My daughter is a 14 year old introvert. I hardly ever get a glimpse into her feelings, but she shared her poem with me. I thought it was beautiful. I wanted to pass it on:
Imaan Siddiqi, 14
One of the heaviest things in the world
I found myself crushed
Whenever I was with friends
Though you couldn’t tell
It was a different silence
Deeper than sound waves and vibrations
The inability to voice your opinion
So heavy, I couldn’t grow
I was stuck
Because their voices were louder than mine
I learned to listen.
Now, I cherish
What is some advice you have for women who want to write online?
Ayesha Siddiqi, EIC of The New Inquiry:
The voice in your head that’s asking how dare you is the voice produced by an environment that’s going to be challenged by your daring. The risk of undervaluing what you have to offer, especially for women of color, is so much greater than the risk of overvaluing it. Your contribution may not be grand, but its absence is going to be deeply felt and be part of a much greater void in our culture and history.
DCB: I was watching her interview when she addressed her Elle cover. And she says that she felt good that they wanted to focus on her face. I feel like women of color are forced to be their own spin doctors, but to appease the world. Like WOC are forced to focus on one good thing. Or what’s easy for others to swallow. Am I making sense?
HN: Yaasss, absolutely.
DCB: Like, as a kid it was about owning my good skin, or, like, thick hair! Or some bullshit like that. Now it’s, like, “eyebrows.”
HN: Lmaooo, yo you right — eyebrows are in.
DCB: When white girls tell me not to pluck, it’s like, I’m too lazy to pluck. My bushy eyebrows are the ones I was born with and I get a little sick when white women, unprompted, suggest I leave them the way they naturally are.
AS: Shout-out to every sperm-browed Becky who asked if I had caterpillars on my face in middle school but now spend their nights googling eyebrow implants/tints.
DCB: Exactly. Something about Mindy waxing about feeling good that they chose her face for the cover really set me off. Because I’ve done that too, my whole life.
HN: Yes, please speak on it!
DCB: Like, I had to own the compliments that were given to me rather than just feel everything I was as a whole woman. The amount of moms at soccer practice who loved my thick hair or people always tell me I should wear more color because colors look good on me.
AS: Wow, really heavy thinking about how much of that was part of my life that I just took for granted. For a long time I just assumed adults commenting on your body and touching it without your permission was just part of American culture. Only recently have I learned it’s not something I should/ever should have put up with.
DCB: Another one: dark rings under my eyes. The amount of people that ask me if I’m tired all the time. I’ve never once covered the dark rings under my eyes, and worse is when white girls are like, “No that’s in”
HN: (You can’t hear me right now but I keep just saying “Mmmm” to myself and feeling all emotional.) OMG the deep-set eyes thing!
DCB: I never get my makeup done. I also barely wear any makeup, but when someone else does it, the first thing they do is put some white stuff under my eyes and smudge.
AS: White people don’t have a frame of reference for our beauty; they wile out. Here we’re talking about growing up having white people rationalize our looks to themselves, framing their unsolicited commentary as a compliment we’re supposed to be grateful for. To be constantly put in a position to thank them for the white gaze applied to us. To be the source of their confusion is so grating; it’s dehumanization to be treated like a novelty rather than an equal.
HN: And all that time you spend being a source for their confusion really warps your mind. I remember the first time I ignored my mom and insisted that I get my hair done at a “regular” hair cuttery and feeling just so not human after I left. The fashion and beauty world in general just makes me feel so fundamentally not human.
DCB: My mom is Anglo-Indian so she’s got all kinds of bomb roots, but we look sorta nothing alike. And when people see her, they’re like, “She’s so white!” It always makes me mad. Like my roots surprise other people, like I’m just supposed to be Bollywood brown or something.
AS: A lot of the compliments I get from white people have been like when Regina George does a suspicious once-over and says, “You’re like, really pretty” and the implied “Howw whyyy?” hangs in the air. Honestly that there’s no frame of reference for WOC beauty that isn’t highly warped is so damaging because that’s why there are so many young South Asians who date white people and consider themselves lucky for being able to “get one.” Because they don’t consider themselves attractive, and learned not to find each other attractive, they so often don’t even know how to. It’s the oppression of invisibility. And the visibility is a fun-house mirror. Hollywood regularly asexualizes South Asian men, treating them as dickless jokes, while hypersexualizing South Asian women, preserving their availability for white men.
As Muslims, we should participate in the system to safeguard our interests and try to bring gradual change, (but) we must not forget that Allah’s rules have to be established in all lands, and all our efforts should lead to that direction.
Muzammil Siddiqi, chairman of both the Fiqh Council of North America, which dispenses Islamic rulings, and the North American Islamic Trust, which owns most of the mosques in the U.S.