You have a beautiful and prolific online presence. How do you feel this has helped your self-expression, and diversified the representation of Muslim women, and ‘brown girls,’ as you describe yourself? How do you feel it has curtailed it? As a child and throughout my adolescence, I had never seen anyone dress like me or had seen any form of alternative styles performed by brown people. When I was a young dependent with no funds, I would go online to use RPGs to express my style via avatars and befriend people whose avatar’s styles I admired. As I grew up and acquired both independence and money, I found a way to express my avatar’s style on myself. Social media became a gateway for me to find friends who also express themselves uniquely. It’s like a real-life RPG game, where we are our own avatars. It’s significantly boosted my confidence because I’ve found a community who can accept me for who I am. I no longer have to dress up as an act of rebellion, but as an act of true self-expression. Other folks who continue to explore their art and improve their fashion/art form inspire me to continue to push my own limits.
I hope that people understand that Muslim women are not copy-paste, or as perfectly pious as we are stereotypically expected to be. Western media often dehumanises Muslim women as victims, with no power or say in our own actions or in decisions to be Muslim. Islam is a religion that I follow by choice, which I know comes with a culture of heavy expectations. There are struggles that are unique to Muslims, and we are highly capable of dealing with them without interference from the West, or even other Muslim folks. It is up to Muslim women and Muslim Queers to support each other and understand each other.
A huge point I want to address, is that I get really angry when people expect me to be the image of “liberating” Muslim women, because Muslim women do not need liberation. Choosing to sexualise or desexualise yourself is up to you. It is an art form to be able to play with clothes and to manipulate your image. It is the job of an artist to deconstruct and criticize societal expectations to provide deeper understanding of our being and what it means to be a community.