She talked about getting dying threats. She talked about hateful strangers eager to hurt her youngsters. And she or he talked about “male toxicity” and the best way it punishes ladies for being ladies.
This wasn’t final week’s Brett Kavanaugh hearings in Washington, D.C. This was final week’s particular occasion on the de Younger Museum in San Francisco, the place New York rapper Mona Haydar was riffing about her outspokenness, and how the straightforward act of sporting a Muslim head scarf — and extolling the methods the hijab liberates ladies — can immediate a lot hate and nervousness.
“The whole world suffers from toxic patriarchy and masculinity,” Haydar advised the viewers that crowded into the primary-flooring atrium for the museum’s Friday night time occasion, which celebrated the brand new exhibit, “Contemporary Muslim Fashions.” “And what that often looks like is a conversation about women’s bodies and their clothing — and what women should and shouldn’t wear; and what they can and can’t do with their bodies. And a hijab fits perfectly inside that whole conversation.”
It matches completely as a result of the hijab is conflated with fears about “Muslim takeover of the West” and “women’s oppression in Islam” and different reductive and sensationalized impressions that — whether or not ironic or not — create veils of confusion. These veils are self-imposed. “Contemporary Muslim Fashions” — the primary main U.S. museum exhibit of its variety — goes out of its option to raise these veils of confusion on the similar time that it celebrates the literal veils, scarves, and different gadgets Muslim ladies put on of their day-to-day lives. For anybody who’s by no means been in a Muslim-majority nation, or by no means been in a milieu the place a majority of individuals are Muslim, “Contemporary Muslim Fashions” might be a revelation. And an intense expertise.
Headscarves are all over the place: on the mannequins that flank the exhibit, on the ladies who posed for pictures and movies which might be featured on the de Younger’s partitions, and on many artwork-goers who go to “Contemporary Muslim Fashions.” The exhibit showcases pictures of the niqab, which covers each a part of a lady’s face besides her eyes. Abayas — unfastened clothes which are like cloaks and typically obfuscate ladies’s our bodies — are additionally on show. And the wall textual content that follows guests emphasizes two phrases: “Modest fashion.” However the exhibit makes some extent of together with many mannequins with out hijab. A few of the plastic fashions have plunging necklines and uncovered arms. And the exhibit options style designs — by massive Western trend homes like Christian Dior, and comparatively small-identify trend designers like Izree Kai Haffiz who reside in Muslim-majority nations — that intensify ladies’s our bodies. In a video selling the exhibit, a horny mannequin who’s fashionably (and modestly) dressed seems to be on the digital camera, puckers up her purple-lipsticked lips, and strikes to kiss the lens. Hmm.
Then there’s the exhibit’s use of Haydar’s Hijabi (Wrap my hijab) video, through which a pregnant Haydar parades with scores of younger, hijab-sporting ladies, who sing, dance, and pose because the artist raps in a defiant parlance that features the phrases, “Even if you hate it, I still wrap my hijab” and “Make a feminist planet. Women haters get banished. Covered up or not, don’t ever take us for granted.”
Muslim style isn’t monolithic, in fact. That goes with out saying, nevertheless it’s a theme that will get repeated in “Contemporary Muslim Fashions” concurrently one other theme that’s apparent to anybody who’s stepped foot in nations like Iraq and Jordan, or who’s been in Muslim circles elsewhere: Muslim ladies have decisions. Style decisions, and decisions of thought. However these decisions are difficult, and perceptions of the topic are so intense that nuances about Muslim trend get misplaced, and contradictory truths — about patriarchy, politics, colonialism, racism, Islamophobia, feminism, and (sure) style — are simply dismissed in favor of easier solutions.
One instance is the burqini. First created in 2003 by Lebanese-Australian designer Aheda Zanetti, the swimwear covers all the physique — however supplies a freedom that permits its wearers to swim laps, run alongside a seashore, or simply chill out beneath a seashore umbrella. The burqini is trendy and snug, its customers say. However it’s unlawful to put on on choose French seashores as a result of these cities’ governments have banned it — saying the garment is an affront to France’s secular character. In 2016, then-French Prime Minister Manuel Valls supported the prohibitions, saying, “The burqini is not a new range of swimwear, a fashion. It is the expression of a political project, a counter-society, based notably on the enslavement of women.”
The enslavement of girls? Not at “Contemporary Muslim Fashions,” which acknowledges France’s burqini ban with archived information footage however situates the exhibit’s burqini show close to an athletics show of Muslim ladies sporting burqini-like clothes. This close by show features a photograph of Ibtihaj Muhammad, the U.S. hijab-sporting fencer who gained a bronze medal on the 2016 Olympics in Brazil. Final yr, Nike launched a hijab that’s particularly designed for feminine Muslim athletes.
Final yr, Mattel launched a hijab-sporting Barbie that was modeled after Ibtihaj Muhammad. “Contemporary Muslim Fashions” options video that exhibits hijab-sporting skate boarders, a photograph of a hijab-sporting javelin thrower in Palestine, a photograph of a hijab-sporting lady doing yoga in public, and a photograph of three hijab-sporting motorcyclists standing on their bikes in a Morocco alleyway, whereas the exhibit’s accompanying catalogue options hijab-sporting skilled basketball participant Indira Kaljo, who was a prime three-level shooter when she performed for Tulane College.
The enslavement of girls? To its credit score, “Contemporary Muslim Fashions” factors out situations the place Muslim ladies are subjected to oppressive style guidelines and different restrictions. In Iran, as an example, the ruling clerical authorities has required ladies to put on hijab in public since 1979, when the Ayatollah Khomeini got here to energy and instituted strict spiritual insurance policies. A protest motion has lately surfaced in Iran, whereby some ladies have ripped off their headscarves in public. Iranian police have arrested some demonstrators, with video and pictorial accounts reaching a worldwide viewers by means of social media and media reviews. Apart from acknowledging the hijab protests, “Contemporary Muslim Fashions” encompasses a 1998 Shirin Neshat artwork video, Turbulent, that testifies to the hypocritical ways in which Iran’s authorities clamps down on ladies.
In Turbulent, Neshat makes use of two video screens — considered one of which has an Iranian man performing rapturously to a full viewers, the opposite of which has a lady (Sussan Deyhim) in a cloak performing an agonizing and impassioned track to an empty theater. The person is widely known, the lady ignored. Ladies can’t carry out publicly in Iran, and Neshat has stated Deyhim’s efficiency in Turbulent “is not just breaking the rules of social behavior [in Iran], as a woman performing or singing in a public space, but also breaking the rules of music.”
One query that hangs over the exhibit is that this: Are Iran’s restrictions — and different style and gender norms within the Muslim world — an indictment of Islam or one thing else? Students and cultural critics have debated that query lengthy earlier than Max Hollein — who directed the Wonderful Arts Museums of San Francisco and now heads New York’s Metropolitan Museum — determined the de Younger ought to stage “Contemporary Muslim Fashions.” As a faith, Islam is greater than 1,400 years previous, and claims greater than 1.5 billion adherents. There are some 50 Muslim-majority nations on the earth, with probably the most populated nation situated in Asia: Indonesia, with greater than 220 million practitioners.
“Contemporary Muslim Fashions” options myriad style designs from the world over, together with Asia, and together with designers whose works might simply match on any Paris or New York style runway. However Gisue Hariri and Mojgan Hariri, the exhibit’s architects — the individuals commissioned to design the de Younger’s exhibit — made positive that each show had parts of the Muslim world, whether or not it’s geometric star patterns which are widespread to North Africa or mashrabiya architectural patterns which are widespread all through the Muslim world.
These parts are additionally widespread in elements of North and South America, because of Spaniards who borrowed cultural parts from Muslim rule in Spain and unfold these hybridized concepts around the globe. Spain even introduced these concepts to California, whose very identify stems from Arabic-influenced Spanish. Spain named the state after a queen referred to as Calafia from a 16th-century Spanish novel, The Adventures of Esplandian. Calafia, whose identify pertains to the Arabic phrase caliph, guidelines over a magical island within the novel. So it’s completely applicable that “Contemporary Muslim Fashions” — an exhibit about hybridized influences, and cultural connections that unite Muslim ladies with one another and different ladies all over the world — is centered at a serious California establishment.
Gisue Hariri and Mojgan Hariri have been born in Iran and now reside in New York. Haydar was born in Saudi Arabia to Syrian mother and father but in addition lives now in New York. Echoes of the Me Too motion have been in Haydar’s Friday night time occasion. However greater than a #MeToo occasion, the night time — and the exhibit — are rooted in a type of #MuslimToo hashtag, as in, “We’re here, too. We have lives that parallel yours.” That’s what Haydar was saying as she took questions from the viewers, and a non-Muslim man rose from his seat and stated this: “When I see a [Muslim] woman in a scarf, it says, ‘Stay away.’ ”
“The scarf isn’t saying that, but maybe her body language is — her scarf isn’t saying anything,” Haydar answered. “If you were to come up and say, ‘Hey, I want to talk to you,’ then I’d probably talk to you. A Muslim woman who’s in the audience works at Google. She’s very busy and very educated. She also runs a nonprofit. She might not have time to stop and chat. She’s out there changing the world. … So it differs from woman to woman, just like it does from a non-scarf-wearing woman to another non-scarf-wearing woman.”
The viewers applauded. And that’s how the night time ended. Virtually. Haydar then left the stage and took a selfie with everybody within the room — or, no less than with those that needed to embrace her earlier than the digital camera.
Jonathan Curiel has coated artwork and tradition for SF Weekly since 2010.
“Contemporary Muslim Fashions,” by means of Jan. 6 on the de Younger Museum, 50 Hagiwara Tea Backyard Drive (Golden Gate Park). $13-$28, 415-750-3600 or deyoung.famsf.org