Daily Archives: June 23, 2009

LINKAGE: Death Fat, Beth Ditto, and All Manner of Hijab

Fatshionista’s Lesley expands upon her concept of death fat, her wry take on the “But what about your health?” hand-wringing that accompanies condemnations of fat (see the comments at any Fashionista post about Beth Ditto): “Ultimately, I employ death fat as a means of gently poking fun at strangers who would get all wrought up over their manufactured concerns about my health. If I had my choice, I’d much rather folks just pretend I don’t need them to instruct me on how unhealthy they think I must be.”

And speaking of Beth Ditto, recent publicity about her collaboration with British department store Evan’s –including a doll!– has spawned some deep thoughts, including some worries about the potentially predatory circulation of her image-body as “fashion’s magical fatty:” “My point is that the fashion world and its related media are trying to appropriate Beth but they don’t really know what to do with her. They’re trying to fit her into stale formats (crappy plus-size fashion) and, as Carrie Brownstein points out, they cannot get over their own projections of fatphobia.”

Counterfeit Chic reports on the New York City Metropolitan Transit Authority and its controversial policy on religious headgear: “Imagine being permitted to wear a religious symbol to work at your government job — but only if your employer’s logo were incorporated into it.” Sikh men and Muslim women would be made to wear the MTA logo on their headgear in order to better identify them, according to the MTA, to customers. But as Counterfeit Chic asks, “Isn’t the rest of the required uniform sufficient to convey the information that an individual is an MTA employee? Or is MTA really saying that the message sent by certain religious headwear is so loud (and scary) that it drowns out other sartorial signals and must be partially obscured by a governmental symbol?”

France, after banning headscarves in schools, considers banning any form of full hijab in the name of secularism. “If it were determined that wearing the burka is a submissive act, and that it is contrary to republican principles,” government spokesman Luc Chatel said, “naturally parliament would have to drawn the necessary conclusions.” State violence for your own good, seems to be the argument. President Nicolas Sarkozy, in an address to Parliament, called the burqa a “sign of subjugation, of the submission of women,” and indicated that he would support a ban on the wearing of the garment. Will France once again shoulder this “white man’s burden,” and forcibly unveil women in an effort to mold them into a “appropriate” French feminine civic body? How might this be continuous with those historical statutes and sumptuary laws by European imperial powers that also legislated –and punished!– the sartorial decisions of colonized populations, populations who (in the language of imperialism) required “civilizing” and “moral uplift”? Meanwhile, comments at Jezebel and Feministing are flying fast and furious with condemnations of the burqa and cheers for Sarkozy and, implicitly, for the state violence that would necessarily accompany a ban.

Meanwhile, France has also banned face masks at demonstrations and protests in order to deny protesters anonymity in their “threats to public order.” Of course, this comes at a moment in which protesting Iranians are covering their faces to protect themselves from tear gas but also other forms of state retaliation. Sometimes being uncovered, being forced into visibility by the state and for state purposes (identification, surveillance, and discipline), is the real danger.

The communications studies group blog Cac.ophony muses upon the imaginative possibilities of hijab punk: “Ultimate Hijab Punk story to read: “Misli Midhib, Punk Rock Hijabi” by Cihan Kaan about a girl named Misli who is dropped down to the earth via a meteor and who covers her cosmic skin with a full hijab and performs Sufi whirls to disrupt the narratives of Muslim women.”

On a related note, how about a flashback to Muslimah Media Watch on the French guerilla street artist and provocateur Princess Hijab, “who began her ‘noble cause’ of ‘hijab-ising’ advertisements in 2006. She does this by using spray paint and a black marker to cover women’s faces and bodies in ads, or by pasting ‘hijab ad’ posters everywhere she goes.”

And finally, a bit of hijab humor (via Racialicious)– “Talking to Someone Wearing a Headscarf: An Etiquette Guide. I like, “Attempt Assistance. Make sure you ask whether she was forced to wear the scarf. Don’t believe her if she says no, and make sure to tell her not to fear her older brother or the men in her family. If she mentions wearing the hijab is her own choice, do make sure you tell her she is still oppressed, even if she isn’t aware of it just yet. Offer to keep in touch if she ever needs support.”


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