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Nude Calendar Protests Muslim Oppression of Women

Nude Calendar Protests Muslim Oppression of Women

The word revolutionary is likly to bring to mind faded khakis, bandanas — just about anything, in fact, but a woman in the buff. But Aliaa Magdy Elmahdy, a young Egyptian student and activist, really did spark a small revolution in October when she posted a nude photo of herself (along with several artistic nudes) on her blog, and tweeted about the post using the hashtag #NudePhotoRevolutionary. Soon others were following suit, using the hashtag to announce their own nudity, in a show of support for a very brave woman in a historically uncompromising Middle Eastern country.

The original post is here (warning: definitely not safe for work). In that post, Elmahdy wrote the following, dare I call it a manifesto?

Put on trial the artists’ models who posed nude for art schools until the early 70s, hide the art books and destroy the nude statues of antiquity, then undress and stand before a mirror and burn your bodies that you despise to forever rid yourselves of your sexual hangups before you direct your humiliation and chauvinism and dare to try to deny me my freedom of expression.

The message was written in Arabic and then in English, like most of her posts. After a few months of Twitter activity on the #NudePhotoRevolutionary hashtag, the movement has coalesced into a calendar. Maryam Namazie, who I believe is an Iranian immigrant to Britain, and another outspoken advocate of women’s rights in Muslim countries (especially those practicing Sharia Law), put it all together. She describes the calendar and its goals here (warning: mildly unsafe for work), where she also includes links to donate or download the calendar (neither of which action requires the other).

Namazie says: ‘What with Islamism and the religious right being obsessed with women’s bodies and demanding that we be veiled, bound, and gagged, nudity breaks taboos and is an important form of resistance.’

The calendar is designed by SlutWalk Co-founder Toronto, Sonya JF Barnett who says: ‘I felt that women needed to stand in solidarity with Aliaa. It takes a lot of guts to do what she did, and the backlash is always expected and can quite hurtful. She needed to know that there are others like her, willing to push the envelope to express outrage.’

Both Elmahdy and the movement she started have provoked outrage amongst Egyptian officials, not to mention elsewhere in the Middle East. Asserting the right not to be censored was important enough for some of these women to risk definite social, and possible political pushback.

One might well ask, how does getting naked empower women? In the West, isn’t it quite the opposite? That may well be, but neither nudity nor modesty is automatically exploitational. It’s the idea of having the decision of how women may behave, dress, or express themselves taken away by men. Reasserting this right is, I think, the point. Thus, the reason the calendar is being released on March 8th, which is International Women’s Day.

Proceeds from the calendar go towards women’s right and freedom of expression.

Related stories:

Obama Administration Middle East Policy Approach Evolving

Saudi Arabian Women Granted Voting Rights

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Photo credit: Aliaa Magdy Elmahdy

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230 comments

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7:28PM PDT on Jun 18, 2012

I hope nothing bad happens to these women... I wish there was a simple solution. to rid a country of thousands of years of cultural brainwashing wont take a day or a week.. it could take centuries.. it is a sad situation... sadly many cultures severely oppress women

4:45AM PDT on Apr 4, 2012

I don't want to be judgemental on what she did. I am seeing it from the perspective of a father with 3 daughters. What she did is the end result. Why she did it, why she rebelled should be the issue. Fathers and family members should protect their daughters from oppressors. But this malady of malignant interpretation of religion should be strongly rebuffed by all. It has caused so much pain and misery to these societies.

8:44PM PDT on Mar 31, 2012

Viva la mujer!

12:54PM PDT on Mar 26, 2012

It didn't take them long to pull that blog post down. I hope she's all right.

12:51PM PDT on Mar 26, 2012

Whether it's an Islamic Talaban or a Christian one, it's still tyrany. Religion isn't about God any more, it's about power.

7:44AM PDT on Mar 15, 2012

@ Charli S: "People aren't fighting against Islam (which if you bothered studying) is a religion of tolerance and equality"

I think peace comes after subjugation and paying of the "Jizyah" while they are humbled, subdued, state of being subjected, belittled (read the various translations) from http://quran.com/9/29

Not what I'd call peace, but "peace through superior fire power)


"What they are fighting is the perverted version of Islam"

Can you tell us where there is a working version of islam that hasn't been perverted? If you want to try christianity (I don't think any of the abrahamic religions are religions of peace, just death and subjugation as none of them have good, only evil, track records) or any other religion that's fine with me too

5:49AM PDT on Mar 15, 2012

Oh yeah, I forgot "Honor Killings"

If a young lady wants to break away from her parents' ways and "rebels", she can be killed by her father, grandfather, brother, uncles, etc as she's brought "shame" read she thinks for herself

Can't have someone break the chains as then the rest of the slaves might revolt. Need to keep the collar tight and the leash short on your "chattel"

5:41AM PDT on Mar 15, 2012

@ Pam W: Becareful lady, you're going up against a person who lives in the "real world", ie one that includes magical sky daddy who is deeply and personally concerned about what a woman wears or if someone drinks alcohol, while after creating the cosmos, battling the devil, etc

Sad thing is those who continue to lie through their tooth about "women's rights" in islam forget THEY HAVE NO RIGHTS

In Saudi Arabia, a country as close to Sahria Law as one can get, a women is not allowed to:

Drive a car

Have her face be seen

Be saved from a burning building (if they're not wearing the portable tent) http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/1874471.stm

Change religion (apostasy is a crime punishable by death)

etc

In almost all muslim dominated countries, a women is free to:

Be raped by many men from her area if accused of a crime, like sex before marriage

Have her word be worth 1/3 a man's

Have acid/fire disfigure her face if some guy doesn't want her to NOT wear the tent

Be stoned to death for adultery after just being accused by her husband

As for how islam "promotes and adores women", many religions do that, so long as they are subservient, brooding mares who are there to pop out kids, "take care of the home" and completely owned by their husband

4:56AM PDT on Mar 15, 2012

She is very brave

11:18AM PDT on Mar 14, 2012

Aliaa Magda Almahdy merely demands the freedoms many of us take for granted and she has chosen a most effective and appropriate method to do so. Whether this meets the sniffy criteria of the prudish, the high brow, the politically correct or the merely judgmental is beside the point.

Clothing or the lack of it is a powerful tool both of oppression and protest. Just as political prisoners have refused to wear any clothing rather than submit to prison uniform, Ms Almahdy’s semi-nude image sends a powerful message; I refuse to conform to what you say I should wear, who you say I should be. I am myself. I own my body. I own my mind.

The art of protest has a long and distinguished history from Blake to Banksy and many have used nudity to powerful effect. Almahdy’s contribution to the genre is no vulgar exhibitionism, as some have alleged, but a courageous and valid artistic response to bigotry and oppression. And I urge anyone who has not viewed these images to do so before passing judgement. She demands freedom of expression and she is entitled to it. She enjoys the support of SlutWalk and has inspired followers from around the world – the gallery of tribute art on her blog is well worth a visit. Some may disagree with her method but all who share her ideals owe her our respect, admiration, gratitude and, above all, support.

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