submitted by Izzy, the photographer.

From the Photographer:

I did a photo series called Gender Outlaws a few weeks ago. The series primarily explored how body language and appearance choices and sex communicated gender (pro tip: only the first one really counts), but also touched on issues of what types of body language we associate with which genders, (like passivity and aggression), how race can play into the power dynamics, and lots of other things.

I originally was concerned that all my representations of gender, including those shots that featured models of color, were all very white, western representations of gender. I wanted to include other representations, but I knew I was playing with fire. One of the things I decided I absolutely needed in this project was an image of a man in a hijab.

When non-Muslims talk about hijab, they often see it as an oppressive, sexually shaming signal (“Women! Hide your bodies, you devious temptresses!”), but when you talk to Musilim women who choose to commit to hijab, you get a very different view. None of this, of course, applies to women who are forced to wear it, as many are. But women who make that choice themselves often speak about not oppression, but liberation: liberation from the media’s definition of how a person should look, or should dress, or should wear their hair. They feel that wearing hijab is demanding to be defined as a person by their words and actions and not by their haircut or body.

I definitely feel that this sentiment is as powerful as it ever was when put in the context of gender and worn by a man. Again, hijab is liberation from the media’s definition of how a person should look, or should dress, or should wear their hair and is a demand to be defined as a person by their words and actions and not by their haircut or body.

The model is intentionally non-Arab; Muslim men are forbidden from wearing women’s clothing by religious law, and I didn’t want the meaning of this photograph to get mucked up in people arguing about it.

Posted by on June 13th, 2010 at 08:00 am

Category: faces, photos, recommendations 11 comments »

11 Responses to “Hijab”

  1. mc

    it’s wonderful that there is understanding out there that the hijab isn’t oppressive. It’s a beautiful headscarf that can be worn in so many different ways depending on which part of the world you’re in and how old you are.


  2. Tiara the Merch Girl

    Great idea, especially the recognition that the hijab isn’t necessarily oppressive, but I just wanted to point out that Arab and Muslim aren’t necessarily synonymous. There are plenty more Muslims that aren’t Arab – look at a lot of Africa and Asia, for instance. Even a white guy like you can be Muslim. There’s no way of telling straight off.

    I grew up Muslim, don’t really practice it anymore but I do recognise the influence. I recently did a burlesque piece on the woman under the hijab, how people don’t tend to think of the woman as having her own sexual agency:


  3. katy

    ooh, where can i find the rest of the photo series?


  4. epinards

    In fact, there are muslim men wearing the hijab in solidarity with Majid Tavakoli. Many Arab goverments humiliate male political prisoners by circulating images of them in female clothing. These muslim men in hijab are protesting both the mistreatment of Tavakoli as well as the restrictive gender laws and norms that make the hijab a matter of ‘humiliation’ for men.

    See http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/8409778.stm and http://iranian.com/.

    Showing a non-Arab in the hijab as a way to avoid ‘mucking up’ the art with a debate about religion and gender — that choice misses the point, in my opinion. I think it is very unfortunate the way that last line was phrased. I can respect your artistic choice but don’t appreciate the idea that talking about the religious oppression of men and women would be ‘mucking things up.’ A great deal of religious law is deeply oppressive along gendered lines. Just because it’s someone’s religion doesn’t mean it gets a free pass from being scrutinized. I would think an artist exploring gender would want to be deeply sensitive to all of these issues, not only some of them. The hijab *is* oppressive whenever people are using it to oppress each other. Mandating that they not wear it, or that they do wear it, is oppressive.


  5. Jay

    A very lovely picture, and good to hear more recognition of the fact that hijab isn’t always a tool of oppression, that there are many who choose it for other reasons.

    And the link/story provided/mentioned by epinards is something people should take a look at, IMHO. ;D


  6. Joseph

    This is an interesting post only b/c, not to really discredit the writer & artist, but the concept of “hijab” is mistaken to be ONLY for womyn. “Hijab” is a form of clothing law that ask (not really demands) for modesty of the wearer. Though it is concerning Arab culture, we must consider also that the Arab world (not the Middle East) is only a portion of the Islamic World and that for genderfork and the author of the response to define gender PERIOD is a colonial project not taking into consideration that gender & sexuality is totally different OUTSIDE of the United States. This response and even this picture is very American-centric and inconsiderate of the racial, gender, and sexual formation outside of the proposed American culture.

    Take for instance the Taureg people of North Africa. The Amajagh (Taureg men) begin to cover themselves up at a young age nearly at the age of puberty. From black, blue, red, to purple “hijab” for the Amajagh, womyn on the other hand have the freedom to show their hair and wear jewelry and make up. Older Amajagh have been known to wear a similar clothing to that of the niqab or burka where either their eyes or no eyes are seen as they walk among their villages.

    Also, i am part Iranun which are a people that can be found in the modern nation-state of Southern Philippines and Sabah. For us, men & womyn wear the tendong which is a scarf used as a head/hair covering. The Iranun are of the Moro racial classification in the Philippines or Islamicized tribes. We also wear the m’long (a tubular cloth with different designs ranging from flowers to birds to geometric shapes) that is similar to a sarong worn in Indonesia & Malaysia by BOTH men and womyn.

    Of course, like i said prior, the terms “men” and “womyn/women” are being used as gender definition in the context of America and id venture off to parts, NOT ALL, of Europe & White colonial states. In the context of Arab culture, i would say, yes, maybe i can see how offensive & wrong this may be, but in the general “Islamic definition” of the “hijab” and using a more broad view on gender, sexuality, and culture, this is an appropriate picture THOUGH he should be wearing a shirt to show a little bit more modesty, but as long as his hair is covered and his picture doesnt show his belly button to his knees, then he is still following rules of clothing modesty as defined by the different minority ethnic groups that practices Islam.

    I would suggest you read on the Khanith of Oman. Oman is an Islamic country though NOT a purely Arab state. If you look at how the Khaniths are socially accepted as a different gender yet mainly male-bodied, they wear the modern concept of the hijab=head scarf and pray w/ the womyn but can be in relationships with other Khaniths and even with men. They…are not GAY because “gay” is a social construct looked at the lens of America and some parts of Europe and White-settler states.

    I will be talking about this IF UCLA accepts my proposal “Transnational or Transcolonial?: How the American LGBT Movement Colonized the Rest of the World.” (insya’ilah)


  7. Lexi

    It’s interesting to see people in their own culture going “Woo yeah, screw the norms and opression!” but when it comes to OTHER cultures, often with EVEN MORE regressive values and norms, they get worried about offense.

    I say the gender tyranny of the UK and USA are as restrictive and open to rebellion as those of the Middle East, or Africa, or Japan. Anywhere that man has transcended the survival imperative and begun to form ‘safe’ society, the restricion of gender norms should be released.

    But I’d be happy to listen to contrary opinion.


  8. She Said Pop

    I, too, want to see the rest of the photos. This is AMAZING.

    Your anecdote re: the liberating aspect of hijab reminds me of the first time I went out to buy clothes for some drag-kinging. I put on an enormous, baggy pair of jeans and an equally enormous shirt and the effect in the mirror electrified me. I realized suddenly that while it’s completely normal for men to go around in baggy clothes, if a woman does it’s…weird. “Is she a lesbian? Fat? Does she have self-esteem issues? Why isn’t she showing the shape of her body? Why isn’t she offering herself up for everyone’s perusal?”

    So being a boy can be liberating, too. And then you have the flip side of the coin: boys being girls so they can be pretty and sexy and flamboyant in a way that guys usually can’t.


  9. Waheeda

    Joseph, thank you for your interesting comments which bring to light the vast range of Islamic culture and expression.

    I would add only that wearing Hijab is also a powerful refusal to be sexualized.


  10. Leeka

    That is so beautiful!
    The hijab really suits him; he should continuously wear them in spirit of respect, modesty, and this inner beauty.
    I find his face very pretty; he’s got a terrific expression – very shy and feminine.
    This is an example that many Muslim couple, free of heteronormative prejudices, take as something that may well be more germane to their religious/social sensibilities.


  11. Momotaro69

    My problem with hijab is-hijab ideology create many double standard even contrast perception and treatment on our legal system for example women dressed properly in my society still get complain by media / government (my Muslim society) but men very very free to dressed here example men where jeans and show half of their ass, even men pee like exhibitionist are seen as normal here …but not okey if women already dressed mannerly? (they always said “oh you female must cover this, cover that..not enough..still not enough”) women always wrong for what to wear?

    Also that means men are wrong for seeing women that actually still dressed mannerly at public?
    whereas hijab women are okey to see ex bodybuilder men using underwear only at public show? that’s hypocrite and piss me off!

    I have no problem whether you covered or not, but we cannot have double standard where one gender are okey but not if other gender do that. that is sexist ideology and should be banned from our legal system

    i hope you see my point, thx


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