As issues of cultural identity and beauty shift in an increasingly mobile world, British researchers wondered how wearing a hijab — a head covering worn by some Muslim women — might impact body image in a Western society.
The researchers hypothesized that the hijab may actually promote a healthier body image in women who wore it. Their results, published in the British Journal of Psychology, seem to support their theory. NPR has the details:
[T]he team surveyed nearly 600 Muslim women in Britain. About 200 said they never used the hijab. The others said they wore it at least sometimes. [Psychologist Viren] Swami and his colleagues also asked the women a whole slew of questions to measure how they felt about their bodies.
The difference between the two groups was small. But across all parameters, the women who wore the hijab, at least some of the time, had more positive views of their bodies on average. They had less desire to be thin. They appreciated their bodies more. And they weren't as influenced by media messages about beauty standards.
"The take-home message, I think, is maybe that individuals who challenge society's norms of beauty seem to have better body images," Swami tells NPR. "The hijab allows you to do that in a certain way [in Britain]. ... Feminism does the same thing."
Now, this is not to say that all women everywhere should wear the hijab if they want to have a more positive concept of their bodies. But it does shed light on the psychology of women who don't conform to the beauty standards society sets for them, and the value of marching to the beat of your own drum. After all, what is being a nonconformist if not loving yourself exactly as you are, no matter what others think?
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