If we look to how the United States and other western societies have constructed Islam and Muslim women in the media, continuously, repeatedly with seemingly very little recognition of intricacies or capability for difference then it is clear that the Muslim women is constructed as oppressed. By assuming that people in their positions and in their cultures are oppressed the people determining this are suggesting that the way the “oppressed” people are living their lives is somehow wrong. He says that this “paternalistic treatment” is unhelpful, perhaps because it does not incite real change. Real change comes from the so-called “oppressed” people “enter[ing] the situation” in order to deconstruct and eliminate the injustices against them (49). I feel like this kind of attitude is less superior and enables people to work with and not for people.
In addition to being “othered” and homogenized, Muslim women are being constructed as oppressed beings. There is a drastic need to make an intervention in the common discourse in order to aid us in breaking away from this one sided, homogenous portrayal. Although Freire’s text suggests that the oppressed must develop the solutions and actions of their own liberation, which stems from education. The lack of education, although possible and constructed as major problem by the western media, is not necessarily an issue for all Muslim women. What is really relevant and connected to Freire’s theory is how humanitarian efforts or “paternalistic treatment” is incorrect. If we in the West believe that Muslim women are oppressed, there is a general inclination to go and “save them.” There are a few things critically wrong with this, one, as Freire says, the “oppressed” must free themselves, and any actions and solutions implemented by outsiders will fail. And secondly, based on media coverage in the US it is easy to believe that all Muslim women are oppressed, for whatever reason, be it being forced to wear a scarf, not being allowed to have education etc. This is not true, while problem and issues plague many Muslim women; it is not necessarily true that they are being forced to do anything.
Participatory Media/Mapping Memories + Witness
All of the television and “alternative” media techniques that we have discussed would be useful tools in order to right many misconceptions and provide an alternative narrative. Especially the community programs that we discussed early in the semester, gathering groups of people together in order to independently produce something ensures that the people creating the content have full creative control and say. These kinds of projects would be critically helpful in disrupting the dominant narrative in mainstream media. Additionally versions of the workshops described in “Mapping Memories”, would also be helpful. Discussing different peoples, stories and experiences with be helpful in a) getting a variety of voices out into the public and b) helping to dispel common misconceptions regarding Muslim women and Islam. Dialogue and collaborative projects simply aid in exposure to different groups of people, and can help in creating awareness. All of these projects would potentially lead to exposure in mainstream media, which is still the main way to call attention to an issue. Because the discourse of Islam and the “veiled” women has been so heavily perpetuated for over a decade, disrupting this narrative will not be easy, but independently produced, collaborative community media is an excellent way to begin.
In his book Revolution 2.0 Wael Ghonim discusses how he used Facebook to mobilize a population that was not political at all and yet banded together for a cause, against a regime. He discusses the importance of working against, in this case a regime, but in a broader sense, whatever idea you want to rally around, in a peaceful and effective way. He describes the power of the internet in order to bring about change. In his case there are 4 phases; convince people to join the page, convince them to start interacting with the content, get them to participate in the page’s online campaigns and contribute themselves, and finally to rally people into activism on the street (paraphrased from Ghonim 67-68). The point of the sections that we read, and the uprisings in the Arab Spring, is that the internet (twitter and Facebook) can be used to rally people into action on the streets, and create a strong sense of community and awareness. It is a tool that should be utilized in the 21st century, creating groups, sites, and pages to for a specific cause helps bring a) awareness of the facts and truth and b) a community and center where people can comment, share and think of ways to demonstrate their own point of view.
Rhetorical Dimensions of Native American Documentary/Documentaries
We talked a lot about how Native American documentary differs from “ordinary” documentaries. Primarily, they have objectives and a specific point of view that they are pushing throughout the documentary. And secondarily, they are made as much for a native viewing audience as they are for the larger public. A similar logic follows our movie screening, show that there are voices of your own kind of people out there. With mainstream media and mainstream biased, limited and often negative representation of Muslims (especially post- 9/11) creating and finding pieces that are made by (produced, written, directed or acted) Muslim women is critical. Expanding both the fictional and non-fictional archive in order to achieve some solid representative space is an important step that must be taken. Similar to what was very prevalent in colonized areas, the colonized people begin to accept the position of the colonizers, that they are lesser than human, savage and that their lifestyle is not correct, this new form of “colonization” or export of western ideals can cause a similar effect. If the only representation and discourse that is visible regarding Islam or “the brown person” is homogenizing, negative and derogatory, people begin to internalize this viewpoint and reject their own culture. Self-made documentaries and/or short stories and personal pieces are key to fighting back against this.