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Arab femininity

April 17, 2008 by silviav87



After viewing various visuals and audio visuals of Arab women, specifically those of the Muslim religion, my personal definition of Arab femininity is of course one who is of the female gender, who while is intelligent and has the ability to be independent, must be submissive to the male gender and must maintain a level of privacy which is typically done by the veiling and covering the body. Furthermore, Arab femininity means playing the role in the household expected by her culture, family, and religion. And lastly, Arab femininity means revealing your personality and who you are on the inside rather than letting your outside define who you are.

at the top are three visuals two audio visual and one still visual. I chose to look at all three before personally defining Arab women. However, I only analyzed the third visual which is a picture of an Arab Muslim woman wearing the hijab with what appear to be prison bars in front of her eyes.

My initial reaction to this photograph was that the photographer is trying to show the oppression he/she believes the Muslim women face.


According to good old

ijab or ħijāb is the Arabic term for “cover” (noun), based on the root meaning “to veil, to cover, to screen, to shelter”

In some Arabic-speaking countries and Western countries, the word hijab primarily refers to women’s head and body covering, but in Islamic scholarship, hijab is given the wider meaning of modesty, privacy, and morality. Several scholars have suggested that the phrase “she donned the hijab” was originally used to mean “she became Muhammad’s wife.”

The term hijab or veil is not used in the Qur’an to refer to an article of clothing for women or men, rather it refers to a spatial curtain that divides or provides privacy. The Qur’an instructs the male believers (Muslims) to talk to wives of Muhammad behind a hijab. This hijab was the responsibility of the men and not the wives of Muhammad. However, in later Muslim societies this instruction specific to the wives of Muhammad was generalized, leading to the segregation of the Muslim men and women. The modesty in Qur’an concerns both men’s and women’s gaze, gait, garments, and genitalia. The clothing for women involves khumūr over the necklines and jilbab (cloaks) in public so that they may be identified and not harmed. Guidelines for covering of the entire body except for the hands, the feet, and the face, are found in texts of fiqh and hadith that are developed later.

So in essence the wearing of the hijab is based off text from the Qur’an and not necessarily just something women of the Arab/Muslim culture are forced to wear by the society/males as some people might think.


Although this photograph gives a very close-up view of the subject I would say that the photographer used three-point lighting however, with there being such slow fall-off it is hard to distinguish which side of the subject the key light is coming from and which side the fill light is coming from. There also appears to be cast-shadows which can be seen on the woman’s faces as a result of the shadow from the bars in front of her eyes.

The signifier in this photograph is undoubtedly the bars which signify the oppression and objectification the photographer believes women of the Muslim religion are constantly struggling with.

Ethical, cultural, and Critical:

While I don’t think this picture is unethical, after viewing various visuals of Arab women, I do believe the photographer to be slightly inaccurate. After watching the videos above it seems that Muslim women are fine with wearing the hijab and don’t see it as oppressive in anyway, but rather as a way to reveal their inner beauty rather than their outer beauty. However, I could be mistaken, maybe the photographer wanted to communicate how Arab women of the Muslim religion are oppressed and metaphorically imprisoned in other ways not just because they are “forced” to wear the hijab. I am not very familiar with the Muslim religion so it may in fact be a religion that is very oppressive towards women, and although when asked, Muslim women might not agree they are being oppressed, it may just be hard for them to identify being that they are on the inside looking out rather than the outside looking in. 

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