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I’ve been thinking a lot in the last 24 hours or so about how individuals who live in invisible and silenced enclaves might claim a piece of social space in which their register has room to expand from silence/whisper to silence/singing intensely flowing with the full power of uninteruppted Self–expressive, present, and audible. Wesch’s digital ethnography and the disruptive potential of mini-narratives has created a steady rumbling of voices like water building to a boil…What gets cooked in its heat?
Here’s a story about girls learning to use media to tell their own stories, acquire a position in the political spectrum in order to contribute to the conversation, and make their needs, opinions, ideas heard. How does it feel to be a problem? (Have you read this book? About being young and Arab in America? http://www.amazon.com/How-Does-Feel-Be-Problem/dp/B001W6RRUW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1266400590&sr=8-1). Perhaps another important question to consider–for all of us to consider–is how does it feel to be defined, identified, and contained by the dominant discourse, ways of seeing, or crap spewed on Fox Tv. And when young Muslim women take steps to define themselves…well, what kind of uproar does that create in…where…in NEW YORK CITY?
A note about the t-shirts that got the girls in trouble: Intifada NYC. Yes, we all know about the Palestinian intifadas but consider the actual meaning of the word in Arabic: shaking off. SHAKING OFF. Yes, get your effing reductionistic, essentialist, suffocating definitions of MY identity off me. I can identify with that feeling. It happens all over the world and the best way to experience it is to become a foreigner. Interestingly, I experienced this mentality and pressure to live up to my externally imposed devilish identity/reputation when I lived in Cairo.
There, as a Western woman, I was commonly perceived as a hussy, immoral, a Zionist sympathizer, and a strangely seductive temptress that needs to be…I don’t know. I’m basing this description on MANY MANY TOO MANY conversations with cab drivers!! Okay, okay, statisticians…I’m sure we can identify all kinds of variations…but my point is…there was very little space for me to articulate my own identity. Interesting, isn’t it, that so often the Western liberal ‘concern’ for Muslim women (and you can sense this in Hill’s ideas about what the girls need to do and become–as if she wants to impose a newer more radical identity on girls firmly based in feminist ideals) is that they are silenced and isolated because of big, mean, Muslim men. I am not arguing that there isn’t gender discrimination, human rights violations, or inequity in Muslim and non-Muslim countries alike–my point is: WTF America? Who stole the pubic space that was once available for self-expression, political engagement, and the messy intermingling of multiple and textured identities that have come together in one place that promised to uphold that space for free expression for all?
All this because a group of girls want to shake off the stereotypes that strangle them. Interesting.
Tell me what you think.