Friday, December 2, 2011

Instant Activist Just Remove Clothing!

Much has been said about Aliaa Magda Elmahdy the 20 year old, Egyptian that stripped for nude photos and then blogged them. According to her the photo: "screams against a society of violence, racism, sexism, sexual harassment and hypocrisy".  

A self-proclaimed 'feminist' and 'activist' like Elmahdy should know that there are more authentic and involved ways to be an activist for women’s rights that don’t include stripping for photos that look like cheap porn. Undressing to be liberated feeds into the western idea that to be unclothed translates into being free - I am certain that the over 8 million women and girls trafficked for sex globally will probably have another view-. 

She is doing this for art and free expression in response to the terribly repressive Muslim country in which she lives. I find the entire action inciteful and opportunistic she has made herself a western darling and will probably get entrance into the American art school of her choice and an easy, unlimited visa unlike the millions of other Egyptian students trying to reach hallowed American ground for further education.

Of course her controversial facebook group in which she began calling for men to wear the hijab goes back to the old idea which requires men to act and speak on behalf of women. It's as if the millions of women who wear hijab as resistance globally need men to do the same in order to make their actions meaningful. 

With almost 3 million hits which include praise, insults and death threats her bold move cannot be entirely ignored even if it does smack of gaining entry into the 'Islam Industry in the West' where anyone (preferably Muslim and female) that can show how oppressive and repressive Islam is to women is a hero.

Surely activism and resistance come in ways more than stripping of your kit? The photo is a black and white full frontal with her wearing only stockings, red shoes, a red bow in her hair and it feeds entirely into the western concept of beauty and sexiness. Now if there was even an ounce of activism to her nude scene maybe I could attempt to understand her action. I was thinking maybe if the background was Tahrir Square or an anti-military slogan or anything remotely Egyptian or Arab.

So the question remains who speaks for the Muslim woman and how? And my answer is… PLEASE LET IT NOT BE HER.


Ridwan said...

DD you make a compelling argument.

I think you are right that her celebrity is more about poking the eye of Muslim women who are generalized to be oppressed.

And yes she likely to become the darling of those in the west who think this is about choice and individual identity politics.

I needed to think your argument through and then realized that it was a lot (in structure) like my misgivings about naked bike rides western lefties like to throw.

I think that those naked bike rides are prank politics at best and devoid of substance.

And I think you are right by pointing this out here (mostly) here.

I am not sure though that she seeks to speak for Muslim women; she is however contesting freedom, or notions of freedom.

Inside of Islam this is not acceptable. No short cuts.

That is a position of religion but Egypt is a non-Islamic/ non-democratic state and she should also be judged in those terms.

Inside of a repressive society the matter of choice is an important stand.

This also means that naked bike rides are also about freedom of expression.

The same for her.

So, she should not be repressed for her daring or for her idiocy where such behavior does not infringe on anyone's safety/rights.

Moreover, her act does open (again) the need to talk about the status of women in general (and inside statist Islam in particular).

Is naked freedom? Is nikab freedom?

And what about patriarchy?

How much of the offense that is taken by her act a matter of defending men?

Nonetheless, I think your argument is tight and very convincing.

Peace my sista,

abu shariati said...

The power that Mahdy wields is mainly in her being 'other than expected'; she is trying to be political in a way that neither Egyptian society expects of an Egyptian woman nor Western society expects of an Egyptian woman. Having said that, for me, the revolutionary nature of this act (flying the
banner of body freedom in the face of conservative control) stops there. Not only do I find such nakedness a reiteration of European styles of revolt, but actually supremely ineffective in our over-sexed, hyper-sexed societ(ies). We live in a world where women's bodies are on constant display, they are effectively commodified and consumed. That her blog received 1.5 million hits in less than a week is an indication of people not necessarily interested in the political import of her act, but rather more in their desire (men and women) to consume what they can of her naked body. The way Mahdy poses moreover and the use of such long stockings sexualizes her. Is it female strength that she is presenting, or is she simply perpetuating the binaries of modernity: the liberal "all" over the conservative "nothing"?