Women who wear hijaab in America tend to stand out in a crowd.
Not only does the scarf draw attention to the person just because it looks a bit different, the hijaab is also a nonverbal statement signifying that the woman wearing it is a Muslim. Sounds simple enough, but along with the statement comes some heavier implications.
Being a minority, a Muslim woman who wears a scarf immediately becomes the "poster child" of Islam to every nonMuslim that she encounters. Her actions, words, and choices are categorized and filed away as representative of what is "Muslim" or "Islamic." And so instead of just being herself -- with her own unique set of aspirations, experiences, and flaws -- she is: "the Muslim girl." I know several women who wore the hijab for years, and then removed it after becoming emotionally and spiritually exhausted from being the token Muslim in this political/social climate.
The implications of wearing or not wearing a scarf exist within Islamic communities as well. The hijab has unfortunately become a ruler against which a woman's piety is measured: a woman who wears the scarf is a pious and observant Muslim, whereas the woman who does not is somehow lacking in faith or purity. Even more, HOW a woman wears her scarf and accompanying clothing is also scrutinized:
Is her scarf too small? Can you see her neck? Can you see her bangs? How about her ears? Earlobes? Is the fabric too colorful? Is it a bit too thin? Does she wear makeup? Jewelery? Does she wear it with pants? Are her sleeves long enough? Does she wear a fragrance?
Is it any wonder that some women -- like the one who inspired this painting -- believe that they *should* be wearing the hijab, but don't?