Earlier this year, a Lebanese native and Montreal resident, Celine Semaan, group texted her Arab friends with a suggestion: why not share pictures of themselves and hashtag it #arabgirlmagic?
Semaan was inspired by #blackgirlmagic, a hashtag created by CaShawn Thompson back in 2013 when she started selling T-shirts emblazoned with the phrase. Semaan, who had been plagued by racism growing up for her religion, her culture - even her hair - thought; why not empower Arab women and celebrate their uniqueness? After all, in this digital age, a hashtag equates to a movement.
From @celinecelines “Today we start a new kind of celebration #arabgirlmagic to celebrate the Arab beauty of our mothers, grandmothers, aunties, friends and ourselves”. My mom @randa_bdeir, with my dad, shortly after her honeymoon establishing that she intends to live her life like a star. And she is one. ❤️
But is #arabgirlmagic a new thing? Think about your Arab ancestors - your mother, aunts and grandmothers. They lived through wars and revolutions, yet they still dressed to the nines, worked hard and managed to have fun, too. They taught us that life goes on, no matter your circumstances. These women are the very embodiment of Arab girl magic. We just put a hashtag on it.
In Egypt, as in many Western countries, the #1960s were an era of #liberation in art and fashion . In #Cairo, a photographer caught 3 young and trendy Cairenes with their cat eye sunglasses and their clutch bags, strolling down the street à la manière of Sex and the City. Two of them are wearing the full skirt and tight bodice, a style reminiscent of the #1950s dress which continued in the early ’60s. The hemline got shorten and the collar oversized. The young #woman in the middle is wearing a light colored drop waist dress, with a v neck. Kitten heels and flat ballerinas were in #fashion at that time, popularized by Audrey Hepburn. . #arabfashionhistory #fashionhistory #fashionculture #style #fashionstudies #egyptfashion #theindependentcurator #dresshistory #nonwesternfashionhistory #northafrica #girlfriends #vintagefashion #arabgirlmagic
When you look at pictures of Lebanese women during the civil war that went on from 1975 to 1990, you see #arabgirlmagic everywhere. There they were, in the midst of a brutal internal struggle, getting married, going out, taking care of their children – just living the best they could.
Women in Saudi Arabia weren’t allowed to drive, attend or participate in public sporting events, travel, get a job or get married without their guardian’s permission. In the last few months, all that has changed - but it hasn’t been easy. Women are now officially allowed to get behind the wheel, but they need to have a number of driving hours under their belt to be granted a license. And with lessons costing a premium, for some it has become a financial issue rather than a legislative one.
But did that stop Saudi women from banding together and helping each other achieve their dreams? Nope. A hashtag called #مستعده_ادرب (which translates to #I’mReadyToTrainYou) was created by 32-year-old Hanaa Aldhafery, helping connect Saudi women who can drive with those who can’t, so that they could teach them for free. Talk about #arabgirlmagic.
The truth is, the hashtag holds different meanings for different people. For some, it’s a nod to our ancestors who were the trailblazers of their generation, or a way of lending support to women in certain countries. For others, it’s nostalgia for the golden days of Egyptian cinema. It’s solidarity for curly haired girls who were never told their hair was beautiful, or those that had that ‘weird green sandwich’ in their lunchbox - otherwise known (and loved) as falafel or taameya, depending on where in the Arab world you’re from. It’s for every veiled girl that has ever had to explain and justify her beliefs.
But it’s also a celebration of all the women before us who stood up for themselves, all those who stood out like a sore thumb for their choices, and all those who continue to live life on their terms. Like that often-quoted maxim says: Here’s to strong women. May we know them, may we be them, may we raise them.
Photos: Getty Images and Instagram