Five months ago, when I started Muslimah Montage, I had a Tweet party #MMontage where participants discussed how Muslim women were changing the narrative through the work they were doing, the challenges, and women who inspired them, as well as many other relevant issues.
I was pleasantly surprised at how many people contributed to the conversation and the dialogue that it started amongst Muslims, Muslim women, women, and people from all over the world. I, personally, learned a lot and posted a brief recap of the event. The only down side of the party was being put in “Twitter Jail” for too much interaction, which in retrospect, is a good thing, right?
It has only been a few months since I have been really active on Facebook and Twitter. I never understood the true value of social networking until then. The amount of awareness that Twitter hashtags and Facebook page articles bring is phenomenal. And it doesn’t stop there, this awareness leads to social activism both online and offline. As Aisha Saeed mentions on her blog, Ten Ways to like Twitter and #EmpoweredMuslimWomen, Suey Park’s #NotYourAsianSidekick, changed how social media is viewed. It has also led to awareness outside of the Twitter world. Park’s hashtag trend has demonstrated the profound effect of social media.
Being around so many empowered Muslim women, in “real life” and on social networks such as Twitter and Facebook, inspired me to have a second Tweet party with the #EmpoweredMuslimWomen hashtag; to celebrate these amazing women and to discuss issues surrounding what it means to be an empowered woman. Muslimah Montage, along with co-host Brown Girl Magazine, will be hosting the event #empoweredmuslimwomen on Tuesday, March 4th, 2014 at 11:00 AM, PST. The event will be moderated by writer and lawyer Aisha Saeed (Twitter handle: @aishasc) and writer and founder of Coming of Faith, Laila Alawa.
Some of the critical questions we will be discussing are:
- What is the definition of “empowered” in the context of Muslim women? We hope to touch on the nuances of what empowerment means to different women from different backgrounds.
- Who empowers women? Do they need others to empower them?
- How can women support each other?
- Why do we need empowered women?
- Where are the role models?
- What does it mean to empower women?
- What are you doing personally to empower yourself or support others?
- How can we be role models for young women?
- Can gender equality be accomplished through empowering women?
- Can we empower women by telling our stories of trials and triumph?
- What are some of the issues that arise with talk of empowering/empowered women?
Among women who have RSVP’d are #EmpoweredMuslimWomen Willow Wilson, Ainee Fatima, Zahra Billoo, Jennifer Zobair, Shireen Ahmed, Raquel Evita Saraswati, and many more wonderful women worth “listening” to. You can check out the event here and join.
Muslimah Montage and Brown Girl Magazine are looking forward to a powerful conversation this coming Tuesday and I am hoping that, while there will be lots of interaction, I do not end up in Twitter Jail again! Or maybe I do?
Follow up after:
Check out Muslimah Montage on Buzzfeed
Muslimah Montage and Brown Girl Magazine had the honor of recently hosting a successful “Tweet Party” with the help of Aisha Saeed, and Coming of Faith‘s Laila Alawa. #EmpoweredMuslimWomen trended on Twitter, was featured on Buzzfeed and continues to be tweeted more than 24 hours after the party started. Most of the tweets were positive. I learned a lot, and hope the people who followed the hashtag learned something, as well.
I learned the very different meanings the word “empower” based on the very different women who partook in the event. Empowered women all look, behave, dress and live very differently; this affects very much how they define “empowerment.” Well known women were not the only ones who are empowered — our mothers and grandmothers, with their own struggles, were just as empowered.
Muslim women are no longer talking about what they wear or how religious they look. They would appreciate it if everyone else would stop talking about it, too.
Women from all over the world participated and one thing was clear: it didn’t matter where the women were from, they wanted to be able to tell their own truths.
And the biggest lesson that I learned was that women empower themselves; they do not need anyone to empower them. They just need a supportive environment in which to do this.
There were people, men and women, who didn’t like the hashtag for various reasons. Some said it was redundant, that if you are a Muslim woman, you shouldn’t have to add “empowered.” But, as usual, my argument is that until this is displayed more commonly and Muslims rid themselves of the misogynistic reputation, it is imperative we qualify “Muslim women.”
Some tweets were so racist and sexist that I hardly feel the need to address them. I will say that Islam has given all humans — women and men — the same rights. Islamic history is filled with empowered women, from Asiya (RA), who stayed steadfast in her beliefs, to Khadija (RA), an older businesswoman who proposed to the Prophet, to Aisha (RA), who related many of the Ahadith of the Prophet.
Another important thing I learned was actually from a Muslim woman who was very critical of hashtag parties. She told me that she wished people would do more than just start Twitter trends. She wanted to see action.
I agree with her. I hope that people who participated in the #EmpoweredMuslimWomen Tweet Party left feeling more aware and inspired to be part of a change in a very real, practical way. Social media leads to awareness, and this awareness, I hope, will lead to more people thinking of the role of Muslim women and eventually social activism on a real, very practical level.
I hope that people who read the hashtag will help women to empower themselves. How?
By providing spaces for women to speak, to speak up, and to speak out.
By supporting women who are working on empowering themselves.
By encouraging women to own their stories and tell their narratives in whatever creative way they choose.
By not criticizing others for being different.
By creating and nurturing diverse environments so that there are no exclusions.
By amplifying the voices of those who aren’t being heard.
By joining someone who is already working with projects that help women empower themselves.
By offering a helping hand to those who need it.
By being, providing, and highlighting positive role models for young women.
By encouraging young women to voice their opinions, their concerns and to be a part of discourse and dialogue.
Most of all, by teaching our daughters that we are our own heroes and not to wait for anyone to save us (Thanks Lila Abu-Lughod).
Reposted from Sabina Khan-Ibarra’s blog IamthePoppyFlower