The classic mainstream media encourages diets, while trivializing thinness with retouched photos of celebrities who are already thin. These images at least partly meet the fantasies of Western men, showing women getting younger and thinner, and increasingly close to the body of a young girl.
Meanwhile, the West perceives the Islamic world as a separate place where violence against women is intensified and secular, a late and barbaric world concerning progress of democracy and gender equality. This post is not about issues related to history and geopolitical contexts in the Islamic world; rather, the point here is to highlight the gap in perceptions of and by the Other. It consists of a cultural gap that distorts reality and thereby causes a wrong image about some aspects of women’s condition in the Muslim world. This cultural gap has been the subject of Le Harem et l’Occident (2001), a book by Fatema Mernissi.
This does not compare the two types of society and what would be the best, but instead highlights some specific elements of women’s condition according to the context and looking at how individual choices of resistance and mass submission may be present in both contexts.
Misunderstandings about the freedom of women
Originally, the word “harem” means “forbidden.” But for Western men, it represents a kind of orgiastic place where unhindered men succeed in a miracle by enjoying a multitude of women they enslaved. This false image of the harem was developed by European artists during the early modern period; in revenge, Muslim artists did not hide the fact that this is a place of confinement and that women who lived in the harem were aware of being oppressed. [Read more...]