‘Legislation which dictates what people should wear on their heads is oppression’

USPG Theological Adviser Evie Vernon argues that covering her head, as a woman and a Christian, can be a powerful expression of God-given values…

The European Court of Justice has just ruled that it could be lawful for a workplace to ban the hijab, and other religious clothing or artifacts,

What we need to ask is: Is covering one’s head an emblem of religious liberation or a symbol of religious oppression?

6004-45In 1960s Jamaica, every Sunday, more than 100 of us white-clad schoolgirls would snake down the hill from our Anglican boarding school to make our way to church, each of us wearing a straw hat with a blue ribbon. We felt great resentment at having to cover our heads while praying, in obedience to St Paul in 1 Corinthians 11. We despised all head coverings as symbols of repression that we associated with old nannies and grannies going to market.

Later on, when many of us came to reinterpret the role of these old grannies and nannies, seeing them now as matriarchs, recognising in them an unbowed strength that had carried them through the hardships of slavery and poverty. Indeed, we came to honour their strengths by choosing to wear headwraps like they did.

Head coverings, like any form of clothing, can be a symbol.

In my own life, I have interpreted covering my head as both a symbol of oppression and as a symbol of liberation: wrapping my head in solidarity with my sisters and foremothers has brought me strength in hours of darkness; leaving my head uncovered for the wind to blow through my hair has brought me peace.

Every person deserves the right to choose when and where they will cover their head or leave it free. Legislation which dictates what people should wear on their heads, other than for purposes of health and safety, is oppression.

 

Views expressed on this blog are not necessarily those of Us.
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