To combat our world’s increasing xenophobia, I decided I was going to wear a hijab for one night out on the town. I would don this sacred headscarf for just one evening, to fight in solidarity with my Muslim sisters. I would stand up against society’s insidious prejudice towards women of Islamic faith.
And I totally would have. Except it got kind of late and I was like, pretty sleepy? And then I accidentally fell asleep in my apartment.
Every culture has a rich history behind its customs, and to unfairly judge a culture based solely on its superficial qualities is a gratuitous expression of privilege… is a thing I would have said had I left my apartment that night instead of falling asleep in front of a Mr. Ed rerun on TV Land.
When I told my friends I was embarking on this socio-political journey, my girlfriends asked me, “Aren’t you worried about getting harassed?” And suggested some of our male friends come along to protect me. I very bravely said no, and told them their hesitancy was even more of an incentive. I was going to experience what it was like to live in fear, even if for one night (except not because – ugh – my bed was just so warm, you know?). Ultimately, I am happy they did not come with me, because if so, they would have just seen me get real hyped up around 6:30 p.m., realize I was too early, turn on Mr. Ed to kill some time before I went out, then fall sound asleep by 8:30 p.m. (which, in my defense, in winter, feels a lot like 2 a.m., am I right?!).
It is important to remember when attempting social experiments like these: you have to be prepared for the stares, questions, whispers that will inevitably follow. You must stand up to these microaggressions and proclaim, “Enough is enough!”
Or you can wake up in the middle of a startling nightmare about talking horses and then realize that it’s 11:30 p.m. and that by now, leaving the house is just gonna be a whole thing and also you’ve drooled into your friend’s beautiful hijab she lent you, and you probably shouldn’t mention that part to anybody.
It is difficult for our privileged Western culture to reconcile the fact that they have prejudices in need of deconstruction. It is difficult for us to teach people what is offensive and not offensive; what is right or wrong. So difficult that it really did exhaust me just thinking about it. Exhausted me to a point where I was, presumably, in REM sleep by 8:45, 9:00 tops.
Spending a night almost wearing a hijab taught me a lot about myself and how I view the world. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to practice empathy. Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. See the world through others’ eyes. And if I were to impart any lesson upon the American youth of tomorrow, it is this: It’s the thought that counts.
Broti Gupta is a writer/student and wants more twitter followers because not a lot else is going on with her. Please humor her? @brotigupta