“I am the dishes, the ironing, I am everything, I am nothing. But remind me: Who are you?” So plays the hook of a new feminist anthem released by the Palestinian rappers, DAM. The video for “Who You Are” plays on sexist attitudes by having men and women switch domestic roles typical in the Middle East, but also familiar across most cultures.
Directed by Oscar-nominated Palestinian filmmaker Scandar Copti, the video is starting to rack up YouTube views. It has an associated social media campaign which asks fans to send videos of themselves challenging traditional gender roles. (See image below, as example.) The song release coincides with the first female singer joining the all-male trio, Maysa Daw, who told the Hebrew-language news site Local Call, “Men try to stereotype women all the time and I just want to ask which stereotypes define men.”
The video was promoted in partnership with the United Nations Population Fund, which focuses on changing sexist attitudes in the Middle East and improving reproductive health for women around the world.
“We speak out against our own oppressive society, of course, but I believe it is just as important to criticize the hypocritical part of our society, which likes to play ‘make-believe feminism’ from time to time,” Tamer Nafar, the group’s co-founder, told +972. Maybe they can hook up with Tasmanian artist Sonia Singh and have some upcycled and re-feminized dolls feature in their next video to underscore their message.
Brothers Tamer and Suhell Nafar and their friend Mahmoud Jreri founded the hip-hop group in 1999 in Lod, Israel (47 km from Jerusalem). Their name is Arabic for “ever-lasting” and is also the Hebrew word for “blood”. Their songs are mostly themed on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, poverty, and human rights.
“If we want to be honest with ourselves as artists, we need to target taboos in our own society,” explained Jreri in an Al-Monitor interview in 2013, “Fans want us to focus on the occupation, but the political and social struggle should go together and not be separated.”
Subject matter that crosses cultural boundaries is an excellent catalyst for conversation. Arabs, Jews, and ex-pat foreigners all grapple with issues of modern sexism and feminism. Ideally the message in this video will resonate far beyond Palestine, highlighting our commonalities and uniting us in a re-evaluation of gender inequality. At least, we can unite around a catchy song.
Lead image by Steve Sabella from the DAM website