I loved my school uniform. It was a sort of greyish blue with a very strict blazer with the school crest. Our school uniform wasn’t really comfortable, and it definitely wasn’t pretty – or sexy -but I felt so proud to wear it! That uniform gave me a sense of self, of representing something fine and enviable. It also made me feel like I belonged, I was a part of something, something larger than me. This feeling was invoked and encouraged by rituals and by staff and we were made to feel that the uniform represented the school motto – Inspiring a life of significance.
When I read sites encouraging women to wear hijab, I see great similarities. They seem to aspire to exactly the same motto! And they do it by evoking the same feelings, just trade school uniform for hijab: sense of self, sense of belonging, sense of representing something fine and enviable. Makes you feel special.
The school uniform also made you look businesslike and modest. It showed that you were a good girl, a long way from miniskirts and high heels. Just like the hijab. It was a message.
Of course, I graduated and was allowed to get out of the uniform. And I missed it sometimes! But overall, it was fantastic to be myself, wearing clothes of my own choice. It felt like a shield to wear a uniform, I could hide behind it. And of course it was extremely convenient for all the parents who didn’t want their daughters in miniskirts, or who couldn’t afford fashion.
The school uniform is a sign of ownership – and status. A sign that you are a vassal, but also that you are protected by rules and powers behind the uniform. The same goes for the hijab.
The hijab is primarily a way for men to hide their possessions. It’s like covering what you have in the trunk of your SUV to keep thieves away. The hijab also makes objects out of women, since it implies that if you don’t wear it you have to take the blame if you’re molested. It is a way to hide women to the public space, and to make women disappear.
And you can make people proud of being owned, of being hidden, of being possessions. Just like you can make people proud of surviving in polygamy, being forced to be #2, 3 or four… Simply by making them wear the nose ring, the hijab or the school uniform, as a sign of being selected, of belonging, of representing something fine and enviable. Just as the women of men in the Hells Angels can be proud of having a tattoo saying “Property of Big Jim” on their forehead.
I don’t wear a school uniform any more. I don’t wear hijab. I don’t have “Property of Big Jim” tattooed on my forehead.
My favourite designer is Karen Millen.