exhibition on Middle East women opens
"So many people think that all women are the same in Middle Eastern lands, they're all oppressed, they are invisible, they have horrible lives," said curator Linda Komaroff. "And it's not true. It's like women everywhere. They have a good deal of agency and they act upon it."
Exhibits come from all over the Middle East and beyond, but include a number from Iran, which has been shaken in recent months after the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, a young woman arrested for allegedly not properly wearing the compulsory veil.
One powerful picture by Iranian photojournalist Newsha Tavakolian shows an Iranian woman in traditional clothes – also wearing a pair of boxing gloves. Another, by Shirin Aliabadi, showcases the irrepressible spirit of a younger generation, depicting a woman whose blonde wig pokes out from under her scarf as she blows a bubble with gum.
The exhibition comes as the United States has been thrown into tumult over the issue of abortion, after the U.S. Supreme Court last year struck down the constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy. On Friday the court waded into the legal battle over abortion drug mifepristone, after a Texan judge issued a ruling that would ban this widely used medication.
Komaroff said the ongoing fight over abortion rights in the United States meant this was a timely exhibition. "Things are kind of going downhill for women in America in terms of our own control over our own bodies," she said. "American women have been complacent. It's easy for them to look to another country or another region and say, 'We're better off than they are.' But maybe we're not. Maybe we're all in the same boat together."