I believe passionately in a woman's right to express herself freely and so it was an easy decision to take part. I then realised that on the same day I was booked to do business promotion and suddenly I found myself swimming in a sea of conflicting emotions and thoughts. "What if people judge me?", "What if it costs me some business?", "What if people think I am misrepresenting myself?", "What if I get laughed at?", "What if I cant do a good enough hijab?" I was scared of being different, of standing out (I'm actually an introvert believe it or not) and of it costing me income. I was also embarrassed about my thoughts and feelings. I consciously know that I take for granted being a white, middlish-class, able-bodied person and the allowances that affords me. It was only when I was faced with a different experience that I really felt the weight of the advantage I have. Only when I was handing that over to choose something else did I really feel the gravity of my situation. Those who are in a minority group (be it based on ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, appearance, etc) live with being noticeable and different every day. The fears that I had, may be their constant companions and I cant even imagine how that impacts a person.
I am not a person to step away from my fears, so I decided that I would most definitely celebrate World Hijab Day irrespective of the costs. It was something I had to do! It would absolutely be worth it.
As I got ready to go out I felt anxious. I had practiced my hijab a few times so felt a small level of confidence with that. I had planned my 'modest' outfit from my seemingly immodest wardrobe. It was a hot day and I was feeling overdressed. I also needed to stop and get petrol on the way (something that can stir anxiety in me anyway) and I was in my husbands car too. When I got there I couldn't work out the fuel cap so asked the man at the next bowser for help. I wondered if I would be treated differently. I was happily surprised when he didn't even seem to notice what I looked like at all. When I got to my event I set up my stall, including a sign saying "I am supporting World Hijab Day".
I also have had a very positive response from my online community when I posted the above picture.
My thoughts generally on my experience of WHD:
* I am really happy I did it. Im glad to have worked through my fears and have the experience of what Muslim woman may feel.
* I found wearing a head covering quite suffocating after a while. It bothered me sitting so close to the sides of my face. I felt physically uncomfortable. It was hot. Some of this may have be due to my inexperience of putting it on but still I admire that women can get through a day of working, mothering, and being without complaint while wearing a hijab.
* I did feel different. I was noticeable. That was ok for one day. I don't think I'd like it every day. I enjoy having the choice of being able to disappear into the background.
* I am reassured that my fears of judgement or ridicule where not realised. I wont let one day convince me that prejudice doesn't exist in Australia today, because sadly it does. My experience does give me hope though that we are moving in the right direction and that a happy multicultural Australia is possible.
Will I do it next year? I think so. I would like to celebrate it with friends next time. Who would like to join me???