Sunday, February 26, 2006

Breaking Out Of The Cultural Burka

Gee when an American superstar said this the right wing attacked her for being a bimbo. Now let's see what happens when a Muslim woman says the same thing.

Muslim Madonna' - Brace for another muslims' riot, bloodshed

Feb 24, 2006

Muslim pop singer Deeyah has irked the Muslim world with her provocative new music video that shows her stripping off a burka to reveal her bikini-clad body. Deeyah claims, the video, What will be? deals with Muslim women's rights and female empowerment, as it also features Muslim women who have fought for freedom of expression.

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Once again the body is the centre of politics and theology, the body not as self ownership of ourselves but as a commodity. And it is as much objectification of womens bodies, by declaring them sexual and evil, to say must be covered up or to say they should be exploited in bathing suit beauty contests. 'Beauty' contests remain a commodifcation of women and their bodies as much as covering them up. Again the message is that women are objects, not subjects, of desire. And in order to be desirable an entire industry exists to recreate women in some male ideal image.

And even bikini wearing singers in music videos as brave and liberating as that is remains with the limits of objectification. But it is step towards womens liberation even within these limits.

To resist the reactionary attitudes against our bodies and against the myth of the fall of Eve, which is the source of patriarchical monotheisms fear and hatred of the body, is to accept the body as natural. The only radical ideology that does is naturism which of course is still taboo even in the west. Which is why nudes sell magazines.

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Naturam expelles furca tamen usque recurret.

"You expel nature with a pitchfork, but it just comes back."


Which is why the body is still the central debate within the feminist movement. The Playboy debate, is it or isn't it pornography ,remains with us both in the U.S. and UK . As a result what Deeyah is doing will be appauled by some and denounced by others, not just mullahs but by sex negative feminism. What Deeyah is doing is what new wave feminism is doing in the west, challenging the ownership of womens bodies. Or as the second wave Feminists called it Our Bodies Our Selves.

In Her Own Image

Artist/musician Gwynn Hermann tears down artistic barriers

Hermann attended Herron School of Art at IUPUI and began work on a photography degree in 1994. In those days, she said, the photography department was known for its feminist teaching staff. “Some hated it — especially the male students — and some loved it; I was in the latter category. Feminism really did change the course of the art world; it challenged the status quo, forced people to reconsider, or just plain consider for the first time, the assumptions put forth about roles of gender and identity, class and status. Feminism demanded that the voices and viewpoints of people other than old/dead white men be heard.”

Her work, even in a tolerant environment such as Herron, was controversial. “I began to make a long series of self-portraits, often nude, to the point that some of my classmates begged me to shoot something else. I did self-portrait work for two reasons. I wanted to change the poor self-image I had. I’d struggled with depression and anxiety attacks much of my life, and I got to a point where I hated myself and couldn’t trust myself, and I knew that had to change. I embraced self-portraiture as a way to kind of catch me when I wasn’t looking.”
She paused to catch her breath. “It’s hard to explain.”

Except this new wave feminism is saying sexuality is ok showing our bodies off is empowerment much to the chagrin of second wave feminists,conservative moralists and now the mullahs.

Women have moved beyond the self awareness stage of feminism to what Wendy McElroy calls Self- Ownership. And within the limits of culture that is the challenge in Iran as much as it is in the good old USA, that other theological nation ruled by mullahs. Ironic since the United States sees itself as the very ideal of capitalism, which demands the constant destruction of social values.

Modern capitalism has allowed the birth of the independent woman who is no longer economically dependent on her husband.

Camille Paglia

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Bitch | Lab said...

"Except this new wave feminism is saying sexuality is ok showing our bodies off is empowerment much to the chagrin of second wave feminists,conservative moralists and now the mullahs."

Hi Eugene!

I just want to point out that the essay -- well, er, rant -- I wrote was really a rejection of the claim that sex positive feminists say that stripping, etc. are empowering.

As I've written elsewhere -- and when pointing to the work of Gayle Rubin -- sex positive feminism is a rejection of the ways in which some strands of feminist thought sought to politicize sexuality such that claims were made about what kinds of sex, whether heterosexual or not, were considered properly feminist sex.

In context, the movement against this kind of thinking, what Rubin calls "sex negativism" had to do with the regulartion of sexuality, both by the wider society _and_ by some feminists themselves.

For instance, penetrative sex was considered, a priori, sexist. Even lesbians who engaged in penetrative sex were said to be ideologically blinded by patriarchy. Anyone who engage in kinky sex surely was.

As I've written elsewhere on the blog, this sort of thinking was so widespread, it prompted many feminists who are much more widely known in the US today -- e.g., bell hooks -- to criticize that strand of thought.

So my essay was not necessarily a celebration of stripping as empowering. I honestly don't know a feminist who thinks stripping is unproblematically empowering. Even Nina Hartley, the porn star, says that most porn today is anti woman and anti human.

My essay, rather, was a call for people making these claims in the feminist community to back up those claims with direct quotes from those who do.


As for your last para -- wouldn't you say, though, that it is not so much ironic but that it's predictable? E.g., Marx argued that the contradictions born of this situation form the "struggles and wishes of the age" [1]-- and those are the struggles and wishes that we, as radicals, have to move forward, advance?

Even so, I have to say, I did get a chuckle when I read that last para, "that other theological nation rules by mullahs." *big grin*

[1] from Marx's letter to Arnold Ruge.

eugene plawiuk said...

Greeting on International Womens Day, sorry I didn't comment before, but I like your take on this and yes I know you were being critical, but you also did an excellent job in outlining the ideas of sex positive feminism and their contradictions, which is why I did post a link to your article.

And of course the limits of expression such as stripping, or in this case beauty contests and bathing suits reflect liberation and exploitation, you can't have one without the other unfortunately, well unless you go to a nudist colony.

This is the contradiciton of Playboy, not that it exploited women, but that it challenged patriarchal values, it paid its models, it paid its authors, it took liberalism to its logical conclusion under existing capitalism.

But then it created a marketplace for soft core porn, which allowed hard core porn to gain a market.

These are the contradicitons of capitalism it is both liberating, and then expoliting of our liberation by turning us into consumers.

It is why while wearing a Burkha and a bikini may be reflections of male society, the bikini for a moment is a womens liberation. After that she may dress as she wills, which I think is the whole point. One is oppression and exploitation and the other is liberation that may be exploited.

I hope that makes sense.