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Why I Can Never Wear Hijab and Be Sexy

I realized a few weeks ago, that I can’t wear hijab and be sexy.  

First let me begin by qualifying this statement. I mean that insofar I am simultaneously wearing Hijab and existing in the public sphere, I think I cannot be perceived as sexy in the same way a conventionally sexually attractive woman on the cover of Sport Illustrated is, or at least, can be. 

Everyday, I make the conscious decision to privatize my sexuality by wearing the Hijab.

And everyday, it gives me the power to know that this act is one of resistance against a status quo that sexualises and objectifies women in many respects; it is the same status quo that deeply ingrains these values in us that we begin to equate women’s power solely to their public displays of sexuality.

However, there are moments in which I feel that I cannot be a certain kind of powerful, or receive a certain kind of glorified attention, that other women, who do not wear Hijab, can get.

In a society in which women are glorified for being a certain sexy, in a society that gives power to sexualized women, I began, like I am sure many others, to believe that a women's sexiness is synonymous to power. Because I make the decision to privatize my sexuality in public, this sometimes makes me feel like I cannot have the same type of power as a woman who does not wear Hijab. 

Intellectually, I believe in the power that wearing the Hijab gives me. In my opinion, it helps deconstructs a dominant macro-narrative of women being only valuable for their sexuality in the public sphere. 

But irrationally, emotionally, sometimes, this is hard to accept. There is a deeply ingrained desire to be sexually appealing. This is something I am not ashamed of; the desire to be desired is so natural to us.

In the wake of Noor Tagouri’s choice to pose for playboy, these are questions that filled me head.

As a Muslim woman who wears Hijab, what would I have done in her position?

Would I have taken the opportunity to re-shape the Muslim identity?

Or maybe I would have done it for the more selfish, and natural, desire to feel wanted, and sexy, and a more mainstream kind of attractive?

I do not have answers. I do not know how to resolve these tensions within me. I do not even know if they can be reconciled. 

Or maybe it's all in my head. I don't know.