Thursday, February 12, 2009

Covered Women as Tourist Attractions?

I have always complained when internet photos of foreign places show covered women. It's felt like the stalkerazzi of modesty.
The whole point of being covered is to keep away from men's eyes. To not just look, but to stare long enough to then take a picture and finally to put it on the internet for all to see, is really (I think) an abomination of decency.
Now, I've left a comment on You can find it here.
This is a little different, in that Hans is an Amish-Mennonite believer. His mother and sisters are covered. Read the conversation and see what you think.
Leave comments here for now. Maybe we can collect a bunch of comments and send them over to him en masse, inshahallah.


Anonymous said...

I'm honestly not seeing the issue here. He's not mocking them or showcasing them as some kind of freak show. They are simple pictures of people that happen to live in a country he was visiting. Imho, you should be more concerned with all the ridiculous hijabi fashion blogs run by muslim women that routinely post pictures of hijabi women (who clearly were unaware they were photographed) and mock them and allow other commenters to ridicule them as a way of showing "how not to wear hijab"

Heba said...

I wear hijab and I see where you are coming from, though I dont agree 100%. I think you could have said it differently to that guy though, maybe in a less scoldish tone, and more a heads up tone, especially since he didn't have bad intentions, and seems like a generally nice guy. There is definately bigger fish to fry out there when it comes to hijab issues on the net.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Anonymous, I totally agree

Yosra said...

Asalamu Alaykom Anonymice,

I wasn't aware of these sites you're talking about. Send me a link and I can learn more. So far, they don't sound good.

Asalamu Alaykom Heba,

Ya, nobody is ever going to agree with me 100%. I would worry if they did! :)

Hans Mast has many, many, many pictures "capturing" women in hejab. It wasn't just this one series. The vast amount was disturbing to me.

Honestly, if an Arab man was here in the U.S. taking photos at a public park of European-American women and children, wouldn't the police be called?!

Brooke said...

Asalamu Walaikum Sis,
Okay, now I kind of see where you are going with this. There are a lot of issues wrapped-up(hehe) in what you are talking about here.

1) Yes, absolutely. An Arab, South Asian, Black African or any Brown Man participating in this sort of tourist behavior on Western soils--photographing western women, especially preferring ones of a certain dress, say at the beach--would probably be questioned/threatened and the behavior would definitely be considered unacceptable.

2)As well, I would guess that if a local was taking similar pictures, other locals wouldn't stand for it. But many nations tend to lend hospitality to tourist behaviors that they would not accept from their own. I think this has a lot to do with economics as well as cultural manners--ironically not wanting to offend the offensive.

3) The issue of public vs. private space. It is unfortunate that there is an attitude that if you step outside your door, your likeness is no longer your property. You hear celebrities complain about this all the time, but really--why do you think you can take a picture of me and then my likeness becomes your property? Perhaps this is physically and legally possible to do, but is it ethically okay? Most professional photographers will minimally ask for permission to photograph someone and maybe for permission to "publish" the work. Alas, this is where the freedom of the web has perhaps overstepped a boundary and I'm afraid sis, there is no stopping people from doing this along with slandering people, spreading lies, etc.

4)There is a global deterioration of boundaries--both physical and ethical. I no longer feel comfortable to uncover in any place that may seem private because of the globalization of the watchful-eye. For instance, my backyard is viewable on google earth. Likewise, dressing rooms do not feel "safe" and after reading about people hiding cameras in bathrooms and such--ya Rubb! I'm sure there are many people who would just love, love, love to "capture" images of veiled-women unknowingly unveiled-- there is a whole body of work by Orientalist artists that staged such scenes. Actually, I have seen worse from Iraqi soldiers--posting images of women in hospitals and such.

I don't think your anger/annoyance is unjustified, but I do think the situation is unavoidable :(
Love and Peace

Yosra said...

Wa Alaykom Asalam Brooke,

You are SUCH a well-thoughtout writer! Man! You put some of the key issues into a good framework of understanding.

Yes, it is happening. That doesn't make it right. To become complacent in it happening is our wrong.

I mean, honestly, if you found pics of your daughter on a website that she didn't know were taken? Well, these women are somebody's daughter!

And even if these "foreign" hejabis are in somebody else's tourist destination, they are in their homeland.

I'm still on the rant. Can't get off of this one. Rankles my cankles, ya know?

Ya, Brooke, I think you get me. AND you wrote about it so intelligently, I should just let you have the last word.

Never mind...

brookeakaummbadier said...


Heather said...

Assalamu alaikum, Yosra.

We have a conservative Amish community nearby (not Amish-Mennonite, who are less conservative than most Amish). They will not allow their picture to be taken, men or women, or children. If a photograph is taken without their consent, they will politely ask the person to delete that photo from their camera/phone and refrain; for them, not being photographed is as much a religious issue as a modesty one. If their request isn't respected, they are quite offended, and rightfully so.

Too few people understand that just because one is 'in public,' doesn't give another the right to take photographs of them without consent. Especially when the picture is OF the individual, rather than the individual happening to appear in a photo of, say, a tourist attraction.

Yosra said...

Wa Alaykom Asalam Heather,

Thank you so much for reading and commenting on this. You do understand the issue fully. Your example is a good one.

What's funny to me now is that I AM the subject of the occassional tourist camera. LOL! Living next to the Pyramids means that I'm one of the few actual people (common folk) that the tourists on buses get to see through their window. So, they take shots of me on the street. I feel like shouting, "NO! I'm not really Egyptian! Take pictures of someone else because they're a better example!" Oh, well. I'm in somebody's album in Beijing.

Please read more and comment more :) I need all the good thoughts I can get!

Light and Love!