Have you ever studied hijab, or the practice of veiling among Muslim women? In the United States, many believe that hijab functions to oppress women; that the veil is a symbol of the subordination and backwardness of women in Muslim cultures. Rachel Anderson Droogsma, however, asked a group of Muslim women living in the United States to articulate the meanings they ascribe to the veil. In this case, then, the veil is the “object” that becomes a “sign” of Muslim identity. How that sign gets interpreted will vary according to the standpoint of the one doing the interpreting. Droogsma found, for example, that for US Muslim women, the veil functioned or was interpreted as a visible marker of Muslim identity, a behavior check, a means to resist sexual objectification, and a source of freedom. The meanings these women give the veil are highly empowering and complex in contrast to the constraining and oppressive readings that are typical of many non-Muslims. (Littlejohn & Foss, 2011, p. 45)
In many ways, the modern concept of manhood and masculinity is about objects that become signs of manhood. Think about it. How many men associate masculinity with the colors worn in clothing, the amount you can bench press, ability to fight, the make and model of your car, interest in sports, number of sexual partners, the level of emotion displayed, and how dominant he is over his wife and children? Do these tangible and intangible objects really reveal what it means to man up?
I am not suggesting that a man can’t or shouldn’t be able to bench press 2x his body weight, drive a Porshe 918 Spider, remain calm in tragedies, protect and lead his family, enjoy watching Stephen Curry break his own records, or wear finely tailored Armani suits with a fuchsia shirt. I would argue that manning up is much more about responsibility, integrity, and character. In my opinion, many of the “objects” we seek to obtain as a sign of our manhood can often serve to veil our insecurities as men. These objects are sometimes our escape from the tenacity, discipline, humility, and inner qualities that truly make us men. Great men.
And this blog is a pursuit of our own hijab as men. An authentic, trans-cultural sign of manhood. Something that functions as a behavior check, a means to resisting sexual objectifying, and a source of freedom. A sign that would be highly empowering and contrast society’s oppressive readings that are typical of boys, who have not yet become men.
More to come...