A few days ago, I wrote a blog post called “No More Male-Only Panels, Meetings, Edited Volumes, Etc., Muslims!” And then today, Wednesday, May 13th, my attention was drawn to an event taking place in Australia … on Islam and faith. It’s called Mercy Mission Twins of Faith. Here’s what the poster for the speakers looks like:
Note that 1) there are 13 men, 3 women; 2) the three women are faceless; 3) the women are honored with the title “Sister”! (except for the one Dr.); 4) the women get pretty name tags and the men get blue ones. (The Tumblr Congrats, you have an all-male panel would love to see this, and they should share this on their blog.)
I wish I’d taken a screenshot of the Facebook event page where this was being promoted because the description was also problematic. Women expressed serious concerns over the representation of Muslim women in the poster and in the description–and the fact that there were only three women speakers among thirteen men presenters, and I wish I’d taken a screenshot of those comments. (If anyone else did, please let me know.) The person managing the page responded to some of the comments and said things like, “There isn’t enough time to cover every speaker” (so, yes, go ahead and allot that time to almost all men? How does that even make any sense? There’s not enough time in the day to cover all Muslim scholars’ voices, and so let’s have 13 men and 3 women?… If you’re gonna have a total of 16 speakers, then have 8 women and 8 men!) or “not enough Muslim women scholars willing to participate” (! False! Who all was invited to this?) and the other usual excuses we’ve grown tired of hearing. In fact, check this Bingo out to the right.
The event page was deleted once the page manager saw the comments. He did respond to some of them (to tell us why we were in the wrong for accusing them of intentionally not including enough women and presenting faceless women speakers). but eventually deleted the whole thing. Because the Delete button is patriarchy’s best friend and it solves all its problem. He told me in a private message that he deleted it because he didn’t think our rants were getting anywhere…. I wholeheartedly disagreed: He found our observations and critical remarks threatening to his patriarchal vision of Islam and Muslim women. What the women were saying wasn’t “baseless” (and even if it was baseless, you simply ignore them instead of deleting them!); they had legitimate concerns, and they each knew what they were saying. Because they were right and not in favor of patriarchy, the person managing the FB page decided to delete the whole conversation so that there’s no evidence that the conversation ever took place, or so that future readers would see where he was at fault. And still he dared to say that our comments were baseless and not going anywhere.
He refused to acknowledge that there was a problem with the way the event was framed, and he instead told us that we need to stop complaining and ranting – and that we should be grateful (as one female commenter pointed out) that there were at least three women speaking, as opposed to the usual none. He didn’t understand our point because he said, “We have women-only events all the time to accommodate women,” and he was troubled by my suggestion that while women-only events are great, we actually need to hold conversations with Muslim men, alongside Muslim men – he said that was not Islamic.
Anyone who has a Facebook, I urge you to contact the person who manages the Facebook page for Mercy Mission and let him know that we women do pay attention to these things, we note when we’re missing from conversations on Islam and faith and knowledge, and that we don’t appreciate the patriarchal (re)presentation of us as preferably invisible women (unless it’s our choice – but it’s not the choice of most of us, and that reality needs to be reflected in such events). It’s easier to be pessimistic about the state and future of Muslim women in the Muslim community especially in the West, but I assure you that our voice does have power and strength; we can’t afford to give up and let patriarchy continue to render us faceless and invisible.