Emphas.is Project Challenges Stereotypes About Arab Men

The Trayvon Martin case has put the problem of racial profiling into the spotlight again.  Black males are generally portrayed in Western media as criminal, due largely to clothing perceived to be associated with “urban culture” like hoodies.  Just like black males, Arab (and some South Asian) males with beards and turbans are also judged negatively as having associations with terrorism, especially since the September 11 attacks.

Iraqi photojournalist Tamara Abdul Hadi has taken on the challenge to break this terrorist stereotype.  She created Picture an Arab Man, a photo slide show that really takes a look at the unexplored viewpoints of stereotypes in general.

The slide show uses Emphas.is, an online platform that allows photojournalists to submit projects for crowdfunding by viewers.  Crowdfunding is the hot thing to do in the business world these days, especially among tech entrepreneurs who are looking at nontraditional ways to fund their projects.  President Barack Obama recently signed the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act into law, which makes it easier for start-ups to raise money.  There are a growing number of crowdfunding platforms for creative professionals, including Emphas.is, which is the first such platform designed for photojournalists.

Abdul Hadi started her project in 2009 to collect photos of Arab men for an upcoming book.  She turned to Emphas.is for crowdfunding when she was ready to publish her work.  In an interview with IJNet, She said that there was not a more important time than now to get her work out.

Arab men have been stereotyped in Western media for a very long time through films, literature, theater etc.  They are branded as hyper-masculine, violent and dangerous. The word “terrorist” is used a lot, especially in Western media…  Arab women are definitely also misrepresented in Western media, but in a very different way than Arab men. While men are seen as oppressive and violent, women are seen as oppressed and powerless. There is a big disconnect when it comes to media representation. I decided to tackle the subject of Arab men first.

The men in her photos are from many countries throughout the Arab world.  She said her subjects are shot semi nude “because my portraits focus mainly on the face and having no distinguishing clothing/jewelry and accessories helps keep the focus on that.”  Much of the online buzz for this project is really promising, and it looks like Abdul Hadi is both on her way to raising her money, as well as raising awareness.

“I strive to do what I can to redefine the image of the Arab man for an audience so accustomed to one-dimensional stereotypes,” Abdul Hadi said.  “Most importantly, I hope to properly represent my subjects as diverse and candid men whose only thing in common is their rich Middle Eastern heritage.”

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