False: Women must wear traditional garments. Men don’t have to.

One thing I realized that we didn’t focus on in our project was the fact that men and women wear similar garments. The men wear the long white ropes and head coverings. The reason I bring this up is because I was made aware of another misperception people have here in the US about the Middle East. It was over dinner and I was discussing with friends what I had learned about Islamic culture while visiting Dubai. My friend says to me that her issue and reason why she has a problem with the women wearing the traditional garments is because the men do not have to do the same. When I realized that this was her impression, I quickly stated that this wasn’t the case. I said that both genders wear similar garments, they just happen to be different colors and it really all depends upon the place and the person. I think this issue is at the core of the idea that all muslim women in the Middle East are oppressed by the men. It seems so obvious now that people might think that the men didn’t have to do the same. Now that I am aware of it, I will be able to make a strong argument against this false impression.

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2 responses to “False: Women must wear traditional garments. Men don’t have to.

  1. I have heard this false impression before as well. Thank you for articulating this response to it. Just today I saw for the first time, in Canada, a mother with head covered, wearing modest Western style clothing and a father wearing a tank top and long shorts. Usually the men with women are dressed just as conservatively or modestly, even in Western apparel. This was a young couple, and perhaps are on their way to becoming fully Western, but in no way reflects on the majority of couples where the husband and wife both dress modestly and respectfully in public. I try to speak up when I hear someone complaining about how “those men” are thinking up how they can torture their women and keep them in their lowly place by making them as uncomfortable as possible – other people’s comments and ideas summarized here. It is difficult for me, as I am not “one of them” and have been told that I can’t really know. But I’ve seen the nice, light material in the clothing, and have always seen the men just as modest, usually in heavier clothing (such as denim jeans) themselves, only without a headscarf. It is frustrating – just because we cannot agree on our interpretations of who created the world (or if we even believe in a Creator) doesn’t give us the knowledge or insight to claim that ALL women who dress conservatively are being coerced into it by arrogant men who do not dress modestly themselves. In fact, as you point out, to say so would indeed be telling a falsehood. Especially in the most conservative regions of the world where men indeed dress very much in the same old fashioned fully covered way as the women – head covering included – only with the obvious distinctions between women’s and men’s styles. Thanks for posting.

  2. I totally agree. These broad generalizations are creating huge misconceptions. The hardest part is discovering these beliefs. What I learned the other day had never crossed my mind before. I have a hard time remembering how I perceived the Middle East before I set foot in Dubai. Now what I know about the people, the place, and my own country is all mixed together. This makes it more difficult for me to recall my own misconceptions and those of the Emirates about the western world, specifically the United States. I think our project tackled a few, but it is very hard to tackle such a large and complicated subject. There are so many mystery variables. At least there is one less to determine. Thank you for your observations and thoughts. They add a little more clarity to this growing dilemma.

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