I am Aliaa El Mahdy: Ingrid
Ingrid van Schijndel
This photo is copyrighted and may not be reproduced in any form or used in any way.
Attending university in the nineties, my professors, mostly women that had their coming of age in the seventies, saturated us, female students, with this mantra: All politics are personal, but moreover the Personal is Political.
As I was happily discovering notions of post-structuralism and deconstructing symbolic orders, the body surfaced as a meaningful notion. A body has a colour, gender, sexual preferences and is born in a religious and cultural context.
My body turned out to be a map: a luminous landscape, marked by that dog bite of the mean shepherd dog when I was eleven. A landscape that was white. I was fifteen when I when I first discovered that being white was different from being black, brown or yellow: my black girlfriend was arrested after we had stolen a record. The officer let me walk free with a warning, because he understood that I was under “bad influence”.
My body got lean in ballet-classes, and I loved it. However, my body was too short for the corps-de-ballet and so for the first time it got rejected for what it was and I hated it. It was my first encounter with the rigid uniformity of beauty ideals and cultural codes.
My body could explore and venture the world relatively free, though. It became a site of pleasure as it melted with bodies of several lovers of various colour and gender. I wear the memories of those experiences like the ink of a tattoo under my skin.
Life as such marked my body and made it very specific: particular and mine. As my body evolved, it gradually rejected the rigid beauty ideals. Beauty ideals (with a vast industry lobby behind them) that I feel are becoming more and more of a demanding uniform for younger Western women.
In the nineties I had the pleasure of attending a lecture by the Egyptian doctor, author and feminist Nawal El Saadawi as part of my academic curriculum. She stated that Western women – who were worrying about veils and female mutilation in the name of Islam – were just as mutilated, or worse.
She explained that in the West the notion of female bodies having to fit the prevailing image of being sexy/attractive/beautiful was internalized censorship. She noted that the mutilation of the Western woman had taken place on a psychological level.
These notions have been stored inside me, but during my own coming of age they seemed less urgent, as I had walked my own way to liberation. However, when I look at the nude photo of Aliaa El Mahdy and what it provokes in terms of politics, I realise that this personal body of mine will always be a major player in the field of power relations; that it will remain a political landscape.
It is still white, brown, black, or yellow and belongs to the corresponding scale of power assigned to these categories. It still belongs to the beauty-industry. It belongs to the Freudian concept of hysteria (and society’s fear of it). It belongs to evolutionary theories that deem it unfit to do anything else but breed. It belongs to the family honour or to Allah.
It is: Feminine. It is: my body.
The nude photo of Aliaa El Mahdy and the personal repercussions she faces by posting it on the Internet, made me once again realise that we need new coalitions claiming autonomy for women. Just as our predecessors did when then they fought for their right to study and vote. No different from women in the seventies, claiming their right to self-determination.
So here’s the feminism 3.1 version. Digital and pixelated we send out: Female Bodies As They Are. Ours and only ours to post.
Follow Ingrid on Twitter. This is the second of, hopefully, many endorsements of Aliaa Elmahdy, the Egyptian woman who risks the death penalty by showing the world her naked body. This website calls on all the women of the world to shed their clothes in solidarity with Aliaa and all those women who are not allowed control over their own bodies. Please send your statement plus nude photo to Frontaal Naakt.
op 10 12 2011 at 16:56 schreef MNb:
Bij deze ken ik, Nederlandse man woonachtig in Suriname, aan alle vrouwen alle autonomie over hun lichaam toe die ze willen hebben (en meer voor zover ze die niet willen hebben).
op 10 12 2011 at 22:31 schreef Thomas E:
Pas op, MNb. Dit kan worden opgevat als een male chauvinist pig opmerking. Je moet immers superieur zijn om ‘toe te kennen’.
op 11 12 2011 at 17:43 schreef MNb:
Bedenk dan maar een betere formulering. Vind ik ook goed.
op 12 12 2011 at 17:26 schreef sabaroth:
Ze doen maar waar ze zin in hebben, zo dan?
op 12 12 2011 at 21:30 schreef Natasja:
geweldig actie…ik sta er helemaal achter.Alleen heb ik zelf andere expressie vormen.Mocht het tot een doostraf komen wat mij niet lijkt .Dan wil me wel open stellen voor deze manier van actie voeren.Voor nu geweldig wat mensen doen om haar te steunen.En leuke site ook :-))))
op 12 12 2011 at 22:14 schreef Thomas E:
“Life as such marked my body and made it very specific: particular and mine. As my body evolved, it gradually rejected the rigid beauty ideals.”
For that very same reason women don’t seem to be eager to show their bodies publicly. Even if it serves a good cause. Vanity beats idealism. The Dutch magazine Viva only manages to find nude models for its rubric ‘Anybody’ because they are published faceless (or headless rather).