Challenging Stereotypes: Muslim Women's Photographic Self-Representations on the Internet

Anna Piela

Abstract


This paper focuses on embodiment as enacted and expressed on websites and blogs produced or populated by Muslim women. While there is no agreement amongst scholars and believers in different schools of Islam whether Muslim women are required to wear the headscarf, it is acknowledged that Muslim dresscode should be guided by the principle of modesty. Modest dress in Islam is understood in different ways, from all-concealing garments such as the burqa, to long-sleeved tops and long skirts or tunics obscuring body shape, all available to purchase online. This variety is reflected in material published by Muslim women on the Internet who construct their online identity by writing but also by posting their pictures on sites such as Facebook, YouTube, Muslim or Islamic dating websites. According to some interpretations, depictions of human bodies should not be published and Muslim women advocating this position choose to use photos of still nature or abstract works of art as their avatars. Imagery on the websites is a useful springboard into considering the nature of online identity, therefore a range of Muslim women's profiles on social networks as well a number of websites and blogs are analysed using interdisciplinary methods (visual and discourse analysis). Muslim women's representations of themselves often contrast with their representations produced by the media; it is argued that the latter are negative and biased (Afshar, 1998, 2008), hence it is imperative to address the ways in which Muslim women speak about themselves in not only textual, but also visual modes.

Keywords


senses , internet , islam , women , photography

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.11588/rel.2010.1.9386