The Islamic veil is an object that tends to incite deep feelings and diverse. Its practice and meaning has been much abused throughout history. In the context of the West, the question one might ask is: “In a free country, why women choose the veil?”
In a very intimate and thoughtful approach, three Muslim women living in UK talk about their experiences around issues of cultural memory, identity, self-censorship, feminism, politics and the media. In assessing the personal side of the veil, this documentary is able to articulate criticism and reflection while challenging popular perceptions and stereotypes.
Betty Martins, Brazilian director resident in the UK, has released an invaluable historical and communicative material, with music composed especially for the film by the Iranian-born composer Sanatian Noura. Giving to the veil a reflexive value, appreciating its experiential quality while excluding the popular discourse, this documentary presents the beauty and the complexities of the contemporary Muslim women who veils in the UK.
The Islamic Veil in an Intimate Perspective
“I Wasn´t Always Dressed Like This “is a documentary based on the personal stories with a poetic approach, of three Muslim women from different backgrounds living in the UK. The film focuses on the wearing of the veil as an active process, giving the veil a critical and intimate sight. Muslim women who choose to wear any form of veil (hijab, niqab) are part of a growing phenomenon. The implications of wearing a veil vary from nation to nation and from one culture to another. What the documentary does is put women interviewed as the narrative center around the use of the hijab or niqab. This breaks the traditional axis of stories about Muslim women, in which we are always the “other silent” explained from the imagination of the media, european feminism and patriarchy.
A Matter of Personal Agency
Betty Martins’s work is a valuable contribution to the work that from Islam and women’s movements is being done to change the discourse about Muslim women. This documentary breaks the construction of Muslim women as objects and the veil as a symbol of oppression, foregrounding what is really important when it comes to women: Subjectivity.
Consequently, this frees the veil and women who wear it, of ideological burdens that have been placed on them throughout the world and history, revealing what covering means to the individual woman, as an expression of her personal experience, recognizing the appropriation ofn the hijab or niqab, as a decision regarding a process of empowerment on identity, faith, body, spirituality and personal history.