This topic came up on my Facebook page when I posted a comment about men on the internet demanding that women veil in church without realizing how problematic their statements and actions are for women. I went on to stay that before men demand female veiling they should ask women why they choose or don’t choose to veil and should base their blogs, articles and Youtube videos off of what women tell them. This caused a friend in Europe to respond to my comment by saying that she has asked a number of women why they veil but these women fail time and again to giver her a “real answer” and, that, until women can give a “real answer” to veiling men should be free to make their own comments on why women should veil in church or veil in general. As I have already dedicated a post to why men should be careful about commenting or, more specifically, demanding female veiling in church, I’ll leave that out of this post.
I had a problem with this woman stating that women had failed time and again to give her a “real answer” to why they veil. Those two words “real answer” bothers me. It’s an empty statement that doesn’t carry significant meaning. It’s a filler. It indicates a person grasping for words, meaning or reasoning when there is none to be had. “Real answer” indicates a lack of clarity by the author of what they are looking for in an explanation. I am convinced that the author of those words had no idea of what she was looking for in an explanation for why women veil. My experience is that when people don’t agree with an action, like veiling, they will readily toss aside a perfectly good explanation as not being reasonable.
I don’t agree that women who veil have failed to give reasonable answers to why they veil. There is not a single answer to why women veil. It’s impossible. Veiling is not inherent to a single culture or religious tradition and there for there is more than one single answer. These answers are given by women who chose to veil of their own free will and there are answers that give light to the dark side of veiling, forced veiling within certain societies. All of these answers are pieces to a bigger, multifaceted puzzle that is the study of veiling and veiling politics. These answers help us to understand why women veil.
I’m not saying that all women who veil have good answers that are worth paying attention to. For example some women who attend the Latin Mass or are part of a Christian tradition that requires female veiling don’t have adequate answers. Some women who attend the Latin Mass or are members of Christian tradition where veiling is required will tell you that they veil because it’s custom or that it’s required and, there for, don’t think much about why they veil. Many women who have taken up veiling of their own free will or who have decided to do the research have well thought out answers that draw on tradition, scripture and theology. The theology behind veiling differs depending on what tradition is being examined. The same goes for various cultural, social and religious context. It needs to be recognized that there are women who have very little choice in deciding to veil or not. Their explanations for why their culture and society dictates why women should or shouldn’t veil need to be recognized as valid answers as well. Examining how cultures, societies, religions and governments view female veiling also give indicators how these institutions view women and religion as well as the role and status of women in religion, society and culture and role of religion as well.
One single answer for why women veil cannot be expected. Instead keeping and open mind to different answers and not quickly dismissing them as invalid. By dismissing well founded answers to why some women veil there runs the risk of doing injustice to women who veil and understanding why they veil. Without exploring all answers to veiling, then it is impossible to understand the act of veiling.