Beautiful young women with fashionable clothing and loose headscarves dominated much of the imagery that emerged from the recent Iranian protests. Writing for Women News Network, Latoya Peterson writes that the focus on fashion and beauty may distract people from the real issues at play in Iran.
“Often times, Western feminists become infatuated with the symbolic nature of veiling,” according to Peterson, “and fail to listen to women discussing what they are actually fighting for.” The photographs of women in modern, Western-style clothing with hair cascading out of their veils fit nicely into people’s preconceived notions of modern pro-democracy forces rebelling against the oppressive regime.
In fact, the disastrous economic conditions in Iran are likely what motivated the protests, rather than the politics of beauty and clothing. Emphasizing beautiful protesters could distract people and oversimplify the message of the protests.
The Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, on the other hand, may have appreciated some of the problematic attention, Alexander Cockburn wrote for the Nation. According to Cockburn, “Unlike those attractive Iranians, Tamils tend to be small and dark and not beautiful in the contour of poor Neda, who got out of her car at the wrong time in the wrong place, died in view of a cellphone and is now reborn on CNN as the Angel of Iran.” Peterson admits, “Sex sells but so does Iranian beauty, compelling even those who are disinterested in politics and current events to pay attention.”