On Sunday night, Fatima Salman asked Muslim women to join her in using the hashtag #CanYouHearUsNow because of what Donald Trump said about Ghazala Khan not being allowed to say anything.
When in fact, she is still mourning her son — and it was too painful for her to say anything. Muslim women took to the Twitter streets and talked about who they are and what they have done in order to speak up on behalf of Muslim women and other marginalized groups.
As Muslim women on Twitter shared stories about their lives and as they were challenging the misogyny and Islamophobic sentiments of Trump, I started to notice a trend. Most of the Muslim women that were spearheading the conversation were the most visible, i.e. the ones with the most followers — which is normal.
But the voices that were being “amplified” or in this case — the women that were getting the most retweets and the ones that were being paid the most attention to — were the most privileged among Muslim women.
These include Muslim women that are Ph.D. candidates to Muslim women that were honored by their city, to Muslim women like Malala who received a Nobel Peace Prize. All of these women were either at the heights of their careers or have attained a certain level of visibility that in reality, most Muslim women don’t have.
Ascribing to respectability politics and only speaking about our successes in order to push back against those that say we are voiceless is not productive. tweet
Even though Muslim women deal with the misogyny and Islamophobia, that does not mean that all Muslim women share the same struggle.
The fact that we have unified in sharing our experiences and pushing back against an Islamophobic, misogynist like Trump is amazing. But that doesn’t mean that there is no room for critique here.
Muslim women do not need to be successful or have a Nobel Peace Prize in order to be heard. Ascribing to respectability politics and only speaking about our successes in order to push back against those that say we are voiceless is not productive. In fact, the times that we need to be heard the most are the times when we’re not doing so well and we can’t help out our communities.
The fact of the matter is, not every Muslim woman’s voice is being heard. Black, poor, LGBT and disabled Muslims would agree. When only the most privileged Muslim women’s voices are being amplified, the most vulnerable Muslim women are still being silenced.
For those of us that have bigger platforms, it’s our responsibility to check our privilege and amplify the voices of those that aren’t being heard.