North American Muslim women who wear some form of head covering face an increasing amount of harassment and unwanted comments in public spaces. Especially after the election of Trump, Muslim women have expressed concerns over wearing a headscarf in public. Women are sharing tips for how to stay resolute and defend themselves against attackers, and others have even made the decision to stop wearing a headscarf altogether or to wear a hat instead.
Instead of being afraid of what others might say, Canadian artist and student Lindsay Budge flipped the script and created an art piece that calls out public harassers for their harmful words. Budge is a Muslim woman who wears a black abaya (floor-length black gown), headscarf and niqab face veil. After receiving numerous negative and critical comments about her dress in public, Budge decided to create a 3D art piece that highlights these hateful words.
The work is titled “Privilege: Or, Shit People Say to Muslim Women” and it features a 5’8″ piece of black abaya fabric on which Budge has written some of the offensive comments that she has received in public. You can read an in-depth interview with Budge, which was conducted by Zainab bint Younus.
The comments that have been said to Budge point to several common stereotypes of Muslim women: they are oppressed, they are violent terrorists or they are forever foreigners to North American culture. But the fact that people feel liberated to say such hateful and ignorant things to a complete stranger also highlights that many Americans and Canadians have difficulty seeing a covered Muslim women, especially one wearing a niqab, as an equal individual. People say these offensive things without acknowledging that there is a human underneath the covering, an individual who cannot be reduced to these one-dimensional statements.
It is a powerful gesture for Budge to take control of the narrative and to show that there is an individual underneath the fabric who is personally wounded by these hateful words. When looking at the piece, viewers cannot ignore how overwhelming and hurtful these statements are for Muslim women. Budge is calling out those who feel privileged to say such things in public by illustrating that these words have a real impact. She is not a voiceless victim of Islam or a violent terrorist, but instead a complex individual who is using her creative talents to resist these persistent stereotypes.