Saturday, July 10, 2010

Chased Women

"What's the difference between an orthodox Muslim woman and a stripper?"

No, this is not a setup for some terrible joke (for once), it's a serious question. The more you think about it, stripping and veiling are like two sides of the same coin.

Both assume a certain inherent tendency for men to ogle or objectify women's bodies.

Both presume that the way a woman dresses is responsible for deflecting or attracting that inherent masculine gaze.

Both strippers and hijabis are presumed, popularly, to be exploited, oppressed, perpetuating patriarchy, or suffering from a false consciousness. (And, I would argue that in several cases, both have actually subverted the power of the masculine gaze by controlling it themselves - either by veiling or charging a fee.)

As someone who has both worn a hijab and clear heels, I can say that the experience of each is a dramatically embodied one. Just as strippers pick gown cuts that minimize belly fat or colors that would look appealing on stage, hijabis hem (often times, literally) and haw over just what length tunic is feasible over jeans or a long skirt to conform to their interpretation of appropriate Islamic dress code.

The sad thing is, I've heard enough hijabis throw around words like "ho" and "skank," and enough strippers talk about the barbaric Islamic oppression of women, for either group to realistically - and substantially - get together to realize that their marginalization, stigmatization, and even their sources of empowerment are more similar than they'd realize.


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  2. Succinct and brilliant, as per usual.