Empowerment v.s. Oppression; Stripping and Hijab

I find it funny how both strippers and hijabis are seen as oppressed by many people. Particularly as I use both to increase my own personal freedom. Many Westerners see Muslim women as an oppressed group as they are “forced by their families cover up everything but their eyes” (not true in most cases) and equally many Muslims see Western women as oppressed as they “have to walk around naked for men to ogle at while the guys are all covered up” (also, nope).


I found an article a while back called “Burkas and Bikinis” which explores how both methods of covering women’s bodies and leaving them uncovered can be used for oppression and are essentially “two sides of the same coin”. The author states that both are forms of sexualisation and objectify the women in each scenario. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to find the link to show you, but I will hopefully find it again soon.  While there are several points in the article that I agree with, I feel that there are several other points to be made. Namely that neither covering nor uncovering has to oppress anyone.

It is true that both a bikini and hijab can be used to oppress women, but it is also true that both can be used for liberation. The main difference which leads to different results is how and why the women are wearing bikinis,  hijab or other types of veil. Are the women themselves choosing how they present themselves or do they simply feel that they have to? If they cover or uncover due to a feeling of obligation and not by choice, I would consider this oppression. This could be pressure from friends and family, bosses, society or even the laws of a particular country. If however, the women are happy choosing what they wear and how they present themselves, I would say that they are not being oppressed.  In fact, just the opposite!

Women who wear hijab do so for a variety of reasons and often not because they feel forced to. The same goes for those who wear the niqab (face veil). For many it’s a barrier between themselves and strange men. They can choose who gets to see how much of their body and hide or reveal however much they choose. Someone who wears a veil often does so because they want others to pay attention to them for their personality and intelligence and not because of their beauty or body. This is partially why I choose to wear hijab when I am not at work. No one can see that part of me when I choose for them not to.

Similarly, those who choose to wear revealing clothing often do so by choice and not because they feel they ought to or have to.  They feel proud of their bodies and comfortable in their own skin and so are not afraid to hide it. Women wear bikinis on the beach because they are comfortable to swim in and let’s be honest; don’t reveal much more skin than the average swimming trunks that men wear. In any case, many women who choose to show off skin are not even doing so to please men. Perhaps it’s just more comfortable to wear less on a hot day and enjoy the feeling of warm sunlight. Perhaps in their society, women’s bodies aren’t sexualised to the extent where they feel they have to cover it up, just in the same way men don’t feel they have to.  Many tribal people, both men and women, don’t see the chest area as being sexual and so little effort to keep it covered. To them, it is seen the same as leaving one’s face uncovered; it’s just another part of them.

young zulu couple dat

Are either of these Zulu people “oppressed” for baring their chests?

Women who strip also do it for a variety of reasons and often not because they feel that they have to. For some, the extra money gives them that bit more freedom. For others, it’s a chance to express and discover their own sexuality (like me) without doing anything that they don’t feel comfortable with. Of course, there are strippers out there who are oppressed people and this is often due to issues with the management rather than the job itself. This could be because the management frequently rips off the girls, because they pressure girls into doing things which they are uncomfortable with or improperly dealing with bad customers so that the girls don’t feel safe. I’m happy to say that this is not true in my case or any of the other girls working at my club.  The wages are fair, no one expects “extras” and those caught giving them are promptly booted out and likewise, bad customers who try to take advantage in any way are also quickly removed from the premises. We have a very safe, friendly environment where we are free to enjoy and express ourselves as we please.

I feel immensely lucky to have the opportunity to explore such opposites and make the most of them. I love the freedom that I gain from both in a way that so few others do.

Perhaps there is another question we should be asking ourselves. Why is it that both the West and Islamic worlds are so keen to discuss whether women are oppressed by how much or little they wear when no one gives a damn about how much men wear? No one I know of thinks of men as being oppressed when they wear neither swimming trunks nor when they cover themselves from head to toe.

So, which of these guys are oppressed? (a discussion you’re unlikely to find on the internet).


As far as I can see, it’s only a big deal when a woman is perceived as wearing too much or not enough. Frankly, who should bloody care anyway? As long as someone is wearing something they feel comfortable in, man or woman, it shouldn’t be anyone else’s business.


Best places to get good Islamic fashion and, in contrast, pole gear.

Like many other exotic dancers, I have what I refer to as a “me” or “daytime” wardrobe and a “stripper” one. Both need topping up occasionally, but from entirely different sources. I thought I would share some of my favorites for each with you.



Modest Islamic Fashion:

Ugaasadda Clothing

A new online shop created by fellow Somali blogger Ugaasadda. Her business is based in Canada and so offers good shipping rates to those who live there and in the USA. While that doesn’t apply to me, the shipping is decently priced for other countries. She has a beautiful selection of hijabs which are constantly changing in colour as they quickly go out of stock ans new colours are made. A personal favourite of mine is the Nectarine Crepe, pictured below. She also has several dresses and shirts which look fantastically stylish.


Kabayare Fashion

This is another North American Somali clothing  online shop. As their business has had more time to grow than Ugaasadda’s, they have a much larger selection which contains both Somali tradtional clothing, such as dirac and baati, and generally modest items. All of which are very styish.




Fancy going to the gym or out for a run, but concerned about your modesty? If that’s the case you can find sports hijabs in an abundance of colours as well as other modest, yet stylish gear. Just head on over to fellow blogger Fit Muslim Girl’s shop, who sells this brand on the side. I’m yet to buy from her, but I like the styles of her clothing and they all sound incredibly comfortable to work out in.



Pole Dancer Shoes & Clothing:


Mika Yogawear

For thoes of you who are into pole dancing soley for sport and would rather wear sporty pole outfits, Mika Yogawear has plenty of designs to chose from.  Their outfits focus on allowing one to dance on the pole effectively and comfortable rather than looking overly sexy.


Pleaser Shoes

Pleaser, as a brand, has to have the largest collection of pole dancing shoes available. They have a vast collection of shoes which contains platforms with heels between 5 1/2″ and 10″. Personally, I have no idea how anyone can manage to walk around, let alone pole dance in 10″ heels!! The red shoes below are 10″, for those of you who are curious. Some have a simple design while others are incredibly bold and interesting. The downside to ordering directly from the site is that you can only view prices after signing up for an account. Depending on where you live, it may also be easier to try a local store which can order in the pair that you like.


Banana Shoes

A fantastic place to get club shoes and outfits in the UK is Banana Shoes. They sell a range of brands, including Pleaser, Ellie Shoes and more. Since they are UK based, dancers in the UK and Europe will find better deals on shipping than they would on any US based sites, which should go without saying. An interesting thing I noticed they have that I’ve seen nowhere else are ballet heels, which keep the toes en point. They look intriguing, but excruciatingly painful.





Of course, there are many independent shops on eBay where both modest and overly sexy clothing can be found. Many come from shops in China and are very cheap to buy. You can’t always relay on the quality of these products, but if you wish to experiment with new looks without taking too much of a plunge financially, I recommend finding a few cheaply made versions first.

My Dear Anushka, the Stripper


shoe pile 2


It was a while before I finally found out that Anushka had been stripping. She had probably been at it for a good month or two before I caught her out, which is impressive since we live in a small flat together and have relatively little privacy.

One afternoon we were expecting a group of friends around for supper. I had finished making lamb curry (microwaved from Tesco’s) plus some fluffy rice and angero (not from Tesco’s), so I was focusing on looking presentable before everyone came over. Anushka was still in the kitchen working on her kapsa (Saudi chicken and rice).

I asked her if I could borrow a scarf of hers I liked. “Sure,” she said “It’s in my wardrobe somewhere. Go have a look and if you can’t find it I’ll help you.” So I went to her room to search for it. Now, it’s rarely easy to find anything in Anushka’s room. She is great at keeping the rest of the flat clean, but her room invariable looks as though it has been hit by a hurricane. Simply walking over to the other side, a mere four meters or so, can be extremely hazardous. It was tidy once, but this was long before she had moved in. Nevertheless, I made it over to her wardrobe without breaking anything. With difficulty, I manage to open her wardrobe doors and an avalanche of shoes come flying out. Anushka really is a shoe queen. I swear, she must have at least fifty pairs of shoes in there, which is incredible as it is such a tiny box-sized thing.

I find the scarf, the green McQueen, on the top of a pile towards the left side and put it on. Not bad, I thought to myself. Only the scarf’s skull design, it did give me a slight “Somali Pirate” look. I then gazed at Anushka’s massive shoe collection in chaotic pile at the bottom of the wardrobe. She has so many wonderful shoes. If we were the same size, I would borrow them whenever possible. At the top of the pile I could see a fair few impressive labels. It was too tempting not to have a quick rummage while I had the chance.

I dug in and began to explore. A pale pink Miu Miu mule sat at the top. An understated, yet sleek black kitten heel by Prada. A brightly coloured ballet pump decorated with cherry blossom by Mary Katrantzou. Many red soled Louboutins. How did she ever manage to find pairs? No wonder she was always running late! Then, my fingers wrapped around what looked like a clear plastic stripper shoe. Huh, she must have bought this to take to pole class. That’ll be interesting to see, I thought. She’s only danced in flats and bare feet before. Now I really wanted to fit in her shoes. Curse my big feet! I went rummaging again to see if I could at least find its partner. I didn’t find the pair to the clear stripper heel, but what I did find was even more interesting.

It was a giant stripper shoe with a platform decorated with a pattern of pound notes, Euros and Dollar bills, plus some I didn’t recognise. Then I looked closer and saw that it wasn’t just a pattern. The platform was stuffed full cash! And there was a wee slit on the side with Tips in big golden letters. What had I just found? The heel had to be a good eight inches tall! I was fairly dumbstruck for a minute before deciding that there was probably a very ordinary explanation. Anushka hoarded all kinds of one-of-a-kind shoes in her collection. Mind you, I suppose being a stripper was indeed a fairly ordinary explanation looking back.

I decided to question her quickly before our guests came. “Hey, Anushka! Are you sure the scarf looks alright?”

“Come here and show me then!” Drat, I had forgotten she would still be cooking. I could hear the voice of our other flatmate, so didn’t dare take the show out to her.

“Please? It will only take a minute. And I’m trapped in your maze of a room.”

She gave a heavy sigh. “Really? Fine I’m coming. If my rice burns it’s your fault.” As soon as she popped in, I practically shoved the shoe in her face.

“What is this?!” I said waving it around like a loony.

Anushka’s facial expression froze for a few seconds before she collected herself. “You found them! That’s where I keep my cash stashed for emergencies. I haven’t been able to find it in ages! Thanks!”

“You’re telling me you use stripper shoes as some kind of piggy bank? Huh.” I was a bit crestfallen then. That actually made sense. But wait a minute… “So you keep like seven different currencies in here just in case?”

“Leftover money from holidays and stuff. Yeah.”

Drat. That checked out too. But hang on… “Okay, okay. Yeah, I see the leftover Euros from Spain in there. And the Austrailian Dollars from that trip you were talking about. But what about the Hong Kong Dollars? You’ve never been there.”

My aunt gave those to me because they look cool.” She told me coolly.

“Your aunt just gave you three $1,000 bills as a keepsake? I know your family has money and all, but come on! That’s like, 90 quid each! And three 1,000 bills look exactly the same.”

And then she crumbled. She closed the door hastily and hissed at me. “Okay, fine. But you must swear what I tell you must not leave this room.”

“I knew it!” I hissed back. “Why Annie, why?!” I was both shocked and fascinated. Shocked that Anushka had hidden something like this from me and that, well, it was Anushka doing something like this. Had it been one of my non-Muslim friends, I would probably still have been shocked, but not like this. I was also fasinated about the whole thing. What did she get into it? Why did she do it? It certainly wasn’t for the money. What was it like?

I bombarded her with questions until the smoke alarm went off.



From Ballerina to Rocking the Pole

Something that provokes curiosity in both the other girls and customers alike is how does someone go from being a good Muslim girl to a stripper in the first place? While I can’t speak for the few other Muslim dancers I have heard about, I can attempt to explain my own story and a bit of Anushka’s since she was the one who lead me into it. Truth be told, it was a slow process. I’ll start with our first transition from classical dancer/non-dancer to a rather modern type.

When I was little, I used to do ballet. I was fairly good at it and moved up grades with relative speed. I often got a lead role in the end of term show and even won some competitions back in the day. This was put to an end when hit puberty at around twelve and I began to develop hips, a bum and a hint of bosom. Several of my aunts began hinting to my parents that perhaps I was a bit old to be doing this type of dancing as I had to wear such form fitting gear. My parents eventually agreed and forbid me to carry on dancing. I loved ballet and was deeply saddened by this.  I now know that it is in fact possible to pursue ballet while wearing more appropriate clothing. A quick Google on “Muslim dancer” or “Muslim ballerina” can show you.



Once I was in my first year at university, I had a quick look through all the different sports and activities offered at the Sports Union. Seeing that they did ballet classes, I immediately knew which I wanted to do. No one could stop me from dancing now!

I told Anushka, one of my flatmates, that I had decided to take up ballet again and how excited I was by it. Her eyes lit up and she suggested we do some type of dancing together. Since she had never done ballet before, we decided to choose something we were both beginners at so we could be in the same class.

The Sports Union at uni didn’t have a suitable ballet class for me since they were all aimed at beginners. Anushka and I then started to search for a local dance center where I could find a good ballet class and where we could find a class that the two of us liked. We found one and began to search through all the differnt kinds of lessons they offered. Salsa? Nah. Ballroom? Nope. Tap and jazz? Meh. Then Anushka caught sight of something that made her almost squeal. “Oh look Henna, they do pole dancing! How cool it that!” I eyed her suspiciously, nope sure if she was being sarcastic or was genuinely intrigued by the pole dancing classes. “Seriously, pole dancing? No offence, but I think you’s make a really funny pole dancer. In fact. so would I.”

This made her grin more. “Exactly! Let’s do it for a laugh! Look, it’s an all girls’ class, so no harm in doing it. And besides, I hear it’s really good exercise. Pole is probably much better at toning all your muscles than ballet.”

She had a point. Plus, it would be funny to see the look on people’s faces whenever we told them we did pole dancing. It was decided. Plus, it turns out you can also do pole dancing while modestly dressed. It’s just much harder to grip onto the pole.



Pole dancing is great fun and really is fantastic for the body. I also know a few blokes who take pole dancing just to tone up and increase their overall strength. There is absolutely nothing wrong with your average Muslimah taking pole lessons. Most of the girls we took the classes with had never seen the inside of a strip club, let alone worked in one. It is essentially a form of vertical gymnastics that takes years of training to perfect. There were other factors that played a part in Anushka and I turning from vertical gymnasts to fully fledged strippers.

The Highs and Lows of Being Hijabi

There are many reasons why Muslim women and girls choose to wear or not wear a hijab. Each has their own very personal story behind it. Many feel that it gives them respect. That instead of focusing on their beauty or (lack of), people must appreciate them for their intelligence, wit and personality and find wearing the hijab to be liberating. Others do it because they wish to feel closer to Allah and that by wearing one they show their loyalness to him. Some wear it simply because they think it looks good. For me it was partly because I feel culturally connected to the piece, but for the most part because I wanted to show the world that I’m Muslim and not afraid to let everyone know.


When you wear the hijab, it becomes a part of your identity. Much like being British, female or Muslim. When you pass another hijabi in the street, you acknowledge one another with that knowing smile and an “Assalamu alaikum”. Even if you have never seen this person before in all your life. It’s kind of like a part of a secret sisterhood. Only of course, it isn’t at all secret. Anyone can spot someone wearing hijab miles off. It’s also kind of similar to when you see another person who’s also wearing a t-shirt by your favourite YouTuber, in my case Markiplier, and you give them a high-fiving and complement them on their fantastic taste in TouTube channels (this actually happened once). On a slightly different level of course, but you catch my drift.

The hijab is also great on a superficial level. Don’t feel like styling your hair today? No problem; shove a scarf over it. Don’t feel like washing your hair just yet? Hide it under a brightly coloured scarf. Having one of those days when your hair resembles a troll doll and nothing you do can tame it? You know the answer. Have a hideous pulsing growth on the back of your neck? You should probably get that checked out by a doctor. But in the meantime, shove a scarf over that mofo! Not to mention, there is a near endless possibilities with different colours, patterns and styles. It’s so much easier that cutting and dying your hair all the time. Alternatively, if you DO feel like dying your hair and do a really shitty job like I did once (it was an awful orangey pink) and want no one to see the disaster area on your head, wearing the hijab is also a great way to conceal that.

Having said that, it isn’t always easy wearing one in public in Western countries. I rarely have any trouble here in Scotland. Most people seem to be fairly used to seeing hijabis in my adopted city and I’m treated as normally as I would if I had been wearing a hat. The same goes for London in general. The center is so diverse that you can wear almost any garment from anywhere in the world and still blend in. The part of London I grew up in has a more suburban feel to it with not all that many people who don’t look “native” so to speak. I was never harassed or made to feel unwelcome, but I did attract a lot of stares on a regular basis when I first started wearing my hijab. Then again, that may have been because people were used to seeing me without it.

The the places where I DO get hassled tend to be either in the small villagers where people tend to be naturally insular, the US, Korea and continental Europe.  For example, when I was in Orlando, Florida last year, I had several people come up to me and say along the lines of “Honey, you know you don’t have to wear that anymore? You’re in America!” Why yes! I did know exactly which country I was in. Good for me. I don’t feel badly towards the few who said that. They may have been grossly misinformed, but they were just trying to be helpful. Perhaps I should have let them know that they didn’t have to show their hair if they didn’t want to either. Others were less friendly and told me the usual “Go back to your own country, terrorist!” Unsettling, but again, not too bad.

One of the worst experiences I’ve had while wearing a headscarf in public was on a street in Spain. I was on holiday with several mates and wee were wandering around looking for somewhere to eat at(i.e. minding our own business). I was the only one of us wearing a scarf. We stood chatting for a moment trying to decide whether to pick a restaurant on close by or keep trying to find this particular place for tapas. I noticed a woman staring at me intently slightly further up the road. I figured she was just another starer, so ignored her. We eventually decided on a place and continued to walk up the road, the woman’s eyes still locked onto me. As we were about to pass she called out in Spanish “Why do you wear that? This is Spain, not a place for barbarians. Take that rag off your head!” We then started to move more quickly. She called out again “I said take it off!” and just as I was passing her she lunged forward and grabbed a hold of my hijab, yanking it hard. I yelped in pain a surprise and felt myself flying towards her. She then proceeded to tug at my scarf and hair, chocking me in the process. My friends all tried to bat her off and shouted threats towards her. She became maddened and started to scratch me and bite my ear. In the end I was able to throw her off, knocking the air out of her and we all made a run for it. Needless to say, my pals and I were all in a state of shock straight afterwards.

We found our way to the restaurant and tried to look as composed as possible when the waiter appeared and lead us to our seats. He clearly noticed something was up. He kept glancing at us nervously and asked if we were okay. Once we had all sat down and the dazed feeling started to fade and I felt a sharp pain in my right ear where the mad woman had bitten me. Before long, much to my embarrassment, I started to cry like a little girl. The waiter returned and asked what was wrong and so we (or rather my pals since I was still blubbering like a baby) told him what had just happened outside. He was absolutely wonderful. Not only did he have lots of comforting words and offer to fetch the police, but he organised for my meal to be on the house. I left him a massive tip.

I suppose what it boils down to is that there are both ugly and generous people wherever you go. Nevertheless, it is definitely a different experience when you wear a hijab and when you don’t. It’s a shame how wearing one can bring out the worst in some people. What I find strange is that the same piece of clothing provokes such different reactions depending on whether you wear a scarf over your hair or around your neck. Whether you do or whether you don’t wear it, it is a personal choice to make. Be sure it is for the reasons you feel rather than fear of those around you. The choice is yours and yours alone.