Not Without My Veil

Not Without My Veil is a documentary that I recently watched about Muslim women living in Oman.  In this film, several women were featured including a school teacher that had emigrated from the United Kingdom when she was 15, an economist, and a political adviser. These women had differing opinions on the oppression of women in their situation, usually based on their exposure to western culture. For the woman who grew up in England, it was hard to adapt to the social norms that are placed upon women in Oman. The other two women had grown up in Oman and therefore did not feel demoralized by men in their culture.

The women in this film were not only dealing with gender problems but issues of religion as well, thus introducing intersectionality. Not only are they women, but Muslim women at that. The Muslim culture places a heavy emphasis on women wearing a veil, which serves a religious purpose but at the same time makes women feel subservient to their male counterparts and ashamed of their womanly bodies. For the woman who had lived in England prior to emigrating to Oman, it was hard to get used to wearing the veil at all times. Western culture had taught her to walk with her back straight and looking straight ahead in a confident manner which is something that Muslim women in Oman don’t do. In that country, women subscribe to the notion that they are supposed to act womanly and subdued, and confidence does not fit into this definition. When this woman performed such simple acts with her body language, she was looked down upon by both men and women in her community. When she started to wear the veil and act more suppressed, she was accepted by her fellow villagers. Confident body language is not something accepted by the Muslim culture. Although different sects of the religion have different ideals, it is a universal belief that women are to cover their faces with a veil. In the film, there was a quote about Mohammad and how he was allowed to have multiple wives; men are free in Muslim culture. By wearing a veil, women of the religion are limited in their personal expression of style as well as being prohibited by social norms to act confident in the public eye.

I watched this movie with my parents and we all found it very interesting. For me, probably the most interesting part was the difference between the practicing Muslims in the cities and villages compared with the Muslim women
living in the desert. The women in the desert, although constricted more by their clothing, were allowed more social freedoms then the women in the cities. They were responsible for raising goats and set the price for the animals when they were brought to market. These women supervised their husbands as they sold the animals and one woman of the tribe even said that she would easily be able to live without her husband. It was interesting to see the variances in a certain religion, just like you would see in other demographic group. Prior to watching this film, I always assumed that Muslim women lived a horrible, unhappy life. What this film taught me was that the feelings of oppression that these women suffer from directly correlate with their exposure to western culture. For those who have only lived their lives in Muslim countries, they do not know any different and are therefore content with the lifestyle for women in their country. In general, I would say that this film was a good eye-opener for someone coming from western culture like myself.

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