This 20 second clothing ad, called “Freedom is Basic,” shows us a young Israeli model, Bar Rafaeli, ripping off a niqab she is wearing to showcase her sporty attire underneath (Merrett, 2018). The ad is to promote “freedom,” but instead amplifies stereotypes, islamophobia, and stigma. The ad attempts to make us believe that women wearing the niqab are oppressed and denied freedom. They state that the only way to be “free” is to remove it.
The ad tries to push these ideas in several ways. For example, in the beginning of the ad, while the model is wearing the niqab she is not moving – they make the mood grim, with no music, no colours, and display captions such as “Iran is here” (Newbould, 2018). Once the model takes off her niqab the mood changes drastically. For example, upbeat music, with lyrics such as, ‘“It’s all about freedom, finally breaking the chains, the cost of my freedom,”’ starts to play, while the model seemingly dances for joy, while flipping her hair (Merrett, 2018). This suggests she is “free” once she took off the niqab. The song lyrics are very problematic. For example, the lyrics compare the niqab to chains, which insinuates that wearing the niqab is equitable to being in prison, trapped or confined.
I chose this ad because I remember seeing it in the media after the model first posted it on her social media. People where reposting it everywhere, with captions such as “ignorant and racist” and “my idea of freedom is wearing a hijab and if I want to wear a niqab I will” (@fancydaisiesx and @demodestcoverup as cited in Merrett, 2018). This ad has sparked a lot of backlash and with good reason. The ad is contributing to the negative stereotypes people believe about the Middle East and wearing niqabs, hijabs or other veils. This ad just solidifies people’s conception of the niqab being the symbol of oppression. I will be addressing these problems with my jamming.
When researching for this assignment I saw many different billboards, advertisements and campaigns depicting troubling issues, but this video, which I viewed before, appeared again, and although not an image it stuck out more than the rest and I knew I wanted to analysis and jam it.
Since my ad was a campaign video, I decided to take stills and place them together to showcase that freedom does not depend on if you are wearing a niqab or not. If you decide to not wear a niqab that is your choice, and if you decide to wear one that is your choice also. They both determine freedom. Freedom of choice. Freedom to wear what you want. The original ad suggested that wearing a niqab, hijab or any other veil symbolizes oppression of women, but that simply is not the case. A woman could have limited rights, and could be denied freedom even if she is not wearing a niqab. For example, throughout centuries women have been denied the freedom to work, vote, get an education and even sit in some restaurants – a lot of these women did not wear niqabs. Niqabs do not represent freedom, or lack thereof.
It is because of the original ad that people believe these ideologies about the niqab. There has been many other social media outlets and even political figures, such as Prime minister Stephen Harper who have further continued this negative thinking. For example, Stephan Harper stated in the House of Commons “that we do not allow people to cover their faces during citizen ceremonies” because it supports “a culture that is anti-women” (Anna Maria, 2015). Muslim women have responded to his comments and gave their own reasons as to why they FREELY chose to wear the niqab and it is there testimony, my own beliefs, and other facts that I used to create my jamming version. The original ad was completely ignorant, absurd and poorly throughout by people I assume have a warped idea of what the niqab means and symbolizes.
In the CBC podcast “2 niqabs and a hijab: 3 Muslim women talk about the face covering” we hear first-hand, Muslim women debunking these myths. Shomyla Hammad decided to wear the niqab for religious reasons, she wanted to “feel closer to her god” regardless of the fact that no one in her family wears a niqab – it was ultimately Hammad’s decision to wear a niqab, she was not forced or oppressed into doing so (Anna Maria, 2015). Regardless of if it was Hammad’s decision or not she did get some push back from her husband because the stereotype of the niqab being the symbol of oppression is so strong (Anna Maria 2015). Hammad’s husband did not want his wife to wear the niqab because he did not want other citizens to think he was her forcing her to wear it, as we heard on the CBC podcast (Anna Maria 2015).
This podcast shows how happy and complete these women feel while deciding to wear the niqab. Their feelings do not align with the “Freedom is Basic” ad. They are not oppressed or trapped. They used their freedom to decide to wear the niqab. In conclusion my jamming version of the ad showcased how wearing a niqab does not mean oppression, anti feminism, limited rights, or restricted freedom, it is quite the opposite.
Hoodies, “Freedom is Basic.” Youtube,29 October, 2018, https://youtu.be/_qIOGJjKFiU.Accessed 12 February 2019.
Maria, Anna. “2 Niqabs and a Hijab: 3 Muslim Women Talk about the Face Covering.” CBC London Studio, CBC Toronto, 19 March 2015, http://www.cbc.ca/radio/thecurrent/the-current-for-march-19-2015-1.3001074/2-niqabs-and-a-hijab-3-muslim-women-talk-about-the-face-covering-1.3001080. Accessed 12 February 2019.
Merrett, Robyn. “Bar Refaeli Slammed as ‘Racist’ After Starring in Israeli Clothing Ad Wearing and Then Ripping Off a Niqab .” PEOPLE.com, Time Inc, 1 Nov. 2018, people.com/style/bar-refaeli-slammed-racist-israeli-apparel-ad-niqab/.
Newbould, Chris. “’Racist’ Israeli Ad Sparks Online Storm for Supermodel Bar Refaeli.” The National, The National, 2 Nov. 2018, www.thenational.ae/arts-culture/television/racist-israeli-ad-sparks-online-storm-for-supermodel-bar-refaeli-1.787229.