My response to Lady Gaga’s appropriation of the Burqa
About fourteen years ago, the veiled Muslim woman had been cast in television commercials in the United States. She played a part, a supporting one, in the commercial for the Jeep Cherokee made by Chrysler in 1996 shot in Morocco. The veiled woman is seen smiling and admiring the Jeep – sending the message that “if he buys the Jeep … He may even win the admiration of the most inaccessible of women, the woman with the veil”. This gives the illusion to the reader that something that in unattainable is within grasp. Western exotica, like Playboy, use the image of a veiled woman to their advantage as well. Covering certain parts of a woman’s body, leaving the man’s imagination to wander.
When advertisements target American women, advertisement marketers depend on the stereotyping of Muslim women as oppressed and submissive. In 1989 Virginia Slims advertisement with a man pictured in a turban sitting along the sides of three women in headscarves. The turbaned man himself is a mistake; a turban was used primarily by the Sikh religion for their men. You can see the misconceptions that Westerners believe that all people of that region are assumed to don that headdress for their men as well. The caption reads: “The Sultan of Bundi Had Nothing Against Women. He Thought Everyone Should Own Two or Three.” Underneath the woman farthest from the man is an image of a cigarette pack of Virginia Slims, with the caption: “You’ve Come a Long Way Baby.” This method reassures American women consumers that, as western women, they would never be like the oppressed Muslim women pictured if they were to buy the cigarettes.
When Lady Gaga wears a sexualized, orientalist and racist version of what she calls a “burqa” and when she makes a song about having “burqa swag”, She’s actually not doing anyone a favor by wearing it, least of all, Muslim women who actually do wear the burqa. The burqa itself culturally varies in style among the Muslim world, but for Lady Gaga to reclaim something that isn’t a part of her culture OR religion, further hypersexualizes Muslim/Middle Eastern/North African women and their religious/cultural attire. A burqa is not a political statement that Lady Gaga can make.
In fact, it’s highly islamophobic, because she’s really commodifying the religious and cultural garb of Muslims, to further sensationalize stories to satiate the ongoing imperialist fascination with Muslim women’s lives. We are constantly put under the media’s eyes and scrutinized for making the choices to wear our religious garb and deemed as submissive and oppressed individuals while white women who try on a “hijab for a day” or appropriate religious garb, they are applauded for being “revolutionary and brave”. She’s actually making it harder on us by objectifying us even more.
Yes there is a very small minority who may be effectively forced to adorn such clothing, through ultra-conservative family pressures, but most muslims scholars agree that it is not obligatory on women at all. Talking from personal experience - I have a few aunts and second cousins who wear the garment - and you know what’s funny about it… the fact that their husbands discourage them from wearing it, but they choose to do so regardless. This is a cultural and personal choice. If she wanted to take off her burkha, she would. This is a personal choice, and the idea that behind every muslim women there is an oppressive man forcing her faith - is nothing but an Islamophobic myth. Muslim women can speak for themselves, they do not need your pity. Clothes-policing is totally contradictory to the principles of democracy, and if we really are a free society not steeped in Islamophobia, this wouldn’t even be a debate, it would be a personal decision - to legally force and harass a women to go against her own personal decision of choice, is totally fucking contradictory to the core principles of freedom and democracy and women’s rights.
(In reference to this)
Muslim women like me, my mother, my aunts, my sisters, my fellow Muslim women around the world are the only ones who can have “burqa swag” and we don’t need your self-righteous, white savior, orientalist, racist, islamophobic bullshit to save us because we can do it ourselves and own it.
So basically, Lady Gaga can fuck right off.
Seriously guys please stop trying to intellectualize Lady Gaga’s racism she’s an embarrassing and incredibly dangerous human being