Written by Meriam Meraay.
Freeform’s new feminist show “The Bold Type” has got me glued to my television! I love the badass and real characters on the show. I have to admit that at first, I was a bit skeptical — would this be one of those shows that just claims being feminist but that actually isn’t? As an answer to my question, only a couple minutes into the episode we are introduced to Adena, played by Nikohl Boosheri, a Muslim Iranian artist/photographer who also happens to be a lesbian. Talk about a bold type!
This show hit off its premiere by introducing a queer Muslim woman as a secondary character that continues to have a lot of influence in the show. Considering that most media rarely ever depict queer Muslim women in a positive light, if even at all, I would say that “The Bold Type” is making strides for queer, Muslim, female representation on TV.
I have to admit that at first, I was a bit skeptical – would this be one of those shows that just claims being feminist but that actually isn’t?
Adena is a powerful character. She is strong-willed and thoughtful, creative and successful. She is a character that is rooted in her true identity, one that cannot be explained without mentioning her faith and sexuality. They go hand-in-hand to make up the confident character we see on screen.
When Kat asks Adena why she wears the hijab, Adena replies calmly and collectedly, “It does not oppress me but liberates me from society’s expectations of what a woman should look like.” Yes, Adena! Here’s a character that is loud and proud of her identity. She takes on questions with strength and certainty.
She is shown as a professional photographer whose art gives women a voice. Yet, in the next scene, she is jokingly packing sex toys to smuggle overseas as contraband. Adena is a real person, not just a stereotypical oppressed Muslim woman that mainstream media tend to capitalize off of. Adena has a silly side, a serious side, and a soulful side.
Considering that most media rarely ever depict queer Muslim women in a positive light, if even at all, I would say that “The Bold Type” is making strides for queer, Muslim, female representation on TV.
By having Adena’s character remain a vital part of the show’s plotline and being continually influential on Kat’s character, “The Bold Type” transcends the usual representation in media and explores the character’s experiences wholeheartedly to get their viewers to understand queer Muslim women better.
In episode four, “If You Can’t Do It With Feeling,” Adena is verbally attacked by a xenophobic stranger when she is shown speaking on the phone with her mother in Persian, Adena and Boosheri’s native tongue. The situation escalates when the stranger pushes Adena and spews Islamophobic comments. This raw scene portrays the struggles that Muslim women and foreigners face on a daily basis. underlining the fact that “The Bold Type” isn’t a show that tries to sugar-coat social issues, but rather, highlights them.
Adena is a real person, not just a stereotypical oppressed Muslim woman that mainstream media tend to capitalize off of.
While Kat’s character makes the obvious assumptions about Adena’s actions she is given the chance to explain herself and she does so in the most unapologetic way. This episode takes the audience through the experience of what being a visible Muslim woman in America is like. It shows that Muslim women, like Adena, are strong as hell and must make choices to protect themselves above all else. Adena shows us that you never have to apologize for doing what is best for yourself even if others don’t understand.
Adena is the reason why I was so impressed with this show right off the bat — as a Muslim girl growing up with little to no positive representation of herself, Adena is the best thing that’s ever happened to me in the media.
Adena could be heroic by addressing and objecting to the suffering that fellow gays and lesbians face in Iran. (The writers could write that very real and horrific issue in an episode).
Gay Iranians are often forced to undergo gender reassignment surgery (even if they don’t feel transgender) – often to be rejected by their families who at times threaten “honor killing.” It is illegal to be gay in Iran (as in many Islamic countries) – punishable by death.
Too sadly, in Iran, where this character hails from, former president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said (at an ivy school in the US – no less), “In Iran we don’t have homosexuals like in your country.” The sentiment hasn’t changed.
“It does not oppress me but liberates me from society’s expectations of what a woman should look like.”
I wonder if she would still think that way if she lived in Iran where not only does society have an expectation that she wear her hijab, she would be punished for not wearing one (let alone if her sexuality were discovered).
Doing the opposite of what one thinks society wants is a rebellion, not liberation – liberation is doing something because it feels right and frees oneself. Being an American, she is entitled to be liberal, rebellious, conservative, gay, wear a hijab, not wear one, whatever.
Whatever – it is a show. She is a beautiful character (so I see from this OP). I just get irritated when I see people (especially fictional characters) cling to symbols that really are used to oppress people, in this case, women, globally, especially in Iran (and Saudi Arabia, and Afghanistan, etc), while getting snippity at liberated women who see the symbol for what it is elsewhere. But, if the oppressive tool of some is the tool of empowerment for others, more power to them (and maybe one day to the other’s too).
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