web counter The Madness of MokcikNab: Yes, We Really Are Mokciks
The Madness of MokcikNab
Motives, movements and melodrama in the life of a thirty something mum.

Monday, December 13, 2004
Yes, We Really Are Mokciks

Oh, the hazards of meeting young bloggers. Read about it here, and here. Just goes to show that when we free ourselves from preconceived notions of physical perceptions, we'll get along much better. Anyhow, we'll have you know, Miss Nadia, that we looked like you once, right down to the messy hair -- now imagine the horror of looking like us, in twenty years time, muahahaha!

(Nadia has a sense of humour. She'll understand. Hey I get the PMS joke, see?)

Last Friday, some other people passed judgment on who I am, what I stand for, and the extent of my ability, based purely on how I choose to dress. That experience was definitely less benign than going to an 18 year old's open house.

A couple of years ago, I decided it was high time I wore the hijab. It was not easy, for there were many instincts to suppress - the greatest of which is the instinct to use your looks as a shorthand for gaining attention. If I followed the voices in my id, I'd be in a short skirt forever. I have been asked numerous times, by friends and strangers alike, why I decided to wrap my hair in a scarf. The answers are manifold. I'm still trying to figure it out myself.

What I didn't appreciate though, is how differently others treat you once you are in tudung. Many assume I don't speak English. Some shops assume I'm not a customer. The place I used to work at assumed a woman in hijab won't be credible as a host for business shows, or as a newscaster. She'll be limited to women's programs or the rancangan agama belt. I have come to accept that many people assume a woman in veil is the physical embodiment of what is not funky, innovative or contemporary.

So last Friday, I had the full blast of that prejudice. A young lady from an events management company called me up for emceeing services. Fully cognizant of my mokcik in tudung status, I asked her the nature of the event, and the kind of audience I would have. She said it was a dinner for agents of a direct selling company, mostly older Malay couples. Well, that's definitely mokcik-land, so I said, okay I can do that. "The client requires a video sample", she explained, "so could you please come over and do the shoot?". No problem, I said.

The recording was set at 9 am the next day. In the elevator to their floor, was a sweet young thing who took one look at me, and then turned away, unsmiling. (It turned out she was the one I spoke to)

The girl went in first and I had to knock on the glass door for someone to let me in. Another woman saw me, and she went, "Who is that?". I swore I heard her say "cleaner". I smiled, nevertheless. Hesitantly, she unlocked the door. "Yes?", she asked, with more than a hint of condescension. She seemed reluctant to let me in and was repeating my every sentence with a question mark. (Like so : I'm here to see A/Here to see A? It's for a video shoot/A video shoot?)

Thankfully, Ms A heard me and came to the door, for I was quite ready to head downstairs and forget the whole thing. She asked me to wait while she "sort out a few things". She returned later with a sample script and some trepidation.

A spoke in soft monotones and prescribed to me what her client wanted of an emcee. And then this exchange :

"Will you be wearing your scarf during the dinner?", she asked.
"Yes, as a matter of fact". Up to that point, I was telling myself that my scarf was not going to be a deciding factor.
"Would you be willing to take off your scarf for the event?".

I considered that question. It's like asking if I could do the dinner topless, which was what it would be like. I have to admit, I am not as disciplined as my sister Elisa when it comes to covering up. On a few errant occasions, I have been known to gallivant with my long hair out, although that is happening less and less nowadays. If it's an outing with Peanut and Ray, I usually don't bother because we'll be behaving so badly I'd be tarnishing the good name of tudung wearing girls every where. But, if someone asks me to take it off, take it aaaaall off, my immediate reaction is to say :

"Absolutely not".

I glanced at her client's name. Chairman was some Tuan Haji so and so. I asked if her client specified that the Master of Ceremonies be one that is not so incongruously Islamic.

"Well, we don't know if the client would mind an emcee with a tudung. But just to be sure, could you do the shoot in two versions, one with tudung and one without?"

She must have seen me cringe, because she did not ask me twice. I was wearing a denim jacket and a denim long skirt, with a pink pashmina as headcover, so that's what they got. I'm not sure if they'll be calling me anytime, soon. All I know is, I won't be worrying my tudung-ed head over it.


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