Empowerment through Modesty
Updated: Jun 28, 2022
It isn’t unknown that women have struggled with self-identity. Between body image influences from societal pressures, judgments, and cultural beliefs, women have been affected in both their self-perception and how others view us. As women we have so much to offer and should never feel as though we are limited to just our bodies. We shouldn’t have to prove to anybody that we are worthy, or what we choose to wear will determine different levels of respect. We are more than just our bodies; we are what we were created to be: POWERFUL.
In a world that runs on control, we often forget we are in control of our minds, bodies, and souls. According to Merriam-Webster, modesty is defined as, “the quality of not being too proud or confident about yourself or your abilities.” By definition I believe this takes away from the beauty of feeling confident and proud in how you look, act, and even what you’ve accomplished. The term modesty has synonymously been compared to oppressive and controlling, which as a Muslim woman who considers myself to dress more modestly in the western world, this is far from accurate. We can all agree that we live in a world where others are forced to show more while others are forced to show less. I have been fortunate enough to decide what I want to wear and what makes me feel comfortable and beautiful. Yes, I wear Hijab in practice of my religion Islam. Yes, I wear my Hijab for the sole purpose of worshiping God, and to visibly be identified as a Muslim. And, yes, I feel absolutely beautiful and empowered doing so.
It is critical we understand the difference between choice and a response to oppression. Growing up in America, I have experienced firsthand the policing of my body—the frustrations and ignorant commentary from individuals bothered by how I cover and how they don’t have access to what is hidden. Being told my religion oppresses women due to my choice in covering modestly is a contradiction to the teachings of Islam. I have experienced being compared to other girls who show more, or often bombarded with questions as to why I don’t just “take it off” because it’ll make me “sexier”. Being consumed in social media, and being told what is beautiful and appealing, affects women and girls all across the world. It’s very difficult to convince yourself you’re beautiful when society is telling you otherwise. As women, we have been told what is acceptable and what isn’t for as long as we can remember. How we act, speak, walk, dress, and even eat has been labeled and criticized, and continues to negatively affect us well into our adult years. I have found comfort, empowerment, confidence, and strength in how I dress and feel. We don’t need to put ourselves in a box, and be confined to what society tells us to be. A woman who chooses to cover her body more isn’t less confident or any less attractive.
Women’s fashion in America has had a shift in women showing their bodies over the last few decades. While we can be grateful for women empowerment movements, we have to acknowledge men have continuously defined who a woman is by the way she dresses. While women have worked to change these narratives created by men, it is imperative to remember we don’t need to dress a certain way to prove a point, or because it has become common and more acceptable to do so. Being told, “I would look better, if I didn’t wear all that,” is a constant reminder that men want to see more solely for their own pleasure and satisfaction, regardless of how a woman feels and looks.
Even while I may look like I dress modest to some, to others, I am not dressed modest enough. Modesty looks different across cultures, faiths, and preferences, and whether we are covered or not, unfortunately in the western world, we will constantly have unwanted opinions on what we should and shouldn’t wear. My choice in dressing modestly for the sake of my religion holds many benefits, and while others may deem it as extreme and oppressive, I respect and love my decision in wearing Hijab in a country that finds this so foreign.
With women’s empowerment prevailing, modest fashion is on the rise and has caught the attention of millions of women across the world. Women from different cultures, faiths, and backgrounds practice their form of modesty differently, and each form is just as beautiful as the next and each deserves respect. The beauty industry has just recently began representing Muslim women, and allowing women to represent themselves through modesty is a huge win. Though there is still so much work that needs to be done before it is properly represented.
As a business owner, I have tried to do my best to represent all women who dress modestly through my brand, Hijabsoforeign, whether they dress modestly for style, religion, or culture. I have younger sisters, who I know look up to me. I have to ensure I provide them with modest representation so they do not get influenced by standards that weren’t created with them in mind. We have the power to make the change in media representation that we want to see. Our efforts of this generation will affect the generations to come, and we need to never forget we are in control of our bodies, and nobody can take that from us. Protect that temple. Keep your confidence high, and remember your beauty doesn’t stop at what is visible.
Article by Raheema Chachouai photographed by Maggie Zemanek of The Delicate Boudoir Studio, styled by Kay J Will of Beautiful Flyaway Vintage