Friday, February 17, 2017

What I have learned from wearing a head cover for seven months...

I have been consistently wearing headscarves since July. In that time I've learned several things about wearing headscarves.

1. It is an uncommon thing to do in Australia, obviously. The current climate here is that the nation is focused on the hijab, niqab, and burqa - this focus is predominantly divided straight down the line between various forms of disapproval and support. There is a growing acceptance that it is not always a sign of oppression, and for most women in Australia who wear a hijab, at least, it is a personal and a valid choice. There are still those who would like to seen it banned (which seems like just another form of oppression to me).

I don't wear a hijab - though it would be acceptable for me to do so despite not being a Muslim because the hijab style of head cover is not an Islam-exclusive practice.

In light of this, I have not attracted the kind of vitriol hijab wearers experience. In fact, I have only received compliments barring a single incident which came from a completely unexpected person. 

My PhD supervisor recognised the style of head wrap I wore to one of our meetings back in July as being associated with the variety often worn by married orthodox Jewish women. She asked me if I'd converted, I said I hadn't. Next she asked if I wasn't concerned about offending someone. I told her I belong to a couple of internet support groups run by married orthodox Jewish women, who are all very supportive of women who use headscarves to cover their hair to varying degrees. Within these groups there are women who are orthodox Jews, Christians, Pagans, women suffering alopecia, cancer, other hairless conditions, and women who just like the look of headscarves. There are also women who wear headscarves in solidarity of women who wear headscarves in societies who frown upon head coverings to some extent as a sign of solidarity with other women who cover their hair. I said I cover my hair for a variety of reasons, including problematising one of the feminisms which view head covering as evidence of the oppression of women under the patriarchy. This she scoffed at - I'm not sure why. She then stated conclusively that she had had a couple of Jewish students who would be offended. This off course isn't at all relevant to me, because, for one I don't know these women so they cannot be offended by my choice, and secondly it seemed to me her motivation for sharing this opinion (because she was speaking on behalf of women who were not present and couple support of refuse her assertion) in an attempt to cause shame in me, and thereby influence my decision to continue wearing headscarves. Obviously, I am capable of making these decisions for myself without her approval - she had difficulty with professional/personal boundaries.

So, I learned it is difficult to anticipate who might take offence,  and for what reason they might choose to be offended. In any case, I'm not obligated to justify my choice to cover my hair to anyone.

2. When the back of your head is quite flat and you don't have much hair, it can be a challenge to make a head scarf look decent or stay in place. So, having a volumiser is very handy. There are different kinds of volumisers which create different shapes. My favourite is a one which can be adjusted so the volume is greater or smaller because the stuffing is completely removable (which is also very handy for washing and drying the thing). As well as this it also allows the user to distribute the volume from high on the head to low down near the nape of the neck. This volumiser also has a velvet headband which prevents it from slipping back on the head, and the scarf from slipping back on the volumiser. I love using it to create a rounded high shape, similar to those worn in some African cultures.

3. There are so many varieties of scarves to choose from, my favourite kind is long (about 1.75 metres), whether a pashmina, or made from cotton or silk. Many women use square scarves folded into a triangle, some even infinity loop scarves. I don't use these - just the oblong shaped ones.

4. There so many ways to 'wrap'. Many women layer their scarves, or have tails over one or both shoulders, particularly in winter when they want to keep their neck warm. Some women like to plait the ends the way you would with long hair or create twists, or knots, or bows, and some like a simple turban. Jewellery is often used to add a point of interest. Types of jewellery or adornments might include pins, slides, headbands, as well as necklaces and lace.

Drop earrings are often considered very complimentary. A lot of effort goes into putting together 'a look', and most women put a lot of effort into their creations as a form of self-ezpression.

5. A head scarf can be very comforting out in public. Like a reassuring hug and a lot of people with anxiety or agoraphobia use them for just that reason. They can also cause women to feel quite regal and are sometimes referred to as crowns.

6. There is no such thing as a bad hair day, however, there is such at thing as a tichel (the Hebrew word for head scarf) tantrum.

7. Many women feel undressed without a head scarf (which is not the same as feeling embarrassed or ashamed, but rather that something is 'missing'. Volumisers are often referred to as 'underwear'.

8. The degree to which women choose to wear their headscarves varies a lot. Some show most of their hair, others show none of it. Having a fringe out is not uncommon. Some women wear their headscarf from when they get up, until they go to bed. Others may only wear their scarf when they are outside their home, or only on specific days or at specific times or during particular practices.

9. Women are regularly complimented on their headscarves, or asked how it is wrapped.  Compliments about colours and accessories are not uncommon - I have certainly received a lot of positive feedback when out and about. Of course there is negative attention as well; people touching the head wrap without asking permission, not realising that can be quite violating. I have heard of women having their head cover pulled, or scrunched, or prodded.

10. Surprisingly, wearing a headscarf in summer is not very hot at all. For those who are very sensitive to heat there are ways to minimise heat production from the head. Not using tails is effective, using very light materials like silk also helps, as does avoiding dark colours. Single layer wraps are good. If a person is particularly sensitive to heat though, there is always the option of wearing just a velvet headband with no volumiser. Some women ever put a cold pack in their headscarf!

11. Headscarves can be worn in ID photos as long as they don't obscure the face.

12. headscarves can often highlight inner beauty because they remove the distraction of hair. They can also encourage people to treat the wearer more respectfully because they can be construed as connoting sophistication, or formality.

13. Headscarves can cause a person to come across as gentle, or fierce depending on colours chosen and the styling of the wrap.

14. Many women change their wraps several times a day, depending on what they're doing or a change in weather - or just because.

15. Headscarves are addictive, so op shops and AliExpress are a godsend. Many women have huge collections of headscarves - you know, 100-200 - I don't, but some do.

16. Headscarves are a great creative outlet.  It can take a while to move beyond the basic wrapping methods, but once you do, the possibilities are many - only limited by the wearers imagination.

17. There are a lot of cosplayers who use headscarves to create the hair styles of their characters. Princess Leia is very popular.

18. I just adore wearing headscarves. I have never been one to shy away from weird stuff, that's for sure. Headscarves have always attracted me. I am so happy I found a way to engage this practice.

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Good Job!