Dress Codes

Do you think there is ever a legitimate reason for a man to harass a woman? Here in Cairo where women often get sexually harassed, the first question they are asked afterwards is usually “what were you wearing?” I can’t tell you how much this annoys me. Why does it matter what she was wearing? Why isn’t the first question “what has happened to our men for them to harass women like that?” or “did you report him” or even “are you okay”?

In my opinion, even a woman wearing a bikini or walking naked should not be blamed for getting harassed. We all have to wear long, shapeless clothing now apparently, and if we don’t then we are “asking for it”.  I remember a cab driver in Cairo once saying that any girl who is not veiled deserves to get raped. When we have opinions like that, we’re in trouble.

Why is it always the woman who gets blamed? It’s always about what she was wearing or how she was walking. It’s never about how so many Muslim men now think it’s okay to harass women. I should think THAT would be a bigger issue.  I completely agree with Asma Barlas when she writes,

“By defining women’s morality and safety in terms of their own dress codes, conservatives are legitimizing the kind of pathologies that are leading men to murder unveiled women in the name of Islam. How can Muslim men, if they are living by the Qur’an’s injunctions, feel free to kill or assault women; and how can we reconcile religious vigilantism with the irreducibly voluntary nature of faith and of moral responsibility in Islam?”

This is such an important question: how do Muslim men legitimize sexual harassment? By blaming the woman. But still, does that really convince them? It seems like an absurd argument to me. Also, does that give women the right to harass men who don’t cover? I mean, the Qur’an enjoins modesty on BOTH genders. But I’m pretty sure if woman started killing men who didn’t dress modestly we would hear a huge outcry.

A few years ago this poster came out:

It translates as “you can’t stop them, but you can protect yourself.” I don’t even know where to start with this ridiculous message. It reminds me of that Australian sheikh who said that unveiled women are like raw meat that will inevitably attract flies.

As Muslims we should focus less on what the woman is wearing and more on the lack of morals and decency found among a growing number of Muslim men.

2 thoughts on “Dress Codes

  1. I've heard this topic discussed in so many circles here in Cairo, but great context nonetheless Sarah.The last Anon. comment is so intriguing. It definitely can't be that Mexican men need some at the same level as Egyptians, and it can't be the visual stimulation. So what is it?G also presented a couple of interesting points, and I have to agree that even body languages of some of my male friends change as soon as we are in the street i.e. more defensive, walking close by and usually behind me, etc. as compared to off the street. I think alot of them also feel the frustration and "protect mode" waves, which is a pity and a real endearing thing at the same time.Do self worth and self respect ever cross your mind when thinking about harassers? Of course there is the notion that they DEFINITELY don't respect the victim, but what about themselves?

  2. Salam alaikum sis! This is the first time I have read your blog, which is a fab piece of writting from you by the way. Sister, I know I am going to perhaps get some disagreements, but this is what I think….Islam elevated the status of women and what we see these days, are muslim women being how they were treated in the time of Jahililiyah. You will probably see it more in our times than in times before, guys walking about half nakedly and at the same time, dictating what women should or shouldn't wear. This sort of behaviour is inappropriate and demeaning to muslimahs. Basically it is as though we are seen as sex objects rather than respected as human beings. If we are to show a part of our skin, or make an action, it is seen that we are asking for something. Sisters please, educate yourselves, ourselves and inshaa allah let us bring up the next generation of muslims as better amin. We must strive to be like the salafi inshaa allah.love you all for the sake of allah xxx

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