Feminist Suzanne Brogger: On the Necessity of Wearing a Hat

When I recently launched one of my books on French television, the Parisian publisher told me the following (and I’m not lying to you, I may add, this is the actual truth): ‘ — I couldn’t care less what you say about women and feminism and all that stuff, as long as you remember to say that your book is incredibly pornographic and … to be decolletee, and …’ The publisher looked with uncertainty at my hat and finally continued: — ‘and you can not wear anything on your head, people should be able to see your hair.

‘Needless to say, I didn’t follow his directives — except for the last one: I agreed to bare my head.However, I’m not very keen on doing so. Hair is a gender characteristic for women, as sure as bald women are more handicapped and wounded in their gender identification than are bald men. Hence I’m surprised that so many women are bare-headed and expose their hair without a second thought. I feel that without hat or headgear you are without modesty. Without a hat, you become vulnerable to unwanted intimacy. The proof is that you are always asked — in season and especially out of season — to take off your hat, never your mitts or shoes. Wearing a hat, covering your head with a cap or veil, scarf or turban has something to do with your dignity and integrity. But also with modesty and humility vis-a-vis the cosmic forces. At the same time it also offers protection because, if there is nothing between head and heaven, you risk your brain mass evaporating into the universe! It is necessary to place a lid on the pot in order to condense the contents!

Not wearing headgear is a manifestation of thoughtless pride: as if you can commune with the heavens, just like that, without devotions. That’s why in most countries you would not dream of entering a church without first covering your head.

And that’s why the Jews wear a skullcap during prayer.

And that’s why the Holy Teresa of Avila declared that ‘a nun whose head is not properly covered is like a woman who is not properly wedded.’

Just a few generations ago, it was unthinkable even here to appear on the street or in the field without a hat or kerchief. It was indecent — especially for married women.

And not for practical reasons, such as exposure to wind and weather, but for moral reasons. Although the compulsion to wear hats is forgotten, it has nevertheless survived in the subconscious. Were it not such a crucial matter — whether the head should be covered or not– there wouldn’t be so many requests,especially from men, to bare it!

How often do I not hear this — and often from perfect strangers upon first meeting them: — ‘Aren’t you going to take your hat off pretty soon?’ — ‘Can’t I see you without the scarf?’ — ‘Why don’t you drop the turban?’

And I feel every time that it is a tactless and presumptuous demand — because I don’t take my hat off to just anybody. And not at all to those who ask. Over time it has become a clear code for me: I know for sure that I will never be on the same wavelength with those men who request first thing that I drop my hat.

Of course the hat creates a certain distance. But it is a consciously sought and necessary distance on which intimacy is founded. And you might as well give up trying to explain to those who do not instinctively understand this simple paradox.

By all means, I don’t mind taking off my hat to the world, but how can I if I’m not wearing one?

I think I probably shocked many people in this country when I admitted that I would rather walk down the street without wearing underpants — than without wearing a hat.

But, of course, in this regard I’m not alone. I agree with two-thirds of all women in the world — with the traditional Catholic, the Orthodox, Muslim and Indian women — who will not expose their hair in public.And only a minority of women worldwide wear underpants. But the majority cover their hair.

And it is not only men who demand that women must be veiled. Women themselves want it as well.Orthodox women hide their hair under a wig. In Afghanistan the disguise is extremely thorough: a pleated silken sack pulled over the head, with a small embroidered net-window for the eyes. But only those who have worn a veil will recognize the privilege that is is: to see everything while remaining invisible oneself.

As long as I’m still being challenged to take off my hat, I know why I keep it on.

See a recent photo of Suzanne Brogger here.


*the image?  Yes, that’s an Hermes scarf;  see a tutorial here, from Savvy Mode, on ways to use your Hermes scarf as a head accessory.  Find out more about Hermes scarves here at the I Want – I Got blog.

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