An international conference at the University of York will examine the media’s portrayal of Arab women and their sexuality.
The Arab Women, Media and Sexuality Conference, organised by the University’s Centre for Women’s Studies, has attracted around 60 delegates from countries including Kuwait, Lebanon, France, Canada, Finland, Turkey and Northern Ireland.
The role of women in the Arab world and their representation in the media are traditionally culturally sensitive issues, but the debate in recent years has moved towards new portrayals of Arab women, in particular their sexuality and empowerment.
Held at the Berrick Saul Building on Saturday, 26 May, the conference will focus on the interdisciplinary study of sexuality, media and gender from an Arab perspective and aims to encourage debate, research and networking in these fields.
Speakers will include activists, postgraduate students, early career researchers, as well as more established scholars. The conference programme is designed to cover several major themes: representations in different locations (cultural products, East-West), veiling and unveiling, and resistance and empowerment through the use of media.
The conference, which is now fully booked, has been organised by Ebtihal Mahadeen and Rachel Thwaites, postgraduate researchers in the Centre for Women’s Studies.
Ebtihal Mahadeen said: “The conference comes at a time when the Arab world is witnessing political uprisings where women are very active and visible. The media’s role in promoting certain images of Arab women, before and during the so-called Arab Spring, cannot be underestimated.
“Despite the relevance of this theme, events dedicated to discussing Arab women’s representation and their sexuality in the media are rare. We were overwhelmed by the response to our call for papers, and it’s fantastic to know that this important topic is being researched across the world by scholars and practitioners from different disciplines.”
Rachel Thwaites said: “We’re so excited that the conference has brought together people from all over the world to discuss this important subject: this should mean a day full of lively debate and the beginning of a long-lasting network.”
The conference will be chaired by York academic Dr Ann Kaloski-Naylor, from the Centre for Women’s Studies, who has also co-organised the event.
Dr Kaloski-Naylor said: “This conference is a superb example of York students’ engagement with vital contemporary issues. After a year of media focus on the role of women in the Arab Spring the time is ripe for a more scholarly eye on the media itself, and this event offers just that, from many different national perspectives.”