User:Demet Adiguzel/ A Review On Hacking Identity
If tonight God came to me and talked to me to prove that he was real 100 % and wanted me to cover my body with a chador or burka to anyone other than my husband; aside from the bigger issues I would question him with (and most probably would find something off in his logic and get suspicious with my own mind to end up not believing him anyway), I would also be dealing with the fact that my husband would not be wanting to be seen with me wearing that – if we call it being seen.
Before sentencing the poor guy with being shallow – which we know most men are accused to be shallow when it comes to what they like in a woman – maybe it is wise to think about what that piece of cloth actually cover.
So I go undercover.
The first time I get in the chador, I cannot help but wonder: how much should I be a sinner to hide myself like this?
By default, I am a sinner because men would desire me, they would think of the unthinkable, because of my body, because the body I own is a female one.
Which I presume was a coincidence? Or God has a plan on making me a “sinner by default”?
So to me it looks like God thinks that women are what’s wrong with men, commands them to cover themselves to protect men.
I become invisible, this should be what they call the invisibility cloak.
I look in the mirror while I think how we are so obsessed with the shape and volume we take in the space. As the world wants women to be smaller and smaller in shape, is it also the plan to make them invisible?
How much of my body is me? How does it identify me? How much of my identity gets lost when I hide my body like this?
There I become a large dark substance, a black smoke visible than ever, trying to be invisible.
While I’m getting invisible, the hidden plan behind all this becomes more visible to me. To the cultures controlled by the fear of God and system of religion, the power of women is a threat. As being the XX of the species, that also adds something to my identity, there comes a biological burden with that type of body.
As I’m wearing this outfit, I might as well perform as a person who wears this outfit for real. I can pray, worship God in the way he wants me to, but when it is biology there is the burden. If I am on my period, God does not want me to pray. In the book it says that when a woman is on her period she is filthy and in order to pray you should be clean hence no praying. No coming closer to God since He finds a woman on her period filthy.
That GOD sounds a lot like a MAN to me.
The first steps I take outside aren’t the most difficult ones but as I get further away from home I get more aware of how I look and feel more visible. I pass by people who see me and turn their heads to show respect and people who deliberately stare at me, as they want me to know that they hate me.
The outfit itself has an effect that you cannot move freely, suddenly you become so aware of how you look and how you move in it. Most of the time I cannot lift my head up, it does not feel comfortable to do that.
I think of two aspects to this experiment: who am I in this outfit, why am I wearing it? Who am I playing for this experiment? Am I a person who has been raised by the culture and religious beliefs that imposed or forced to me the idea to wear it or am I another version of me just started believing that I should wear this and the rest of me stays the same.
Because in the former one, I would have much less chance to be going to the address that I’m on my way to: an art school.
As I enter the classroom, I hear some murmurs and even chuckles; “She did it at last,” might think my classmates whom already are aware of my experiment. I try to sit on the closest chair to the door, as again – even in this alternative identity – I am a bit late to class and don’t want to interrupt anything. Our tutor welcomes me, I feel ashamed and when I am trying to find out why, I am hoping that it is because of being late but nothing else.
He explains to me what they are doing and asks me if I have a computer with me to read something, as the lecture requires that day. “No. I don’t have a computer,” I say leaving it ambiguous to know if I speak for in general or for that specific day.
The interesting thing happens then; I realize that I cannot look directly at his face – at least not too long. Maybe it is from the cover getting on my forehead and limiting me to hold my head high or maybe I am getting into the character.
After he tells me what to read and what to do afterwards, I read what he suggests from his computer, my head down. I become even more self-conscious as I cannot hold my head up and look my classmates in the eye. When the reading is over we take a short break and as everyone else is having conversations I sit there silently. Totally isolated but more aware of what everybody else is talking about. I feel ashamed and can’t look at or talk to anyone. Suddenly I feel really depressed, “I don’t belong here,” I think. I am an outsider.
Then my friend comes after receiving my text about camera equipment. She comes to where I sit, stoops towards me and talks to me in a calm, low voice; she acts different than usual and I wonder if it is because I’m in character and she wants to go along with it or there is something really different about me and she reacts differently.
I really feel something different about me, even my posture change; my mood too. I feel so demotivated, all I want is to go home, be alone, away from the eyes, the gaze. Suddenly I don’t care about the experiment, identities or outfits I just want to be gone, away, non-existing.
I contact with my husband, sending a massage to him may make me connect with my ‘regular’ self since apparently being at my regular place does not work. “This is hard, as if I became someone else,” I text.
After the break the lecture goes for a while. I don’t feel confident to talk aloud or even hold my head up to look at people. Once I try, just to connect with someone, to see if I am still ‘there’ somewhere. I catch a male friend’s eye but he quickly looks another way – as later when I would ask him, he would not remember that brief moment in which I fall from the highlands of my personality to a surface of unknown identity. I almost lose contact of myself during that moment.
Philip K. Dick, in his masterpiece A Scanner Darkly, brilliantly personifies this phenomenon. When Fred, a police agent, goes undercover as a drug addict called Bob Arctor, to seemingly get information about a group of addicts of a drug called Substance D; he also is the agent to scan the footage from the cameras hidden over Bob’s apartment. With the effects of Substance D, as he watches himself as Bob Arctor and his addict friends from the footage, he gets more detached from his real identity and becomes schizophrenic. He starts to have two personalities where in one he is an addict in love with a girl – Donna – who would not sleep with him and in the other he is the detective who watches footage from hidden cameras from addicts’ house to report to his superior – Hank – and wears a special suit to hide his identity for the sake of the mission.
Maybe it is not that uncommon to forget who you really are when you are undercover - and there are special suits involved. Although I think taking drugs can also be a good way to experiment altering the identity, I am definitely not taking any drugs (other than the Vitamin D certainly not the nicely named, fictional Substance D) but knowing that I look somehow different than usual makes me feel like a different person.
It is also related to the reason why I chose this specific piece of garment to experiment the effects of outfits on the identity. As a person who believes that religious systems are formed to control people and mostly ending up suppressing women more, in order to explore my own identity and the concept of identity in relation to outfits, the right way to hack mine is to go to the opposite direction of what my identity is made up of. If I know myself as an independent, strong, modern women who is suspicious about religions and has a lot to say; then what outfit can hack that? And if I see myself as someone who grew up hiding the minority background that I was born into, trying to live my ‘otherness’ secretly; how can I become ‘other’ to myself, which outfit can successfully reflect the political and cultural opposite of my background?
That is what makes that garment so special, so extremely political for me.
In one corner Bob Arctor the moral agent who dedicates himself – and even his mental health – for a selfless, great mission; on the other corner a useless drug addict who got bored and left his wife and family. The opposites make the man get pulled away to different sides, divide him into two characters as the hemispheres of his brain brutally lose connection in time, thanks to Substance D.
The special outfit that he is wearing when he is at the station to cover his identity, is a hyper-tech one which reflects different faces and bodies one after another in a very fast track, impossible to see what is showing. Underneath the suit which becomes countless people shapes, there is Fred transforming into two conflicting identities that tear him apart.
How a piece of clothing transforms you is related to not only how you feel in it but also how people react to you when they see you in it. Certain clothes will reveal certain identities in some cases deliberately to show the background or class, to visibly mark the identity to others in order to get appropriate reactions. People approach to others in relation what they think of them and know of them, in a certain way that is related to the identity of the person who’s being approached to.
If it is visible that one is coming from a religious background from one’s appearance, then the public can approach to one with appropriate reactions that would not offend one. The identity here becomes a tricky thing; do we build and show our identity and people treat us accordingly or do we build our identity according to how people treat us.
Fred becomes more Arctor when everyone else treats him as a drug addict who opens his household to other addicts. I become more silent when none of my classmates speak to me, more self-conscious when one of them turns his eyes away.
After that day I interview some of my classmates, all of them use the word “scary” at least once during the conversation. They also specifically say that I didn’t behave as usual; I became silent and almost invisible.
A very close friend of mine who knows about how every cell in my fatal brain works, receives a portrait of me in the chador; she replies “Scary :( In a brief moment I thought you think like them. God, talk about prejudice!”
A Scanner Darkly can be considered as Dick’s own confession to the world since it is based on how he and his friends lived their lives as addicts. In a way he was trying to validate himself by making the protagonist become an addict for a greater cause, making him a man sacrificing himself unknowingly to catch the real bad guys.
My friend who reacts to my portrait as “Scary :(” adds, “When I was a child, I wished I was born into a religious family. Then my mind would be at peace. Being an atheist as a child is scary.” I can relate to that; I am not an atheist but I was born into a family without traditional religious perspective as the majority but a cultural, philosophical one which was not very well accepted by the majority. I had to hide my background. Even now, I have problems revealing it easily. Maybe my validation becomes being the already validated member of the majority for one day of my life, in a dress I do not need to hide my real background just showing it to the world openly as a big part of me while hide myself underneath.