Hi, everyone. I uploaded a picture on my page the other day. Pretty normal, huh? I run a page on Facebook. Yep. Normal. Please check out the image I posted. I was accused of… wait for it… ISLAMOPHOBIA!!!!!
Yep, you heard that right. Apparently I was being Islamophobic when I posted that (because, duh, she is totally wearing a burqa… or wait… is that a hijab?!!).
When asked what made her think the post targeted Muslims or Islam, she said “I take back Islamophobia, on first glance the vale blended into her hair and I thought I saw a burqa. But I will not back down that this still is charged with a lot of ethnic imagery. Going out on a limb here but this image has a whole lot of white privilege. Furthermore, by displaying a woman of SE Asian decent you are perpetuating Orientalism — making Eastern cultures seem crude and barbaric.”
Ok, first of all – even if the vale blended into her hair, that would not be a burqa. That would be a HIJAB (protip: do your research). And yes of course this is charged with “ethnic” imagery! That is because in the countries where females are denied education due to institutionalised sexism, most of them dress this way. What would you prefer? Shorts? That is an option, obviously, if you want to exercise White Privilege by dictating how other cultures be represented in social media. Guess “ethnic imagery” is too sensitive for your tastes, huh? Are you unwilling to accept and/or recognise the brutal and violent sexism present in other countries? Scares you? Makes Eastern cultures seem “crude” and “barbaric”? How did you come to that conclusion from that picture? I do not think the picture in any way insinuated that. I think it insinuates the sexism present in Eastern cultures is crude and barbaric. Don’t you agree? You don’t? Why? Scared of being “politically incorrect”? Maybe a lot of people have jumped on you claiming ISLAMOPHOBIA when you were criticising Islam or “Eastern” cultures’ sexism. Maybe someone said you had White Privilege (therefore, you OBVIOUSLY can’t talk about it as well).
Here is the thing – I can speak out and it is really FRUSTRATING that I can’t speak out without all these allegations.
See, when they accuse me of “white privilege” it is really funny ’cause according to me they’re biased in thinking mostly white people run sites on FB and only first world feminist problems can be talked about without such criticism. Why don’t we see Christianophobia (is there a name for this?) as much as Islamophobia? Truth be told, I have seen people engage in virulent attacks against Christianity and they are encouraged (yay! Speak up! Someone needs to tell them the truth, whoopee!!) but whenever people criticise Islam, we see cries of ISLAMOPHOBIA, ORIENTALISM, WHITE PRIVILEGE.
I mean, yeah, I know, Islamophobia and stuff are problems – I’ve seen it a lot of times. BUT people just need to accept the truth about what happens in other parts of the world without tagging it as some form of hate. Like, most people do know the difference between hate propaganda and criticism, you know. This article, for instance.
There is also a difference between discriminating against someone because of their religion and criticising aspects of their religion.
I feel so angry when I see all this. Like, what’s the point of being active on the net if the problems in India and such can’t be spoken about without being “politically correct” when I DON’T WANT TO. INDIA IS WAY WORSE THAN FIRST WORLD COUNTRIES.
I have no interest in being “politically correct” if it means sugar-coating issues.
How can the problems be corrected if no one is even willing to acknowledge the true extent of the problems and most attempts to address such issues are silenced (almost)? STOP shaming people for speaking out against such issues. STOP marginalising women of colour and their lived experiences. I have LIVED this stuff. Yeah, I know I was born in a comparatively privileged class BUT it is only COMPARATIVELY.
For example, my father’s friend’s wife told my mum not to let me be educated much when they were talking about their children’s future plans regarding education (she has three daughters), or I might get “out of hand” and my mum was totally shocked (she’s a moderate feminist).
If even the so called privileged class think this way, think of the majority of the population living in such countries where virulent misogyny is acceptable, ironically under the guise of “culture”. Do you still say a “culture” which condones such sexism is not “crude” and “barbaric”?
If you’re not comfortable speaking about it (for whatever reasons), please DO NOT SHAME OTHER PEOPLE FOR DOING SO. It marginalises me because right now, my experiences are “othered”. People automatically assume pages on Facebook are run by white people and “we” shouldn’t talk about “their” issues. I’m a woman suffering under patriarchy too. This attitude does a disservice to me by saying my problems are too “complex” and “politically incorrect”.
Obviously, I don’t want anyone acting like a saviour, and I’m not asking for that. I just want you to recognise that my experiences are just as valid as yours, my problems are just as valid, and criticising the culture which promotes such misogyny IS JUST AS VALID. I never heard someone tell me I cannot criticise Republicans because I’m not white or not American.
We better fix this if we want people to rush into “the warm and welcoming arms of Feminism”.

Concluding this with a few comments from an awesome person I friended on Facebook.
“..This innocent photo is Islamophobia? As a woman of color, take your white privilege elsewhere and stop condescending to us women of color. How dare you deny patriarchal oppression of eastern religions under the guise of orientalist pretentions?”
“…among the top 10 places that are horrible for women–Islamic country figure far more prominently than others.

//Going out on a limb here but this image has a whole lot of white privilege. Furthermore, by displaying a woman of SE Asian decent you are perpetuating Orientalism — making Eastern cultures seem crude and barbaric.//

Ever thought that the admin here is actually a woman from a South Asian country who isn’t white? Stop imposing your shitty ideological hackery on us women of color. Don’t tell us how we protest patriarchy in our cultures”
“…so naive, uninformed, dripping with white privilege and ridiculous that they think any brown woman with a dupatta/chadar is automatically a Muslim.
Racist stereotyping much here btw? How do they know this isn’t a Sikh, Christian, Hindu or Bahai girl? I guess all us brown people are the same!
We shouldn’t be protesting the oppression of women of color in own culture even though the misogyny is far more prevalent than anywhere in the west, and comes in the most violent, virulent form that most westerners can’t even fathom?”

I’m really angry. And I don’t give a flying fuck if you think this post is “too angry” or I seem “too angry” because I am ANGRY at the marginalisation of my experiences and assertions that all oppression is the same – there are varying degrees of oppression! It is not going to hurt you to accept that. I’ve always considered Feminism as empowering and cool and beautiful. But I guess nothing is perfect.


  1. Brilliantly argued! I’m am so very glad to read this. You’ve hit it on the head!! This is exactly what I am running into with some major feminist groups in the west in context of female gendercide: we are talking extreme violence here. Living in the U.S. I can say women of color there too have constantly complained of racism in the white feminist movement — but it doesn’t matter!! It angers me that where in the west — they believe women are entitled to safety, protection from rape, from all other forms of sexual and physical violence, in the third world, whether it is dowry murders, female infanticide or FGM, western feminists will say “Educate the masses.” Well, why don’t we educated the masses in the west to stop rape and femicide, instead of pushing for the laws and governance to guarantee women safety unconditionally. Recently that is exactly what I told the editor of a major western feminist magazine: Do you think only white women are entitled unconditionally to safety for the rest of us third world women it is a negotiation, a charity?

  2. Good post. It is definitely absurd that when one observes gender discrimination in a Muslim setting one can thereby be accused of islamophobia. They would insist that you caring is close-minded, offensive, and it is not your problem

    Yes, women who do not cover themselves in those regions gets acid thrown in their faces.
    That does not mean that brutality against women at large is not present in every culture on the planet.
    No one’s societies are above the implications of this.
    For myself, this is not about islamophobia or religious rebellion.
    This is about patriarchal brutality against the largest minority group on the planet and throughout human history (women).
    This IS my problem, because I CHOOSE to give a shit.

  3. OMG, I remember this same conversation of the Women’s movement in the 60’s, when women’s groups were meeting in living rooms. The movement was thought as white, middle class, het
    erosexual. Haven’t we come further than that?

  4. Excellent words and that. Wish you’d been a bit more vigilant in the editing cos I just got all lost in the middle for a secx

  5. Just because a woman covers her head she is a Muslim? How dumb can you get. Christian women in Pakistan also cover their heads, its to do with culture not religion. Im a proud brown Muslim woman but I dont cover my head does that make me non-Muslim?

  6. Very well argued! The person who criticized you was being stupid – if you’d used a photo of a white, western woman it wouldn’t really make sense because in the west women can read and write. (Illiteracy does exist in Europe of course, but not western Europe, and illiteracy caused by sexism isn’t as prevalent.) And calling aspects of any culture barbaric is okay; if we can call aspects of western culture barbaric or wrong, as feminists do, why not aspects of other cultures? It isn’t racist, disrespectful or neo-colonist to disagree with certain laws or practices in other countries. Especially since the people of those countries do not all agree with the status quo (e.g. Saudi Arabian women, especially the younger generation aren’t in agreement with their culture. The Arab Spring didn’t agree with the status quo of not having democracy. Iranians have their own ideas about what they’d like their country to be like.)

  7. Pingback: Yefon – the movie | On Feminism and Love (and other things)

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