Feminism, Hijabs and Hypocrisy

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By Bill Ozanick

Women donning American flag hijabs at the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. protesting newly inaugurated President Donald Trump. (Photo: video screenshot)

Earlier this week, Dorsa Derakhshani, an 18-year-old female chess master, was banned from Iran’s national team for appearing without the Islamic headscarf (hijab) in a tournament in Gibraltar she competed in independently.

Considering it’s illegal for women in Iran to appear in public without properly covering their hair or bodies, I hardly found this story shocking.

What did surprise me was the deafening silence from all the “feminists” who took to the streets last month to participate in an unprecedented display of virtue signaling and hypocrisy better known as the “Women’s March.”

Then there was Sweden’s “first feminist government” – the one that mocked President Trump’s “misogyny” – surely they had something to say about Derakhshani’s ban, right? Silence.

But what could the Swedes say after delegates of their “feminist government” traveled to Iran earlier this month and all dutifully donned hijabs, obeying the misogynistic legislation requiring them to cover up.

An image taken of these “feminists” in their hijabs as they walked past President Rouhani is being referred to by many as the “walk of shame.”

How can these “feminists” so openly betray the Iranian women, who, oppressed by these laws, openly ask visitors to violate the hijab law to help them fight for their freedom?

The answer: They’re not feminists – they’re hypocrites.

While women must have the right to wear whatever they want, far too many well-intentioned people don’t seem to realize that if their dentist in Georgetown says she chooses to wear the hijab, it does not negate the fact that the vast majority of women around the world are forced to wear to veil themselves.

Defending the rights of women who wish to wear the hijab while failing to support the rights of women who do not wish to wear the garment is patently hypocritical and decidedly counterproductive to the feminist movement.

How might one expect a feminist to respond?

How about the way American chess master Nazi Paikidze-Barnes did when she refused to participate in the world championships held in Iran last year because players were forced to wear the hijab?

Paikidze-Barnes explained her decision, saying, “I know that a lot of Iranian women are bravely protesting this forced law daily and risking a lot by doing so. That’s why I will not wear a hijab and support women’s oppression.”

One such woman is Masih Alinejad, an Iranian journalist and activist who launched the campaign #MyStealthyFreedom in 2014 to protest laws requiring women to wear hijabs in Iran. The campaign’s slogan is: “The right for individual Iranian women to choose whether they want hijab.”

Paikidze-Barnes isn’t alone.

Air France’s cabin crew refused to fly to Iran last year after being told they would have to wear the headscarf upon arrival.

Yet something appears to be terribly wrong when 2.6 million people can find the money and time to travel to Washington, D.C., purchase pink hats and take to the streets holding signs of a woman wearing a hijab and even wearing hijabs themselves to protest a president who has yet to do anything to curtail women’s rights or Muslim’s rights, but are shockingly reticent and indolent when it comes to the plights of millions of women (like Derakhshani) who are penalized for not wearing the hijab.

While only a few Muslim countries legally require women to wear the headscarf, far too many simply bully women into covering up. As Asra Nomani, an eminent Muslim reformer, wrote, “Women and girls, who are sometimes called ‘enforce-hers’ and ‘Muslim mean girls,’ take it a step further by even making fun of women whom they perceive as wearing the hijab inappropriately, referring to ‘hijabis’ in skinny jeans as ‘ho-jabis,’ using the indelicate term for ‘whores.’”

While living in a Muslim country for nearly four years, I personally witnessed lectures about how “real Muslim women cover up” while also observing the more subtle forms of coercion such as, “You know, you’d be much more beautiful if you wore a hijab.”

As I write this, eight “feminist” scholars and activists – looking to follow up on the “Women’s March” – are feverishly organizing a “Women’s Strike” on March 8th. The hypocrisy, and irony, will be hard to ignore as countless women will “fight for women’s rights” by not showing up for work – completely ignoring the fact that so many women in the countries that force women to wear hijabs are also forced to stay home and not even allowed to work.

Hopefully, these women, who choose to fight the “unbearable misogyny” in America under President Trump, will find the time to read about Dorsa Derakhshani.


Bill Ozanick is currently a graduate student at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C.  He can be followed on Twitter @BillOzanick.

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