Are Hijabs The Answer to Combating Negative Body Image?

by Hannah Baxter


Not gonna lie to y’all, there are definitely days when I would prefer to wear both my sweatpants and my down comforter outside my apartment instead of doing the civilized thing of putting on “normal” pants. Like my sweatpants are second class citizens or something. Rude. 


ANYWAY, according to a recent study, it seems as though covering up on the reg leads to an improved body image. And not just a hoodie hiding third-day top knot hair coverage. The British Journal of Psychology has published a study suggesting that women who wear a hijab, or a head veil, have less body dissatisfaction than many Western women. Viren Swami, a psychologist at the University of Westminster, spoke to 587 Muslim women living in London, 369 who regularly wore a hijab, with an age range from 18-70 and a variety of ethnic backgrounds. 


He and his team administered several tests to measure personal attitudes towards the subjects’ bodies and discovered that those who wore a Western style of dress consistently, “scored higher on every scale of body dissatisfaction.” These women were also, “more likely to deem various forms of media an important source of information about being attractive,” and ranked their appearance as more important than women who wore hijabs. 


After discovering that it was not just faith-based reasoning that led to these beliefs, the scientists concluded that the hijab, “may act as a buffer against negative body image.” Aside from the atmosphere that most often accompanies the life of a woman in a hijab, mainly social and culture limitations on a woman’s freedom to say and act as she pleases, it is interesting to consider what a woman who is accustomed to Western dress might experience if she were to concede to wearing a hijab in public. 


I find it difficult to separate the preconceived notions of oppression I associate with this type of outfit (not that I don’t believe there are some women who make this choice themselves without feeling any undue pressure ) so this study is difficult for me to accept on a personal level. The idea of covering your face or body is fraught with contradictions about self-esteem, the male gaze, social conventions, propriety, and environmental context. Like I said before, there are definitely times I wish I could just rock a cape and my pajamas, but I am limited by dress codes and a sense of social obligation to look a certain way, namely dressed and showered. Plus, for the most part, I thoroughly enjoy picking out an outfit and accessorizing as I see fit. 


This is an argument that must consider both how woman view their bodies in relation to how they feel society expects them to look, as well as the conservative implications of the hijab, which are almost inescapable in any Western conversation about the outfit. The struggle for female self-confidence and positive body image should center less on what garments make certain women feel less insecure and more on women feeling content, self-assured and beautiful no matter where they are or what they’re wearing. 


So don’t judge me if you see me walking down 8th Avenue in platform creepers and a raggedy pair of yoga pants. I’m still feeling confident as fuck. 




images c/o:,,,

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