Veiled Self-Acceptance

Alice Robb flags some new research about the hijab and body image:

study published in the August edition of the British Journal of Psychology suggests that the hijab actually offers some protection against the body dissatisfaction that plagues many Western women.

A team of psychologists, led by Malaysian-born British psychologist Viren Swami at the UK’s University of Westminster, interviewed 587 Muslim women in London, 369 of whom regularly wore some sort of hijab. Their ages ranged from 18 to 70; the mean age was 27. The majority – about 79 percent – were unmarried, and they represented several ethnic groups – Bengali, Pakistani, Indian, and Arab. More than three-quarters held an undergraduate degree.

Swami and his team gave the women several tests to measure their attitudes toward their bodies – and the women who wore Western dress scored higher on every scale of body dissatisfaction. When subjects were asked to look at several sketches of women’s bodies and pick the one they would most like to have, the choices of the women who wore the hijab more closely resembled the bodies they actually possessed. On a measure of “drive for thinness” – determined by answers to questions about preoccupation with body weight, fear of becoming fat, and excessive concern with dieting – women who didn’t wear the hijab scored, on average, 3.58 out of 6 points, compared to 2.87 for women who cover up. Women who wore Western dress also registered a higher degree of “social physique anxiety,” or concern with how others perceived their physical appearance: 3.26, versus 2.92, on the 6-point scale.

Previous Dish on veiling and beauty standards here.