Your Weekly Digest on What Muslim Women Are Talking About

On Capitalising on Our Identities

by in Soul on 2nd June, 2020

Leaving a footprint in the sands of time has always been a preoccupation, particularly for those of us who have at one point been occupied. It is, actually, a post-occupation. We have come to learn, through erased storylines, that history is a creative writing activity for the skilled and powerful of the past, so in the present, we try so hard to be just close enough to being memorable. 

With the dawn of the Fourth Industrial Revolution’s ‘disruptive’ technology and the dusk of the phenomenon of a ‘colony’ as we know it, we think that things are becoming a little bit better for us, right? The world is no longer limited to one channel, and frequencies are far too frequent to be exclusive to just one group, right?

At first glance, definitely. We’ve watched on with frustration as the pie gets bigger and bigger, a pie made up of our ingredients and sold at a discounted price with a label that does not even try to resemble our own. But now, with our Instagram accounts, blogs, and workplaces that strive for ‘representation’, we no longer wait for fleeting recognition of massive corporations to confirm us. We can micro-narrate ourselves into relevance. 

Yes, globalized tech means that we can finally capture our beauty for our mothers, who had to straighten their hair, narrow their waists, and filter their tongues. We can be creative for our fathers, who focused so hard on making a living for us that they neglected to live themselves. 

But during this period of Technicolor diversity and anthems of antennas, my celebration has transitioned slowly to concern. 

In realising that a piece of the pie is our right to claim, and having the courage and resources to claim it, we must also be mindful and, more importantly, be soulful. I ask myself, am I in danger of gaining equal fixation to the money and power that drove us to the structure we exist in today? And worse, even when not being paid, do I feel like I owe the world my stories, body, and feelings? 

Don’t get me wrong. After being told “let them eat cake” for so long, I do not, for a moment, claim that we have no right to have our pie and eat it too. But I ask myself, does the right to do something always make it the right choice for us? Because their pie will eventually run out, and I fear that we are running out of souls to sell. So I am speaking today about our newfound ability to own – and yet potentially lose – ourselves. 

Growing up with bouts of insecurity, I concede that recognition is a necessity and attention is addictive.

But if gaining attention is a currency, commercialized cultures is something we just cannot afford. I cannot envision the oppression of any group, be it on the basis of race, gender, or religion, ending in the same way it started; allowing them to assign financial figures to our physical ones. Some of us have been guided to capitalize on the identities we were penalized for before – but at times, this can be a form of exploitation in itself. In doing so, we risk being detached from our own communities and, oh, how worried I am for suffering that we can’t see. And we don’t all see, because hands tied to our phones are no freer than hands tied behind our backs – we are left immobile.  Yes, I feel myself at risk of buying heavily into the cheap idea of money and approval as I anxiously watch feedback on my pictures and pricing of my pieces… By, sometimes, the same group that exploited my ancestors before me.

So, as the world opens its eyes, we do not have to open our souls and bodies completely to the pickings of others. As technology blurs the lines between the physical and the spiritual, our strength should be our ability to choose when and on whose terms we share small pieces of ourselves. Please, be aware that money-based systems will stop at nothing to draw profit, even if that means closing off accessibility to the communities we are tokenized into representing. 

My happiest moments, I promise you, are the farthest from click-bait.

They are that sweet boy who kissed you on the forehead in a crowded train station, rushed coffee breaks with friends, and singing children songs at the top of your lungs. Moments that felt so real, you never needed to confirm them. So when you sit with family, be with them. Engage with your little cousin’s incessant rambling. Put your phones down when your mother gossips with you. Enjoy the floor shaking during concerts. At dinner, sincerely listen to your friend’s plans for the “next great start-up”. Scream, not to be echoed, but to be heard. Add a human touch to technology, not vice versa. Let art replicate life, not vice versa.

They call it ‘disruptive technology’ for a reason… It forces change.

But small phones were designed to magnify voices, not compress them. We’ll leave our footprints, I promise you. But let’s also tornado through the sand. We have a choice to make, though: do we disrupt this revolution, or does the revolution disrupt us?  

Afaf Asad

Afaf Asad

Jordanian who reads too much, dreams too much, and cracks far too many jokes. But stay tuned for more.