Tag Archives: feminism

The Veil Does Not a Prison Make

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

Who’s Danielle Crittenden? She writes a blog for The Huffington Post and recently, she decided to “take on the veil” as a social experiment for one week of her life in Washington, D.C. She went straight for the gold and decided to wear the starkest, blackest niqab out there, ignoring the fact that the hejab is far more prevalent among Muslim women than the niqab. She blogs about her experience in four separate posts under the title, “Islamic Like Me.”

Readers, you know my issue with people who use “Muslim” and “Islamic” synonymously. For god’s sake, would somebody check the Associated Press guidelines?! “Islamic” describes architecture and history…things. A “Muslim” is an adherent of Islam; Muslims are people, not things.

So Ms. Crittenden decides to put on a niqab…for what? For giggles? She never really explains her reasons for doing so, but makes it very apparent that wearing a niqab is a bad idea because it’s “oppressive”. Does she want to see what it’s like to be a Muslim woman who wears niqab? Does she want to understand the prejudice that these women face?

No. After reading her posts, it’s obvious she just wants to play dress-up. She doesn’t attempt to adhere to any principles of Islam while wearing the niqab, nor does she take it off in her home like most niqabis would, nor does she even attempt to start a dialogue with any Muslim women—niqabis or not.

This experiment reminds me of one of Tyra Banks’ experiments: you remember when she put on a fat suit? Yeah. That one. She put on a fat suit under the guise of “seeing how the other half lives” but really just used it as a self-indulgent exercise in vanity (kind of like everything else Tyra does, bless her heart). This one seems really no different.

So, we read the first paragraph of Ms. Crittenden’s post “Islamic Like Me: Taking On The Veil”, and already, I want to throw my computer out the window.

“‘I wonder what it’s like to wear Arabic dress?’ I said one day to my husband. His eyes sparked with interest. ‘You mean as in I Dream of Jeannie?’ ‘No. I mean those black cover-ups they wear in Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries.’”

(Long sigh). So, we begin with the blatantly incorrect idea that all women in the Middle East wear “Arabic” clothing, even if they are not Arab or Muslim. We see later in her posts that her idea of “Arabic clothing” is a niqab and abaya—ignoring several other traditional dress styles that Arab women wear. And, of course, her husband throws in the sexualized Orientalist fantasy of I Dream of Jeannie. Fantastic! Continue reading

Black women support Hillary Clinton because their men cheat too?

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

I’m glad the bad-ass ladies at What About Our Daughters? are speaking out about this. I watched this segment on CNN early this morning too but was not quite awake enough to trust my reaction to the piece. Glad I wasn’t the only one thinking, WTF?

This Week’s Wagging Finger of Shame Award Goes to Essence magazine editor Tatsha Robertson for being a complete and total embarrassment to Black women everywhere for saying this foolishness on CNN:

“Even though she’s Hillary Clinton, they [Black women] see themselves, you know, within her, dealing with the family issues, the infidelity issues.”

According to CNN’s Chris Lawrence Robertson says Clinton’s ultimate embarrassment is her greatest asset. Robertson went on to say:

“She decided, you know, whether she wanted to stay or not, and I really think, you know, people respect that about Hillary Clinton, especially black women. “

Really? Is that why black women like Hillary? Because their men are cheating on them too, so they identify with Hillary’s marriage problems? As opposed to say, her accomplishments or views or positions or personality?

Check out the transcript here.

Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Triple Threats and Double Troubles for Muslim Women

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

You’ve probably heard about the recent ruling given to a Saudi gang-rape victim: 110 lashes added onto the original sentence of 90 lashes because she protested her sentence to the media. It’s a horrible and vindictive sentence, and the callous treatment this woman has received as a victim is insulting to her, Saudi Arabia, and Islam.

Why Islam? What does her ruling have to do with Islam? Well, nothing really. Technically, the judge who sentenced her went by Shari’a law, but he added those extra lashes from his own judgment because she spoke out about her case. So he punished her.

But every reactionary blog poster, conservative news network, and Western women’s rights group has condemned this action as an Islamic one. So Muslim women around the world have a choice: do we defend ourselves against Islamophobia, against racism, or against misogyny?

This “triple threat” is one we often face as Muslim women (especially if we are also women of color). We always seem to be battling against one (or more) of these three issues: racism (for Muslim women who are also non-white), Islamophobia, or misogyny (not just from our own Muslim communities, but also from non-Muslim communities who think they know what’s best for us).

Being on the defensive all the time creates reactionary behavior. We always feel like we have to keep our guards up to defend our faith and our choices, and it gets tiring. Most Muslims don’t necessarily mind explaining stuff (that is, if you’re genuinely interested in understanding instead of starting an argument), but we can’t all be Encyclopedia Islamicas all the time.

Some of this “damage control” keeps us from having dialogues within our communities. Muslim women face a lot of problems within our communities as well as outside, but we’re afraid to talk about it because it can potentially be used against us. People in our own communities this power: for example, feminists in Iran are accused of being too “Westernized” by compatriots who have no interest in changing the status quo for women. Many women who seek their fair share are given this load of crap in order to guilt them into shutting up, because Westernization is equated with undesirable qualities in the Muslim world. Or, if we try to speak out to a non-Muslim audience, we are accused of “betraying” Islam or our communities by airing out our “dirty laundry.” Continue reading

Vogue India Shows Appreciation For Indian Beauty With Caucasian Model Highlighted…..

by guest contributor Seattle Slim, originally published at Happy Nappy Head

This is the cover of the inaugural issue of Vogue India. Unfortunately, I don’t see much of anything distinctly “Indian” about it. I see them highlighting Australian model Gemma Ward, flanked by two Indian women, who may as well wear signs saying “sidekick” around their necks. To add to the affront, the Indian models both have blue eyes.

I know that most will say that it may not be too much to worry about because most Indians have bigger fish to fry like poverty but Vogue had a greater responsibility to do right by India and it failed.

Sad to say, this isn’t the first time. Vogue pulled the same stunt, with the same model on the cover of Vogue China’s inaugural issue.

I’m sorry but when I look for a Vogue India, I want to see beautiful Indian models all over the magazine; I want accurate representation.

Gemma Ward pales in comparison to the lovely Aishwarya Rai, so why isn’t Miss Rai on the cover? What about Shilpa Shetty? Looking at the other models, they didn’t even need Ward on the cover. Their beauty speaks volumes.

Unfortunately, their beauty wasn’t allowed to grace the cover without Gemma in the middle. What does speak volumes is Vogue’s subliminal message that unless a Caucasian female is associated with it, it’s not beautiful. The use of models with blue eyes (or possibly color contacts?) further cements Vogue’s idea of what women of color should look like in order to be considered pretty enough to stand next to a white woman’s beauty.

If this the way Vogue is going to operate when launching magazines for perspective countries, I shudder to think what Vogue Kenya may be. I can just see it now.

This is why we should be extra vigilant to the messages that the media sends children of color and protect them from deception. I wouldn’t bring this magazine into my house to line a bird cage.

Vogue’s message is loud, clear and pathetic. If this is the best Vogue can do, they should be ashamed of themselves. Gemma isn’t the standard of beauty in this photo, in all reality, she barely makes the cut.

Who are your favorite fictional, iconic female characters of color?

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

Hey Racialicious readers, I recently got the email below from an artist named Maureen. I suggested to her that I could post her email on the blog to tap into your collective wisdom, so that’s exactly what I’m doing here.

What suggestions do you have for Maureen?

—————————

Hi Carmen,

I am a visual arts/women’s studies student in Toronto, Canada. I am emailing you in the hopes of generating some advice or reference material about how to address some issues I am coming across with an art project I am working on.

My project is about the lack of visibility of aging women and also how in Western iconography of women, vitality and strength are directly linked to their attractiveness and youth. So my idea was to take fictional, iconic female characters, i.e. Wonder Woman, Buffy, Xena, Catwoman and so on, and age them with their costumes intact, and hopefully also, their dignity and the wisdom I like to think that comes with age. I have these subcategories: Film/T.V, Fairytales (which is really Disney depictions–which for some reason kind of irks me that as visual, recognizable icons they all come from there), Superheroines.

My issue is that many of the icons I am referencing are white (as am I), and while I am addressing the invisibility of aging women, I don’t want to in turn make invisible women of colour in my project. In my women’s studies degree, which informs most of my art, we talk often of how race/ism is made invisible or ignored or not properly considered in both canonical academic discourse and pop culture: I don’t want to contribute to that. I can actually come up with a number of Black-American icons to depict: Catwoman (who I am actually on the fence about after researching since there have been so many incarnations of her, far more of them white than Black), Storm from the X-Men, Foxy Brown (Pam Grier) and so on. But again, I don’t want to address racial inclusivity as either token or as simply about black and white.

I have thought about including some more Disney characters as I am already including Cinderella and Snow White (particularly because of the idea of aging them potentially puts them on the same side as their stepmothers they so revile): Mulan, Jasmine from Aladden, Pocahontas–but this does not seem satisfactory to me. Particularly Pocahontas, as she is based on a real figure straight out of colonial history–there are many issues of racism that come attached with her that could not go without addressing. I thought too about the character of Miss Saigon but again I think there are political issues there too that I’m not sure how to deal with. I am adding text to these images that will describe these women’s lives as I have aged them–I could address racial issues there. But how? Who else can I use? How do I address why I am having trouble coming up with iconic characters of colour or the overwhelming whiteness of my project? How can I make the issues of gender, age and race/ism intersect in this project? Can you recommend to me some resources I can look into? Recommend some iconic characters even that I am just being blind to?

I’m sorry if I am coming across as ignorant but I really feel like I need to address this in my project, especially since it is about the visibility and iconography of (Western) women. I’m just not quite sure how to go about it.

Thank you for your time;

Maureen.

Are you wearing red today?

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

Learn more about the Wear Red campaign and how you can lend your support:

In a Litany of Survival, Audre Lorde writes, “When we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak remembering we were never meant to survive.” These words shape our collective organizing to break the silence surrounding women of color’s stories of violence. We are asking for community groups, grass-root organizations, college campus students and groups, communities of faith, online communities, and individuals to join us in speaking out against violence against women of color. If we speak, we cannot be invisible.