Representation has come a long way, but I wonder if we took a wrong turn on the way.
Often when I see campaigns or features and images celebrated online about a Muslim woman breaking a stereotype I pause for a moment and think about my friends and family, my mother who lives offline and all the realities that are different, I see a disconnect. I hate using the word ‘normal’ but many of us are living normal lives, trying our best to get on with the daily to-do lists, excelling at time management one day at a time, fitting in our prayers, fighting deep-seated trauma often alone and/or managing to get my kids to eat all three meals without a fuss, in itself is a daily win when it happens.
Online I am constantly faced with the narrative of ‘breaking stereotypes’ and initially I also celebrated it when we began to appear on magazine covers and digital platforms, but a few years on I’m not sure who it’s for anymore and I question the effect it has on our self-esteem and confidence as Muslim women. I also feel a pressure that we need to perform and often I am careful on how I report through articles on Amaliah, for us representation means reflecting the lived realities of Muslim women across the world.
There’s nothing wrong with the headline, these women are breaking stereotypes and we should celebrate them but is this all we can celebrate when it comes to Muslim women? I feel the pressure of sorts that I am too normal, too nothing, too average trying to strive to bring up Muslim children, maintain my home, spend time with family and get through what feels like endless piles of laundry. The headlines are fine but I see white women celebrated and interviewed for a range of things, from how they spend their weekends to what mascara they are using and they are normal and accepted and I don’t understand why we have to be exceptional and flying to the moon or something to be accepted. I worry a little about the Muslim woman offline, at home, scrolling through her phone constantly bombarded with the headlines. I know we should celebrate, and I do, but I want more for us, and diversity in experience and expectations of Muslim women.
On Tuesday I saw another headline and ended up tweeting this, I thought that a few women would relate but it seems hundreds did online.
I don't want to break stereotypes.
Just want to exist free of expectations or having to prove my worth as a Muslim woman. I think the constant narrative of having to be exceptional or unique and really pushing barriers is toxic.
Can we not just be?
— Selina ~ AMALIAH.COM (@Selina_Bakkar) March 5, 2019
Afia Ahmed also expressed a similar opinion where she stated: “We’re almost not allowed to take up space as mediocrity.”
As Muslim women, we are expected to defy common media tropes & act as the model minority. We're almost not allowed to take up space as mediocrity. We have to continually perform at 110%, breaking barriers and knocking expectations for six. It's exhausting. Some days chill. https://t.co/Io3rmFFmnh
— Afia Ahmed (@EduAfs_) March 3, 2019
There were many other Muslim women who agreed and shared their feelings.
I used to feel like this but, most days it feels like there is no other way to exist! Then I get I mad at myself for getting sucked into it all again!!!
— EverydayMuslim (@Everyday_Muslim) March 5, 2019
Hear, hear everyone has a different set of expectations of us 😞 https://t.co/fcHyNCCt6P
— Amria Khatun (@AmriaKhatun) March 5, 2019
The novelty is no longer as sparkling. Try having this conversation with content producers in the media industry and you soon realise that some just don’t get it. https://t.co/myjWiR7aUJ
— Hanan Bihi | حنان بيحي (@hananbihi) March 6, 2019
Yes! We can just be! I'm a Muslim woman & I'm not here to prove anything to anyone! Stop pushing & shoving me to perform like a circus monkey! https://t.co/ukIKWbUvUl
— Aurora Borealis (@PropitiousOn3) March 7, 2019
This tweet is everything!!! https://t.co/y6vFdb1QZm
— Rayhanah Zaky (@LifeOfRay_) March 7, 2019
On this International Women’s Day, I want women to know that they don’t have to be breaking barriers to be worthy, they can just be.
Co-founder of Amaliah amongst many other roles. Selina is passionate about empowering those around her and just trying to be a better person. She loves looking after plants and a good cuppa because motherhood and running Amaliah.com is not for the faint hearted. She is also Co-founder to Aishah and Eesa and currently a one digit mother, Alhamdulilah. You will find her in the local charity shop, garden centre or park with her kids. Have a listen to the Amaliah Voices podcast. Link in bio peeps. To join the Amaliah Writer Community email me at [email protected]