A few nights ago I realized I was in desperate need of a pair of shorts to help me deal with the oncoming humidity of Northeastern summers. So, I rushed to my local H&M right before they closed. I had about ten minutes to search for cute shorts, find them in my size, and try them on before the store closed (which is quite a feat if you’re familiar with H&M’s mysterious sizing sorcery). Though I was literally running for the register while clutching my cute new floral patterned high-waisted shorts, I managed to snap these pictures of some ridiculous graphic tees I found in the “Men’s” section.
There were more of these “graphic tees” featuring close-ups and odd angles that cut off women’s heads and focus solely on sexualized parts of their bodies. As I expected, a quick look around confirmed that there were no analogous women’s (or men’s) tees featuring men in spandex or close-ups of their sinewy muscles. Driving home, these shirts occupied my thoughts. I was trying to figure out what bothered me about them. There was the obvious implicit male gaze of the photographs, the objectification of a woman’s body, and the slicing up of that body into only its desirable parts. But there was something else that was bugging me about the photographs. It was their voyeuristic quality–the idea that they were literally taken without the knowledge of their subject from a vantage point of behind or below her. It reminded me of the “Creepshot” community on the popular website, Reddit, which featured “upskirt” photos and pictures of women taken without their consent. I wondered whether the model whose body was on display knew she would be reduced to her butt covered in a patriotic bikini on a tee-shirt for men? With the retail clothing industry’s history of stealing images without the knowledge of their rightful owner, this didn’t seem like a far reach. I also wondered who this tee-shirt was being marketed to–who was the man that would see this disembodied female body on a tee-shirt and think it would look really cool in their summer wardrobe?
H&M was recently celebrated in some zones of feminist media for their advertisement for “normal” clothing featuring a “plus-size” model. Though I was far from cheering at that excuse for progress, it reinforced for me the vigilance we must have as feminist consumers. Companies are not in the business of making a feminist revolution (obviously,) they are in the business of making profits (capitalism, people). So, get on Twitter and tell H&M you are #NotBuyingIt!
In light of the controversy over Laci Green‘s comment that Islam is “the most sexist religion,” I wanted to share a paper I wrote a few years ago about Islam and the custom of veiling. Researching and writing this paper exposed me to important ideas about women and Islam that I had never considered before. The paper is on a very specific topic about a specific geographic area, but I think it gives some important historical information about the roots of some Islamic practices that many people believe to be sexist. I would like to add that this post is not meant to claim that Islam is or is not sexist; I am simply trying to challenge some of the ways we talk about and think about certain people and religions.
If you are looking for further resources on understanding Islamophobia, I highly recommend the film Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Villifies a People, which can be watched on YouTube below. Some other interesting ideas about sexism in Islam can be found here. I also highly encourage reading the works of Lila Abu-Lughod, especially her paper titled “Seductions of the Honor Crime,” if you have access to academic databases.
“Bad Hijab”: The Importance of the Veil in Modern Iranian Culture
For women in modern Iran, the veil has become a sign of the recent rise of Islamic fundamentalism and the increased cultural and political oppression of women. Though Iran is known as one of the most modernized and educated Middle-Eastern countries, the hijab and its related social constructs remain a heavy influence on the social status of women in the country. The veil continues to be manipulated as a symbol of power and oppression on women in Islamic countries and in marketing and media in the Western world. In this paper, I will discuss the historical importance of veiling in Iran and the influence of Sharia law on determining the veiling customs of Iranian women. I will also focus on the veil’s role in the modern cultural life of Iranian women, specifically in the central city of Tehran.
The first reference to the veiling of women in the Islamic world was in Continue reading
What steps can be taken to call attention to such basic sexism in journalism and advertising? I’d love to hear your comments and suggestions!
This past weekend was the first time in fifteen years or so that I have been in the audience of a dance performance. I have been a dancer since I could walk, though I have always had a frayed relationship with the activity that demanded so much of my time and energy. Dance culture became something I couldn’t quite understand, especially as I began identifying as a feminist as a teenager. Though I loved the creative power that flowed through my body to music, dance often demanded too much attention to my body and how it was supposed to look.
Over the weekend, I watched my two younger sisters perform in a show that included girls (and few boys) ranging from age three to adult. The theme of this performance was “A Day At The Mall,” so many of the songs boasted very gendered and class-based messages, from “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend” to Madonna’s “Material Girl” Continue reading