Tag Archives: sexism

En Vogue: Muslim Women in Fashion News

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

A smattering of articles have appeared in newspapers lately, aiming to spread the word about how fashionable Muslim women are. These articles seem to refute the idea that Muslim women are against or unreceptive to fashion: “You can be religious and fashionable! Lots of them are! See?”

Is this supposed to be a compliment? Generalizing an entire religious group into a massive worldwide body of snappy dressers?

I wrote earlier on the popular perception of Muslim/Middle Eastern women as label whores, and many of these articles play up that exact angle. The Independent’s article, written by Sarah Buys, openly states, “This [retail development in the Gulf], in turn, has given rise to one of the most sartorially savvy, high-fashion buying demographs in the world. Middle Eastern Muslim women aren’t just prolific shoppers, now they are discerning, prolific shoppers.”

“Quit your bitching,” you might say. “It’s a compliment to be considered fashionable. What’s your problem?” My problem is that, with this characterization of Muslims as rich and fashionable, we slide right into “label whore” territory, which brings along with it the labels of the “rich Arab teenager” or the “spoiled Persian princess,” both younger cousins to the harmful Jewish-American Princess stereotype. These are class-based stereotypes that attach themselves to specific ethnicities and, now, to Muslims. They are not compliments.

If that’s not offensive enough for you, we can always take a look at the underlying Orientalism surrounding these articles. The title of The Independent’s article is “Muslin women: Beneath the Veil.” And The New York Sun piece, written by Jesse Sposato, is entitled, “Conservative Muslim Women Hide Knack for Fashion Under Their Religious Robes.” All this “beneath the veil” crap is tired. Women who wear more conservative clothes in line with their interpretations of Islamic requirements just wear clothes under those things! But these articles can’t be satisfied with that. What kind of clothes?

Hold on to your fantasies: they wear sexy clothes! Sposato’s article recounts a young woman’s anecdote about what a girl she knew would wear under her abaya: “When I was living in Dubai, there was a girl who wore a closed abaya with a bikini under it! She would just be at university walking around with a bikini under her abaya, and nobody would know. It was great.”

And Buys doesn’t even wait to get into the article to fantasize about what Muslim women are wearing under there. She comes right out and sexualizes us all in the tag line: “…And under that shapeless, monochrome exterior, don’t be surprised to find a daring and imaginative sense of style – not to mention a miniskirt or pink hot pants.”

So, according to these articles, Muslim women walking around in austere black robes are practically naked underneath. Ironic, isn’t it? The majority of these women wear conservative clothes to take focus away from their bodies (in line with cultural practices or certain Islamic schools of thought), and these articles bring it right back to them.

These articles would make more sense to me if these papers were doing some sort of style profile on several different religions; Islam is not the only religion with modesty guidelines. But singling out Muslim women (none of the articles mentioned modesty requirements for men) in order to sexually hint at what’s “underneath the veil” just doesn’t sit well with me.

Sumpin’ Turrrrble: SNL’s Keenan Thompson Performs Minstrel Act

by Racialicious special correspondent Wendi Muse, originally published at The Coup Magazine (blog)

I didn’t get a chance to see the entire episode of Saturday Night Live this weekend, but I came across a segment clip from NBC’s website that made my blood curdle. SNL’s guest this week was the young actress of Juno fame, Ellen Page, whose comedic timing proved powerful yet equally disturbing in a piece with Keenan Thompson, the only black member of the cast (Maya Rudolph, who is half black-American, half white Jewish, identifies as multiracial), entitled “Virginiaca Goes to Baby Gap.” You can see the full video of the sketch here, but I’ll give you a little re-cap:

An overweight black woman who, only for lack of a better term, would be characterized as “ghetto” stumbles out of breath into a Baby Gap store (as it’s on the second floor) with a pastry in hand. She practically sexually harasses the Baby Gap employee (played by Andy Samberg). Her step-daughter, played by Ellen Page, corn-rowed, permed, and wearing a tracksuit, enters the store, demanding to try on spandex pants she’d like to wear as booty shorts. Angered that the Baby Gap employee won’t allow her to try on the pants for fear that she’ll stretch out the merchandise (as it’s meant for BABIES), Page’s character and Virginiaca name drop (as Virginiaca’s new husband is a wealthy white aluminum tycoon, the daughter of whom she has clearly “corrupted”) in hopes of getting their way. After a slew of aural and visual stereotype guest appearances (including the “booty back and forth” dance and repeated overt and unwanted flirting with the sales guy), the segment ends with the sales person quitting and Virginiaca in all fours on a merchandise stand continuing her “booty back and forth” dance in the store.

While SNL has engaged in black/brownface before, including having light-skinned Latino Fred Armisen play presidential hopeful Barack Obama, and Darrell Hammond play Jesse Jackson and Geraldo Rivera,they were impressions, albeit good ones, and I never found offense in having the best cast members for the job portray important members of our society who happened to have darker skin than theirs. Yet when I saw the “Shopping with Virginiaca” sketch, which apparently is a regular segment on the show, I felt something different. Keenan Thompson, though black, was performing a blackface minstrelsy routine that went far beyond basic impressions of famous people. He was poking fun, sure, but in a way that ultimately cements what black women are and how we are viewed by the general public.

The routine was all the more significant in its meaning when I first saw it as I had just ended a conversation with a white colleague regarding how much I tire of the negative images of black women on tv that are so powerful that I can’t help but wonder whether or not people expect this behavior of me when they see me on the bus, on the subway, or in the street, no matter how I am dressed, how I speak, my job titles, or what school I went to. The stereotype precedes me. It walks 10 feet ahead, greeting those who pass by before I can say a word. And shame on you, Keenan Thompson, for making the stereotype strong enough to tackle me down before I can open my mouth to interrupt its first impressions. Continue reading

Debunking myths about statutory rape, race and class: Part 3 of 3

by Racialicious special correspondent Latoya Peterson

Continued from Parts 1 and 2

“The only people trying to sleep with teenagers are lower class/ghetto/have that kind of culture.”

Now, back to the race and class part of this one. One or two comments I read were in this vein – that this kind of behavior was not okay, but understandable because these people were either low class, ghetto, or their culture permits it. I am projecting that these labels fit different groups of people – “low class” stands in for poor white; “ghetto” stands in for poor black; and discussions of culture normally stands in for Latino men.

Here are a few more stories and some back up information for the first ones I have you.

While I was in high school, I had two asian friends I was fairly close with. We would often end up hanging out after school at the mall with all the other teenagers our age. Occasionally, we would take the bus to the really nice mall in the upper class neighborhood, so we could be broke in style. It was there – in the affluent neighborhood – that my asian friends dealt with the worst of their harassment. I can remember that each friend, on different occassions, was approached by older white men in their thirities and forties and quizzed about their ethnic backgrounds, ages, and dating status. These men always seemed to slip cards into their hands, asking them to call them later. My friends smiled demurely, always waiting until the man had gone before throwing their number away.

The friend I mentioned who had the child at age eleven? She was white. The friend who met the twenty five year old at the park? She was black. A boyfriend I had around age fifteen was Dominican. We would often supervise his sisters (aged 10 and 11) at the playground and I recall two occasions where we had to chase older Latino men or older black men away from them.

Some of these men had money and the accompanying markers of class. Some of these men did not. While I did not have any real experiences with Asian men or Arabic men I am sure that some of my friends had those kind of situations go down as well. However, people try to use the “low class” defense to wash their hands of the situation, as if there is nothing they can do. It is as if they are saying “these people are savages – its to be expected.”

Which, obviously, is not the case. Men of all races on all ends of the economic spectrum have the potential to harass and sleep with teenagers. And a small number of men do. Continue reading

Debunking myths about statutory rape, race and class: Part 2 of 3

by Racialicious special correspondent Latoya Peterson

Continued from Part 1

“But girls lie about their age to date older guys, right?”

I am aware that some girls do lie about their age to date older guys.

When I was twelve, my best friend at the time had met a guy and lied to him about her age. She told him she was sixteen and she did have the body to back it up. The guy sleeping with her accidentally would make complete sense – except for the fact that guy was twenty-five. He eventually slept with her, taking her virginity, even after he figured out how old we were. After all, it’s kind of a dead giveaway if you’re picking your girlfriend up at a middle school.

They stayed together for a few months. She eventually tried to set me up with his twenty year old brother.

Now, in the comments on the feminist sites, I noticed that a few people argued that teenagers should not be in adult places. They mention fake IDs and older ways of dressing that allowed them to gain access into clubs and go home with college guys.

The first friend I referenced, dating the twenty five year old? She met him at a local park. You know, a park with swings and a seesaw and a merry-go-round? Yeah, that one. That park also had a basketball court where guys our age and older would go to play basketball.

I had another friend. We met in eighth grade, she was thirteen and I was twelve. My friend shocked me one day after a guy (man really) walked past us and she broke down into a sobbing heap where we stood. She confided in me that when she was eleven she had a child, but her mother had forced her to put the child up for adoption. The baby’s father was the guy who had non-chalantly passed her by on the street.

Later, I found out that she was at school when she met her future abuser/baby daddy. He was aware she was about eleven – what other age group is enrolled in Middle School? At the time, this guy was about nineteen. He strung her along in this grand relationship fantasy, helping her to cut school as they drove around and had sex in the back of his car. When she got pregnant with his child, he dropped her. However, living in the same area means she would run into him about once a month, normally leading to an outburst of tears or screaming fits on her end and cool indifference (with the occassional “you were just a slut anyway”) from him.

Some of the comments at Feministe and Feministing assume that stautory rape is a one time “oh, I met this girl at the club and slept with her – I didn’t know she was fourteen!” These were ongoing relationships. Continue reading

Debunking myths about statutory rape, race and class: Part 1 of 3

by Racialicious special correspondent Latoya Peterson

The image above has been making the rounds of the feminist blogs, most notably Feministe and Feministing.

The ad was intended to target perpetrators of statutory rape in Milwaukee. Comissioned by the United Way of Milwaukee, the PSA style posters attempted to address a growing issue in that region: an increase in teen pregnancy where the mothers were young to mid teen and the fathers were grown men.

While the images were apparently tested with a focus group, the ads were killed before they made it to the streets. Personally, I hate the images in the ad as they are so comically disorted the messages is lost. The young girls who these men are impregnating do not have seven year old faces on twenty year old bodies. Most of them do look close to their actual ages. And most of the men who would sleep with a developed fifteen year old would probably be repulsed by the idea of having sex with a seven year old.

The ad does garner attention, but by using a photoshopped image of a girl, as opposed to an actual teenager it fails to reinforce the actual message.

However, the ad itself isn’t what prompted me to write this post. The responses to the ad on mainstream feminist blogs did. As I scrolled through the comments in each thread, I was shocked to see how many women were willing to dismiss statutory rape as an issue of mistaken identity. While there were definately some commenters who spoke up as to why the ads were needed, I was astounded to see how many feminists defended the poor men in this situation, who were tricked by these age-bending teens into having sex. The prevailing assumption was that these girls were somewhere they had no business being, doing grown adult things and most of this statutory rape stuff was just an innocent mistake. Some women even threw in their own accounts of looking tragically underage and having to deal with being endlessly carded or having men leave them alone because they looked so young. Tough life.

But not as tough as a fifteen year old trying to cope with a grown man’s affections.

So, I write this post in hopes that some of those women – and a few men – who were so quick to dismiss my day to day reality (and that of my friends) as a simple case of teenage sluts gone wild will read this and reconsider what they know about statutory rape, how it plays out in communties, and how it isn’t easily dismissed as a race or class issue – though both race and class do complicate things quite a bit.

Some notes before we begin:

1. In the vein of feminist blogs, I am slapping this post with a trigger warning. I am not going to describe things graphically, but some of what happens will probably be hard for some people to take. For that, I apologize, but it has to be said.

2. Please do not judge any of the actions taken by my peers or myself. All these things happened from the ages of 12 – 15. One of the events I will describe starts at age eleven. We were not in the mindset to make adult decisions, or even good decisions.

[FYI, age of consent in Maryland is 16, with an exception for actors with less than a four year age difference. This means that a 16 year old can have sex with someone aged 16 - 20 and it would not necessarily be statutory rape.]

3. Settle in, this is the first of a 3-part post.

Ready? Here we go…

“People who have sex with children know what they are doing is wrong.”

Feministing Commenter stinsonnick said:

Ad #1.
I think for the most part men who have sex with children know that it’s wrong, or at least understand that society views it as wrong. This isn’t going to help anything. Continue reading

Political Round Up – Links – 2/12/08

by Racialicious Special Correspondent Latoya Peterson

Alternet – Hillary Clinton’s Superdelegate “Firewall”

Al Gore’s 2000 campaign manager and superdelegate Donna Brazile describes the essence of this elitist practice. “One person, one vote? Forget about it. Some votes are worth more than others. You have to know the rules.”

[...]

Tom Foreman of CNN.com provides a super brief history of the superdelegate. “A few decades ago, Democratic leaders felt that sometimes, Democratic voters were choosing poor presidential candidates: campaigners who couldn’t win elections, or even if they could, they didn’t please Democratic kingmakers.”

“Jimmy Carter, for example, was an obscure candidate who developed so much popular appeal that he essentially forced Democratic Party leaders to accept him as the nominee, even though not everyone was thrilled by it.”

“They made the superdelegates: a super class of super Democrats, each of whom could vote at the convention for a candidate of choice — in effect, giving each of these Democrats the power of tens of thousands of average citizens.”

Feministing – Hillary Sexism Watch (Axe Edition)

Good link list of the bullshit that Hillary is going through. Check the past editions:

Previously in Hilary Sexism Watch:
Chelsea edition
Acronym edition
Misogyny-wear edition
Cheek-pinching edition
“Gender expert” edition
Shock collar edition
Hitchens is an asshole edition
Ironing edition
Accessories edition
Management edition
Laughing edition

Jack and Jill Politics – John. He. Is.

Oh snap. Good Luck with that in November, indeed. Continue reading

Interracial Porn: Holding Us Back While Getting Us Off? (Pt. 2)

by Racialicious special correspondent Wendi Muse

(. . . Continued from Part 1)

The hypothetical situation I posed above is clearly as far-fetched as Jensen’s advocacy of ending masculinity, but in the long run, especially with so many supporters of the eradication of race and the installation of colorblind institutions, could an erasure of race as we know it lead to an altering of our fantasies and their portrayal on screen?

My answer is a definite yes.

Without a doubt, the use of race in fantasy scenarios aids the process of arousal. Taboo elements in porn assist in the option of living vicariously through the actors/performers on-screen. Particularly with regard to race, as one’s race is basically immutable, certain attributes assigned to the actors’ respective sexual prowess or lack thereof are also seen as immutable, rendering porn actors/actresses of color mere props in a fantasy, just like whips, chains, or clamps would be in an S&M flick. Their race, as set by the film’s theme or as interpreted by the viewer, becomes a vehicle for the fantasy, used solely for the sake of helping the viewer achieve orgasm. Race becomes a fetish element, if you will, and porn writers, producers, and the actors involved use essentialization as a key part—without it, the fantasy of interracial sex dissolves.

The very fact that interracial porn is a genre in itself is telling. With porn categories often catered to the specifics needs (or assumed needs) of its viewers, sex between a black man and an Asian-American woman, as an example, becomes comparable to sex between a dom and a sub, simply another image to fulfill the sexual desires of the audience, though through considerably dehumanizing means. For example, just as women in straight porn films are often degraded, usually supplying self-deprecating speeches to mirror the verbal abuse of her male partner, interracial porn performers must do the same, often spouting out racist rhetoric that would make a Neo-Nazi blush, solely to bolster the element of fantasy.

Stereotypes replace basic dialogue, with the characters often addressing each other in race-based sexual terms, most particularly those which employ synecdoche (i.e. a black man may be referred to simply as “big black d*ck” or, as commonly seen in films featuring American men with Brazilian female sex partners, a Latina may be referred to solely by the size and shape of her bottom). And just as in “mono-racial” porn, third person becomes the most common form of address, with the actors often self-narrating, giving some of the actions a more disturbing meaning if the dialogue is racist (i.e. lines like “watch me make this Asian b*tch my little Geisha whore”). Violence is often combined with sex in hardcore interracial porn, closely correlating with mono-racial porn, yet when added with racism and verbal abuse, interracial sex in porn takes on a unique meaning, that being mainly that in order to have proper sex with someone of a different race, or to enjoy that fantasy, defilement is essential. And again much like its mono-racial counterpart, interracial porn employs exaggeration as a device to enhance scenarios further, though in a racial context, often with stereotypes, race-based monikers, and objectification at a heightened level. Even the racial differences themselves are greatly exaggerated and, many times, inaccurate (much like mainstream Hollywood films), with people of color fitting a specific and predictable description physically (Latinas tend to have dark hair, olive skin tones, and physical proportions that weigh heavily on the lower half, black actors/actresses usually have dark skin as to provide a color contrast with their non-black sex partner, etc), transforming race into not only a prop, as mentioned previously, but also as a costume and a landscape upon which the cinematographic foundation relies for stability. Continue reading

Oooh, Baby, Put it On: Ripping up Veil Fetish Art

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

The original view of Middle Eastern/Muslim women was that of a lazily sensual harem woman reclining on a couch. Most recently, it has morphed into a cowed housewife bullied by her religion and the men in her life. From these icons arises a newer image of Muslim women: one that combines the two.

I’ll term this genre “veil fetish art,” because every featured woman has most or all of her face and hair covered. Although the woman herself is the main focus, the veil acts as a sexual catalyst: it brands the woman as forbidden, despite the fact that you may be able to see most of her naked body. So even though she’s exposed, the veil reminds you that she’s “forbidden fruit,” and pushes the viewer to want her even more.

So did I find these pictures while uploading porn? Nope. All I did was run a Google search for phrases like “Muslim women,” “burka,” and “veil,” and several not-safe-for-work results came up (FYI: moderate safe-search was on). The majority of these results came up within the first five pages. If you click on the pictures to find where they’re showcased, you’ll usually be taken to websites geared toward Islamophobic and xenophobic world views that fly under the flag of “anti-terrorism.” Or Islamophobic discussion threads. Or porn sites (sorry, no links for those).

Though it’s a possibility, these women are most likely not Middle Eastern or Muslim. It’s more likely that they’re white and/or western models with some spray-tans. The only thing that signifies their cultural or religious affiliation is a veil, which works in two ways: to brand the woman as a Middle Eastern/Muslim woman, and to arouse the viewer.

It’s something like an updated version of the French-Algerian colonialist postcards produced in the mid-nineteenth century. The primary difference is that the Orientalist postcards centered on domesticity, docility, and an exotic locale, aiming to showcase naïve young Algerian girls with their breasts exposed.

But the subjects of veil fetish art are neither girls nor innocent, and it doesn’t matter where they are: these women are hot under that niqab, and they want you to know it. They are positioned in pin-up posture: coy, curvy, and enticing. Or, they’re in a Maxim-style stance: they stare you down while your eyes roam over their partially-obscured form. Continue reading