by Special Correspondent Fatemeh Fakhraie
Last night, as I was flipping through the channels, I stopped on the Spike network, which is geared toward a male audience (well, most television is geared toward a male audience, but that’s a different soapbox). Perhaps I should say heavily geared toward a male audience. I mean, between the James Bond marathons, Axe commercials, and ultimate fighting programs, it starts to get a little, uh, over-done. The same way the Lifetime network’s pregnancy test commercials and movies about victimized women start to get ridiculous.*
Anyway, let’s get to the real reason I stopped on this channel. TNA Impact is basically another one of Spike’s wrestling programs, and it was this program that caught my attention. Because there was a woman in a niqab wrestling.
After digging around online, I found out who she was: her stage name is Raisha Saeed. Saeed’s biography details that she is from Damacus, Syria, and manages another female wrestler, Awesome Kong. Rooting around a little more, I find out that she is not, in fact, Muslim (put on your surprised face!) or Syrian.
Her real name is Melissa Marie Anderson. She usually goes by the stage name of Cheerleader Melissa, and has a very long and impressive wrestling career.
I wasn’t able to figure out why Ms. Anderson, who has two other stage names, would don a niqab, a fakey Arab accent and broken English, and an Arab (-sounding) stage name. Wrestling programs are full of gimmicky personas, and so I’m assuming that’s what this is, too. From the mysterious Arab music that plays when she enters the ring to her MySpace page, it’s one huge (racist) gimmick.
TNA Impact had an “interview” with Saeed and the female wrestler she manages: a black woman whose stage name is Awesome Kong. During the interview, Saeed speaks for herself and as a mouthpiece for Kong, who just sat there and actively looked menacing. And, of course, Saeed’s niqab came up in the interview.
The interviewer asks, “One of the aspects, I think, of your mystery comes from the dress you wear. What is the story behind the burka?”
“My burqa is none of your concern.”
Nevermind that it’s a niqab, not a burqa. Past this, however, no mention of her clothing or of Islam enters into the stage persona. In the admittedly limited clips I’ve seen, there is no mention of jihad or death to infidels–things that usually come up in racist portrayals of Arabs and Muslims. Thankfully, Islam seems to be left alone, aside from her headgear and the fact that, as a gimmicky Arab wrestler, she has committed the played-out conflation of Arab = Muslim.
But the racism doesn’t go away: another interview, Saeed refers to Kong as a “monster” who other wrestlers should not provoke. And then throws in a few garbledy Arabic phrases.
(Embedding is disabled on this video.)
Despite the fact that Islam is not an overt part of Saeed’s persona, it’s alluded to in a match between Saeed and Taylor Wilde, in which the overtones of “culture-clash” can hardly be ignored. A blonde-blue eyed wrestler with the American flag motif on her wrestling outfit battles a niqab-wearing (and thus Muslim) Arab wrestler? A bit obvious, wouldn’t you say?
Wrestling history is full of racist imagery, from The Iron Sheik to Sapphire. So neither Kong nor Saeed should come as a huge surprise. But that doesn’t make it any less offensive. Saeed’s character continues the designation of Arabs as Muslims, and Kong’s character stirs up characterizations of blacks as animalistic and savage. It’s just so played that it’s almost funny (aside from the general hilarity of the choreographed ballet known as wrestling).
Readers, what do you think of all this?
*Note: Don’t even start with me on the Lifetime channel. I’m not saying that movies about domestic violence aren’t important or that what happens to these women isn’t a real problem. My point is that Lifetime doesn’t do these women any favors by always portraying women as victims and nothing but.
About This BlogRacialicious is a blog about the intersection of race and pop culture. Check out our daily updates on the latest celebrity gaffes, our no-holds-barred critique of questionable media representations, and of course, the inevitable
Keanu ReevesJohn Cho newsflashes.
Latoya Peterson (DC) is the Owner and Editor (not the Founder!) of Racialicious, Arturo García (San Diego) is the Managing Editor, Andrea Plaid (NYC) is the Associate Editor. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The founders of Racialicious are Carmen Sognonvi and Jen Chau. They are no longer with the blog. Carmen now runs Urban Martial Arts with her husband and blogs about local business. Jen can still be found at Swirl or on her personal blog. Please do not send them emails here, they are no longer affiliated with this blog.
Comments on this blog are moderated. Please read our comment moderation policy.
Use the "for:racialicious" tag in del.icio.us to send us tips. See here for detailed instructions.
Interested in writing for us? Check out our submissions guidelines.
Follow Us on Twitter!
- The Literary Omnivore on A Few Thoughts On Star Trek: Into Darkness
- Allen Herring on A Few Thoughts On Star Trek: Into Darkness
- nicthommi on The Rise Of Beyoncé, The Fall Of Lauryn Hill: A Tale Of Two Icons
- Kat on Open Thread: The Great Gatsby
- Yakki45 on The Rise Of Beyoncé, The Fall Of Lauryn Hill: A Tale Of Two Icons
- Race + TV: Four Summer Shows From Across The Pond
- A Few Thoughts On Star Trek: Into Darkness
- Quoted: On The Summer Prince, by Alaya Dawn Johnson
- Friday Foolishness: Selena Gomez Is Wearing A Bindi?
- The Rise Of Beyoncé, The Fall Of Lauryn Hill: A Tale Of Two Icons
- Retrolicious–Mad Men 6.7: “Man With A Plan”
- Open Thread: The Great Gatsby
- Scandal Recap 2.22: “White Hats Back On”
TagsABC activism advertising african-american asian asian-american barack obama black blackface celebrities comedy culture diversity fashion feminism film gender glbt HBO hip hop hispanic history hollywood identity international interracial relationships latino media mixed race movies music muslim politics race racial stereotypes racism religion sex sexism sexual stereotypes stereotypes tv Uncategorized white youtube