Stop Using Muslim Women To Sell Soda

Did you notice?

A few months ago, I wrote about the ways in which—in a post-Trump America—people were using images of Muslim women as signifiers of resistance in protest iconography. From news reports to Shepard Fairey’s crappy art to your newly radicalized friend’s Instagram selfie—Muslims were showing up more and more frequently in the cultural landscape, albeit in highly specific contexts, and always covered in a headscarf.

Shepard Fairey

On Monday, Pepsi released this ad, featuring noted Instagram model Kendall Jenner:

In it, images of Kendall Jenner at a high fashion photo shoot are spliced with footage of crowds of happy-go-lucky protesters, holding up peace and love signs, and footage of a headscarved Muslim woman, a photographer, pouring over protest images, a can of Pepsi in the foreground. Frustrated, she rushes down to the streets with her camera to capture new images of the demonstration. Kendall Jenner, apparently energized by the cheering crowds, joins them too. In the ad’s final (and most tone-deaf) scenes, Kendall offers the police officer a Pepsi—a peace offering—and when he accepts, the crowd goes wild. The Muslim woman snaps her camera, photographing the moment. Everyone is happy. Police violence has been eradicated. Racism is solved. Join the resistance (coyly referenced here as “the conversation”), sponsored by Pepsi.

(Update: The company has since removed the ad, releasing a statement on Wednesday that said, “We did not intend to make light of any serious issue. We are pulling the content and halting any further rollout. We also apologize for putting Kendall Jenner in this position.”)

This isn’t the first time a Muslim woman has been featured prominently in a soda ad. Back in 2014, Coca-Cola aired its now-famous “America Is Beautiful” commercial, which featured images of people around the world enjoying a can of soda, while a version of “America the Beautiful” in different languages played in the background. Headscarved women and Middle Eastern men were included in the ad.

A still from Coca-Cola's 2014 ad campaign.

The commercial upset a lot of people, particularly Republicans. A study, published by researchers at the University of Alabama and Pennsylvania State University, found that, “Nearly 54 percent of Republicans who saw Muslim and Arab individuals in the Coca-Cola advertisement changed from their initial preference for Coca-Cola products to select Pepsi products.” Coca-Cola aired the same ad again during this past Super Bowl, not long after the inauguration, to a far more receptive crowd.

So, it’s not surprising that Pepsi has decided to make a Muslim woman one of the main characters of its newest ad, particularly at a time when images of Muslim women have become politically and socially expedient. The version of events that Pepsi presents in the ad—cheerful crowds of protesters, most of them white, enjoying a cool, crisp can of Pepsi soda, as the police look benignly on—is far removed from the experiences of Muslims in the United States, who face the violence of an ever-intensifying surveillance state, or the experiences of Black Lives Matter protesters, who must confront a far more hostile police presence.

This ad makes no coherent political points, takes no hard-line stance on any of the issues: the immigration ban, the Mexico border wall, the militarization of America’s police forces, the dismantling of public health care, the complete demolition of reproductive rights.

The Muslim woman in their ad operates as nothing more than a signifier for diversity and a vague notion of resistance. She’s merely window dressing, in the same way that images of Muslim woman are used as tokens in protest photos. Here is what I wrote back in February:

Images that depict Muslim women in positions of resistance carry a special political weight in the visual economy because they are often perceived as docile or subjugated. Consider why Shepard Fairey, a white male artist, frequently deploys images of Muslim women in his political graphic art? It’s because the Muslim woman—her body, and what goes on top of it—has been rendered into a political object. But while their likeness is abundant, their voices are usually absent.

It’s not a surprise that protest imagery has been absorbed into the corporate landscape and instrumentalized to sell soda. This is how movements are sanitized and co-opted and how revolutions are defanged. This is why Muslim women make perfect vessels for messaging; they are so often depicted as passive subjects to violence, rather than perpetrators of it. It’s also why you don’t see many Muslim men represented in these same images. A light-skinned Muslim woman in a pretty headscarf is not threatening to the status quo, especially when she, already perceived as subservient, shares a Pepsi with the police. It would be lot more difficult to conjure that image if that Muslim woman was black.

via The Howard Stern Show / YouTube

Former Secretary of State, first lady, and winner of the popular vote in the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton, sat own for an epic, two-and-a--half hour interview with Howard Stern on his SiriusXM show Wednesday.

She was there to promote "The Book of Gutsy Women," a book about heroic women co-written with her daughter, Chelsea Clinton.

In the far-reaching conversation, Clinton and the self-proclaimed "King of All Media" and, without a doubt, the best interviewer in America discussed everything from Donald Trump's inauguration to her sexuality.

Keep Reading Show less

Offering parental leave for new fathers could help close the gender gap, removing the unfair "motherhood penalty" women receive for taking time off after giving birth. However, a new study finds that parental leave also has a pay gap. Men are less likely to take time off, however, when they do, they're more likely to get paid for it.

A survey of 2,966 men and women conducted by New America found that men are more likely to receive paid parental leave. Over half (52%) of fathers had fully paid parental leave, and 14% of fathers had partially paid parental leave. In comparison, 33% of mothers had fully paid parental leave and 19% had partially paid parental leave.

Keep Reading Show less

Bans on plastic bags and straws can only go so far. Using disposable products, like grabbing a plastic fork when you're on the go, can be incredibly convenient. But these items also contribute to our growing plastic problem.

Fortunately, you can cut down on the amount of waste you produce by cutting down on disposable products. And even more fortunately, there are sustainable (and cute) replacements that won't damage the environment.

Coconut bowls


Who says sustainable can't also be stylish? These cute coconut bowls were handmade using reclaimed coconuts, making each piece one of a kind. Not only are they organic and biodegradable, but they're also durable, in case your dinner parties tend to get out of hand. The matching ebony wood spoons were polished with the same coconut oil as the bowls.

Cocostation Set of 2 Vietnamese Coconut Bowls and Spoons, $14.99; at Amazon

Solar powered phone charger


Why spend time looking around for an outlet when you can just harness the power of the sun? This solar powered phone charger will make sure your phone never dies as long as you can bask in the sun's rays. As an added bonus, this charger was made using eco-friendly silicone rubber. It's win-win all around.

Dizaul Solar Charger, 5000mAh Portable Solar Power Bank, $19.95; at Amazon, $19.95; at Amazon

Herb garden kit

Planter Pro

Put some green in your life with this herb planter. The kit comes with everything you need to get a garden growing, including a moisture meter that helps you determine if your herbs are getting the right amount of food to flourish. All the seeds included are certified to be non-GMO and non-hybrids, meaning you can have fresh, organic herbs right at your fingertips.

Planter Pro's Herb Garden Cedar Planter, $39.00; at Amazonedar Planter, $39.00; at Amazon

Reusable Keurig cups

K & J

Keurig cups are convenient, but they also create a ton of plastic waste. These Keurig-compatible plastic cups are an easy way to cut down on the amount of trash you create without cutting down on your caffeine. Additionally, you won't have to keep on buying K Cups, which means you'll be saving money and the environment.

K&J Reusable Filter Cups, $8.95 for a set of 4,; at Amazon

Low-flow shower head


Low-flow water fixtures can cut down your water consumption, which saves you money while also saving one of the Earth's resources. This shower head was designed with a lighter flow in mind, which means you'll be able to cut down on water usage without feeling like you're cutting down on your shower.

Speakman Low Flow Shower Head, $14.58; at Amazon

Bamboo safety razor


Instead of throwing away a disposable razor every time you shave, invest in an eco-friendly, reusable one. This unisex shaver isn't just sustainable, it's also sharp-looking, which means it would make a great gift for the holidays.

Zomchi Safety Razor, $16.99; at Amazon

The Planet