"Writing is my passion. It is a way to experience the ecstatic. The root understanding of the word ecstasy—“to stand outside”—comes to me in those moments when I am immersed so deeply in the act of thinking and writing that everything else, even flesh, falls away."
-bell hooks

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

We Know That You've Watched Them...

But, have you ever really thought about them?
Middle Eastern soap operas are what this post is all about. Whether you live in North America or the Middle East, you have seen your family members turn on their Arabic satellite and watch countless dramatic shows that tell the most risque stories. These shows are bold, enticing and brilliantly done to the point where even if you do not understand the Arabic language clearly, you will sit there reading the subtitles or ask your parents what the characters are really saying.

From watching these shows and strengthening my own views of feminism, I cannot ignore the way violence is portrayed against women. Women are portrayed in situations where domestic violence occurs as weak and always in danger. The characters of these women are emotionally and physically abused, however, no one ever stops to think that these women should leave their husbands. From my own personal experience, every time I question why these women do not leave, I am always told that because of their culture, that they do not think that they are abused, and thus, it is normalized to stay within a relationships such as this.

This is problematic for a number of reasons. For instance, if violence against women is normalized in the media, then others are desensitized to it, thus, viewing it as normal. When culture is brought into this, it creates an even more complicated matter. By allowing an excuse for violence because "a culture allows it" you are conforming to the false representation that individuals for that culture need western society to go into their countries to end their oppression. Also, by stating that violence is depicted in these shows then you are forgetting that there are also television shows in North America that depict abuse against women. By forgetting that these issues are also prevalent here, we then choose to forget about our own oppression, therefore, our feminist activism is not being used to help our own selves.We also forget that violence against women is a shared experience that women across different borders face; and therefore, not an invisible one.

So the question remains; what can I do as a Chaldean woman living in a western society where these shows are displayed to my younger siblings. The answer is simple. I would do the same thing that I would do regarding any other show, whether it be a show produced in North America, or the Middle East. I would argue that these women are abused, and that they should look towards themselves and their community resources to help empower their own lives and leave an abusive relationship. I would also still argue that violence and abusive relationships are not healthy, no matter where it is stemming from.


  1. Teires,

    Reading this blog got me thinking about how much I hate those Arabic shows and the different stereotypes they portray.

  2. Teires,
    Feminists all over the globe subtly, but consciously, transform the images of women that they perceive to be limiting or oppressive. Popular culture is a primary tool both in distributing negative messages and disseminating liberated or liberating images of women. For instance, activists in Brazil created a soap opera featuring sexually empowered women that has attracted a booming national audience. The soap garnered the attention of sociologists who noticed a decrease in the number of births women had and a change in the divorce rates that these sociologists connect to the portrayal of progressive images of women on the soap opera. Can Middle Eastern soap operas do the same?
    By using popular culture rather than or addition to more overt forms of feminist argument, activists are often able to transform negative images of women and unhealthy messages about personal relationships or political roles into more open, diverse, and accepting portrayals of women and the many ways women act in society.


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