Sunday, January 17, 2010

Don't wear this to the Mosque.

Lil Kim: hip hop artist, American sex icon, and... apparently a hijabi.

I wish I could say I came across this image on a blog entitled "strange finds" or "oh no they didn't," but unfortunately, I first found this image in a Google search. Not a search for "almost naked rappers covering their faces with a scarf" - though that is admittedly one of my favorite things to search for on Google (just remember to turn off "SafeSearch") - but for something entirely different: "burqa." Even with SafeSearch set to "strict," at least in the United States, the image of Lil Kim wearing the hijab tops the list of image results.

Though women's dress within the Muslim world varies greatly depending on the region or country, I'm not sure that you could call what Lil Kim is wearing a "burqa" by anyone's standards. A "burqa" is intended to cover the full body. What Lil Kim is wearing is a head scarf and nothing more. The burqa, the hijab, the niqab... these are all articles of clothing, yes, but with a greater social meaning.

To the non-Muslim West, Muslim dress is understood as symbolic of religious fundamentalism, social conservatism, and the oppression of women.

When Lil Kim appears in a photograph with her head and face covered in such a way, she is speaking to that understanding of Muslim dress. Thanks in no small part to the West's Orientalist (mis)understanding of the Muslim world, the photograph at once makes a public declaration of the backwardness of Islam and asserts the West's dominance over the East.

And this is nothing new. "Western cultures are obsessed with demonstrating their civilized ways," wrote Jennifer Craik in 1994, offering an explanation for Lil Kim's photograph taken almost a decade later. When Lil Kim appears in a "burqa," she is not simply donning another head covering akin to a fitted baseball cap, but employing "the technique of [asserting Western] civility... [by re-inventing]... folk costume and ethnic looks" - in this case, Muslim head coverings.

And a fun fact: Lil Kim was quoted as saying "Fuck Afghanistan" in the magazine in which this photograph appeared (OneWorld, the now extinct hip hop magazine). Not cool, Lil Kim. Not cool.

- Mo Torres (Post #3)

Work Cited: Craik, Jennifer. "Exotic impulses in techniques of fashion," in The Face of Fashion: Cultural Studies in Fashion. London: Routledge, 1994. 17-43.

Compact challenge: two weeks of the challenge are complete, and I am doing well! I will admit that I've never been much of a shopper. Maybe if I had been born into a wealthier family, this would be different, but luckily for me, I've always had to budget my money. In the next few weeks, I am going to make an effort to eat out even less and cook almost all of my meals at home. We'll see how that goes. Oh, and I should admit... at a trip to Dollar Tree a couple days ago to buy food and toilet paper (both acceptable purchases in this challenge... I hope), I did buy a word search puzzle book. It was only $1, so I didn't feel too bad in buying it. But in retrospect, as cheap as the book was, I still probably didn't need it.