Image is very powerful. It gives us conscious and unconscious impressions about any person. We may sometimes make quick judgments about the people from the way they dress; we may think these thoughts whether the person is wealthy or poor, conservative or liberal, well-educated or plain, businessmen, professors or doctors. The way the person dresses tells too much about him or her.
This applies to women as well. For instance, in the Middle East, there is a conservative culture that puts some restrictions on the way a woman looks and the way a woman dresses. It is rooted either to religious obedience or traditional customs. There are strict restrictions on the way the women dress, not in all, but in some countries of the Middle East. There are some liberal countries in the Middle East where women are free to wear anything they might feel comfortable with, there are some countries that are very strict or conservative about the way women dress, and there are some countries that are moderate.
Generally, the vast majority of the women there wear headscarves and some minority wear veils. These women in conservative, strict counties did not choose to dress in that way; they do not have the option. Some of them might be dressing due to religious reasons, but some of them are just abiding by the social customs or governmental orders that impose a particular way in dressing for women. They cannot rebel and dress in the way they want because they will look odd in the community or break the law.
Based on that, in these Middle Eastern communities, there is a kind of stereotype of how the women should dress that shapes the way the people judge the women. They make a big issue out of the way women dress and their looks. People judge these women, assuming that these women are decent and respectful or not at all (these would be the women who do not cover their hair by headscarf or their face by veil). The culture influences the way the people think and make a correlation between decency, morality and the looks of women by the way they dress.
Some people jump to conclusions about them based on the influence of culture which drives them to think in that way. These people might have pre-judgmental thoughts about women who appear to be very conservative and believe they are very decent, while the other liberal women are not. These people do not understand and are not aware about the spirit of women; every woman likes to look beautiful by showing her hair or her face.
The point is the women do not have to cover their bodies in a radical way to prove that they are decent and respectful; there might be liberal looking women who dress in very modern way, but are more decent and respectful than other women who cover their whole bodies.
Their behaviors determine their character, so people have to wait before judging, not jump to conclusions just because of the way a woman dresses. Decency and morality is not derived from a headscarf or veil; it stems from the spirit, character and attitude. Decency and morality have nothing to do with the way a woman looks.
Shakespeare once said, “All that glitters is not gold.” My analogy; “glitter” is the headscarf or veil from some people’s perspective, not to mention appearances can be very deceptive and it may give fake impression or attitude.
Image is very powerful and can manipulate anyone. We have to wait for one’s demeanor to shine through before judging their character, because no one has the right to judge women based on the way they look or dress.