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Monday, August 6, 2012

To Veil or not to Veil

     In her article, Marla Del Collins poses the question: to veil or not to veil? She poses this question because she will soon be embarking on a journey to the Middle Eastern country of Jordan. She states very early on that the purpose of her writing is to transcend dualistic thinking and the dualism doctrine. This rejection of dualism was also present within my last post as well. Her paper also introduces the first person singular ( I ) back into scholarship. By doing this, she legitimates the narrative voice as academic writing. I took particular interest in this point that Collins was making. Earlier in this class, we talked about the type of writing that has been widely taught to us young scholars. This style of writing was always taught to be the correct way to write. However, it was apparent from Cixous' article that there are in fact many different forms of writing, and none of them are more correct than the other. Some are perhaps considered lacking legitimacy, but who's judging the legitimacy is the question we must ask. I remember quite vividly in my early years of english classes being taught never to use "I" in formal or academic writing. But why? It was explained that by using "I" one would bring their own subjective opinion into an entirely objective piece of work. I never realized that this meant denying any sign of myself within my writing. "To gain legitimacy, feminists have had to counter it since many academics use the norm of objectivity to denounce the very idea of feminist scholarship," Collins details. Apparently, I was not the only little girl taught never to use "I", my own opinion, background, and beliefs, within academic or 'legitimate' writing. Using I is the only position of political power available to women and minorities, claims Collins. This theme is commonly echoed by feminists from all walks of life; The personal is political. It is in this view, that the Muslim practice of veiling must be examined. We must examine the veil from a multifaceted and holistic view point. Not through ancient dualistic practices of right/wrong. We must consider "I" in our exploration of another culture's practices. We must also consider their "I", or where these women come from, as well.
   Collins begins to describe her anxiety with her upcoming departure to Jordan. She goes back a forth quite a bit in deciding whether or not to wear a veil while visiting the foreign country. She thinks the veil will provide her a certain level of safety and comfort while over seas. She also believes the veil may act as a good disguise to hide her secret identity as a spy for the feminist underground. However, she also wonders whether her choice to veil will be seen as hypocritical and as a mocking gesture. Once boarding onto the plane, she realized that there are many different kinds of women all in planned flight to arrive in Jordan. Some are veiled, some wear fully Western clothing, and some are even barefoot! At once she decides to remove the veil and reveal herself as a Westerner. Immediately, however, she feels the cold draft of the airplane and resorts to the veil for comfort and warmth. From this moment on, she decides to veil for the remainder of her trip. Further in her writing, Collins ponders over the true root of the veil. She begs the question, "what is it about women that is so repellently sexual that she must diminish herself in drab uniformity..." Islam, Christianity, and Judaism all define themselves through disgust for women's bodies. She then begins to consider "I" and the many different forms of a cover worn by all women. She specifically points to the American woman's routine of wearing make up. She considers this to be a "faceveil" structurally similar to the veil worn by the women around her. I found this point to be especially striking to me. In my discussions and further opinions on women and veiling did I truly overlook this fantastic point that "I" myself wear a veil on a daily basis in the form of cosmetics and Cover Girl? I feel ashamed for so harshly judging this cultural comparison to make up. Collins even uses the term "westoxicated" to describe the Western practices of covering up women. 

     In conclusion of her writing, Collins again points to the veil as ever changing marker in documenting the social history of the Muslim world. "The tradition of veiling is still winding its way through history-signifying transitions in human social development- ever evolving through time." She would not miss wearing the veil, but it was always there and Collins has a choice whether or not to revive it. The choice to veil or not to veil was there all along. Her right to choose may not have always seemed so apparent, but it was there and allowed her to experience the Jordanian culture in her own way. "I am home now; my hair blows free in the wind and under the sun."

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