Look__16 April 2018

We're talking feminism and 'fits today. Well, today and every day.

I had the opportunity to take some pictures of Tori & Amena and ask them a couple questions abut feminism. We hung out, went to a laundromat near by and took some cute pics, got yelled at for sitting on a washing machine, but also got compliments from cute old ladies on our outfits.

Are you a feminist ? How was feminism affected you as a woman of color living in America ?

TORI : Yes, I am a feminist.

I’ve seen in my own life, and I’ve read feminists say that culture is always transcribed onto the bodies of women. Women carry forward cultural norms, they teach their children their culture’s language, foods, and behaviors, their clothing and demeanor is always looked at to mark a culture’s progress or lack thereof. In the west, cultures in which women cover their heads are seen by many to be “backwards” while in many of those cultures, it is the nakedness of women in the West that is seen as uncivilized. In both cases, it’s the woman’s body that bears the marks of the culture. Being an immigrant woman, there is a tension between your parents’ hopes that you will carry on your culture’s traditions to the next generation, and your own desire to break free of damaging gender norms that you may have been raised with. Sometimes, when you do things or take stances that defy Pakistani or Muslim gender norms, your parents see it as an attempt to assimilate. It’s seen as if you are diluting your culture, not as if you’re just pushing back against patriarchal norms and expectations.

Should south asian females actively deconstruct patriarchy together ?

TORI: Yes! We all need to work together, with South Asian men as well, to take apart the specific ways that patriarchy manifests itself in our cultures. It’s hard sometimes because we feel defensive of our cultures in a political climate that is so hostile to immigrants and Muslims, but that does not mean we can stop the work that needs to be done within our own communities to shatter harmful gender norms.

Dirty Laundry

What role does race play in your practice or experience of being a woman / feminist ?

TORI:   I’m a Muslim woman in America at a time when this identity has been given a really strong racial association with South Asian and Arab cultures. In truth, most Muslims in America have always been black Americans, not MENASA immigrants, and that has really been erased by our current political conversations. I have seen so many immigrant communities adopt the language of protest and resistance that was first created by black Americans, then excluding black Americans from their conversation. How can you be a feminist and not support black women? How can you be a Muslim American activist and not affirm that black lives matter? All of these identities are tied together and our struggles for liberation are incomplete without taking these things into account. So many South Asian immigrants have bought into this idea of us being the “model minority,” and that is such a toxic concept. It completely erases the work done by black Americans since the dawn of this country to open America up to people of color. Without their foundation, our struggles have no basis. Inter-racial and inter-community solidarity is crucial.

Dirty Laundry

Models : Tori Mumtaz & Amena Bailey
Photographed and Interviewed by Natasha Sumant