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Make-up At Home: Fun or Sexualization of Girls?

Questioner

A

Reply Date

Mar 17, 2019

Question

As-Salamu Alaykum. Thank you for your answer in advance. I love your service and recommend you to everyone (Muslims and non-Muslims). I understand that makeup is allowed with our mahram men and other women. I have three daughters. There have been a FEW occasions where I have put some very light make-up on them just for fun, and for some 'mommy-daughter bonding'. They love it, and also love surprising their father when he comes home. I've explained to them when it is halal to wear makeup, and how it is NOT to be used in extravagance.

I am a psychology major in school. Yet, my husband does not believe me when I tell him that this is ok for the girls. This will show them that Islam allows halal things for fun in certain circumstances. He, on the other hand, wants to be strict. He thinks this will basically make the girls want to wear it all the time (although, this has NEVER been the case with the girls yet!). I try to tell him that if we make something halal makroo' (not recommended) or even haram for them, they will only want to rebel in the future.

Islam is supposed to have halal fun things for the kids. He should trust me as a woman and mother that I know what I am doing, and that I know how to handle girls! I am one and I was one! Please tell him that from a psychological and Islamic standpoint we can take the middle ground on this. We should allow the halal in moderation. They will in sha' Allah know that this is something for special times and people. It is also something special between me and my daughters. It is a bonding for us! Why must my husband's fear try to take that away from me?He is from an Arab culture, and I was born and raised in America. I was raised to know things about psychology and the healthy emotional upbringing of people. He wasn't raised to be aware of these things. Thank you very much.

Counselor

and

Answer


Make-up At Home: Fun or Sexualization of Girls?

In this counseling answer:

• Your husband merely needs to learn more about the Islamic scholars’ rulings on the permissibility of wearing makeup in the manner that you are with your daughters.

• If we do not teach our children how to navigate the gray areas in life, they will either find Islam unfulfilling and impractical or too extreme and will flee from it as you have said. However, if we provide them with true knowledge and guidance, in addition to UNDERSTANDING why they should or should not do certain things, then we are giving them the seedling.

• There are many ways in which a mother can bond with her daughters. However, if one is to focus on physical appearances, it is better to take the body as a whole in term of health and hygiene on a spiritual level.


 Dr. ‘Abd. Lateef Krauss Abdullah

As-Salamu `Alaykum,

Dear sister, I agree with everything you’ve said. In fact, I don’t think there’s much to add! This is a question of breaking down the fears caused by culture and helping your husband understand that moderation is always the better approach in life and the crux of Islam.

You are basing your judgment and actions on sound knowledge, and the desire to find that balance of moderation that Islam urges. Your husband is relying on his programmed cultural response to something that is perhaps a bit foreign to him being from a different country and environment. This is the test of truth; do we choose knowledge or do we choose culture (that goes against knowledge)? This is the beauty of Islam in that it is always testing our assumptions, always attacking the idols inside of us.

Please don’t get me wrong, I am not attacking anyone’s culture. Culture, in its positive form, is beautiful and reflects the great variety within the human family. However, when we make culture into a religion, it becomes problematic. Islam is not a culture; it is a religion of truth that transcends culture.

karim serageldin & naaila clay

Whereas culture can be subjective, Islam can only be objective or it is not Islam. But depending on the country, Islam always appears a bit different and encompasses a wide variety of cultural practices and traditions. Islam was not sent to eradicate culture but to perfect and purify it. With the spread of Islam, a culture was actually preserved rather than eradicated in the same way many of the colonial European nations attempted to eradicate the native cultures of the people they colonized. By forcing them to become Christian, they also attempted to make them Europeans, as the two went hand-in-hand. With the Muslims, this was not the intention in their da’wah. That is why the Muslim lands each have their own distinct flavor and local culture yet at the same time have been Islamized (to varying degrees).

Getting back to the topic at hand, I think your husband merely needs to learn more about the Islamic scholars’ rulings on the permissibility of wearing makeup in the manner that you are with your daughters. He can learn from our erudite scholars about the rationale behind allowing children to play and to learn through play. For example, it is wonderful that you are using this time with your daughters not only to have fun but to teach them as well about the Islamic approach to this topic.

This is the most effective way for children to learn – through play. This has been supported by volumes of research on learning that young children learn best through play. This type of learning is also that which will enhance their desire to learn in the future, in sha’ Allah. If only we as Muslims knew more about the effectiveness of teaching our children in this manner. Sayyidina `Ali (ra), is known to have said, in relation to education, “Play with them until they’re seven, give them discipline until they’re fourteen, be their friend until they’re twenty one, then untie the rope.” 

Instead, however, we have certain groups within the Islamic world that believe that the only way for children to learn is through a strict ‘halal or haram,’ black and white approach to everything in life without any fun, play or interest as if human beings have no heart. We teach kids, unjustly, that everything in life is either halal or haram and that’s it!

In reality, most matters in daily life are shades of gray. If we do not teach our children how to navigate the gray areas in life, they will either find Islam unfulfilling and impractical or too extreme and will flee from it as you have said. However, if we provide them with true knowledge and guidance, in addition to UNDERSTANDING why they should or should not do certain things, then we are giving them the seedling that will result – in sha`Allah – in the competencies to make sound decisions backed by the right intention of wanting to please Allah in all that they do.

The halal or haram approach to life is what creates things like radicalism and even terrorism. Because people were not provided with the competencies and abilities to understand matters at a deeper level; they see life as a constant struggle between black and white.

Again, however, the reasonable individual knows that life is not so simple and that Allah has urged us over and over to use our intellect and our reason to navigate life. This means not only sound knowledge but the capacity to apply that knowledge in a manner that results in peace – both within the individual as well as the larger society.

“Behold, in the heavens as well as on earth, there are indeed signs for all who [are willing to] believe. And in your own nature, and in [that of] all the animals which He scatters [over the earth] there are signs for people who are endowed with inner certainty. And in the succession of night and day, and in the means of subsistence which God sends down from the skies, giving life thereby to the earth after it had been lifeless, and in the change of the winds: [in all this] there are signs for people who use their reason”. (45:3-5)

I hope your husband will open himself and his mind to a deeper and more fruitful understanding of this and other related matters. Islam becomes an incredible tool for understanding ourselves and the world that Allah has created when we see beyond the over-simplified halalharam dichotomy of everything.

Answer By Counselor Hwaa Irfan

It might be worth noting that in the American Psychological Association report entitled The Sexualization of Girls, concern is expressed for girls when:

  • Cultural norms and expectations are infused with the sexualized representation of girls and women putting it [sexualization] through a process of normalization
  • When girls are encouraged to be sexual objects by family, peers, and others
  • When experience themselves as sexual objects approved by their significant others and are likely to internalize these standards.

The report states:

“Societal messages that contribute to the sexualization of girls come not only from media and merchandise, but also through girls’ interpersonal relationships (e.g. parents, teachers, and peers)”

“Girls sexualize themselves when they think of themselves mostly or exclusively in sexual terms and when they equate their sexiness with a narrow standard of physical attractiveness. They also sexualize themselves when they think of themselves in objectified terms. Psychological researchers have identified self-objectification as a key process whereby girls learn to think of and treat their own bodies as objects of others’ desires; girls internalize an observer’s perspective on their physical selves and learn to treat themselves as objects to be looked at.


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The report pinpoints such effects as follows:

  • Sexualized images are easily accepted during the developmental stages
  • “Just at the time when girls begin to construct identity, they are more likely to suffer losses in self-esteem”
  • Eight graders who objectify their bodies more have lower self –esteem

Sexualization has a negative effect in many areas including:

  • Cognitive function e.g. sexualization serves to keep girls in “their place” as objects of sexual attraction…
  • Physical and mental health, sexuality and beliefs.
  • Body dissatisfaction – Ask yourself how much the increase in plastic/cosmetic surgery is related to this.

There are many ways in which a mother can bond with her daughters. However, if one is to focus on physical appearances, it is better to take the body as a whole in term of health and hygiene on a spiritual level. This would be psychological, emotionally and spiritually healthier for the girls as Muslims and as women learning about themselves. By this way, they would have a better understanding of their own sexuality in relation to themselves and in relation to healthier physical relationships with their future husbands.

A thought: one of the reasons an increasing number of young girls are wearing niqab and burqa has very little to do with politics, but more to do with a rebuttal of becoming sexualized.

Salams,

***

Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, its counselors or employees be held liable for any damages that may arise from your decision in the use of our services.

Read more:

Hijab vs. Objectification of Women

Why Do Some Women Want to Be Sexualized?

This Muslim Woman Is Breaking Taboos By Discussing Sex

 

 




About Abdul-Lateef Abdullah

Abdul-Lateef Abdullah, an American convert to Islam, obtained his Bachelor’s degree in Political Science & Economics at the University of Delaware, his Master’s degree in Social Work from Columbia University, and recently completed his Ph.D. from the Institute for Community & Peace Studies, Universiti Putra Malaysia, in the field of Youth Studies.

He has worked as a Program Assistant for the Academy for Educational Development (Washington, D.C.); a Social Worker at the Montefiore Medical Center (Bronx, New York); and the Director of Documentation and Evaluation at Community IMPACT! (Washington, D.C.). He has also worked with the the Taqwa Gayong Academy (New Jersey, U.S.A./Penang, Malaysia) for troubled youth, both Muslim and non-Muslim. As a recent (1999) convert to Islam, he spends much time writing about his experiences as a Muslim-American convert. 


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