This post was written by Bridget Liddell, a senior at DePaul finishing her degree in Theater Arts and Philosophy. Bridget is also completing her second year as an Interfaith Scholar and identifies as an Independent Earth Spiritualist.
I was unsure at first, wondering if it would be offensive to participate in International Scarves in Solidarity. After checking in with a friend comforted some fears about upsetting someone, I, not Muslim, covered my hair on April 21st, the day set aside to demonstrate support for a woman’s right to choose what she will wear.
I emphasize that everything I write has no intention of making any generalizing claims, but rather speaks to how I processed my experience.
First, I think of the power a symbol can hold. I wear scarves often, but to loop it in the same way, yet slide it over my hair, makes it much more than a piece of fabric. Looking in the mirror before I left my apartment, I paused, thinking about how the reflection was still me, yet somehow different, with a layer of history laid upon it.
I chose my green scarf – color-wise it is my favorite, and felt somehow simultaneously connected to my Irish ancestry and my current earth-focused spiritual path. Walking to the grocery store, I considered the significance of identity. For a moment, I felt connected to the generations of women who have worn the scarf, to my friends who choose to wear it every day: as if I belonged. I remembered stories from women who spoke to a sense of cultural identity and respect in wearing the hijab.
Soon I realized that although I was wearing the scarf as a sign of solidarity, it had become an educational experience for myself, a request to look within. I chose to move through my day as I normally would, which, for me, meant going from store to store in my neighborhood putting up flyers advertising an upcoming performance (I am the assistant director). No one commented, but I wonder what assumptions were being confused as I asked if I could post a flyer for this queer performance project while wearing a hijab.
Many thoughts flowed through my mind. I realized I was feeling a sense of protection (and again may I remind you that I am speaking only for myself). I was shown my own defensive state of mind when I noticed how I felt relieved – as if the hijab sent a signal to men saying that I was not available, something I would normally have to do with words and body language. This connects to the feeling that it asked people to pay attention to my thoughts, not my appearance. I think of Eve Ensler’s work, and the line “my short skirt/and everything underneath it/is mine.” This may be taking it far afield, but it was one of the ways in which I understood what I was feeling: the scarf as a rejection of women as sex objects, a reclaiming.
I am not sure what I expected. No one mentioned it (unless they were one of my interfaith friends), and I did not notice a difference in how I was treated. Perhaps I was the one who was most aware, as I adjusted to the fabric and learned about the safety pin secret. In fact, I went to that queer performance rehearsal that night, choosing to not point it out or explain myself, and no one asked. Perhaps they knew about my interfaith work, or had heard about the solidarity movement. At the end of the night, finally too curious to remain silent, I asked one person what he had thought. Shrugging his shoulders, he explained that he wondered a little but just accepted it as something I was doing.
Now I know that the scarf was for me more than anyone else. I respect and support the women who choose to wear the hijab…and part of me misses wearing it.