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Nov 18 2011

#NudePhotoRevolutionary

Aliaa Magda Elmahdy, and Egyptian secularist, has done something striking: to protest against repressive Islamic culture, she has taken her clothes off, and posted photographs of herself on her blog

The 20-year-old wrote on her blog that the photos, which show her naked apart from stockings, are her “screams against a society of violence, racism, sexism, sexual harassment and hypocrisy”. Her blog has received 1.5 million hits since her photos were posted earlier this week.

This has had an expected result — the conservative and religious elements (but I am redundand) are outraged — and another, subtler, annoying aspect: even the liberals are whining. The comments on her blog, those few that are in English that I can read, are revealing. Among the comments praising her bravery, there are a few craven, well-meaning people urging cowardice, like this one.

With all respect to you – what good will it do the world if men and women in the Middle East take their clothes off?

It would be more accurate to say that it is a freedom, and we should be willing to fight to keep. Personal freedom? what this concept means in Egyptian society?

Personal freedom had limits and this kind of personal freedom – nude male and female art – is unknown in our society.You misunderstand the concept!

I have no problem with nudity.If you wish for people to be more understanding about nude photography you need to understand and deal with negative comments.

Yes,Nude does NOT equal sexual and nudity is artistic expression,but that doesn’t mean that it is acceptable in the society where we live in. As much as I want to believe being open minded about nudity,It would be great if we could get to a place where nudity was just a person with no clothes on. I think that will take a very long time though!

I hope this clears things up for you.

It doesn’t. What a muddle. So yes, you should be free to take your clothes off, but that isn’t “acceptable in the society where we live in,” and maybe you shouldn’t do it. You’re free, but you’re only free to do the things that the puritans in charge will allow you to do.

I think the problem is that this person is using the word “freedom”, but he doesn’t know what it actually means. That’s OK, we Americans act like we invented the word, but most of us seem perfectly willing to throw it away for a little imaginary security, or for the privilege of feeling sanctimoniously superior to our neighbors, or just to conform.

I’ll just say…bravo, Ms Elmahdy. I hope the reactionary haters in your country don’t do you harm, and I hope the tepid semi-liberals don’t applaud while they try.

(via Maryam Namazie.)

52 comments

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  1. 1
    Dick the Damned

    Wow! I salute the young lady’s bravery for taking bold action for freedom of expression, that the fundamentalists might see as cause to …. I don’t even want to think about that.

  2. 2
    docsarvis

    Considering the society in which she lives it took a lot of courage for Ms. Ehlmady to post those photos and drawing. Kudos to her. I hope she remains safe in a place where is safety might be in jeapordy for this act.

  3. 3
    Zugswang

    Man, if dressing immodestly causes earthquakes, this is going to bring a goddamn meteor hurdling down on us all!

  4. 4
    ahcuah

    You’re sure right about Americans not knowing what “freedom” means either. Here’s a story about a transgendered individual (male to female) who wanted to get her Tennessee driver’s license changed to reflect her new sex. They wouldn’t do it, so she took off her shirt, and got arrested for indecent exposure. Either she’s a male, and it’s not indecent exposure, or she’s a female, and her driver’s license ought to reflect that.

  5. 5
    Aquaria

    With all respect to you – what good will it do the world if men and women in the Middle East take their clothes off?

    For one thing, it might make them want to find better things to do than worship a psychopathic deity, or, you know, kill each other.

  6. 6
    Kevin, Youhao Huo Mao

    @ahcuah:

    ROFL at that article. Ms. Jones has some serious gumption, but underpins a severe lack of respect towards her gender. Either she’s a female and can be arrested for indecent exposure, or she’s a male and can go around topless.

    Women like her make me feel like a wuss – cause I won’t even dress up female to go outside my house.

  7. 7
    Triskelethecat

    @Katherine Lorraine: and you have your reasons, which should not be denigrated. When one has a lot to lose, it’ s logical to be careful.

    Posting even clothed, sexy pictures of myself is very hard for me, given my job and fears of who might find them. Naked pictures? I don’t know if I’d ever have the courage, much less doing it in a much more female repressive society.

  8. 8
    Kevin, Youhao Huo Mao

    @triskelethecat:

    I wouldn’t be able to post naked pictures of myself cause I don’t look the way I want to…

  9. 9
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    Women rights activist Nehad Abou el-Qomsan said conservatives “keep adding layers to cover up the women and deny their existence”. But, she said, what Ms Elmahdy did “is also rejected because posing nude is a form of body abuse”.

    Dear Egypt,

    Our sincere apologies for infecting you with this particular form of Fuckingstupid. We haven’t yet gotten our own house entirely in order on this, so I’m afraid it’s going to be a long haul.

    Sincerely,

    Western Feminism

  10. 10
    W.Benson

    Kudos to Aliaa for her bravery and efforts to further discussion on individual freedom, everywhere. Her 2009 entries post videos on the origin of the universe, life, and man. She also seems to be a vegetarian and fan of PETA.

  11. 11
    HappiestSadist, Repellent Little Martyr

    Wow, Elmahdy’s a badass. I hope she stays safe. Ms. Jones also perfectly highlights the nonsense trans people get all the damn time.

    I didn’t really get much of a choice, I think, as I’m pretty sure my rapist has put the pictures he took up somewhere online. But doing so voluntarily, and making such a strong point (or just because you want to) is a definite act of and for freedom.

    *tea and pastries and/or hugs* to Katherine Lorraine. You do what you can to be safe.

  12. 12
    Avo, also nigelTheBold

    I started reading Hitchen’s Letters to a Young Contrarian last night. I finished on the chapter concerning “as if.” Much social change has occurred because people behave “as if” their society were the way they wished it to be.

    We do that around here, some. We behave as if our society did not tolerate prejudice against folks because of their gender or sexuality. We behave as if our society does not tolerate sexism and misogyny. We do this every time we bring the smackdown on folks who display these traits.

    It’s good to see that spirit alive and well. It gives me a good feeling about the future.

  13. 13
    Antonov An-225

    “I have no problem with nudity.” Uh, clearly you do, anonymous commenter, or else you wouldn’t be concern trolling.

  14. 14
    Creepy Old Drunk Guy With An Erection

    So. Ah, where’s the nude photos?

  15. 15
    mythusmage

    From my reaction to her photos it would appear a recent observation concerning women and how they dress has something going for it. According to the report it would seem that the more a woman wears leads males to treating her as a mature adult with something of value to say. But the less a woman wears the more we’re apt to treat them as something to be protected and nutured.

    The stockings didn’t help matters any, for they do give the impression she is ready for mating activities. Not the impression she wanted to give I sure.

  16. 16
    Creepy Old Drunk Guy With An Erection

    Oh yes, she’s certainly very courageous. Excellent suckable nipples too. What a brave and admirable woman with artistically perfect pussy-flaps. The naked man was revolutionary too, but I don’t tend to like ‘em cut. Anyway, keep up the good work.

  17. 17
    DLC

    Left a message at Mariam’s .
    I am hoping that the Egyptian people remember why they were out in the streets last February and keep at it.
    Listen to what you were saying back then, and ignore the forces of oppression.

    As for the pictures:
    It’s not her looks, or even her lack of clothes that should be the issue. It’s the freedom of not having to live your life as some kind of second-class citizen.

  18. 18
    Creepy Old Drunk Guy With An Erection

    I’d treat her first class if I could get my tongue on those flaps.

  19. 19
    Grumps

    @ Katherine Lorraine, Chaton de la Mort

    I’ve been watching “My Transsexual Summer:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/tv-and-radio/2011/nov/08/my-transsexual-summer-review

    and have found it really uplifting viewing.

    Not sure if you’ll be able to see this where you are but here’s the programmes

    http://www.channel4.com/programmes/my-transsexual-summer/4od#3253567

  20. 20
  21. 21
    HappiestSadist, Repellent Little Martyr

    Damn, the creep factor has really gone up in this thread.

  22. 22
    Rasmus

    I don’t think I can comprehend the amount of guts it takes to do this sort of thing in a country like Egypt. (Preemptive strike against concern trolls: Nobody is claiming that you have to take off your clothes to be brave.)

    Are there any reports so far of earthquakes, plague, locust, frogs, fire and brimstone falling from the sky, people turning into salt pillars or even just men passing out from lack of bloodflow to the brain? As a skeptic I feel it is my duty to look for evidence that the fundamentalist theists are right.

  23. 23
    Hairhead

    I find it common that many times people who use English as a second language have to express themselves with an admirable concision. To one poster who said: but what will your family think? She replied:

    My family members don’t own my body or my actions. I am a free individual.

    Huzzah to that!

  24. 24
    Shemjaza

    I just hope this brave woman doesn’t get killed over this.

  25. 25
    sandiseattle

    Saw this via another site, not one of the pics was even worth calling sexual. All but one I would label artsy.

  26. 26
    Rasmus

    mythusmage: I think you’ve just demonstrated that Aliaa Magda Elmahdy has a point. Political activism is not about conforming to your personal reaction or to the findings of social science. It’s about challenging them and make people realize that they could be changed or replaced by something better.

    Stockings in and of themselves are not a sex signal.

  27. 27
    Dabu

    Crushed pearl is a rare sight, but our timorous objector above has it all over their fingers. They seem to believe that Egyptian society isn’t ready for such an outrageous display (though anyone outraged by this should return to the nursery for ten more years of growing up). Wait, wait, wait till society can handle such daring, they say.

    Fuck waiting. Women like Aliaa want real freedom, and they want it now.

  28. 28
    Ing

    The stockings didn’t help matters any, for they do give the impression she is ready for mating activities. Not the impression she wanted to give I sure.

    Mating activities? What species are you?

  29. 29
    Grimalkin

    “Creepy old drunk guy”, I hope you know that your posts are incredibly disrespectful to this incredibly brave woman, even if you are a troll. This story has nothing to do with how this woman looks, how attractive she is, or anything like that. This woman did something that would get her ridiculed and hated in America, and then did it in an islamic culture which is infinitely more oppressive. If all you can focus on is how she looks naked and not how amazing it is that she had the bravery to do this and the message behind it, you are a truly loathable person. Looking at a naked woman shouldn’t make you go stupid.

    (A side note to PZ, if you’ve noticed that I’ve changed my name/email, it’s to give myself a bit more anonymity now that I’ve started blogging. I’m not trying to sock puppet or stir up trouble or anything)

  30. 30
    Wes

    The stockings didn’t help matters any, for they do give the impression she is ready for mating activities. Not the impression she wanted to give I sure.

    What? You’re way off base here. Isn’t her point that she has the freedom to dress her own body as she sees fit? Who cares if her stockings suggest “mating activities”? The whole point is that how women choose to dress doesn’t make them at fault for how some men might behave, and she shouldn’t be blamed if some perverts out there take dressing up for “mating activities” as an excuse for rape.

    The caption for her photo (it’s in Arabic–I used google translator so I might not be entirely right) says that this is about free expression and a protest against the censorship of erotic art. Maybe she DID want to give the impression that she’s “ready for mating activities”. And she has every right to give that impression. It’s how she chooses to express herself. As far as I can tell, that’s the point she’s trying to make.

    Oh, and “Creepy Old Drunk Guy With An Erection”, please shut the fuck up. No one finds your puerile bullshit funny.

  31. 31
    Rev. BigDumbChimp

    The stockings didn’t help matters any, for they do give the impression she is ready for mating activities. Not the impression she wanted to give I sure.

    You’re sure?

    How sure?

    The point of this is currently sailing far over your head.

  32. 32
    ChasCPeterson

    “ready for mating activities”?

    “mating activities”?

    are you for real?

  33. 33
    Ing

    She should be careful! If someone thinks she is ready for mating activities they might inflict oral sex upon her!

  34. 34
    Inaji

    mm:

    The stockings didn’t help matters any, for they do give the impression she is ready for mating activities. Not the impression she wanted to give I sure.

    Cupcake, the impression you get is yours and yours alone. It’s also hoisted you way up high on the Creep-O-Meter.

  35. 35
    ahs ॐ

    even the liberals are whining.

    Except for, you know, the ones that aren’t. It’s absolutely trivial to scan for the Egyptians who are leaving supportive comments.

  36. 36
    Wes

    Women rights activist Nehad Abou el-Qomsan said conservatives “keep adding layers to cover up the women and deny their existence”. But, she said, what Ms Elmahdy did “is also rejected because posing nude is a form of body abuse”.

    Body abuse? Body abuse???

    She’s a grown woman who made this choice on her own. Who’s abusing her? In what kind of warped world is a woman exercising her right to free expression and her control over her own body considered “body abuse”? How is it “women’s rights” to tell a woman that she’s committing a crime by doing what she wants with her own body? In principle, this isn’t any different from the religious right wing nuts who want to deny women abortions and contraceptives. They’re criminalizing women who want to control their own bodies.

  37. 37
    Svlad Cjelli

    You can buy this car in any colour you like as long as it’s black.

  38. 38
    BCskeptic

    If I were a woman living in an oppressive Islamic society, and I didn’t buy all the “submission”, sadistic god bullshit, and the need to be covered all the time, I’d want to scream too. And what better way to be heard than to do something that shocks that society like taking your clothes off.

    Brave young woman. Freedom fighter. Hero.

    Oh, and to the creepy old drunk guy, with sick inappropriate comments. Just get lost you fucking loser.

  39. 39
    BrianX

    There needs to be more less-than-attractive people in her montage. I have no problem with her doing it, but she and most of the rest of the people who have contributed are rather conventionally beautiful. Some people who aren’t hot need to step up and join the protest.

  40. 40
    Lesath

    I don’t want to take the appearance of “concern trolling” — this is a bold, courageous and gutsy move on Ms Elmahdy’s part. But I am afraid for her life, and if not her life then her safety and security in general, as well as her continued access to education. I hope nothing but good comes of this.

  41. 41
    kaleberg

    If they strike down the individual mandate in Obama-care, there go the anti-nudity laws. They’re just a sop to the clothing companies anyway.

  42. 42
    dartigen

    One question I do want to ask Aliaa’s critics – so, do you have the guts to pose nude for a photo that’s going up on the Internet?

    Actually, do you have the guts to pose nude for a photo full stop?

    Didn’t think so.

    Most women will look at themselves in a mirror and think only about what they don’t like. Most women wouldn’t be caught dead and naked. Heck, a lot of women have enough trouble wearing a bikini and that’s really just underwear. (Some women have a huge problem even being seen half-naked or wearing a bra even if they’ve got pants or a skirt on. I still think that is why over 80% of women are wearing the wrong size bra, because they won’t let anyone fit them because they have some sort of weird complex about being seen half-in-underwear.)

    Hell, most guys can’t get past what they dislike about their own bodies. I don’t think most guys could pose for a nude photo.

    So Aliaa does have true freedom – she’s comfortable with the body she’s in enough to show it to the world. That’s better than what a lot of women AND men can say.

    And it’s hardly abuse, exploitation or disrespect of self. She has decided to do it of her own free will, and given that she’s not some teenager who thinks she’s being cool, I’m sure she’s thought the consequences through properly. Nudity is only abuse when the person has not made the choice of their own free will to be nude.

    But I hope nothing bad happens to her from this. (At least everyone’s not nitpicking at her about how she looks.)

    (I don’t think I could ever pose nude for a photo. Yes, I don’t mind walking around my house in my underwear – when nobody else is home, and with all the curtains closed, and I wouldn’t dare go out in the backyard. Yes, I do sometimes sleep naked – when it’s just too hot for clothing, and I always make sure I’m dressed before I leave my room.)

  43. 43
    valhar2000

    Creepy Old Drunk Guy With An Erection:

    That was sublime, just about absolutely perfect!

    Unless you mean it, of course, in which case I agree with the abuse the rest of the commenters are going to heap upon you.

  44. 44
    mythusmage

    @rasmus (and the rest)

    You don’t frequent porn sites often, now do you. :)

  45. 45
    Bill Dauphin, avec fromage

    Late to this party, I can see. I bookmarked this story, and was planning to blog about it… except that I’ve been incredibly lazy about blogging about anything recently. <sigh>

    Here’s what I would have said: I think Ms. Elmahdy is incredibly brave, and I support her posting entirely without reservation. It did, however, sadden me more than a little that so many of her supporters were quoted saying some version of “nudity isn’t the same thing as sex.” Of course, nudity per se is often not a direct expression of sexuality… but the larger point is, IMHO, so what if it is? What the fuck is wrong with sex??

    I’ve long thought that fear, shaming, and “sinfulization” of human sexuality lies at the heart of a vast array of social ills; the immediate point of Elmahdy’s postings — that people, and especially women, own their own bodies and their presentations — is, as important as it might be, a subset of the larger need for a more sex-positive culture on a universal, global basis.

    So yes, mythmusage, I think looking like she’s ready for “mating activity” really is at least part of the point… and good on her for making that point.

  46. 46
    mythusmage

    Many years ago I read that nudity only arouses sexual interest for a few minutes, then people tend to lose interest. Wearing lingerie, including stockings, is something different.

    She is a healthy young woman, evidently very intelligent. I hope she makes headway against the prejudices of her society. For her sake and those women who come after her.

  47. 47
    Bill Dauphin, avec fromage

    BrianX:

    There needs to be more less-than-attractive people in her montage. I have no problem with her doing it, but she and most of the rest of the people who have contributed are rather conventionally beautiful.

    I find her attractive (but then again, I find most naked women attractive), but she’s not “conventionally beautiful” to a degree that puts her outside the human norm. To me, she looks like an ordinary woman without any clothes (except for those stockings, of course). And it was a bold enough thing for her to do this herself: Recruiting other women to pose with her just to provide diversity of body types is probably too much to hope for.

    Does it help you any that the man in the montage has a less-than-porn-star-sized penis?

  48. 48
    Bill Dauphin, avec fromage

    Just to clarify me @49, I am not “nitpicking at her about how she looks”: Dartigen (@44) is quite correct to be glad that’s not going on here. In this context, I meant “ordinary” as a sincere compliment, in response to BrianX’s implicit suggestion that this self-exposure might be the self-indulgent act of a Genuine Hottie™.

  49. 49
    Rey Fox

    Creepy Old Drunk Guy With An Erection says:

    Don’t give up the day job.

  50. 50
    Cesar Hechler

    It’s people like Aliaa who restore my faith in humanity, even if just a little bit and for a little while. The kind of bravery a person needs to have to do that in the face of the kind of perversions of justice and torture and murder that occur, especially against women…it leaves me incredulous someone can be so brave. I really hope she makes it through this scenario as a shining example of a truly great person and isn’t reduced to being another victim of a grotesque religion’s misogyny and delusions.

  51. 51
    Cesar Hechler

    It really doesn’t underscore the audacious amounts of guts the woman has by then going back to the regular default position of deciding whether or not she is ‘plain’ or a ‘hottie’. Bravery and intelligence should trump whether nature has decided to apply meat aesthetically to one’s skeleton any day.

  52. 52
    Bill Dauphin, avec fromage

    Cesar:

    It really doesn’t underscore the audacious amounts of guts the woman has by then going back to the regular default position of deciding whether or not she is ‘plain’ or a ‘hottie’.

    If this was aimed at me (re #50), it’s pretty much exactly my point: BrianX’s implication (whether intended or not) that she’s too beautiful for this to be meaningful is, IMHO, just as misguided as any hypothetical suggestion that she’s not beautiful enough. It’s the act itself that has value, entirely without regard to, as you put it, “whether nature has decided to apply meat aesthetically to [her] skeleton.”

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