This isn’t an attack. I don’t hate white people. I guess it would make for an alluring headline but I’ve already read a post like that (and agreed with some of its points). Thing is though, the headline for this post is WHITE WOMEN. I have some grievances to talk about today and just note that I’m not always like this. It’s just a build up of all the little things I’ve been ignoring. They’ve all piled up and hey presto you have a furious Mahima ready to unleash hell (and be warned: expletives) with her keyboard.
And I think this feeling is probably in line with how much I despised people talking Aristotle to me until I figured out that Aristotle used to be a household name in the Muslim world a long time before it became one in the West. It’s why I can’t say that I absolutely adore Brain Pickings despite Marie Popova’s reviews being absolutely #goals in the sense that they are so heartfelt and engineered towards connecting everyone with their own humanity.
Thing is, I’m a feminist. I always have been. Also I belong to a community of girls who would have loved feminism if they were white. When we were younger we all got into the whole women-are-cool and stand-up-for-yourself-in-a-man’s-world sort of empowerment because that shit made sense. When we finally had a label for it (GUYS! WE’RE FEMINISTS) it was cool. For a day. And then we found out that we couldn’t really be feminists.
I’m going to let my dad choose a list of potential husbands for me.
When I go travelling I can only do so with a man accompanying me.
If there was a female cultural stereotype I’d most be aligned to it would be the Victorian “angel of the house”. Victorian. 18th century. Angel of the house.
As a Muslim woman who chooses to cover herself, I don’t want to enter mixed gyms and that really sucks balls for me sports-wise.
I AM LIMITED. AND OPPRESSED. AND DEPRIVED OF ALL THINGS GREAT. (Like the feel of the wind running through my hair…).
And I guess my friends must have realised just how far away feminism was to all the solid women-power stuff they’d been brought up with. We were tough nuggets ourselves, but feminism was nowhere near what we’re going through.
And here’s the thing, when my friends backed away from feminism I still stayed. I love the textbook definition of feminism: equality of the sexes. I like how this definition supports and wants support for safe spaces for human beings to act like human beings. I grew up learning and witnessing these powerful women “strong and independent” as they are taking ownership of their lives and I loved how feminism was all over that shit. I was so goddamn excited every time I saw a feminist post I resonated with and feeling like giving these writers high-fives for their awesome content.
God, I, with my non-white background, wasn’t ready to go into feminism and have so many white women exclusively talk about the hijab when it came to featuring non-white content.
Here’s me with my dad still escorting me to some places sometimes, and then there’s you. Just constantly talking about hijab or tripping up controversies over a black woman making a small business through her Instagram.
OUR REALITIES ARE SO FUCKING DIFFERENT.
Oh my god, how do I explain.
Okay fine. Let’s talk about my infatuation with this movement. As someone who does come from a more patriarchal background than white women are used to, I was very much so about feminism. While white women were talking about what skirt to wear, I was here telling girls not to let their fathers make every goddamn life decision for them. I was here educating myself and my peers about the decision to wear hijab instead of just wearing it to please the parents (read: not just the daddy-o). I was here taking part in conversations about girls standing up for themselves, being confident in who they are, and learning that no matter what they have every right to make something of themselves in this life. No matter what. Feminism resonated with me because I know women are oppressed by the patriarchal system. And I didn’t understand this whole fixed gender business anyway.
Also a lot of the time I didn’t understand feminism. And any conversation that wasn’t about white women was about wearing a headscarf. Like, come on. Surely, out of all the ways my culture is different to yours hijab (it is the most obvious I guess) is the least important. There are BIG problems happening here, but white women don’t care.
And here’s the thing okay. I can no longer say “Yay feminism!”. I’m sick and tired of sticking it out with a movement that’s so fucking hypocritical. I’ve read all those pins about incensed women who write paragraphs upon paragraphs about why they feel sorry for women who denounce feminism, why they’re so angry that these women dare to denounce a movement that has given them so many of their rights –
But no. The Suffragette movement gave me my voting rights. The Civil Rights movement made sure I was put into the category of “woman” in the first place.
I don’t agree, anymore. I can’t stand it. Feminism is a people’s movement. Its purpose, its cause, its definition I do agree with. Wholeheartedly. I want equality: political, social, economic equality of the sexes. I want everybody to be treated with equal worth no matter what gender (or non) that they choose to subscribe to. I want goddamn respect.
But feminism is a white women’s movement. And white women have hurt me. It doesn’t matter that the only time Muslim women appear on Jezebel is when they’re talking about the Olympics and hijab-clad athletes. It doesn’t matter that my heart fluttered that one time I saw a doodle of a Muslim woman on that one Lenny piece on Syrian women. I’ve stuck with that sort of feminism for a long time. I’ve learnt how to siphon through conversations and articles and double meanings in order to translate the lessons that white women have learnt into my life and take part in that conversation on empowerment. I love how feminism has connected all of us and made us feel like we are together, that women’s experiences should be valued…
But it hasn’t, really. I was just kidding myself. White women don’t know how to hold a conversation with me. Feminism, for all its worth, would have to go back a hundred years just to talk to me about some of my issues.
I remember when my sports teacher talked to us about why lots of hijab-clad Muslim girls aren’t into sports and we said that in our culture it isn’t valued that highly, that our people would rather have us home than out at the gym. He said that we’re strong girls, so why don’t we, like the women in Britain before (read: white women) start our own movement, and pave a path for Muslim girls in hijab to take part and rejoice and be celebrated for taking part in sports?
How do I explain how hard it is?
White women have hurt me. A few days ago the picture of a Muslim woman forced to undress on the beach as she was held by gunpoint by at least three men looming over her was unleashed into the internet – this woman forced by these men to undress while she was crouching on the sand taking her swimsuit off for them because of the new burkini ban – white women have hurt me the most when, from all my glorious feminists, when that picture was released all I got was static.
And it felt incredibly more hurtful knowing that in feminist discourse the hijab is only ever disputed or ignored. I don’t know, but imagining the level of humiliation that woman must feel right now and must have felt undressing – imagining the level of humiliation I would have felt if the same had happened to me, and then knowing that the movement I so wholeheartedly fell in love with would just sit and watch, perhaps some of them open-mouthed at the aftermath of all their hijab-is-oppressing arguments just steeped together into a photograph of three men looming over a woman, forcing her to undress, and then the rest of them keeping mum for god fucking knows why—