The ability to choose is paramount to the freedom and autonomy of women globally. Patriarchy has invested much in ensuring that women have reduced opportunities and are penalized severely should they attempt to step outside of traditional gender roles. In the West, we often look to the Middle East as the epitome of female oppression thereby disregarding how this understanding is Islamophobic as well beneficial to patriarchy.
Comparing ourselves to other groups of women is not the path to achieving equality. Even when we disagree with the decisions that women make, we must remember that if each person has the right to determine their life’s path, this will immeasurably improve the circumstances for women globally. Obama recognized this when he gave his speech at Cairo University.
Though some have come to view the hijab as the ultimate symbol of women’s oppression, this can only be understood in this way if we purposefully forget that, for example, for many women in Iran, the hijab was donned in support of the revolution started by the Ayatollah Khomeini in rejection of the corrupt government that was controlled by Western nations. The hijab came to represent a rejection of Western decadence and deceit.