Abaya fashion show

23 03 2009

I love Bill Maher, you must know that by now. He is wrong however in that Saudi women can, and do, lay their lives, (and breasts) in the hands of male doctors.
He is also wrong in considering female doctors are scarce in KSA, there are actually many female dedicated doctors and healthcare workers.
However: illnesses are treated with extreme, too extreme, secrecy and privacy by society. Many women over 40 have never even been examined, nor do periodical breast exams on themselves, ”Why look for trouble?”. And: ”Such topics are not discussed”. The result being that, while there are excellent medical facilities, breast cancer is still amongst the highest killer of women in the Kingdom.  American Bedu has written a post on the cultural bias towards breast cancer in Saudia Arabia, read it here.

Anyway, check this one out!
And by the way? I am very insulted that he didn’t invite Fitnah Fashion for this, we certainly would have been able to show a more varied, (and wicked) selection… :mrgreen:

 

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26 responses

24 03 2009
sabiwabi

Interesting how the view of Muslim womens dress has evolved over the centuries. Covering oneself used to be widely viewed as a form of personal empowerment (and not just in the Muslim world), now the reality seems to be flipped on its head (often though, I would have to say, for some very good reasons).

But too, I always say that if Muslim men, (or any other type of man), were REALLY the ones deciding what women should wear; wouldn’t we see ALL women dancing around in bikinis, mini-skirts and tube tops? That is,if we are basing this on the reality of what a typical, red-blooded male would prefer to see as he steps out the door every day. The fact that Bill Maher jokes that these burqas are supposedly sexy to these womens husbands just sounds really weird. I get that its a humor bit, but as a Muslim looking at it….I think most would be confused (more so than angry).

I did have to laugh when he said “Muslim Dior….he used to be Christian Dior, but he converted”. And I also appreciated the one commentator saying that if women, under their own free will CHOSE to dress this way, that he would support it. For all the talk of free expression, we have to also protect the free expressions of people whom we disagree with. I have met some very strong, very wise niqabed women. I wouldn’t begrudge them their choices, even though I would never, ever wear it.

24 03 2009
Chiara

Definitely insufficiently Fitnah!

24 03 2009
American Bedu

and of course I took umbrage at his incorrect and inappropriate comment about women and breast cancer. Women can see a male physician -if they choose to- as well as there being many competent female Saudi physicians…I should know…I put my life in the hands of several!

but in closing, I am perhaps more disappointed that he missed out on Fitnah Fashions….

24 03 2009
Achelois

Oh, ho, oh! I need to say so much on this. There is so much in my head right now that would go so well with this. I need to time to write something in a more civil tone.

24 03 2009
Aafke

sabiwabi, The ”covering-thing” used to be practised by upper-class Jewish women, who considered themselves too far above the ”plebs” to be seen by them. When Islam was revealed, and upperclass Jewish women converted, they kept up the habit of covering and setting themselves apart from the lower classes. Slave women were not allowed to cover or wear hijab. So if they were freed I suppose they would quickly start to cover to show off their improved status. And so the custom of covering up remained in Islam. Because it denoted higher status, many women would want to cover and be regarded as higher class, and so over the centuriesit trickled down the classes, and all women covered.
I think you can still sense this feeling of superiority today in the conduct of hijabis towards non-hijabis, and niqabis towards non-niqabis. They always claim ”not to look down upon their not-covering sisters”, but I feel that a great many do consider themselves far superior.

I do think that men decide what women wear, for a great part. Most of the world is still ruled by men, men make the most money, rule the media, etc. So yes, I am convinced that men’s taste have a great influence on what women wear. In the ”west” that is expressed in the extremely slutty fashions you see right now, and in the Islamic countries it transtlates into women having to cover up completely, however restricting and unhealthy that may be in such hot countries.

Chiara 😀

Bedu; you are perfectely right and I shouldn’t have let that pass. I editted the post accordingly.

Achelois, I can’t wait!!!!! 😀 😀 😀

24 03 2009
Tazeen

cant see the logic behind abaya fashion.

If you are oberving purdah, that means you want to hide yourself from prying eyes, but if that purdah is high fashion, then you want to attract attention.

So tell me, what purpose does this abaya fashion serve.

24 03 2009
sabiwabi

Women wearing more fabric to distinguish their class status was a part of it, but not all of it.

Remember, just at the turn of the 20th century it was considered scandalous to show an ankle or an elbow. This was across the board; not solely limited to the upper class. Dressing by covering the entire body for the purpose of preserving ones physical modesty also has a place in the equation.

As a women who has spent half my life covered and half of it uncovered, there is a marked difference in the type of attention that you get from men when wearing it (American men that is…if I wore my regular street clothes in Saudi they would probably have a whole other reaction). It definitely sends a signal and I don’t believe that non-Muslims would view it as being a haughty one (although I see your point about the hijabi vs non-hijabi bias in Muslim spheres). I have just as many non-hijabi friends as hijabi. I also have some friends who decided not to wear it anymore. I ran across one of these women at a street fair and it looked like she was shaking in her boots when she saw me. I guess she was amazed when she realized that I wasn’t going to pull out a cane and flog her in the street. LOL. It really is a personal choice and it bothers be that people automatically assume that hijabis are close minded, rigid, haughty and dogmatic. Often times, nothing could be further from the truth.

24 03 2009
Achelois

Disclaimer: This will be long.

I don’t like Maher much. He makes me laugh sometimes and I respect his stance over PETA issues but he is often over-confident and I have trouble appreciating over-confident men. He calls women ‘bimbos’ and thinks he attracts only smart women (which somehow happen to be porn-stars at least twice in his case! Makes me think he confuses boobs with brains but then I will be stereotyping in Maher style!).

Like pointed out before by Bedu, he was very wrong about the breast cancer issue in the KSA. It was part of his comedy but that may give out wrong information to those unaware. There are plenty of good women doctors in KSA and there are breast cancer awareness campaigns in place but women are mainly unconcerned about the gravity of the cancer situation because they are uneducated and think that cancer is curable, or that women who breast feed never get it or that having many babies protects one against this type of cancer. I am not saying that Muslim women don’t have issues with a man doctor touching their breasts. Personally I would never go to a man doctor if I have the choice. But Maher plays down the feelings of Muslim women.

The other problem I see is his use of the burka (it isn’t an abaya) as the central theme of his joke. As a Muslim woman I take offence because I don’t consider burka as an Islamic dress, yet it was used in conjunction with Arabic and Islamic terms, names and ideologies. I found that to be terribly racist. It is one thing to joke about the burka and another to say that all women who wear it are beaten with sticks on their ankles and walk five steps behind their husbands.

A very small minority of Muslim women actually dress like that. Now I do have problems with women who dare to look like that in the West because it makes a woman stand out and that is exactly what shouldn’t happen. Frankly it could have been the same woman coming over and over again on the stage and we wouldn’t know, which is the aim of the burka by those who wear it. Having lived in segregated and frustrated societies I know that there are times when I wished I was that invisible. And even communities that are not so segregated still have frustrated men like in Cairo.

So what I am trying to say is if a woman looks like that in America, she should be whipped on her ankle with a stick! But if she wears it in KSA and wants to wear it, then Maher should know his place. He has no business talking about how women dress in KSA and he was actually targeting those women. When will the imperialistic bigots stop telling people what to do in their own countries?!

I blame women who claim that burka is an Islamic dress and then look down upon unburkied women and think they are going straight to Heaven for looking like that on the streets of New York. When women didn’t dress like that in the West no Westerner had any issues with how Arabian women dressed in Arabia. But I also think that Maher, like any other American is not liberating any Muslim woman.

I don’t like KSA, I have issues with how Saudis think most of the time, but I only speak against anything or anyone Saudi when it is directly affecting me. No Saudi has ever judged Maher or his Playboy ways. He should also appreciate that there are societies in which women do leave “everything to imagination” even if he has never met a woman like that.

But Muslim Dior was hilarious 😀 And I think I am secretly angry with him for neglecting Fitnah Fashion!

24 03 2009
sabiwabi

I agree with Achelois, 100%.

Good job.

24 03 2009
Chiara

Regarding non-fitna fashion, Maher has conflated Muslim with Arab (burkas are Afghani) as so many do.

Any time anyone dresses in an extreme minority way they draw attention to themselves whether intended or not, and in my experience some do it for that exact purpose, or enjoy the additional attention (some, not all).

24 03 2009
susanne430

I’m enjoying all the comments.

Laughing at Muslim Dior.

Thanks for sharing. I’m glad to know women like Carol who can tell us the truth about breast cancer in KSA. Thanks!

24 03 2009
Achelois

The burka Maher showed is not Afghani. The Afghani burka is never black and is the classic shuttlecock two-piece thing. It is weird because Maher’s is not Afghani, not Indian/Pakistani, not Arabic, not Iranian. But he wants us to think it is Saudi. It looks a bit like the chador and bit like the khumr with the veil and without sleeves. It was his own design, I am sure 😀 He is competing with Aafke’s brilliant Fitnah Fashion!

24 03 2009
Chiara

I think his point was more any non-descript sac with face veil, and mine was more that he takes (humorous?) liberties to make his points, at times reinforcing American misconceptions.

24 03 2009
sabiwabi

Here Aafke, how about this one?

Seen this?

http://community.dr.dk/default.ns?lngItemID=1400

24 03 2009
American Bedu

Achelois,

I’ve had exposure to the Afghan burka and even have been in several shops on the Pakistan/Afghan border and I can say they come in black, blue, green and white. They may come in some other colors but those were the ones I had to choose from. And of course, the woman’s eyes would never be seen such as the ones depicted on Maher’s show as the Afghan burka has a mesh where the eyes are. I happen to own one of the blue Afghan burka’s and of course I tried it on a few times and wondered how the women managed to navigate in them. The mesh really does obscure and limit vision.

Now what I’ve also been told about the specific colors is that black is for the older and married or widowed woman; green and white are for those who want to present the most pious image and the blue is for those women who are single. I’m not sure if I believe that but it makes for good discussion and speculation.

25 03 2009
Saudi in US

Man point of view, that Anan girl stole my heart when she twirled and exposed her ankle. She will make me a good #2 wife, but I only have 1 camel 😦

25 03 2009
Lat

A very interesting post on muslim women’s dress which always never fails to attract attention.It’s the superficiality instead of the substance of the woman that is always seen as beautiful,hot and becoming of a honorable woman. I simply don’t agree.
And the comments here are equally good as well!:D

25 03 2009
Achelois

I’ll be honest that I haven’t seen them green or black and I didn’t know about that. I went to Afghanistan in 1997 to work with an Aga Khani network and I didn’t see any colour but blue. Green shuttlecocks are more common in North Pakistan though. I think the mesh is made out of this starched stiff material. Is it stiff?

25 03 2009
American Bedu

It is stiff until after many washings then it begins to soften. And before anyone gets the wrong idea, NO….I do not choose to wear such a thing but bought one more to be able to show others firsthand what one is like!

25 03 2009
Lynn

Saudi in US,
That woman is nothing but a whore showing her ankle like that (I swear she winked too). Man, don’t fall for her wicked ways you’re better than that.

I prefer the Donna Koran style myself. Aafke do you have something similar in your catalog?

26 03 2009
Aafke

Tazeen, welcome to my blog 🙂 There is no logic in the abaya in Saudi Arabia, women are bound to it, they have no free choice.
Outside of Saudi Arabia, it is really up to the women themeselves. So I think that, as there are many different personalities, there will be many different reasons for different women to decide why they want to wear the abaya. And of course some are still forced by family or husbands who like it, and it that extent it is a form of opression. But there are many reasons for a woman to choose for herself what she wants to wear. And as such it is not for others to judge.

Sabiwabi, I don’t quite agree with that, around nineteen hundred the blouse was, for the first time, worn as an upper garment, and could have quite short sleeves. Neither was it shocking to show an ankle, but, because of the fashion/custom, for covering a lot of skin, it was certainly arousing.

I find fashion, and cultural history, fascinating. The aera we mean with the shocking ankle-showing, is more the middle of the nineteenth century, when women wore gloves even at mealtime, and covered the luscious legs of furniture to keep their furniture ”modest”.
The funny thing is, the more obsessed a society is with ”modesty” the darker the other side of that society.

I agree that one shouldn’t equate a hijabi with a close minded rigid person. On the other hand some are just that. It depends on the person underneath the hijab.

Achelois, yes… what a very loooong comment! 🙂 However, you have some really good points to make so I feel very honoured you took the trouble.

I like Bill Maher, and I have serious doubts about his choices for women, and his regard for them.
He is defenitely ill-informed about breast cancer and doctors, and actually medical fascillities in Saudi Arabia, because his very last remark: he doubts if a cure for cancer might come out of Saudi Arabia is wrong: there are some very good cancer specialists in KSA.

I prefer a female doctor too especially in more intimate problems and in The Netherlands you can always ask for a female doctor, but when I found a lump in my breast I was happy to have anybody check it as soon as possible. And they way the doctor examined me was soo remote it didn’t give me any bad feelings. (nothing wrong btw)

The thing about ”burka” is that that is the name by which face veils are known by most people. In the Netherlands people will not understand you if you use ”niqab” it’s always called a ”burka” in Dutch.
And it’s not National Geographic, it’s just a funny show! I can’t take it that seriously really.

I thought ”Muslim Dior” was the best joke!
And he couldn’t have been so funny with Fitnah Fashions, becasue Fitnah Fashions would have shown some modest but perosnal and amusing abayas! Takes away the gist of his jokes.
I fully believe you can be dressed modestly without the emulating the Maher Fashion show!

Chaiara, that is one of the reasons women in the west maybe wearing them.

Susanne, I agree

Achelois, somebody made that up for the how, And I think there was only oine, and only one model.
And I think it showed too much. the eyeslit should have been much smaller, and I would have used an eyeveil as well!

Saudi in US, you dog! you must have been really scanning to notice that ankle!!!!!

Lat, yes.

Achelois and Bedu, I thought it was made out of the fabric, like a kind of ”Broderie Anglaise”

Lynn, don’t be so judgmental 😉 it could have been purely accidental!!! Anyway, I think the last model was really fitnah in the seductive way she moved her shoulder!
Fitnah Fashions makes custom abayas! You can order one! {But I won’t enjoy making it… 😦 )

26 03 2009
Culture bashing « Achelois: a retired goddess

[…] Gossipers also give out wrong information in the process often only because they don’t bother to have correct information about the “inferior Other”. Take for instance Bill Maher who gives us his expert opinion that  “the reason why breast cancer is such a problem in this part of the world [Saudi Arabia] is because they don’t report it to doctors because one, they don’t want … a woman can’t go to a man doctor who is not her husband , he can’t see her breasts … its ridiculous. And of course there are not a hell of a lot female doctors in that part of the world”. (h/t Aafke). […]

26 03 2009
Achelois

Aafke, I believe it is made of buckram. It is not embroidered.

26 03 2009
Mezba

If Maher was making fun of House of Saud it would be one thing … but knowing him (and his recent movie) he is making fun of Islam. He has also associated the burkha with Islam and oppression – both of which are wrong in theory if not practice.

And I rarely find him funny. I hate his smug tone, even when he is criticizing GW Bush.

26 03 2009
Aafke

Achelois, When i see it on photos it looks like fabric, with some threads removed, and then the remainder bound into a trellis design, which although not decorative, is basically a Broderie Anglaise…. I’ll look it up….

Mezba, oh, come on.. at least when he’s after Bush he’s funny!?
hey, I’m pretty smug too? 😦

28 03 2009
Rhysz

Okay, Blue Screen of Death Here……..

……ah, I feel much better now.
Have you actually seen religulous? I’ve seen it and he takes aim at all of the major abrahammic religions, he’s fair enough to spare noone, are you saying his jokes about christianity and judaism were also in poor taste? If so, please share your thought on your blog, I’d be incredibly interested to read your views. After all ‘what’s fair to the goose is fair to the gander’. Why would it be okay if he took jabs at the house of Saud but would it be unfunny if he did the same to Islam? Humour has a nasty ability of awareness-raising and to make people think, that’s why I prefer the term ‘stand-up philosophy’. Also, your post suggests that certain topics are allowed to be subjected to humour (here, only people I can only imagine that you disagree with) while others are elevated to a level of being outside of the realm observational comments.

I was writing more, but I don’t want to be too political here. Allmost all comedians use a smug persona, it’s just funnier. The one guy that comes to mind is Stephen Wright, he’s absolutely smugless……

Regards,
Rhysz

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