Ramadan Reflections '13, Day 25: Is Eid a Beauty Pageant?

The day following the final fasting day of Ramadan, called Eid, is one of the two celebrations Muslims have. Eid al-Fitr marks a day with community prayer, visiting family and friends, an overload of food (well, for some people), followed be an afternoon nap from all the festivities before yet again more food is consumed for dinner. It's ironic how less than 24 hours after completing the final fast, people are hoarding food down. But I digress! Back to the topic.

Most families invest time and effort (and lots of money) into making sure that themselves and their children are decked out in their best for the Eid festivities. And I mean, really, Muslims really don't have many occasions to dress up all fancy and swag around (apart from weddings!), so we take advantage of the festivities. Women don cultural dress that blings and blinds fellow worshippers while men wear sharp suits or cultural attire with less bling but nonetheless is crisp and clean. Children are the same, girls dancing around in gorgeous dresses and boys looking dapper in their gear. It's a day to be celebrated after a month of fasting, spiritual retreat and sacrifice.

Yet after attending quite a few Eid prayers in Calgary, I've come to be shocked at what some little girls are wearing. It's not only about the outfits themselves, some with frilly and short poofy skirts or those that are a little too body hugging. But the hair highlights, makeup, jewellery, and high heel shoes are perhaps a little too much. Do girls need to look like their moms? Where has their childhood cuteness gone? Does Eid necessitate girls dressing to look like women?

Women's style of clothing that has been adapted for girls to wear
It scares me to see little pre-pubescent girls dressed up this way, some as young as 4 years old. While you may think that it's OK for one day and say "Oh, it's Eid, cut them a break!", there's no way I would allow my daughter to leave the house looking like that. The clothing, makeup and heels all sexualize a young girl and lead her to learn the wrong messages about her body. The heels only lend her to swagger her hips and look taller and leaner. The makeup, as scary as it seems and reminiscent of "Toddlers and Tiaras" doesn't fit her look, her baby face is too cute and round to be donned with lipstick and blush. And her hair-sprayed curls which are highlighted and tied back, backcombed bump and all, with more glittery ribbons is too much. I don't think my mom ever blow dried my hair when I was 5 years ago, let alone take a curling iron to it.

Furthermore, I have this theory (based on how I was raised) that if girls are comfortable wearing certain clothes as a child, they will continue to be comfortable wearing it as an adult. So, since I was not allowed to wear bathing suits in public as a child without being covered up with swim shorts and t-shirt, there's no way on earth I'd be comfortable wearing bathing suits in public as an adult. While I may have the freedom to make this choice, it doesn't fit who I am and what my values are. Hence, I think it's dangerous to allow girls to experiment and dress up a certain way since in my humble opinion, it desensitizes them and increases their comfort level with how they're dressing. 

And it's not like women are setting a good example either. I've attended a few all-women bridal showers or wedding receptions and oh my goodness, I had to lower MY gaze at what some women were wearing. While I understand that wearing hijab and being covered all day, every day from head to toe is a sacrifice and all-women events give you a chance to ahem, "let loose", why the heck are you revealing that much "oomph" to the rest of us women folk?! What has happened to elegance and classiness? Do you need to wear a mini dress that's barely fitting? Please women, save that for your husbands at home! 

Girls should not be posing in this way.
So perhaps it's a cultural indoctrination that when women and girls are given a chance to "dress up", the notion of this term is taken to an extreme. Perhaps daughters are solely emulating their moms and wanting to look mature, and dare I say, sexy? But then again, these girls have moms, who ultimately should have the final say.

I think exposure at home is also a factor. Growing up, I wasn't allowed to see my mom get ready and perform her routine. My mom wore minimum make up anyway, and still does. I wasn't girly and didn't want to paint my nails, try lipstick, or wear heels. Because my mom didn't and I was such a tomboy anyway until probably the age of 23! But I know that if I did ask for something, my mom drew boundaries. Not to say that I was slob when I dressed up, since I did wear girls' dresses, ballet flats and those precious mary-jane style shoes that girls should be wearing. Looking back at childhood pictures of myself, I dressed like a girl should, Eid or not.

And to clarify, there's a difference between being sexual beings and sexual objects. Sexual beings, within the context of marriage in Islam, is permissible, healthy, and an undeniable part of being human. Being sexual is reserved for the confines of marriage. However, girls and women who are objectified into sexual objects is something vastly different. Objectification removed human traits from women and girls and places them at the whim of men's sexual desires, in an unhealthy and non-mutual manner. When we dress girls in this manner, we are vaulting them ahead as sexual beings without the context of marriage and also as sexual objects.

So my message to all the moms out there (and I know I'm not a mom, so I hope I don't sound preachy!): please just consider what you're going to dress your daughter in for Eid and whether or not all the additional primping and grooming is necessary. Why not settle for a cute and modest shalwar kameez instead of one that is too revealing for her age? Why dress her in a poofy and sparkly ball gown that's hard to walk in, thanks to the wedged heel shoes she's wearing? Let her be called "cute" and "beautiful" instead of "all grown up". Let both women and men see a young child dressed appropriately for her age rather than someone who looks like they are pretending to be older.

Girls need to be protected now more than ever. And if means that you as a mom also need to cut back on how much make-up you slather on your face, then perhaps it's worth your daughter seeing how much she really is like her mom. I think that's more precious than anything else.

And Allah knows best.

Note: Check out this article in the New York Times. And if you'd like more information that is research based, the American Psychological Association may be up your alley. This study showed that 6 years-old girls want to be called sexy. Honestly, the information online on this topic is endless, which is a red flag in itself. 

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