Fashion Designers, How Not to Study Gender, and More on Iran’s Women Ninjas

An eclectic round-up of some articles of interest elsewhere on the internet:

A Muslim participant on Project Runway Philippines was recently eliminated.  MMW reader Sumaya writes that, “Just as quickly as I found out about the first Muslimah to be on Project Runway in the third season of Project Runway Phillipines, sadly I found out she was recently eliminated in the last rounds. Fatima Guerrero, a 21-year-old fashion student from Nueva Ecija,is still awesome in my books.”  From Guerrero’s writing on the Project Runway Philippines website:

Project Runway Philippines designer Fatima Guerrero

Project Runway Philippines designer Fatima Guerrero. Image via Project Runway Philippines.

“To be part of the top 15 designers was one of the most amazing things that ever happened to me. This is a big step for my career! But during the competition, I did not aim to win. Rather, I wanted to prove to people that a Muslim woman like me can also compete in this kind of industry.

[...]

I know that the high expectations are not only from the judges but from everyone who knows me as a Muslim and a fashion designer. Because of this, I am now more challenged and motivated to show who I am as a fashion designer in the real world.

Now, I‘m planning to finish my studies. Pursue my career. Make my own clothing line for Muslims and non-Muslims. Be involved in fashion shows and other fashion activities. This is just the beginning and I’m very excited for what is yet to come!”

Remember Diana’s post on media coverage of female ninjas in Iran?  Turns out those women weren’t too impressed with that coverage either:

“A group of Iranian female martial artists have hit out at Reuters over a report that allegedly described them as “assassins,” saying they are suing the media organization for defamation, Iran’s state television reported on Wednesday.

The Reuters report came out last month but does not appear to be available anywhere except in the form of a slideshow that does not mention the word assassins.

[...]

Women are barred from many sports activities in the Islamic Republic due to the country’s restrictive moral codes, a point of ongoing contention between the country’s restless young female population and the authorities.

It may be why the government has invested so much in areas like martial arts in recent years, with Ninjutsu clubs throughout Iran supervised directly by the Ministry of Sports’ Martial Arts Federation.

[...]

Martial artist Raheleh Davoudzadeh told Press TV that the report “can harm our chances to travel to other countries to take part in global tournaments and international championships,” concerns possibly heightened by Saudi Arabia’s recent announcement that it will allow female athletes to represent them at the upcoming Olympics — an all-time first for the conservative Muslim nation.

It also comes after world football officials denied Iranian women’s soccer team entry into an Olympic qualifying round in Jordan over Iran’s insistence that its female players wear headscarves, a move that lead Iran to forfeit the game, according to CNN.

Such events have not helped Iran’s sports standing internationally, making the Reuters report all the more unfortunate, martial arts trainer Akbar Faraji told Press TV, calling the defamation lawsuit “a matter of reputation.”

One female ninja, Khatereh Jalilzadeh, said the group is “taking legal action because the ladies that train in Ninjutsu first and foremost enjoy it as a sport,” explaining that it’s not political, it’s just “about working out and staying fit.”‘

This post on how not to study gender in the Middle East (hat tip to wood turtle) has been making the rounds, and for good reason.  Read the whole thing, but some highlights here:

Two: Before resolving to write about gender, sexuality, or any other practice or aspect of subjectivity in the Middle East, one must first define what exactly the object of study is. Be specific. What country, region, and time period forms the background picture of your study? Furthermore, the terms “Middle East,” “the Islamic World” and the “Arab world” do not refer to the same place, peoples, or histories, but the linkages between them are crucial. Moreover, the “state” is a relatively new phenomenon in the Middle East. In order to study gendered political economy in Syria, for example, one must be aware of the Ottoman and regional history that has produced this gendered political economy in the area that we now call “Syria.”

[...]

Eight: I know this is hard to believe, but Islam may not be the most important factor, or even a particularly important factor, when studying gender in Muslim majority countries or communities. For example, I have studied the Lebanese legal system, focusing on personal status, criminal and civil law, for years now. Despite the intricate ways that these interconnected bodies of law produce citizenship in Lebanon, whenever I discuss my work my interlocutors invariably want to know more about shar‘ia and its assumed “oppression” of women. These questions always come after I have carefully explained that in Lebanon certain Christian and Jewish personal status laws are much more stringent in their production and regulation of normative gender roles than codified Islamic personal status laws (which are not the same as shar‘ia, historically speaking). In addition, civil laws have more wide reaching “gender effects” than any religious personal status law. More broadly, Islam is not the only religion in the region, although it often seems to be in mainstream media coverage. When an action such as the hitting of women by men for not conforming to “proper” gender roles in ultra orthodox neighborhoods of Jerusalem or in conservative neighborhoods of Riyadh is scripted in radically different terms the reader should pause. At these moments you are not reading about Islam, you are reading within a discourse about Islam.

Eight: I know this is hard to believe, but Islam may not be the most important factor, or even a particularly important factor, when studying gender in Muslim majority countries or communities. For example, I have studied the Lebanese legal system, focusing on personal status, criminal and civil law, for years now. Despite the intricate ways that these interconnected bodies of law produce citizenship in Lebanon, whenever I discuss my work my interlocutors invariably want to know more about shar‘ia and its assumed “oppression” of women. These questions always come after I have carefully explained that in Lebanon certain Christian and Jewish personal status laws are much more stringent in their production and regulation of normative gender roles than codified Islamic personal status laws (which are not the same as shar‘ia, historically speaking). In addition, civil laws have more wide reaching “gender effects” than any religious personal status law. More broadly, Islam is not the only religion in the region, although it often seems to be in mainstream media coverage. When an action such as the hitting of women by men for not conforming to “proper” gender roles in ultra orthodox neighborhoods of Jerusalem or in conservative neighborhoods of Riyadh is scripted in radically different terms the reader should pause. At these moments you are not reading about Islam, you are reading within a discourse about Islam.


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