suffers from such vulgar treatment.
Allah states in the Quran (24:30-31),
“Say to the believing men that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that will make for greater purity for them… say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; and that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what must ordinarily appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands…”
Hijab is not worn for men; to keep their illicit desires in check, that is their own responsibility, as the above verse and Prophetic sayings show. Rather, Muslim women wear it for God and their own selves. Islam is a religion of moderation and of balance between extremes. Therefore, it does not expect women alone to uphold society’s morality and uprightness. Rather, Islam asks men and women mutually to strive to treat one another with the utmost respect and dignity. Being a hijabi myself, I do understand the importance of modesty, yet I think what needs to be highlighted in the video is the sickening mentality that some men have.
Women, from all races, religions, and ethnic backgrounds, have the right to be respected, regardless of what they choose to wear or the status they hold in society. Nobody, and I meannobody, has the right to treat women the way these horrible men did in the first half of the video – it has degraded the very fabric of a human’s existence and the value they hold. It is ALWAYS the aggressor’s fault for sexually harassing someone (male or female)– no one in their right mind dresses up in the morning hoping to be harassed or degraded while going about their day like anyone else. No one should have to worry about being sexually abused, especially in this day and age, no matter their gender, sexual appeal, or choice of clothing.
Karim Metwaly’s video presents the hijab as some sort of bullet-proof protection for a woman. Something that will guard her from street harassment; thus leaving those who choose not to wear the hijab vulnerable to prejudice and discrimination. Now men will be able to say if you don’t want to be raped,
carry a gun and cover yourself. Where do we draw the line between self-control and freedom?
Honestly, anywhere you go, it doesn’t matter what you wear. There are psychopaths everywhere, and if a man has no empathy, no heart, no fear of God, and an evil mind – he’s going to do what he wants. The women in both videos were not in any way or form dressed in outfits that screamed: “Hey look at me; ogle me – make me feel like a cheap piece of meat!” – and yet that’s what some men did to varying degrees with each one. In the end, it’s our duty to support the choice of women and not force them to adopt any body covering. Especially not by insinuating that, if they don’t wear a hijab or a burka, they might get raped. Rather our main goal should be to educate all to treat women with respect and dignity – the same way you would want your mothers, sisters, and daughters to be treated – with utmost kindness and honor. Remember that. The last thing we need is a bunch of men threatening women to wear the hijab and using such videos as evidence to prove their point. It’s a choice – not a burden.
What are your thoughts on this video?
This post is a feature of the altM/Muslimgirl.net sisterhood.