We continue with the “first hijabi to do X” trope, which doesn’t celebrate Muslim achievements so much as the wearing of a garment that symbolizes misogyny and female oppression. One sees little approbation for the achievements of Muslim women themselves, which in times like these should be applauded; one sees instead approbation for only those women who wear The Scarf. And this time it’s a double whammy: we see a “historic” achievement of wearing both a hijab and a burkini—by a Muslim contestant in a beauty pageant. The touting, of course, is loudest in the Huffington Post; click on the screenshot to see the article:
Halima Aden advanced to the semifinals in this weekend’s Miss Minnesota USA pageant, becoming the first-ever contestant in the competition to wear a hijab and burkini.
The 19-year-old Somali-American teen from St. Cloud, Minnesota, wore a hijab throughout the pageant’s entire competition, which included rounds devoted to evening gowns and bathing suits. The pageant’s announcer said Aden was “making history” as she took to the stage wearing a burkini.
Earlier this month, Aden spoke with The Huffington Post about the upcoming competition, and how she hoped her presence in the pageant would serve as an inspiration for Muslim and Somali girls.
“Not seeing women that look like you in media in general and especially in beauty competitions sends the message that you’re not beautiful or you have to change the way you look to be considered beautiful,” Aden said. “And that’s not true.”
But wait! Isn’t the hijab supposed to be there to prevent men from noticing your beauty? Why wear that, as well as the body-covering burkini, in a beauty pageant? Shouldn’t hijabis avoid these pageants—in which women are paraded around like so many cattle before the prying eyes of men—like the plague? As Aden said in a short video piece at PuffHo, “For me to compete, it’s like opening doors for so many girls.” But what kind of doors? Doors to be noticed as beautiful? Well, that’s just what the hijab is supposed to prevent.
The whole notion of “beauty pageants” repels me, but doubly so when the women participating are wearing clothes to make them not be noticed as beautiful.
Here’s a tw**t showing the “big cheers” given to Aden. When I saw this, and heard the self-congratulatory clapping that often comes from regressives, I immediately thought of this couplet: a play on the last two lines of Gerard Manley Hopkins’s famous poem “Spring and Fall“:
Think about the women that you laud, for
It’s really yourself that you applaud for.