Arab Femininity

Personal Perspective:

At least these girls don’t have to worry about putting on sunscreen. Despite being covered from head to toe, on the beach no less, these girls appear to be completely comfortable and natural in this photo.

Historical Perspective:

Koranic law dictates that women wear the abaya whenever they are in public, even at the beach. As Americans, I think we assume that everyone would like to live like us so the general image of the Arab woman is that she isn’t happy. We tend to stereotype Arabic women as such because their culture is so different from our own. In a sense, I am jealous of these girls because when I am at the beach my culture has forced me to feel that I have to look as great as all of the models on the cover of Sports Illustrated. American girls sit on the beach wearing practically nothing, usually more worried about how they look than how much fun they are having. Arabic women have, no doubt, been oppressed but they have come a long way in recent years. Many women continue to dress this way because it is what makes them comfortable and it supports their religious convictions.

Technical Perspective:

This is a very natural photograph. It does not appear to be posed. I would imagine these girls did not know that their picture was being taken. I say this because I think that photography of Muslim women is generally considered offensive. For what appears to be a snapshot, it has a nice composition. It shows the men swimming and playing ball out in the ocean in the background while the girls sit, having a casual conversation.

Ethical, Cultural, & Critical Perspective:

However strange the beach attire of these girls may look to us, it is completely ethical and normal for them to be sitting on the beach this way. Covering themselves in this way is very feminine and I would argue, even powerful. Most women feel it is completely appropriate to flaunt everything they’ve got while these women treat their bodies as something that is sacred. I would imagine that this cultural perspective relieves many women of the emotional and psychological damage that other women suffer when they abuse and use their bodies to fulfill a part of their life that is missing. Arab women have been taught to respect their bodies and I would imagine that along with that comes a great deal of confidence and self-worth. Arabic women have no doubt been oppressed and because of that they are currently fighting for their rights. But, I don’t think that makes them any less proud of the roles they play in their culture. This photo exudes that power of modesty that is an important aspect of their culture. 


3 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Navin Sharma said,

    Hi Shariwatt

    I am an indian and we in my blog are trying to discuss the CULTURAL difference we have between eastern and western, it will be a pleasure to have you in the discussion as i think you to feel the same that thier is lots of difference.

    if you are willing to join in do visit my blog that is


  2. 2

    kenzieprust said,

    This picture is really cool. I think that people here in the U.S. forget about other cultures. It would be so strange to think about going to the beach and having to be fully clothed. But these two girls are having just as much as if they were in bikinis. They do not seem to care that if they want to go in the water they would have to wear all their clothes. A cannot possibly image how uncomfortable that could be, but to them, this is normal and something that they are used and probably don’t even think about.

  3. 3

    ferreri said,

    The difference between these women and you is that you have a choice. Wouldn’t you rather have the ability to choose what you get to wear to the beach, whatever it may be. Sure they all have to dress the same so it can make some things easier. But they have to obey a law to do so, as opposed to dressing freely. I still feel there are signs of oppression, especially when the men can go to the beach as they please.

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