I have mentioned numerous times before how baseless and empty it is for Muslim women to talk about the hijab by endlessly invoking the concept of “choice.” The reason is encapsulated here, from my latest MuslimMatters post:
“Western women naively believe their wardrobes to be a function of free and independent choice, yet, despite that belief, the vast majority of garb “coincidentally” falls within the narrow bounds of current fashion and the diktats of Versace, Chanel, and an interminable supply of “hot or not” lists Western women abide by with a fervent taqlid that would make the most fastidious Sufi murids seem delinquent.”
If the way women in society dress were purely a function of independent choice, we would see widely varying styles, widely varying parts of the body exposed and covered, widely varying sources for those clothes, etc. But we don’t see that in Western society. We see relative uniformity in every way. Women (and men, too, obviously) in society tend to dress alike, abiding by shared notions of nudity, shared notions of what is appropriate, what is fashionable, etc. A big part of the uniformity is that the majority of people get their clothes from the same retail outlet chains. Sure, colors might vary, cuts, and fabrics might vary, but it’s the same basic themes shared by all, yet people are under the impression that what they wear is “by choice.” Really, it’s quite silly. Sure, you might have chosen the kind of blouse to wear, but, in the larger sense, you didn’t choose to cover your chest. You didn’t choose the retail stores in your area. You didn’t choose the mass distributed designs that were rolled out into those stores, etc., etc.
No matter how narrow a range of variation you give people, they will come to think of themselves as practicing agency within that narrow range. Given how obsessed Western society is with choice and individuality, this is inevitable. You have an army of women with the same yoga pants, ugly “ugg” boots, black North Face jackets, wearing the same cheap accessories, wearing the same cheap perfume from the same mass distributors, coloring their faces with the same chemicals, in the same patterns, telling Muslim women in hijab that they are oppressed, lack agency, lack freedom of choice, etc. And you have those same Muslim women writing op-eds, speaking out in interviews, pleading that they do indeed have a choice, just like their non-Muslim, non-veiled counterparts. GAH