|This piece reviews the juxtaposition between fashionably stripped and forcibly stripped Palestinian men in "Chic Point: Fashion for Israeli Checkpoints"(2003). Aside from evaluating the mental effects of this and debunking the "terrorist" (demonizing) stereotype, this section also acknowledges the use of military force in relation to masculinity, gender, and the illegal occupation of Palestine.|
“Check Me Out” Queer Encounters in Sharif Waked’s Chic Point: Fashion for Israeli Checkpoints: Gil Z. Hochberg
“In short, masculinity, or rather its “crisis,” is most commonly situated at the heart of the Palestinian national tragedy, just as the “recovery” of Jewish masculinity is an essential trope of narratives accounting for Jewish revival and national redemption. In both cases, the national collective is centered on a fear of demasculinization, itself prefigured in misogynistic perceptions of effeminacy and homosexuality, whether this narrative takes a triumphant redemptive form or a melancholic scrutinized form. While this threat of effeminization directly and openly shapes the racist and homophobic nature of dominant Israeli militarized masculinity, it appears too dangerous for the less stable Palestinian national project and liberation movement to be articulated in such explicit terms.”
By covering multiple points regarding the Palestinian/israeli conflict, occupation, feminism, masculinity, cultural barriers, use of military force, and an accurate presentation of what it’s like crossing checkpoints in Palestine, this piece has easily become one of my favorite and most informative readings. Unlike any other reading about the Palestinian movement I have read, this article introduced me to a new form of resisting (in my opinion). Gil Z. Hochberg starts by describing the traumatizing and dehumanizing methods used at checkpoints in Palestine by israeli soldiers and somehow manages to impressively correlate these actions to masculinity, military oppression, sexuality, “queerness”, and theater.
The article analyzes the impact of Sharif Waked’s seven-minute film, Chic Point: Fashion for Israeli Checkpoints (2003) which emphasizes and distinctly juxtaposes the intrusive and violent practices of israeli control over the Palestinian body at checkpoints through the use of body searches and forced stripping. This film includes two main sections. The first section is a colorful fashion show, which introduces “the latest in checkpoint fashion.”. In this section, young men appear on the screen, walking down the catwalk to the sound of electronic club music as they model playful clothes. Almost mockingly, these clothes are equipped with numerous zippers, openings, and holes designed to ensure body exposure for quick undressing at checkpoints for the israeli soldiers. This, however, takes an extremely sharp turn as the second half of the film is presented. In the second half, a series of black-and-white documentary-like photographs, taken at various Israeli checkpoints during the early years of the second Intifada are presented. These hostile, explicit, and disturbing images capture the reality of harassment experienced by Palestinian men (and to a lesser extent, women) at Israeli checkpoints, where the practice of body searches and stripping have long been a daily routine.
By juxtaposing the two extremely similar but different images, the film brings together the imaginary and the real, subtly blurring the distinctions between the two, only to later boldly reveal to the audience the not-so-blurry-after all reality of the matter.
I thought it was especially fascinating that outside of just juxtaposing the two situations, the author also successfully related the forced nudity of Palestinian men to topics such as:
Politics, National Security and reproduction of the “terrorist stereotype:
“ justification provided by Israeli officials for its army’s use of forced stripping and full-body searches is commonly described as a matter of “exceptional national security” requiring “exceptional military measures.” According to this logic, Palestinians— or rather, Palestinian bodies— present an imminent national threat and must, therefore, be placed under strict surveillance and close regulation. If the body searches and stripping practices are represented as a necessary measure to protect Israeli citizens against the threat of Palestinian terrorists, however, these practices undoubtedly also function as a way to produce the Palestinian body both as a symbol of imminent danger (“the terrorist”) and as the object of complete subjugation lacking any political agency (“the occupied”). (Page 578)
Gender, Masculinity, the establishment of dominance
“The images captured in the archival photographs expose a pathetic dissymmetry between the allegedly dangerous suspect or terrorist, and the allegedly protecting soldier. The argument about “necessary security measures” loses its credibility as we are confronted with images of naked, unarmed individual men facing large groups of uniformed soldiers armed with guns and massive tanks. If this show of force is not really about necessary security measures, then what is it about? Providing an explicitly gendered account of the spectacle of the checkpoint by creating an all-male fashion show and further strictly limiting the selection of archival photos to images of men, Chic Point compels us to answer this question through a gendered lens” (Page 579)
Enhancement of sexuality, desirability, and seduction
“Bringing matters of masculinity, sexuality, desirability, seduction, and voyeurism directly to bear on notions of national security, terror, and state surveillance, Chic Point openly interrogates the conflation of nationalism and masculinity, as it further draws attention to its reliance on heteronormative (not to say heterosexist) perceptions of “the masculine.” The film’s critical impact relies heavily on its effective mobilization of queer desire as a way to make “the invisible” visible, calling attention to the central role of homoeroticism— its enactment, repression, displacement, and redirection— in both sustaining and potentially transgressing the national or racial borders engraved by the toxic Israeli occupation and played out as stripping rituals at the checkpoints.” (Page 581)
Although I can go on for many more pages providing examples and analyzing the topics and subcategories the author provides us with, I think the main point the author challenges is the justification of forced nudity as a measure of “national security” by israeli officials. This forced nudity is a clear form of dehumanizing, demasculinizing, sexualizing, and exposing Palestinian men. “The film emphasizes the sexualization of the suspected terrorist, or more precisely, the manner by which he is sexualized as he is identified (indeed as a condition for this identification), it then defuses the common homophobic projection of queerness onto the terrorist by emphasizing instead the sexually charged quality of the soldier's’ gaze. The visible homosexual overtones mark in this case not the “crisis of masculinity” or the dreaded effeminacy or “queerness” of the terrorist but his desirability, which functions in the film as a source of empowerment: a lead for self-fashioning, exhibited most explicitly by the model's’ behavior, and further mobilized by Waked’s overall “chic” political commentary.” (Page 591).