Need some help re:head covering - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 29 Old 08-17-2009, 10:32 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I hope this is the right place, if not, please feel free to move it.

Recently, I have noticed that my mother is very intolerant towards women who headcover (and their husbands). She feels that is has nothing to do with their religious beliefs, and everything to do with men wanting to subordinate women. While this may be true in a few cases, I have a hard time believing that all the women I see covering their head are being forced to do so...am I wrong?

I have spoken to her many many times about this, but I never have any real good information to combat her with. So, I guess what I am asking you for are some reasons that you choose to headcover, and some of the religious/spiritual implications.

It disturbs me to hear her speak like this, and just want some information to give to her. If I had any friends that headcovered, I would ask them, but sadly I do not. I've been intrigued by headcovering and thought about trying it out and confronting her like that, but I would not want to insult anyone.

Anyhow, any help you could give me would be greatly appreciated.
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#2 of 29 Old 08-17-2009, 03:22 PM
 
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She feels that is has nothing to do with their religious beliefs, and everything to do with men wanting to subordinate women. While this may be true in a few cases, I have a hard time believing that all the women I see covering their head are being forced to do so...am I wrong?
Most of the women I know cover of their own volition, and in fact, many of them have had to persuade their husbands of the value of headcovering. I know several women who have gone back and forth on the covering without their husband's input one way or another. Often their husbands are reluctant about it either because they feel it is legalistic, or because they are worried about people viewing them as oppressive patriarchal pigs (obviously a valid concern, your mother as proof ).

My dh wouldn't care if I left off covering. It is not a big deal one way or the other to him. I have friends in more closed communities (similar to the Amish), and their church rules require covering, but they are free to choose membership and the covering with it, or to not join the church or marry into it. Usually the ones who get in trouble/lose their families are those who join the church knowing the rules and then refuse to follow them. The ones who simply never join are still able to have family relationships and even some participation in the community, at least among the groups that I know.
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#3 of 29 Old 08-17-2009, 03:39 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you for your reply.

I was pretty sure that not all women who cover are being forced to do so by the men in their family. I'm sure that there may be a small percentage who are, but she seems to think it is universal. That, or they have been "brainwashed into believing in it"

Now that I think a little more clearly on the subject, are there any good links or books I could read about why people (of different religious beliefs) headcover? I've been doing a little research here and there, and it's really got my interest piqued

Again, though, thanks for your reply.
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#4 of 29 Old 08-17-2009, 04:34 PM
 
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I don't know about webpages, but I cover my head in public. I choose to cover not all of my hair, but at the very least, a "bandana's worth". that is, a bandana is about the most mininmal covering I'll go with.

When I first told my partner (future hubby) that I wanted to cover my hair, he was NOT pleased. (we were long distance at the time) In fact he hated the idea. However, since it is my body and my spirituality, I started anyways. I love it now. Its grown on him for sure, he thinks its pretty and attractive. He doesn't like that he suspects people think he makes me cover.

BTW (for your mother), my father thought it was weird at first, I don't have a brother, and I know my many of my uncles think I look absurd covering my head, and its not my male religious authority either. (We were talking in the covering ladies thread about wanting scarves that said "I choose to cover, not my husband. Its not my brother, father, uncle, cousin, or religious figure either." lol).

The reason I cover my head is a spiritual calling. All of a sudden, I felt called to cover my head. Finally, I decided to do as I felt G-d was asking me to do (even though my religion's scriptures and oral traditions do not even suggust I cover, as an unmarried woman. were I married, the most observant branches of my religion would require/suggust I cover my head, however in my congregation very few married women, much less unmarried women cover their head unless in the sanctuary or prayer.

(I'm jewish, in a conservative congregation. Most married orthodox woman cover their heads, I beleive, though I'm not sure about modern orthodox, and obviously, that is a generalization, which never hold true for everyone.
I've read (though I don't know that this is the reason for everyone, and I'm sure there are as many or more reasons for covering as a jewish woman as there are jewish women who cover) that one kabbalistic (mystical) interpretation of this is that when a bride marries, she is incredibly holy. After her wedding, this holiness stays on in her hair. this is considered a rather private holiness, not for all eyes to see. In Jewish tradition, veiling holy things is quite common. For instance the dwelling place of G-d's prescence , when G-d's presence was among the people of israel, was veiled. I'm definitely not the most educated on the matter, but this is my understanding of one "reason".

interestingly enough, I've discovered several side-benefits to covering for religious reasons. I find most men treat me with more respect, and less objectifying. Apparently they will still "check me out" according to dp, but they don't whistle, they don't stare obviously, they don't do it in a way that makes me uncomfortable.


I hope you can help your mother see another perspective, but keep in mind that oftentimes, things like this are very deeply entredged beleifs (I know my mom has some) that may only be dislodged by getting to know someone the beleif is "against", or not at all.

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#5 of 29 Old 08-17-2009, 05:20 PM
 
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To throw another little wrench in her theory: it's actually somewhat common for Muslim fathers in America to discourage their daughters from wearing hijab, and extremely common for fathers and husbands alike to discourage their daughters and wives from wearing niqab. They fear for the attitudes covering women sometimes encounter, and they fear for what people -- like your mom -- will assume about them as men.
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#6 of 29 Old 08-17-2009, 06:14 PM - Thread Starter
 
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To throw another little wrench in her theory: it's actually somewhat common for Muslim fathers in America to discourage their daughters from wearing hijab, and extremely common for fathers and husbands alike to discourage their daughters and wives from wearing niqab. They fear for the attitudes covering women sometimes encounter, and they fear for what people -- like your mom -- will assume about them as men.
I find this interesting, and am wondering if the gulf between Canada and America is really that big. In my neighbourhood, it is very common to see women covering (I have a mosque 10 minutes away from my house) and it is also very common to see people wearing various "traditional" clothing. So in a day, I see a lot of women in various states of dress (and undress I guess, I'm a lifeguard)

Perhaps Magelet is right, and she just refuses to see that some women make this choice.

Interestingly, I've thought about head covering for non-religious but spiritual reasons lately. I've told my DH and he said he wouldn't mind either way, and that I need to do what I need to do. Some day I might just show up with some kind of scarf covering my hair partially...I think she might flip! Anyhow, thanks for some food for thought and some things to share with her next time she decides that all headcovering women need to be saved from their male relatives and/or spouse.
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#7 of 29 Old 08-17-2009, 07:03 PM
 
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Hmmm... what religious path (if any) does your mother follow? Would it be possible to point out hair coverings or specific clothing patterns that exist within her own religious community since she would be more familiar with those and perhaps less inclined to think of them in a negative manner? And what about headcoverings that apply to men rather than women? Or headcoverings that are adopted as a form of "power identity" rather than those associated with religion?

For example, the headcoverings that are part of the "uniform" of many Catholic women's orders, the prayer shawls and headcoverings worn by women at prayer or in a holy place (still common in many modern Christian, Muslim, and Jewish groups, and part of the religious life of Catholic women everywhere pre-Vatican II), the simple or elaborate headcoverings of Jewish men or men of a certain rank within the Christian and/or Catholic church, Rastafarian head coverings (worn by members of both genders), Sikh turbans (again, both men and women in this group cover their hair), pagan groups that cover their hair during rituals (both men and women in these groups will cover their hair, and there's a thread here in RS for headcovering pagans), or "non-religious" items like the stylized headcoverings you see on some young men as a mark of group (or gang) affiliation or the hats worn by sports fans which proclaim their team alliance.

While some headcovering is certainly built upon a foundation of modesty or the desire to submit to a higher authority, there are plenty of other headcovering scenarios. And of course, plenty of women (and men) who cover their heads for religious or personal reasons without any sense of headcovering as "modest" or "submissive" or anything but "pretty" or "what a real fan of team X does".

Hmmmm... there was actually an article on CNN.com just this past week interviewing young American women who cover their hair and their reasons for doing so. A lot of them mentioned that ther covered their hair despite the disapproval of their parents/partners/communities because they wanted to opt out of the "how you look is who you are" mentality of modern marketing. So they were covering their hair (and sometimes their faces) as a way to emphasize their individuality and sense of self in opposition to the advertising world of "look like this"/"don't weigh more than this"/"buy this"/"wear this". I remember one woman said it made high school dating both more meaningful as well as more challenging since the guys were sort of forced to deal with her as a person and she couldn't "hide" behind the latest styles. Maybe you could search the cnn site for the story is you think your mom might find that sort of mainstream media coverage more convincing.

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#8 of 29 Old 08-17-2009, 11:24 PM
 
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Well among the Muslims I know....there is a wide variation as to why they cover.

A lot of converts to Islam cover (more than born Muslims...at least that I know in the States) as a way to proclaim their Muslim identity. It's about modesty but it's also about fitting in.

Many cover because they believe God calls them to do so. Some have believed this over time... others from the get-go.

I do know a few where there is pressure to cover....usually by fathers directed at their daughters more than husbands/wives. I think the reason we don't see a lot of husbands forcing their wives to cover in the States is that American-born women (if they did not believe in it) wouldn't bother to stay married. Divorce is not forbidden in Islam.

In Egypt, where my husband is from, nearly all of the girls wear hijab. (It almost makes me wonder if the Coptic Christian girls are wearing hijab because it's so prevalent!) It's trendy there...it's in fashion...which is probably hard for many Americans to believe. Some wear hijab because they believe it is part of their religion...but also many wear hijab because it is socially correct these days. 10-15 years ago...very few teens and twenties wore hijab.

Your Mom may not be old enough to remember the 60s (and earlier) in the States.. .but at the time, no self-respecting American woman would go out without a hat on. Covering one's head was seen as required by societal conventions. It had nothing to do with one's husband forcing one's wife to cover. (It's rooted in religion(Christianity)...although many may not realize that.) It's the same with hijab today.

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#9 of 29 Old 08-18-2009, 12:24 AM
 
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I'm Jewish, and I can tell you for a fact that I'm the only woman in my community who covers - my rabbi hates it, my DH hated it for a while (but is ok with it now), and pretty much all the women around me think that somehow I've been brainwashed into it.

I see my headcovering as REAL feminism. I choose how much of myself I want to expose, instead of feeling tied to the social norms of the time in which I'm living. I choose what I want people to see of my body on MY comfort level. I don't feel comfortable having my hair out there (I have really curly, dark, shiny hair, and I've had people walk up to me in the mall and touch it before , so I cover it.

My headcovering is a kind of social rebellion, actually. You should go tell your mother that.

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#10 of 29 Old 08-18-2009, 08:41 AM
 
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Now that I think a little more clearly on the subject, are there any good links or books I could read about why people (of different religious beliefs) headcover?
Well, firstly, her theory that it has nothing to do with their actual religion is not based in fact.

In Christianity, it is based directly on NT Scripture, she can look up 1 Corinthians 11. Headcovering is historically part of the Christian faith, and was only dropped in the 20th century as part of many other huge cultural shifts away from traditional practices of Christianity.

I can only speak for my experience of Christianity, but I know that while my conservative Catholic father was on the one hand pleased that I chose to cover, he *never* even hinted that he wanted me to (I only found out after the fact that he thought it was a good thing) and he also had some concerns about how I would be treated as a headcovering woman. I know my husband does not believe unmarried young women need to be covered, and if we have a daughter, he wouldn't encourage her full-time covering. He feels it needs to be a grown woman's choice between her and God, and secondarily between her and her husband.
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#11 of 29 Old 08-18-2009, 12:58 PM
 
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I see my headcovering as REAL feminism.
Me too. In the sense that feminism is the right to self determination and choice for women and men. (I don't subscribe to the belief that feminism means we are able and must/should do everything men "traditionally"/often /can do, and yet still somehow have to do all the cooking, vacuming, kid's doctor's visits, while being sexually loose because that's one view of men. I think feminism got seriously.... sidetracked. but anyways.)

In that way, I choose a traditionally more "feminine" covering instead of a kippah which is a traditionally more masculine covering, and I choose to cover when in public because its my choice, for my own spirituality. Being able to choose for yourself, whether to choose either to work in any career, or to work home with your kids (another kind of work that should be valued, for it is work), whether to vote or not as you choose, what to wear, whether that is more revealing, or more modest, and many more these are things which define feminism in my mind. "the right and availiblity of choice"

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#12 of 29 Old 08-18-2009, 01:35 PM
 
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When I was Muslim and covered, it was because my mother forced me to. Had nothing to do with my father, at all. He was more concerned with my modest clothing, not covering my hair.

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#13 of 29 Old 08-18-2009, 05:08 PM - Thread Starter
 
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You guys are awesome! You have given me so much to think about and process.

My mother has decided that all organised religion is the "bad guy" because the men (as in a man, not Man as in Human) who wrote the Bible, Torah, etc twisted the truth to be what they wanted it to be and they wanted women under their thumb and doing/acted how they wanted. For her, no good can come of religion, and why are these women doing this to themselves? If she had a belief in a religion, I would definitely try to use ties with that, but she is a devout "I believe in something that's out there"-ist.

I think I may just try to use common sense with her regarding women covering now.

We live in Canada, so there doesn't seem to be (to me) as strong of an "anti-Muslim" which translates for many people into an "anti-covering" vibe as down in the States (maybe I am wrong), so I think I will work with that.

Thank you so much though for sharing your experiences and reasons behind your individual choices regarding covering. You certainly don't owe anyone a reason, but it was very thought provoking (for me, at least!)
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#14 of 29 Old 08-18-2009, 05:18 PM
 
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This book is a good resource dealing with stereotypes surrounding Muslim women's dress and the reasons for it ... a lot of it can be applied to women in other faiths as well. And this book doesn't deal with headcovering specifically, but it does deal with the concept of modesty stemming from women's self-interests (although the author does quote some seriously shady research here and there, so I definitely wouldn't look at it as an academic work so much as an anecdotal one).
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#15 of 29 Old 08-18-2009, 05:39 PM
 
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interestingly enough, I've discovered several side-benefits to covering for religious reasons. I find most men treat me with more respect, and less objectifying. Apparently they will still "check me out" according to dp, but they don't whistle, they don't stare obviously, they don't do it in a way that makes me uncomfortable.

Ok, this is a bit of high-jacking, but I am really fascinated by this. Do you other women here who cover, notice a similar occurance? Men are less crass?

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#16 of 29 Old 08-18-2009, 05:53 PM
 
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Ok, this is a bit of high-jacking, but I am really fascinated by this. Do you other women here who cover, notice a similar occurance? Men are less crass?
I'm interested too. Honestly, men are not crass to me, but just interested overall in the shift in attitude toward one who headcovers - the good and the bad.

I guess it makes sense; headcovering announces a devoutness that would kind of preclude a woman from responding favorably to crass behavior. Though of course it stumps me to think that men think that any woman is intruiged by crass behavior, but who knows?

I'm an avid feminist and not at all against head covering, though I have to say the more extreme practice of covering the face and whole body seems indeed to limit women in extreme ways, and areas that require this treatment seem very violent toward women imho. But that seems different from head covering and general modesty.

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#17 of 29 Old 08-18-2009, 07:26 PM
 
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I'm an avid feminist and not at all against head covering, though I have to say the more extreme practice of covering the face and whole body seems indeed to limit women in extreme ways, and areas that require this treatment seem very violent toward women imho. But that seems different from head covering and general modesty.
There are several women on this board who either have in the past, currently do, or plan to shortly begin wearing a face covering, if you would prefer inquire.
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#18 of 29 Old 08-18-2009, 07:46 PM
 
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I'm not even currently married and I cover my hair! There is absolutely no man around with any opinion or input on how I dress. The local rabbis (both the one in my synagogue and the one across town that I learn with) would take me just as seriously if I didn't cover. I've seen them interact with other women who don't cover their hair. I'm truly not covering my hair for any reason other than my own inner feelings that it's the right thing for me to do. It doesn't even "buy me a place within the religious community" because I live in a community that's not so uniform.

It's a Jewish tradition for women to start covering their hair when they get married. I followed that tradition when I married my first husband. He didn't really care one way or the other- I covered my hair for myself, not for him. He would have been fine if I'd chosen not to cover my hair at all, or do so in a less complete way. If he'd been opposed to me covering my hair, I'm not sure I would have married him. It was THAT important to me.

There are a variety of opinions about whether or not divorced women need to cover their hair. I stopped covering it shortly after we got divorced. I never covered during my second marriage, as I wasn't religious during that time of my life. But in the past few years, I felt myself drawn to the religious life again. I started covering my hair again when I moved into this community. It just "feels right" to me to do this, even though I stopped covering when I got my religious divorce and have never remarried in a way that's recognized by my religion. According to Halacha (Jewish law) I'm still a woman who was married and divorced once.

I'm not sure how you can convince your mother that headcovering has little to do with men subjugating women. In the cases where its' a factor at all, it's as likely to be "men not letting women cover" as "men forcing women to cover." Maybe have her read this thread?

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#19 of 29 Old 08-18-2009, 07:49 PM
 
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Ok, this is a bit of high-jacking, but I am really fascinated by this. Do you other women here who cover, notice a similar occurance? Men are less crass?
Absolutely. If I'm not getting the whole "do you speak English" type vibe... then usually I'm treated with more respect than if I wasn't wearing my hijab.

I've also noticed that some (not all) women who are more exposed may feel uncomfortable around me in their clothing.

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#20 of 29 Old 08-19-2009, 12:35 AM
 
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I cover despite opposition from pretty much everyone. Many members of my faith group think covering goes against its principles, my family thinks it's weird, and my husband is politely amused. No one in our community covers (that I've seen) and I get odd looks for it. My life would be EASIER if I didn't cover, and absolutely no one is "making" me do it. But I feel it is right for me to do so. So, hum.

It's not an extreme form of covering like covering the face or all the hair (not saying extreme in a derogatory way, btw) but it's still unusual.

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#21 of 29 Old 08-19-2009, 12:40 AM
 
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Ok, this is a bit of high-jacking, but I am really fascinated by this. Do you other women here who cover, notice a similar occurance? Men are less crass?
I don't know if it's the covering itself that makes a difference. I know I act differently when I cover and when I don't. It's hard to admit, but it's true. I took on a different personality when I started covering (and this only happened AFTER I started - I covered at first to sort of disprove that it would make a difference!) and I liked the change. I guess I never realized that my body language to men was different back then. It's hard for me to describe. So I guess if they are less crass it's because I'm acting differently, not because of the head covering. I wonder if that makes sense...

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#22 of 29 Old 08-19-2009, 12:48 AM
 
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I've also noticed that some (not all) women who are more exposed may feel uncomfortable around me in their clothing.
For me, it's not so much the men, but the women. Men seem to take it in stride or not even notice (if I'm wearing something relatively inconspicuous - I don't wear hijab). Women REACT. Good or (more often) bad, they know and have an opinion on it.

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#23 of 29 Old 08-19-2009, 01:51 AM
 
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I am a Christian and I sometimes cover my head when going into certain social situations.

My husband has NEVER asked me to cover my head.

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#24 of 29 Old 09-09-2009, 03:29 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Teenytoona View Post
Ok, this is a bit of high-jacking, but I am really fascinated by this. Do you other women here who cover, notice a similar occurance? Men are less crass?
Big difference. throughout my life I have gone from dressing fairly provocative, to "normal" american, to "modest" (long skirt no slits, lose long sleeves), to covering body and head, to covering body and face. BIG difference in the way men treat you. Dressing provocative, men stared, said comments walking down the street, I even once had some one expose themselves. Dressed normal, still some people saying things, hitting on you, etc. Dressed covering body but not head, same thing, people would come and talk and try to ask you out in a nice way. Dressed with head/neck covered nobody tried to ask you out, men suddenly become extremely respectful. They open doors for you (not common in the big city I live in), move out of your way nicely when you need to get by, treat you like a fragile woman. Wearing face veil, men tend to avoid you completely and generally try not to speak to you except sometimes in a very formal manner when necissary. Basically exactly the goal.
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#25 of 29 Old 09-09-2009, 10:25 AM
 
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Originally Posted by wombatclay View Post

Hmmmm... there was actually an article on CNN.com just this past week interviewing young American women who cover their hair and their reasons for doing so. A lot of them mentioned that ther covered their hair despite the disapproval of their parents/partners/communities because they wanted to opt out of the "how you look is who you are" mentality of modern marketing. So they were covering their hair (and sometimes their faces) as a way to emphasize their individuality and sense of self in opposition to the advertising world of "look like this"/"don't weigh more than this"/"buy this"/"wear this". I remember one woman said it made high school dating both more meaningful as well as more challenging since the guys were sort of forced to deal with her as a person and she couldn't "hide" behind the latest styles. Maybe you could search the cnn site for the story is you think your mom might find that sort of mainstream media coverage more convincing.
Where is this article I looked on CNN and could not find it?

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#26 of 29 Old 09-09-2009, 01:19 PM
 
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Also, it seems to be this assumption that we covering women are poor, brainwashed, downtrodden and dominated little girls. We're actually mostly well-educated American women, most with college degrees, many with masters' and doctorates. We're teachers, scientists, professionals, voluntary SAHMs, breadwinners, politicians, and otherwise leaders in our communities. Many of us came to headcovering as adults, after trying and rejecting what is "normal" dress in American society. All our other decisions reflect our values - where we live, the groups we are a part of and give money and support to - why can't we show that by the way we dress as well?

We're strong women, going against what is popular - not barefoot and pregnant uneducated girls.

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#27 of 29 Old 09-09-2009, 02:06 PM
 
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Originally Posted by smeisnotapirate View Post
Also, it seems to be this assumption that we covering women are poor, brainwashed, downtrodden and dominated little girls. ... We're strong women, going against what is popular - not barefoot and pregnant uneducated girls.
Moderately on topic: yesterday I was out with my husband and three -- three! -- separate people all decided upon sight of me that I must not speak English and the way to handle this was to talk to my husband in the third person about me. It just really rubbed me the wrong way ... the assumption of being foreign is no big deal, I'm used to that and I do understand, but the whole "her husband can speak for her on anything" bit just ... I don't know. It gives a feeling like the perception isn't only foreignness, but also meekness.
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#28 of 29 Old 09-09-2009, 02:22 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Liquesce View Post
Moderately on topic: yesterday I was out with my husband and three -- three! -- separate people all decided upon sight of me that I must not speak English and the way to handle this was to talk to my husband in the third person about me. It just really rubbed me the wrong way ... the assumption of being foreign is no big deal, I'm used to that and I do understand, but the whole "her husband can speak for her on anything" bit just ... I don't know. It gives a feeling like the perception isn't only foreignness, but also meekness.
Yeah. I go to conferences and people are surprised when I have an opinion, especially when I disagree heatedly with someone. I wonder where that comes from?

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#29 of 29 Old 09-11-2009, 10:40 PM
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recently started covering the past couple years. DH didn't make me, he says he enjoys that I do, but only if I want to. It was me who brought it up to him not the other way around. Neither of us were brought up with any knowledge on the matter or even knew there was such a thing as christian covering.
It was very difficult getting family to 'get it'. Although my older sister now covers also. But now they've accepted it and nobody really brings it up anymore.
I've definately noticed more respect from men but also from women unlike what a PP mentioned.
When I used to dress in shorts and tank tops other women my age treated me very aggressively. Now that I dress modestly I think they see me as a non-threat or something.
It's definately noticable in men-I don't know if its the covering, the modest dressing or just my change in attitude. They all seemed to change together so It's hard to say.
I'm thankful for it though- when I first started I thought for sure everyone would look at me wierd and go out of their way to mock me for it. Truly the other way around- at least as far as my experience so far.
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