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Stereotype-bustin' in the Arab world

by the stormy present Wed Nov 7th, 2007 at 02:31:26 PM EST

Hardened feminist that I am, it pains me a little that I am about to post a diary composed almost entirely of pictures and videos of scantily dressed women.

That's Nancy Ajram.  And just the beginning.  Follow me over the jump for a little lesson in how the Arab world may not be exactly like you think it is.

Promoted by Migeru


OK, I have to be honest with you:  I am not the ideal person to write this diary, since I'm not a big fan of pop music in any language.  Punk music, African music, jazz music, sure, but pop music is just not my thing.  As female singers go, I'm more inclined to listen to Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone and Miriam Makeba than I am to, um...

Crap.  Quite honestly, I have blanked on the names of any Western pop tarts.  Hang on a second, I'll think of some... Britney Spears?  Do people still listen to her?  That's about all I can come up with, and I don't have time for another Google search.

Anyway, a lot of "Westerners" seem to have this idea that Arab women are all covered up and hidden from view.  And in some places, yeah, they are.  Saudi Arabia always leaps to mind.  Here's a lady from Yemen:

But even in the most conservative, Islamist parts of the Arab world, there is this newfangled thing called television, and with satellite television comes the Rotana network, owned by a very wealthy member of the Saudi royal family.  Rotana is one of a growing number of hugely popular MTV-like Arabic pop music video stations, populated largely by beeeeyuuuutiiifuul scantily clad women, which Abu Aardvark (otherwise known as Professor Marc Lynch) has dubbed Pop Tarts, aka the Nancy-Haifa Culture Wars.  (Some recent posts in that list are actually about Julia Boutros, who IMV doesn't even count as a pop tart, and who I was planning to write about here someday... but she gets her own diary.)

Ag... it really does me no good to try to explain this to you.  Have a look.  Here's Haifa Wehbe:

The other biggest name in the Culture War is Nancy Ajram:

Even got you some English subtitles on that one.  It's actually a very pretty, sad song, as pop songs go...

Anyway, Haifa and Nancy are both Lebanese (well, Haifa's half-Egyptian), which means those outfits you see in the video is probably just something they had lying around in their closets.  Everyone looks like that in Beirut.

Most of the big female names in Arabic pop are Lebanese, but not all of them... Ruby is Egyptian, and Najla is Tunisian.  (Najla appears to have very little in the way of actual singing talent but, hey, if she's willing to dress like that, who needs talent?)  I hear there's a Bahraini pop star out there somewhere, but I dunno who she is.

Here's Ruby, reminding us where belly dancing came from...

The song's title, Enta Arif Leih, means "You Know Why," and the lyrics are standard pop fare:  "You know why, why I love you..."  etc.

OK, so now you have a rough idea what I'm talking about.  On to the discussion.

Hey... guys?  I'm over here.  Yoo-hooo... Wipe the drool off your chins and pay attention.  To me.

Now, as you'd expect, these ladies are hardly uncontroversial in the Arab world.  Islamists in Bahrain's parliament tried to ban Nancy Ajram from performing in 2003, but the measure was voted down. The show went on... with a little rioting outside.  Um... well, it was Ramadan.  I think that was the excuse.  Whatever.

Anyway, the next time Nancy played Bahrain, in 2006, things were calmer.  No rioting.  I guess that's progress.

But the pop tarts don't just inspire hand-wringing and controversy among the conservatives.  There are also Arab feminists and progressive Arab women who -- like many others who'd call themselves neither feminist nor progressive -- are deeply divided about whether these "video clips" are helping or hurting.

Because, you know, there's also that whole Orientalism thing, and as Ruby reminded us above, the Middle East is no stranger to that painful stereotype of the exotic, seductive female.  And this centuries-old image has not brought with it much in the way of liberation.

As the Christian Science Monitor pointed out:

But more-liberal Arabs are deeply divided over the videos' long-term influence. On one end are those who, like Haddad, hope the videos will help erode conservative attitudes toward dress and sex. On the opposite end are those who see yet another culprit that promotes women as physical objects. Beneath these different views lie mixed feelings about the benefits of Western influence on Arab culture.

That CSM article is really quite good, and it gets at some of the discomfort and conflict that many people feel over the videos and "Western" influence in general.  Liberating?  Objectifying?  Both?

What's missing, some say, is a really genuine Arab voice, such as lyrics that explore taboo topics and more storytelling, in place of haphazard shots of exposed arms and legs. But other critics say the videos have definitely affected public thinking. After all, they're everywhere, from Damascus cafes and restaurants to hotel lounges. The cumulative effect, they charge, is that women have been turned into commodities. It's a sentiment some religious leaders agree with.

Seated around a lunch table at the Higher Institute of Music in Damascus, Maya Yousef and twins Nadia and Hala Muhamna - members of an all-girl's classical music ensemble - offer vociferous protest. "[These music videos are] not about being openminded," says Nadia, whose trendy skirt and top would easily blend in on any American campus. "It's only about the body, about appearance.... [These videos] really affect the way men think about women. [They] focus men's attention on the body."

Al Amin Merhe takes a more sinister view. "It's a marriage between technology and tradition," she says in a phone interview from Beirut, Lebanon. Arab tradition, according to Dr. Merhe, already pressures a woman to play the seductress for her husband at home. Music videos only intensify that, offering plastic-surgery enhanced women as role models.


And of course, satellite television has changed and challenged much more about attitudes toward women in the Arab world than just through music videos and scantily clad women alone.

This article (which bizarrely contrasts the writings of Islamist Sayyid Qutb with images of the bustier-busting singer Elissa) raises some very interesting questions:

Indeed, it is the political implications of these videos that make them so interesting. What these videos offer their audience is an imagined world in which Arabs can shape and assert their identities in any way they please. The question is whether the videos are a leading cultural indicator of social and political change that enables Arabs to do the same in the real world.

What this low, "vulgar" genre is offering, in sum, is a glimpse of a latent Arab world that is both liberal and "modernized." Why? Because the foundation of cultural modernity is the freedom to achieve a self-fashioned and fluid identity, the freedom to imagine yourself on your own terms, and the videos offer a route to that process. By contrast, much of Arab culture remains a place of constricted, traditional, and narrowly defined identities, often subsumed in group identities that hinge on differences with, and antagonism toward, other groups.

For nearly a century, a series of utopian political systems has been advanced in the region to attempt to break this cycle of conflict and stagnation: Pan-Arabism, Ba'athism, Nasserism, Islamism, etc. These have all failed, sometimes disastrously. What may yet work in the region is what has worked elsewhere for centuries: commercialism that does not transmit a regime's utopian dreams but addresses the personal dreams of the audience.

If the audience for these videos uses them to foment a long-term cultural revolution, it would hardly be the first time that "vulgar" forms were at the center of significant social change.


Can such a model be applied to the Arab world? If Arab pop culture does indeed reflect latent Arab liberalism, it would be historically fitting. After all, modern puritanical Islamism emerged, in part, from a reaction to the West's supposed cultural degeneracy. Secular Arabs using their own cultural artifacts to assert personal liberty would only be striking back on a familiar front.

Hmmmmmmm.

I have no answers.  Is Nancy Ajram good or evil?  Is Haifa Wehbe a force for change in the Arab world, or just the latest iteration of a longstanding history of subjugation and objectification of women generally, and especially in this part of the world?  If it is the latter, will that give rise to a more liberal reaction that might help?  I honestly don't know.

But since we've spent so much of this diary looking at pictures and videos of pop tarts, I thought I'd close with something a bit more to my taste.

Here, with a hat tip to Hatshepsut, is the poetry of Suheir Hammad:

If you watch only one video in this diary, make sure it's that one.

Display:
Huh.  I actually only meant to post this tomorrow, but it seems that I accidentally hit the "save" button tonight.  So there you have it.
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Wed Oct 31st, 2007 at 03:29:40 PM EST
You can always quickly edit my story, set it to never display and tomorrow set it to display and check set timestamp to now.

We have met the enemy, and it is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Oct 31st, 2007 at 03:32:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yeah, that occurred to me, but then I decided to leave it up.
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Wed Oct 31st, 2007 at 03:33:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Here's a lady from Yemen

She looks like a lady from East London.

We have met the enemy, and it is us — Pogo

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Oct 31st, 2007 at 03:33:29 PM EST
Hey... guys?  I'm over here.  Yoo-hooo... Wipe the drool off your chins and pay attention.  To me.

Where is your scantily clad YouTube?

We have met the enemy, and it is us — Pogo

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Oct 31st, 2007 at 03:35:20 PM EST
I got yer YouTube right here, buster...
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Wed Oct 31st, 2007 at 03:41:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Hard-hitting poetry in that last video, thanks.

We have met the enemy, and it is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Oct 31st, 2007 at 03:38:41 PM EST
Yeah, I like that one a lot.  Wouldn't have felt terribly comfortable posting this diary without it.
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Wed Oct 31st, 2007 at 03:40:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
somehow I regret even more not being able to currently watch YouTube.

Bookmarked...

This message was brought to you by... Testosterone, keeping men's thoughts simple and short.

by Nomad on Wed Oct 31st, 2007 at 04:36:15 PM EST
I want them on the FP page.. now!!!!!

As you know stormy.. this is a freakingly-fuckingly brilliant diary...

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Wed Oct 31st, 2007 at 04:57:58 PM EST
And what about some Moroccan chaabi music with Cheba Nabila?



"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Wed Oct 31st, 2007 at 05:28:04 PM EST
Great diary.

Here is an anecdote that somehow fits to it, one without a definite conclusion.

One day I travelled from a countryside town back to Budapest on an IC. I sat at the very end of the train. On the opposite side of the aisle, two girls with darkish skin were sitting, and one row forward a boy, I first thought they're Carribean. Theywere well-clad, but looked tired.

I went to the toilet, and once back, I saw the conductor talking to them. They wouldn't understand anything, but it was pretty clear they had no ticket. They didn't undestand "passport" or "identity card" or "Identitätskarte" either, so the conductor asked me if I speak French, because the boy seemed to speak it. But even in French, all I could get out of them is that they have no money (smiles). so I formed a square with my hands, then the girls said: "Aaah, police card!", and handed theirs to the conductor, who wrote them up then left.

Ten minutes later, the trio began to talk among themselves. I could catch some words -- they were German, in a very heavy dialect. Interesting... Half an hour later, one of the girls went to the toilet. She took a long time. When she came back, the tight jeans and dress were gone: she had headscarf on and a long robe! Minutes later, the other girl went to the toilet, and came back similarly changed.

I have no idea what I saw, but dreamt up several possible back-stories...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Oct 31st, 2007 at 05:56:04 PM EST
Heh. Your anecdote reminds me of being in the airport in Riyadh, where women who'd been on the plane with me disappeared into the restroom in the baggage-claim area and emerged at passport control "properly" attired in abaya and hijab....
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Thu Nov 1st, 2007 at 08:30:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I saw the same several times when I was in Saudi Arabia: women in abaya waiting forthe plane to take off and then getting rid of their attire and appearing in gorgeous (and sexy) Chanel or Dior outfits...

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Thu Nov 1st, 2007 at 09:05:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But more-liberal Arabs are deeply divided over the videos' long-term influence. On one end are those who, like Haddad, hope the videos will help erode conservative attitudes toward dress and sex. On the opposite end are those who see yet another culprit that promotes women as physical objects. Beneath these different views lie mixed feelings about the benefits of Western influence on Arab culture.

I really, really passionately hate seeing sexuality presented in a cultural context, because it is such a universal human experience, and so little of it, probably less than any other activity that can be demarked, occurs at the same level in the brain that culture does. Humans are sexual beings. Full stop. Cultures either promote or repress sexual expression. While attitudes vary as you have shown, most of the Arab world is the finest example of complete control of sexuality, both in body and mind, of women in particular, but that suffering on the part of women ends up harming men just as much. The commodification of sex in the western world (and of most of our social interaction) pales in comparison, and if racy videos on that order are a sort of chaotic carpet bomb that will help change attitudes in the Arab world, I am for it. No positive social revolution happens with perfect means or ends.

I also really, really passionately hate the either-or proposition here. Sex is an inherently chaotic activity, and channeling that energy in healthy, non-destructive ways at the individual level is not a matter of which cultural artifacts contain the best approach. It's a matter of discipline, learning, and self-awareness that "the west" has only consciously engaged in for about a century, and the Arab world has hardly touched it for centuries.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Wed Oct 31st, 2007 at 06:51:21 PM EST
MillMan:
It's a matter of discipline, learning, and self-awareness that "the west" has only consciously engaged in for about a century, and the Arab world has hardly touched it for centuries.

I'm not sure 'the west' has really engaged in it at all.

We don't handle anarchy any better than anyone else does. Our usual response is to try to package it and sell it, or repress it. One drains the juice out of it - like porn, which is almost exactly but not quite completely unlike real sexuality. The other easily becomes bizarre, as with the proverbial wardrobe malfunction incident, and any number of Republican 'values' senators with exotic sexual histories.

People are still very confused about sexuality, especially in the media. It's okay for Britney not to wear knickers, and makes for good PR copy. But imagine the outrage if George Clooney flashed his genitals while getting out of a limo.

I'm not sure what that says about feminism, or indeed anything much, except that maybe being explicitly sexual is part of the job description for female singers in a way that it isn't quite for male entertainers.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Nov 1st, 2007 at 08:49:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Media attitudes toward sex are only tangentially related to how members of society act and are allowed to act vs. previous eras. Until the 60's there was little avenue for any sort of frank sexual discussion.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Thu Nov 1st, 2007 at 12:46:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually there were some quite lurid Victorian 'marriage' manuals which discussed sexuality in very open ways. The idea that people only started discussing sex in public in the 60s simply isn't true.

What happened in the 60s is that the media started discussing sex, starting a revolution (of sorts) which took around twenty years to move from pinched disapproval to orgasms during prime time. And it was only last year that you could go to see a non-porn film with non-simulated sex in it. (Very daring, but a little odd considering how much porn there is around. Maybe people went to see it for the acting.) You still can't expect to put on a theatre production with people having real sex in it. You certainly can't start a religion devoted to sexual expression. (Although god knows some of the Osho people have tried.)

If anything now the media are oversexualised - usually for cynical commercial reasons. And there's still not much chance of a prime-time festival of erotica on mainstream TV - especially not in the US, where there's still confusion about the difference between porn and erotica, and a rabid fundie and authoritarian base which is just plain psychotic about sexuality.

We're really not as open as we think we are. When sex appears on TV, it's hardly ever without mixed messages about transgression and naughtiness and/or a commercial angle.

Media sex is rarely generous in the sense of promoting sexuality as something which can be shared in a relaxed and effortless way. It's either being sold, being used to sell, or framed as something that's being used to shock and titillate because talking about it and showing it is oh-so-very edgy.

In fact we'd rather have a public festival devoted to death than to sex.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Nov 1st, 2007 at 04:53:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What happened in the 60s is that the media started discussing sex, starting a revolution (of sorts) which took around twenty years to move from pinched disapproval to orgasms during prime time.

I understand it, the big change was "the pill".  The big period of "sexual liberation" can be (I thought) measured from its introduction to the re-appearance of drug-resistant sexually transmitted bugs of varying nastiness--I suppose the AIDS iceburg was the end of that period.  Hey, there's a quote about that.

Hunter S. Thompson - Wikiquote

There are times, however, and this is one of them, when even being right feels wrong. What do you say, for instance, about a generation that has been taught that rain is poison and sex is death? If making love might be fatal and if a cool spring breeze on any summer afternoon can turn a crystal blue lake into a puddle of black poison right in front of your eyes, there is not much left except TV and relentless masturbation. It's a strange world. Some people get rich and others eat shit and die. Who knows? If there is in fact, a heaven and a hell, all we know for sure is that hell will be a viciously overcrowded version of Phoenix -- a clean well lighted place full of sunshine and bromides and fast cars where almost everybody seems vaguely happy, except those who know in their hearts what is missing... And being driven slowly and quietly into the kind of terminal craziness that comes with finally understanding that the one thing you want is not there. Missing. Back-ordered. No tengo. Vaya con dios. Grow up! Small is better. Take what you can get...

(I know it's not quite on topic, but...such great writing!)

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Thu Nov 1st, 2007 at 05:15:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not even sure that line from Millman is correct.  But what I do think, and what he may have been alluding to, is that "in the west", however f*!#ed up our attitudes toward sex and sexuality and gender are, we do, mostly, have the ability to talk openly and frankly about the matter and engage freely exploring and figuring out for ourselves what it means or doesn't mean to be a man or a woman, hence the learning and self-awareness bit.

Doesn't mean everyone will do this, or that your family or some church or the media won't judge you.  Or that there are not a lot of sickos out there.  But mostly no one "in the west" can be arrested or blacklisted (let alone killed) for challenging old stereotypes about how men and women should comport themselves.


"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Thu Nov 1st, 2007 at 01:05:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
have the ability to talk openly and frankly about the matter and engage freely exploring and figuring out for ourselves what it means or doesn't mean to be a man or a woman,

So long as you fit into a neat consumer category.

This comment isn't aimed at you, but I find it impossible to think about this line of conversation without frowning deeply. There are so many hidden assumptions of doubtful validity lurking here.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Nov 1st, 2007 at 01:15:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Please elaborate.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Thu Nov 1st, 2007 at 01:33:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not sure I can. I just get the feeling that we're trapped within a framing here and missing some pretty fundamental issues. We're a pretty sex obsessed society, and I'm not sure how normal or healthy that is, for a start.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Nov 1st, 2007 at 02:30:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I've never said "normal" or "healthy," just "open" and "frank."  Which I think is healthier than "closed" and "ashamed."  That's by no means implying perfect health, though.

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Thu Nov 1st, 2007 at 02:50:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I have to disagree.  Mind you, I am talking about public policy here, not social peer pressure.  And I'm not suggesting it is easy or simple or even common.  But it's also not limited to a neat consumer category.  People of all socio-economic strata, wether they shop at WalMart, the farmer's market, or Tiffany's are talking about sex and sex roles and figuring things out for themselves, and legally, without the mayor getting involved.

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Thu Nov 1st, 2007 at 01:52:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Er, may be different in Ireland.  

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Thu Nov 1st, 2007 at 02:17:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, absolutely. Over here you have to be married for ten years before they even explain how sex works. I'm waiting anxiously.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Nov 1st, 2007 at 02:25:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's funny.  Everyone always assumed us Catholic School girls knew more about the subject than our public school counterparts.  Or that's the reputation we had.  Or that was the projection of males who fantasized about girls in school uniforms...  

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Thu Nov 1st, 2007 at 02:54:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There may be a fairly significant cultural difference crossing the Atlantic on this one.  I've heard it described like this:  In the USA, you can talk about absolutely anything, sexual or otherwise, and can do it on network TV, but you can't use the words that most vividly describe what you're talking about.  In Britain, you can use all those words as freely as you like, but you can't actually talk about what they describe.

</semi-snarky stereotype>

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Thu Nov 1st, 2007 at 02:22:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
By "do it on network TV" I assume you mean "talk about it on network TV"?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Nov 1st, 2007 at 02:27:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, absolutely.  You certainly can't actually do it on network TV, or even show the parts of the body with which it is sometimes done.
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Thu Nov 1st, 2007 at 02:30:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It sometimes occurs to me that those who would campaign for banning headscarfs in the Muslim world should consider a plan to ban breast coverings in the US.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Nov 1st, 2007 at 02:37:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
MillMan:
I really, really passionately hate seeing sexuality presented in a cultural context, because it is such a universal human experience

I'm really not sure what that means.  Many things that we consider universal experiences, like birth and death, are experienced differently and approached differently in different cultures.  The physical act of being born (or giving birth) and of dying (or seeing someone die) may be the same, but the way it is experienced is not necessarily so.  I don't think there's "one right way" to interact with those experiences.

suffering on the part of women ends up harming men just as much.

I agree with that.

if racy videos on that order are a sort of chaotic carpet bomb that will help change attitudes in the Arab world, I am for it.

But it's not at all clear whether they're doing that.  I remember someone -- I don't remember who -- saying around the time of the invasion of Afghanistan that a better solution would be to carpet-bomb the Taleban with miniskirts, which (while obviously tongue-in-cheek) expresses the same basic sentiment.  But there were miniskirts in Cairo just a generation ago, and the current conservatism and religiosity here emerged partly as a reaction against these "Western" influences.

I'm not sure you're grasping something that's kind of fundamental, which is that the kind of "sexual expression" we see in these video clips is not new here.  What's new is that it's so public.

MillMan:

I also really, really passionately hate the either-or proposition here.

Well precisely, which is what the last video is there for.  I think what a lot of people would like here would be a middle ground, between the munaqaba and the pop tart, where whatever you are would be OK.  But those are the competing pressures right now.

MillMan:

It's a matter of discipline, learning, and self-awareness that "the west" has only consciously engaged in for about a century, and the Arab world has hardly touched it for centuries.

I think you may not realize how that sounds?  As if there's one path to salvation, and "we" are on it and "they" are way "behind" and need to "work harder" to "catch up."  But sexuality is frankly discussed here; healthy sexuality is encouraged within marriage and always has been.  Is failure or refusal to put that on display necessarily unhealthy?  Because frankly, I remain unconvinced that stage shows and video clips of half-naked women miming sexual acts is something to aspire to.  It's different, but is different enough?

But the larger point is not even about sexuality, it's about personal expression on all levels, and about challenging and changing many other norms and standards that are no less significant or life-shaping for an individual or society for their lack of "universality."

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Thu Nov 1st, 2007 at 09:26:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Many things that we consider universal experiences, like birth and death, are experienced differently and approached differently in different cultures.

Sure, but I won't take cultural relativism to the extreme because it allows any cultural limitation or failing to be normalized as proper. In this case the argument can be "suppressing women's rights and sexual freedom is what works for culture x." No, it is what works for the elites of that culture.

What's new is that it's so public.

Which means the potential for it to act as a taboo buster is there. Discussion about sex need to be possible in the public and policy spheres (again I know they are in some places - but overall, very limited in comparison to most of the rest of the world).

I think you may not realize how that sounds?

It sounds politically incorrect. I won't back down from the statement - the cultures that suppress women in this manner are as bizarre of an excursion away from what makes happy, healthy people as capitalism is. Well, bizarre isn't the right word - I can see why cultures might evolve down that path.

As if there's one path to salvation

Putting words in my mouth. What goes on in the US and Europe is by no means perfect, but I have to describe the sexual environment as healthier. The media presentation is rightfully maligned, but beyond that, sexual freedom allowed to members of this culture and the learning and mistakes that come with it in our younger years is what makes for sexually well adjusted adults.

healthy sexuality is encouraged within marriage and always has been

That's not good enough. I existed in a somewhat similar environment growing up, where you are taught to suppress sexual energy until marriage. The origins of this approach have nothing to do with making happy, healthy people.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Thu Nov 1st, 2007 at 01:08:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You know sexually well-adjusted adults? What proportion of the population would you say they make up?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Nov 1st, 2007 at 01:11:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
First we'd have to define "sexually well adjusted." Erm, I'll take a vague stab:

  • Treats members of the opposite sex with respect (no harassment, emotional manipulation, etc)
  • Knows how to channel the strong emotions surrounding sex in non-destructive ways
  • knows their body

I have no idea in terms of percentage, and really, everyone fails the first two items to some degree at some point.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Thu Nov 1st, 2007 at 01:30:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'd leave out point 2. 1 and 3 are enough. Short and simple.
by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Wed Nov 7th, 2007 at 05:26:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In this case the argument can be "suppressing women's rights and sexual freedom is what works for culture x."

Now who's putting words in whose mouth?  Come on.

the cultures that suppress women in this manner are as bizarre of an excursion away from what makes happy, healthy people as capitalism is.

Huh?  Is capitalism the opposite of "the cultures" you're talking about?  I'm not sure I get the point of the reference.

Second, there are many, many, many ways that many cultures, including our own, suppress (or oppress) women.  Nobody has a monopoly on it.  So it's only the ones who suppress women in a particular manner who're moving us away from total Zen bliss?

What goes on in the US and Europe is by no means perfect, but I have to describe the sexual environment as healthier.

Yes, we are so healthy.  So very healthy.

Please.

That's not good enough.

Of course it's not.  But a great big hulking chunk of "our" society is even more repressed than that.  Trust me, I'm related to some of them.  "We" really are not in a position to be throwing any stones, because "our" society isn't really in the business of making happy, healthy, well-adjusted adults either.  If we were, we wouldn't have the Republican Party.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Thu Nov 1st, 2007 at 02:18:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"We" really are not in a position to be throwing any stones, because "our" society isn't really in the business of making happy, healthy, well-adjusted adults either

You just threw all the social movements of the 20th century under the bus. Please don't use the "not holy enough" argument.

Second, there are many, many, many ways that many cultures, including our own, suppress (or oppress) women.  Nobody has a monopoly on it.  So it's only the ones who suppress women in a particular manner who're moving us away from total Zen bliss?

For me, this sort of statement sums up the friction between cultural relativism and personal rights. Women in Arab countries have fewer freedoms than women in the west. I say that with what I think is a decent idea of what the Arab world does better.

I'm not going add anything more - at this point it would require x-thousand words to add any nuance to this as our opinions differ in a very basic manner.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Thu Nov 1st, 2007 at 03:14:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Women in Arab countries have fewer freedoms than women in the west.

And 99.9 percent of those things have nothing to do with sex or sexuality.  It's just as complicated a thing here as anywhere, but on the list of things I'd like to change about the society I live in (and it's a long list) what you're talking about would be way down at the bottom.  "Freedom" is a helluva lot more than freedom to wear next to nothing.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Thu Nov 1st, 2007 at 09:20:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"Freedom" is a helluva lot more than freedom to wear next to nothing.

Are you talking to me, or music video producers?

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Fri Nov 2nd, 2007 at 12:58:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm just surprised that you've assumed the absolute worst from my comments.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Fri Nov 2nd, 2007 at 01:05:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Here's you:

I really, really passionately hate seeing sexuality presented in a cultural context,
I also really, really passionately hate the either-or proposition here.
It's a matter of discipline, learning, and self-awareness that "the west" has only consciously engaged in for about a century, and the Arab world has hardly touched it for centuries.

Here's me:

I think you may not realize how that sounds?

Here's you again:

It sounds politically incorrect. I won't back down from the statement

I gave you the opportunity to clarify, and you did.  You made it really, really passionately clear.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Fri Nov 2nd, 2007 at 08:35:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I want to respond to this, but I'm not ganging up on you here, just trying to clarify some things.  

the cultures that suppress women in this manner are as bizarre of an excursion away from what makes happy, healthy people as capitalism is.
Huh?  Is capitalism the opposite of "the cultures" you're talking about?  I'm not sure I get the point of the reference.

Not the "opposite."  But just as harmful.

What goes on in the US and Europe is by no means perfect, but I have to describe the sexual environment as healthier.

Yes, we are so healthy.  So very healthy.

We're talking about degrees here.  It's possible for one culture to be more humane than another and still inhumane in many ways.  We're all far from ideal, but some are further than others.

 "We" really are not in a position to be throwing any stones, because "our" society isn't really in the business of making happy, healthy, well-adjusted adults either.  If we were, we wouldn't have the Republican Party.

Do you truly feel that way?  Because that pretty much rules out anyone defending or advocating for the rights of anyone outside their culture.  Whatever that is.  Because there are sickos in the US, many of them in power, Americans cannot speak out about the ill treatment of others?  Do you believe in universal human rights?  Do you believe that equal rights are universal human rights?  Do you believe that since no one lives in a society where all human rights are upheld without fail that therefore no one is in a position to comment on the plight of others?  Do you think inequality occurs to the same degree everywhere and that we cannot learn from the accomplishments and failures of other cultures?  I understand your defensiveness.  Look at how I go off on critical press about Russia (how dare we judge them?)  But at the end of the day, curbing free speech, women's rights, torture, etc. etc. is wrong - regardless where it happens, and I feel it is a fundamental human right to be able to speak out when you suspect injustice.  I think we can debate if there is or is not injustice, but I don't think we can say, "You have no right to speak on the matter."  Don't you agree?


"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Thu Nov 1st, 2007 at 03:54:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What I meant by the "throwing stones" statement had more to do with the idea that "we" are somehow on the "right path" and doing things the "right way," or even that "we" are particularly healthy in our societal attitudes toward sexuality.  "We" can certainly criticize, just as we expect to be criticized, and don't for a moment believe that people in the Arab world don't also criticize their own societies on many levels.  They also criticize "our" societies, and yet the implication here is that our criticism of them is legitimate despite our flaws, but theirs of us is just, what, dissembling?

What we can't do is act as if our own house is in order, which it's certainly not, or as if we are the model to which all others should aspire, because we're not.

We're talking about degrees here.

No, we're not.  He said "the sexual environment is healthier," and I don't think that what I linked to is even remotely healthy.  It's disturbing, as is much of the oversexualized environment within which nine-year-olds wear fishnet tights and corsets for Halloween.    

And, uh, finally, I don't think I'm being terribly defensive.  I have not for a single second said that folks in this part of the world are doing things the "right way" and everybody else needs to listen up and start behaving.  But that's essentially what's been said to me.  If you want defensive, I can hook you up, because there is a much stronger reaction to that kind of attitude than the one I've taken, and it would be not-uncalled-for at this point.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Thu Nov 1st, 2007 at 10:01:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
because there is a much stronger reaction to that kind of attitude than the one I've taken, and it would be not-uncalled-for at this point.

Woah!  I think there is a common position here:

"X society is not perfect and we already have information that could make it better."

But then we get, "So country Y could learn from country X"

Or is it "Country X could learn from country Y"?

Or is it "They could both learn from each other"?

Or is there even, maybe, a mythical country that at least one of the people arguing is also implying exits, the one the other two are supposed to become--in the ideal world; then one of the arguers says, "The place that I think [insert their country of choice here] is closer to, in some respects--"

"But further from in other respects--" says the other arguer.

My preferred option in these kinds of arguments would be for each side to admit their own weaknesses and applaud the strengths of the other side.

I know that becomes impossible because of politics, but a rule could be applied: "You are not allowed to say anything good about your preferred country, only bad things."

(Heh!  I can imagine it.  "In our country, we're just too nice!  We take criticism too well!  We're just too damned wonderful, it pisses everyone off!"  Well, okay, not that.  More likely: "We have been slacking in introducing genuine organic healthy meals free to all children under the age of sixteen; they have made a step forward by no longer torturing four year olds--they have now raised the lower limit to five")

(I imagine the "religious cartoons" argument had a similar trajectory--it'd be interesting (for me) and maybe useful to go one step "meta" and deconstruct the arguments to see what's underneath--I know, I know, I've wandered into an argument....I'll go to the bar.  Anyone want a drink?)

(Saw a woman in her fifties in the pub last night.  She'd asked, probably, for "a bottle of sparkling water."  This is a drinkers' pub, so they had to search in the basement, but they found a bottle--not chilled, of course.  The barman handed it to her.  She held it up, turned it, pulled a face like it was mouldy, then said, "Okay, well, I suppose it's water."  So yeah!  Or I can recommend the...er...it's a pub....hmmmm....maybe--okay I'll risk the idea of "a cup of tea"--I have tea bags!  All we need is a kettle and some cups!)

</strange interlude>

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Thu Nov 1st, 2007 at 10:43:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
DoDo, I think downrating that comment is rather harsh.
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Wed Nov 7th, 2007 at 06:22:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry, that must have been another slip of the mouse roller... now corrected.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 10:32:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, thanks!  I was a little surprised, but thought you might have objected to my tone, which admittedly was a bit sharp.... :-\
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 10:49:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Taking things chronologically;

I enjoyed the video about misery, until the end, and even then it had that "Here's how it is" feeling; they were all rich, but he (the bastard!) was enjoying himself just too much....I felt a sense (maybe misguided--probably!) of how "what's going on" has its negative effects, and she--the star of the video, and a conversation ensued this evening at the pub about music where, "Ya know, the video's good, so..." no one gives flying zebras about the content, but I liked the content, sort of, not my musical genre, but an interesting video....

Hey... guys?  I'm over here.  Yoo-hooo... Wipe the drool off your chins and pay attention.  To me.

I have to say, they didn't have me drooling.  For some strange reason your phrase reminded me of this, from William Dalrymple:

Moreover the situation unique--the shady cypresses (he's talking about The Baron Hotel, in Aleppo, Syria), the gardens and bubbling canals which Lawrence writes of in his letters--have long since given way to lines of seedy hard-porn  cinemas covered in lurid posters of nearly-naked American girls (this week The Last Virgin in Las Vegas) into which crowds of hungry-looking Arab boys pour each evening.

William Dalrymple - From The Holy Mountain -- p 134

(He's big on churches...)

Women rock the casbah | csmonitor.com

"[A wife] should wear what makes her husband happy," says one female Islamic law student at the University of Damascus who switches off music videos at the first sight of a shimmying hip. That philosophy may explain why lingerie stores are easier to find in downtown Damascus than are cafes.

Women rock the casbah | csmonitor.com

"We take the tattoos, the long hair [from America], that's it," says Said. Indeed, for the University of Damascus student, sitting on a campus bench in an ankle-length trenchcoat and white headscarf, attempting to establish a link between clothing and freedom is a superficial endeavor.

Women rock the casbah | csmonitor.com

But perhaps the lack of readily available provocative images in the Middle East is partly responsible for such a marriage. One Lebanese music-video director (who didn't want to be named) says the new videos represent "male fantasies," and their popularity is the direct result of what he calls a repressed society.

TV writer Haddad and others hope that, at the very least, exposure to suggestive videos might curb male ogling on the street. As it is now, she says she keeps her outfits understated during the day, but adds, "If I had a car, maybe I'd change my style."

Women rock the casbah | csmonitor.com

"These stars are very emboldened by their position ... they are really powerful women. They dictate contract terms, they have a lot of say in programming, they are seen as unattainable women, beyond reach," says Ramez Maluf, director of the Beirut Institute for Media.

Great article!  Interesting battles...through a most focussed lens, perhaps, but my wife's grandmother wore black, including the headscarf, she had a dry sense of humour, was a catholic...as a friend of mine said, "It's like going back in time."

But the present has already learned the obvious responses...

What's not allowed is banned?

What is allowed is what we're allowed to ask questions about?

So--rich women have issues too!

heh!  It seems we chose different quotes!  I think maybe the whole article is written out here, but in separated elements.

The question is whether the videos are a leading cultural indicator of social and political change that enables Arabs to do the same in the real world.

I'm gonnae ask a really simple question.  Is "Arab" similar to "white" or "english"?  I have no sense of some line beyond which "you are not an arab" and within which "you are an arab"...though I have ideas...the Sahara is a limit (problems on the boundaries).  The mountains between Iraq and Iran form another.  The mountains between Iraq and Turkey...shading to Armenia and points beyond...Azerbaijan...as if "The Goths" were  searching for their cultural identity...or they were so numerous and so distinct in their culture that it was obvious who was "a goth".

By contrast, much of Arab culture remains a place of constricted, traditional, and narrowly defined identities, often subsumed in group identities that hinge on differences with, and antagonism toward, other groups.

"Much of"...I'd like to say "where?" but I'd also like to ask...What sort of culture is made of "identities"?  Heh...a PhD in that lot, many no doubt written....

it's just a blink, get over it

Said to a lover?  Nah.  I see her point but the accent is all american, hach hoik!  I need some Bill Hicks!

(She's saying, "you may love me coz of your fantasy, but I dont' love you"

Have read that all wrong?  And when she falls in love?

Or is love a western myth?  Of course!  And so what value does it propose?)

I was talking to a friend this evening.

"You see," I said, all pompous, "Bach demonstrates something about a white, western, approach to education.  He was white, he was western.  And his music is an example of what that system can produce."

A great diary!

Okay, I think now I should share.  This evening the friend I may have mentioned above was telling me the sad news about a canadian web site.

"You know the one I was telling you about, that offered all the classical music?"

I nodded.  It's a site that offers (offered) free downloadable pdf files of scores of many out-of-copyright classical pices.

"Well," he said, "he's closed down."

"Why?"

"Too much hassle from publishers."

Turns out (in case any are reading!) that western owners of classical copyright have got themselves into a bind.  They don't reprint copies of the music--so musicians can't buy it and learn it.  But when it's offered free they clamp down (it's in copyright) so...the musicians can't learn it.

Net result: no one buys the music and no one plays it.

So, what to do?

The bloke shut down his website because he was tired of being hassled by "the owners of copyright" or somesuch.  Some pieces come out of copyright in Canada before they come out of copyright in Europe.

No one, it seems, thought to offer the guy some money, "Hey, great idea, producing the music, yay!" and, ya know, maybe offer up "almost out of copyright music" for some small fee...

They are rooted in the past and can't leap beyond "monkey see monkey do"--somehow we can't educate ourselves beyond the obvious buck because somehow that's the world...but envious eyes turn to those with "more"--more of whatever you're after--

--ach oy!  You have me ramblin' to the dozen and an arf!  Great diary!



Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Wed Oct 31st, 2007 at 07:48:08 PM EST
An aside: Haifa Wehbe's song is exactly the same tune (and has even similar arrangements) with a Greek folk-pop song sung by a similar local "pop-tart" (although I can't remember the singer right now).

This is no surprise and I wouldn't bet as to which is the original, as the traffic in pop hits between the Near East and Greece, has a long tradition and, IIRC, some Greek pop stars (see here for the trashiest of the trashy) are quite popular in Lebanon, Turkey, (possibly) Iran and (to an astonishing degree) Israel. The latter fact deserves a diary of its own, since it might well be the case that Greek music is the country's biggest export (even in cash terms) to Israel. Apparently Greek music has the benefit of being within the same cultural milieu as Israel, while not being Arab...

The general aesthetics and looks of folk-pop female singers in Arab countries (especially Lebanon), I see now, is also close to home, although we seem to have more platinum-dyed blondes over here.

The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom - William Blake

by talos (mihalis at gmail dot com) on Wed Oct 31st, 2007 at 09:26:09 PM EST
It's called "perittos" by Despina Vandi - who apparently had a few hits in Lebanon as well. For reasons of comparison (and since this thread is full of female regional singers), here it is, for comparison purposes...

The Lebanese version is most probably a cover, not a ripoff.

The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom - William Blake

by talos (mihalis at gmail dot com) on Thu Nov 1st, 2007 at 05:21:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Huh.  Really interesting.  The Greek version is quite a bit peppier, and although I don't speak a word of Greek, it seems from the video that it's a much less melancholy "this is my sad fate" kind of message.  But there's no denying that the melody is pretty much the same, and the opening and shower scenes from the video are pretty similar too.

I guess it shouldn't be surprising that there'd be some regional "cultural exchange".... But this is still a little different than I would have expected.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Thu Nov 1st, 2007 at 08:16:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
All I know is that when a Greek singer redid the Bee Gees "Stayin' Alive" in the 1980s, she was imploring the audience to "give it to her harder."

How's that for cultural exchange?

by Upstate NY on Thu Nov 1st, 2007 at 02:42:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
European Tribune - Stereotype-bustin' in the Arab world
Because the foundation of cultural modernity is the freedom to achieve a self-fashioned and fluid identity, the freedom to imagine yourself on your own terms, and the videos offer a route to that process.

Hmmmm.

As Migeru (doesn't quite) say - it seems to be the right to look like a stereotypical rich Anglo-American micro-celebrity.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Nov 1st, 2007 at 08:37:43 AM EST
I have little idea of what it is like to be a woman in Saudi Arabia or Egypt.  So I can't comment on that, or even make any guesses as to what degree our experiences are different.  Obviously the Middle East, like "the West," is not a homogeneous culture, nor is Islam, like Christianity.  

But I have to say that this -much appreciated- diary reminds me of so many conversations we have in America even about women and is dressing like a pop star a sign of liberation or another incarnation of our subjugation to men...  I mean some people will even go so far as to say that just being the object of the male gaze is badddd (so, do we lock ourselves in our homes?) or, conversely, that prostitution is an empowering career choice (sigh...).  So there's little new in this debate.   Even when we're free to be you and me, there is always someone, often other women, concerned if we are being women correctly.  I guess the news is that it's finally hit the Arab world.  I know one huge bone of contention in all of my feminist studies was the complex experience of black women, who faced not just sexism, but racism and classism and conflicting stereotypes and social expectations peculiar to being a black woman.  Perhaps in the Arab world there is that too, in different ways, with the whole social conservatism/fetishizing exotic sexuality thing, and with the different set of social repercussions for breaking the rules.  But I suspect the experience is still more universal than peculiar.  It's a different, perhaps more extreme incarnation of the evolution of sexual equality.  Which is messy all around.

But in fairness, people, men and women, are themselves full of contradictions.  It's a difficult topic.  Kinda why I try to stick to freedom of speech, equal pay, etc.  Equal rights.  So far as the sexual objectification of women goes, it's a problem.  But I think the answer lies more in educating men and empowering women, and vice-versa, than in debating what kind of sexuality is optimal for women and pop stars in particular.  

Hope some of that made sense.

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.

by poemless on Thu Nov 1st, 2007 at 01:45:59 PM EST
Excellent comment, thanks.
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Thu Nov 1st, 2007 at 02:26:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I try to see these issues in terms of freedom of expression through clothing. If you get the choice of dressing like a tent or Britney that situation is better then only getting the choice of variations on a tent or variations of Britney. We still have indecency laws on the books in Sweden, but they are rarely used. Recently  two girls went topless in a public bathing house (or what its called in english) to point out that in practice the rules differ when it comes to indecency. I think they were removed from the premises, but no arrests (or tasing). Sorry, got sidetracked there. The more (legally and socially) accepted choices the better. And that goes for mens clothes too.

poemless:

But I have to say that this -much appreciated- diary reminds me of so many conversations we have in America even about women and is dressing like a pop star a sign of liberation or another incarnation of our subjugation to men.

Both perhaps? No norm is firm and clear enough for anyone to be able to break it in all ways at the same time. Also the norms differ in time and place through a society. What might send liberating shock waves thorugh a small conservative town, might be the demanded and degrading dress code at a bar in bigger city. Same clothes, different setting and different person who decides clothing.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Wed Nov 7th, 2007 at 06:58:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
She was an Egyptian.  As in ancient Egypt.  In fact she was the first significant female pharoahs, reigning from 1479 to 1458 BCE.

Hatshepsut was one of the better pharoahs Egypt had, based on her accomplishments.  Quite acceptable as a role model, though the way she came to the throne was a bit, well, imaginative for the times.

That aside, Suheir Hammad's poetry is quite good.

by NHlib on Wed Nov 7th, 2007 at 04:46:21 PM EST
Who said she was Arab?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Nov 7th, 2007 at 04:59:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Nobody said she was.  But the name came up in this discussion of Arab woman, so I just tossed out the little factoid.  As I said, Hatshepsut is quite a good role model, regardless of ethnicity.
by NHlib on Wed Nov 7th, 2007 at 05:08:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
She is a fascinating character.
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Wed Nov 7th, 2007 at 05:11:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Uh, thanks.  I do know quite well who Hatshepsut was.  I've seen her mummy, been to her temple, etc.

The (modern) Hatshepsut that I referring to in the diary, however, is an Egyptian blogger.  Who is very much alive.  And who speaks Arabic.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Wed Nov 7th, 2007 at 05:01:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Have to find my photo of the "Do not feed the Archaeologists" sign at that temple.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed Nov 7th, 2007 at 05:02:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Heh.  I'd like to see that.   The archaeologists must have gotten to it before I got there...
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Wed Nov 7th, 2007 at 05:09:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by wu ming on Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 04:52:15 AM EST
Recommended:  This video from CNN's program Inside the Middle East about a Lebanese filmmaker, Nadine Labaki, and her new movie, Caramel.
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 09:56:40 AM EST
Also, for sheer comedy value, this blog post by Nzingha (who is American) on her trip to a Saudi lingerie shop....
by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Thu Nov 8th, 2007 at 11:02:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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