RIO DE JANEIRO—If the Egyptian lady beach volleyball players in their shin-length pants and long-sleeved tops are modest Muslims, does that make their Canadian opponents in flesh-flashing itsy-bitsy bikinis shameless exhibitionists?
Because if one posit is true, and a statement of propriety, then surely the opposite concept would hold.
And if Doaa Elghobashy further chooses to wear a hijab in competition — unlike teammate Nada Meawad — as an act of piety, guess that would render Kristina Valjas and Jamie Broder godless harlots.
When the implication was put to the Canadians in the mixed zone Thursday, after they defeated the duo from Egypt in straight sets — 21-12, 21-16 — in their last pool group match, they were momentarily nonplussed. Believe me, nobody wants to express an opinion that might be interpreted as Islamaphobic.
“I think it’s great that everyone is able to choose what they’re comfortable playing in,” said Broder. “We’re comfortable playing in bikinis and that’s what we choose. And they choose their uniform. That’s something that’s great about the sport in 2016.”
Revealing gorgeous defined rib-cages and taut abs — the beauty of the female athletic body — unless the female body is considered too tempting to exhibit and must therefore be shrouded to an extent which still safeguards virtue, as defined by men.
Beach volleyballers tend to wear as little as possible. Some fembos maintain the sport is inherently sexist, little more than a beauty pageant transferred to a sandlot. Indeed, until the London Olympics four years ago, females were obliged, under federation rules, to wear one-piece bathing suits or bikinis “with the lower part no more than 7 cm from top to bottom at the hip.’’
That’s barely-there attire.
Elghobashy, the right blocker on the Egyptian team, has emerged as quite the novelty act down in Copacabana, enthusiastically embraced by mostly Brazilian and hugely raucous crowds at the volleyball venue, eager to show their appreciation for a Muslim woman pursuing a sport so dear to their hearts. At this site, with its blasting music and scantily-dressed women dancing up a samba storm on the sidelines, just about everybody lets it all hang out. And everybody wants to take a selfie with 19-year-old Elghobashy, who’s become something of an unwilling celebrity, growing increasingly impatient with journalists asking about her hijab.
In an interview with the Ahram website last year, Elghobashy complained about being stared at when she took part in the 2015 Mediterranean Beach Games in Italy. But surely it’s human nature to notice the unusual and be curious about it. No offense is meant.
Elghobashy calls the hijab-topped togs her “Islamic outfit.’’
While the beach volleyball federation has relaxed its rules allowing women to wear shorts as an accommodation for religious and cultural requirements in societies where bathing attire is considered unacceptable, the hijab was only permitted for Rio, in this sport, as a last-minute concession.
As an aside, it should be noted that in her politically convulsed homeland — where former democratically elected president Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood was ousted in a 2013 military coup and has been sentenced to death — the present regime is trying to discourage the hijab, last month banning the head covering for all female lecturers at Egypt’s premier public university in Cairo. (It’s estimated some 90 per cent of Egyptian women wear the hijab.)
Elghobashy is by no means alone in opting to cover her head at the Games. A major media to-do was made when fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad became the first American Olympian to compete in a hijab this past week.
“A lot of people don’t believe that Muslim women have voices or that we participate in sport,” the New Jersey-born Muhammad told reporters after elimination from the saber competition. (She remains in the highly-ranked U.S. team contention.) “It’s not just to challenge misconceptions outside the Muslim community but within the Muslim community. I want to break the cultural norm.”
She’s a slick package, Muhammad, daughter of a retired narcotics detective, with a master’s degree in international relations and her own fashion line; invited to the White House to celebrate Eid, guest on the Stephen Colbert show, chosen by Time Magazine as one of the 100 most influential young people in America. Rightly mocking of Donald Trump’s threat to halt Muslim immigration to America.
Muhammad told CNN last week: “I think (Trump’s) words are very dangerous. When those types of comments are made, no one thinks about how they really affect people. I’m African-American. I don’t have another home to go to. I grew up in Jersey. All my family’s from Jersey. It’s like, well, where do we go?”
They can wear whatever they want, I totally agree.
But as a feminist, an agnostic, and someone who’s travelled extensively in repressive Islamic countries where females have absolutely no choice — places like Afghanistan, where uncovered women will be beaten with a stick — I absolutely won’t laud the hijab as a symbol of inclusiveness at the Olympics.
It is a religious and political trapping imposed on far too many women by patriarchic societies.
I reject the underlying insinuation of a superior female virtue.
I reject submission to man or God.