Accepted paper:

Appropriating the Feminine: A Queer Muslim Fashion Parade


Sharyn Davies (Monash University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper critically engages notions of femininity, showing ways in which trans subjects appropriate feminine Muslim ideals. The ethnographic example used is of a male transgender fashion parade in Indonesia, where contestants had been on the hajj to Mecca and wore feminine Muslim attire.

Paper long abstract:

The increasing popularity of Muslim attire is evident in numerous cross-cultural contexts. For instance, there is now an 'Islamic Barbie' named Razanne who comes complete with a variety of outfits suited to the numerous activities she undertakes. In Indonesia, the popularity of Muslim attire (busana Muslima) is seen in the growing number of women adopting the veil and other Islamic accoutrements. An interesting proliferation in the adoption of busana Muslimah is also occurring in the male transgender (waria) community. A striking example of this proliferation is evident at public events such as fashion parades and beauty contests. The departure point for this paper, then, is a waria fashion parade that took place in February 2007. To be eligible to compete, contestants had to have been on the pilgrimage to Mecca and they were required to wear busana Muslima. Unlike other waria fashion parades, which typically celebrate Western 'hyper' femininity (e.g. short skirts, low-cut tops and overt sexiness), this fashion parade rewarded the presentation of a demure, modest and pious self. This paper thus examines processes of appropriation waria undertake in representations of feminine Muslim selves, The paper also explores notions of agency, creativity, and ownership and addresses audience reactions to the parade and claims of inappropriateness and inauthenticity.

panel P14
Appropriating the (in)appropriate: rethinking pageants, contests and the anthropology of emblems