Words from the Head of a Hairy Feminist

I an an unshaven, elderly feminist. There are many things I have objected to over the long years in which I have been a feminist. One has been the necessity for females to wear head coverings in NSW in secular situations. I knew head coverings were required in Christian churches but that did not particularly bother me as I am not a theist. But I did object, as a child, to having to wear a hat to my secular, state school. This was not worn, as today, in the playground as protection from the sun. It was worn on the train to and from school and with white gloves, so as to demonstrate that we were polite young ladies. Prefects would put our names down for detention if they were not worn.

My mother would not dream of going to a shopping centre without hat and gloves, right up to the 1980s. I thought it was ridiculous but harmless.

I plopped a necessary head covering on, out of deference, when ever I was constrained by family or circumstances to go to church.

But the fact that when I was, from the early 1960s, a young articled clerk and then a solicitor and had to wear a hat to demonstrate respect for our court system every time I had to front up to court in my job, irked me. I kept a neutral cream coloured hat on a “hat stand” in my office and wore it with anything I happened to have on that day

I do not mind hats but I do not want to be forced into wearing them unless I wish to. I understand they are sometimes worn by women in the presence of very fast horses, out of deference to such proud beasts. But my early experiences tell me I will only ever wear a hat in high UV ray conditions when I am taking my dog for a walk.

Men, too, have been constrained in various ways over the years to wear or not wear hats. They too have had to do this in symbolic ways, very often in a way that was directly opposite of what was expected of women (surprise, surprise). But I do understand that a hat is also permitted for men, as for women, in the presence of very fast horses.

But despite my early, negative hat experiences, the current outcry of the conservatives of this country at womens’ choices here, on occasions to wear a hijab bewilders and baffles me.

We are still allowed to wear hats and scarves here. But do they understand, firstly, how recently that became a choice? Women here in Australia are no longer constrained by society to wear hats or scarves in court but it’s only recently happened. I have been told the necessity for women to wear hats in court was changed with the removal of ties from the police uniform. I agree there are parts of the world in which certain dress codes are differently regarded as polite dress for both women and men. These can differ from country to country. They usually involve putting extra clothing or footwear or taking something off. It is only recently that we have softened some of ours.

As a hairy feminist some of my opinions are very negatively regarded these days and I am often being told that women,  in particular, need freedom of choice. They can chose, if they wish, to be contoured with underwire, to shave off every hair not on their head, to opt for plastic surgery enhancement, to wear spectacular stiletto heels. All of these can be physically damaging and I often argue about the good sense of these choices.

But surely anyone who wishes, male or female, should have the freedom to wear a harmless, non invasive headscarf, a hijab or even a hat, if that is what they want to do and as long as it is not made compulsory to wear it in any secular area of our society? Even the horses would probably agree!

How could this possibly harm anyone?


About Anne Powles

I am retired from paid employment. During my working life I have been variously and sometimes contemporaneously, wife, mother of four, lawyer, teacher and psychologist. I have also been a serial education junkie. As are we all, I have been an observer of the world around me. Here I have recorded some of my memories, observations and theorisings.
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