Poem: Not What I Meant

In this poem, the author explores media representations in which women take off their hijab for one reason or the other, often to satisfy Western standards or the male gaze.

As the girl on the TV takes off her hijab, I watch in awe, 

I thought people would accuse her of breaking the law, 

I thought they’d get scared, run off or at least yell, 

But now they’re expecting not a bomb, but a bombshell, 

The camera pans in slow motion, her hair blows in the breeze, 

She seems almost happy that everyone “accidentally” sees. 

Whether it falls off in a fight, or she takes it off for her boy, 

Seeing women lose their hijabs brings viewers a sick joy, 

As they’re invited to imagine the body beneath the cover, 

She is no longer painted a fighter, but as a lover. 

I liked it better when you thought I was dangerous and got scared, 

At least then I didn’t feel so violated every time you stared, 

I liked it better when you wanted me to go to  Saudi instead, 

At least then I knew you didn’t want me in your bed. 

I liked it better when my problem was a woman patting me down, 

Not a man wanting to feel me up when so one else is around. 

We live in an era of new oppression that pretends to “represent”, 

When I said I wanted to be seen, this is not what I meant.