Who am I ?
A question I was asked when I did my first podcast last week. That was an unexpected question that I didn’t prepare for and you can tell by listening to it HERE
Or on Soundcloud
So lets back up and start how and why I was on ROOTLESS podcast.
I was going through my Instagram feed and I came across Women in Paris , I have always wanted to go on one of her tours, check her out … Anyway … I saw that she did a podcast interview in which she spoke about feminism and Paris, something that I am highly interested in, as it most certainly effects me. I found myself on Rootless Instagram and then webpage. I discover that a Danish journalist is doing a season of interviews of Parisian women and asking them does the French live up to their slogan of Libereté, Egalité , Fraternité . I answered to myself “Hell Nooooo”. I contacted Karien and ask if she would be interested in hearing my view.
After a few email / text exchanges I received a brief from her. I must admit it didn’t sit well with me. I immediately thought “same old same old…being boxed again by yet another journalist”. I thought Karien’s perception of Iraq or Iraqi women was so misguided and that of me a hijabi Muslim woman with 3 identities. The notion that France was more equal or liberal towards women than Iraq made me laugh cynically so hard and frustrated me, as I read her email in which she wanted to explore that notion that I have more liberty here in France.
Iraqi women are well educated and have constitutional rights to vote and more since 1950. Iraq was the first Arab country to have a women political minister in 1952, Naziha al-Dulaimi. Iraqi women were the first to rise up against the British occupation just before WW1 and they were and still are instrumental in many ways in every day life. We have the world famous architect Zaha Hadid , many influential politicians, poets and painters, Fashion designers like Zeena Zaki, activist like Zainab Salbi, hello … Huda Beauty, the global brand… yep the Gattan sisters are Iraqi too!
In Fact if you really dig deep you will discovered that women’s rights and equality was first found in ancient Mesopotamian (now Iraq). Women were the High Priestesses and Goddesses who controlled the land and way of life. Many ruled over Kingdoms and legislated laws. So feminism was born out of the Middle East and it is not a Western ‘modern’ concept.
I informed Katrine that in today’s media Iraq is viewed through a very negative light and is in fact being pushed into a dark corner by those who see it that way. Have you ever wondered how a country can function under years of constant war after war and the most harsh sanctions ever placed on a country? Where pencils were not allowed because they contain lead! Dictatorships and political instability cripples a country to its knees. So how can women’s equality fully flourish ? The irony is that those pushing for wars and sanctions, those who pushed Iraq into darkness where the French (among others) who claim Libereté, Egalité , Fraternité is theirs. Iraq like many other countries has equality as a corner stone of their foundations. So for someone to suggest that equality and liberty is a French thing is truly misguided.
Libereté, Egalité , Fraternité is a global ideal that all countries and all citizens should enjoy and uphold. It is not a French thing. And by the way the French do it badly. France is still struggling with giving right and opportunity for women of all backgrounds.
I also told Katrine that I felt boxed into stereotypical categories by her brief and that it brought familiar uncomfortable and hurtful feelings of how I am usually wrongly boxed by society. I felt that I am put in a place to speak for others who have the same background or religion as me. I speak for myself only. I do not represent others, I represent me. And it is exactly that which I have experienced, that I am a representative of Muslim women, of Islam or Iraqi women who are oppressed, victims of patriarchy and religon who have no rights, live a sad existence that should be saved. Or I am boxed into a ‘modern’ Muslim who wears ‘western’ clothes and is fighting to break the shackles of her culture and religion, who wants to be like ‘us’ and adopted ‘Western modernity’. However, mostly I am boxed into being a terrorist , an evil woman who is plotting something sinister.
I am never boxed as British, even though I have lived there almost my entire life. I am not boxed into a interesting human being, a funny creative lady, someone who has something valuable to contribute to society. Sadly I am never boxed into something positive. Why?
In fact why am I boxed into anything and why should be boxed at all?
Why can’t I just be me, whoever I choose to be in all my colours and shades at any moment in life, representing only my choices and beliefs? A luxury that a lot can only dream of. Because to me, to be boxed in is a simple way of understanding or in fact misunderstanding someone on a micro level.
Humans have always wanted to understand how and where things come from and function, so they categorise things and box things into their perceived labels, a very scientific liner way of order and understanding. But as we evolve we understand that life is not a straight line and that we have multiple layers and a mesh of identities and factors that transcend into many boxes and sub boxes and labels …
So who am I ?
I can box myself based on my appearance, character, background, identity, believes, work or life experience, job titles and roles or even perception. It’s quite hard isn’t it ?
I would box myself into the ‘important’ labels to me maybe.. the hyphenated labels too and the sub-labels… like
I am an Iraqi-British-Parisian woman.
A spiritual Shia-Muslim.
A mother of Middle Eastern heritage. ( I was about to put Mother of dragons LOL , you could argue that my two boys are like dragons, but I call them monkeys because they are always up to mischief)
Creative content producer (blogger, artist, painter, poet, photographer, art n craft maker).
I am an activist and human rights advocator.
I am a feminist.
Loyal and loving friend.
A Book lover.
A Food lover.
I am an emotional being.
And the list goes on and on …..
So sometimes its okay to box ourselves in what you feel comfortable in but we have the full right to create our own box with our own label …. We are fundamentally allowed to unbox ourselves at any time and stay out of the box…
And as Katrien said in the interview, why not create a circle ?
So from an unboxed Wafa I wish you a fantastic day…