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

Muslim Woman Will Run for President of Egypt

Photo credit: Aliaa Magdy Elmahdy

239 comments

Philip Watling
Philip Watlingabout a year ago

If a woman insists on being naked, who am I to judge?

Dennis H.
Dennis Hallabout a year ago

She has a point... Hope her timing is more brave than foolish...

Bob P.
Bob P.about a year ago

Hope she stays safe and not real sure how this will help but guess one can only hope it does

Adrienne L.
Adrienne L.about a year ago

Thanks for sharing.

Jennifer Manzi
Jennifer Manziabout a year ago

I made it to the part that says "burn your bodies that you despise to forever rid yourselves of your sexual hangups" and my eyes rolled too far back in my head to finish

Elizabeth Brawn
Elizabeth Brawnabout a year ago

thank for sharing

Maggie Welch
Maggie D.about a year ago

Getting nude is more for a man's pleasure than a positive statement about women. I guess I'm old fashioned but I'd rather see her flaunt a Phd. something that is very difficult for a woman in a Muslim country to achieve.

Karen Swenson
Karen Swensonabout a year ago

I hate that women have to be naked to protest their chauvinistic treatment. Nudity is another form of chauvinism for women. Just about every movie has to have an obligatory naked woman, but rarely a naked man. Women dance naked on poles in front of leering drooling men and does absolutely nothing to bring equality or respect to women. I wish this woman all the luck in the world. She will get publicity by having a naked calender, but probably never for any intellectual achievement even if she and the other women were allowed or not..

Carole R.
Carole R.about a year ago

She is a brave woman. I'm not sure if this will help any but it has gotten people talking.

Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson4 years ago

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