The Right to Express….and Dress


When you get dressed in the morning, what do you think about?  Do you think about how that great scarf you bought matches with your shirt, or what boots to wear over jeans?  Do you think about how warm or cold it is outside?  Do you ever think if you’re allowed to wear something?  Most people don’t because they know they have a right to dress whichever way they want, but there are places in the world where women cannot wear what they want.  This most often occurs in the Muslim world where women must cover most of their bodies and while most of us think it is oppressive towards women, this is actually a more complex issue.  While some traditions in Islam dictate that a woman dress conservatively (i.e covering her head) in order to keep her quiet and unnoticed in a more oppressive way, many more believe that dressing this way will protect a woman from men who might only appreciate her for her physical attributes.  My studies on Islam and the Middle East have shown me that Islam is a religion rooted in conservatism and that a woman who covers her head is showing devotion to God.  There are many Muslim women who choose not to cover because it is a personal choice.

There was a recent study done by the University of Michigan in which researchers surveyed people from a number of different Muslim countries and asked them questions about how they believe Muslim women should dress.  A strong majority believe that women should wear a hijab which is a sort of scarf that covers a woman’s hair, neck, and shoulders.  This is what we see in most Muslim nations but there are other parts of the world where people believe that Muslim women do not have to cover their hair at all.  There was even a survey where people were asked if Muslim women should be allowed to decide what they wear and the majority of people answered yes, which I found very interesting.

This issue is personal to me because I have a very dear friend who was born in Iran and is Muslim.  She and her mother moved here several years ago and while they continue to adhere to Muslim traditions, they do not wear a hijab or any sort of covering.  That was their choice to dress how they wanted and observe Islam the way they saw fit.  Today she told me that, after a lot of thought, she has decided to start wearing a hijab because she believes that it is her duty as a Muslim woman.  This friend is truly a Smart Girl because she has made an important decision for herself and is sticking to what she believes in.


I hope you all learned about an issue that’s important to me and the world!

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Kate Labonte

Katie joined SGG in 2013 and is the Executive Editor for Smart Mail, Women's News writer for the Smart Girls Guide, a blogger in Smart Girls Media Sisters, and mentor in the Smart Girls Mentorship program. She is a junior at Fordham University, where she is studying Political Science, Middle Eastern Studies, and Theology. She is currently spending a year at the London School of Economics, studying government and international history. Her smarts are in current affairs, international relations, history, women’s issues, and organizing. When she’s not working on Smart Mail over a cappuccino in London, she loves to read, travel, visit museums, cook, and practice yoga.