Muslim women through the eyes of Carrie Bradshaw

While I was reading Pham’s article on patriotic American spending and the conflation after the 9/11 attacks of Muslim dress with oppression, I thought immediately of a scene from Sex in the City 2, the movie.  I tried to find the specific scene so you guys could take a look at it, but I can only find the whole movie, so if you guys want to check it out on your own it’s towards the very end at about two hours in.  After Samantha makes a scene in the marketplace by screaming, “I have sex!!!” and shaking her condoms in the face of all the offended Muslim men, the four girls are led into a secluded room by some covered women.  The Muslim women all express love for New York City, and when Carrie asks if they have been, one woman says she has not but she loves the fashion.  It is here when all the completely covered women theatrically disrobe to reveal colorful and form-fitting Westernized clothing.  A fantastical music arrangement sounds in the background as Carrie throws back her head in orgasmic happiness and gasps, Louis Viutton, yes!!!”  It is clear that the audience is meant to take from this scene that while burqas are backwards and traditional, Western fashion is modern and embraced by all empowered women!  The scene is short, with the Muslim women serving as tools to get the girls safely away from the angry Muslim men by lending the girls their burqas.  Things only deteriorate further when Carrie seductively hikes her burqa up to her upper thigh in order catch a taxi-driver’s attention, so they can get to the airport before they get bumped from first class on their flight home.

The first time I saw this scene I thought something was very strange, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.  After reading Pham’s article, however, I started putting things in place.  Westernized fashion is meant to be a force that brings all women together: high fashion humanizes its wearers and allows women to bond together in opposition to oppressive non-Western tradition.  I would be very curious to hear what the writers of the script were trying to get across with the burqa scene, but I imagine that they realized they were on shaky ground so figured they couldn’t go wrong with having the Muslim women be agents of action and free consumers.  As Pham writes, veiled women are “imagined to be in need of rescue not simply from the burqa and the Taliban but to neoliberal sites where a woman’s freedom includes her freedom of consumerist choices” (391).  The writers were likely somewhat aware that it would be a poor move to have the Sex and the City girls “save” the Muslim women by enlightening them to the ways of Western fashion and capitalist consumerism, so they fell upon their solution: show the audience that veiled women are just like Carrie Bradshaw, if we can only see past the dark burqas to their Louis Viutton dresses!

-Alison Hunt


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