Eid Mubarak. Can you guess what my costume was this weekend? I’ve helpfully labeled it.
I was talking about this costume on Jezebel and people realllyyyyy didn’t like it. Some funny responses include:
Basically everyone thought that it would offend the shit out of everybody.
First of all, I don’t care. If I didn’t do every action that would offend someone, I wouldn’t do anything ever. Plus, besides some dirty looks, no one really seemed particularly offended.
Second of all, I don’t get what’s actually offensive about this. Halloween is a time of year when people devolve into two camps:
1. slutty costumes are shitty and self-objectifying OR
2. slutty costumes are empowering and fun to party in.
I’m a member of both camps. Wearing slutty clothes on Halloween can be oddly liberating only because they’re usually taboo and aren’t on Halloween because we for some reason decide to enact these weird safe zones from slut-shaming (wearing basically nothing on the beach is fine, but anywhere else is not?), but to call it empowering is a stretch. Implicit in the “release” of slutty Halloween costume is an assertion of modesty on most other days of the year.
The concept of modesty pisses me off. Every time I read the phrase “classy, not trashy” or “sexy but classy” or some other drivel on a fashion blog I throw up in my mouth a little. Like, shit man, there’s nothing less sexy than someone who clearly places a really high premium on sexiness but refuses to acknowledge it. That is just personal preference though–I find coyness irritating. Niqabs are the logical extreme of this train of thought. “Oh, I’ll advertise my fuckability by signaling my chastity.” Overt sexiness and overt modesty are just two sides of the same terrible virgin-whore coin we’ve been forced to flip for thousands of years.
I realize that writing out your costume is pretty lame but I didn’t really want people to think I was just making fun of Muslim women, because I’m also making fun of myself, and all other women who think looking hot gives them any kind of power other than what men will decide to give them. If as a woman you’ve ever felt self conscious for not being hot enough or self conscious for thinking your outfit was too revealing, then you have felt the effects of the patriarchy. And every woman who makes a conscious decision to ostentatiously display modesty or sexiness is complicit in that structure. And that’s actually okay, to a certain degree.
Feminists exist in a world where it’s difficult to effect change unless everyone opts in. It’s hard, if not impossible, to be a “perfect feminist” because we still want the same things that non-feminists do–love, respect, sex, the ability to make our voice heard–and these things are difficult to achieve if you don’t play along with certain oppressive practices. I’m definitely not one of those people who think that whatever choice a woman makes is feminist simply due to the fact that a woman is making the choice.
The most important thing I think is to realize when you’re being complicit in your own oppression and understand why you’re doing it and be honest about it. I don’t shave my legs because I fucking love shaving my legs–I do it because I’m conforming to an established beauty standard that is stupid and pointless but is powerful enough to keep me from getting things I want if not followed. To think otherwise, that I’m doing it because “it looks better” (who decides that?) or “it’s my choice” (so?) is simply to avoid the truth.
This is where the niqab thing comes in. A lot of intersectionalists make a big deal about how hijab is actually empowering. I don’t understand this compulsion. Ignoring the historical implications of veiling is a huge mistake. Many different cultures employ facial veiling (wedding veils/blushers, ghomta on a sari, etc.) and they all serve the same function: to obstruct female beauty. This is referred to as “modesty”, when actually it should be called “theft deterrence.” There is no way anyone is actually confused about the purpose of veiling, just like no one is actually confused about the purpose of corsetry. Just because our tastes now associate those things with other things like “piety” or “fashion” doesn’t mean that they’ve lost their semiotic roots. Veiling is equally as objectifying and sexualizing as lingerie is, and frequently more dishonest about its intentions.
I think it’s important for all women to experience what it’s like to be very covered up and very exposed in the world. While in general experiencing a range of different things increases empathy, wearing a range of clothing is particularly important because of embodied cognition. This is a good article on how clothes affect our subconscious processes. But yeah. Rant rant rant rant rant. Happy Halloween!