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In Dubai last week to open a milkshake franchise, promote her signature fragrance, and pursue other opportunities to expand her business empire, uber-celebrity Kim Kardashian and mother Kris Jenner stopped by the Dubai Mall to shop for the latest Middle Eastern fashions – including matching burqas.
“That’s me!” Kardashian later squealed on Twitter beneath a photo of herself with her famous face completely obscured except for a slit for the eyes (this is actually a niqab, , which covers everything; a burqa is becoming the popular catchall word to describe the covering in general). Considering that Kardashian’s fame is entirely the result of the relentless marketing of her curvy sexuality, beginning with a sex tape, a burqa – the purpose of which is to obliterate female sexuality and to reduce a woman’s identity to a rumpled, repellent blob – is a curious fashion choice.
And a disappointing one. One of the most famous women in the world and a style icon for countless millions of fans, Kim Kardashian may have just given the burqa her considerably influential fashion imprimatur.
It’s easy to pick on celebrities like Kardashian. Reveling in the narcissistic bubble of her inexplicable fame, far removed from the harsh realities of countless Muslim women literally enshrouded in this enforced anonymity, she is, in all fairness, no doubt simply ignorant of the cultural ramifications of her flippant shopping selection.
What’s really disturbing here is that the media treated the whole incident so breezily. “Kim Kardashian’s latest fashion statement? A burqa!” was the typical headline. “Kim Kardashian Rocks a Burqa in Dubai,” read another. A third: “Kim Kardashian can even make a burqa look hot.” Ad nauseum.
Not a single news item about this paparazzi moment referenced the impropriety of these two wealthy Western women donning garments that have been designed to enslave women and punish them for the uncontrollable lust they inspire in men by a hint of skin or a glimpse of lips. Every media report I saw opted for innocuous phrasing like describing the burqa as “traditional” for Muslim women. BET went with the even more blandly neutral “regional dress.” The UK’s DailyMail got slightly more specific by pointing out that it is “the conservative dress preferred in the religious country.” US Weekly edged slightly closer to the truth by giving the burqa the understated label, “often controversial.”
None of the mainstream media reports dared to storm the ramparts of multiculturalism or to provoke shrill accusations of the dreaded and mythical Islamophobia by pointing out why it’s controversial. None of the media outlets broached the ugly subject of the misogyny that underlies this “regional dress,” much less mentioned that women have been killed for not wearing the “traditional” garb that Kim Kardashian and her mom had so much fun modeling.
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