Hollywood’s (Mis) Construction of Gender: The Aesthetics and Politics of Stigmatising Arab/Muslim Women

gender inequality misrepresentation racial and ethnic discrimination stereotype Hollywood classical cinema


August 1, 2022


The image of the Arab and Muslim woman, whether as sexually obsessed and oppressed or simply a backward terrorist invented and reinvented in the studios of Orientalist filmmakers, has been an object for decades (and hardly a subject) of imperial Orientalist discourse. From being depicted as repressed mysterious harems sexually outfoxing one another to gain the sheik’s attention to eroticised veiled belly dancers alluring the audience to eventually fanatical extremists threatening the United States, Arab and Muslim women’s representation reflects that Hollywood cinema had reached its sexist and racist height long before the September 11 attacks. By presenting them as voiceless and unable to speak for themselves, the entire industry not only undermine the efforts of female Arab and Muslim activists to achieve gender equality but also acts and reacts within a vicious hegemonic patriarchal discourse that hinders their progressive attempts to better their image.