Last night's episode of The Price Of Beauty focused on Morocco, and Jessica found herself being criticized for showing off her legs.
First Jessica, CaCee and Ken met their Moroccan beauty ambassador, a singer named Khansa Batma. In photographs, Khansa was wearing non-traditional, Western clothing— like many people in Morocco — and yet when she met with Jess and her friends, Khansa wore a djellaba. The show tries to celebrate the culture of each country, but sometimes it feels like exoticism, emphasizing how "different" the non-American women are.
Khansa took Jess, CaCee and Ken shopping for djellabas and caftans, and Jessica said: "The essence of the Moroccan beauty that mystery — what's under the veil, what's behind the hidden door." UGH.
Perhaps it's naive of me to believe that this show would attempt to present a non-stereotypical view of veiled women. Still: The "vixen behind the veil" and the "exotic hottie" is such a dated, problematic way of looking at women who cover their bodies for religious or traditional reasons. Back when I wrote about a lingerie commercial in which a sexy woman puts on lacy undies and then throws a burqa over herself as she heads out, one commenter made an excellent point, which stood out in my mind and seems applicable here:
Orientalism in art is most closely associated French painters of the 18th century, which was just a colonization of the Arab world was expanding. In Orientalist paintings (see Ingres, "The Turkish Bath" or Delacroix "Women of Algiers"), women are often hypersexualized. This "heathen society" supported imperialism for moral reasons.
I have to wonder, give westerners history of sexualizing "foreign" women... is this just a continuation of Orientalist thought? What does this say about the West's need to "liberate" the Muslim world?
It's as though Jessica can't comprehend the thought that covering everything but the eyes could be oppressive, religious, neutering, misogynistic or just a tradition — she has to make it "sexy."
Anwyay. After shopping for outfits, the group headed to the night market to get "a taste of Moroccan culture and find out some beauty secrets." What actually happened was that Jessica had a monkey sit on her head and then Jess and CaCee gagged as they tried to eat sheep brains.
The good news is that Jessica and CaCee "loved" the veil after wearing it for a couple of hours.
The drama of the episode occurred when Jessica & Co. met some women who wear the veil, and one woman, Layla, who does not wear the veil — but thought that what Jessica wore to come see them was "inappropriate."
On the one hand, Jessica standing up for herself was admirable. On the other hand, I think it's important to be respectful when you're experiencing other countries and cultures. I've been to Morocco, and since so many Western tourists visit, you will see people wearing shorts and tank tops. But shorts and uncovered shoulders are not allowed in mosques, and I'd think that if you were going to someone's home, or to a meeting with conservative women, it would seem obvious to wear something with a little more coverage.
Jessica's shorts were really pretty short. But since Ken and CaCee were both covered, I suspect the whole "you are inappropriate" bit was a set-up by producers. Also, Layla and Jessica hugged and made up later in the episode.
Then Jessica learned the tea tray dance; what it had to do with the price of beauty, she didn't say.
Still, Cacee and Jessica learned lessons from Morocco: Sexy isn't just about boobs and butt! Imagine that! "The heart of a woman" makes her beautiful! Next week: Japan. And yes, Jessica dresses up like a geisha.
Earlier: Price Of Beauty: Jessica Visits Ugandan "Fattening Hut"
Price Of Beauty: Jessica Says India's People Are "Comfortably Beautiful"
Price Of Beauty: Jessica Meets An Anorexic Model
The Ugly American: Jessica Simpson's The Price Of Beauty (Thailand)