‘The Other Woman’ is a critique of Western Orientalist representations of on Arab Women. Through this visual essay, I explore the ways digital media is able to provide Arab women with a platform to represent their lives the way they live, rather than through the Orientalist lens of the West. I briefly discuss the history and context that surrounds the representation of Arab women as the oppressed ‘other’, while drawing on case studies to showcase the ways Arab women can utilise digital media to have a voice.
After much deliberation, I decided to go against my original format (podcast) and present ‘The Other Woman’ through video. I researched different formats for exploring the subject area of my project and determined that by creating a visual narrative, I would be able to present my findings in a way that is more interesting for an audience. As one of my case studies was purely visual (the webcomic), it also made more sense to create a video and share my findings visually.
As my project required a lot of information, I was concerned there may be too much text, which could risk losing the audience’s interest. I decided to break up the text with different images and videos, while also choosing a sound piece to complement my narrative. I was very careful to be sensitive with the content I used to portray my research, bearing in mind that certain images could still come across as Orientalist to the viewer. To combat this, I decided to mainly use images from my case studies, which I was then able to add context to, removing the stigma of these women as the ‘oppressed other’ and highlighting their experience as Arab women who actively challenge both their culture and Orientalism.
I wanted to use Arabic music that didn’t risk sounding overtly orientalist, so I researched female Arabic musicians and discovered a Lebanese band, Soap Kills, who are an electric-pop duo that sing in Arabic. I sampled two of their songs throughout my video, which I felt worked to create and support the pace and tone of my project. Though I was dealing with a dense and sensitive subject, I didn’t want the tone of the project to be upsetting or confrontational, as I felt this would be redundant to a Western audience. Instead, I chose to highlight that Arab women are more diverse and varied than the West’s projection, creating a more upbeat tone.
The strength to creating a video is the ability to combine sound, footage, images and text. This keeps the content fresh and interesting, and it also forces the full attention of the audience. Through video, I was able to bring Deena Mohamed’s web comic to life and to also show Amy Roko’s videos and tweets. Through creating a video, I was able to have complete control over how the audience experiences my research by editing the music, images, text and footage to play in the format I choose. This allowed me to control what I wanted my audience to experience and how they experienced my findings.
A limitation to using a video is that it is very visual based and I needed to include text to make my argument. I tried to simplify my text to allow for its placement in a visual format, which may have limited my information and may also be hard for the audience to soak up in a video format. To amend this, as stated earlier, I made sure to include images and footage to keep the overall content interesting.
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