No Damsel in Distress Here: Taking Action in Trump America

Not even 24 hours after Trump winning U.S. elections, the level of open racism, reports of sexual assault and violence towards disenfranchised and minority groups escalated to a disgraceful level for 2016 standards.

If you’re still in shock, grieving, or angry over these results. It’s OK.

Let yourself heal. But after that, be a boss. Empower yourself to take action.

If you’re wondering what in the world could you possibly do anything about something that feels out of your hands or have no control over – we’ve collected some valuable insights from our favorite Muslimah leaders, shakers and movers and made an action list just for you:

  1. First – stay calm, get educated, be connected. We’ve technically been dealing with terrible decision making by our government for many years (wall street bailout, wars, etc), but we will stay resilient and informed. Don’t panic and be depressed forever either. Take this energy and channel it into action that comes from an authentic place. Not to overwhelm or overburden yourself, take action that will let you be YOU – to who you are and why you care so much. Rest assured, this man has made a whole bunch of “promises” he cannot keep. –  Van Jones.
  2. Be unapologetically Muslim. Do not let people tell you or let you feel less worthy because of your beliefs. Even if you disagree with the outcome of the election, you can protest anything you want. Do it safely and respectfully, but if you feel strongly about it – just do it! – Linda Sarsour.
  3. Don’t hesitate to take precautions. If it makes you feel any more empowered – purchase pepper spray or take self-defense classes. See this list of 47 Safety Tips of Muslimahs.
  4. If you experience any form of harassment or assault, please please report it to the police, ACLU and CAIR. File that police report in person. If you think it’s a waste of time or useless, it at least provides real data and a quantitative basis for analyzing hate crimes that have been occurring. Then file hate crimes with ACLU and CAIR – they are there to support and represent you.
  5. Boycott racists businesses. It doesn’t cost you a thing – literally. Don’t take or bring your money to establishments that degrade you or any other human. Call out any racist remarks or harassment – especially on review pages like Yelp or BBB  – The Love Life of an Asian Guy.
  6. Ignore bullies, they want a reaction. If you see or hear harassment in the streets – ignore the perpetrator but engage the victim with a conversation. Call out hate speech when you hear it… in your living room, at work, with friends, in public.
  7. Increase your activism, civic engagement or simply stay informed. Almost half of America did not turn out to vote this election season. Important propositions (like in California – the death penalty, rising drug costs and legalization of marijuana) and worthy Senate and House of Representatives (like Ilhan Omar, the first Somali American woman legislator in the US) were being decided by voters and your vote counts more towards these issues!
  8. And last but not least, if you find out someone has made the decision to remove their headscarf during this time, make duaa and support each other. We know first hand how hard it is to be visibly Muslim during this time. There’s no reason why you should believe to be better or more righteous than the person who chooses to do it.

“The work of unmaking violence begins with us—when we confront the violence, fear, and hatred in our midst. Even small acts can remake the world” (PreemptiveLove.org). 

Do you have any thoughts/action ideas to add to this list?

You, Me, and Colonial Standards of Beauty

By Sumayya Tobah, Editor

I was seven years old when I was given my first Barbie. I was visiting my grandfather in Cairo, Egypt, and he took me to a toy store to buy a birthday gift. Having been denied a blonde-haired, blue-eyed Barbie doll by my parents, I knew what I wanted. I chose “Dentist Barbie,” because she came with a chair, dental tools, and a white lab coat. I justified it by telling my parents the woman has multiple degrees — she must have her life together.

My parents tried to explain their thinking to me.

“Sumayya,” they said,”You’re never going to have blue eyes or long blonde hair. Your waist will never be that tiny, your chest and hips will never be that perfectly formed, and your knees will bend. We don’t want you saddled with unrealistic expectations of what your body will look like, or what should be considered beautiful. You are beautiful the way God made so, so long as you are clean, healthy and happy.”

Okay, I said. Can I have my Barbie now?

Obviously, as I got older, I became more acutely aware of what they were talking about. It can’t come as a surprise that body image is always near the surface of a teenage girl’s mind. I was lucky enough to get through my formative years without some kind of destructive eating disorder, but I can easily count on my fingers the number of girls I know personally who did. It’s a scary thing.

But when it comes to women of color, it’s more than that. We’re consistently told that if you don’t fit into Western (or as I’m going to refer to it from now on, Colonial) standards of beauty, you’re not beautiful at all. Light skinned, light eyes, straight hair — I think we all know what I’m talking about. This standard of beauty has been internalized by our communities. We see it when our grandmothers tell us not to stay in the sun too long or we’ll “get dark.” We see it when our light eyed friends are fetishized by the older aunties. And we see it when expecting mothers pray for their daughters to be born with straight hair and light skin rather than strong hearts and quick minds.

Women of color also come in colonial flavors, mind you. We are also fetishized if we are found to be non-threatening and apolitical. If our eyes are the right shape, we have a cute accent and our hips can be described in a Shakira song, we get called “exotic.” Let’s get one thing straight right now; it’s never okay to refer to a human being as exotic. That word should be reserved for parrots and mangoes.

When it comes to standards of beauty, many of us remain internally colonized. In fact, in general, many of us are internally colonized. We don’t notice because we’ve known no other way of life, but our lives have been irreversibly marked with Western fingerprints.

And not that I’m an expert on how to remove these metaphorical shackles, but I’ve come to a couple of conclusions as to how to at least get by.

Firstly, know your roots. My family is mostly Egyptian, and that accounts for my almond shaped eyes and how quickly I tan in the afternoon sun. I have been told my entire life that I have my grandfather’s nose — not exactly the compliment every young girl wants to hear. But it wasn’t until I learned about the struggles my grandfather went through after leaving his little Egyptian village until I visited mosques in Cairo with my unbreakable grandmother until I began to see my own people through a lens untainted by Western penmanship, that I began to see myself as beautiful. These eyes and this skin have survived too much to be brought down by my low self-esteem. I am beautiful because of my story and how I came to be is beautiful.

I once had a woman tell me that I would be so much prettier if I “relaxed my hair.” I told her, my hair descended from fighters, it doesn’t want to relax.

I may have been going through an Alex Haley phase at the time, but the sentiment still stands. I have no doubt in my mind that we, as people of color, as colonized peoples, all have incredible stories nestled in our family trees. Once you know them, it’s difficult to see yourself as anything less than astounding.

Secondly, surround yourself with narratives and perspectives of other people of color. A few years ago, I made the decision to only read books by people of color. I had just graduated from an English undergraduate program and was a little sick of having an all-white, all-male syllabus be hailed as the best that literature has to offer. I began reading more books by women, books translated from different languages, books about history written from alternate perspectives and viewpoints. Not only did it change how I saw the world, it really changed how I saw myself. Writers like Zora Neale Hurston, Louis de Bernieres, Elif Shafak, Isabel Allende — these voices add such color to a bland literary landscape and should be celebrated for the magic they create.

I took it one step further this year and started buying magazines with only women of color featured on the cover. This wasn’t even a conscious decision though, it just sort of happened. I suddenly found myself uninterested in reading about women who had very little in common with me. Not that I have tons in common with Kerry Washington or Nicki Minaj, but still. When these women talk about tackling discrimination in the workplace or facing white privilege on a day-to-day basis, I find myself subconsciously nodding along.

Finally, (and this one might make you a little unpopular) when you notice these colonial, destructive tendencies in someone else, say something. I’m not saying disrespect your elders because they want you to come in from the sun; these cultural tendencies might be a little harder to shake. So let’s start with our peers — compliment their differences, their imperfections, their beauty in its natural state. But let’s take it one step further. Compliment their goodness, their resilience, their courage, and strength. After all, those are the qualities that survived decades of imperialism and oppressive colonization.
These are the qualities that last. Well, and my grandfather’s nose.

Follow Sumayya on Instagram and Twitter @thisissumayya

Follow us on Instagram @ahfif and @bossmuslimahs to see what we’ve been up to! 

S H O P  N O W

 

 

#BOSSMUSLIMAHS Launch & Chat w/ Noor Tagouri

As Women’s Appreciation month comes to an end and we enter the month of April, Ahfif is working to ensure that the celebration of women continues on throughout the year. We are excited to announce the official launch of our #BossMuslimahs blog and campaign.

#BOSSMSLMS is an inclusive movement designed to uplift, exhibit and inspire women from the Muslim community. We aim to create a platform that provides a voice that promotes empowerment of women – whether it be through education, fashion, spirituality, family, or the workplace.

To kick off the movement, I, Aaliyah Sade:  Ahfif ambassador, flew out to Orlando, Florida to host the first Ahfif: Boss Muslimahs meet and greet at the University of Central Florida’s MSA Muslim Fest. While at UCF, I attended Noor’s “10,000” talk, had the pleasure of meeting with young women from the MSA of UCF, and personally chatted with Noor Tagouri.

Below is the full interview along with clips from the meet up and giveaway.

Enjoy!

#BOSSMUSLIMAHS Launch & Chat with Noor Tagouri

 

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