Muslim Women on Sex and the City 2

In light of yesterday’s discussion of SatC, I thought I’d direct your attention to Muslimah Media Watch’s discussion of the film.

If any non-Arab, non-Muslim readers are itching to say (or repeat), “Well, I don’t think it’s racist, and my opinion is valid, too, and also you’re just looking for stuff to complain about!” just please, please remember that these women may have a wee bit more expertise on the subject than you do. Do you enjoy it when a member of a privileged group lectures you on what is and isn’t offensive to your group? No, it’s frustrating and insulting! Stay civil, all.

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22 comments for “Muslim Women on Sex and the City 2

  1. Frowner
    June 3, 2010 at 8:24 am

    I admit that I am not going to see this film, because it would probably make me helpless with rage and frustration and I don’t have enough money to see all the movies I’d actually like to see anyway…

    I find myself thinking about the way the white US has tried to recuperate certain things about the Middle East–I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we’ve got terrorism all over the newspapers and “harem” pants as fashion this past year or two, plus all those hipster semi-keffiyehs. No matter how much overt criticism of Abu Dhabi is made in the film, simply putting it on screen at length acts as a kind of advertisement, both for the richer countries of the Middle East and for Abu Dhabi itself. The west can simultaneously hate and despise the middle east and also extract whatever fashion/travel/food fodder is there to sell.

  2. oldlady
    June 3, 2010 at 9:11 am

    I do hope some of those who were so eager to comment yesterday will read this link. They don’t seem to be as vocal today…

  3. Samantha b.
    June 3, 2010 at 9:48 am

    Frowner, harem pants actually originated in India rather than the Middle East. It doesn’t look like the SATC crowd is clear on this, though, so your point remains. You’d think someone as well paid and as legendary as Patricia Field would be better informed, but she’s clearly riding on stereotypes, regardless of what she may or may not know.

  4. Fauzia
    June 3, 2010 at 9:51 am

    thanks for posting this, julie. as a muslim american woman who saw this film the day it premiered, i was mortified. i sat through pretty much 95% of the film with my jaw on the ground. not because i can’t handle overt sexuality, but because it was disrespectful in so many ways. just plain offensive.

    muslimah media watch does a pretty great job covering it from a muslim woman’s perspective.

    thanks, again!

  5. June 3, 2010 at 9:57 am

    Thanks for sharing the link on MMW. Not that I was going to see the film before, but I’m really not going to bother with it now. Like Yusra, I watched every preview with dread.

    Sure, we wear designer clothes under our abayas (sometimes it’s just pajamas, and if I had the balls, a bikini), but to throw them off to save a group of silly women when they’ve overtly offended and engaged in ridiculous behaviour, speaks volumes as to how poorly SATC2 wants to portray the western woman and the arab-muslim woman. That souq scene is completely unbelievable. The cultural misappropriation runs so deep — these muslim women are “liberated” because they follow Western standards of beauty, and when their heroines (the women they long to be like) are threatened by extremists, they remove their own cultural standards and religious beliefs? The writers can’t be that stupid, so maybe the agenda is just to create fashion fodder as Frowner points out. It stinks.

    Interesting though: in places like Dubai, Arab culture is created specifically for Western consumption, and based on stereotypes of what westerners would like to see and experience. The traditional souq is built indoors (airconditioned), textiles, traditional clothes and market trinkets are HIGHLY overpriced and come from designer manufacturers, and they offer trips out to the desert where you can go dune bashing, dress in niqaab (like a REAL arab!), and finish the evening off while a Russian businesswoman belly dances.

  6. LSG
    June 3, 2010 at 11:38 am

    prowlerzee said: “not to mention requires a huge suspension of disbelief to imagine that SJP as attractive in the slightest degree”

    Totally, completely, one hundred percent irrelevant.

  7. June 3, 2010 at 11:59 am

    I want to apologize for my original comment in the last Sex and the City post. It was pretty bitchy and insensitive. Thank you for the material you referred to me. I will be reading them.

  8. matlun
    June 3, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    Also a comment on the argument in the OP: The Muslimah Media Watch article does not actually call the movie racist, so I do not see how this article refutes the “Well, I don’t think it’s racist, …” argument at all.

    You can certainly argue that the film is attacking Arab Muslim culture and religion with simplistic and clichéd arguments. While it is perhaps mostly a question of semantics, calling it racist is not totally unfair, but this article does not really make this argument IMO.

    It should also be noted that a lot of the arguments are valid. The women certainly are oppressed in Abu Dhabi far beyond what we see in mainstream western culture today.

  9. June 3, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    Well that didn’t long…nine comments with the tenth one being waaah it’s not fair to call it racist. Oh how could I forget this is about empowering White women and what could possibly be racist in that right? Good job Matlun you win first prize.

  10. June 3, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    Prowlerzee, a woman’s level of attractiveness is not up for debate on this blog.

    matlun, knock it off.

  11. matlun
    June 3, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    Ok, I can agree that the semantics question is fairly pointless and did not bring the discussion forward. Let’s just call it bigoted and then we can argue about which type of bigotry we are talking about some other time.

    I stand by the rest of my post, though.

  12. June 3, 2010 at 1:24 pm

    The next person to insult SJP’s (or anyone else’s) appearance is banned. This is Julie’s thread so I’ll let her decide which comments to keep or delete, but seriously, cut it out.

  13. Mandolin
    June 3, 2010 at 5:03 pm

    Count me among the people who looked at the commercial, went “OMG THERE IS NO WAY THAT CAN GO WELL” and will be delicately trying to avoid any, say, mothers who have rented the movie for family nights.

  14. L
    June 3, 2010 at 5:17 pm

    Wow, Prowlerzee, really? Did you really just comment on SJP’s attractiveness, on a feminist blog?

  15. Ayah
    June 3, 2010 at 8:05 pm

    “The women certainly are oppressed in Abu Dhabi far beyond what we see in mainstream western culture today.”
    Are you joking? It’s obvious you’ve not been to Abu Dhabi, nor any of the other overpriced Emirates. The pampered and petulant women of Abu Dhabi are fodder for many punchlines on Arab TV (yes, they let us girls watch the telly sometimes. Are you shocked?). The stereotype is that they’re bossy, loud, greedy, and superficial. Really, the Arab version of the Sex and the City women. “Oppressed.” Pssshh. Oppressed like Sarah Jessica Parker is oppressed.
    Abu Dhabi is quite “progressive” by American standards, and if the women there are oppressed, they are oppressed in the same way American women are oppressed. That is, they’ve fallen prey to a vapid, money-obsessed culture.
    And a big FYI to everyone who wishes to paint all Muslim women as pathetic, helpless victims without agency: all Muslim-majority states do not operate on the Saudi or Afghani models and all Muslim men are not violent misogynists from whom we poor Muslim women must be protected, so save your condescending sympathy for those who are in need of it.

  16. June 3, 2010 at 10:17 pm

    Awesome critique by the ladies of Muslimah Media Watch!

    I wanted to point out that the “book club” scene seems lifted from Reading Lolita in Tehran–again showing the ignorance of the scriptwriters. Iran!=Abu Dhabi.

    There are real, disturbing problems in the Emirates. Way to fucking miss all of them, movie.

  17. June 3, 2010 at 10:28 pm

    …and while I’m familiar with the jokes about women from Abu Dhabi (and from Saudi, actually) as being rich, pampered bitches–they don’t have it on high street either, in terms of legal rights. Yeah, the UAE is pretty progressive, but a long way from equality in terms of divorce law, children born to unwed mothers, etc.

    So, yes, the movie did a terrible job of addressing this. But I’d take issue with calling all Emiratii women “privileged like SLJ is privileged”

  18. Linda Binda
    June 3, 2010 at 10:42 pm

    Plus, doesn’t Abu Dhabi have, like, TREES and GRASS and WATER? I haven’t seen the movie, yet, but from what I know of the Gulf, I’m sure they have SOME moderate vegetation there; it’s not the Sahara; they don’t live on Mars. What’s with all the desert shots in every production shoot for the film? I’m sure Morocco, where they said they shot the movie, doesn’t look like that, either. I’ve seen plenty of urban and rural Berber-area Morocco shots just from old issues of National Geographic. They don’t look anything like the shots I keep seeing from this movie.

    Not only is the story stupid, and its sense of geography and knowledge of non-Western cultures stupid, even the SET DESIGN is STUPID.

    This movie has fallen a longways from Samantha & co. hating on people who think they’re the shit because they have kids, back in the earlier seasons (I wasn’t a fan, but I had respect for the franchise before it became all about Carrie getting back with Mr. Big). This movie seems incapable of sympathizing with the childfree, or having any sort of complex insight on anything. Truly a pity. No HBO-based show should ever sound so .. stupid.

  19. Rachel
    June 5, 2010 at 4:59 pm

    Thanks for sharing. While I enjoyed the movie (particularly the relevant yet all-too-brief discussions about motherhood and work-life balance), I had a lot of the same thoughts as the women at MMW. It’s sad, really. Given the film’s plot, its writers had a number of opportunities to generate an intelligent discussion surrounding the issues of conservative dress and the global status of women in general (not to mention menopause). Instead, they took an overly simplistic approach– these issues were treated as plot devices and little more.

    It’s especially frustrating because there is an iota of truth to the gross generalizations made by the film. Women ARE oppressed in the Middle East, just as they are oppressed in the United States. Western women HAVE been followed by groups of men in the East, just as they are followed by groups of men in the West (I should know– it’s happened to me in both hemispheres). As the women at MMW pointed out, these issues are far more complex than the film conveys, and it’s unfortunate that the take-home message is essentially “well, Western women can be such sluts and Muslim men are so intolerant that of course this is what’s going to happen.” The women (and men) from both cultures are such caricatures of themselves that it shuts out any potential for intelligent discourse.

    Which is ironic, because judging from many of the scenes, it seems as though that’s what the writers thought they were going to create. The scene in the flower shop struck me as a (feeble) attempt to rally the audience into feeling some sort of solidarity with the women from both cultures. The same thing goes for the main characters’ karaoke rendition of “I am Woman, Hear Me Roar.” And after Carrie read the New Yorker article, the comment (I forget who made it) about men wanting to silence women in both cultures was on point. And yet, those scenes made me uncomfortable because we never actually heard from the Muslim women themselves (other than a few trite sentences at the end, half of which are neither in English nor subtitled). Whether it’s Western women or Muslim men who are speaking for the Muslim women in this film, they remain silenced throughout. The writers of SATC2 had a chance to provide a bit of much-needed education to the American public, and they blew it.

  20. Barbara Stoner
    June 7, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    I gotta say, this is the most intelligent forum I’ve read so far about that awful movie. I say awful as a long-time Sex in the City fan. It began with four possibilities for narrative: Carrie’s concerns about marriage turning dull, Miranda’s issues with her boss, Charlotte being overwhelmed by motherhood, and Samantha having to deal with menopause. Plenty of material to work with in clever, fun scenes. Instead it was written as set-ups for one bad joke after another. As a 60+ old white lady in Seattle, I won’t even comment on the behavior of these NY “sophisticates” in a different culture. Supposedly they are all educated, successful women who, in spite of risking all for fashion, should have more of a clue. Samantha dealt with her cancer in a way that humanized her fear. She is not growing old gracefully.

  21. Barbara Stoner
    June 7, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    As a follow-up: And where was The City? If they had stayed in New York, those four narratives could, in the “write” hands, have been dealt with in fun, intelligent and sympathetic ways. Someone made a Horrible Mistake!

  22. Yara
    June 20, 2010 at 7:36 am

    I’m an arab woman (Lebanese) who has had to travel to the UAE (in addition to Kuwait, Oman etc..) for work and I can honestly say that watching this movie was like deja vu. At first, Dubai seems glamorous, exciting and open but then you see what it’s really all about. I was visiting a male colleague at another hotel so we could prepare for a meeting we would be having later in the day with a customer. I went to his hotel room and 5 minutes later, there was a knock on the door and we were asked to exit. It was incredibly embarrassing. What a backward repressed country.

    The message this movie gives about the UAE is perfect – beneath the hype this is just another backward muslem country. Good for Samantha giving them all the finger. Oh, and the video of moslem women wearing the latest designer fashions under their burkas? Very true, I’ve seen it and so have some of my other female colleagues..

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