I have been wearing a headscarf for 16 years now and I never bought a “hijabi” swimsuit until yday.
My cousin (also wears a headscarf) had told me having kids would shift my mindset about this, and she was right. I didn’t care for 15 years if I never swam in a pool or sea again. But for my child, experiencing it, I would do anything to make it something she can do with both parents and not her dad alone. Not that there’s anything wrong with the way it’s been. But if both of us can do it, she can spend more time doing it. And she deserves that.
So let me get back to the Colonization of Propriety.
First of all, I am at a 5-star hotel and I was shocked to see many headscarfed women wearing these full-body suits at both the beach and the swimming pool. This is shocking for two reasons:
- Hotels of this kind have a Western/elitist flavor which usually has restrictions about dresscode in pools etc
- I have never seen this happen except in open beaches where there are no rules. Never seen it in a pool
Now this is a colonization of my sense of propriety because in my culture, it should make more sense to have rules about how much skin people reveal rather than how much they hide! I realized suddenly that in my culture, allowing this should be the norm and should actually not be shocking at all.
But there’s another layer of course. An elitist one. Because growing up, the kind of women who got into the sea fully dressed were lower social classes and they weren’t wearing special clothes and it bore no dignity. I realize now that I despised that, judged them for their desire to have fun. Bit more… I wanted to distance myself from them. Which is hilarious because one time when I was 16 and on a high school beach trip I jumped into the sea with my shorts and t-shirt because even though I hadn’t planned to swim, I couldn’t help myself. And given that I haven’t been inside water except twice in the past 16 years, this was surprising for me (even back then I could survive without swimming in water; I loved it but could totally resist the temptation…. Usually).
Which brings me to the next point. Dignity. Even though in more recent years many headscarfed young and older women of my socioeconomic class have started wearing these full-body swimsuits, I still found them not to be too dignified and it felt like they didn’t fit the modesty of the headscarf.
But today I saw all these women doing it up close and I watched my girl in the water with her dad. And her looking at me with a yearning in her eyes. And I thought, “I could have that. Give her that”. And I saw no loss of dignity in that.
So we went out of our way today to go and buy one. We even found a (ridiculously expensive) Speedo of real good quality which hopefully (or at least according to the salespeople) dries so fast it wouldn’t cling. Preserving dignity.
I think of myself earlier, chasing my daughter around the hotel lobby, carefree and totally focused on the fun we were having. Somewhere in the back of my mind I wondered if that was inappropriate. But I pushed it back. Dignity, what dignity? Propriety is to have fun with my child. I can’t think of a reason to worry about anything else!