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  • Writer's pictureLauren

The APAHM Project Days 11-12: We Are Lady Parts

Updated: May 24

Series: We Are Lady Parts

Created By: Nida Manzoor

Release: 2021

Where to Watch: Peacock

Wanna Skip? Pick a Movie from APAHM Project 2023, 2022, 2021, 2020

Why It Made The List:

Winner of a Rose d'Or award, Peabody award, and BAFTA Award and nominated for a Gotham Award, "We Are Lady Parts" centers around 5 young Muslim women who not only fear god but also celebrate their love for punk music, Ryan Gosling movies, and being Earth Natives. You'll see at the end of this article that the "You Might Also Like" section is scarce and that is because there are very few shows or movies like WALP.

My Thoughts:

After reading this article about "We Are Lady Parts" I had half a thought just to refer you to it instead of writing my own post because I don't think I can top Hadadi's well-written words and candor. But I'm going to try (please do read her article though!)

WALP is a very quick watch, but that doesn't make it any less fun or impactful. The story follows an all-Muslim girl punk band called Lady Parts who is searching for a lead guitarist to round out their sound. Amina is a nerdy microbiology PhD candidate who teaches guitar to children and is on marriage Muslim apps looking for a husband. When handsome bachelor Ahsan passes out fliers for Lady Parts' auditions, Amina goes to the location in hopes of meeting Ahsan. However, band leader Saira recognizes Amina from a talent show and recalls her being a good guitar player. They make an agreement: Amina will help Lady Parts audition for a competition and Ayesha, Lady Parts' drummer, will set her up with a meeting with Ahsan, her brother.

Amina suffers from terrible stage fright and public speaking. She does not tell anyone, including her best friend Noor, about her joining Lady Parts, as music is deemed haram (forbidden or inappropriate) by Noor's more traditional lifestyle. A lifestyle that Amina wishes to have. She even tries to change the lyrics of "Voldemort Under My Headscarf" because she finds the lyrics potentially offensive. However, Saira states that music is about representation and being heard by anyone willing to listen. Lady Parts does not seek fame but to only speak the truth before they are "mangled by other" people's ideas of them.

The members of Lady Parts all have different backgrounds, but as Saira puts it, they are sisters who pray together and play together. At the center of their band is a sisterhood of god-fearing Muslim women who take time to pray in between songs and respect each other's personal relationship with god. Saira is covered in tattoos and has her hair cut short. She appears to have pre-marital sex and smokes and cusses. She works at a halal butcher. Ayesha is a queer Uber driver, who has been harassed by her passengers. She wears a hijab and has a cold-persona. Bisma is the bass player for Lady Parts. She is a Black Muslim illustrator who makes graphic novels about menstrual blood giving women powers. She is a mother and nurturer and often the voice of reason. Rounding out the group is Momtaz, the band's manager. She wears a niqab and burqa and works at a lingerie store. When we first meet her, she is holding a joint while recording the band's performance. Every single one of these women defy the stereotypes of what many believe a Muslim woman "should be". The lyrics to their songs further emphasize that they can stay true to their beliefs while also expressing their ideas of feminism, creativity, and the experiences they have as Muslim women ("Does other headgear scare you too?").

In an attempt to promote their band, the girls agree to an interview with influencer Zarina, who twists their words to fit her headline of "Bad Girls of Islam." Zarina asks Momtaz if she wears the niqab for attention, if Saira feels the misogynistic forces within the Muslim community is oppressing her, if Bisma hates traditional Muslim values, and if Amina feels no shame for being in Lady Parts. The interview goes viral with people labeling Lady Parts as fake Muslims, accusing them of using their religion to garner attention and fame. In Hadadi's article, she believes this event is inspired by creator Manzoor's own experience. Manzoor, who was asked to write and direct the pilot, received baklash after it aired causing her to close her social media accounts.

However, there was a positive to the article's release -- listeners discovered Lady Parts' music and liked it, even asking where and when they could catch a live show. Their fans look like them -- Muslim, women, Brown. Each member of Lady Parts brought a different trait, hobby, or identity to the band that made them relatable. Finally getting over her stage fright, Amina performs with Lady Parts at their first big gig, put on by them, for them. She wears her red hijab, the same one that Noor claims "brings out her shame". The reality is, there should be no shame in speaking your truth.

The series has a refreshing sense of humor and great acting. I want to point out Amina's mother. You would think an older, Muslim woman would be "traditional" but Amina's mom tells her there is more to life than a husband. She and Amina's father encourage Amina's love for music and Amina's mom talks about many "inappropriate" topics like sex and men. Contrastly, Saira's mother is more strict. She is critical of Saira being in a band and tells her she used to be her good daughter who was quiet. She asks Saira what happened to which Saira replies "nothing." She is simply not the daughter she wants her to be.

Manzoor says the show is semi-autobiographical. She and her siblings co-wrote the songs for Lady Parts (which are all bangers btw) and her brother-in-law did the score. The show scored a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes with an average rating of 8.2. This show packs so much in 6 short episodes. The Financial Times writes that "progressive representations highlight a truth about being a modern-day Muslim: you can be both God-fearing and weed-smoking; disorderly and devotional. Far from a clash, these things reflect a cultural mish-mash of the tangled and contradictory parts of ourselves that make us delightfully, bafflingly human." I am very happy that this show got renewed for a second season. I think it is such an important look into Muslim communities and to explore Muslim women not as a group, but as individuals.

In Conclusion:

One of the criteria for The APAHM Project is that I prefer the titles to be American. This is to show whether American media is lacking or thriving in proper representation across actors, writers, directors, and producers. I scoured the internet for a show centered around South Asian Americans. My results were Priyanka Chopra-Jonas and Mindy Kaling, Kal Penn, Aziz Ansari...the usual names. Surely there was more than these people and their projects.

The result was making an exception to include WALP. The discussion this show opens is more important than what country it came from, but also underscores the fact that America has some catching up to do. We are falling behind in representing more groups such as Muslims, South Asians, Pacific Islanders, etc. (i.e last year's Young Rock and Whale Rider). As Hadadi writes "Despite the vocal push in recent years for increased opportunities for and representation of female, Black, and POC characters across media, Middle Eastern and North African, or MENA, women have long been left out of the conversation....In 2020, film roles for MENA characters were 1.3 percent of the total, and MENA women were 'significantly underrepresented.'...when these women play Muslim characters, their worth is usually calculated in spite of their faith, not because of it. They’re helping catch terrorists to prove their loyalties to the U.S. (Nazanin Boniadi’s Fara Sherazi on Homeland), or taking off their headscarf in order to finally draw the eye of their non-Muslim crush (Mina El Hammani’s Nadia on Netflix’s Elite), or serving as the butt of a joke about Afghanistan’s patriarchal culture for the benefit of American viewers."

We need to do better at having positive representation of these groups. Media is such a powerful tool for influencing how people act in real life. Each time we villainize or objectify or generalize or misrepresent people in movies and TV, the more warped our perception is of those people in real life. And so, because of its boldness, honesty, and wit, I give "We Are Lady Parts" a standing ovation.

Shout Out!

Today I would like to Shout Out Halal Dining Club! Founded by Ms. Siddika Jaffer, Halal Dining Club is one of Forbes Top 5 Muslim startups. It allows people to easily find restaurants that serve halal food in five different countries. Users can even earn loyalty points while dining and supporting restaurants that accomodate dietary needs.

If You Liked This, You Might Also Like:

Never Have I Ever on Netflix

Ms. Marvel on Disney +

Polite Society on Prime

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