Presentation Essay Example: "A Look Behind the Veil"

Published: 2022-09-26
Presentation Essay Example: "A Look Behind the Veil"
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Culture Feminism Muslim
Pages: 5
Wordcount: 1164 words
10 min read

The stereotypes presented in western societies about the veil with regard to women's oppression are not entirely justified. The voice of feminism should, therefore, not take such matters literally without having their facts with regards to oppressed veiled women. Apart from anonymity, veiling has and continues to serve as a symbol of women's freedom, protective dress code, beauty, and respect. Just like any other clothing, veiling defines women based on their group affiliations, achieved and ascribed statuses and structural positions.

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"The feminine veil has become a symbol of slavery of one portion of humanity" (Fernea and Robert, p.529). The statement by the Germaine Trillion is not accurate. The applicability Trillion's statement depends on who is interpreting the role played by the veil. The differences in cultural and religious understanding are among the main factors sparking the differences in interpretation of the veil as a dress code. In Middle Eastern countries, wearing the veil is a combination of both religious and cultural perspectives. Religiously as per the Quran (24:30), believing women are advised not to display their beauty and chaste, to guard their private parts and cast down their glances. The same is requested of men who are advised to cast down their glances and protect their private parts (Qasim). Islam, therefore, guides the believers to dress appropriately irrespective of their gender. All religions encourage modesty and discourage attributes that may result in infidelity. Therefore, assuming that veiling is encouraged by religion as a means of discrimination or oppression is not true as the same responsibility is shared by men who must maintain "hijab of the eyes" in public.

Furthermore, wearing of an outer garment outside the homes by Muslim women is a choice; a choice endowed with benefits. By being considered devout "believers" (by abiding by Islamic values) women in Muslim societies are treated with familial respect and are protected against any form of harassment. Besides being a sense of identity, the head scarfs also keeps dust from eyes, cools the hair from scorching sun and maintains anonymity. Thus, it is worth stating that by concentrating on the veil as a depiction of aggressive treatment towards women, passiveness, and oppression, or ignorant, the western scholars may have fuelled the misinformed notion regarding "imprisoned" the existence of women in Middle Eastern society. In doing so, the realization of similarities between the two cultures remains masked.

To understand why less revealing of the face is a symbol of oppression in Western culture, it is vital to understand women's beauty in contemporary western society. The majority of western societies perceive women's beauty regarding an attractive facial appearance. Self-esteem, therefore, becomes based on the attractiveness of women to a third party. Thus, if the hijab is a form of oppression, then it can also be argued that Western culture oppresses women through their promotion of unattainable ideals of beauty. But the latter is not the case. Just like the western society, the veiling as a form of women's clothing is used to conceal or attract attention depending on the set local standards rewarding modesty, beauty, and gender. Thus, the hijab, Burqa, Niqab, or Khimir are means of giving control and choice to women as they view their beauty as a precious gem not to be seen by all. Veiling plays a significant role in Middle Eastern societies in giving women the freedom of association, belonging and equal treatment. Similar to Western societies, female sexuality is harnessed for the honor of the family and integrity of the society in Middle Eastern culture (Frenea and Robert, p.533).

Moreover, there are specific the Middle East cultural practices that give the veiling as a religious clothing a negative image. These practices entail discouraging women from driving, holding offices or having the same rights in inheritance or social, economic matters. Moreover, these cultural practices just like the niqab or hijab for that matter have been part of the Arabic culture for centuries even before the coming of Prophet Muhammad and the beginning of Islam. Since Arabic culture is dominant in Middle Eastern countries a conflict of distinguishing between the cultural norms and religious practices ensures as the two practices become intertwined. This is also the point of disagreement between the Western and Middle Eastern perspectives. Being depicted as a cultural practice veiling is categorized as a negative norm that creates a disparity between the standards placed on men and women. Therefore, the reason for wearing the veil may be the only factor distinguishing if it viewed as a form of religious freedom or oppression of women.

The oppression of women has continued to exist among patriarchal cultures and focusing on western lifestyle as necessary superior then the discussion becomes swayed from the actual scenario. Even in traditional and modern Western societies veiling was and is still used as a significant dress code for women. During the Masquerade Balls in Venice, everyone in attendance wore masks that covered their faces as a form of discarding class or gender segregation. It is the only time people enjoyed having no social hierarchies. By having anonymity people were also able to express themselves in whichever way they wanted. Modern western society beliefs regarding veils worn by women are the same when it comes to the specific segments of society. For example, Catholic nuns wear veils as the clothing of respect the same goes for women during marriages. If it can be concluded that veils are a form of oppression, it means the Catholic nuns are under a tyranny system. The latter is not the case as the nun's devotion is a choice every Catholic is free to make. Fashion shows (Kanye West fashion-Yeezy), brands (Nike), artists, models (Halima Aden) and blogs are to embracing veiling as part of women's clothing. The actions of the individuals mentioned above, programs and institutions should be a vital lesson to the global society that veils are dressing of choice that amplifies women's positive values.

Fernea and Robert's work "A look behind the Veil," justifies that matters of sexual control are prevalent in masculine societies and the dress code is used as enforcement of control; this entails both Middle Eastern and Western societies. Also the failure to understand the different cultures of the world may be the major hindrance towards understanding the key motivation behind wearing of the veil. The criticisms towards the treatment of women in the Middle Eastern culture may be a result of Western cultural imperialism linked with ethnocentric issues regarding rights. Some societies, on the other hand, may also be exploiting "Islamic particularism" as a way of infringing women's rights to political and civic matters. Therefore, veiling should not be literally taken as a symbol of oppression of the wearers.

Works Cited

Fernea, Elizabeth W., and Robert A. Fernea. "A look behind the veil." Human Nature 2.1 (1979): 68-77.

Qasim Rashid. Muslim men need to understand that the Quran says they should observe hijab first, not women. Independent. 2017 March 29th. Retrieved from

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