introduction   tania hammidi


In Arabic
I've been a fan of Umm Khulthum ever since the first time I saw her -- in the movie "Umm Khulthum: A Voice Like Egypt" three years ago. My dad and mom listened to her lots when I was a tot, but I had no idea this famous Arabic singer in long gown and full back up band was involved in revolutionary politics -- and in fact her singing served this purpose --, grew up a poor peasant, and was ostracized for her looks. She has been cited as being a master at enunciation, and forefronted beauty as a method of emancipatory politics. She became my hero the moment she said: "It is necessary to fill revolutionary society with everything that is beautiful, for beauty endures, and is the best manifestation of authenticity."

I open and close this issue of Bint El Nas with those words to explain the reasons why we might allow ourselves to become concerned with fashion, clothing style, or hair. I trust the authors of this issue to tell you why.

Within academia, fashion has been termed the "F" word of feminism. To be concerned with fashion or appearance management might to some feminists be an expression of one's concern trivial matters, not revolutionary at all, and certainly not a site for female, feminist, queer, or ethnic revolution. Or evolution. Fashion and consumption go hand in hand; as does fashion and the fashion industry: a deeply immobilizing international industry which destroys land and enslaves its laborers, mostly women of color, with unsafe working conditions and incredibly low wages.

While the violence, murder, land and village destruction, cultural appropriation, Arab hatred, and imperialistic ignorance practiced over and over again by the U.S. and many other governments towards the Middle East and towards those of us in the diasporic US who have close, distant, and complicated relationships with our Middle Eastern roots and communities endures, how can any engage with a political concern with our wadrobes (as I suggest we should)? How do we say, in context, "This hair and clothing shit has mattered to me my whole life!"?

As you will see in the issue that follows, our community exploded with stories about hair and the overlaying ways in which we chose to express and negotiate our identities, desires and habits as queer and bi Arab/ Arab-American women living within the scope of our virtual communities. I've been blessed with stories that I won't even begin, here, to unravel. I thank the authors. Filled with metaphor, humor, train rides and clips, I suspect you'll think about the images in these stories as fabric comes and goes in your lives, as politics integrate with style. I hope so. We are a visual people. We're choosing to work through the demands of our identities with the demands on our bodies, and, because of what appears to be a fairly brazen set of bodacious wo/men (represented by the contributors in this issue), I can only come to the convenient conclusion that the sisters of the Arab and Arab-American circuit know the values of visual language.

You know how deep the tactile runs. Touching fiber, touching body, touching hair, touching vision. Like a river, detailed enunciation, looking the same in every spot, and endless. We of Bint el Nas come from lands that are ancient and the clothes and hair we wear can be tied back all the way to then. Let's start ta.


haadis: discuss this issue with other bintelnas readers on the message board

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