Gendered Dimensions

A range of scholars have enriched existing discussions on Islamophobia by bringing attention to the gendered dimensions of anti-Muslim bigotry. Stemming from a range of disciplines, these works highlight how Muslim men and women encounter anti-Muslim discrimination uniquely, across particular spaces that distinctly target each gender1 in different ways. Primarily, these perspectives highlight the vulnerability of Muslim women who display racial indicators of “Muslimness,” such as wearing a hijab or burqa in public space, and various public and private institutions. Drawing on the overall vulnerability of women in the public sphere, these perspectives on Muslim women bearing the brunt of Islamophobia in everyday spaces highlight the general propensity for patriarchal structures to control and dictate women’s dress and appearance. On the other hand, Muslim men are noted to experience discrimination within a politicized frame of securitization, anti-terror policies, and the overall criminalization of Arab and Muslim men post-9/11. The forms of discrimination faced by Muslim men documented relate to racial profiling, policing, and border control in spaces such as airports where Muslim men are perceived to be a security threat. The following readings highlight these gendered dimensions of Islamophobia across a range of spaces, and constantly require contributions to expand and enrich these debates.

Annotations

Frequently cited

Naber, Nadine. "Muslim first, Arab second: A strategic politics of race and gender." The Muslim World 95, no. 4 (2005): 479-495.

In this thought-provoking piece, Nadine Naber brings attention to the way in which the racialization of Islam has led to the deployment of a specific identity category, “Muslim First- Arab Second,” among Arab-American Muslims in San Francisco. In doing so, Naber aims to explain why these youths opt for the “Muslim first” identity, and how this identity is both gendered, and feeds into wider politics of race in the US. The “Muslim first, Arab Second” identity refers to the way Muslim youth have prioritized their Muslim identity as a framework to maintain old allegiances with their immigrant communities while simultaneously transforming perceived dominant racialized-gendered regimes of power embedded within their Arab culture. The central analysis in this article is based on the findings of Naber’s interviews with fifteen second-generation Arab-Americans who identified as “Muslim First, Arab Second,” living in the Bay Area from 1999 to 2000. Drawing on this data, the article begins with a discussion of “everyday experiences and identity formation,” followed by an engagement in “intergenerational differences: masculinity, femininity and marriage” among the youth interviewed. Naber then proceeds to explain how opting for “Muslim First” was used to “craft a politics of gender” as well as “design a politics of race” that transcends the culture of their immigrant parents within US multiculturalism. Specific to studies on Islamophobia, Naber highlights the way in which a “Muslim first” identity is constantly conditioned or regulated by a range of factors, particularly the racialization of Islam in the state and corporate media discourses following the Iranian revolution. Other factors included the highly-charged environment of racial and identity politics in San Francisco and the need to navigate cultural dynamics with Arab immigrant parents. Interestingly, the youth interviewed proactively deployed “Muslim first” as a counter discourse to cultural expectations of their parents, through which they felt they could more freely perform a politics of race, gender, and identity. Naber provides early insight into how second-generation Arab-American youths interviewed in the early 2000s prior to 9/11 have grappled with multiple competing and often racist representations of Arabs, Middle Easterners, and Muslims.

Critical Insight

Perry, Barbara. "Gendered Islamophobia: Hate Crime against Muslim Women." Social Identities 20, no. 1 (2014): 74-89.

In this article, global hate crime expert Barbara Perry draws attention to the particular vulnerability of Muslim women to anti-Muslim hate crimes. The article emphasizes the need to understand the multiple subject positions that women occupy with respect to cultural identities and gender. Namely, Perry explores the intersectionality of religion, race, and gender that makes Muslim women so exposed to complex patterns of bias-motivated violence. The article draws on four Western nations—the UK, Australia, Canada, and the US—that reflect this pattern of intersectionality. First, the article outlines the long history of anti-Muslim imaging and racialization, particularly in the media, that have led to the othering of Muslims in Western contexts. Perry then proceeds to provide a broad overview of gendered hate crime and violence against women, which is identified as an area in need of further research. Specific to Muslim women, the article draws on stereotypes and characterizations that inform violence against this cultural group including: sexualized and assailable bodies, women in need of salvation, and Muslim women as terrorists. The article proceeds with a robust discussion of the impacts of gendered Islamophobia on Muslims women’s sense of belonging and how they engage in spaces. This includes rethinking their visibility and altering their performance of gender and religion in accordance with what they recognize is socially acceptable. This article emphasizes the need for public and academic debates to attend to the intersectionalities of these forms of violence and consider not just gender, but sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, class, and other crucial identities that may shape the risk of violence.

Recent Perspectives

Budhwani, Henna, and Kristine R. Hearld. "Muslim women's experiences with stigma, abuse, and depression: results of a sample study conducted in the United States." Journal of Women's Health, 26, no. 5 (2017): 435-441.

Associate Professor Henna Budhwani and Assistant Professor Kristine Hearld from the University of Alabama provide important insight into the detrimental effects of racism, discrimination, and stigma on the mental health of Muslim women living in the US. In doing so, they explore the associations between internalized stigma, exposure to violence, experience with sexual abuse, and depression in Muslim women. The article begins with an overview of stigma, as well as the connection between mental health, minority stress, low socioeconomic status, and abuse. It then provides a conceptual background on existing, yet limited empirical and demographic studies on Muslim mental health in America. The focus on Muslim women in this article is thus based on the premise that Muslim women are particularly vulnerable to depression due to heightened experiences of religious discrimination and internalized stigma in the United States. The article analyzes data collected online in late 2015 from 373 women who self-identified as Muslim, were at least eighteen years old, and residents of the United States. The authors found statistically significant associations between depression and exposure to sexual and physical abuse. Most notably, there was a connection between depression and internalized stigma, which was measured through heightened vigilance. For example, the American Muslim women surveyed in the study reported routinely bracing themselves for insults, avoiding certain social situations or places, monitoring their physical appearance, and censoring what they say or how they say it. This article provides valuable insight on the negative impacts of Islamophobia on mental health, as well as the possible implications of internalized stigma on how Muslim women interact with or access the healthcare system.

Reading list

  • 1. This publication adopts this binary gender definition of male/female to document the specific dimensions to Islamophobia that operate within this perceived gender binary. We acknowledge the fluidity and various definitions of gender and wish to encourage research that accounts for individuals that identify outside of this gender binary.