MCC Presents One-Woman Show “Dirty Paki Lingerie”

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Abhishek Mehra
Staff Writer

Dirty Paki Lingerie is a one-woman play written and performed by Aizzah Fatima. Fatima performed the anthology play at University of California, Santa Barbara’s Multicultural Center on Sat., Nov. 7. Lingerie follows the lives of six Muslim Pakistani women living in post-9/11 America, and depicts how they deal with clashing cultures, abundant sexism and growing Islamophobia.

Fatima was inspired to write the play after she saw herself being typecast at acting auditions as the Muslim girl (she once auditioned for a film role titled ‘Terrorist No. 2’s Girlfriend’). The play was witty, intelligent, provocative and insightful in every moment.

Fatima explores her characters views on common subjects including marriage, education, work, lingerie and male genitalia. She touches on issues such as racism within the community, slut shaming and internalized sexism. Fatima segways between the characters with ease, as she has been performing this play for over four years, and in that time has managed to perfect each role. She goes straight from the young girl gyrating to Justin Timberlake, to the hijab donning feminist student and, at one point, she even transforms into a Muslim toddler longing to see her detained father, unaware of the prejudicial circumstances faced by her community.

The play has garnered notable attention due to its risqué title. The first half of the title, Dirty Paki, references a derogatory term used to describe an ethnically Pakistani person, while the second half of the title Lingerie alludes to a woman’s sexuality, a subject deemed too salacious for many conservative communities. The title of the play has been praised by some for its brazen nature, but criticized by others for the same reason. When the play was first announced at UCSB, it received some pushback from the Muslim Student Association and other student groups for its title and content, and even inspired a round-table discussion on Wed., Nov. 5 for students to express their views on the matter.

The actual performance of the play was well-received by the audience. Fatima’s comic timing was impeccable, and while her accents seemed like caricatures at times, the women portrayed and their issues were very authentic. The show was full of witty banter, but never lost focus on the more serious undertones of the situations.

Contrary to the title, Fatima clarifies that the sexist scenarios within this play are universal, and not particular to a certain religion or ethnic group. When discussing the content of the show at the Q&A session after her performance, Fatima said, “These conflicts are, I think, just women’s conflicts. It doesn’t matter the country or the ethnicity.”

Fatima interviewed various Muslim women who inspired the characters in the play, although there are some thematic elements that are clearly autobiographical. Fatima has spent her entire life in the United States, and never felt such an amplified prejudice before 9/11. She stated, “Growing up, I never honestly cared about being Muslim.”

However, post-9/11 America saw a giant outpour of Islamophobia, especially in her hometown of New York City, a metropolis that thrives on its diversity, but saw political candidates view Islam as a concept that had to be eradicated from their diverse culture. Fatima commented, “It’s become a political platform for people to run on, and it has to stop at some point.”

Fatima uses this play as a platform to vocalize her thoughts on the issue. Lingerie has since received wide acclaim, and has even been performed overseas in Europe and in largely Muslim countries like Pakistan itself. It’s being turned into a feature film that she announced would be a romantic comedy. Fatima has come a long way from auditioning for “Terrorist No. 2’s Girlfriend,” and, through this play, has become a voice for generations of Muslim American women. This play is leading a new wave of feminism, establishing that Muslim culture and American culture are not necessarily binary concepts and helping find a peaceful coexistence between the two.