Why Do White Guys Hate My Hijab

By Zainab Khan

Just last week, I graduated from Wesleyan
University in Middletown, CT
. A few weeks before graduation, my best friend (the only other hijabi on Wesleyan’s 2600+ student campus) and I were taking one of our infamous long walks (we have
preset one and a half, three, and five mile loops around campus and the surrounding Middletown
area. As was typical of our second-semester of senior
year conversations, we were venting to each other
about the many difficulties of finding post-undergrad
work with our liberal arts degrees (she a government major and I a history major) and barely-
there networks. As we paused our conversation to
cross one of the many streets that interrupt our
rather scenic routes, I turned around to “look both
ways” when I heard a car honk at us and someone
yell, “Take that shit off of your head!” Amused, all I could think was, “Hey look, it’s another one of those white guys who hates my hijab.” Unfazed (and quite honestly, used to such behavior at this point in our Wesleyan careers), we continued on our walk.
The next morning, I had to share this story with one of the librarians at Wesleyan’s Art Library, where I worked. During my shift the week before, much to
her surprise, I mentioned to my supervisor how
often Middletown residents (especially young white
men in their red or white pickup trucks) verbally
abused my friend and me when we left campus to
walk into town. I even refused to walk into town for dinner the day after the Boston Bombings in fear
that I would be attacked, like the many hijab-wearing Muslim women in Boston in the aftermath of
the bombings.
Horrified to hear what my friend and I go through (even though it doesn’t bother us very much), my boss mentioned that it was common for young white males in Middletown to drive around Wesleyan’s campus in the warmer months to “cruise for chicks” (her words, not mine). That’s when it hit me, “So that’s why these white guys hate my hijab – the way I look interrupts their ‘cruises for chicks.'”More specifically, the way I dress denies them their
privileged white male gaze – a privilege that society
has taught them is their right, especially over women of color.
The male gaze. The white male gaze. That infamous
white male gaze. Kind of like the male gaze that
permeates Hollywood and cinema. Except in this
case, the white male gaze is separated from its
objects of desire by car windows, not movie screens.
And these young white men in their pickup trucks
feel it’s their absolute right to “gaze” at women on
and off campus. They drive around Wesleyan to see
long flowing hair, short shorts, and even shorter
dresses. Our hijabs, long-sleeved shirts, maxi skirts,
and maxi dresses disrupt their cruises; we deny
them their gazing privilege. And so, through their
shielded windows and in their mobile getaways, they
feel it’s their right to tell me to “take that shit off” of
my head.

I hate to break it to you, white guys, but your male
gaze is one of the major reasons (among many
others, rest assured) I began to wear a hijab.
And let’s not kid ourselves: the privileged white
male gaze and the verbal abuse it provokes is not
reserved for Middletown residents only. Although
their remarks usually surfaced when they were
under the influence, I’ve gone through the same
phenomenon with white fraternity brothers at
Wesleyan. On one Friday night in the spring of our
junior year, my friend and I were taking a late walk
when a couple of white fraternity brothers shouted
out of their car, “Take that shit back to India.” I’ll
admit, this time the words hurt a little more, mainly
because neither of us is from India. All joking aside,
it did hurt that these Wesleyan fraternity brothers –
who we’ve sat in semester-long seven-student
seminars with – felt that it was their right to openly
and publically shame us for acting different, all
because we choose to dress in a way that does not
allow them to see us the way they want to.SOURCE


One thought on “Why Do White Guys Hate My Hijab

  1. To me hijaab has become me, before I hardly wear hijaab, not even a scarf. But today I proudy wear one. The benefits r limitless, for example, a lady who doesn’t cover her body appropriately gets times two of sin if a male look at her lustfully.

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