And speaking of trash bags, here’s a poster for Germany’s International Human Rights ad campaign:

The translation reads: “Oppressed women are easily overlooked. Please support us in the fight for their rights.”


Thanks to Kawthar for the tip!

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  • http://riselikethetide.wordpress.com JanisBing

    Who’s doing the dehumanization now?

  • Gina

    Why is it outrageous? Isn’t that the point of the burqa, to make women invisible, indistinguishable as they walk down the street? Can’t have it both ways.

  • http://flippy-doodle.blogspot.com/ Blah Di Bob



    You’re right…this is ‘urgh’…just urgh….

  • Ida Bakar

    UGH! Indeed!

    The advert in wrong on so many points:

    1. The caption says ‘Oppressed Women’ but reduced it to a small minority of women in a far away land. Somehow to be oppressed is to be a blue-burka clad Afghan woman. What about those women (and girls) who are being systematically raped in ‘Democratic’ Republic or Congo, the women in Catholic South and Central Americas who still have no access to birth control and, dare I say, the Eastern European women who are trafficked into prostitution in Germany itself? Somehow the suffering of these ‘other’ Oppressed women have no legitimacy.

    2. How is one supposed to care for the Oppressed Woman when one had reduced the humanity of that woman to begin with. The Oppressed Woman here is reduced to a bin bag – no autonomy (sitting away from the bin bag?) and no dignity. It reminds me of the anti-slavery posters of old when the ‘Negro’ slave is almost always half naked, shackled and begging mercy at the foot of the enlightened white master. It is simplistic objectification of the human being. http://explorepahistory.com/displayimage.php?imgId=1755
    (Btw, the ‘freed’ slaves were still working in slave-like conditions!)

    3. Oppressed Women = Afghan = Islam. Perhaps a different image of Afghan women being pulverised by drone warheads taken by drone aircraft would give rise to these train of thoughts. Oppressed women = killed by technology = Superiority of Nato. Or closer to home a picture of Marwa al-Sherbini: Muslim Woman = Murdered = Islamophobia.

    4. I don’t think there is extensive use of black or blue bin liners in Afghanistan. The poor Afghans tend to recycle what little they have.

    Comments welcome.

  • http://thefatalfeminist.blogspot.com Nahida

    Yeah, I saw this and was horrified. It’s so infuriating when people pretend to be about women’s rights to excuse their Islamphobia. They want us to believe they care about these women? They are only showing us how they view these women themselves! Needing to be saved, without any strength or personality, etc.–lies about Muslim women, despite the fact that so many of us are strong, they hold onto a confirmation bias to feed their own fear of Islam.

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  • http://DeadAmericanDream.blogspot.com Jihad-Punk

    That is extremely disgusting and offensive. While it is true that some Afghan women are oppressed, other Afghan women happen to be extremely empowered and are doing everything they can to help their sisters.

    However, objectifying Afghan women (or any other women) is never OK, whether it’s objectifying them as sex toys… or as garbage.

  • karla

    Great, women as garbage. Lovely. They don’t see the problem with this? .

  • Susan

    Words cannot express how offensive I find this image and what a disservice this is to Muslim women, everywhere. I hate the way Muslim women are depicted as passive victims of Islam. When in fact, there are Muslim women who hate human rights abuses and campaign very hard against it AND still love Islam, still adhere to Islamic principles and there are fantastic writers and scholars who work very hard to reclaim the strong position of women in Islam. And Islam is not the problem; war and poverty is. For ALL women around the world.

  • mmeeaagghhaann

    Can we say that the same rules and standards are applied-except reversed!- for images of Muslim women as they are for the images of women plastered in magazines and ads in ‘liberated’ countries?

  • just some guy

    “How is one supposed to care for the Oppressed Woman when one had reduced the humanity of that woman to begin with.”

    Oh my. Is it really so hard to understand? The ad did not “reduced the humanity of that human to begin with”. It’s so obviously not the case that I find extremely hard to explain why not. I thought about saying, “it’s just like showing a picture of a children with black eyes or a baby in the thrash can does not reduces the humanity of the child”, but that would “beg the question” somewhat.

    Well, another attempt. Some women are treated like trash. Sub-humanly. Thus the image tries not to be literal to this reality of many women, with a picture of a stoning or something like that, but with a visual analogy, something somewhat perhaps “softer”, but yet touching.

    Is really the use of the visual resemblance of a burka with a trash bag really more insulting or important than the fact that they’re effectively treated as such?

    You can’t live on the fantasy that it’s all wonderful and perfect with muslim women, as if these sort of costumes couldn’t possibly be an icon of female oppression. To change the perception of that as such an icon, you have to change the statistics of violence against women in muslim countries, not just stress that a woman can voluntarily dress like this.

    A second analogy. A criticism of the objetification of woman could be made in a analog image, a picture of several of those sausages that are wrapped on a sort of net and hanged, and among these sausages there’s the leg of a woman on some similar net-like pantyhose. That wouldn’t be “agreeing” that women are just a “piece of meat”, but would be just putting “in the face” that women are often seen just like pieces of meat.

    Likewise, liberal women could argue that often they chose by themselves to wear sensual clothing and they just don’t worry that some men will see them just like pieces of meat, that they “screen” for men that are not that shallow, but yet, they do enjoy being beautiful and sexy. That can be true, but the problem that there are quite a lot of men who see women as pieces of meat persists.

    It’s quite hard to conceive an image that would capture a given problem with flawless perfection, without giving margin to some possible misinterpretations. But one has to ask, what is more important, the real intent, or this quarrel with some possible interpretation? In this case, genital mutilation, violence, and being stoned to that, or that the iconic clothing of iconically oppressed women can be in fact, perhaps very often, a free choice of fashion?

  • http://kiturak.wordpress.com/ kiturak

    I blogged about it (in German, just a rant) and have since found out that IGFM has not only a horrible web site dedicated to finding “human rights” violations almost exclusively in communist or muslim countries, but has roots in and (had) connections to the far right. They are known for this and excluded from events in leftist circles,

    So, @just some guy: too bad, but no, they actually are as bad as that. And the advertisement is a good start to understanding why.

    (And I don’t want to say by that that all is fluffy with other Western “human rights” discourse as focused on liberating the Other)

  • http://culturalfascinations.wordpress.com/ SakuraPassion

    I get trying to raise awareness about human rights, but this is just fail.

  • Dina

    I have a question for you. Would your judgment of this photo (which I must say I a. feel uncomfortable about, b. am not sure is a legit one) change when you knew it was a photo actually taken in Afghanistan?
    It is not impossible – there are tons of photo and film footage of divorced women living in the streets under Taliban rule. Women had to beg in street corners (burqa-clad, of course) when their families had kicked them out after a divorce or when they had run away, sometimes with their kids. Accomodation for single women, difficult to find in many conservative Muslim societies, was by law impossible for women, and every kind of employment was prohibited for women (a singularity in all Muslim societies so far to my knowledge). So women without male protection (income) definitely by Taliban laws and enforcement had to beg in the streets. Possibly live off trash, sometimes together with small kids.

    Would you oppose a human rights organisation using a legit picture of such a woman? If yes, why?
    (Personally, I do not think provocative use of actually legit photo material can easily be dismissed as “wrong”. What’s portrayed there then is wrong first and foremost, not the utilization.)

  • Tec15

    Dina, so there should be no objections to this photo on the grounds that it “might” be an actual photo?

    Incidentally, given your usual straw man hypothesis, would it be alright for a Muslim rights organization to put out a picture of an actual half naked Western woman who has just been raped (With the implication that this is the usual normative fate of women in the West) while asking for donations to stop rape, but only in Western countries? As long as the picture referred to a real women it would be all right, or would such a hypothesis be different than what you spelled out?

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  • http://mreowsheroared.blogpsot.com Khayra

    Good marketing, though. It got people talking.

    - “would it be alright for a Muslim rights organization to put out a picture of an actual half naked Western woman who has just been raped (With the implication that this is the usual normative fate of women in the West) while asking for donations to stop rape, but only in Western countries?”
    Not it exactly, but it shows that they don’t mind showing the dehumanized aspect of the problem in all cases.

    I don’t see any outright bias.

    And that’s saying a lot because I found this image on their site (a lady in a burqa with it looking like a prison)
    I could get offended by that because my friends wear burqas and are happy HOWEVER, those doing it out of obligation, not so much.

    The whole “Muslim women oppression” thing could be summed up as having women put in the kitchen or as a mother figure in way too much media. It’s true for those that want to break out of the mold, they’re not ecstatic about the idea of genders in any way.

    Their hearts are in the right place. They probably watched that movie Osama and heard women couldn’t eat ice cream and then made a poster. It’d be nicer to see it in a language closer to the Muslim world (but that’s a different story).

    Islam. Peace. Seeing niyyah. Ladies, let’s spread the love, yeah?
    Realistically, if an activist inspired by this poster went to an afghan woman and ripped off her burqˀa and found a reaction of fear, devastation, and violation would they REALLY not comfort her, say sorry, and ask how they can make it right?


  • Osama

    If the west is so concerned about the hijab because of the muslim women’s freedom and rights then why don’t they leave Palestine alone, why don’t they get the hell out of Afghanistan, why the UN can’t solve Kashmir’s issue where so many MUSLIM WOMENs are being killed and disrespected.

  • http://www.examiner.com/family-in-new-york/rahela-choudhury RCHOUDH

    This is offensive because it equates a human being with garbage doesn’t matter what their intent is.They should’ve just gone with using a photo of an Afghan woman crossing the street instead of…this.

  • Ann

    Wow this is the most racist thing I’ve seen since photos of blacks hanging from a tree. When I see this it just makes me think they hate Muslims and Arabs nothing about this says women rights, sorry but this photo is a FAIL.

  • Wafa

    I agree the image is very offensive because they are camouflaging the woman among garbage bags.
    But the message is very true, “Oppressed women are easily overlooked. Please support us in the fight for their rights.” Maybe they should have placed a woman clad in green among trees or something.
    I believe that despite the presence of some niqabi women who are not oppressed and wear niqab because they believe it is for God, Niqab is indeed a symbol of opression. It dehumanises women and so many of them especially in less privilaged societies wear it because for many generations, opressive men have mandated it.
    The few (in comparison) educated sophisticated women who are not oppressed do the oppressed women wrong when they go on the media advocating their liberating Niqab.

  • http://www.edmontonjournal.com/news/Stereotypes+fade+black/4037245/story.html Erin
  • mariam

    It is very interesting for me that we muslim women feel offended by just a poster( I dont mean I like that)but dont feel offended when Iranian women are forced to wear hijab,Saudi women are treated by goverment like a child and sooo many other examples in Islamic countries( there are near infinite examples!!).
    I dont know why but we muslims feel obligated to feel offended about every things westerners say about situation of muslim women, even if it is reality.

    • Fatemeh

      @Mariam: Who says we’re not offended by mandatory hijab and guardianship laws?! It’s important to remember the scope of this particular website, which focuses on media criticism. That doesn’t mean that we find political, social, or institutional discrimination to be acceptable.

  • Dina

    “Dina, so there should be no objections to this photo on the grounds that it “might” be an actual photo?

    Incidentally, given your usual straw man hypothesis, would it be alright for a Muslim rights organization to put out a picture of an actual half naked Western woman who has just been raped (With the implication that this is the usual normative fate of women in the West) while asking for donations to stop rape, but only in Western countries? As long as the picture referred to a real women it would be all right, or would such a hypothesis be different than what you spelled out?”

    Provided the personality rights of the woman were not violated (a half-naked woman, especially with the face exposed would be identifiable as an individual and therefore would have to give consent to the publication for personality rights whereas the burqa clad woman is not individually identifiable), yes, I would say to raise awareness for rape epidemics would be a legitimate cause.
    Like with this image, there would be people who can argue it would not be of good taste, a legitimate stance, and others who would say good for the cause. I am divided over whether I find this picture helpful, and I suppose I would be in a similar situation (as a matter of fact, a victim support organization a few years ago of the name “Neu Start” made a nation wide campagin with a naked woman (private parts covered) and the slogan “left behind, naked, violated” to raise awareness, so your example has actually been realized in the past). I took offence with that campaign, but not for the reason you give (in short, in the same series there was the perpetrator, naked, and portrayed as a “black sheep”, suggesting he had the same right to “start anew” (Neu Start) ).

    For me, as i said, the legitimacy in using an actual photo is there. no one misrepresents, but then just PRESENTS a very sad reality. a human being then IS equated with garbage, sitting in the streets next to trash. people should rather worry about getting her out of that degrading and inhumane situation than to complain about the representation of that very real image. And why would the situation of an Afghan woman in the streets be stressed? for starts because all women in afghanistan were banned by law from working/sustaining themselves until 10 years ago, and the mindset of back then prevents still many of them to work. this is a worrying gender dynamic in access to property and funds. there will be other gender dynamics in female poverty in other countries, but afghanistan is the undoubtedly most striking on as it happened by law. i see nothing wrong with pointing the finger at that injustice.

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  • samia

    dina, please take note of kiturak’s comment. the german link clearly explains how the IGfM is a fascist group.

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  • http://postgedanken.com francafelicitas

    do you know if this add ist still running in Germany? if yes, I would like to hand it in at the German Werbe Rat because I think it should be banned from public..

  • Matt

    This is a response to Ida Bakar’s comment.

    In response to point #1, the organization is clearly not limiting the scope of ‘oppressed women’ to burka clad women. Rather, it is giving a common example of female oppression that it feels to be significant. If the organization does limit its aims to women suppressed by islamic law, then it is only doing so because it is personally affiliated with that issue. However, you can be sure that any member of this movement would highly sympathize with the other very important cases in which woman are oppressed around the world (the ones you named are also good examples).

    Point #2 is a somewhat viable point, insofar as it’s not helpful to exaggerate a situation beyond what it actually is for publicity, or to hint at alternate points (even in satire). Obviously, the real problem is not that burkas make women look too much like trash bags, or that woman are forced to sit next to trash; the real problem is hinted to in the poster (and is explicitly said in the writing in the corner), that burkas allow women to be overlooked. We could even go further to say that burkas are designed specifically to make woman go overlooked. So I think any intelligent human being can grasp this true message from the poster, and no the inane assumptions that I listed initially. Thus, you concern is unfounded.

    In point #3, you make two very dangerous confusions. First of all, the poster does not imply that Islam as a religion necessarily suppresses women. There are many practicing islamic woman around the globe that do not wear burkas. What the poster is implying, however, is that “islamic law that requires women to wear burkas=oppressed women”. If you disagree with this, you are simply disagreeing with the idea behind the organization entirely. In that case, you merely have a different (and I dare say much less defendable) opinion. Second, you confuse the war machine with a women’s rights movement. You are clearly upset by NATO’s actions against islamic countries, but that is an entirely separate debate that we can all agree has absolutely nothing to do with the longstanding tradition of burka clad women in islamic countries.

    I won’t even address point #4, since you seem to be making a witty, joking remark rather than an intelligent critique. If you were serious, it’s clear that you missed the point of the poster entirely.