Earlier this week, designer brand Diesel released this poster ad:
Responses to the ad have been largely negative.
Many have shared the sentiment that the image is insensitive to Muslim women.
In an article for MTV Desi, Shruti Parekh lampoons the ad as a case of cultural appropriation gone awry:
On the most basic level, the ad appropriates the burqa and puts it on a white woman in a socio-political context rife with Islamophobia and attacks on the Muslim world... And Muslim women who wear the burqa in the West have had to deal with everything from discriminatory banning laws in Europe to racist slurs and hate crimes. Meanwhile, this white woman who wears her Diesel burqa bears none of the hate or loaded connotations that Muslim women bear on the regular... This level of cultural appropriation is more than a disrespectful "borrowing of culture," it is a nasty flaunting of privilege.
She goes on to argue that, if created and released in drastically different context, this ad might be less offensive and even "empowering."
This image would mean something drastically different if it was created by Muslim women, and if the woman was actually a Muslim model in the context of a fundamentalist Islamic regime. It might be radical, bold, and subversive. It might actually be an empowered assertion of women's sexuality.
But context is everything, and in the context of a white woman in a Diesel ad created by Americans, the meaning and symbolism twists inside out and is deeply disrespectful.
Sana Saeed, a senior editor at Islawmix, is similarly disappointed.
The ad was designed by Nicola Formichetti, who was Lady Gaga's stylist until Diesel hired him to be their artistic director this past April.
In this blogpost, fashion blogger AntwerpSex compares the ad to other instances of problematic cultural referencing:
This kind of cultural appropriation is disgusting. It wasn't okay in the second Sex and the City movie, when the director used the sacred niqab as a cheap form of humour and entertainment. It wasn't okay when Lady Gaga sang "Burqa", which consequently gave rise to "burqa swag" on Twitter and reduced the significance of this garment down to a fashion trend. And it sure as hell isn't okay for Nicola Formichetti to use it in such a sexualised manner to further his own design career.
It has always baffled me why the burka, niqab, or either veils are depicted as symbols of oppressive patriarchy in mainstream media, but when they are taken out of their religious context and appropriated like this they suddenly become "creative", "bold", and "edgy".