Saturday, 22 January 2011

Siqo Siqo

I am siqo siqo!

E7m … don’t get me wrong I... Ahh… so what if the entire population thinks that every single veiled woman in the country is sexually frustrated, powerless, helpless, and suffers from some mental deficiency syndrome? So what if everyone thinks that covering my hair hinders my mental capacities and affects the performance of my brain cells?! So what if every time I walk or talk I’m told “3eib 3ala 7egabek” and always expected to act like a ‘saint’, be self righteous? And, of course, defend the concept of the veil along with the actions of every passing veiled female!

As a child I was always the polite little girl who accepted the kisses and hugs of every ‘tant’ and ‘uncle’ and smiled back at every word, be it a compliment or a scold, till I decided one day that I have had enough with the red lipstick! Mesh 7atbas! Yes I refused to kiss the women who wore red lipstick. I was checking out a furniture exhibition with my dad a few years ago when we ran into a friend of his. “El amooora in what grade?" "She’s studying Mass communications” my dad told him "But you’re veiled! Why didn’t you consider zera3a or tarbeyaa? Mass com isn’t for you" "leih ya uncle??" (Along with the ‘no kisses for Mrs Lipstick’
came the ‘leih’ questions.) Of course my dad had to squeeze my arm and give me this classical look of “etlamee ya bent,” which meant that I had to silently listen to that man blabber on and on about how veiled girls should seek a quiet and secluded life and choose fields that didn’t require the appearance of their far from presentable selves. Plus of course fields that required a minimal amount of effort, whether physical or mental.

I let the situation pass and forgot all about it until something else happened. I was driving on a Friday morning somewhere close to Tahrir square, when some guy decided it was okay to squeeze in between me and another car, and knocked my sideview mirror down, breaking it into two pieces. I got out of the car, summoned all the self control I had, and quietly lectured the driver about the basic rules of proper driving and politely asked him for compensation just to be told: “It’s no big deal, only a mirror … plus you shouldn’t do that. You are veiled!” What this had to do with anything, I do not know. I politely asked him once more to pay for the damage he caused and reminded him of what could happen if I decided to take the matter into the public circle in my own way: “If you don’t pay me I’ll scream and say you molested me!” While waiting for him to go get the money I called two of my cousins (typical Egyptian male figures).

I knew that they would never let go of any of their rights and would stand up for what was theirs no matter what, just to be told again: “You’re veiled. You won’t be able to get anything out of the guy so just leave in silence” I hung up and refused to let go of what was clearly and fairly MY RIGHT. I waited for an hour and when the guy didn’t show up I walked up to his car, broke off his mirror and took it with me, leaving him a note saying that he can’t get away with that whether I was veiled, bold, or walking nude in the streets!

This brings me to the reactions I get from people at work who see me for the first time: “you’re too bold to be veiled” and “veiled girls get married and sit at home” and “veiled girls aren’t good at work”, etc. Every girl is fully aware that she is going to have to face all this if she takes the decision to wear the veil, and accepts to fight back the stereotypical line of thought that hangs a sign above any veiled head saying “brains out of service”. But we haven’t been prepared for this: Not only am I looked upon as powerless and helpless by default, but also both my actions and appearance are continuously and mercilessly scrutinized and judged. “Ohhh she’s wearing a toe ring she’s trying to draw attention to her toes!,” “Oh she’s wearing bright colors today, that doesn’t comply with the dress code of a veiled girl!” And of course the sudden evolution of the veil into a ‘nos’ veil: covering only the hair and leaving out the neck or any other part of the body, or wearing clothes that emphasize the body shape etc, gave our fellow scrutinizers more reason to do what they do.

All the above leaves me and a lot of other veiled girls going crazy; every time we do anything different or dress differently we’re questioned and met with pairs of doubtful eyes. While the behavior of unveiled girls is usually compared to that of other girls in their age, ours is compared to that of a nun! Here comes the worst part of all. I am sitting peacefully at home trying to indulge in any sort of mindless activity, when my younger sister shows up with a smile on her face and gives me a book mark, proudly saying that a friend of hers has made them and gives them out for free. I look at the bookmark with scattered pink flowers and diamonds, read what’s written on its back and feel like chopping off the heads of both my sister and her friend. The text on the bookmark tells the story of the flower and the pearl. The flower complains to the pearl about how she feels mistreated by people, while the pearl tells her about how she’s protected, buried at the bottom of the sea. The pearl lives in an “isolated thick shell,” in a “safe zone” far from what she describes as “wanton and mischievous hands” which, according to the pearl, makes her more valuable. At the end it is said that the flower symbolizes the unveiled woman who “reveals her charms” and the pearl symbolizes the veiled woman who “conceals her charms”. That’s it? That’s what the veil is all about??

So after all the revolutionary women’s movements and all the talk about women being capable of exceling in places other than the bed comes a bookmark to tell you to save your bedroom charms because that’s all you’ve got! And look who’s actually promoting this line of thought: the veiled girls themselves! Moreover, the opening of several cafés “for girls only” further promotes the idea of secluding the veiled ones just to make sure that they lead a happy and “safe” life. Please add to the stereotypical package the term “sexually frustrated”.

I am not a pearl! I repeat I am not a pearl
… I am human

As far as I know I’m veiled and I probably mix with the “unsafe” crowd much more than most of the unveiled girls. I never for a second even considered that this by any means contradicts the concept of the veil; if anything I always believed that the veil gave me more freedom to go even further than I thought. Back at school I liked joining activities that most of the veiled girls avoided in order to save themselves the attitude of “we can’t accept veiled girls”, not for the love of it nor for any religious reasons, but merely to show that a woman with brains could exist under the head cover and could be just as presentable as the unveiled one. To me the veil was and will always be a feminist movement by itself. I chose to wear the veil but that doesn’t mean that I chose to be an object for public display, nor a rare expensive item in a window shop or subject for people’s frequent looks of praise and admiration but one that is ultimately unapproachable. I am human and the veil doesn’t put me on any form of pedestal. I hate being told ‘mo7tarama’ just as I hate being told ‘3’albana’ … the veil doesn’t prevent the devil from getting to me nor does it make me any better than other unveiled girls.

Accordingly I willingly decided to declare myself a ‘siqo siqo’, a lame and pretentious veiled girl who wears the head scarf as a camouflage for another hidden, immoral and far from righteous b*%$@#! This way I don’t have to counter-argue every criticism I get about anything new or different I do or say. I don’t have to exhaust my nerves to explain myself. This way I don’t have to suffer for my sanity every single time I walk or talk in this country.

Thank you and Goodnight!



  1. I agree with everything you've said - but at the same time I think that most of the stereotypes you suffer from as a 'veiled' girl can also be very easily forced upon girls who are not veiled as well; girls like me who are, in fact, quite the opposite of veiled.

    You say that, because of your veil, people perceive you as "sexually frustrated, powerless, helpless, and suffers from some mental deficiency syndrome." Well, let me tell you, when people look at me, all they see is long hair, pink cheeks and big boobs. And trust me when I tell you, that this makes you the most 'powerless' and 'helpless' of all. I can't walk in the streets, I can't drive home alone at night, I can't go to the bank or the supermarket or stop at the koshk without being sexually harassed, molested, approached or condemned. I'm forced to ask for favors all the time - "please come with me here, please drive me there." I am neither helpless nor powerless, but I am reduced to being so. It's either that or be psychologically (if not physically) accosted every time I set a foot out the door.

    You say they assume you're sexually frustrated; they assume I'm sexually promiscuous. As for "suffering from some mental deficiency syndrome", I don't think I've ever, in my 25 years on this planet, have been taken seriously unless I've proven myself not once, not twice, but innumerable times. My vote doesn't count; my opinion doesn't register. I am bound to my airhead persona as if it's my own personal cross to bear. Every stupid thing that comes out of my mouth cements the persona more; anything intelligent I say is considered a fluke or a stroke of luck.

    Not every veiled girl is a 'pearl', just like not every girl wearing a short skirt is a whore. You don't want to have to defend yourself against those who say shit like "3eib 3ala hegabek" just like I don't want to defend myself against those who assume I enjoy getting gang-banged just because I like to go out and drink and show some skin.

    Like I said, I agree with everything you say - but I think it goes further than just the veil. You and I are polar opposites and yet what we suffer is the same. The problem is not the veil or the lack of it; the problem is the people who will toss you into a certain box and throw away the key.

  2. Leilaaaa! yallla ne3ml a club!!! w nesameeh 'eli eedee fi el maya msh zay eli eedoo fel naar'!