The Trap…

…Or, Why I Remain Committed to the Veil…

Each day that I awaken, greeting the Sun as it rises above this Land, I am made more aware of the divide which separates me from this society.  And I embrace that divide.  Why should I desire to be enfolded within a society which values only my female appearance, and only in prescribed ways?  I own this body, and if society had its way, I might be stripped naked in the street and shamed for not wanting to expose myself in modern clothing.

“Oh, that’s a little harsh, Columbine…”

Yeah, I hear many of you saying that to yourselves, not wanting to believe that anyone could make another person feel so unsafe.  Well, I’ve got news for you. Covered women don’t always feel safe.  Like many women, we have to deal with subtle forms of harassment, but dare I say that a woman who veils (barring Catholic nuns, since their position seems to afford them a wide breadth of respect from most people) often faces that harassment in much more blatant ways?

If I looked “normal” I could walk into any place around here and no one would bat an eye, for all that they might ogle my body.  However, dressed as I am, I can not “pass” for anything but “other”.  And that truly is the whole point of my attire.  I am other.  I am not of this world, and seeing that recognition become transformed into hostility, in a split second, is probably one of the scariest things I’ve had to experience on a regular basis.  And it’s gotten a lot worse since moving here.

I have things to do on at least a few days out of the month.  Things which require me to step outside of the protection and comfort of my home.  This is not the place I left behind, last year.  Not by a long shot.  The people here have more than a slight penchant for discrimination, and having read historical documents in the town library, I can confirm the reality of racial tension, even without relying upon my own experiences.

So, that’s three strikes against me already, as a black, veiled woman in this community.  If I didn’t have a backbone, I might cower indoors, indefinitely. *laughs*  Like that’ll ever happen.

I will not be bullied or intimidated anywhere, least of all on a public street, or in a public business.  Apollon is oh, so very clear on this.  I am to submit to no one but Him.  When a man gets that hostile glare going, I usually ask if there’s a problem. Mostly, they do not expect a veiled woman to have a voice, let alone the verbal skill to use it.  If they still insist upon looking, then I stare right back, unblinking, and wait for them to slink off into a corner where they belong.

But, wait, women aren’t any better at hiding their discriminatory tendencies. In fact, I’ve found women to be more likely to outright ignore my presence if they can get away with it.  It can really eat up your time when you’re standing in line, and four people are allowed to pass before you when a cashier opens a new register, only to be told to join another line upon reaching the front, because, well… because nobody wants to touch your ‘dirty black hand’.  They don’t say it, but the hesitation before taking anything out of my hands is pretty disgusting.

This is the community I moved into it.  It’s beautiful beyond belief, but it has many flaws, as do all places.  As do all people, myself included.  I believe I’ve said this a few times in the past, but I’m not perfect.  There are days when I want to tear this cloth off my head and just walk around like the “normal” women.

“Well, why don’t you, Columbine?”

Because, this thing I do, this veiling thing, isn’t one of those optional beauty choices, like whether or not I wear makeup.  The veil is absolutely necessary for me.  Even putting aside tradition and all of the energetic reasons for covering, such as control of empathy and minor shielding, and even setting aside Apollon’s command, I have reason still to cover.

Can you guess what that reason is?  It’s because this body is mine.  It is not a mannequin to be draped in the latest fashions, on the whim of whoever decided the new fall color-scheme.  It is not a sexual morsel, to be salivated over, or nibbled upon.  It is the tool I use to become a proper conduit of my Lord. Anyone who works with tools knows that they must be kept clean and orderly to maintain optimal functionality.  My body is no different.  And, like a knife that stays sheathed while not in use, so too do I remain covered.

This society is a trap.  One which I will not fall into, and I really do not care who agrees, or disagrees.  I will exercise my personal authority over my body, and I will not be left exposed to the elements around me.  Some people do better than others under these conditions, but I am obviously not one of those people.  And that’s alright, because everybody isn’t me, or even like me, and I thank the Gods for it.

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5 responses to “The Trap…

  1. I am curious. You say you veil, but do you cover your face? I believe that people who veil their heads, faces or both still just call it veiling, right? The reason why I mention this is because, it may explain why you get *some* of the hostility that you do (though not all by any means). Please let me explain (and I apologise if this is all something you have heard before.):

    Now, for myself, I put this down to my having a form of autism which means I struggle somewhat with social cues anyway. This has gotten easier for me as I have gotten older, but social situations are still frequently stressful for me, and I have to focus on ‘reading’ a person I am interacting with. Now, I don’t care what people chouse to dress like, it is entirely up to them – goodness knows I don’t stick with the fashions, at all. However when it comes to women who veil their face to the point where I can not see their face at all, I get nervous. Why? Communication.

    Before we learn spoken language, as children we learn body language and facial expression. They are important parts of communication for a sighed person, to the point where, for someone like me, who struggles anyway, if I cant see these things, I struggle to connect with a person, yet clearly there is a person right there. For me I also struggle to keep track of what a person is saying if I can not see their lips move – if I turn my head away, or their turn their head away, my brain struggles to keep up with my ears to the point where I have to focus solely on their voice. Watching their lips move helps enough that I can relax.

    But, this isn’t all. Aside from hidden communication cues in the face, a full facial veil creates ambiguity. If I can’t see a persons face, I don’t know what might be on their mind, what their communicative cues might be, my brain has to try to fill in the blanks. The unknown creates tension as we subconsciously ask, what is really going on there? The instinctive mind hates ambiguity, and sometimes people responds to that with fear. I have heard a couple of people call people who veil their face creepy before, and this is why.

    Along with this questioning of, “what cue might be displayed on the person’s face?” there is also the question of, do they want to communicate with me? Usually an invitation to communicate happens first in and around the eyes, and often the mouth, which is then reciprocated in the other person, or not. If you are veiling your face, this might explain why women in particular are ignoring you, as these non-verbal forms of communicative cues are usually more important for women; they are not seeing an invitation to communicate or an answer to an invitation.

    I have struggled with these points many times when I have come across women who fully veil their face. It is upsetting because I know logically that those women are probably good people. But, without those communicative cues there is that constant instinctive questioning: are they friendly or hostile? Do they want to communicate, or not? If I speak to them, when will I know if I say something wrong? What are they feeling? And so on.

    Anyway, that is just my analysis based on what I experience. I am not saying that if you do veil your face that should stop doing so – that is up to you and, if I understand you correctly, Apollon. I suppose all I am trying to do here is explain some of the possible psychology involved in a couple of the reactions you are getting. If it is relevant to you and if you can make use of it somehow, then I am glad.

    (ofc, if you do not veil your face or use transparent veils then this is all a moot point and all I can say is that people are assholes.)

    • Thank you for your well though out response. Those are all valid points that, in my own struggle with the veil, have led me to come down on the side of not covering my face, except for ritual and just when I’m around the house. When I go out, it is with only my head covered (and yes I do think most usually call it veiling whether or not the face is covered), because I’ve come to many of the same conclusions regarding social interaction. So, what I’m experiencing, unfortunately, doesn’t seem to have much to do with that. Your final assessment, I think, is the most accurate one for this situation. People are assholes.

  2. This is lovely and I think it is a testament to your faith that you continue to veil, even when it might be difficult or daunting.

    For myself, I take an opposite approach. I submit to none but my God, but I believe that part of my own body autonomy is exposing it and not covering it. I don’t much care if someone feels lust when they look at my body, because that’s about them and not me. For me, exercising my choice in how I display myself is rejecting the idea that anyone else’s opinion carries weight. When I identified as female, I spent a lot of time hiding my body because of the presumption that, if I were to display it, that was a shameful, inappropriate, or shocking thing. As someone who no longer identifies as female, it is of the utmost importance [and part of my Work] that I display what an alternative gender looks like in it’s embodiment. For me, I do not believe my inherent masculinity or my inherent femininity is less sacred because I do this. In fact, it is likely more sacred to me because it is part of the unsheathed knife that my King uses to work His will in this world. My honing has come from taking the responsibility of maintaining the boundaries of my physical presence and putting them on those who would use that against me. My presence, visage, and physicality are no less sacred because they are uncovered.

    Of course, part of that is that much of my Work is around sex and bodies and the like and I can’t do that if I cover.

    And, yes, people are assholes, but I don’t have to engage with them over that–that’s their problem, not mine.

    • I really appreciate that you give us an example of how someone might exercise their Sovereignty by taking the opposite approach from myself. Both are valid and necessary ways of expressing one’s true nature, and I respect your commitment to being your King’s unsheathed blade, by baring yourself in ways, though I am no stranger to them, are not in any way conducive to my specific role. That you are able and willing to give of yourself in this way, is a holy gift, and sacrifice.

  3. This was beautiful to read this morning.

    Some of what you write I have first hand experience in, and while I completely believe that it’s a problem people face (and, thus knowing about it, strive to not contribute to the problem myself and counter it when I do see it happening) the fact that such things still happen just . . . baffle, I suppose. But then, there’s a whole world of nuances and histories and not-the-sameness to parts of the country where I’ve never visited, much less lived. Which doesn’t mean there isn’t racism in places I’ve lived, but my understanding is situations in the South are whole ‘nother animal, and the most southern I’ve ever lived was Philly. (Interestingly, as the biggest urban area I’ve ever lived, also the most diverse, and I kinda loved that about Philly).

    So, right away, the whole veiling thing that I do does not come with that particular nuance: I’m in the pacific northwest, in a fairly “hippy” place, and if we aren’t as ethnically diverse as other places, we seem to be spiritual diverse enough. Also my type of covering is less hijab style than yours — partially by choice, because it’s “easier”, which I’m not entirely proud of and am working on. (Partially because change is hard for me, so changing my habit of covering is also terrifying, even if it involves no one else.)

    Here, people are more passive aggressive than anything else, which I can’t stand. I miss New England standoffishness and frankness. Here, I’ve noticed people looking, but the most hostility I face is when people ask me about why I cover and get bent out of shape when I refrain from giving them more than a “that is a personal question,” answer. (Which I have. I’ll talk about it until the cows come home, but not if you demand to know as if it’s your right, not when you are rude about it, and not when I’m at my effing dayjob! My barely above minimum wage job to help you shop in our store does not mean I have to give you anything at all of myself)

    Part of why I feel a small degree of kinship with others who cover is the set-apartness, and this is, in fact, why I am drawn again and again to topics written by Jewish women and Muslim women and modesty-minded Christians . . . there is inherent in these writings an idea of set-apart from pop culture. Their values may not be, at the end of the day, my values, and their god is not my god (though He has a place in our household, for He is the god of our many loved ones) but the choosing to live with a focus on their values rather than to buy into what we are told to be interested in, and how to shop, and where to shop, and how to dress, and what to want out of life . . . That is to be honored, I think, and so, I do.

    The reminder of being apart is comforting, even as it is sometimes lonely-making. It’s less lonely for me, as I have Beth, and we are set-apart together, in our little bubble, in the sanctuary of our Nunnery. ;) It would be harder, alone, and it would be harder in places that were less amenable to such things. And now I’m left with just YAY YOU!! because, this post is just beautiful, and I’m grateful for having seen it, and I’m grateful for you in my life, even if you are very far away, and even if we don’t interact all that much. Knowing that you are there . . . it’s good.