Label Makers: the Stereotype of the Middle Eastern Label Whore

by Racialicious special correspondent Fatemeh Fakhraie, originally published at Muslimah Media Watch

Thanks to Latoya for the tip!

Jezebel does an interesting review of Rajaa AlSanea’s Girls of Riyadh that focuses on the consumptive angle of the book; i.e., how obsessed with luxury goods upper class Saudi women are.

While the review itself wasn’t a revelation (I think that an obsession with luxury goods is a stereotype or symptom of upper classes in many cultures), the comments were. Aside from the outright Islamophobic comments, there seems to be a general consensus among Jezebel’s readers that most Middle Eastern women are vapid label whores:

“I went to school with a large population of Middle Easterners and I will say I’ve never seen nicer bags or shoes in my life. Many of the girls dressed like they were going out to the club right from class, even in the middle of the winter.”

“I don’t think that they’ve acquired their taste for luxury goods from the West; I think it’s been there since Saudi Arabia has existed.”

“Yeap agreeing with everyone above who said that many middle-eastern women are obsessed with designer items, particularly the very flashy and logo-laden items. My Saudi girlfriend explained that since most women can’t be very creative or showy with their clothese, there is a particular emphasis on status shoes, handbags, and sunglasses. Makes sense. Hanging with her friends, I totally see it– even in the US these girls will still be DECKED OUT with the logos and glitz.”

“Honestly, the men were just as bad. I used to sleep with a Saudi guy who had more clothes than any woman I’ve ever met. He also had two watches that were worth more than everything I own combined. The guys were always in the newest sneakers and tight jeans from brands I’d never even heard of. I guess if you have to wear a dress at home, you’re looking for something nice and fitted when you’re in the US!”

“have to concur that there’s nothing “western” about this obsession and the middle east could put america to shame with their label-whoring and general eurotrashiness.”

If it’s not one thing, it’s another. Either we’re all oppressed and can’t have rights we really want, or we don’t give a damn about our rights because we just want pretty handbags and expensive jewelry.

Any time one makes a comment that generalizes about a particular geographical/religious group, s/he falls into stereotype country. Many of those who commented haven’t even read the book; they just wanted to get in on the Middle Eastern women-bashing. But this goes beyond regular old horizontal hostility because these posters are ascribing the negative attribute of “label-whoriness” to a particular ethnic/geographical group. Not to mention the derogatory comments about the dishdasha (or, as the second to last poster put it, “a dress.” Dishdashas are considered professional wear for men in the gulf much like suits in the West, as well as traditional clothing).

Well. This hurts my feelings so much I’m going to put on my nicest pair of stilettos and go buy myself another designer bag.

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Fatemeh is currently finishing her master's degree. She currently runs a website dedicated to critiquing how Muslim women are portrayed in both Eastern and Western media.