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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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Influential Voices

Stop Asking if America is “Ready” for a Woman President

It's the question on everyone's tongues. It's what motivates every conversation about whether or not Liz Warren is "electable," every bit of hand-wringing that a woman just "can't win this year," and every joke about menstrual cycles and nuclear missiles. Is America ready for a woman president?


It's a question that would be laughable if it wasn't indicative of deeper problems and wielded like a weapon against our ambitions. Whether thinly-veiled misogyny or not (I'm not going to issue a blanket condemnation of everybody who's ever asked), it certainly has the same effect: to tell us "someday, but not yet." It's cold comfort when "someday" never seems to come.

What are the arguments? That a woman can't win? That the country would reject her authority? That the troops would refuse to take her orders? That congress would neuter the office? Just the other day, The New York Times ran yet another in a long series of op-eds from every major newspaper in America addressing this question. However, this one made a fascinating point, referencing yet another article on the topic in The Atlantic (examining the question during Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential bid), which cited a study by two Yale researchers who found that people were either the same or more likely to vote for a fictional male senator when told that he was ambitious; and yet, both men and women alike were less likely to vote for a woman when told that she was ambitious, even reacting with "feelings of moral outrage" including "contempt, anger, and disgust."

The question isn't whether a woman could be president, or whether a woman can be elected president – let's not forget that Hillary Clinton won three million more votes than the wildly unqualified man currently sitting in the oval office – it's whether or not it's appropriate for a woman to run for president, in a pre-conscious, visceral, gut-check way. In short, it's about misogyny. Not your neighbors' misogyny, that oft-cited imaginary scapegoat, but yours. Ours. Mine. The misogyny we've got embedded deeply in our brains from living in a society that doesn't value women, the overcoming of which is key for our own growth, well-being, and emotional health.

Why didn't we ever ask if America was ready for Trump?

That misogyny, too, is reinforced by every question asking people to validate a woman even seeking the position. Upfront, eo ipso, before considering anything of their merit or experience or thought, whether a woman should be president, that, if given the choice between a qualified woman and an unqualified man, the man wins (which, let's not forget, is what happened four years ago). To ask the question at all is to recognize the legitimacy of the difference in opinion, that this is a question about which reasonable people might disagree. In reality, it's a question that reason doesn't factor into at all. It's an emotional question provoking an emotional response: to whom belong the levers of power? It's also one we seem eager to dodge.

"Sure, I'd vote for a woman, but I don't think my neighbor would. I'd vote for a woman, but will South Carolina? Or Nebraska? Or the Dakotas?" At worst, it's a way to sort through the cognitive dissonance the question provokes in us – it's an obviously remarkable idea, seeing as we've never had a woman president – and at best, it's sincere surrender to our lesser angels, allowing misogyny to win by default. It starts with the assumption that a woman can't be president, and therefore we shouldn't nominate one, because she can't win. It's a utilitarian argument for excluding half of the country's population from eligibility for its highest office not even by virtue of some essential deficiency, but in submission to the will of a presumed minority of voters before a single vote has ever been cast. I don't know what else to call that but misogyny by other means.

We can, and must, do better than that. We can't call a woman's viability into question solely because she's a woman. To do so isn't to "think strategically," but to give ground before the race even starts. It's to hobble a candidate. It's to make sure voters see her, first and foremost, as a gendered object instead of a potential leader. I have immense respect for the refusal of women like Hillary Clinton, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, and pioneers like Carol Mosley-Braun, going as far back as Victoria Woodhull, to accede to this narrative and stick to their arguments over the course of their respective campaigns, regardless of any policy differences with them. It's by women standing up and forcing the world to see us as people that we push through, not by letting them tell us where they think we belong.

One of the themes I come back to over and over again in my writing is women asserting independence from control and dignity in our lives. It's the dominant note in feminist writing going back decades, that plea for recognition not only of our political and civil rights, but our existence as moral agents as capable as any man in the same position, as deserving of respect, as deserving of being heard and taking our shot. What then do we make of the question "is America ready for a woman president?" Is America ready? Perhaps not. But perhaps "ready" isn't something that exists. Perhaps, in the truest fashion of human politics, it's impossible until it, suddenly, isn't, and thereafter seems inevitable.

I think, for example, of the powerful witness Barack Obama brought to the office of president, not simply by occupying it but by trying to be a voice speaking to America's cruel and racist history and its ongoing effects. By extension, then, I think there is very real, radical benefit to electing a chief executive who has herself been subject to patriarchal control in the way only women (and those who others identify as women) can experience.

I look at reproductive rights like abortion and birth control, and that is what I see: patriarchal control over bodies, something no single president has ever experienced. I think about wage equality; no US president has ever been penalized for their sex in their ability to provide for themselves and their families. I look at climate change, and I remember that wealth and power are inextricably bound to privilege, and that the rapacious hunger to extract value from the earth maps onto the exploitation women have been subject to for millennia.

That's the challenge of our day. We've watched, over the last decade, the radicalized right go from the fringes of ridicule to the halls of power. We've watched them spit at the truth and invent their own reality. All while some of our best leaders were told to wait their turn. Why, then, all this question of whether we're ready for something far simpler?

Why didn't we ever ask if America was ready for Trump?