Wednesday, August 20, 2014

‘Jilboobs’: A storm in a D-cup!
Julia Suryakusuma

Like most women, Muslim women want to be seen as physically attractive. Many also like to be seen as pious. These two things are often perceived as being contradictory, so how do we reconcile them? Simple: Wear a “jilboob!” 

A whaaat? Yes, the jilboob, a contraction of jilbab (Muslim headscarf) and boobs (breasts), a term Indonesians use to refer to Muslim women who wear the headscarf but at the same wear clothes that accentuate their curves — in particular their bust. Obviously, “jilboobers” believe, “when you’ve got it, flaunt it”!

And all this time you thought the jilbab was worn to guard women’s modesty huh? Well, think again!

Mark Twain once said “clothes make the man” and they obviously make the woman as well. 

What we wear determines our identity, so are jilboobs a clever way for women to merge their religious, gender and sexual identities? Are they being hypocritical by doing so? After all, they are covering everything but, in fact, hiding nothing. 

I’m actually surprised that the jilboob phenomenon has only become controversial now, as it’s 
been around for almost 10 years. Maybe it’s because the ranks are expanding (and the boobie sizes increasing!). 

Why, there are even jilboobers Facebook fan pages, as well as twitter hashtags. Check them out!

One way or another, the jilbab has often generated controversy. There was the political/ideological jilbab, worn as a symbol of resistance when the New Order was repressing Muslim groups. 

In the reform era, there was the obvious trend of jilbabisasi (jilbabization) with increasing numbers of women wearing them as an expression of Islamic identity and a reaction to a perceived influx of westernization. 

And if previously jilbab was donned by rural and uneducated women, in the reform era it became fashionable for the well-heeled, businesswomen, officials and intellectuals to wear it. 

Different styles of jilbab quickly emerged: Jilbab gaul (jilbab for hanging out), jilbab trendi (trendy jilbab) and jilbab modis (stylish jilbab). High-fashion designers, such as Ghea, Barli Asmara, Biyan and Carmanita, among others, have been cashing in on the booming trend, with each making their own particular style of busana muslim (Muslim wear). 

All take care to adhere to the prescribed, commonly understood Islamic standards of modesty and not reveal the shape of the female body.

But now you have jilboobs that do. What gives? Jilboobs are simply the convergence of trends toward religiosity in Indonesia with globalization, which brings with it Western standards of beauty — currently obsessed with big boobies. 

Just look at female Hollywood celebrities: Pamela Anderson, Victoria Beckham, Salma Hayek, Jessica Simpson, Beyoncé, Halle Berry, Dolly Parton, and, of course Heidi Montag. All have (reportedly) had breast augmentations. 

In Hollywood, it’s de rigueur to “accessorize” yourself with big breasts, in the same way that it’s de rigueur to accessorize with expensive designer handbags and shoes. And in an era when celebrities are role models, it’s not surprising that big breasts have become a fashion item. 

According to a plastic surgeon I know, she can do up to 15 breast augmentations per month, and the trend is on the rise. In Indonesia, it’s not just celebrities like Krisdayanti, Julia Perez or Farah Quinn who get them, but also ordinary folks: Young women who claim their breasts are sagging due to breastfeeding, or who are about to get married and want to be more appealing to their husbands.

Women want to show off their assets, whether natural or unnatural. So if you’ve paid a truckload of money to get your breasts blown up, naturally you want to expose (sic!) them. 

But what about your Muslim identity which you also want to show off too? Easy — throw a piece of cloth over your head, but do it fashionably! 

So many Indonesian celebrities are doing it too that many feel they’ve got to follow the trend! And that’s all the jilboob is: a fashion trend.

Predictably, the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) reacted in a knee-jerk manner, issuing a fatwa saying jilboobs are haram (forbidden by Islamic law). 

It’s the usual reaction: A bunch of men trying to show their power by using religion to tell women how to dress and behave. 

How about lowering your gaze guys, instead of staring at those lovely breasts? What about making boobie-ogling haram instead, you MUI men?

But is wearing a jilbab really a must for Muslimahs (Muslim women) according to Islam? 

It’s seen as a given that it’s wajib (obligatory) for Muslim women to wear a jilbab. Hardly anyone asks any questions, when in fact many could — and should. Why and by whom were women told to wear jilbab/hijab? What’s the history behind it? 

Why do women have to cover up their aurat (forbidden parts), which for them is from head to toe, while for men it’s only from the waist to the knee?

One woman who did ask was Nong Darol Mahmada, one of the members of Jaringan Islam Liberal (JIL, Islam Liberal Network) who wrote a thesis on the subject. 

She found that although the answer is not black and white, basically the jilbab is a cultural tradition, not a religious obligation. 

It’s also a political power construct. She points out that in Indonesia, the first visual indicator that a region is implementing sharia is the introduction of compulsory wearing of jilbab, complete with a body (sic!) to oversee women, to make sure they adhere to the “Muslim dress code”. “As if jilbab is Islam itself”, she says.

For me, jilbab all too often stands for little more than the superficialization of Islamic precepts, the hypocrisy of many Muslims (both men and women), and even the idolizing of a rule that may not even be a rule at all. 

So what’s the fuss about jilboobs? It’s simply a storm in a bra cup!

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