What do Hilary Clinton, Google, L'Oreal, Wonder Woman, and Nike all have in common? They are all fairly successful at convincing mass audiences that they are inclusive and support women despite actively causing violence against women from particular racial, ethnic, socio-economic, gender, and religious identities whose voices are systematically silenced: those who are not white, not American, working-class, trans, and Muslim.

Illustration: Stephanie McMillan

Two days ago, on March 6th, Google announced its campaign for International Women's Day "encouraging ladies across the world to share their stories" while The Intercept announced that "Google is quietly providing AI technology for drone strikes targeting project." Quietly, indeed.

While Google is receiving praise from media outlets for collaborating with artists to celebrate and uplift women's voices "from Japan to Pakistan," they are simultaneously supporting U.S. military efforts to drone strike women, mothers, grandmothers, and girls. Truly, a feminist icon.

But, we permit them to get away with it, as we do with others every single day. We tend to continuously allow negotiations in our feminism or support of women: we forgive multi-billion dollar exploitative corporations as fast as they can put a headscarf on a model or imperialism as fast as it can put on a pink pantsuit. 

But of course, these exclusions are intentionally meant to be so: if we questioned how everyone--from the (most likely) child picking the cotton in Burkina Faso to the mothers in Bangladesh sewing it all together in stuffed factories--were getting paid behind every $5 t-shirt we saw at Forever21, we no longer would have the "luxury" of cheap clothing. And God forbid we can't hit the sale rack and impulsively buy in the name of self-care. 

So, we're taught to not think beyond "our borders", shut up, and just buy the damn thing. It's easier to not think about the complexity: it takes less time, it sounds nice, and ultimately, it is not in our favor after all? 

Illustration: Stephanie McMillan 

Intersectional feminism--a holistic understanding of women's rights that includes space for women from aforementioned identity groups whose realities challenge our privilege--comes right down to your own body and the conscious (and unconscious) choices you're making every day as you decide what to wear. Or whose surface-level narrative you might be buying into (and therefore paralyzing you from doing something about it). 

It's not easy, because it if it was then we would already be out of this mess. It is an intentional set of decisions we must make, every single day, as we choose where we buy our clothes, what we are and are not using our platforms for, how we choose to love or not love ourselves and our communities, and the extent we choose to engage with or not engage with the realities of privilege and violence we find ourselves in.  

As written previously on JooJoo Azad, it is increasingly important to see past surface-level inclusion, ask important questions, love our communities over corporations, and understand the complexity of narratives designed to sail smoothly down our throats. 

On International Working Women's Day,
let's make this a commitment. 


I'm sharing the quick speech I gave one year ago today at the International Working Women's Day rally in Chicago, adapted a little to read better as a standalone piece, as it remains unfortunately relevant. I've been getting a lot of messages recently from people asking for support in articulating the politics of JooJoo Azad in speeches they're giving at protests and rallies, so I hope this can be of help. I'll also be uplifting women I love across my social media today, as well as DRUM's (Desis Rising Up and Moving)'s "Working-Class SHEroes" campaign, for those following along. I encourage people who are able to, to donate to their important work.  

Illustration: Stephanie McMillan

March 08, 2017: 
Today we are at a time of exacerbated anti-Muslim racism that has only been increasing throughout my lifetime.

So as our mosques continue to get burned, our people continue to be banned, harassed by police, killed by white supremacists, stalked by DHS, as I continue to get called a terrorist and spat on as I read my book on the red line, let me set the record straight on the multiple layers of anti-Muslim racism that is prevalent in society that you might not have noticed.

First, Stop draping your american flags over our Hijabs to make us American enough for your solidarity.

Stop infantilizing us in your bystander intervention comics, stop localizing international politics, and stop flattening our identities as Muslim women into a single hijab.

So here is what you should know.

Know that anti-Muslim racism existed long before Trump.

Know that “counterterrorism” or “national security” are only code words for anti-Muslim policies. Know that Obama administered more drone strikes than any other president before him and is largely responsible for creating many of the refugees who Trump is now banning.

Know that if Hilllary Clinton would have become president, one of the only things that would have changed is that many of you would not be standing here today, in protest.

Know that hyper-militarization of police is largely fueled by anti-Muslim racism. And know that the police are only here to serve and protect upperclass white people, and that you cannot be pro-Muslim and support the police. Know that if you are Muslim you must not say but demand that Black lives matter not only because the first Muslims in this country were Black slaves, but because our community is also Black, and our individual liberation is wholly dependent on each other.

Know that Israel is an apartheid state that spends millions creating and perpetuating anti-Muslim propaganda. That Israel trains American police. That you cannot be pro-Israel and support Muslims.

Let me repeat: You cannot be pro-Israel and support Muslims

You cannot be pro-war and support Muslims

You cannot be pro-drone strikes and support Muslims

You cannot remain silent or ignorant about the genocide of Rohingya Muslims in Burma and support Muslims

You cannot be transphobic or pretend that this land was not stolen and call yourself an immigrant and support Muslims.

Why? Because we, as Muslims, should and will refuse to be complicit in support that marginalizes or causes direct violence and injustice to our own or others. That does nothing to move us forward. But also, if you look deeper, you see the roots of all of these systems of violence are one and the same. 

And know that with all of this, if you cannot, therefore, support Muslims, you cannot call yourself a feminist either.

And no, I will not, under any circumstances, compromise any of this. I will not excuse you if you are a zionist. I will not smile at you if you are “wearing a hijab for a day.” I will not join your movement if you forget Americans are privileged at the expense of people of color around the world.

Let us not compromise our values, our identities, our histories, our spiritualites to have one extra person show up at our rallies, for one extra person in my march who refuses to accept the complexity of my identity, my family trauma and displacement, and my oppression.

And finally, at a time where violence against our communities is becoming increasingly normalized, let us not forget to show up for our people. We must love our people--those who are truly here with us-- we must show up for, support, build with, and love, deeply, intentionally and intensely. Because The movement forward will be rooted in radical love. It will be uncompromising in our values.

So I thank you all who came out today to celebrate and resist.

And I encourage you to come out tomorrow. And the day after. And the day after. And for Black lives. and for indigenous people and for trans people. And for working class people. And for Palestinians. And for Muslims.

Because we will not remain silent when the trump regime makes trans people feel unsafe to use the bathroom. We will not remain silent when they expand military and police and ICE raids. Or when our mosques are burned and synagogues vandalized.

And we should not remain silent after 16 shots. Because we are stronger when we are together. Because we are powerful when we are together. Because we will win when we are together. Because love trumps hate...and Trump.

So thank you for being united. Thank you for coming together Muslim and non-Muslim, from different sects and backgrounds and languages and abilities and genders and ages. Thank you for refusing to remain silent. In honor of working class women around the world, let's actively work to complicate our world views, internationalize local politics, and take shit down together, with a holistic understanding of what that will look like. 

Illustration: Stephanie McMillan


* Edit March 8, 10:50am CST -- I incorrectly used feminism and womanism interchangeably, and have updated the piece accordingly. (more on "womanism" and why it's different from feminism here)