Mauritanian Content Creators… When Death is Used for Preaching and Patriarchal Control
After the death of fashionista Amy Zarrouk, Mauritanian women content creators faced a patriarchal guardianship preaching campaign.
Amy is a young Mauritanian woman who became famous on Snapchat and TikTok when she and her husband Mawlay El-Mahdi shared their daily life as a couple of the younger generation.
Their appearance and the sharing of their married life infuriated Mauritanian society.
It is not common for young men and women to show love in public, let alone share details of life that are almost “taboo” for society.
Amy and El-Mahdi faced a lot of criticism and attacks, especially after the photo shoots they underwent on Valentine’s Day.
The patriarchal society considered it an unorthodox deviation from traditions, which attack love, while coexisting with state violence and the absence of social justice.
But that didn’t stop them from continuing to publish these daily accounts, breaking into the world of advertising, and creating new content by producing a series on their YouTube channel.
It was the first family channel to showcase real life in Mauritania.
Amy and Mawlay El-Mehdi belong to a generation that uses social media to create new unique alternatives to life in the capital Nouakchott, in a medium that highlights diversity and youth’s thirst to live the moment and seize happiness from the jaws of patriarchy.
Gloating over the death of Amy Zarrouk
The couple was met with a car accident on March 5, and Amy died, aged 21.
After her death, there was a preaching speech towards female content creators. As if her death is a punishment for her activity on these applications!
Death, the natural process that afflicts all living things, was considered evidence of the corruption of women and their horrific existence in the public sphere!
Religious clips talking about the “sudden death,”, “the unveiling of women,”, and “the danger of their images remaining on public platforms after their death,” have spread.
This rhetoric saw the clips of Amy, in which she danced, sang, and showed off her life, as a sin she had ostentatiously displayed, and for which she would be punished.
Patriarchal religious preaching not only gloated over her death, and considered it the inevitable end of every woman who appears in public without religious restrictions, but considered it a lesson to all women.
It also called on female content creators to repent and cover their hair completely.
Some fashionistas responded to these calls, and many deleted their photos.
They asked anyone who comes across a picture of them that shows even a little of their hair to delete it.
They also covered their entire hair and wore the traditional dress of Mauritania’s Hassaniya group “the Malhafa”.
Many influencers engaged in preaching discourse and announced their repentance. They promised not to appear with a few strands of hair, in singing clips or teaching makeup and advertising.
What is the preaching discourse aimed at here?
The preaching discourse directed at women is linked to a vast propaganda machine that follows the carrot and stick policy and uses all kinds of intimidation and allurement. It regards women’s very existence as unacceptable, and they must atone for it by hiding.
Women should be invisible except under conditions of patriarchal oppression, such as wearing the hijab.
And they should provide continued loyalty, through their commitment to the private sphere.
Women also should not cross public spaces except in disguise, without declaring that they belong to them.
Therefore, the hijab and niqab are tools of control imposed on women’s bodies.
Women should be veiled in the Islamic context, so as not to stir up “fitna” (seduction and temptation). Their unveiled existence threatens men’s power and dominance.
Women in patriarchal societies become open to control and objectification.
They do not own their own destinies or bodies, but are considered public property of all except themselves!
They are treated as a public arena of domination until they are exhausted and violated by the patriarchal system, and every movement and behavior becomes the scene of criticism and control by patriarchal standards and power systems.
They are continuously presented as an intimidating example to the rest of the women, even in their deaths. Death is a natural condition that happens to all beings, except for women who have diverted even slightly from the patriarchal rules set for them from birth.
They are used as an example for the rest, to return to the path of patriarchy, and to carry out the patriarchal dream: women should only march from their fathers’ houses to their husband’s houses to their graves.
Patriarchal culture and power not only violate women’s right to life but force them to live in a constant state of violence and symbolic death.
Any lifestyle in which women appear happy or comfortable is considered a threat to the peace and values of society.
The patriarchal system also plays a big role in crushing any attempt to break away from it.
The attack on young Mauritanian women and men active on social media stems mainly from patriarchal motives, which aim to put them in one box that helps sustain patriarchal hierarchies.
It contributes to the production of generations loyal to the existing values and customs, and a single lifestyle, which denies individuals of any right to live their lives, and not deviate from patriarchal customs and laws.
Targeting women and youths by the patriarchal religious discourse, and the threat of hellfire and torment in the afterlife, considering that people’s choices themselves are a reason for punishment, have proven to be effective methods.
The reason is that these methods rely heavily on the mechanism of social shaming, and those who avoid it or refuse to obey it are directly stigmatized as infidels or disobedient.
Therefore, many social media influencers were influenced by this discourse.
What is happening in the Mauritanian context today is an extension of widespread cyber violence campaigns in the Arabic-speaking region, campaigns on women activists on online platforms.
Cyber violence is an effective tool in the hands of patriarchy to take revenge on women, who dare to break the rule that they can only appear in public to obey patriarchy and assert it.
The Internet, as a social and political sphere, follows the same patriarchal and capitalist system that controls the world.
Therefore, violence flows in more terrible ways on the Internet than in the actual or real realm.
Today, in feminist research, it is difficult to distinguish between the real and digital spheres.
The Internet has become a reality in its own right. Patriarchy takes a globalized aspect and produces violence that is difficult to comprehend, because hundreds, if not thousands, of digital users practice patriarchal violence, shame women, and attack them.
Therefore, the life of any woman or queer person becomes endangered, and violence turns from threats and words on social media pages to physical violence that may rise to murder or physical and sexual violence.