My Body Is My Own Business
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In her My Body Is My Own Business essay - published on 29 June 1993 by The Globe & Mail - NaheedMustafa (the author) argues that the Muslim woman is protected from appearance-related discrimination by wearing a jihab – a garment worn by Muslim women. She also claims, however, that these same women encounter other types of discrimination in society by virtue of the fact that people look at them strangely and stereotype them as victimized woman of their faith or as possible terrorists. Mustafa correctly pinpoints the demeaning standards by which a female’s looks are judged in Canada and she rightly points out that she alone should be in charge of her own body. However, the author’s argument is flawed to some extent in terms of logic and her work is not supported by any trustworthy sources.
This essay by Naheed Mustafa begins by describing how she is often treated as a stranger by fellow Canadians who irritate her by speaking English slowly and extra-carefully as though she didn’t speak the language. This is stated as fact. She then goes on to say people treat her as a fundamentalist and radical terrorist “packing an AK-47 assault rifle inside [her] jean jacket” when she wears the jihab or perhaps they see her as “the poster girl for oppressed womanhood everywhere.” While these claims seem vivid and real enough, they do not seem particularly objective insofar as it is impossible to know what someone is thinking when they look at another person. Raised in Canada and a Canadian herself, she may well have felt stereotyped into the group(s) she describes, but she has no tangible way of telling for sure what strangers are thinking of her.
There is something of intrigue in Mustafa’s claim that jihab-wearers are ultimately in control of their own bodies. It would, indeed, be difficult for a bystander to assess her according to the prevailing male perspective of beauty. In this My Body Is My Own Business essay, The author attempts to make a connection between her decision to wear the jihab and the established Islamic custom, claiming that covering up liberates her from the unavoidable attention her personality would attract. Hence, she needs no longer fear ridicule when she exposes her body, thereby displaying various imperfections. However, in real life, the opposite would seem to be the case. She gets endless “strange looks, stares, and covert glances” purely because people do notice her and, quite naturally, try to find a personality behind the inscrutable veil. Although it is something of a paradox, the result is even more intense judgment, which moves from the physical to the cultural aspects of her being.
Naheed Mustafa makes several references to the standards by which female beauty is judged by the male population. She believes that she is stripped of personal liberty unless she covers up in a jihab because of the male-dominated ideals of appearance. She believes other females are slaves to the mores of an existing patriarchal classification system. However, in criticizing men and their apparent domination, she neglects to consider that men also face the same pressures e.g. that they are also subjected to standards of appearance constantly coming from magazine stands and television. These are the standards that cause a lot of men to work out and show off their bodies to attract the attention of women. So, it is not just Mustafa who is subject to gender stereotyping – it applies to both men and women everywhere.
Another noteworthy point is that Mustafa does not call on any documented sources to support her viewpoints. She says, for instance, that others share the views expressed in her article, but she does not cite any scholars or any statistics to substantiate this claim. While her views must surely find empathy with many readers, she does not earn the confidence of critical readers with statements that are too general in terms of what Canadian men and women think of her appearance and personality. Even though she is persuasive in appealing to the emotions of readers, she is not one of Canada’s widely-known multicultural voices.
To summarize, Naheed Mustafa makes a reasonable attempt to rock stereotypical views about those who wear the jihab, as she perceives them in Canadian society. Although her argument is persuasive, it has many flaws. She attempts to guess what other people are thinking and their perception of those who wear the jihab. She defends her right to control her own body, but faces even stronger discrimination e.g. that the jihab hides her personality. Although she makes a good point about the standards of appearance than modern women feel obliged to fit, she neglects to say that men face similar pressures if women are to consider them attractive. The author relies on a great deal of personal opinion and emotional appeals to strengthen her message, but her work would be more convincing if her arguments were supported with solid evidence.