03/05/2013 12:12 EST | Updated 05/05/2013 05:12 EDT

My Hijab Doesn't Oppress Me, It Empowers Me

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Egyptian women queue outside a polling station in Cairo to cast their votes on June 16, 2012 in a divisive presidential runoff pitting ousted strongman Hosni Mubarak's last premier Ahmed Shafiq against Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi, two days after the top court ordered parliament dissolved. AFP PHOTO/PATRICK BAZ (Photo credit should read PATRICK BAZ/AFP/GettyImages)


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When you see me in wrapped up in my cheetah print scarf what do you see? Do you see oppression? Do you see liberation?

How about I show you what I want you to see?

The day that I decided to wear my scarf, was the day I accepted I was a feminist. Now you must be asking yourself "How could that be?" or "Isn't the hijab the universal symbol of oppression?"


Wikipedia defines Feminism as:

...a collection of movements and ideologies aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights for women. This includes seeking to establish equal opportunities for women in education and employment.

I am of South Asian decent; I came to Canada at the age of seven. Before coming to Canada, though I may have been young I was still able to understand and feel the intense struggle of women in a country that didn't allow women to flourish to their full potential. I understood that my move to Canada would be towards freedom and independence. I took my freedom very seriously. I made sure I did what boys did in school. I fought with my family to have equal freedom and rights as the male counterparts in my family. I won some battles, but lost a lot too. I was sheltered, and made to believe that there was some things men could do that a woman just couldn't. I tried to defy that with every fibre of my being. Because I believed women could do everything and it was men who were limited.

As I became a teenager, I struggled with trying to fit in, because though I was a little feminist at heart, I was still a girl. I had the desire to be pretty, a desire to be liked for my looks. I tried very hard for many years, but I always wondered why girls had to wear less clothing to be attractive while men looked their finest in a three piece suit.

My journey as a feminist eventually took me to explore my faith. Negative media helped me look for answers for the Muslim woman dilemma. Was a simple piece of cloth a symbol of oppression? I found that women were mistreated all over the world, scarf or no scarf. I did a lot of research and found that the veil in Islam was encouraged to elevate women to a symbol of respect. I was fascinated by that, because I found as a teen, self-respect was something a lot of girls struggled with. Being raised around a lot of boys and having mostly male friends I recognized that I didn't want to be objectified as sexual object.

So at 16, I began my journey to covering my body. I was afraid of what people would think. But I realized, the world would judged me no matter what I did, so I better do what I feel is right. And I felt very strongly about what I believed in. I believed, a man should respect me for my mind. I believed that inner beauty should be showcased because outer beauty would fade.

Women's bodies are used as a canvas for advertising. The machine that is marketing and the men behind it use their creative paintbrush to objectify and sexualize women. I chose to take back the paintbrush. The irony is that one of my favourite ads was by Dove, I loved their "Evolution of Beauty" video.

Contrary to what most people think, I had to fight my family to wear hijab. They were completely against it. I still get asked if I really need to wear it. Do I waver and question my commitment sometimes? Yes I do. Just as a person who may question their commitment to their marriage. You can call it long-term buyer's remorse -- just kidding. But seriously sometimes it's hard, but majority of the time I am extremely comfortable with my decision to wear the hijab.

My feminism still remains while I wear the hijab, because for me it was the greatest symbol of choice. The expression "she wears the pants in the house," was changed by my husband to, "She wears the hijab in the house." In our home hijab is a symbol of power and respect. My 16-year-old feminist self would be proud of me for sticking to my guns. She would be proud for never giving in to peer pressure, media pressure, and social pressure. My body is my own; I can do to it whatever I please.

To get a better understanding of hijab, I leave you with the words of Naomi Wolf, a feminist;

"It is not that Islam suppresses sexuality, but that it embodies a strongly developed sense of its appropriate channeling"

Be free, be yourself -- Happy International Women's Week!

Amber - @amberzcorner

Originally posted on

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