It’s really quite sweet that the New York Times is willing to give of its precious real estate to the sad musings of children, though this particular one involves a word in its headline that few have ever heard before, and fewer still have reason to mention.
Taken literally, the term “hoejabi” refers to women who see themselves at the crossroads of being “hoes” and “hijabis.” If you’re not a Muslim woman, don’t even think about using it. https://t.co/Vkv46VLjWL by @romaissaa_b
— NYT Opinion (@nytopinion) June 29, 2018
Is it fair to call this peak New York Times, a headline that includes a word that no one else is allowed to utter?
How to Be a Hoejabi
The NYU junior who wrote about her inner and outer conflicts is remarkably normal, but for the fact that she’s going through the questions of identity that most people resolve before they graduate from high school. We all have doubts about who we are, who we want to be, how others see us. Some believe that they’re the only ones who ponder such questions. It’s adorable.
It was in elementary school, when I first starting to wear the hijab, that I realized — without quite having the words for it — that my sexuality as a visibly Muslim woman would be decided for me.
She doesn’t explain why she started to wear the hijab. Was it her choice? Did her parents force her to do so? Maybe she was too busy thinking about sex to think about why, which is also normal as kids think a lot more about sex than head wear. But why was her sexuality being “decided for [her]”?
Flash forward to the present day. I am a 20-year-old student at a liberal college. My sexuality is still being decided for me. Ditching my classically wrapped head scarf for a turban style has helped, but not entirely. Every once in a while, someone will ask me if I am married. I am automatically held to a different standard, assumed to be deeply religious rather than secular — an assumption that works the opposite way for just about everyone else.
Somebody asking a question of someone who’s visible attire is outside the norm of their experience isn’t quite the same as deciding her sexuality for her. Just say “no” and that’s that. Or indulge in childish rhetoric and manufacture your very own victimhood. Kids enjoy that too.
The problem arises because this college student’s parents immigrated here from Morocco. Had they stayed in Morocco, she would be the norm. She came here and she wasn’t the norm, so people asked questions of her just as people in Morocco would have asked questions of a non-Muslim. Why her parents moved to Queens is another question unanswered, but they’re allowed to choose Queens, even if it means their daughter’s sexuality is questioned.
But if she doesn’t get to decide her own sexuality, who does?
Even when a Muslim woman in a non-Muslim society tries to make the halal choice, the virgin/wife transition is tricky. There is a practical problem posed by virtue of your environment: Where are the Muslim boys? What happens when you develop a crush on, say, Mike from your Politics of the Middle East class? How does one convert beer-guzzling, Patriots-watching, frat-partying, flag-waving Mike to Islam? Does Mike even like you, or does he just want your notes from last week?
So Mike from her politics of the Middle East class should convert to Islam because other people are deciding her sexuality? These aren’t silly or abnormal thoughts to go through a person’s head. Even white cis males think about similar matters, and not merely whether there will be raspberry cream or a hazelnut in the center of the bon bons he munches until he’s made a hedge fund manager for $10 mil a year.
But most of us get over this in junior high, and rarely do we get to put our childishness on display in the New York Times. No one decides your sexuality for you unless you let them. And frankly, no one cares nearly as much about you as you.
And so, I, for one, shall never mention the word that I’m not permitted to mention, hoejabi, not because the New York Times says only a Muslim woman can say the word, but because your sexuality is your issue to deal with. I wish you the best and hope you eventually grow up to be comfortable with who you are, whatever that may be.