DIGITAL STORIES

Let us Loiter: The visual presence of the woman remains a contested practice in global cities

by Hélène Selam Kleih


Mother at Meskel Celebration, 1971

How does the veil serve to simultaneously empower and disempower the woman, asserting vital agency whilst reinforcing subjugation under ‘normative’ modes of femininity? Using Why Loiter? (a book written by Samira Khan, Shilpa Ranada and Shilpa Phadke) as a starting point, this essay explores the ways the concept of the veil transforms the vision of the global city and interrogates how female bodies belong in said cities today.


Dissecting the multi-faceted tool of power: the veil. How does the veil serve to simultaneously empower and disempower the woman, asserting vital agency whilst reinforcing subjugation under ‘normative’ modes of femininity? The ‘global city’ is an urban centre that benefits from a newly acquired globalised economic system - a space that should seemingly become more permissive as its economy progresses. Yet social advancement does not translate to all, and rapid urbanisation has resulted in stark inequalities within class, race and gender. In each cultural context of global cities, the metaphor of the veil can be understood literally as a tangible feminine ‘marker’ of subjugation, a ‘performance of normative femininity’ and its inter