The Veil as a Social, Political,
and Religious Right of Passage
(a module for SPSY 616 Typical & Atypical Child Development: A Multicultural Perspective)
Elizabeth Kelley Boyles, Ph.D.
- Reading Links
- Thought Questions
Before you begin reading, think about how this module fits within the general concepts of cultural, religious, and gender socialization that we have already covered. Each of the readings below was written by an individual with his or her own world view. Consider how that world view may have impacted the writer. There is no one "truth" to the issues discussed. You will need to come to your own conclusions. As you read, pay attention to your own emotional reactions. Do certain passages make you angry? Intrigued? Confused?
What is the meaning of the veil?
- So what is the veil?
- What does the veil look like in different Islamic societies?
- How does a woman make the decision to veil?
- Making the decision
- What about women in non Islamic countries?
- One woman's story
- What does the veil mean to the woman who wears it?
- Is the Western media biased in its presentation of Islamic women and the veil?
- What is the religious or scriptural basis of the veil?
- Is the veil unique to Islam?
- More rules for women's dress in Islam
- More on Islamic clothing
Does the veil represent repression or liberation of women?
- How is the veil liberating?
- Can the veil free women from the sexualized Western culture?
- How not to be a sex object
- Another voice on liberation and the veil
- Do women really have a choice?
- Is the veil a tool of male oppression of women?
- The veil and feminism
- Is the veil a burden to the woman who wears it?
- Is the veil oppression based on scriptural misinterpretation?
- The differing attitudes of Muslim women
- What does the veil mean in the West?
- Should Muslim women and girls in Western countries be free to wear the veil?
- Harassment and the veil
- How is the veil related to the seclusion of Afghan women?
What about the veil and the socialization of girls in Islam?
- How do young girls dress before the veil?
- Where do girls learn about the veil?
- How would Barbie handle the veil?
- A young woman speaks for herself
1. Select two of the reading passages and discuss the world view of the author. Was the author Islamic? Western? What political views or values are evident from the writing? Discuss how author's own culture, religion, socialization, gender, and politics may have influenced the writing and the arguments presented.
2. Select two of the passages and discuss your emotional reactions to the readings. Analyze your own response. Discuss what aspects of the passage made you uncomfortable, angry, etc. How did your own culture, religion, socialization, gender, and politics impact your reactions to the material?
3. After completing all of the readings, consider the many meanings of the veil. How is it perceived differently by individuals in Islamic versus non Islamic countries? How is it perceived by the woman born to Islam versus the woman who converts later in her life? What does the veil mean to you.
4. Why might this discussion of the veil be offensive to some individuals? Why might some feel that this emphasis on the veil does not lead to greater cultural understanding but instead perpetuates misunderstanding?
1. Make, borrow, or create a veil. You may get examples of how to wear it from the pictures link in the readings. Wear your veil as you go about your everyday activities for 24 hours. Then write about what the experience felt like. How did you feel about yourself? Others? Ask a friend or family member how you seemed the same or different to them when you were wearing the veil. Write about their comments.
2. Discuss a gender-linked rite of passage in your own development (wearing makeup for the first time, your first pair of high heels, starting to shave, etc.). What did it feel like? What did it mean to you? Your family? Your friends? How did your culture contribute to this rite of passage?
3. Interview an individual in your community who has some outward sign of cultural "differentness" in their appearance. This could be a woman who wears a veil, an individual with dreadlocks, or a teen with purple hair, etc. Ask what their appearance means to them. What is their experience in our culture looking somewhat different that the cultural norm? Ask if they have ever been in a setting where their appearance was normative and, if so, how did it feel in that setting. Write up what you learn in your interview. Be sure to include your own responses to the interviewee and how your own background may have contributed to your reactions.