I first noticed Spencer Wall in my religion and society class toward the end of last semester. She wasn’t particularly outspoken, but the shawl that covered her hair, neck and shoulders made her stand out in the large class.
I usually gave her nothing more than a completely unconscious glance. But when she revealed to the class the decision that she made on April 27, I suddenly became aware of the attention I gave her.
Wall, a 20-year-old sociology and English senior, decided to assume the characteristics and attire of a “typical” Muslim woman for a year starting in late April.
She wears the traditional veil, or “hijab,” and loose-fitting clothing everywhere she goes and does not consume pork or alcohol in public. She avoids eye and physical contact with men and has adopted modest habits like walking with her arms glued to her sides or crossed in front of her to hide her chest.
I witnessed the looks Wall gets on a daily basis when we met at Kerbey Lane on the Drag recently.
She’s wearing a hijab splashed with vibrant shades of green and blue. A long-sleeved, black shirt and floor-length aqua skirt reveals only a few inches of skin.
Some who pass us try to be inconspicuous with their intrigue, limiting themselves to quick side glances. But most don’t even try to be candid with their exaggerated double-takes or blatant stares.
She passes by a group waiting to be seated, and all of them stare at the back of her head as she walks away. One guy even rolls his eyes.
“It doesn’t surprise me,” she says when I tell her about the group. “But look around. They’re not the only ones.”
She insists her decision is not a social experiment but more of a personal learning experience. As a white female from a small, West Texas town, Wall says she wanted to know what it would be like to be part of a “noticeable minority.”
“I’m not representing Muslim women or the Muslim community,” she says. “I just want to know what it’s like to walk in their shoes for a while.”
Initially, Wall elaborates on her “learning experience” when people would ask her questions, the most common being “So, where are you from?” She has abandoned these efforts. Now, when people ask about her attire, she simply says she is not Muslim but wears the hijab because she chooses to do so.
This explanation is not entirely untrue, as Wall admits to not being able to leave her home without the clothing.
“I decided a while ago that I was going to try and not wear the hijab for 24 hours,” she says. “I couldn’t even make it for half that.”http://www.dailytexanonline.com/top-stories/covered-life-gives-new-perspective-1.1760128