The song “God wants you to wear a hat” from the sketch comedy group The Whitest Kids U’Know perfectly illustrates how silly it is that many religions have dress codes. As someone that comes from a pretty liberal Lutheran upbringing the idea that god would care about what we wore was always strange to me. When I was trying to believe in god it made sense that he would want us to behave decently but it didn’t make sense to think what we looked like mattered. I had been told many times during my childhood that we’re all made in god’s image and that was a very beautiful thing, so the thought that god would want us to be covered in certain ways didn’t factor in.
I think the first time I saw people from a strict religious culture was when I was on a trip in Pennsylvania around age 10 when we stopped at a Cracker Barrel in Amish country. There was an Amish mother and her two girls close to my age selling cookies in the parking lot. Their bonnets and dresses reminded me of Little House on the Prairie and I distinctly remember wondering how the girls could stand being shoeless in the parking lot on that summer day. My grandma had just bought me a souvenir bonnet that was similar to the ones they were wearing but in light blue with a faint polka dot pattern and seeing the girls that had to wear their bonnets all the time made me feel a little funny about this one I had just picked out as a novelty. I was struck by the notion that I had freedom of choice when it came to things I wear and that there’s people that don’t have that freedom. I felt a little guilty about it, felt bad for those girls and others like them that couldn’t choose what they wore. It didn’t feel fair that I had that freedom and others didn’t.
There are parts of the Islamic world where women are required by law to be covered by a burka or hijab and it’s one of those topics I often wonder why many feminists aren’t outspoken about it. Muslim women in the western world sometimes choose to wear hijabs and some of the reasons I’ve personally heard have been that they think it’s beautiful to save what they look like for their husband and god or that they want to show off their cultural heritage and religious pride. I often wonder how much of a choice it actually is if there’s a lot of cultural pressure involved. I don’t think you even need to look at the Koran to find misogyny in the religion, the burka and hijab are a clear testament to how Islam doesn’t view women as equals. Men aren’t told it’s beautiful to keep themselves covered from women other than their wives.
The Abrahamic religions all claim that god is too complex for humans to fully comprehend but then claims to know what he wants. That contradiction has generally gone unquestioned and respected in modern society and we’ve all learned to accept certain things that have come out of it as normal. I think if we weren’t used to the notion of people wearing hats and other certain garb in religious traditions we would want to get someone mental health treatment if they explained they had to wear a wacky hat to appease their friend you can’t see.
link to “God wants you to wear a hat” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=djSp1NVsTrI