Why is hijab always such a big deal?

Behind the Screen

I’m sure you’ve all seen the news story about the girl who’s suing Abercrombie & Fitch for discriminating against her hijab. It made the front page of MSN over the weekend and I have to say I’m a little iffy about the whole thing.

Of course I shouldn’t judge someone who wants to work at a place that is known for its scantily clad models (they had to cover their catalog with special plastic and a warning because people complained it was borderline pornography). The reason is because I myself used to work for *gasp* Victoria’s Secret.

Back when I first finished graduate school and was still looking to either get married or get a job 😉 I randomly decided to apply to Victoria’s Secret when I saw a sign that said they were hiring. After all I’d rather be making some sort of income rather than sitting at home waiting for the phone to ring.

I went to the interview, completed the paper work and was quite surprised to be hired. I ended up working in the beauty section of the store with all the lotions and potions and even though I was in full hijab no one seemed to care. I have to say that I actually was quite good with my sales. It was awkward though when guys came over to my checkout to buy thongs for their girlfriends. Another awkward moment was when this guy walked up to me and just kept saying, “Man you have really cool eyes.” I don’t know if he expected me to give him some free stuff for saying that or if he was just weird? Trust me, you meet a lot of characters when you work in customer service.

Then there was the time a little boy knocked over a bottle of perfume and it broke on the floor. I tried to be nice because the boy looked terrified, “It’s OK it was just an accident I’ll clean it up.” Then his mom whipped her head around and started pointing at me, “No no no! You knocked it over he didn’t do anything, he wasn’t even standing by the table.”

OK chill out! It’s not like you’re going to pay for it, I have no idea why she decided to attack me.

In any case these were just some of the things I dealt with in the retail world. I enjoyed the experience and hated it at the same time, but it was definitely something to learn and grow from.

But back to the girl who’s suing Abercrombie & Fitch. I guess I always knew that store went for a certain look. I’d been in there in the past and they’d recruit my friends with blond hair and blue eyes and ask them if they wanted to work there. I was never asked so I pretty much figured out what they were all about.

I have had other instances of discrimination specifically due to hijab which include not being hired for on-air television gigs (employers are very smart about the way they word things) as well as a very bizarre experience I had with Family Video which I’ll have to write about another time. But I’ve just had to move on and use my energy elsewhere. Sometimes I wonder if I should have done something more.

However, it begs the question, should employers be allowed to only hire a certain look? Should the girl get a chance to work at Abercrombie and Fitch even in hijab? What about Islamic schools that require all teachers to wear hijab in the school even if they’re not Muslim?

I’d love to read your take on the situation!