Strategic stickers!


This type of censorship is very common in the Middle East. Bare limbs of women and photos of piglets are promptly made halal with a black marker or sticker.  Earlier the same cereal box was painstakingly plastered with a shapeless sticker of red overcoat/abaya stuck on the woman’s body that was otherwise in a bathing suit. I should point out that this packaging is already tailor-made for the ME. The same cereal box in the UK has a woman in a bikini.

I never made much of it until my seven year old son pointed out this morning that some parts of her body were missing (!), but instead of trying to remove the stickers, he brought in her coloured markers set and began to give her limbs over the stickers!

What do you think as a Muslim woman – do you think this kind of bowdlerization in the technologically advanced 21st Century is good/healthy or silly/unnecessary? What type of signals does it give to children, do you think?



16 thoughts on “Strategic stickers!

  1. Coolred38 says:

    I’ve always wanted to be a fly on the wall in the censoring room…or whatever it is. To watch how the oh so religious and pious men (of course men have the job of covering near naked women’s bodies) browse a magazine or whatnot and decide something needs a sticker…to see whether they stare a good long while before reluctantly fixing the sticker…or whether they immediately close their eyes and do the “tail on the donkey” poke and jab and hope they hit the target (to keep their eyes from sin)?

    I think way too little is left up to Saudi’s to decide for themselves about the choices they have…to look or not to look. It puts that whole “lower your gaze” order mute and pointless…lower it from what? There is nothing left and no temptations…generally speaking.

    Saudi’s are treated like children…and they are meant to raise their own children? How?

  2. sf says:

    It’s just too funny to think who would ever like to spend time *halalizing?* a picture (well, I guess someone needs a job), but shouldn’t it been done by women incase a man gets *tempted*??
    I think the covering up of pictures or drawing on them actually draws more attention than when they are just left alone. It’s just normal stuff that wouldn’t harm the public. Btw, I find that all this actually makes it more *tempting* to find out what’s covered and why?? Well, my opinion…..

  3. Sophia says:

    Do pictures of men get censored too? And if not, why not? I actually DO like the idea of modesty and feel that women’s bodies are exploited by western media. However, hiding women’s bodies sends the message that their is something shameful about them, in my opinion. How is a little girl going to feel about her own body if the women’s body she’s to inherit is something society says must be hidden, even from her?

  4. Woodturtle says:

    Well you’ll rarely (if ever) find an Arab actress/model in most of the Middle East being censored — but that’s primarily because they’ll be “appropriately attired” on cereal boxes, pantyhose, CD covers, and in print media. It’s mostly “western” women who get the censorship treatment. Which just goes toward helping perpetuate the stereotype that western women (and thereby Muslim women getting higher education in the west) are promiscuous and immodest.

    I was surprised to see how much the billboard advertising has changed in Kuwait over the past 5 years. This summer H&M, American Apparel and other popular stores dominated the ring roads. While all of the models were non-Arab, they were all modestly dressed (as compared to a normal, underwear only, AA ad in the US). There’s a vast market in the ME that western companies already cater to according to cultural standards, so I’m a little surprised that the bathing suit on a box was tailored for the ME.

    What gets me is the blacking out of arms and legs in the newspapers when they print pictures of the Milan or Paris runways. Why have a public fashion section if you’re going to mark it up anyway?

    Again, even this is censorship of predominantly western women.

    In some way I think it also perpetuates a culture of shame. Just like in the west, we shame peoples’ bodies by removing their heads (for example, anytime the media showcases info on the “obesity epidemic” they show pictures of fat people without heads. Why? Because they should be ashamed of their bodies? Because it’s taboo and unliked to be fat? Why emphasize anominity unless you want to shame the person? Which is precicely why they do it) or by airbrushing people into oblivion.

    Absent body parts = shameful bodies.

    It’s quite adorable that your son thought enough to draw in the missing pieces.
    (sorry for rambling on here!)

  5. Sumera says:

    If the pictures bother them so much, why do they still have it up but put up stickers on the “offending bits”? Why not make their own ads OR take the photo off altogether! It’ll look less ridiculous

    • susanne430 says:

      Yes, this could be a thriving business in the Middle East. Have covered women in advertising instead of having to import pictures of the shamefully-dressed western whores. Then again the Beloved and Pious Censorers would miss out on a lot of fun such as Coolred alluded to. 🙂

      It seems these people treat everyone as children unable to do the right thing on their own.

      And what’s wrong with pigs? You can’t eat them, but that doesn’t mean they are abominations. They are God’s creation! Jews can’t eat camels, lobsters, catfish, eagles, owls and much more. I wonder if they color over pictures of every one of these ‘unclean’ things like Muslims do pigs?

  6. Lat says:

    Agree with Sumera.Why even bother? Do you they even know what they are doing? The Ad companies who venture into the ME should act responsibly and not undemine the dignity of their own women.

    I’ve read about such instances in Malaysia too esp the states where the Islamic party controls.It was very sweet of your son to draw her hidden limbs so she can be made whole again.

  7. Serenity says:

    I’m giggling.

    So, why do they have a woman on the box at all? Perhaps having a man would be a better option, no? Or, or, or how about having a woman in full burqa or something?

  8. Metis says:

    This cereal is imported complete with the packaging, but although it is imported from the UK this particular photo is already modified to be distributed in the Gulf because the one in the UK has a woman in a bikini. I can understand that modesty is required/important and there are times when I have had to close my children’s eyes suddenly or move them away (especially in Paris!) but there are photos like this one that benign.

  9. Coolred38 says:

    I cant see well enough to read that slanted arabic covering her waist…but just taking a guess..does it say something like…dont you wish you could see what was under here??? Well you cant because the gates of Hell are located in this exact spot…and it is our Muslim duty to protect your honest souls from Hell…so eat your damn ceral with your eyes shut if you please.

  10. Jehanzeb says:

    Wow, I’m sure this will really prevent men from having any sexual thoughts! What a brilliant strategy! 😛 I defintely agree with other readers that this sends an awful message about women’s bodies. I think it also reinforces the stereotype that men always have sex on their minds and cannot possibly control themselves around women. That is, they’re innately sexual predators. It services patriarchy because men can use this kind of sexism to control women, how they dress, how they act, etc. A woman shouldn’t dress like the woman in the picture because she will be sexually desired by every man who looks at her! It’s like how sexually promiscuous can get away with saying, “I can’t help myself, I’m a guy!”

    It’s interesting because I noticed something similar when I critiqued Middle Eastern comic book characters published in AK comics (an Egyptian-based comics company). Two of the female characters, Jalila and Aya, were objectified in the exact same manner as American comic book superheroines like Wonder Woman and Supergirl: thin waist, large breasts, and seductively posing for their targeted heterosexual male audience. Some of the comics (and promotional images) of these two characters were censored by coloring in areas that revealed too much skin. For instance, Jalila’s exposed abs were colored in blue to match her costume, making it look like she was wearing an undershirt and not a midriff costume! Apparently, that made the characters look less like sex objects!

    • Metis says:

      Your comment reminded me of that scene from Borat where Borat stands in front of a lingerie store staring at the mannequins on display masturbating on the street 😀 That is what happens when men have never seen women’s bodies at all!

  11. Serenity says:

    Sometimes I wonder why those in power don’t know how to think. I mean, seriously? Do you have to be a genius to point out, “Well, we might as well use a woman in a burqa, or no woman at all, or a man, or no human at all”?

    But, hey, that lady is still thin enough to make me go oh-oh-ohhhh!!!

  12. Sara says:

    Coolred said: “Saudi’s are treated like children…and they are meant to raise their own children? How?”

    It’s true that they are treated that way by religious authorities but at the same time it’s a strategy that has completely failed. Saudi society is full of sex, flirting, dating, and other such things. My Saudi best friend said that it is now normal for Saudi teenage girls to have multiple boyfriends. So I highly doubt the censoring of women’s body parts means anything to Saudis.

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