This one is going to be long and awkward and perhaps not make a lot of sense. It’s a subject that I’ve wanted to write about forever but falls so close to the center of my being that I know what I mean, but I don’t know if I have the language for what I mean.
I am admittedly coming from a non-Abrahamic stance, so I can’t speak for anyone who follows the Book. I also can’t talk for any other Pagan, since frankly, we’re such a bizarrely fractured group (because of the way that -so many- faiths get lumped under the Pagan umbrella) that I can only really talk about my own very eclectic and currently in flux path.
Right now, my path towards center is bringing me back into the realm of appearance. I hate when my path brings me here, it’s where I admittedly have the most problems. I am mostly okay with not being conventionally attractive-and I am in fact fully aware that I’m never going to be what the American popular culture deems ‘truly’ pretty. If nothing else I’m one of those people who are heavy when they are light, so my base body shape is always going to have me hitting outside of the beauty norm. And mostly I’m fine with that; I’m honest enough to admit to my own image angst so I’m not going to lie and talk about how I think I’m a perfect special snowflake.
There is a set of social assumptions that come with veiling, and I feel that in part they’re due to the extreme disinterest that the public has in talking about veiling with people who actually veil and the extreme interest the Americans have in judging those who veil (shun her, shuuunnnnn….). The biggest assumption that I want to touch on here is that we don’t care about our base appearance.
I will admit that the longer I veil, the less interested I am in showing a ton of skin. But I do veil in cami tanks. I will however be wearing my cami with a maxi skirt. Or I will be wearing shorter skirts with more coverage on top. I have no shame in my body; I actually take a much higher level of respect for my body now than I did when I wore a hell of a lot less clothing when I wasn’t veiling. I’m actually on -much- better terms with the shape of my self and the state of my skin than when I connected my sexuality my cleavage.
I actually don’t think there’s anything wrong with that connection-I am certainly not ashamed of who I was then, and I don’t feel shame or guilt for women who do (which is part of the assumptions that I hear, that -I- must -hate- -those- women).
The way that I look at it is that I am seeing my self as a room, and that I personally hold the key to the door to that room. You have knock on the door and be invited inside. You can’t just expect the right to see what’s in that room, just because you assume that the room is open property to society. Having started to shift towards something like modesty, that actually is a standing social assumption-your body as a woman is something that is considered free use by society. Nothing will make people think they have a right to comment on your physicality like a maxi skirt and a head scarf in the middle of summer.
Cosmetic usage falls into the same area for me. I am choosing to do something that makes me feel better. I enjoy it. But I also go months and months without touching the stuff. I am making the choice that makes me feel the best at that moment. I will however admit that for my own personal comfort levels as well as my concepts of modesty, I will not go so far as to fully alter my appearance with the use of cosmetics. It’s one thing to even out skin tone. It’s another thing entirely to resculpt the entirety of my bone structure with contouring. That, along with everything else in the modesty/veiling community, is an entirely personal decision and depends on the woman in question.
There is nothing inherently immodest, as far as I am concerned, about feeling attractive. Perhaps the locus lies in a different place-I am doing the things that make me the most comfortable and don’t challenge the obligations of my faith, not what society thinks is the most appropriate-but I don’t think that veiling takes the power away from the woman wearing the veil to feel pretty. The sacrifice of the public display of our hair does not force us to give up our bodies; if anything it seems to make us more aware of it.