The liberal feminist organisation Femen and its members’ naked breasts have had their media run. Now a more modest sort of uncovering is happening, this time in Iranian social media. Last month, London-based Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad started a movement on Facebook and Twitter, translated as “My Stealth Freedom”, to highlight the “legal and social restrictions” faced by women in Iran.
Secular and Muslim women all over Iran are posting photos of themselves without the mandated headscarf, in secluded places where there are no Basij (religious police) to punish them for violating the country’s dress code. The movement is led by women who are removing their headscarves and posting photos of themselves of their own free will.
But the title of an article on Vocativ, “The great unveiling,” gave me a bad feeling. It made me uneasy because the idea of “uncovering-as-freedom” is fraught with historical baggage.
Continuing a semi-yearly tradition of mine since my days working at my college paper, just a few notes about today:
1. This is not Mexican Independence Day Nope, that’s September 16th. 5/5 commemorates an unlikely Mexican victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. The battle delayed, but did not stop, an eventual French occupation of the country, which lasted three years before it was toppled.
2. This is not that big of a deal back home Don’t let the beer ads fool you; 5/5 is a regional holiday, usually celebrated at the site of the battle. But, it’s nowhere near as big a deal as it is in El Otro Lado. Now, is that because of immigrant pride, or American corporate opportunism? That, I leave for you to decide. During my time working in local Spanish-language radio, the biggest sponsors for our Cinco de Mayo concerts were — you guessed it — beer companies. Banners everywhere, beer girls hawking their wares on the stage, booze selling like hot cakes in the fenced-off drinking area. I don’t doubt that at least some of the people who attended the events had their hearts in the right place, but the commercial aspect definitely got on my nerves when I thought about it. Read the Post A Friendly Reminder About Cinco De Mayo [The Throwback]
Solidarity with our dreams will not make us feel less alone, as long as it is not translated into concrete acts of legitimate support for all the peoples that assume the illusion of having a life of their own in the distribution of the world.
Latin America neither wants, nor has any reason, to be a pawn without a will of its own; nor is it merely wishful thinking that its quest for independence and originality should become a Western aspiration. However, the navigational advances that have narrowed such distances between our Americas and Europe seem, conversely, to have accentuated our cultural remoteness. Why is the originality so readily granted us in literature so mistrustfully denied us in our difficult attempts at social change? Why think that the social justice sought by progressive Europeans for their own countries cannot also be a goal for Latin America, with different methods for dissimilar conditions? No: the immeasurable violence and pain of our history are the result of age-old inequities and untold bitterness, and not a conspiracy plotted three thousand leagues from our home. But many European leaders and thinkers have thought so, with the childishness of old-timers who have forgotten the fruitful excess of their youth as if it were impossible to find another destiny than to live at the mercy of the two great masters of the world. This, my friends, is the very scale of our solitude.
I love a good adventure. So when my partner asked, “How would you feel about moving to Amsterdam?” I was game. Between the shock of making that decision and being completely overwhelmed with all we had to do, I daydreamed about what it would be like to be Black in the Netherlands. I knew about the historical love affair between Black America and Europe. Black folks, especially artists, had always sought refuge from the terrors of American racism in Europe. Stories of Josephine Baker, James Baldwin, and Richard Wright in France painted an eclectic and humane portrait of Black life in Europe. I was thrilled at the prospect of experiencing a truly post racial existence.
The league’s latest effort to skirt the issue came Friday, when Commissioner Roger Goodell refused to say whether he would call a Native American person a “R*dskin” to their face, instead hiding behind the argument that the name “presented in a way that honors Native Americans,” and saying 90 percent of Native Americans support keeping the name. (Of course, the league also denied evidence of the game’s physical and mental damage to players for years.)
Goodell’s statement is probably taken from 2002 and 2004 surveys conducted by Sports Illustrated and Anneberg. But it runs counter to an October 2013 NCAI study showing 80 percent disapproval of the team’s name in Native communities in a poll conducted by Indian Country Today.
“Neither the Sports Illustrated or Annenberg poll verified that the people they were talking to actually were Native people,” the study states. “They did not ask any questions that would have made a case that the people being polled were Native. The Indian Country Today poll was among readers who were likely to be informed about Native issues, if not informed Native people.”
The Oneida Indian Nation released a response to Goodell’s remarks on Friday:
It is deeply troubling that with the Super Bowl happening on lands that were once home to Native Americans, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell would use the event as a platform to insist that the dictionary-defined R-word racial slur against Native Americans is somehow a sign of honor. Commissioner Goodell represents a $9-billion brand with global reach, yet insists that it is somehow no big deal that his league uses those vast resources to promote this slur. In the process, he conveniently ignores all the social science research showing that the NFL’s promotion of this word has serious cultural and psychological effects on native peoples. Worse, he cites the heritage of the team’s name without mentioning that the name was given to the team by one of America’s most famous segregationists, George Preston Marshall. He also somehow doesn’t mention the heritage of the R-word itself, which was as an epithet screamed at Native Americans as they were forced at gunpoint off their lands. The fact that Mr. Goodell doesn’t seem to know any of this – or is deliberately ignoring it – suggests that for all his claims to be listening, he isn’t listening at all.
While supporting the NCAI’s overall efforts, however, Native Appropriations did point out some problematic aspects of the imagery chosen for the video. Not only were all of the historical figures cited men, she points out, but it relies too heavily on the past for its power:
The whole first minute or so of the clip focuses mostly on powwow images of Native folks in regalia, contrasted with images of reservation poverty, with images of historic figures thrown in as well. Yes, the vast majority of Americans don’t have access to any images of contemporary Native peoples, so the powwow and poverty images are important. But, I really feel like it’s time for us to complicate that narrative. With the historic images, yes, it’s definitely important to recognize the contributions of our leaders in the past–but why do we always have to return to the Edward Curtis photographs and Sitting Bull to make a point about modern Native peoples?
This book, while almost 7 years old, is continuously recommended across the web for adoptive mothers — it’s pinned on Pinterest and a regular on the book club circuit. In an era obsessed with memoir, it seems only natural that Russell would choose to chronicle her journey as such, particularly considering the major surprise (read: book sales) that characterizes her trip: Russell’s friend changes her mind. Quickly becoming the heroine of her own story, Russell looks down at the little girl she has only just met and begins conceiving a history in which the two of them were meant to be together. Eager to substantiate her sudden role as Lily’s mother, Russell proclaims that “there was a past life connection between [her] and Lily,” and that her “longing brought [Lily] into being.” To suggest that this child living in an orphanage in China exists because Russell willed her into being is problematic to say the least, but Russell goes one step further in her desire to feel permanently and unalterably connected despite her and Lily’s cultural and racial differences.
White adoptive families are regularly challenged by the idea of incorporating their child’s birth culture into their family. Researchers have long questioned whether an adopted child’s birth culture should be ignored, as in cases when families essentially raise their child of color as white, or whether it should be embraced, even to the point of trying to mimic a Chinese upbringing in the United States (think Chinese New Year parties and Mandarin lessons). In Racial Formation in the United States: From the 1960s to the 1990s, sociologists Michael Omi and Howard Winant observe that “there is a continuous temptation to think of race as an essence, as something fixed, concrete, and objective. And there is also an opposite temptation: to imagine race as a mere illusion, a purely ideological construct which some ideal non-racist social order would eliminate.” Because Russell sees Lily’s race as an essence, something unalterable, and she needs to feel she was meant to be Lily’s mother, she relies on personal epiphanies and memories that confirm that, in some way, she is also Chinese. Read the Post Chinese like You: White Adoptive Mothers and the Reality of Racial Privilege
Growing up as a queer-identified South Asian Muslimah and a survivor of domestic violence, I’ve occasionally felt that merely existing was, in and of itself, an act of rebellion. But I’ve been fortunate. I’ve not only survived, but thrived, now living the life of a resident physician.
I can’t take all the credit for where I am because, simply put, I’m standing on the shoulders of giants. Through my life, I’ve consistently found media depictions of Muslim women and others engaging in daily acts of resistance to subvert and redefine the predominant discourses about Muslim women. These people and stories form a series of lessons to which I give credit for the awesome trajectory of my life. Here, then, are my seven lessons for a Muslimah’s guide to rocking the world.
Lesson #1: Our commitment to social justice reflects our commitment to faith.
It’s easy, I think, to get lost in the textual analyses of faith alone. The Qu’ran and hadiths are, after all, rich, deep, and complicated. But in an incredible interview on Vimeo, Amina Wadud makes a distinction between being a servant of God and an agent of God. She talks about how her focus on the Qu’ranic meanings alone wasn’t enough; that being an agent implies an obligation to actively live in ways that are consistent with principles of social justice. Wherever and whenever there is injustice, we’re obligated to challenge the status quo.
Lesson #2: Some principles are worth being unwaveringly unapologetic about.
Our social and political positions may not always be popular. In general, I’m all for compromise but, occasionally, there are principles that are and should be “non-negotiable.” With the non-negotiables of life, even when the going gets tough, there should be no sidelining, shifting, or redrafting of the message. Easy to say, difficult to do. But Fanta Ongoiba, executive director of Africans in Partnership Against AIDS in Toronto, makes it look slick. Sexual health and HIV remain hushed, tabooed topics within many Muslim communities. Ongoiba’s work , recently honored by the Canadian Council of Muslim Women, provides real space and fills a real need, no matter the response from religious leaders. As a Toronto Star article put it, “at an international conference, one sheik called her a ‘troublemaker,’ a label she embraced” and to which she also responded “ I’d prefer to be a troublemaker to wake you up.”