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This New Comedy Aims To Challenge Muslim Women's Representation In The Media

Culture

With a title like “Muslim Girls DTF," it's hard not to click the link to find out more -- hoping it's not some sick fetish video of course...


And praise be to Allah, it definitely isn't porn.

It's better.

You see, pornography is simply a depiction of erotic behaviors intended to stir arousal. This web series goes way deeper (pun intended) with “DTF" cleverly standing for “Discuss Their Faith." And that's way more intimate than cheap erotica filmed in a basement.

As a Muslim woman myself, it sometimes feels like everyone else has an opinion about us -- often without even having had the chance to hear from us. Heck, there's even a Guide to Dating a Muslim Girl... written by a non-Muslim! Wtf?

And that's where Muslim Girls DTF comes in. This provocative new web series was serendipitously helmed after creators and producers Aizzah Fatima and Atheer Yacoub met on Twitter when Aizzah shared this frustration:

“Dear white writers and others too, you know who you are. Stop writing Muslim female characters with or without hijab named Fatima. We have other names too in the Muslim world, I promise."

After that, many Muslim women comics and comedy writers started tagging each other and responding, bonding over how they were being portrayed without being a part of the conversation. And once they realized that a good amount of them were in New York City, they decided to get together to create content along with writers Rokhsane Zadeh and Romaissaa Benzizoune, and Muslim DP Jude Chehab.

Atheer, stand-up comedian and host of The No Fly List Podcast (who just released a half hour special on Comedy Central Arabia) shares that, “In a world of mostly straight white men doing comedy, I wanted to collaborate with other funny Muslim women who have things to say and are maybe also disappointing their parents with their career choices…"

Aizzah, who also penned the hit award-winning one woman play Dirty Paki Lingerie (which the Wall Street Journal called a play that “Breaks Down Stereotypes of Muslim Women in America") came at it from a different angle. “I grew up being the haram police in a very small town in Mississippi. With this show I wanted to rectify that by showcasing all the diverse female voices that exist within my community on important issues women deal with all the time such as nose jobs, body hair, and dick size. And I'm a selfish bastard who wanted to create more work for myself."

The bite-sized segments they've created do just that. In a series of quick cuts that highlight the upbeat banter you'd only expect behind closed doors, it finally asks a fierce and funny group of ladies what they have to say about conversations happening around them in the media, while weighing in on issues from daily life.

And their answers are hilarious:

“The way Muslims are portrayed in media is shit." “My goal was to be the first Muslim president of the United States. But you know, Barack Obama beat me to it." “I mean, what's Tinder really? It's an arrangement [marriage]!"

But also painstakingly true:

“I was always shoved into a category… I was always just the 'Muslim girl' or the 'Arabic girl.' I was never just me."

While these women fall under the collective identity of Muslimhood, each member of the diverse group has an authentic opinion which feels completely unique to them. It's definitely not a one-size-fits-all religion, and they don't let you forget that.

When asked why she gravitated towards this project, Rokhsane Zadeh commented on how awful it felt to be asked to wear a hijab in auditions, and the special feeling she had when this was understood by her peers. “We all really fight to be here. People like us are rarely up there on screen, so all these women have a lot to overcome to get there. It was amazing to be with women who all felt it and knew how important this was."

Cast member Nina Kharoufeh (SiriusXM) comments that, “This project is soooo important! It's crucial that we show Muslim women are just like everyone else. We shop, drink coffee, eat sushi. We are basic just like the rest of America!"

The series is produced by Adam Yeremian (Children of the Mountain, Hurricane Bianca, Are You Glad I'm Here) through US based production company, ProMedia NYC, with Fatima and Yacoub also producing. The series cast includes all funny Muslim ladies: Romaissaa Benzizoune (Freelance Writer), Negin Farsad (Wait Wait Don't Tell Me, NPR), Aizzah Fatima (High Maintenance, HBO), Nina Kharoufeh (SiriusXM), Nidia P. Manzoor (Shugs & Fats, Gotham award), Atheer Yacoub (Comedy Central Arabia), Rokhsane Zadeh (Freeland Writer), Maysoon Zayid (Sanctuary,TNT). The first season also had a diverse crew, and was shot by Muslim female cinematographer, Jude Chehab.

And after watching the pilot webisode, all I can say is: FINALLY.

It's about time that we have an accurate and authentic representation of issues the sisterhood faces -- beyond the nominal questions and surface level coverage we usually get.

In a world saturated with negative opinions, stereotypes, and blatant misunderstandings of who Muslim women are and what they represent, this webseries is a refreshingly authentic portrayal of the realities we face.

What I also appreciate - and don't take this lightly - is how brave these women are for putting themselves out there. It is not easy, especially being judged by society on both sides, ready to pounce at every edgy word you say. Take it from me.

I'm genuinely thrilled from what I've seen so far, and I'm looking forward to the topics they'll cover throughout the season like: body hair, pork, sex talk (or lack thereof), stereotypes, dumb questions people ask, and dating!

There's one thing for sure -- these DTF Muslims will keep you on your toes. Which is just what this world needs. Let's keep that in the conversation moving forward.

You can catch the series on YouTube and social media today (which just so happens to be International Muslim Women's Day!)

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Fresh Voices

How I Went From Shy Immigrant to Co-Founder of OPI, the World's #1 Nail Brand

In many ways I am a shining example of the American Dream. I was born in Hungary during the Communist era, and my family fled to Israel before coming to the U.S. in pursuit of freedom and safety. When we arrived, I was just a young, shy girl who couldn't speak English. After my childhood in Hungary, New York City was a marvel; I couldn't believe that such a lively, rich place existed. Even a simple thing like going to the market and seeing all the bright, colorful produce and having so many choices was new to me. I'll never take that for granted. I think it's where my love affair with color truly began.


One thing I had was a strong work ethic. I worked hard in school, to learn English, and at jobs including my first job at Dairy Queen -- which I loved! Ice cream is easily my favorite food. From there, I moved into the garment district where my brother-in-law's family had a business. During this time, I was able to see how a business was run and began to hone in on my eye for aesthetics and willingness to work hard at any task I was given.

Eventually, my brother-in-law bought a dental supply company in Los Angeles and asked me to join him. LA, a place with 365-days of sunshine. How could I say no? The company started as Odontorium Products Inc. During the acrylic movement of the 1980s, we realized that nail technicians were buying our product, and that the same components used for dentures were used for artificial nails. We saw a potential opening in the market, and we seized it. OPI began dropping off the "rubber band special" at every salon on Ventura Blvd. in Los Angeles. A jar of powder, liquid and primer – rubber-banded together – became the OPI Traditional Acrylic System and was a huge hit, giving OPI its start in the professional nail industry. It was 1981 when OPI first opened its doors. I couldn't have predicted our success, but I knew that hard work and faith in myself would be key in transforming a new business into a company with global reach.

When we started OPI, what we were doing was something new. Before OPI came on the scene, the generic, utilitarian nail polish names already on the market – like Red No. 4, Pink No. 2 – were completely forgettable. We rebranded the category with catchy names that we knew women could relate to and would remember. The industry was stale and boring, so we made it more fun and sexy. We started creating color collections. I carefully developed 30 groundbreaking colors for the debut collection -- many of which are still beloved bestsellers today, including Malaga Wine, Alpine Snow and Kyoto Pearl.

There is no other nail color brand in the world that touches the totality of industries the way OPI does.

With deep roots in Tinseltown, we eventually started collaborating with Hollywood. Our decision to collaborate with the entertainment industry also propelled OPI forward in another way, ultimately leading us to finding a way to connect with women beyond the world of beauty, relating our products to the beverages they drink, the cars they drive, the movies they watch, the clothes they wear – even the shade they use to paint their living room walls! There is no other nail color brand in the world that touches the totality of industries the way OPI does. It also propelled my growth as a businessperson forward. I found myself sitting in meetings with executives from some of the top companies in the world. I didn't have a fancy presentation. I didn't have a Harvard business degree. I realized that what I had was passion. I had a passion for what we were doing, and I had my own unique story that no one else could replicate.

Discipline, hard work, and passion gave me the confidence to grow from that shy immigrant girl to become the person that I am today

Bit by bit, I grew up with the business. Discipline, hard work, and passion gave me the confidence to grow from that shy immigrant girl to become the person that I am today -- an author, public speaker, and co-founder of OPI, the world's #1 professional nail brand.

I learned quickly that one can be an expert at many things, but not everything. Running a business is very hard work. Luckily, I had someone I could collaborate with who brought something new to the table and complemented my talents, my brother-in-law George Schaeffer. My business "superpower," or the ability to make decisions quickly and confidently, kept me ahead of trends and competition.

Another key to my success in building this brand and in growing in business was being authentic. Authenticity is so important to brands and maybe even more so now in the time of social media when you can speak directly to your consumers. I realized even then that I could only be me. I was a woman who knew what I wanted. I looked at my mother and daughter and wanted to create products that would excite and empower them.

There's often an expectation placed on women in charge that they need to be cutthroat to be competitive, but that's not true. Rather than focusing on my gender or any implied limitations I might bring to the job as a female and a mother, I always focused instead on my vision. I deliberately fostered an environment at OPI filled with warmth. After all, at the end of the day, your organization is only as good as its people. I've always found that being nice, being humble, and listening to others has served me well. Instead of pushing others down to get to the top, inspire them and bring them along on the journey.

You can read more about my personal and professional journey in my new memoir out now, I'm Not Really a Waitress: How One Woman Took Over the Beauty Industry One Color at a Time.