On the 8th of March, people all over the world celebrated International Women’s Day. The campaign theme this year is ‘Be Bold for Change’, a powerful statement that reflects the hard work being done by countless women to achieve gender equality and a more inclusive, open and understanding world.
One of these women is Mona Eltahawy, an Egyptian-American journalist and Muslim who – to vastly understate it – receives plenty of “constructive criticism” about her efforts to promote women’s rights and/or general opinion on absolutely everything. These mostly arrive as emails, beginning with a phrase similar to, ‘Dear sister, I say these things with greatest certitude of your Islam…’ before the sender proceeds to stomp all over Eltahawy’s views.
Tired of receiving so many unwelcome critiques, she asked her Twitter followers to share their stories of daily lecturing via the #DearSister tag. What resulted were tweets highlighting the unreasonable expectations placed on many Muslim women:
#DearSister “why do you wear makeup? Are you trying to garner attention from men?” *moments later posts a shirtless selfie on Instagram*
— ياسمين (@hijabispeaks) March 5, 2017
#DearSister, why can’t you try harder to emulate Khadija and Aisha except for the part where they are strong, independent, outspoken women?
— Nxjeehah Hamid (@thatmuhajababe) March 6, 2017
“#dearsister you can’t sin when wearing the hijab it gives off the wrong message to non-Muslims about Islam but anyways I’m off to the club”
— MJ (@sailormunaa) March 5, 2017
#Dearsister The sun doesn’t lose its value when it’s covered by the clouds. The same way your beauty doesn’t fade when you’re wearing hijab.
— حوّاء (@arabia612) March 7, 2017
feels women shouldnt pursue careers and stay at home but only wants female doctor to check his wife #DearSister
— aѕн (@AshKaneSkittles) March 5, 2017
While some of the stories on show make for pretty tough reading, Eltahawy ultimately found them to be empowering. Speaking to the BBC, she said, ‘I love the ferocity and energy.’
‘For me the most important thing is that #DearSister is a platform for Muslim women and girls – somewhere they get the space to speak, and everyone must listen.’ It’s clear that some men are already taking note:
Might be a good time for us to start listening (really listening) and reflecting on our behavior. #dearsister
— Mohammad Ali Musawi (@malimusawi) March 5, 2017
— Farooq Tirmizi (@FarooqTirmizi) March 8, 2017