Sunnie Yi Ning ’18
Assistant News Editor
Noor Tagouri, a Muslim-American journalist and activist, posed for Playboy’s October issue. It is the first time the American men’s lifestyle and entertainment magazine featured a hijab-wearing woman since its founding in 1953.
A West Virginia native and first-generation Libyan-American, Tagouri is a 22-year-old journalist who reports for Newsy. She is passionate about changing the way Muslims are presented in the media, working towards becoming the first hijabi anchor on commercial U.S. television.
Along with comedian Ali Wong, musician Laura Jane Grace, skateboarder Jason Dill, sex activist Stoya, author Paul Beatty and developer Sean Murray, Tagouri appears as part of Playboy‘s “Renegades” series, which features people who have “risked it all — even their lives — to do what they love, showing us what can be accomplished if we break the rules.” By appearing on the traditionally men-centered magazine, she is burning down stereotypes about Muslim women and blazing new paths.
In the issue, Tagouri wears her hijab, a leather jacket, a white t-shirt, black jeans and Converse trainers, posing in front of a painted American flag. Playboy describes her as making a “bold case for modesty”.
In the interview, Tagouri discussed the challenges of her career, confronting backlashes and inspiring others. As a reporter and activist, Tagouri stands at the center of hate and criticism. Her response to that is to ignore them and keep going. “I don’t read or pay attention to any of it. It’s just negative energy and unhealthy,” Tagouri said in her interview with Playboy.
She prefers to focus on the positive. She says she would consider herself successful when “all girls realize they can do anything they want without having to sacrifice who they are as a person.” She stresses that the way she dresses does not conflict the expression of her individuality. In a TED talk last year, she had emphasized that the hijab actually empowers her “in demystifying the stigma that surrounds Muslim women.”
Her appearance on the controversial magazine sparkled heated debate on social media. Many have supported the journalist for breaking the stereotypes of Muslim women, and making a case for her own individuality and beauty. Others question her intention of posing for a magazine known for objectifying women, and protest that it is a distortion of “modesty.” Among them is Nishaat Ismail, a journalist who penned an op-ed for The Independent, criticizing Tagouri for distorting the Muslim narrative in America.
“In a time when minorities, and in particular Muslims, find themselves shipwrecked between the pressures of upholding western societal values and adhering to their cultural and religious obligations, many have chosen to forfeit their identities … Do we really need to go down the route of associating with an institution based on the objectification of women in the name of challenging perceptions and celebrating female empowerment? Is this really how we reclaim our own narrative? ” Ismail questions.
Earlier this year, Playboy went through several changes, including abandoning the use of fully nude photos.