Today I’m exhausted about inequality, pissed about Palestine, and generally unimpressed with the lack of progress on this planet. A big part of me wants to disconnect, hide, hibernate, growl, and binge-watch The Killing armed with a fluffy blanket, a furry pup, and an endless supply of popcorn and wine.
But recently I’ve been doing lots of speaking on GBV stuff and answering lots of questions – because we’re in the middle of the 16 Days of Activism and it feels like I’ve got 16 events every.single.day.
So – someone asked how I became a feminist and an activist – and why gender equality is my battle-cry. It’s worth reminding myself of this on days like today. Here’s what I told her:
I was born into this! I am Lebanese-Palestinian Arab-American born into two different religions and yet firmly secular. There’s a lot of stuff going on in all those hyphenated identities! But feminist activism has always been how I orient myself despite these contradictions. I had a strong sense of equality and justice from a very young age. When I was 14 I took a course on women’s history where we studied the different forms of violence that women are subjected to all over the world. And that was it for me! I had found what I wanted to do. At that point I did not know how to do it – but I felt so strongly about this issue. It is the most egregious violation of human rights and the greatest injustice I can imagine. And that’s all I’ve done ever since!
Being a feminist is the way I live my life and how I view the world. Being an activist is not just a job – it’s the way I interact with the world, and what I feel I owe the world. It’s the rent I pay for being here. My feminism is my moral compass. It’s the strongest aspect of my identity and the one to which I am the most loyal.
I am often asked how people can get involved – what can they do to support equality? If we’re committed to women’s rights, is it about education, laws, culture? Where do we start?!
I think it’s all of these – and all of them at the same time! I used to do this in humanitarian emergencies, and now I’m working in academia. These are separate areas – but equally important in terms of building a culture of women’s rights and equality. Equality is a collective commitment – not just a women’s issue or a job for women. It’s not only up to women and girls to fix the historic inequality and discrimination that has been perpetuated by patriarchy.
Am I optimistic about the future, I was asked? Perhaps on days like today it’s harder to be positive. But I remain outwardly cynical and cautiously optimistic. I need to maintain a healthy level of anger at injustice – or I might slack! But I also have to be somewhat (secretly) optimistic or I would not be able to sustain this. I have to believe equality is possible – maybe even in my lifetime!? Likely not. But I still wouldn’t do anything else. And I will do it with every bit of energy I have – for as long as I have.
Phew. I feel better.