December 7, 2022
World

French young women on TikTok show off ‘Christian headscarves’ to share their beliefs

french-young-women-on-tiktok-show-off-‘christian-headscarves’-to-share-their-beliefs

Some girls and young women living in France who are interested in Christianity are turning to TikTok to share their beliefs. In hundreds of videos, some of which have accumulated up to 3 million views, they wear headscarves and veils that they say help them get “closer to God”. We took a closer look. 

Videos of Christian girls wearing headscarves were first spotted by French newspaper La Croix, which published an article on the new “TikTok trend” on June 6. 

By searching on TikTok with keywords and hashtags, we were able to find hundreds of videos showing young women wearing Christian veils over the past seven months. Many of them have been viewed hundreds of thousands of times, and some exceed 1 million views. 

The videos follow the usual format of TikTok videos: catchy, short and accompanied by music.

We took a closer look at about 15 TikTok accounts run by young women aged 13 to 20, living in France. Nearly all of them say they’ve only started practicing Christianity in the past few months; some say they were previously atheists, Muslims or nonpracticing, despite coming from Christian families. They then became Catholic or Orthodox.

In their videos, they show off their first Bibles, and talk about how they organised their baptisms or purchased their veils.

‘I only wear the veil when I am talking to God’The 15-year-old @kassandra.christ.off became a Christian two years ago, despite coming from an atheist family. Since the beginning of April, she has published a dozen videos of herself wearing a veil on TikTok, where she has more than 2,600 followers. She told the FRANCE 24 Observers team more:

I only wear the veil when I am talking to God, to cut myself off from the world, for example when I go to Mass, or when I make videos in which I talk about God.

I have been wearing it for almost a year, after researching the subject in order to make sure I won’t be told that it is just a “fashion statement”. For example, there is a verse that says that the one who “prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head” [Editor’s note: This is a passage from chapter 11 of the apostle Paul’s “First Epistle to the Corinthians”, a book of the New Testament]. Our nuns wear the veil, our grandmothers wore it … But the veil is not at all compulsory, it is a choice.

Through my TikTok videos, I try to pass on my love for God and show his blessings. We get criticised and judged a lot because of the veil: For example, we are told that we copy Muslim women…

Other young women on TikTok say they have received criticism after posting videos describing their conversion or showing their veils. However, the comments on their videos are also full of compliments: “You’re amazing” or “You’re so beautiful, my sister”. 

Like @kassandra.christ.off, several other girls say they wear the veil to pray, and sometimes even explain how to put it on through video tutorials.

Some of them, however, say that they do not wear the veil in everyday life. In a video, one girl, aged 13, explained that she simply “tried it on” once at a Christian friend’s house, “just like that”. An 18-year-old woman told the FRANCE 24 Observers team that she had “put it on to try it”, but that she “didn’t feel ready” to wear it yet.

Religious symbol or TikTok trend?According to Anthony Feneuil, a specialist in the relationship between theology and contemporary thought at the University of Lorraine, it is difficult to know whether the veil is synonymous with greater religiosity among these young girls and women.

“It is difficult to know its meaning,” Feneuil said. “But the advantage of a visible sign, especially when it has an identity dimension (such as a “Christian” headscarf), is that it serves to bring people together and create unity, regardless of its meaning.” 

Oissila Saaidia, a professor of history at the Université Lumière Lyon 2 and author of a forthcoming book on the veil, pointed out a paradox: “Among these young girls, there is a desire to stand out, to assert themselves as individuals. But at the same time, it seems that they want to look like themselves, with their veil and make-up, which makes them also look like influencers.”

Saaidia also draws a parallel with the veil worn by young Muslim women. “For the last ten years or so, all over the world, we have had young Muslim women who display their religion, while being particularly feminine, stylish.”

These young Christian women are part of this trend, Saaidia argues: “No one could tell them apart in the street.”

Jean-François Colosimo, a historian of religions, points out another contradiction: “These young girls use the veil to show themselves off, whereas traditionally it is more synonymous with modesty, to hide and protect the body.”

He too draws a parallel with the Islamic veil: “It seems they want to imitate Muslim women.” He adds, “Among young people, there is a lot of soul-searching: They are trying to establish themselves, to imitate, by picking up elements from right and left…”

@rkv777 Répondre à @clxvllr00 ♬ original sound – the original skilli fan✨ Another tutorial on how to wear the veil, posted on April 30, received about 10,000 views. It was posted by @rkv777, who explains in another video that she was a Muslim before becoming a Christian. Has the Christian veil ‘always existed’?

The young TikTokers wearing the veil justify their choice by saying that the headscarf has “always existed” in the Christian tradition.

However, the three specialists who spoke to our team say this may not be the case.

“Chapter 11 of the ‘First Epistle to the Corinthians’ advises Christian women in Corinth [Editor’s note: a Greek town] to wear a veil,” Feneuil said. “But in the context of its theology, it is probably more an attempt to Christianise a previously existing custom than to establish a new one. In fact, in many places in the world, women have worn the veil, often in connection with patriarchal domination, and Christianity has simply taken over this tradition.”

Young women also sometimes refer to the Virgin Mary as an example of a Christian woman wearing a veil. However, Saaidia explained, “She wore the veil, but it was the same for all Jewish women at the time.”

“It often happens that people refer to texts or supposed traditions to legitimise an action, such as wearing the veil,” she said. “This is the case with these young people, although they are also the product of modernity, and connected to social networks.”

According to Feneuil and Colosimo, the type of veil worn by young girls on TikTok is the one mainly worn by Catholic nuns, even though headscarves are more typically worn in Orthodox churches.

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