Cultural Arts: Mipsterz – Muslim Women, Hijabs, and the Freedom of Expression

Posted on December 3, 2013 by

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In the past few weeks of class, we have been focusing on Islam. On more than one occasion, women and the hijabs many Muslim women wear have come up in our discussions.  We had talked about how many people from a western perspective view the hijab as a sign or symbol of oppression, but many Muslim women view it as the exact opposite.  For them, it allows them to express themselves, not only as an individual, but in their religion as well.  Recently, a group of young Muslim women who call themselves “Mipsterz”—Muslim hipters—released a video that sparked a wide variety of responses.  At first glace, and without sound (a mistake that I tend to make from time to time) it looks like these women are goofing around and being themselves.  They are wearing the traditional headscarf and clothes popular in today’s western society while skateboarding, taking pictures, and having a good time.  I watched most of the video without the sound and found nothing wrong.  Then I saw some of the responses it was getting. The responses ranged from “only in America” and objectifying and sexualizing Muslim women to positive feedback about defying stereotypes.  For me personally, I didn’t see the negative until I watched it a second time with the sound.  It was set to Somewhere in America by Jay-Z, probably not my first choice if I were trying to make a statement.  One commentator said this in response to the video:  “The process of creating normal is also stripping us, especially women, away from central parts of our faith.  The superficial culture we critique and claim is why we wear hijab is becoming our hijab.”  This is what got me thinking about the point that this group was trying to convey through this video.  Were they doing this for themselves and someone came across it and it spread like wildfire? Or, were they intending to spark a discussion on the identity of Muslim women in America. If so, they certainly succeeded. Image

Then I began to think about potential implications of this video for Muslim women.  I couldn’t think of anything too drastic.  These Muslim women are also Americans, if they want to wear jeans and a sweater with their hijab, who are any of us to say that they can’t?  I think one of the things holding back many Muslims is the idea that many women wear much more traditional clothing.  I have seen some women wear floor-lengthskirts and long sleeve shirts with their hijab and the only skin you see is on their hands and their face. I have seen other women who wear whatever they want, sometimes that may or may not include a scarf and I’ve seen different levels in between the two.  It really is a personal preference to some individuals.  While the traditional attire is not required for women to wear, I definitely feel that it is widely encouraged.  That being said I don’t see why there would be a problem with what the women in the video are wearing.  They are simply expressing themselves in a way they want to, and doing so in a modest and respectful way.  What it all comes down to is the freedom of expression that these women have.  They have every right to wear what they want and make a video.  Did they accomplish what they wanted to, maybe, maybe not.  Regardless, they sparked many ideas and important discussions of what it means to be a Muslim woman in America.Image

Sources:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=68sMkDKMias  (Original Video)

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/02/mipsterz-somewhere-in-america-video_n_4374182.html?utm_hp_ref=religion

http://www.buzzfeed.com/regajha/a-group-of-muslim-hipsters-made-a-video-thats-really-really

Photo Credit: Huffington Post

 

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