The Gender Studies Cell, St.Stephen’s College flagged off its activities for the year with its maiden event- Taboo Diaries: Chapter 1- Hijab amongst other things. The event was primarily an informal discussion presided over by eight speakers, all students of the college- Mahroosh Banday, Tauheed Haqqani, Hishma Nazir, Muskaan Bhat, Farkhanda Zahoor, Insha Mushtaq, Sumaiyya Shamim and Usman Zafar. The speakers’ reflections and statements were followed by an unplugged interaction with a packed room of over 60 eager students.
The statements made by the speakers served as a useful insight into their own personal experiences with and opinions concerning the hijab. They raised significant questions of choice and free will, the purpose and origin of the hijab and their own ways of coming to terms with the hijab and their religion. Interspersed with wit, the speakers enunciated their points clearly, giving those less acquainted with this theme a wider perspective on it. Some of the speakers also raised questions of being seen as a conservative person for wearing the hijab, the hijab giving them a sense of proximity and attachment to their God, religion and community and the questions they are sometimes asked when they don the hijab, like, whether it gets hot underneath in the summer! The discussion that followed emphasized upon personal choice and the flexibilities inherent in every religion and the similarities among them. Muskaan Bhat, one of the speakers, says, “Choice is independent of all social norms, political strategies or internalised conventions. I wear the hijab, not because patriarchal minds are forcing me to do it, but because I love it.”
Prerna Subramanian, the editor of the Gender Studies Cell journal, Kon, says, “We decided to have a discussion revolving around the hijab since it has always been a matter of contention and curiosity. People often tend to make uneducated remarks and one wants to know from the horse’s mouth as to what really is the case.” According to Ankita Srivastava, a student who was at the discussion, the event has been an eye-opener in terms of the flexibility and choice that religion allows. She was surprised at the fact that none of the speakers were compelled to, or knew of anyone who was compelled to, wear the hijab.
The Gender Studies Cell, under its umbrella theme for the year-Taboos–aims at conducting talks in the future on topics like the politics of make up, disability and sexual desire, and taboos related to menstruation and masturbation, hoping to generate enriching discussions on these themes.
–With inputs from Rene Sharanya Verma, Head Coordinator, The Gender Studies Cell