Sunday, June 9, 2013

The use of the photo for the "Maid to suffer" article in Y Magazine, and we need some womens shelters

The image above is a photo used in a Y magazine article about abused Ethiopian housemaids in Oman, and human trafficking well worth a read http://www.y-oman.com/2013/05/maid-to-suffer/. Andy in Oman already re-posted the story and I commented on Y's webpage, for which I received some flack.

Ethiopians are particularly vulnerable, due to the fact that they lack help in Oman from their Embassies/Consulates should something go wrong with their employers. The article highlights the brutal rape and attempted murder of one poor young woman. The story is horrifying and the article good. Oman lacks women's shelters for the most even for Omani women and I have always been active about this in a personal way, but something has to be done more publically I think to raise awareness and provide a means of care for women in bad situations. Also, laws concerning punishment for those who commit such crimes needs to be harsh (or at the very least meted out).

That is my first thought about the story. My secondary thought though is the use of the photo for the article, to which I wrote into Y magazine the following:

"While I disapprove beyond measure your choice to run a photograph of a woman covering her face, further contributing to the stereotype that Muslim women and veiled women are suppressed and abused, this topic [maid abuse] touches me deeply. I have known and been friends with many housemaids in Oman, and when anyone one of them has not been given their legal rights, my legal course to help them has always enraged me." I went on to say what I think should be done or what the magazine could focus on next in terms of women's shelters ect....

To which I received a comment via Andy's post saying: "Glad to see that you've got your priorities straight. Sheesh, that raping young girls is bad but that what really bothers you is "stereotyping" women who cover their faces."

...which is:

 a. not what I said at all.
b. something that needs to be said in addition to actions taken against preventing rape and helping defenseless young women.

I was nearly raped because I chose (for my religious beliefs) to wear a face veil. Why? Because of the stereotypes that Muslim women are a. stupid, b. abused by men, c. sexual objects for men's control, and d. suppressed. People thought/think they had the right to tell me what to believe and wear and if I wasn't like other women then I chose to make myself sub-human to them. If someone becomes sub-human then it is easy for abuses against them to happen. Stereotypes enforce this and the magazine, either knowingly or accidently contributed to that stereotype by using a photograph of a veiled woman in an article about rape, abuse and suppression.

I cannot support that, despite supporting the article itself.

I find it further, more irritating, because I have never ever met a housemaid in Oman who wore the face veil. Headscarf maybe, but niqab or face veiling, never. The majority of Ethiopian housemaids in Oman are actually Christian, and wouldn't otherwise wear hijab (headscarf) normally outside of their agreement with the maid agency of employer. The article also contained two photographs, one unveiled and one veiled of the same woman. The covering of the face does not represent suppression, rape victims, or the experience of Ethiopian housemaids so I questioned the choice to run with that. I know there ARE Muslim Ethiopian niqabis out there, but definitely the minority and I have yet to meet one working IN Oman as a housemaid.

The fact that I question the use of the photograph does not mean I do not support full rights for employees in Oman, or think a woman getting raped is less of an issue than a photograph. But the fact that the photograph was used as a header for an article about rape, oppression and abuse of my fellow women, affects my life negatively, giving people the wrong image of the face veil, and helping rape victims or oppressed employees with nothing towards the reality of their situation.

5 comments:

Omanly said...

Could it possibly be that she is not even wearing a niqab, but just covering her face with part of her veil? besides a white niqab would be very rare, would it?

I share your view that it is a wrong depiction but I also think you are probably over reacting it for the right reasons, i.e. your previous negative experiences.

There is so much unfair imagery in the media these days and this qualifies as one of them. But what is more important perhaps, is that such an article was published and some people read it (not enough though) is already a good start. I am not sure it the readership of Y is the most relevant segment to target such a message with, but at least it's there.

Omani Princess (not Omani...yet) said...

Omanly: I know many women who had similar experiences [being treated as a non-person due to stereotypes of being supressed] to mine who wear niqab or pull their scarves to cover their face.

Anonymous said...

Sorry but I think that the girl in the picture is an Ethiopian Copt (a Christian) who don't wear a veil so I don't see what the problem is. The real huge issue is that these people are massively exploited here in Oman - mainly by Omanis - and no one is doing anything about it.

Omani Princess (not Omani...yet) said...

Anon: It doesn't matter whether she is Muslim or not. The stereotype that women with faces covered are abused is a very bad one. Imagery of a an evil Jew with a big nose is just as racist.

I certainly don't think the issue that this image is a horrible use of a stereotype should overshadow abuse of employment or human rights IN OMAN. I never said that. The issue is that I felt I should speak out on the use of the image, but at the same time commend the magazine for the story itself. I doubt the author was also the editor or the photographer, so kudos to the writer.

Anonymous said...

As an expat male, I actually agree that the photo isn't appropriate and does further stereotype veiled women.

Your comments don't detract from your sympathy.