Collage of images depicting diverse Muslim women.

“Surviving” to Thriving: The Muslim Women On-Screen Test

Ahead of Muslim Women’s Day on March 27, the coalition of Muslim Casting, Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, and Pillars Fund released an on-screen representation test to evaluate portrayals of Muslim women on-screen and address harmful stereotypes in media

 

LOS ANGELES, CA – March 22, 2022: Muslim Casting, Pillars Fund and Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media partnered to release a study and test that will help creative executives craft dynamic and authentic stories of Muslim women, as more than 75 percent of all Muslim characters shown on screen are male. The test, called “Surviving” to Thriving: Muslim Women On-Screen Test is backed by an academic literature review and highlights why the portrayal of Muslim women has both significant social and political impact.

In media partnership with Muslim Girl, the test launches with the Muslim Women’s Day kick-off event on Twitter Spaces on the morning of Sunday, March 27, 2022.

In addition to the test, available here on the Geena Davis Institute on Gender website, the collective released an interactive site called MuslimWomensTest.com for filmmakers, creative executives, producers and audiences to test their portrayals of these women on popular content. In five easy steps, the test indicates harmful portrayals, while providing ideas for more nuanced portrayals.

“When I commissioned the test from the Institute, my intent was to highlight the work that so many incredible Muslim women are doing in the TV/film space,” stated Serena Rasoul, Founder, Muslim Casting. “But throughout the development process, the test actually allowed us to dig deeper, not only calling out harmful portrayals, but asking how we exist in a truly free, future form. Can portrayals of us question who we are without playing into Western tropes of oppression, for example? And how do we exist on-screen outside of the confines of trauma, orientalism, colonialism and xenophobia?”

“Creating a representation test centered on Muslim women will allow for their unique lived experiences to be highlighted in a media landscape where they are often relegated to victim roles, merely ‘surviving’ their circumstances or used as background props to further perpetuate stories of oppression and trauma,” said Madeline Di Nonno, President and CEO, the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media.

The test provides recommendations on how a Muslim woman can have varied approaches to her identity, where she is given the space to question parts of herself but not fall into Western tropes of oppression. It also explores the intersectionality and diversity of Muslim women that exist from all races, abilities and sexual orientations. And lastly, the test demonstrates how a Muslim woman can be portrayed expressing joy, often an act of resistance for so may underrepresented groups.

The test also provides resources for writers and creators to use as guides to craft more inclusive stories and portrayals of Muslim women, as well as databases on where to find Muslim actors, artists and writers.

“This resource provides storytellers the opportunity to prevent the disparaging representation of Muslim women in popular media while providing a better path forward for telling stories that honor rich, nuanced characters with their full personhoods. I cannot wait to meet the Muslim women on screen that will come as a result,” said Arij Mikati, Managing Director of Culture Change, Pillars Fund.

“We’re in the midst of a diversity renaissance in Hollywood, and it’s time for Muslim women to have their moment,” said Amani, Founder of Muslim Girl. “In our digital era, media representation is the most powerful force in defining how we view the world and identities different from our own. Now’s our turn to finally see a reflection of ourselves in it.”

About Muslim Casting
Creating spaces, adding new faces. Muslim Casting (MC) is a casting company established in 2021 to increase the visibility of Muslim talent in the TV/film and commercial industries. MC casts and consults alongside filmmakers, producers and more industry professionals to craft inclusive and authentic stories. They believe narrative change occurs through tangible actions — bringing storytellers and story conveyors together is just one of those actions. They maintain a database of several hundred Muslim talent in the arts. See more at muslimcasting.com

About Geena Davis Institute for Gender in Media
Founded in 2004 by Academy Award Winning Actor Geena Davis, the Institute is the only global research-based organization working collaboratively within the entertainment industry to create gender balance, foster inclusion and reduce negative stereotyping in family entertainment media. See more at seejane.org

About Pillars Fund
Pillars Fund amplifies the leadership, narratives, and talents of Muslims in the United States to advance opportunity and justice for all. Since our founding in 2010, Pillars has distributed more than $7 million in grants to Muslim organizations and leaders who advance social good. We invest in community-focused initiatives, push back against harmful narratives, uplift Muslim stories, and organize Muslim donors to give together strategically. Learn more at pillarsfund.org

About MuslimGirl
Muslim Girl is the biggest online platform for Muslim women’s voices in America. By forging mainstream partnerships and initiatives like the Muslim Women’s Day global campaign, Muslim Girl is reclaiming the Muslim woman’s narrative in the media and redefining their representation across industries. By and for the next generation of Muslim girls and women, Muslim Girl was named by USA Today as one of the most influential forces for American Muslims since 9/11. See more at muslimgirl.com

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