Explosions, gripping fight scenes, sexist playboy arrogance, and close-ups of Robert Downey Jr.'s face overlaid with computer graphics—these were all things I expect when walking into an Iron Man movie. What I don't expect are convenient and overused Hollywood tropes about Muslim women.
There are as many ways of being an American Muslim woman as there are American Muslim women, and the contributors to the recently-published I Speak For Myself: American Women on Being Muslim will prove anyone who tells you differently (hello, popular media?) wrong. Edited by Maria M. Ebrahimji and Zahra T. Suratwala, I Speak For Myself, which we're happy to be selling at BitchMart, is an anthology that showcases the voices of 40 American Muslim women who are all under the age of 40, all of whom were born and raised in the US. Through personal stories that portray a vast array of identities, practices, beliefs, and values, this anthology illustrates and celebrates the fact that American Muslim women are, as put in the introduction, "neither the same as non-Muslim American women nor one another."
One typical victim-blaming justification of street harassment goes something like this, "What did she think would happen when she went out wearing that?!" The logic underlying such a comment seems to be that the only women who are groped, ogled, or verbally accosted on the street are ones who choose to buck social norms of modesty by improperly displaying their sexuality—and the conclusion that follows this strain of logic is that there is no other possible reading by the men who observe this type of "non-normative" behavior than to perceive it as an invitation for all types of commentary and conduct, from the annoying to the illegal. Many feminists are all too familiar with this wrongheaded sentiment when it comes to sexual violence and harassment, but the news out of France recently has caused me to consider its relevance to another gendered freedom, or rather lack thereof, in France: the state prohibition of Muslim women wearing the niqab in public.
Via Muslimah Media Watch, Anida Yoeu Ali's "Mistaken for Muslim" is a powerful video that juxtaposes diverse images of Muslims, and the artist herself, with a poem relentlessly detailing xenophobic and Islamaphobic hate crimes in post 9/11 America:
The province of Quebec in Canada, in all its infinite wisdom (insert witty sarcastic comment here), has decided to table legislation that would ban the niqab - and any face covering if worn from receiving public services from the provincial government.
The alleged grave concerns? Identity theft and impersonation. The likely realities? Racism, ignorance, colonialism, and general Islamophobia.
Now the intersection – what are feminists saying about this issue?