After our class discussion about Muslim women in the media and having read the articles and watched the documentary, I felt that I learned a lot of things that I was unaware of, particularly concerning the veil. Someone in class mentioned thinking that the veil was worn by all Arabs and Muslims for religious reasons, and I was definitely under that impression as well. I also thought that the veil had something to do with preventing men from pursuing married women, as if women were property to their husbands. In other words, I believed the stories in the media.
But what I learned today and from our readings changed my perspective. I feel better able to understand the reasoning behind wearing the veil, which is simply due to cultural customs. It had never occurred to me that these women might feel most comfortable wearing the veil, which is probably because we have projected onto it our own western ideas about it being oppressive. Not only have politicians given us this idea, but movies and television are guilty, too. For example, in the Sex and the City clip we saw today, Carrie was fascinated/shocked by the women wearing veils while eating their lunch, even at one point mentioning in a disgusted tone, the fact that it covers their mouths. These are the impressions we, as the public have been given about Middle Eastern women, and I’m glad to now have a better understanding of their culture and opinions.
Furthermore, I found learning about the distinctions among all the different countries and cultures in the Middle East very helpful. It’s never been clear to me which countries would be considered “Arabic” or “Muslim,” and I was certainly surprised by just how much the media, and the public as a result, generalize with those umbrella terms for certain areas. I have many Arabic friends and even some family through marriage who come from Jordan, but I did not know the extent to which the Arabic culture extends over the Middle East. And it is this constant generalization from the media which serves to keep us informed without really informing us. We think we have a good understanding of the way that other people live, only to find out that we've been getting a single story through the media. And now that I'm aware, I feel better able to question what I hear and see, and hopefully gain more than one story through those questions, like I was able to do today.