Popular narratives produced from the west, particularly since 9/11, perpetuate negative stereotypes about Middle Eastern Muslim women. Native writers settled in the west also dish out heart-rending tales of women's oppression in fundamentalist Islamic societies, targeting a western audience long fed on tales of Islam's intolerance towards women. These 'New Orientalist' narratives, portraying Muslim women as hapless victims of Islamic fundamentalism, only serve to reinforce the stereotypes entrenched in popular western imagination. With Azar Nafisi's Reading Lolita in Tehran as a case in point, this paper seeks to examine how new orientalist narratives misrepresent the position of women in Islamic societies. The paper concludes that bestsellers, produced by native as well as western writers and touted as authentic representations of life in the Middle East, mostly draw a black and white distinction between western and Middle Eastern societies, depict violence and discrimination against women as characteristic of Islamic culture, and under-represent indigenous struggles for women's rights, thereby covertly suggesting that western mediation is inevitable in order to improve the condition of women in Middle Eastern societies.
May 6, 2009
Gender and Stereotypes in Literature
Asha S. [sic], MEASS College, has published Reading Lolita in Tehran: Rehashing Orientalist Stereotypes, at 4 The Icfai University Journal of English Studies 47(March 2009). Here is the abstract.