Recently, Bollywood actor Aamir Khan’s daughter Ira Khan posted photos of her 25th birthday party, wherein she wore a bikini. Standing close to her family, she was seen cutting her birthday cake, followed by more photos which made it obvious that it was a pool party. Fitting dress for a fitting event, right?

Shortly after, many users on Twitter and Instagram targeted Ira for her choice of clothes. They went ahead exposing not just their blatant misogyny and patriarchal mindset of always having an opinion on what young women should wear, but also the underlying Islamophobic tones, given that her identity as a Muslim woman cannot be seen in isolation. If a Muslim woman’s identity is attacked, it is only befitting the defence rests on it too.

Also read: From Hijab Ban To Bulli Bai/Sulli Deals: The Muslim Women’s Assertion Against The Hindutva

Netizens Defend Ira Khan For Celebrating Birthday In Bikini In Front Of  Father Aamir Khan - Filmibeat
Image Source: FilmiBeat

The comments about ‘hijab’ and ‘burqa’ are telling of the fact that the concept of choice is still lost on people. Beyond your arguments about whether or not you agree with Hijab, Burqa, or a bikini, no one should have the right to dictate or force you to wear something. The malicious response to attack a young woman in this manner, one who is in the public eye, shows how a woman’s body is seen as an object, one that must be adorned to your liking. 

They went ahead exposing not just their blatant misogyny and patriarchal mindset of always having an opinion on what young women should wear, but also the underlying Islamophobic tones, given that her identity as a Muslim woman cannot be seen in isolation. If a Muslim woman’s identity is attacked, it is only befitting the defence rests on it too.

This is not just antithetical to bodily autonomy but also the woman’s own agency. She can choose to rock a Hijab, wear a modest outfit, or wear a bikini at her pool party, given she’s comfortable in her body and it’s her choice. The operative word here being ‘choice.’ 

Funnily enough, these comments also come from men who wear shorts, sometimes with or without a thin vest at home.

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In all fairness, there were some supportive comments as well. But the fact that people attempted to sexualise and tarnish a father-daughter relationship here, rooted in their own biases, speaks volumes. Bollywood singer Sona Mohapatra had posted on her Instagram story reminding people that the 25-year-old does not need her father’s approval to exercise her choices.

It is not just the non-Muslim community but also the Muslim community that criticises women on those same lines, even if the intent may not be malicious and the reasons may be different.

To wear or not to wear that’s her choice

​  “Feminism is about giving women choice. Feminism is not a stick with which to beat other women with,” ​said noted Hollywood actor and activist Emma Watson.

More importantly, it all comes down to this: Somebody’s relationship with their religion and choices is personal and none of your business. Why does somebody’s choice to wear a bikini or a Hijab make you so uncomfortable? Is it entitlement, bias, or a bit of both?

​​Also read: Why Muslim Women Wearing Hijab Might Be The Face Of Resistance​

Yet again, we still circle back to the same debate — what is she wearing? How could she wear that in such a setting? 

Honey, your bias is showing

It’s a reflection of the society that translates into these online comments. Social media users, unfortunately, do have the authority to change the narrative about what a woman is wearing. People sitting behind the screens and moral policing online are the ones who would do the same with their own mothers, wives, sisters, and friends in all probability.

What do you think when you see a Muslim woman wearing a Hijab? That she’s oppressed, and it is conditioning that has led her to wear one? What do you think when you see a Muslim woman wear a salwar-suit? That she’s simple, modest, and lady-like?

And what do you think when you see a Muslim woman donning a bikini on a beach or a pool? That she’s not religious enough and is shameless to wear one?

So, now, if I may ask, what deems you fit to be so presumptuous and be quick to relate her personality, character, and intellect to her clothing? 

Hijab Integral Part of Islam; Courts Must not Interpret Religion – Popular  Front of India
Image source: Popular Front Of India

A woman’s reasoning for wearing a particular outfit is subjective, as it should be. Being an intersectional feminist means, you do not force anyone to cover or disrobe across all communities. In a patriarchal world, it takes a woman years to be comfortable in her own skin, to be able to see her worth beyond the number on the weighing scale, her stretch marks, the shape of her arms, or her stomach bulge.

A woman who knows what she wants to wear and does not need your validation becomes a ‘difficult’ woman for society.

Malala Yousafzai trolled for jeans and heels at Oxford University | Metro  News
Image Source: Metro

When will the fetishization stop?

In these socio-political times, Muslim women are being side-lined and robbed of their rights because they wear a Hijab. Not long ago, the Right-wing ecosystem put Muslim women up for an online auction. Yet their perpetrators roam free today.

The liberals, on the hand, appear to sit back and have an intellectual debate on what they agree Muslim women should wear, ‘undoing the conditioning’ because banality knows no bounds. Unregulated online platforms and accounts by bigots, almost always followers of the ruling party, see us as a political ground to exploit.

A woman’s reasoning for wearing a particular outfit is subjective, as it should be. Being an intersectional feminist means, you do not force anyone to cover or disrobe across all communities. In a patriarchal world, it takes a woman years to be comfortable in her own skin, to be able to see her worth beyond the number on the weighing scale, her stretch marks, the shape of her arms, or her stomach bulge.

The online vitriol has made Muslim women think twice before posting their photos online, especially on Twitter. 

Perhaps, it would help if people focus on real issues, the ones plaguing our life as women as a collective today. These include reproductive rights, wage gap, access to public spaces, safe public washrooms, marital rape, caste, and gender-based violence. 

Nothing new about the moral policing

Muslim women, ultimately, irrespective of whether they are religious or not, will always be under fire in the public eye by the virtue of being Muslim women. Quick to be judged, easy to be criticised. 

The moral policing itself is not new, it has always been part of our society, online bigoted trolls and extremist men and women who see women as an object, and who feel that they should have a say in a person’s freedom of choice. A similar incident had also happened with Saif Ali Khan’s daughter Sara Ali Khan in 2020 when she posted bikini photos while being alongside her brother.

Partially, this is also an outcome of cinema that has over the years only represented one-dimensional Muslim women characters. How many roles can you recall where Muslim women are just women being their own selves, independent in their choices of lifestyle and clothing? How many Muslim women can you recall on-screen whose narrative had nothing to do with their religion?

Cinema has perennial and immense power in how we view minorities. The lack of representation, inaccurate representations, exhausted tropes become how we view one another subconsciously. It gets translated into our behaviour and pre-conceived notions. 

Each of our identities and how they are perceived and targeted impact our mental health and choices. Despite being enshrined in the Constitution, we are already witnessing the rights of Muslims being attacked from left, right, and centre. The choices of clothing, occupation, religious freedom and movement, education, and love freely are all being violated.

A woman who knows what she wants to wear and does not need your validation becomes a ‘difficult’ woman for society.

So, instead of moral and tone-policing women and telling them to be thick-skinned in this society, why don’t we aspire and work towards a more inclusive and kind society? Why must the burden always be on the Muslim women to fight back, resist and educate you against moral policing, when you could hold yourself accountable in the first place? 

Concluding with what Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai, who loves her jeans and is proud of her scarves, once said, “Whether a woman chooses a burqa or a bikini, she has the right to decide for herself. Come and talk to us about individual freedom and autonomy, about preventing harm and violence, about education and emancipation. Do not come with your wardrobe notes.” 

​​​Aliza Noor is a journalist from Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh. She covers social justice, communities and gender. Previously, she has worked with ScoopWhoop Unscripted and The Quint. ​Aliza can be found on Twitter​ and Instagram.

Featured image source: FilmiBeat

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2 COMMENTS

  1. They r bjp rss supporters, they hate muslims actor actress, they hate Aamir Khan….
    While Kangana Ranaut wears short bra panty everywhere and Kangana is still their favourite heroine,….bcz she licks ass of modi , shah….they are hypocrite morons ..
    Don’t worry…

  2. Hello Ladies,

    Just to establish a baseline here… im a dalit ex-sikh, ex-hindu, ex-muslim, presently athiest dude (cuz much like Dr Ambedkar… our family never felt truly accepted anywhere). I am also Bisexual n Transgendered… so with that said … you know i am not coming at this from the typical orthodox right winged patriarchical angle…

    I dont really fit in with the guys… Never did… I just found this website out n im hooked… I hope this community is inclusive for folks like me… I wanted to connect with other like minded cis or trans women… but for now i just wanna express my views on the topic n hopefully learn a little n maybe preach a little. I would love any feedback on this.

    I find Hijabs Beautiful… even in guy mode i pretend my black hoodie is my hijab… i have a fundamental disagreement with the concept of niqaabs because when enforced i find them oppressive n when they are worn consensually i find them to be shallow and narcissistic.

    … The audacity to not show one’s face in a social setting is a deal breaker for me… A face is what one uses to express themselves non-verbally n i believe i have a fundamental right to express my own and read other people’s facial expressions when in a social setting…

    So to me this choice of what to wear, what to cover n what to bear is more complex than simply being about an individual’s personal choice of attire. Communication is Key in any Social Setting… n So we bear the consequences of What are we communicating … How much we are communicating… in any public setting… How much of our Internal State do we want to expose or hide from the world…

    We cannot Walk Naked on the street just because only we have the right to our bodies… We will be breaking a very well established Social Contract if we do so and there are laws against such things… No one is trying to Oppress Female or Male sexuality in this case… We do this to protect other children, women (n maybe even men if we squint our eyes enough lol) from Indecent Exposure.

    I dunno about you but if i was just minding my own business and all of a sudden a hot naked hunk or a pretty nude girl appeard out of nowhere… My sexual arrousal will be triggered… Its not a Mental Process… Its a Biological Process… I have no Control over it… Dont get me wrong… if I commit a Crime after such arousal then only i should be held responsible alone… but I shouldnt be shamed for feeling sexually aroused in the first place. My Consent to be sexually aroused is equally important as my right to wear a Halter Top.

    Now i agree being in a Bikini is not the same as being naked… but no one on this planet can deny that its Naked Adjacent… it is a Hyper-Sexualized piece of clothing… im sure I can find some queer desi bisexual or lesbian women to back me up on this. Bikinis are HOT! HOT! HOT! To claim that Bikinis or the Gorgeous Body wearing it shouldn’t be sexualized is to deny Human Sexuality itself regardless of one’s gender… I do not believe it is an Authentic Statement … its not an Honest Claim.

    I mean as a transgendered person … i cant wait to try on cute bikinis with my wife on our honeymoon as we sail across the great canadian lakes on our yatch… wooh just lost myself for a sec there (swooning…) … hey i can hear you gals giggle on the inside… but trans people in a bikini can be really pretty too… you should google it 😉

    The point is … Yes I will be taking Pictures on the Yatch but only with my Wife… Not with my Mum n Dad there because I value their Comfort zones, their Upbringing and their Cultural Ties… Suddenly the decision about what to wear becomes something bigger than Me alone… bigger than my personal needs… bigger than my own choice…

    … n i will Not be posting those pics on Social Media for the entire world to see… because not only do I value my own Privacy… but also because I will take into consideration how those pictures will reflect on my parents… Theres nothing Patriarchical about this notion… It is an Issue about Modesty and Privacy in a public setting… Its about Keeping the Family Jewels nice and secure.

    So we as women (if you could be so kind as to include me 🙂 pretty please! ) … Especially us Indian women… cis or trans… should not feel so Surprised n Shocked when narrow minded Desi Incel Netizens go ape-shit bonkers… Yes we should feel mad… but to expect a different reaction from these morons is to Kid ourselves… is to fool ourselves… its fantasy… I mean seriously What Else Did She Expect while sharing those pics publically?

    No im not at all justifying the completely disgusting misogynistic garbage that spews out of these peoples social media accounts… Im saying we as Millenials Overshare… And even here in Canada we have the concept of TMI (Too Much Information)… Do whatever you want in the privacy of your homes, But outside its ‘Matasya Nyayay’ … The Law of Fish… The Big Fish eats the Small Fish and so on… It is the fundamental Law of Nature…

    What im trying to say is you cannot Argue Ideology or Logic with a Predator… All you can hope for is to catch em in the act so you can Chemically Castrate them legally later on… Thats what we do to Sexual Predators here in Canada… Thats really all you can do…
    Even 2000 years later… Unless we become really good at altering human DNA… there will be Sexual Predators, There will be Misogynists… there will be Psychopaths…

    We need to Check both sides of the street while crossing… I know its unjust but it is a responsibility that we bear… because you cannot argue with newton’s laws of motion when an ignorant irresponsible drunk driver hits you with his gas guzzler. Similarly no matter how much progress we make as a civilization … you cannot logic your way out of an Angry Mob of Idiots… no matter how unjust and hypocritical they might be.

    We really need to excercise Caution, Discretion and make Careful Choices about what it is to Share and What it is to Over-Share in this post-modern technocratic social media laced world where every thought, every picture, every status update we make is going to stay online from here to eternity…. or a nuclear holocaust … which ever comes first.

    Appologies if ive said something offensive, It was not my Intention. Just Looking for some Sisterly Love and wanted to give my Unsolicitated Advice…

    Lots of Respect and Well Wishes
    Your Trans-Sister from Another Mister
    Anisha Keyz <3
    xoxoxoxo

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