You’d think that when people rebrand they’ll skip sexist and stereotypical notions that are becoming taboo in this day and age, but I suppose not in the Arab world, where we keep insisting on sexist, stereotypical branding of women-related products. The most recent company to do that is Maktoob Group, who re-branded their Maktoob Women section to Helwa, which literally means “pretty”, and the site slogan says ‘be pretty on the inside and the outside (h/t AdBlogArabia).
Meh. Why do we give a woman’s beauty more than its worth? And why are companies giving this notion more strength with their branding? I love the internet because I find it a space for change and reform, and it’s so unfortunate that it is turning into a space that furtherly helps Arab women into Stepford Housewives.
Helwa seems to concentrate a lot on cooking, which is perfectly fine and quite expected as it is sponsered by Nestle. They have other sections such as “Life and Health”, “Beauty and Elegance”, “Your Wedding”, and “Your Home and Kitchen”, and they have some sections that sound interesting such as “Women under Lights”, “Women’s Issues”, and “Family and Society”. Browsing through the last three sections mentioned, they are not exactly my cup of tea but they’re not too bad considering. “Women under Light” seems to be mostly on uber-Muslim women from the time of the Prophet Mohammad, and “Family and Society” actually has a few quite interesting-sounding articles on matters such as female circumsision in Sudan, human rights in Tunisia, and sexual abuse of children. I read an article entitled “The Success of Women”, which wasn’t bad at all at first, but then they ended it with the following, “The successful wife needs to be smart in the treatment of her husband. She needs to show him her need of him and always ask for his opinion, and she needs to always make him feel the importance of his role in her success story. Finally, she also must not be too proud of her success in front of him and always try to make him feel that he is better than her.”
I personally think that that paragraph is offensive to both Arab women and Arab men, the fiirst being encouraged to fool the latter into happiness.
I really have no problem with sites dedicated to cooking and nail-care tips, but it’s just that the overall package is extremely demeaning to women. There is nothing in Helwaa about politics, technology, science, or art, and yet, the site is for “Arab women”, not Arab housewives or something. It’s as if the only things Arab women are interested in are what they’re cooking for lunch tomorrow and how they’re going to wear their hair tonight.
The problem is that such a package sells so well. Does that make it true? Is that all what the majority of Arab women are interested in?