“What is often lost in translation here is that unveiling does not always signal freedom, democracy, modernity, women’s rights, whatever — even if it might gesture toward these things in this particular moment. And there is no reason to believe that ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’ should necessarily –or even ideally– look identical to Western discourses or practices of them.” – Mimi Thi Nguyen, 13 June 2009
Back in December 2009 NPR’s All Things Considered had a piece on the shift in Baghdad fashions from hijab and abaya to more “Western” fashions, representing the increased freedom Iraqi women were now experiencing. Threadbared wrote about the piece at the time, also citing a June NYT article of that year on the same topic, criticizing the US news’ skewed perspective on the situation — that neither article mentions that it did not become dangerous for women to go without the traditional head-coverings until the American invasion in 2003.
But Threadbared’s analysis raises another question: why does western fashion and western fashion alone seem to represent freedom? This ties in with our previous Fashion Byte on the French burqa ban, and Lucy’s article about international fashion and patriotism. Is it possible that a woman choosing to wear traditional garb — whatever its origins — is actually demonstrating more freedom and independence by defying the pressure to conform to western aesthetics than those who conform? Is it simply evidence of freedom of dress that women even have the choice?
With the Arab Spring, the recent news about bin Laden and the ongoing conflicts in Libya, Syria and Egypt our news is flooded with images of the Arab world. Do you agree that the news we are given is biased or skewed, and if so, do you think it is justified? Do you feel that there needs to be change in what our perceptions of freedom of dress are?