The Guardian Turns a Water Pistol Fight into an Islamic Wet t-Shirt Contest

I found it refreshing to see pictures of a young Iranians taking part in a water pistol fight in Tehran in The Guardian.

Until I realize that every single picture is of soaked women. Anyone else feel weirded out by this?

water gun fight
That’s the kind of side-eye I’m talking about, sister. Image via Amir/Demotix/Corbis.

I’m confused as to why only women are featured (with the exception of one picture showing a man dumping a water bottle on a woman), since there are plenty of men in the background. The pictures have a sort of “Islamic wet t-shirt contest” feel to me.

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t see anything wrong with a water pistol fight during a hot Tehran summer. According to Golnaz Esfandiari’s post for Radio Free Europe, “There were also gatherings for paintball, kite flying, and blowing bubbles. All the events are said to have been organized through Facebook.” These all sound really fun. However, I definitely have a problem with the arrests of several people who participated in the water fight–throwing people in jail for trying to keep cool, have fun, and not hurt anybody is not okay.

But since this is a media-focused blog, I have to bring up the fact that there aren’t any men in the pictures used by The Guardian. Since several pictures of this event turned up online, I doubt that there aren’t any with men in them at all. It seems odd to only feature pictures of women, especially when you consider the layer added by the sexualized stereotype of Muslim women longing to rip of their veils and get sexy times on.

What are your thoughts?

  • http://thefatalfeminist.blogspot.com Nahida

    Ugh. Seriously?!

  • Jessica

    You know what it is: happy smiling muslim women. How often do you see pictures of that? Usually its dour, uber-draped muslim women. No wonder people think we’re oppressed: we usually look it. All these women look happy. Masha’allah!

  • Anastasia

    Wow… Yeah I think the photos of women are an instant attention grab for the newspapers. Women in Iran are so caricatured as sexless ‘oppressed’ beings that the press is like OMG IRANIAN WOMEN HAVING FUN!!

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

    Yeah I was kind of thinking along the lines of what Jessica is saying. They look like they were having fun, it certainly is a change from the typical Muslim woman draped in a burka or niqab.

  • Lulu rocka

    If anyone is looking at these photographs within a sexual frame, it is you, Fatemeh.

    All I saw were beautiful, coloured shots of women having innocent fun… Nothing sexual about them.

    Let’s not nitpick, eh? Take things at face value and stop trying to read too much into what is not there to begin with.

  • jamicam

    I like it! Too bad the oppressive authorities were so threatened by the smiles and fun — shame on them. There are more pics at badassmuslimahs dot tumblr dot com.

  • http://www.native-born.com Faiqa

    My thoughts on the matter mostly mirror yours. I do appreciate that they’re having fun, but given that men were present and not photographed, I, too, am weirded out by it. I don’t necessarily see it as an issue of hyper sexualization but as one that simply continues to conflate Muslim women as symbols for pseudo modernity as it’s defined by the west. If men had been included in the photos as well, it wouldn’t have bothered me in the least.

  • Rochelle

    Here’s the thing: These people were arrested for doing this, which should put a damper in everybody’s “aww, isn’t that nice” attitudes.

    Why did they get arrested? Because women were there. If it was only men doing this, I doubt the authorities would care. Even if it was ONLY women, I still think the authorities would crack down, given this was in public.

    So, perhaps ironically, the photographers/editors, and Fatemeh’s reaction, mirrors that of the Iranian officials – ‘wet women = sex’.

    That’s why Lulu is wrong when s/he says: ‘If anyone is looking at these photographs within a sexual frame, it is you, Fatemeh’ – the authorities are looking at them with the same frame.

    At the end of the day, I don’t think it’s inappropriate to show or focus on the women there because honestly that’s the essence of the story. If was a water fight in any other part of the world it wouldn’t be news because nobody would be arrested for it. This was news, because it was illegal, because there were women there.

  • http://www.muslimahmediawatch.org Krista

    Rochelle, that’s a really important comment – thanks for putting things into perspective.

  • http://ummhuraira.blogspot.com Umm Huraira

    They’re also all “girls”, even though I’m quite sure most of them are grown. Why is it when women behave “immaturely” or “sexily” they’re automatically demoted to girlhood?

  • Jannah

    If a woman is shown in hijab, she’s a symbol of oppression. If she’s shown without hijab and playful, she’s a symbol of either sexualization or westernization. Why can’t women ever just be women instead of always being turned into some political slogan? This total politicization of Muslim women’s images is what makes me feel seriously objectified. And everybody on all sides is doing it. God I’m so tired of it…

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  • Sydney

    I concur in most of the comments regarding the pictures and their circumstances. I also do concur in how outlandish Fatemeh is going with her conclusions here. This does create a catch-22 segment as s eloquently put by Jannah: its either a sign of oppression or objectification. What would be the right thing to do? I am confused – MMW-certified directors in every media-related company?


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