Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Media Moment, Arab Men: Exposed

It is crucial to view the representation of Arab women in the media within the context of the simultaneous representation of Arab men - their so-called oppressors. Some of our readings discussed this very issue. Last week, in what could only be a sign from the heavens, I came upon this art project being carried out by Tamara Abdul Hadi called "Picture an Arab Man."

In the project, Abdul Hadi attempts to portray a "new" side of Arab (whom she explicity men that is not aligned with the villainous portrayal they are given in popular media. Her photos, which present naked to semi-naked men from countries all over the Middle East, show vulnerability and softness, in direct contrast to the "oppressive" and harsh stereotypes people often have in mind.

On her website, Abdul Hadi states that the project is a "celebration of their sensual beauty, an unexplored aspect of the identity of the contemporary Arab man on the cusp of change in a society that reveres an out-dated form of hyper-masculinity." Her work simultaneously challenges the perception of this group in both Arab and Western societies.

Personally, I'm both amazed and annoyed by this. I love the concept, and definitely recognize its utility especially in the United States and European societies. On the other hand, I hate that something like this is even required. But I guess this frustration is common in social change/activism, and the things that seem most obvious to the people who are working to change them are not often that obvious to the general public.

Question: While Abdul Hadi's work is great, is it taking away attention from the issues that Arab women face that are perpetuated by men- issues like sexual harassment and limited political access?  Could she have used her art in a better way? What is the balance?

In another vein, why is it important for feminists to understand and study masculinity?

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