Featured Image: CULTURE Hijab Co.
The perception of Muslim women in the mainstream has been, for the lack of a better term, depressing. For Muslim women who wear the hijab, the situation becomes even more dismal. Those who actively put themselves out into the world as identifiable Muslims face criticism about how they wear the hijab, why they wear the hijab, and everything in between.
For one thing, society contributes to this alienation of Muslim women by perpetuating stereotypes of submissiveness and oppression. While it can be easy to write this off as sheer ignorance, the reality is that most people who are convinced by these stereotypes haven’t actually seen a Muslim woman. The lack of representation of the hijab in pop culture is also to blame. Public opinion is greatly swayed by popular culture, and when a group isn’t adequately represented, it’s easy to fall back on stereotypes to paint an incomplete picture. It’s easy to believe whatever you hear about someone you know nothing about. But the tide is beginning to turn.
One prominent way Muslim women are beginning to reclaim their space in the public sphere is through fashion.
Modest fashion has a widespread reach among the beauty community, lifestyle Youtubers, and fashion bloggers. Turban-istas and modest Instagrammers have begun to change how we regard the hijab as not only a spiritual garb, but also as a form of expression. By actively combining the hijab and modesty with fashion, Muslim women are able to restructure how they are perceived by captivating the attention of a digital audience. In other words, fashion has allowed Muslim women to find and claim a modest-fashion community, and through that community comes the ability to claim more space and attention.
Why is this important?
Fashion has long been regarded as a cornerstone of activism. Historically, fashion has been utilized as a means for protest and awareness for various communities. Whether it’s punk fashion rebelling against social conformity or the flapper fashion of the past meant to make a statement against traditionalism, fashion has long been a tool for change. Likewise, the growing emphasis on modest fashion has garnered attention for turning stereotypes on their heads and instead promoting empowerment in more ways than one.
Popular fashionistas like Dina Tokio, Omaya Zein, and others have made a name for themselves by showcasing stylish modest looks and bringing a community of Muslim women closer together. Fashionistas have gained large followings by effectively presenting fashion as an element of sisterhood, where outfits and designs are used to inspire and empower one another through self-expression. Muslim women do not come in cookie-cutter shapes. Fashion proves that we can be loud and unique in our own right, using patterns, jewelry, and accessories to express ourselves individually as a whole person.
Additionally, beauty and corporate giants have teamed up with prominent Muslim bloggers to enlarge their platforms, evident by the popularity of products that have a wide appeal to different parts of the community such as sports hijabs, burkinis, halal cosmetics lines and more. By making Muslim-friendly alternatives to typical mainstream products, Muslim women are continuing to support one another and claim space in their own right.
Given time, Muslim women will be able to dismantle harmful stereotypes through community-building and resistance. Fashion is just one aspect of liberation, but it plays a vital role in a new kind of self-expression that is accessible to all kinds of audiences. The internet is a useful tool for showcasing self-reinforcing Muslim sisterhood to the general public. Through ongoing beauty and fashion movements, Muslim women are crafting a spotlight of their own where they’re finally able to tell their own stories.