Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Reflection 1

The class topic and discussion for today on Arab women in American media really stood out to me from our other class discussions. What struck me first was that we barely had a list of any prominent Middle Eastern woman in our media in comparison to our previous class discussions on other ethnicity and their representations in the media. There are very few Middle Eastern actresses in movies because they are only given minor roles and also if they are in movies and they embedded in the movie as almost like the background. I didn't realize how spot on that was until we saw the film, "Reel Bad Arabs" and the the clips from Sex and the City 2.Women of ethnicity who are not white are often hypersexualized in the media and Americans tend to hypersexualize what is foreign to them. For example, belly-dancing is a part of the Arabic culture just the same as Japanese wearing kimonos and performing their tea dance ritual. However, we see how in movies, these cultural practices are portrayed in the media with the male gaze and to serve the white men.

In the clip from Sex and the City 2, the Middle Eastern women revealed that underneath their veils, they love fashion and wear clothes that everyone else wears also. We discussed how patronizing that moment in the movie was and that made me think about my own experiences. My sister's best friend from high school was Arabic and I remembered she always wore an Abayah,which covered her clothes underneath, and a Hejab, which covered her hair. When I went to her bridal shower when I was maybe 15 or 16, I had similar reaction like the women from Sex and the City when they saw the American clothing underneath. At the bridal shower, all the women wore very fashionable clothing and styled their hair and it surprised me and I never thought of my reaction and thoughts to be patronizing.

I enjoyed our class conversation on the issue of veiling and whether or not it oppresses women or not and why has this custom of wearing veils have existed for centuries. I agree with everyone in the class that the veil is not oppressive at all but rather it is a choice because some wear it and some don't. I didn't realize that in American culture, we ourselves have veiling too  such as wearing veils on the wedding day for the bride or even the nuns.Certainly, who are we to judge other cultures and tell that that wearing veils is "oppressive to women." When we think about why veils have survived for centuries, we have to remember that these are their set of values that very much embedded into their culture. It is so dangerous when people are not educated about other cultural practices such as the veils that Middle Eastern women wear because to say they should not wear it because it is oppressive is racist.

In our previous class, we discussed how categorizing people who are "Asians" is a loose and general term used for all of those countries and the billions of people are all under that one category. Categorizing people as "Middle Eastern" women is also a loose word to describe so many different type of people who all vary from one another and are represented as mainly oppressed and veiled. In my life, I have met many Middle Eastern women and they are all so different from one another. I knew someone who is always veiled by choice. I have a friend who rejects wearing veils and adopts the American way of thinking and lifestyle and says she is happy she is living in America and not in the Middle East where she fears she would have been oppressed. I knew another person who is Muslim and the oppression that she faces everyday from the men in her life makes her very depressed every day. These three people I just mentioned, they all vary from one another in their faith, values, practices, and even in their every day life and the media does not show the different dimensions of Middle Eastern women as individuals.

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