Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Women around the world have been increasingly vocal, alongside many men, and rightfully so, about the injustices they face. Often, it comes tied to some theocratic leader or political ideology bent on suppression of equal rights for women. All the while giving airy, arid, and empty statements about the equality of women, while lacking the substance to show for all the bluster (and blunder).

#WhiteWednesday or White Wednesday is one such manner of public protest. The founder of My Stealthy Freedom, Masih Alinejad, began White Wednesday in May of 2017. My Stealthy Freedom began on May 5 of 2014. In this, #WhiteWednesday is connected to My Stealthy Freedom as one of its outgrowths. Both are forms of public protest against the compulsory hijab law in Iran. Its surface manifestation is in the presentation of white headscarves or white pieces of cloth.

Before the 1979 Islamic revolution, many Iranian women wore clothing in the Western style of the time. However, with the imposition of Ayatollah Khomeini, as reported by the BBC in 2017, “Women were not only forced to cover their hair in line with a strict interpretation of Islamic law on modesty, but also to stop using make-up and to start wearing knee-length manteaus. More than 100,000 women and men took to the streets to protest against the law in 1979, and opposition to it has never gone away.”

Since May of 2014, women have been submitting photos and videos of defiance against the theocratic and rather patriarchal structures in Iran without the head coverings, women taking control of their individual lives, expressing solidarity in media to one another, and, in turn, inspiring other women too. In 2017, Alinejad said, “When I expressed my concern about [one contributor’s] safety, she replied that she would rather jeopardize her job than continue living under this oppression that the Iranian women have endured for the last 38 years.”

It has affected the cultures of other countries too. Even in Afghanistan or other countries where it is not mandatory in accordance with the law to wear a headscarf, many women and girls can be forced to wear one within the family. As you can see, the main point is about the individual freedom of choice of the woman to wear the headscarf, or not, rather than the headscarf itself, which becomes an imposition either by law or by familial bond(age) bound to custom.

As the White Wednesday campaign continues as an extension of My Stealthy Freedom, we can support those efforts in solidarity, as the rights for some already won are merely starting to be won by others.