Muslim Women in American Media

Representation of Muslim Women in Media

Ever since I was younger I’ve been bombarded with images of Muslim women wearing burkas who were reported in the media as abused. Currently, more Muslim women have emerged working in more prominent fields such as journalism and fashion which has expanded the representation of Muslim women to greater fields in which they relatively had no representation but I wanted to see if the majority of America still saw Muslim woman as abused and uneducated.

Personally, I follow a lot of Muslim women who are fashion bloggers and journalists such as Noor Tagouri and Dinatokio, with Noor Tagouri appearing on CNN to debate about the presidential elections and Dinatokio being the founder of the first modest fashion week. So, I knew people had been exposed to these women but I felt as if the admiration for them was limited to a niche community of Muslim women. So, while I was researching especially with the current political climate I expected all the information I found to be negative. To my surprise, the majority of it was positive and I came across a lot of instances where the popularity of hijab was being introduced to the mass media.

Wrap My Hijab

I was first introduced to Wrap My Hijab by a friend who described the video to me as funny and quirky. Initially, I didn’t pay much attention to it since it was played on the aux cord of a car, but while I was thinking of potential instances in how Muslim women are portrayed in the media, Wrap My Hijab addresses all those issues through its lyrics. The song writer Mona Haydar, targets the most prevalent issue, which is Muslim women consistently being questioned about the representation of their faith through her lyrics, “Don’t that make you sweat” or “Don’t that feel too tight.” The song then discusses how hijab does not oppress women rather is it a form of liberation for women around the world and despite anyone’s opposition nothing will stop these women from wearing the hijab.

What I especially like about the music video “Wrap my Hijab,” is that it was made by a woman who wore hijab coming from her own personal experiences. What I particularly found interesting were the lyrics and the title to the music video. They were both very simple ways of addressing a difficult issue that would be accessible to many people. The Wrap my Hijab, was not only the title of the song but the main purpose, and it sent a very direct message that as a Muslim woman this is a part of my identity that no one can change. The lyrics also spoke to me on a personal level because many of the conversations I’ve had with people have followed the same course, where they will always ask me about why I wear I why hijab, what my hair looks like and why I don’t just take it off. Then I have to explain to them that hijab to us is not a symbol of oppression, it’s a symbol of liberation and that no matter what people say nothing will deter me from wearing hijab. Within the music video there was a variety of women from all around the different world shown wearing different hijab styles and the lyrics referenced women from non-middle eastern countries who wear hijab. Which was important because non-middle eastern women are usually ignored in the conversation about hijab. Also, I think it was important that the director, Mona Haydar, made an effort to depict women styling their hijab different ways because usually when we are shown images of Muslim women in the media they are all depicted as the same. So, it’s good that she made an effort to show the full scope of Muslim women who wear hijab. Mona Haydar has also stated that this is the first single in her album.

London Modest Fashion Week

London Modest Fashion Week was inspirational for Muslim women all around the world because we are consistently underrepresented in every single field. Within film and art there is absolutely no mention of Muslim women at. So, it is a huge inspiration for Muslim women to be shown that things do exist specifically for us and that hijab is not a barrier for our goals. Also, this is a very empowering event for women because it shows them that anything is possible as long as you put effort into achieving your goal. It also shows a different dimension of Muslim women because we are constantly shown in oppressive light but here we are shown inspiring a movement. A woman wearing a hijab also discusses how when you wear hijab you still have the same desire to be beautiful but it’s difficult when there aren’t clothes made for your religious outlines in mind. Also, they showed Dina tokio, a fashion blogger, being interviewed saying how revolutionary and great this movement is and if people were against this they could “piss off.” The whole purpose of this to show that we are here to demonstrate that Muslim women are represented and can do whatever they want. This is especially inspirational after Halima Aden, a Somali-American hijabi model walked down the runway in the Yeezy season 5 show.

Nike Pro-Hijab

Social media posts by the two hijabi athletes figure skater Zahra Lari and weight lifter Amna Hadid, responding to the negative reactions of people when the Nike hijab was released. Amna discusses how other brands never saw a need for a product like the Nike Pro-Hijab because it was not “popular” and it was unheard of to see woman train, exercise and compete in the hijab. Only recently have women expressed a need for it and more professional athletes have fought for the right to compete with the hijab. It was something that could no longer be ignored. Amna discusses how although there has been a market for athletic hijabs before, Nike is the first big athletic retail company to release one. Amna says that surely with the Nike Sports Hijab it will encourage a generation of athletes. Many people were supportive but many people responded with negative online comments. One woman tweeted that she would never buy another Nike product again. Another person tweeted that Nike decided to capitalize off the Islamic patriarchy by putting their brand on a chastity helmet and someone else tweeted Americans do not support the oppression of women! Why does Nike?

To me the release of the Nike hijab was a great move towards the support of Muslim women in competitive sports because I played competitive sports in high school and we were given uniforms that I couldn’t wear due to religious reasons and I was always left scraping together my own clothes to pull together a uniform. To this day, one of the major issues I encounter when I exercise is trying to find the right hijab to wear when I exercise because many of them easily slip off my head or they are too tight. I know Nike may be doing this simply to tap into a seemingly untouched market but Muslim women have never been welcomed into the sporting world so to have something made for us like this is paramount. So many young girls who wear hijab may feel discouraged because they don’t see anyone else who looks like them competing but now they will, which will be very inspiring to them. So, it is tragic to see how people can always spin things into oppression instead of something that is taking us a step forward.

Persepolis

Persepolis is a graphic autobiography by Marjane Satrapi depicting her childhood to adult years in Iran during and after the Islamic revolution. Marjane discusses the great change the religious change the revolution brings about with it. Most dramatically, the segregation of boys and girls and women being forced to wear the veil. The thing she struggles with the most is the meaning of the veil, since she she comes from a religious but modern avant-garde family. The rest of the novel details her tremulous teenage years in which she is punished for wearing clothes that are too “revealing” and her going to her first punk rock parties. One of the issues she faces is the limitations and the restrictions the Islamic regime places upon her. Especially in the case of her and her fiancé in which they are forced to marry because the regime frowns down upon extramarital relationships. Although, at the end Marjane ends up leaving Iran for France.

I picked all these sources because they were useful in the sense they provided a different scope and field of how representation of Muslim women had been integrated into mainstream media.

 

Learning Moments:

Week 4: Learning how to analyze movies was very useful when I found the music video, “Wrap My Hijab” and I had to analyze how all its details played into the image into it was communicating about Muslim women.

 

Citations:

Nike Hijab Faces Backlash on Social Media, Teen Vogue, March 13 2017.

http://www.teenvogue.com/story/nike-hijab-backlash

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-4241500/London-hosts-Modest-Fashion-Week.html

Wrap My hijab, Mona Haydar, March 27 2017.

Satrapi, Marjane. Persepolis. New York: Pantheon, 2003. Print.

 

 

 

 

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This entry was posted in Spring 2017 by salammasalmeh. Bookmark the permalink.

About salammasalmeh

I am currently a sophomore at PSU studying Social Science and Marketing. On campus I am involved in Student Leaders for Service (SLS), I am an ambassador for the business school and I am the social media and marketing coordinator for Portland State Programming Board (PSPB).

4 thoughts on “Muslim Women in American Media

  1. First off, I would like to complement your presentation of an alternative perspective of women that choose to wear a hijab. It invoked curiosity and questioning of my own biases on this matter.

    I am a cis, Caucasian female that has not experienced discrimination in regard to a personal choice like this and so want to clarify before continuing that I am largely ignorant around all the complexities that are involved in the controversy (possibly culturally designed) that surrounds the hijab.

    I respect a woman’s choice to wear whatever she chooses and agree that in American culture, women that do choose to wear a hijab have been placed in a narrow box pop-culturally, and it is refreshing to see powerful, strong women doing amazing things clad in a hijab.

    When examining, honestly, the curiosity and questioning of my beliefs surrounding the hijab following reading your post two immediate things come to mind. One is that I am an atheist and generally believe about most, if not all, religious beliefs that women have been subjugated and remnants of religious culture, like the hijab, modest clothing for the sake of modesty, Mormon temple garments, and so on are oppressive in that they are inherently associated with the doctrine that supports them. I am not dictating that my perspective is correct or even fully informed; this is just the viewpoint I hold at this point in time, but welcome counterpoints to it, like the information and views you have shared. I tend to hold extreme views on certain things and realize that ignorance might guide some of them. Second, I think of the women that have come forward to express their negative associations with their past hijab experiences like for example in the following article.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/valerie-tarico/is-the-hijab-a-symbol-of-_b_4796907.html

    There do seem to be some women in which the hijab represents something different than the women in the “Wrap my Hijab” music video. Both perspectives I find valid and respect and believe that both views can exist in a diverse world.

    I have not had any significant interactions with women that choose to wear a hijab aside from casual interactions and have known for some time that this likely contributes to my difficulty in coming to accept that the hijab does not always relate to something negative and am somewhat ashamed for holding what feel like discriminatory beliefs about them whether those are born out of ignorance or are grounded in my own personal beliefs about religion (or both).

    That being said, I am excited to see things like the music video, fashion show, and athletic wear becoming more mainstream and inspiring discourse about this topic. I think it is important for every little girl (and boy) to be able to see realistic, positive role models and representations of their culture. The woman I think of when I find myself being intellectually lazy and giving into stereotypes is Malala Yousafzai who wears a hijab. I find her one of the strongest opponents to oppression in popular culture right now so I appreciate that this makes me question my feelings about the hijab.

    I know that discourse about this topic can be difficult and so I hope I presented my viewpoints in a respectful way; I think it is special that your post allowed me to question my own beliefs regarding this matter.

  2. Hey Salam,
    When I saw your the title of your post, I became curious. From my perspective, Muslim women has always been portrayed negatively. When I click on the first video (the song), I was surprise that it wasn’t a video full of sadness, bomb, and chaos. The music video was very modern. There was a purpose behind the video, it was Muslim women standing up to express their thoughts. When I was younger, I always had the question of “why are they wearing a head scarf in the middle of summer”, “isn’t it hot?” in the back of my mind. It’s not that I was being rude or disrespectful (on the inside), I was just curious, because I have been exposed to something new. I am from China, so I have never been exposed to a Muslim woman. Upon arriving in America, I see something new, so questions comes up. When Muslim women get asked “what you are wearing that”, I think they should be brave and educate us(the person who ask questions), so we can learn from them, and broaden our understanding.

  3. Hey!
    I think your blog post is very important in that it expresses a lot of information on a topic that many excuse or show ignorance on. I think that it is really refreshing to see more inclusion in pop culture and media surrounding the hijab and women who choose to wear it for a multitude of reasons. It is great to get current and truthful information on a topic that I and many are trying to explore for the sake of knowledge and equality.

  4. Hi Salam,
    When I was scrolling down the blog, your blog post really got my attention. I never really knew why some middle eastern women wore a hijab, even in the summer. But as of right now I feel it’s how they were raised and like you mentioned each women has their own reasons of why they wear it. I always felt Muslim women got portrayed so much in the media but as of looking at the media now, more and more popular culture starts to show Muslim women wearing hijab as a normal thing and not something new. I really liked the example of the Nike picture of the women wearing a hijab. I found that more media and companies are open and supporting women that wear a hijab.
    Overall, I found your blog post very informative and interesting.

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