When I first started learning more about Islam, some Muslim friends taught me about the various types of head and face coverings, specifically the niqab. They shared that it is usually a woman’s own preference to cover all of her face except her eyes, for modesty. That seemed like such a foreign concept, until today.
I haven’t been out much since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Between being pregnant and on bedrest in my third trimester and now having an infant, I’m thankful to hibernate and telecommute to work. But today I was off and had many errands to run. It was the first time I’ve been out in public to multiple places wearing a mask. And it felt different, in a good way.
When I got home, I told Seth that I think I finally have a little more perspective on why some Muslim women choose to cover their face. Today while wearing my mask, I felt less oogled. I didn’t get stared at. No one flirted with me. I was just another customer or bystander there to complete my errand. In coming to this realization, I can’t help but reflect on what it’s like to be a woman.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m no damsel in distress, but it’s certainly not easy being a woman. I remember deciding to wear less makeup so as not to draw more attention to myself; and I don’t wear all that much to begin with. I remember the one time I wore a knee length skirt without leggings and swore to myself that I’d never do that again. I remember wearing a simple ring to make it appear that I was married even though I wasn’t.
I remember asking guy friends or coworkers to tell men to stop pursuing me after I’d already said no, several times. I remember my class being interrupted by other students I didn’t actually know just for them to holler in that I’m beautiful.
Thankfully, these are my only experiences; I know other women have experienced much worse. But what does it say about our society that I felt safer and more respected while wearing a mask in public?
And now, I’ve got my baby girl to consider. I’ve been doing a lot of reading on child development and though we’re not there yet, I’m pretty sure we’re not gonna be those parents who require our kids to hug or kiss someone out of obligation. So even for close friends or family, Jaclyn will get to choose how she wants to greet people.
We will teach Jaclyn that hugs and kisses are an expression of love, but we will also teach her about consent. Her preferences matter and her voice matters regardless of her age. We will teach her to love and respect herself and to command respect from others. Yep, I said command. We’re also going to teach her how to fight— physically, spiritually, mentally. We’re going to prepare her the best we can.
What a crazy time to be alive and to bring another life into this world.