E16: Woman and Arab Feminism - Round Two: Farida D, The List of Shit That Made Me a Feminist

[00:00:00] Section: Podcast introduction

[00:00:00] Overdub: Hello, welcome to The Story of Woman, the podcast exploring what a man-made world looks like when we see it through her eyes. Woman's perspective is missing from our understanding of the world. This podcast is on a mission to change that. I’m your host, Anna Stoecklein Lau and each episode I'll be speaking with an author about the implications of her absence - how we got here, what still needs to be changed, and how telling her story will improve everyone's next chapter.

[00:00:34] Section: Episode level introduction

[00:00:35] Anna: Hello friends. Welcome back. For the first time in The Story of Woman history, today's guest has been here before. She was one of the most popular guests from season one of the podcast, Farida D. If you haven't already check out our first conversation in episode four, but these don't need to be listened to an order, so feel free to circle back to that later. 

Farida D is an Arab gender researcher and poet, and has been studying Arab women's everyday oppressions for over a decade. Out of safety concerns., She writes under a pen name and doesn't disclose where she is based, making her writing even more brave and necessary.

For this reason we weren't able to use the software I usually record with, so you'll notice the sound quality is a little different than the other episodes, but it's really not bad as she kindly bought a mic for this occasion and is so captivating that she could communicate her message through a windstorm. 

 This episode is a little different. We asked her followers and the listeners of this podcast to send in their questions for Farida to answer, so be sure to follow her and this podcast on socials for any future opportunities to do that again. Links are in the show notes. 

But we start this episode with a few questions from me, and then we get on a bit of a tangent into abortion because this episode was recorded days after Roe V. Wade was overturned in the US. Then we get to the listener questions about halfway through. And we cover a variety of topics from beauty standards to Farida's writing inspiration to internalized misogyny and my new favorite line of thinking: not all sharks.

You'll just have to keep listening to understand what I mean about that one. All right. Let's get right into it. Please enjoy my conversation with the ever inspiring Farida D.

[00:02:23] Section: Episode interview

[00:02:24] Anna: Hello. Welcome back by very popular demand, the incredible Farida D. Welcome back. I am so happy to be speaking with you again today. 

[00:02:35] Farida D.: Thank you so much, Anna. I'm so, so happy to be here. Thank you for having me again. 

[00:02:40] Anna: Absolutely. So we are doing this episode a little differently, having some of Farida's supporters and some of the listeners of the podcast ask their own questions. But before we get into those, I wanted to ask some as well, of course, there are many that I wanna ask, but, um, I recently read Farida's First List of Shit That Made Me a Feminist. And as with Rants of a Rebel Arab Feminist, It was absolutely amazing. You are just so good at breaking down and articulating these complex topics into ways that we can all understand. And like we talked about in the last episode in ways that transcend culture and country. So I can't wait to read the, how many of those lists you have out in the world now Farida? 

[00:03:34] Farida D.: There are 10 now. There are 10. And that's a wrap, but for now only, because I just wanna move on to other book projects at the moment. So I'm like wrapping the series with 10 books and probably I will return to this in, in future, maybe in a couple of years. We're gonna keep going. We are gonna keep this shit going? 

[00:03:54] Anna: Keep this shit going, there's a lot of lists that we can make of this shit, so, okay. But you, but you have other book projects in the works, is that, is that anything you wanna mention or is that under wraps until it's ready for the world? 

[00:04:07] Farida D.: Under wraps for now, yeah, but hopefully very, very soon I'll be able to announce like things on my Instagram, I'll be announcing those new projects. I'm planning to go even shorter, like, you know, how The Rants was written in like, if you would say the chapters were written more like a caption style, I would call it because it's like, like an Instagram caption. You're just reading something, whizzing through it and going, they're not really long chapters. And then with The List I went even shorter by breaking them up into like poems and shorter quote.

And now I'm planning to go even shorter. Like you have to catch up with how people want to receive information. And we are in a very fast paced world right now. And the shorter you can say something, the faster you can get the point the quicker, the better. 

[00:04:54] Anna: Absolutely. There's a, there's a lot out in the world, it's a bit overwhelming, information overload, always. Exactly, and you, that's just what you do is you break this down, like topics that would take books, you know, multiple books to read, to understand. You can take that information, put it in a short sentence and ah, I get it. 

[00:05:16] Farida D.: And then yeah make you think about the rest and dig up, if you're interested, you will dig up the deeper references and stuff. And even like in The List, in the series, in every single book, and some of the NBS, I actually have references there where you can read more about a certain topic or I'll highlights, for example, something happened in the news and post for you, the article there so that you can go back and read more about these things. I deliberately just give you like short snippets, headlines, introductions, just something captures your interest. There are resources where you can go and read more about it. 

[00:05:55] Anna: Love it, love it. So we perhaps will have some more conversations in the future because Farida's not going anywhere anytime soon. But the focus of.. 

[00:06:09] Farida D.: For sure. 

[00:06:09] Anna: The focus of my few questions here today are on that book specifically, The First List of Shit. And one thing that we didn't get into too much during our last conversation, but you do write and talk about a lot is beauty standards. And you write about, you know, all the many, many, many standards placed on women compared to the lack of standards for men. But also you write that the beauty industry creates our insecurities in order to sell us solutions. So I'm curious what you mean by that. If you can kind of elaborate on that point. 

[00:06:45] Farida D.: So who would buy, let's say who would buy makeup, wrinkle cream, hair removal, products, cosmetic surgery, whatever else the beauty industry is selling us. Who would buy those things. If they were happy with the way they looked without those things? It's very subtle, but we are being taught by advertising, media, magazines, movies, celebrity culture, whatever else we are exposed to, is to look like filtered, photoshopped images in real life. In the media, we don't see images of women with the like stretch marks, saggy breasts, cellulite, any blemishes on their skin or any sign of aging naturally. So when we notice that our real bodies aren't fitting up to that standard, we feel the need to buy solutions to fix that. And the market offers those solutions for us.

But imagine if we weren't made to feel that we need to fix the way our bodies naturally are. What will the beauty industry sell us? Nothing, there's nothing they could sell us. They create our insecurities in the first place because they profit from selling us solutions. And you see, now with social media and women having more control over their images and what images they want to present to the public, there are so many activists accounts where women would show you their real bodies without Photoshop, without filter. And this movement is slowly, it's a threat actually to the beauty industry. It's a threat to those companies selling those products to make us look like filtered images. And it's, it just goes to show like how we can actually change that narrative, and we are, and women are changing that narrative. But this is the idea basically, I cannot sell you something as a solution if I don't convince you that you have a problem. And they work together capitalism and patriarchy work together because it's patriarchy through misogyny that makes women feel less than. And so capitalism comes and gives you the solutions for that feeling that was created and ingrained in you in the first place.

[00:08:51] Anna: And of course, to be beautiful, we also need to look like an 18 year old for all of the decades. Of our life. 

[00:09:00] Farida D.: We need to stop the aging process somehow. Like it's the perfect formula. Something we cannot control, but they tell us we're bad for having it happen to us. We're bad for aging instead of celebrating aging, no, we're bad for it. We have to stop it. We have to all look like 18 year olds, as you said, otherwise, we don't look good. 

[00:09:22] Anna: Yeah, I liked this line in your book, you said, "I don't understand why getting older is something that women are expected to dread. Aging just means we're living. Should we feel ashamed for not being dead?"

[00:09:34] Farida D.: Exactly. 

[00:09:35] Anna: What's the alternative? So why do you think it is that women are made to feel ashamed for getting older? Whereas that same doesn't apply for men, they're kind of celebrated. 

[00:09:47] Farida D.: Because we become more powerful with age. I firmly believe that. When we're older, we find our voice, we speak out. We have lived long enough to figure out the tricks of patriarchy and misogyny. And we are more aware. We aren't afraid of holding men accountable. We know what to do. We know when to speak. We know what to say. We're less vulnerable when we're older. 

So how can patriarchy control all that? They shame us for getting older. The older women image is always like shame. They make us dread our birthdays. They make us dread gray hair and any other signs of aging. If they can keep us busy feeling ashamed of the way we look and buying solutions, as capitalism offers us those solutions, we will be distracted from recognizing our powers.

Just look like if you look at fairy tales, for example, and what they teach us about older women, they're always framed, or mostly framed, as wicked. Snow White's stepmother, why is she evil? Because she doesn't fit beauty ideals anymore. She's not the fairest one of all. And Ursula from The Little Mermaid, for example, because she wants to have power she's wicked and bad.

We are made to feel ashamed of things that aren't shameful at all. There's nothing shameful about getting older, about getting stretch marks about getting, these are natural things. Getting older and speaking out and finding our voice and realizing the patriarchy and its ideals and all that, there's nothing shameful about that, but they have to make us feel ashamed of that so that they can still keep control.

[00:11:24] Anna: And a big part of these beauty standards aren't even about how women look, but what they wear. And whether you're in the west or the east or the north or the south, there are rules as it pertains to women's clothing specifically. And I wanna read a poem from page 58 of your book, and then have you speak to it, cuz it really encompasses this, how there are different rules depending on where you are, but it all relates to what a woman is wearing. So... 

[00:11:58] Farida D.: mm-hmm 

[00:11:59] Anna: This is from page 58 of your book: 

"The short skirt and the burqa walked into a nightclub and as their bodies began to sway, a man approached the burqa with something he had to say. 

Suddenly he began to shout, this is not your place. You're a disgrace. Get the fuck out. 

The short skirt and the burqa walked into a mosque. And as their bodies bent down to pray, a man approached the short skirt with something he had to say. 

Suddenly he began to shout, this is not your place. You're a disgrace. Get the fuck out. 

The short skirt and the burqa walked on the side of the road, looking up at the skies, where do we go now, they asked. Just part ways, the sky shrugged with sass, but how? They begged, we're both the same lass." 

First of all, I loved your, I loved your use of the word "lass" there, so American listeners, American listeners, if you don't know, think Scottish, "Hey, there a little lassie" 

[00:13:02] Farida D.: mm-hmm 

[00:13:04] Anna: But again, this is what you do so well, making these connections, drawing parallels between different women's realities. So can you just kind of walk us through this poem a little bit? How do you see this connection? And also, can you tell us about the value that you see in calling it out? 

[00:13:24] Farida D.: Hmm. So the beauty of poetry is that whoever reads it will bring their own interpretation to it. And I, I usually do not like, like to interfere with the reader's interpretation, but this piece, what it means for me, since you're asking me, what this piece means to me, I see those two women as one, they are one person.

They are not separate. The woman who wears the mini skirt and the woman who wears the burqa. It's the same woman. Some days she feels like being modest and going to pray. And some days she feels like wearing a short skirt and going to party. And I wanted to show that through this piece, I wanted to show that women aren't a binary.

We are not either virgin or whore, slut or prude, sexual or religious. Like, you know, those binaries were always pushed against if you're this, you can't be that. I wanted to show that we can be all of those things at once. And I think a large part of women's objectification comes from us being viewed as binary beings. It cuts from our humanity, our ability to be a contradictory mish mash of everything. So this is what I wanted to convey with this piece that you can be all of those things and that's okay. It is not contradictory. Or if it is contradictory, it is what it is. This is what we are supposed to be as humans.

You're not supposed to fit inside. Neat, boxed categories labeled with markers by the patriarchy. Like if you go in this box, you can't go in that one. You can be all of them. 

[00:15:00] Anna: I also liked this line following a similar theme, "Miniskirts reveal me for him. Hijabs conceal me for him. Neither of them protect me from him. 

[00:15:10] Farida D.: Mm-hmm

[00:15:11] Anna: And I think that poem really drew out how... 

[00:15:16] Farida D.: to, it's not about the clothes. 

[00:15:19] Anna: Yeah. 

[00:15:20] Farida D.: Mm-hmm 

[00:15:21] Anna: yep. 

[00:15:22] Farida D.: It's about me being a woman that no matter what I do, he's gonna find an excuse for it, to be about him and for him. And my existence is centered around him. It's never about the clothes. It's never about what women are wearing or what women are doing or where they're going. When we're assaulted, when we're violated, when we're, when, even when we're told what to wear. The point of all this is control. Is oppression. And we distract from the conversation when we focus on what she, what was she wearing? Why did she go there? What did, we are just, just causing a distraction from the real problem, which is we need to center those questions to men. Why are you violating? Why are you abusing? Why are you doing this or that?

[00:16:09] Section: Note about Patreon

[00:16:11] Overdub: Hello friends, a quick interruption to let you know, there are a couple questions from this interview that didn't make the final cut, but can be listened to by becoming a patron of the podcast, AKA the type of supporter that helps creators like me to keep putting out content like conversations with the great Farida D. I also cut some questions out to try and keep each episode at a reasonable length. T B D if that actually happens. Uh, at this point in the interview, I asked Farida about how she takes these binaries and labels and insults we have been talking about and spins them so that they are no longer insults, but actually badges of victory. So to hear her answer this and more visit The Story of Woman Patreon page, you can find links in the show notes. And coming soon, patrons will have an ad free listening experience, so no interruptions like this one. All right. Now, back to Farida.

[00:17:10] Section: Episode interview

[00:17:10] Anna: All right. And one more question, before we get into listener's questions and this doesn't have to do with your book so much, or at least not specifically, even though there will be themes throughout, you know, control and, and the patriarchy and everything, but I'm recording this from my hometown of Missouri. And since I've been here just a couple days ago, Roe V. Wade was overturned, which made abortion down to the state. So the state that I'm in abortion is no longer legal with no exception for rape or incest. And there are many states that have followed suit, and this is kind of shook this country and people outside of this country.

And because I just really appreciate and want to hear your words again, breaking down these complex issues, you speak about them so well, you articulate it so well, I just would love to hear what you have to say about it. You know, what you think about this moment? Do you have hope for the future and anything else you might... 

[00:18:16] Farida D.: Definitely 

[00:18:17] Anna: ...wanna say? Oh, that's a good start. 

[00:18:19] Farida D.: Yeah, definitely, definitely. Whenever there are women and there are women fighting, there's always hope for the future. I'm not gonna lose the hope even if we're like right now, what we're we are doing is a lot of smaller like, accounts on social media.

We're like, starting the strike. Maybe. I don't know if you read anything about that, but from the 3rd of July until going to about the sixth and some of the local communities are arranging it even longer, where on each day there are things we can do, whether it is withholding your labor, withholding consumption, buying from women, women only own businesses. People worldwide, women worldwide, they're getting sick of this shit. And they're organizing now. And I feel the power of this movement. Like this is gonna be something huge. It's it's rolling. So to go back to that, like when we see that, I'm not in the US, but seeing that from part of the world where abortion is heavily restricted. And in some places totally banned, this has been the norm for us.

It was never, we never had those same rights that were in the US that are being taken away. We never had them. So our norm was like that. Our norm is like that. So seeing that kind of gives more voice to the patriarchy and to the misogyny that's going on. In other countries where, oh, look, the US is now rolling back.

They're just like us. We were right all along, you know, especially countries that look up to the US as like being more progressive, more liberated. Looking up to them and following what they're doing. So seeing that is a complete, like disappointment for women everywhere, because I don't want, I don't wanna say, like, it's a losing hope, but it's a step back. But we're not gonna lose the hope. We're gonna keep fighting. This could be the sign that women everywhere around the world need to organize something, which we're starting at the moment to make the change that we need to be heard. 

And I do actually talk about abortion, maybe the first list has a little bit, but if you go deeper into the other parts of the series, there are a lot of arguments against the safe abortion ban. 

[00:20:31] Anna: So even more reasons to uh, buy the books right now because , but yeah, I think it's just absolutely terrifying. And as you say, a reason for some people on one side of the patriarchy to say, we had it right all along. I hadn't even thought about it in that way. That's a terrifying thought. 

[00:20:53] Farida D.: And there are even like, I dunno if you've seen the tweets going around about how, Sharia doesn't ban abortion, so don't compare to like extremist Islamist or whatever, because some people are like using comparisons, like this is, oh, we're rolling back. We're becoming like the Muslim nations, or they're saying, this is the Handmade Tale or whatever. They're bringing all these like comparisons and it's extremely gas lighting to see, especially like the tweets I've seen where written by men, saying don't compare this to Islamic nations because, Sharia allows abortion.

Even if that is the case, in Islamic country's abortion is still heavily restricted. It kind of gives an impression like we have it better, you know? When that's not the case. Like abortion is, there are countries where abortion is totally banned and in others where it's completely restricted, except for like saving the life of the mother or extreme like medical conditions.

But I've never heard of anybody being able to get an abortion because they don't want to be the mother, or this is the wrong timing, or they were raped or, you know, I've never heard of anybody being able to do that so easily. You have to go through background methods, underground methods to get that done, dangerous ways to get that done. 

[00:22:12] Anna: Very dangerous and rolling back in time. Because we've been here before, at least, you know, in America, that was the reality 50 years ago and yeah, it's coming back and hopefully, as you say... 

[00:22:26] Farida D.: It's really shocking. It's shocking to see it. I mean, you know that this is patriarchy. Like we talked last time in the last podcast how the patriarchy is one. And this is like the perfect example to show like the patriarchy is one everywhere. It has no religion. Patriarchy has nothing to do with your religion, your culture, your language. The patriarchy is a system of men, oppressing women. And whatever excuse they wanna use. They wanna use religion as an excuse. They wanna use, you know, the culture, the whatever, the morals, the science, whatever. These are all just coverups for what they're actually doing. And the patriarchy is a system that is worldwide And we can see that now with what's happening in the US with abortion, something you wouldn't even imagine. Like having a right, and then having it rolled back, something you wouldn't imagine to happen. How do you feel about it? I wanna ask you because you're from the US, how does that feel for you? 

[00:23:23] Anna: Awful. I, um, you know, we we knew that it was coming. It's not news. I think people are shocked, which is a normal reaction because it is shocking to see rights that we've had for 50 years rolled back. But I just wanna remind everyone that this has been a long term strategy that has been in place since the sixties, the seventies, they have anticipated a time when they had enough conservative Supreme court justices on the court to be able to overturn it. There have been actual playbooks, guidebooks published with rules of how to talk about this issue, how to eliminate the woman, how to evoke emotion.

This has been a long time coming, so I feel awful and angry and you know, a bit duped and lied to because I grew up in a very anti-abortion community where I was fed all of these lies and this rhetoric. So I understand why people buy into it, but the more people learn about the reality and where these lies come from and what the reality is for people who get abortions, the more they are pro-abortion and they leave those past beliefs behind. And I think that this is a, you know, I, I have to remind myself of the pendulum of progress, that this is what always happens when there is progress, there is a backlash to that progress and we will swing forward again. And because the right has been legal, and this has been a 50 plus year strategy in the making, the anti-abortion community has never stopped. They have been on this since before 1973. And the people who are for abortion, you know, we have taken a backseat a little bit, not necessarily those who do this for their job, cuz they saw this coming in the same way. 

[00:25:47] Farida D.: Mm-hmm 

[00:25:48] Anna: But those of us who support abortion, we just, you know, you take that right for granted and think that you have it forever. So I think this is gonna serve as a, a wake up call, to, as you said in the beginning of your answer, kind of galvanize and get people to fight for something that we thought was just a given that we now realize, oh, we can't ever stop. Not for abortion, not for anything. 

[00:26:16] Farida D.: Yeah. 

[00:26:16] Anna: Cause the moment you stop, that's when you start to move backwards.

[00:26:20] Farida D.: And it's really heart breaking, like to see that, like when can we rest? When can women rest? Do we have to just keep fighting forever for something that is ultimately ours, it's ours. And when can we just rest? You know, it's tiring. It's exhausting. Whenever I see things like that and women are, fighting and they're on the ground and they're using all their time and effort to organize and to fight. And I think about all the men who are just during that same time are probably, you know, in the office getting ahead with their work schedule, their dinner meeting their, whatever, their promotion and getting ahead. You know, time from our lives is being stolen, that we will never get back while men get to use that same time to live their lives. Even our distribution of time is sexist. 

[00:27:16] Anna: That is so true. And I think about that a lot. How many women, minorities, you know, people of color, how many oppressed groups, how many people within those groups spend their lives just trying to... 

[00:27:35] Farida D.: Trying to fight instead of live. 

[00:27:38] Anna: Yeah. 

[00:27:39] Farida D.: Yeah. And not being able, as you said, not being able to just sit back and take my rights for granted. Mm-hmm . I should be able to be comfortable and take my rights for granted. I should be able to take my safety for granted. I should be able to, you know, this body is mine. It's my choice. I can choose what I want for it. I can walk down the street safely. I should be able to take those things for granted, not to be constantly on edge, just think of how this is wiring us and the generational trauma that's passed on to generations because of the way we are wired to always be like on edge, always on the fight response. 

And if you don't fight, then you're weak and you deserve what's coming at you. You didn't fight for it. You just sat back. You know, you don't win. You don't win in this, inside this patriarchal cycle. Like you need to step out of it. We need to dismantle this entire system because you cannot win when you're being judged within its parameters. 

[00:28:41] Anna: Well, I could talk about this one all day with you because it's a big one and yeah, I think it's important, really important that we have these conversations and that we, and that we learn, you know, it's like humans have such short memories, so we can never forget this feeling, what this feels like.

[00:29:08] Farida D.: Yeah. 

[00:29:08] Anna: And in 10 years, five years, whatever the landscape looks like, we can't continue to have to relearn that we can't ever stop. And it's exhausting. Yeah. And it's, it's not fair. And it's, it hurts us as individuals. And it hurts us as society to waste all of this energy on fighting. Exactly as you say, but what's the alternative? 

[00:29:36] Farida D.: There is none. Yeah. That's a sad thing. Like there is no other alternative, but I keep myself like hopeful. This is the only thing like, if that hope dies, if that little flicker of hope dies, then everything goes away. You have to keep that flicker of hope. It can feel overwhelming with everything going on in the world right now.

 But if you break it down into the smallest possible unit, what can I do as an individual? What action can I take? Like it depends, some people will be able, for example, to go to protest, to strike, some people can give donations, you can talk about this. You're a teacher, you can bring it up in the classroom.

You're on social media. You can share something, amplify somebody's voice, somebody's work on this. There's so many, there's nobody who can just not do anything. You know, we can do things like, and don't think like, this is such a minor thing, I'm just one person doing one small thing, it's not gonna make a difference.

It will. It will. Because the difference is all these little things adding up to make the big difference. We need every little action to add up for the bigger cause. So I like to think of it that way, like to give myself hope, to keep going. The hope is there. I can do something. I did something today.

So if I for example, share a post on Instagram and then I get the DM from someone which I did once, and it's really like, uh there was a DM that really, really stayed with me, even though it was like a year ago. But I still remember that woman who wrote to me telling me that she was going to kill herself and my post saved her life. 

[00:31:27] Anna: Oh my God. 

[00:31:27] Farida D.: She said that to me. And that was like, wow. Sometimes I think, okay, I'm, I'm just posting a post on Instagram. But then when that message came to me, it was like, wow, you know, you never know what little thing you're doing can leave a huge impact for someone. Sometimes you could be like hopeless and somebody just says, the right words or put the words that you already know, but just arrange them in the right way for you at the right time. And you just read them and and a new flicker of hope is born. So every little counts, we should all be doing, like whatever we can, whatever megaphone you have just used that. It matters what you do matters.

Sometimes people message me saying, you know, I have a small platform. I'm not making a difference. I have like 2000 followers or something. I feel helpless. No, you're not. You have 2000 followers. You don't have like, imagine them in a room, imagine 2000 people in a room. And you're speaking that message to them.

How big is that? You think it's small because it's like just showing you a number on your Instagram or whatever. It's just a number. You're not actually seeing them. But what about if you visualize this? You're speaking to 2000 people. That's a lot. Anyway, and I don't wanna like blabber on about this, but the point is like every little counts, everything we do counts, it matters. It sets a ripple. 

[00:32:51] Anna: It's absolutely not blabber. And I couldn't agree more. You have, you have no idea who you're impacting. And I, I heard this idea once and I think it's so true. And then we'll, we can kind of move on to listener questions, but, um, you know, we're, we are changing the world in one way or another.

We are leaving it different than we found it. No matter how small, no matter what, it's just a matter of in which direction? Are you leaving it better or worse? So you're already making an impact no matter what. 

[00:33:25] Farida D.: Choose to make it better. Yeah. 

[00:33:28] Anna: Mm. Great. Well, that's a, a good moment I think, to segue into our listeners questions. We're gonna be changing the pace a little bit for the first couple cause the first couple questions are about your writing process. So we'll have a little lighter questions and then we'll get into the deeper stuff again. But one question that came in is where did you get, and we talked about this a bit in the first podcast interview that we did, but where did you get the inspiration to start writing your books? 

[00:34:03] Farida D.: I've always loved reading and writing, like ever since I learned how to read and write, but the inspiration to actually write these particular books comes from the women whose work I read, who saved my life. Like I was in that spot where, we talked about this even last time in the episode where you asked me, when did I start questioning misogyny and patriarchy and all that, was a critical period of my life early twenties. And to find answers, the only place I was able to find answers is through feminist literature, through reading.

So reading gave me that hope and gave me answers and gave me ways and things that I can apply to my life and change as much as I can. When somebody tells you like change, I can divide them into two categories, like things that are within my control and things that are not in my control.

Because I find it gaslighting when people say, well, you just, you know, just change just, you know, you can choose not to do this. You can choose not to do that, or whatever in conversations about oppression when talking to oppressed groups. But there are two types of like, we divide it into two, like things in my control and things that aren't and reading has helped me at least break down the things that are in my control, the changes I can apply to my own life.

So what inspired me to start writing is to pass this legacy on, they say, when you read, you live a thousand lives, but how amazing is it to write, to save a thousand lives? 

[00:35:40] Anna: Oh, so beautiful. Oh my God. 

[00:35:45] Farida D.: So that's the, yeah, that's the inspiration. I just wanted pass the torch down, the torch that was given to me by the woman before me.

[00:35:52] Anna: God if people don't know that you're a writer and just listen to that sentence, they're gonna know. Your way with words is just unreal. Alright and then there's some questions more around feminism, patriarchy and these types of topics more broadly. So how would you respond or how to respond to the, not all men arguments? I liked this question. And can you first kind of explain what this person means? What are not all men arguments and then yeah, how would you respond? 

[00:36:27] Farida D.: So the not all men arguments is, for example, when you start saying like men violate women or men are privileged or any statement, basically that is calling out patriarchy. And then somebody will respond to you, usually men, but sometimes even women, not all men are like that. Not all men, not all men. We hear that a lot. Not all men, not all men. I actually believe it is all men. I was told someone it is all men. And he's like, so when you say it is all men, you're saying that it's also your father, your brother, your husband, your son, because these are men.

So you're including them. And I'm like, yeah, he thought I was gonna be like, no, no, no, no, no, those men are different. He thought I was gonna be like that. But I was like, yeah, even them. And he was shocked. And I write about that piece actually in the First List, but the logic behind that is if you realize that all the men are protected in the patriarchy, this is what we mean when we say all men.

So even my husband, even the men who, as what he meant by telling me, your father, your husband, is the men who love you and the men you love. Even those men. If they do decide to become assholes one day, if my husband wakes up tomorrow and decides I'm gonna be an asshole today, I'm not gonna be one of, guess what? He is actually protected by the system. He can get away with it. This is the problem. We have a system, our laws, our traditions, our, whatever you wanna call it, our religions, they protect men, they side with men. So if men decide to be good, Bravo, you know, congratulations. I don't know, like, like why we even need to say like, oh, he's such a nice guy.

Oh, he's such a, I mean, this should be expected. This should be like bare minimum. But like, if a good guy decides to be bad, he is still protected by the system. This is what we mean when we say all men. And it's frustrating when you have to constantly deal with the, not all men, but just you're right about something. And then somebody will say, oh, but it's not all men. No, it is all men. It's actually all of them, they're all protected by the system. They can decide to abuse that privilege, or they can decide to use it for something better, but it is all of them in the end. So lately when somebody asks me, like, what do you say when somebody says not all men, instead of saying all that I just told you, I would say, tell them, not all sharks, not all bears, not all snakes, you know, just continue with, use the same logic that they're using. You know, you don't need to like exhaust yourself with explaining so much to them. Just throw back the same logic back at them. Sometimes you need to fight something that's not logical with something that isn't like, kind of like holding up a mirror to what they're saying and showing them the ugly reflection. So not all men, how I'll respond. I'll say not all sharks. 

[00:39:34] Anna: I love that. Yeah. Not all sharks will attack and kill humans, but they're all capable and there's, there's not something in the, in the ocean that's gonna stop them. 

[00:39:47] Farida D.: Exactly. 

[00:39:48] Anna: That's great. Right. And the next question is advice for how to deal with people who think feminists are too much or too sensitive?

[00:39:59] Farida D.: I always like ask a question back and say, are feminists too much or too sensitive, or do we live in a world that has too much misogyny? And isn't sensitive at all to the crimes that commits against women. You ask that question back because the perspective matters and you don't have to deal with people that want to diminish your humanity that want to minimize and erase the pain that you're so bravely having the courage to speak about and having to be labeled and shamed and being called, oh, you're being too much.

Oh, you're being sensitive. Oh, you're exaggerating. No, I'm not. This world has normalized misogyny for so long. This is the question we should be asking. Am I too sensitive? Or have you normalized this shit? 

[00:40:47] Anna: So responding to both of these with questions seems like a good tactic, a good starting place. Flipping the script on what they're asking. 

[00:40:55] Farida D.: Because they are the ones that need to answer, not you. You're being questioned. You're being put on the stand and you're being questioned, but the questions should be directed at them. Not, not at you. Yeah. 

[00:41:09] Anna: And then the next one was, why do some women still think that women should be a step under men? What made them think that way? So I guess internalized misogyny. Why do some women think that there is nothing wrong with the way that things currently are? 

[00:41:26] Farida D.: Of course, this is what it is. Because it's misogyny is taught to everyone. It isn't just taught to men like when we're younger and we're being exposed to all these books, movies, even in school, the way we learn the way our language is constructed, the relationships of the people that we see around us, all these things, the misogyny embedded in them is taught to everyone, not just to men.

So women are able to internalize also misogyny and behave accordingly. So that is why there are women that would think, yeah, this is right. This is correct because they have been taught that this is right, and this is correct. But a problem I have with this kind of questioning is it seems to me like, it seems to be putting the blame on women for internalized misogyny.

And I find this to be a form of victim blaming because it actually distracts us from blaming the structures of misogyny, themselves, questioning the structure, questioning the patriarchy, questioning who caused the patriarchy and who benefits from it. When we start looking at the women and saying, well, women are behaving that way too, we are now distracting from the problem, the root of the problem. We're looking at something, something else now. And we're victim blaming and we're reproducing a cycle of misogyny again. It's kind of like the argument of, why was she dressed like that? You know, why didn't she say no?

Why did she go here? Why did she internalize misogyny? It's the same narrative. So we need to be very careful, like if we want to fight the system, we need to be careful of where our targets is going, where the root problem is. We need to understand the root of the problem so that we don't victim blame.

[00:43:11] Anna: Absolutely. And the next one. How can you convince very old uneducated people that women's rights matter? It's a tough one. 

[00:43:22] Farida D.: This is a good one. It's a misconception that we actually call them uneducated. Think about it. We often excuse these people saying, oh, they're uneducated. They don't know any better, but they aren't actually uneducated. In fact, they are very well educated because their beliefs are very, very strong and rooted. But the question is what are they educated about? And by whom? People who don't support women's rights have been educated not to by the patriarchy.

Through stories, through shows, through religions, through myths, through traditions, through the media, through whatever other forms of exposure, whatever other forms of communication they're exposed to and they're environment. So they are very well educated, but they're educated in oppression.

How do we convince them otherwise? They need to unlearn. And it takes time. I cannot give you like a magic pill and erase everything you learned from childhood. It takes time and it takes work. With the same amount of time they spent with all those reading, all those books, stories, the exposure, the media, the whatever, all these forms of exposure that taught them patriarchy and misogyny have to be replaced with feminist literature in order for them to unlearn. It takes time to learn patriarchy and it also takes time to unlearn it. And we learn patriarchy through words and through words, we also unlearn it. That's why like with my book series, I go through like the 10 books, if you take your time and you're reading those, it's a way of kind of erasing some of the script that you've been taught by patriarchy and replacing it with an empowering form, another form of education.

So even sometimes like in the book series, if you've gone so far to the, like the last one, you will see like some arguments, I would bring up the same argument in a different way. Like the, not all men argument, for example, I probably talk about this in at least a hundred pieces in different ways, because we have been taught that it is not all men in at least a hundred different ways in our lives through being exposed to different things.

So you kind of have to like re reprogram what you've been taught and what you've been normalized. And you do that through reading, you do that through being exposed to empowering content, you replace the normalized ideas. So this is how, of course, with old people, we might not have the luxury of the time to, to get them to do that, you know, but we always have the choice of not passing on.

[00:46:25] Anna: So buy them Farida's books. This upcoming Christmas, Farida's books all around.

[00:46:31] Farida D.: Yeah, starting point. I see them like as a starting point, a Kickstarter for you to go then dive into deeper readings. I wrote those books in a way, like any age group, anybody without even any background in feminism can just pick those books up and get something out of it for a wider audience. I deliberately did that, because my background is in academia. And when we write for academia, it's totally, like, it feels like when you're writing, you're supposed to make it like this top secret form of, you know, nobody else is gonna be able to understand this except people within my community.

And I hate that. I hate that so much because if the people who need this work cannot understand it and we're just writing it for a particular group of people that will just use it, you know, to develop theory or whatever. Even sometimes use it against the oppressed communities that actually need this work.

Then there's no point in the work that I'm doing. If my work cannot benefit the people it's intended for, if the people cannot read it and understand it and get something from it, then there's no point in me doing it. 

[00:47:41] Anna: So true. So true. So this is a good place to start. All right. The next question was how to keep rage caused by patriarchy under control. And I would say don't but 

[00:47:57] Farida D.: Oh my God. I was gonna say that! 

[00:47:58] Anna: Okay. Excellent. So yeah. What, what would you say to this one? 

[00:48:04] Farida D.: Don't! Who said we need to keep the rage under control? Who said? Why do we need to keep our rage under control when we can use it to change the world? Right? Like women's rage is what has written books, changed laws, changed mindsets, created art, created activism. All this was from women's rage. So why would I keep that under control? No, I'm gonna take my rage and turn it into the change I want to see in the world. Don't ever, ever control your rage. Use it, use it to fight. It's your key. It's the key to fighting the system.

[00:48:45] Anna: Love that. Absolutely, that's a ,that is a big one. Push back against all of those stereotypes that are very purposeful, about the angry woman and use it. 

[00:49:01] Farida D.: They say angry women change the world. That's what, that's what it is.

[00:49:05] Anna: That's why they don't want us to be angry. 

[00:49:08] Farida D.: Exactly. That's why anger is like the most punished emotion that we can have. Women are punished for their anger because they know what our anger can do.

[00:49:19] Anna: Love it. All right, the last question here, what are some steps we need to take moving forward to pursue feminism? And I wasn't sure if this person meant as an individual or as a society. So I was kind of hoping that you could maybe answer both, steps we can take forward to pursue feminism as individuals, and then as more of a collective.

[00:49:44] Farida D.: Yes. It always starts with the individual as we talked a little bit earlier in the podcast that every little thing we do counts, it matters. We can incorporate feminism into our every day by doing some simple things. Like, for example, monitoring the thoughts I have. Be mindful of where I buy my food or my clothes from every dollar you spend is a vote towards the kind of corporations you want to thrive. And that's the kind of world you want to live in. 

So be mindful of where you spend your money, how you spend it, be mindful of what you say, not just what you say to other people, what you say to yourself as well, that, that chatter inside our minds often mimics the voice of the patriarchy. And it's very unkind to us.

And you're the only one who knows that because you're the only one listening to it and you know how unkind it can be. So change that. Radical change can only happen after adding up individual change. Collective change cannot come without individual effort. We need to do those things. If the individual doesn't change, everything else stays the same.

So there is so much power in the, in the individual change. And again, I want to emphasize when I think of change, I separate this into two categories in my mind. There is the change that is within my control, which I can actually act towards and take steps towards to progress.

And then there is the change which is outside of my control. So it is victim blaming to assume that like, I can change something that is outside my control. When I say outside my control, it is something imposed on me by like the law of the land or whatever. You know how, like last time we talked about marriage, for example, that's something I had to like compromise.

I had to get married because I cannot legally live with the person I love without being married. So there are things that are within my control and there are things that are not. So for example, in this case, what did I do? I got married because I need to have the legal papers because we need to like rent an apartment. We need to, go, like I talked about like going to a hotel or, you know, even going out for a walk and being together without being constantly stopped by police and asked whether we are married or not, and having to spend the night in jail or whatever, we don't wanna do that. We didn't want that.

So we, we got married, but the thing that is within my control is to make my marriage nothing like the traditional perspective of what marriage is like. Our definition of marriage, our own day to day and how we define marriage is very nontraditional. The way we do things, me and my husband.

Even like the gender roles within the house, for example, we don't, follow any of those. We do everything together. We share everything together. So we've had like, people be like, oh, what, what are you guys doing? No, you can't do it like that. Right. How can your wife dress up in whatever she wants and you don't say anything? Or are you serious, you iron the clothes? Like for my husband, are you serious? You iron the clothes or like you cook? Oh my God. She doesn't like, you know, we don't do things traditionally whatsoever. Gender roles are nonexistent in our household. So this is something within my control and it empowers me.

It makes me live a life that is fuller. It's better for the both of us when we see that and our son can actually have an example, he can see those gender roles totally smashed and broken. He doesn't have to live up to any standard. He can be everything. He can do it all. He can, he will, he will not grow up being surprised if he hears about a man who cooks and cleans, he will not be surprised seeing that because he's seen his dad do that. It's very normalized in our household. He will not grow up thinking the woman around me should be covered, should not reveal their bodies because he sees that his mother can wear whatever she wants and is comfortable in her own body. So this is what I mean we can separate things and see how much can I as an individual change. And by doing that, we are breaking curses. You're breaking generational traumas.

[00:53:50] Anna: And then I guess anything, so that's individual and maybe it's the same answer, but anything on a more collective, what do we need to do to kind of move forward as society? 

[00:54:03] Farida D.: The people who have the privilege and who are in positions of privilege, who can make that change, then you need to like, take the actions and use your privilege for the greater goods.

We think of privilege as something bad, but privilege can actually be something good if you use it to stop the bad things, you know? So use your privilege. If you're a teacher, you have the privilege to educate the entire next generation. So use that privilege to communicate the message you want to pass forward.

Change mindsets. If you're, the big boss in a company, implement rules that are actually not discriminating against people because of their gender or religion or nationality or whatever. Other type of discriminations we have that are very real in the workplaces, even if they're not like written or codified anywhere, but they are real and they have real consequences.

So if you're in a position of privilege like that, you can implement change on like a collective, on a larger scale than just an individual change in somebody's household. Protests, strikes communities, like I just actually put up a story on the Instagram because we are like, I'm amplifying all those accounts that are holding strikes and protests in different places around the world. And I'm like connecting people with the local communities where it can actually go to local groups where they're organizing strikes and protests and things like that. And I emphasized and mentioned like, join these if you have the privilege to join. The most marginalized of us should not be like risking their lives further to join these.

If you can afford to skip days off work, to withhold your consumption, to buy from only women only owned businesses, if you can afford to do those things, now is the time to actually use your privilege for this collective change that is required. The burden shouldn't be left on the marginalized to do that and risk further marginalisation, further oppression.

So that's what I would say for like collective change. The people who have the privilege need to use their privilege for the greater good.

[00:56:14] Anna: Love it. And that is a great note to end on. Thank you so much for joining us again, for your time. 

[00:56:22] Farida D.: Thank you so much, Anna, for having me.

[00:56:26] Anna: I just, I wanted to wrap with one final sentence from your book. Uh, we started off talking about beauty standards and I just really liked this line, you wrote "Don't tell me I am pretty and end it right there. Tell me I am pretty smart. Pretty brave. Pretty kind. When you tell me I am pretty, make sure you finish your sentence." 

[00:56:49] Farida D.: Damn right. 

[00:56:50] Anna: Damn right. All take up space. Farida's tagline.

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Farida D.
Farida D.
Author of Rants of a Rebel Arab Feminist