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Monday, May 21, 2018

Columns

Iranian blogger, Hoda Katebi, should not have to ‘sound like an American’


 

Earlier this month, self-proclaimed political fashion blogger Hoda Katebi was interviewed by WGN. Born to Iranian immigrants and proudly donning a hijab, Katebi is visibly a Muslim woman of color.

While the conversation was framed in the context of the intersection between politics and fashion, one of the interviewers asked Katebi about her thoughts on Iran’s possession of nuclear weapons.

This single moment is a prime example of how Muslim Americans are tested to see if they are “American enough,” and how their identities are almost immediately judged to be the antithesis of American values.

Amid the overwhelming number of influential Muslim fashion bloggers and self-taught makeup artists dominating social spheres, Katebi is of the few who successfully fuse together social activism and fashion.

Through her work, she exemplifies how appropriate representation of Muslim American women can be achieved without compromising who we are. We do not have to make ourselves palatable to every audience, which is unfortunately what many young Muslim women aim to do in attempts to be “normal” in Western society.  

Muslim Americans are bombarded with loaded statements and questions that serve only to reassert suspicion and dislike of them. The interviewers cornered Katebi to ask her such questions, and although she was gracious and eloquent in her responses, it is exhausting and upsetting to see yet another Muslim having to explain themselves in order to validate their “American-ness.”

Before the interviewer’s sudden interjection about nuclear weapons, they were discussing how some Iranian women wore Western-styled clothing prior to 1970 and Katebi’s opinion on whether she hopes to see the fashion trend return during this era. Their assumption that self-expression through clothing is “limited to dressing in Western fashion” is also a blatant display of ignorance and belief in the supremacy of Western culture.

When Katebi responded to one of the questions with a criticism on the United States’ long-standing history of destruction throughout the Middle East and around the globe, one interviewer told her she did not “sound like an American,” as if there is an issue with addressing the reality of the matter and being aware of the legacy of the country you live in.

On her website, Katebi wrote about her interview experience where she expressed that she was “expected to be an expert on all things related to Iranian politics.”

In her five minutes on air, it seemed they were expecting her to denounce her Iranian identity in order to reassure them that she is not the “one of them.” If Hoda Katebi was a white woman, I cannot help but think her comments would not have been framed to invalidate her existence as being simultaneously Iranian and American.

Sarah Tawashy is a sophomore human nutrition and foods major and can be reached at [email protected]

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