by Guest Contributor Alicia, originally published at Muslimah Media Watch
It had to happen sooner or later. With Barbie and now Hannah Montana merchandise dominating the tween to early teenage market in Malaysia, products for young Muslim women in hijab are starting to appear, particularly on the bookshelves. And they look very pink.
The increasing pinkness of girl’s books can be directly connected to the uninterrupted rise of a global consumerist culture that worships Hollywood celebrity culture in Malaysia; from businesses that name themselves after American cities for prestige to the local edition of Cosmopolitan magazine that represents the arbiter of modern Malaysian female sexuality. And by following the lead of Barbie and Hello Kitty manufacturers’ lucrative use of the color pink, local book publishers do the same to gain a monopoly on young female readers.
Of course pinkness would not be complete without princesses. I’d like to point out here that although princesses have long been present in Malaysia, both in reality and in legend, none looks strikingly similar to a Disney princess as the female protagonist in Azian Aiman’s Sayalah Puteri Raja! (I’m the Princess Here!). Causing the most concern for me is its depiction of princesses as celebrities and objects of female envy, as revealed on the back of the book:
Zara steps out of the car and waves to a crowd that screams her name.
“Princess Zara! Princess Zara!”
“Oh, how beautiful she is! How wonderful it would be to be just like you, your highness!”
“I want to be like Princess Zara!”
A cacophony of screams fill the already chaotic air. Is she witnessing a mass hysteria? Zara cannot hide her excitement at being the object of worship.