The More You Know: Media and Power

Case Studies from UW Bothell Media & Communication Studies

Muslim Women Fight Stereotypes

Muslim Women Fight Stereotypes

By Lily Asafo-Adjei

        Over the course of time, women and girls have consistently been negatively represented on mass media. Women and girls no longer feel confident with their bodies or accept themselves for who they are. In a documentary titled, Miss Representation, by Newsom Siebel, women and girls are interviewed on the various ways media represents them. The film claims, the media’s approach to representing women and girls is by showing their value and worth through images, tweets, films, etc. It is argued, most women are not happy with their bodies due to the pressure from society. They learn to see themselves as objects therefore lowering their confidence. In all, the media treats women as “shit,” portraying them as sex objects with societal gender biases and roles.

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While this claim refers to all women in general, women from various religious backgrounds suffer even more criticism from the media in regards to practicing their faith and culture. Specifically Muslim women must suffer to practice their faith, whether that’s being through one’s appearance, voice or involvement in the society. Muslim women and girls most often face prejudice from social media platforms.

In an article written by Melissa Lam, “The Politics of Fiction: A response to the new Orientalism in type”, discusses the two problematic themes in contemporary Muslim and Islamic literature. That is, the immortalizing negative Muslim stereotypes and the promotion of western values. More often than not, Muslim women are condemned to being housewives taking care of the home and children, unpermitted to contribute in essential decisions concerning her life or family, and not having an education. The truth of the matter is, all Muslim women hold a different role in their life and/or household that is in agreement with her family and/or husband. These are educated individuals that contribute both to housing needs, financial expenses as well as housing decisions. One of the many disconnects that occur when representing the Muslim community is the media promoting images and stories that categorize all Muslim woman as the same individual. This creates a lack of understanding and a judgmental society. The media is more focused on a Muslim woman’s appearance rather than the strong, educated, loving, caring, and helpful women they are.

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Through years of mis-representation towards Muslims, especially Muslim woman, the recent presidential campaign created an openly hatred community of people where Islamophobia has become one of the most controversial issues today. These gender biases, gender roles, and mis-information formed by our media has caused women and girls from the Muslim community to react. According to the Global Fund for Women, “Muslim women are portrayed in the mass media as voiceless, submissive, passive, and oppressed victims instead of the powerful and creative leaders as they are”.        

 

A campaign was recently started on Twitter using the hashtag #DearSister to share and highlight the prejudice representation Muslim women face on social media today. The hashtag campaign, started by Mona Eltahawy, an Egyptian-American journalist and speaker on Muslim issues and global feminism, is trending on Twitter while gaining popularity around the world. Seeking to make their voices heard to Muslims and non-Muslims alike, women are using the hashtag #DearSister to share stories about the difficulties they face in their fight for equality while also trying to satisfy conservative values held by some within their community.

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Many participating in the Twitter movement have used the #DearSister tag to expose prejudiced comments received through various media platforms about the stereotypical images seen towards Muslim women.

 

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