Veils, Nudity, and Tattoos: The New Feminine Aesthetics
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At first sight, tattoos, nudity, and veils do not seem to have much in common except for the fact that all three have become more frequent, more visible, and more dominant in connection with aesthetic presentations of women over the past thirty years. No longer restricted to biker and sailor culture, tattoos have been sanctioned by the mainstream of liberal societies. Nudity has become more visible than ever on European beaches or on the internet. The increased use of the veil by women in Muslim and non-Muslim countries has developed in parallel with the aforementioned phenomena and is just as striking.
Through the means of conceptual analysis, Veils, Nudity, and Tattoos: The New Feminine Aesthetics reveals that these three phenomena can be both private and public, humiliating and empowering, and backward and progressive. This unorthodox approach is traced by the three’s similar social and psychological patterns, and by doing so, Veils, Nudity, and Tattoos hopes to sketch the image of a woman who is not only sexually emancipated and confident, but also more and more aware of her cultural heritage.
a dressmaker make them something modish and foreign-looking” (Williams 1980: 75). Here the veil did not catch on. Veiling in the proper sense has been an urban phenomenon to begin with: In Iran, as elsewhere, “urban women wore the veil, whereas rural and tribal women covered their hair with long and wide scarves” (Sedghi 2007: 88). As a consequence, unveiling was also first enforced in larger cities. Interestingly, Williams predicted as early as in 1980 that a new Egyptian revolution would take
sublimated form but rather in a cool and restrained form that enacts an aesthetic surface. In philosophical terms, we are facing here a shift from an ethical to an aesthetical focus (which does not mean that ethical issues would not apply). The veil is part of aesthetic conditions through which sexuality can appear in a “cooler” fashion. In summary, it can be said that in a paradoxical way, veiling, just like the cool mask, simultaneously cancels and prolongs segregation. The cool or veiled
Book 72, Numbers 815 and 823; Sahih Muslim, Book 24, Number 5300; and Abu Dawud, Book 28, Number 4157. 3. The ethical command from the Old Testament, binding for Christians and Jews alike, goes: “You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh on account of the dead or tattoo any marks upon yourself: I am YHWH” (Leviticus 19: 28). For the history and reasons of this command see Adam Barkman 2012. Among other things, Barkman explains that the main reason for the command in the Old Testament was
“identity is inward” and not outward (ibid.). Furthermore, for Lingis, the coded and fixed character of tattoos as an indicator of identity remains incompatible with the more sophisticated, “civilized” way of signifying identity and values through clothes or other cultural objects. For him, tattoos as cultural signifiers are primitive because they are too simple. However, would a society that despises tattoos because of their all too straightforward way of signifying find “complicated”
account for many other paradoxes. One such paradox was pointed out by Joseph Massad, that while Islam is often identified as “feminist,” Arab society is often identified as “misogynistic” (Massad 2007: 155). Ali Mazrui refers to a similar paradox, which has already been mentioned in chapter 4: “Muslim countries are ahead in female empowerment, though still behind in female liberation” (Mazrui 1997: 121). Of course, the phenomenon is not just an Arab one. The fear of the “dark continent of the