July 14, 2008

Do You Find This Offensive?


Take a look at this cartoon by prominent cartoonist Emad Hajjaj. It shows a man talking to Mohannad from the hit show Noor, saying "The Arab woman is a fan. She's her own enemy in elections. She consents to beating and polygamy. She likes to have boys and not girls. She doesn't continue her education because of society's customs. She is of dark skin but with a blond complex. Modern in appearance but empty in substance." To which Mohannad replies, "Just what I needed! An Arab woman who is no match for the Turkish women! Just give her my photo and tell her much obliged."


The National Committee for Women in Jordan, represented by Asma Khader, whom I greatly admire, sent a letter to Alghad newspaper, where the cartoon was published, expressing resentment about the drawing, which according to them "portrays an unfair image about Arab women, and Jordanian women in particular, and that the negatives he mentioned are the exception and should not be generalized."


Now I agree, the drawing is overly generalizing, because of course it does not describe all Arab women, but then again, isn't exaggeration the point of most cartoons? That's how they convey their message. And let's face it, the negatives are not the exception. Most of what he said is sadly correct. Women are their own worst enemy, and I always say that. Last elections were the first time a woman won outside the designated women's quota. A step forward, without a doubt, but ONE woman. Out of 104 parliamentary seats, just one woman won. Also, many women are just looking to get married, and whether their husbands are already married, beat them, forbid them from working or continuing their education is besides the point, because society dictates they get married or else they're considered a source of shame for their families. And don't get me started on how in this day and age, people, including WOMEN, still prefer baby boys over baby girls. And the blond complex? How else could Fair and Lovely still be in business? Or the rest of Amman's hairdressers for that matter?


I disagree with Hajjaj in that not all those who watch the show are empty and superficial. I mean come on, it's just a TV show, even though I still do not understand the obsession. And half the poeple I know who watch the show are actually guys. I think maybe Hajjaj was lamenting how people became obsessed with a show and seemed to forget all the problems we have? I don't know. But I for one, refuse to attack Hajjaj. He is one of the very few openly speaking male feminists in our society and he deserves some credit for that.

11 comments:

Qu.ing said...

I think part of it offensive since it's not funny plus he is mocking all of the arab girls and putting them all at the same place while we have more educated women and well mannered than any other country

Mohanned said...

I don't see it offensive, and his intentions are clear; It is like a wake up call or a slap to the society and especially women. Anywho, you can't blame either party, coz being offended is part of our culture, if you don't get offended you will be labeled with many adjectives none of which makes you feel good :)

Husams said...

Yes it is somehow offensive, but it is immature when we don’t accept a truth and try to hide it! as you said sadly it represents a wide margin of Jordanian women, mostly of who watch the series and enduring a guilty enjoyment hidden behind controversy of self projected beliefs. Yet most of the commenters on Alghad attacked Emad for that he is including religious values such as polygamy and wife beating, in a sense that all women should accept these values. I’m sure Emad knew he would be attacked for his cartoon, yet he published it, I salute Emad for his courage. It is after all what freedom of expression is about.

Farah said...

Farahs will dominate the world soon - I assure you ;)

I'm surprised at the amount of pro-Hajjaj cartoon people out there! I am all for being brave and addressing the marginal segment of women that are like this, but certainly not in this manner. If Hajjaj's INTENT is feminist in nature, the MEANS certainly does not fulfill this goal strongly and clearly; how many men (and women!) commented on he cartoon by belittling the women accused in the drawing and supporting the largely UN-feminist message of it? To me this cartoon is like shooting someone in the head to show people how shooting someone in the head is bad; it's counter productive- to say the least.

-Farah El-Sharif

Yazan said...

I thought that the cartoon was directed to women who act in the ways mentioned in the cartoon. And in some way telling them, that your attitude is not accepted by people outside the Arab world bubble.

My 2 cents.

Mapless said...

I personally did find it offensive! Though i'm one of Alghad readers who start with Hajjaj, and i got used to starting the newspaper from the back coz i wait for his sense of humor and sense of community that is usually timely and very sharp... this one i didn't like at all to say the least... and for those who say that's the generalization.. I live here.. and i dont know one woman who has this complete discription in her personality.. some points may apply to some.. but that's everywhere in the world not just Jordan... some people are shallow, some are materialistic or not deep...or was conditioned to certain cultural factors that made her think in certain way.. that has nothing to do with arab or non arab... but i wonder also if as an artist he must touch base on differnet issues in his own way.. (yes i'm trying to find him an excuse, i'm one of his fans) but it did bother me

secratea said...

For whoever thinks this cartoon is feminist in nature, I tell them NO. It opposes every single feminist notion out there. How on earth can you be a feminist while disparaging women; Arab and/or Muslim women in such a manner? Allow me to say, the stereotypes Hajajj is depicting in this caricature basically destroys the whole point behind the social behaviors he is criticizing… he totally dismisses the fact that even if these shallow behaviors exist among a segment of women, they should be contextualized… and what I mean is that these behaviors exist because our society, which has been mostly controlled by men for like forever, force and reinforce such shallow ideals in women's heads, and some women totally buy into that while the majority of men want to believe that women are as shallow and air-headed in this region…
Now, if hajjaj was truly a feminist, he wouldn't have drawn the women depicted in the cartoon, but rather had the two men, wear evil looks, and have that conversation bubble happening in their sick minds… that would have made the whole difference!

The Observer said...

I didn't like the cartoon although I do understand what message he is trying to convey. He usually does better than this.

Farah said...

Thank you everybody for your comments! It's really interesting to see how each person interprets something differently.

Abdullah said...

This might bore you but i have acouple of comments.....
NOOR IS A SHOW, every1 at some point gets attached to shows it doesnt mean i have to act accordingly.... for example i watch the show "heroes" but here im not trying to be one... people watch to be entertained not to learn or whatever.

secondly, i think generalization is just wrong even within a culture there are alot of groups, ppl are individuals not groups... and judging a culture by judging a person is just wrong....

The picture might be a generalization but its still a , it sometimes are ment to be funny at the same time offensive......i believe this should be a motivation to all woman who might be like that to change how some view them

Tololy said...

I saw this cartoon and wanted to blog about it but for some reason I didn't.

I agree with Farah and some of the commentators that the cartoon is offensive in the way it portrays ALL Arab/Jordanian women as horny little sluts with too much makeup craving Mohannad. Read what the "Arab" man character says to Mohannad and look at the "Arab" woman character to see that clearly. What the hell is that all about?

Hajjaj often caters to the ignorant public, which in this case are the men outraged by the fascination some women have with Mohannad (because they don't cut it, you see). He could have criticized the unnecessary and void obsession with the show in a different way. This was purely sexist and derogatory.