Muslim Beauty
March 20, 2006 3:21 PM   Subscribe

The Beauty Academy of Kabul is Liz Mermin's documentary about hairdressers from America teaching young women in Afghanistan how to beautify themselves. Could female self-expression and vanity be an impetus for more pervasive cultural transformation? In a related development, Nike has designed a sporty hijab for use by Somali volleyball players. Whether it's an improvement over traditional variations is debatable.
posted by mert (11 comments total)
"The Nike designers have already taught some of the girls how to sew the outfits themselves using locally produced fabric."

I guess that's pretty cool - they're donating a bunch, and not keeping the recipe a secret for long term usage. It seems like the girls had a fair input with the designers as to what would be useful, too.
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 3:45 PM on March 20, 2006

Really? I figured that was just a thinly veiled plan by Nike to take advantage of even more cheap labor.
posted by martinX's bellbottoms at 3:51 PM on March 20, 2006

impetus for more pervasive cultural transformation?

I doubt it. Off-topic, but related ...

Bush's Fight for Freedom: Afghan Man Prosecuted for Converting From Islam to Christianity, Could Get Death Sentence.
posted by ericb at 3:53 PM on March 20, 2006

ericb : "Afghan Man Prosecuted for Converting From Islam to Christianity, Could Get Death Sentence."

Along those lines, Indonesia (I think it was) is interesting, in that different laws apply to the Muslim population. Converting, for example, from Christianity to Judaism is not a crime, nor is converting from Judaism to Islam, but converting from Islam to anything else is a crime. Probably not a death penalty, though.
posted by Bugbread at 4:12 PM on March 20, 2006

I'm sorry, I think you made an error in your post:

The Beauty Academy of Kabul is Liz Mermin's documentary about hairdressers from America teaching young women in Afghanistan how to beautify themselves conform to North American standards of beauty.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 5:14 PM on March 20, 2006

Sporty, Scary, Baby, Ginger, and Posh Hijab.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 6:12 PM on March 20, 2006

Nike at the front lines. From mert's NYT article Where Showing Skin Doesn't Sell, a New Style Is a Hit (BMN logins):

Girls' sports are still a novelty in Somali culture, so much so that the volleyball players here have been denounced by sheiks for supposed unladylike acts, like running or extending their arms in the air, and gawked at by boys unfamiliar with seeing women doing much more than cooking or cleaning or carting water on their heads.
Attitudes are changing, women say, but slowly. That helps explain why they are not interested in the abbreviated shorts and form-fitting tops that women's volleyball players in other parts of the world wear. All these young women dream of is a sporty hijab, one that covers them but doesn't cramp their style.
The girls at Dadaab, who tend to play in flip-flops, expect that the uniforms will encourage even more young women to take up volleyball. But the biggest effect, these competitive women say, will be on the quality of their game. "Our arms will be free now," said Hamdi Hassan Hashi, 27, one of the better players. "There won't be as much cloth in the way."
In the long run, culture bombs like this will change hearts and minds far more effectively than squadrons of B-52s. Sports, although made of the same basic stuff, beats outright warfare, but transformations like this still seem sad, comic, and inevitable.

It never hurts to make a play for new markets, either. A related report is Shared Goals: Sport and Business in Partnerships for Development (PDF from the International Business Leaders Forum):
posted by cenoxo at 7:20 PM on March 20, 2006

i think this is dangerous--the taliban are in power all over there except for Kabul, and where it's not them, it's warlords. It's not like the women there are dealing with Archie Bunkers--these men will kill them for doing anything at all.
posted by amberglow at 8:58 PM on March 20, 2006

My experience of Middle Eastern women is that they are far more chic and fashion conscious than most western women to start with! Once indoors the robes come off and the designer labels are all over the place. Not to mention that I used to work with a man who's wife managed to look more fashionable and attractive in traditional modest garb than I could in Dior.
posted by fshgrl at 9:05 PM on March 20, 2006

yup--but that's indoors only.
posted by amberglow at 10:23 PM on March 20, 2006

I just want to point out that the hairdressers featured in Liz Mermin's documentary aren't teaching Afghan women how to beautify themselves, they are teaching them how to become hairdressers and beauticians, which will allow them to support themselves and achieve some economic independence.
posted by discokitty at 9:18 AM on March 21, 2006

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