Muna Hassan is a third year International Relations and Development Studies student. She recited some of her poems on International Women’s Day at the University of Westminster’s exhibition in March 2018. Here are her thoughts on poetry and one of her poems-
I performed a spoken word piece at the University of Westminster’s event for International Women’s Day. The piece consisted of some of my old writings about my experiences growing up Black and Muslim along with being the eldest daughter in my immigrant family; as well as some new writings about the importance of the debate on women and intersectionality. The two themes capture exactly what the term intersectionality means to me. For me, the term encapsulates the experience of women who deal with the double repercussion of race, religion, culture and so on. I use the word ‘repercussion’ intentionally because of the inherent power dynamics inherent in race, cultures, and religion.
The first part of my piece is titled ‘reflections’ and was aimed at highlighting the importance of acknowledging gender and equally acknowledging that other women who aren’t typically associated with the normative form of gender exist: women of color, disabled, queer, gender-nonconforming and trans. When feminism has been discussed historically, women of color have always existed on the periphery not benefitting much from the gains women have attained throughout time. This continues to be the case in modern times although countless women of color have sought to gain access in these circles. Some have even developed alternative movements which center their experiences; women like Alice Walker who founded the term ‘womanism’ which calls for the liberation of all women in all intersections. It’s important that if the aim is for women to gain equality in all measures that all women are included in this.
The second part of my piece titled ‘thoughts’ focused on my own experiences as a woman of color and as one of the eldest immigrant daughters in my family. I found that my intersections shaped my experiences uniquely. A lot of girls from my background growing up burdened with unresolved generational trauma. Our families, including my parents, came to this country with so much baggage and leaving behind their comfort zones. A lot of our parents also fled war zones and came to this country seeking safety. Many of us, therefore, grew up dealing with that and learning the ways of our adopted societies that have their own deeply entrenched issues. Understanding these issues and unpacking how they affect people like me have helped me cope. Spoken word is just one of the methods I use to do this-
All this talk about women and their treatment got people asking why gender matters. It matters that girls are married off in fear men might assault their bodies; as if marriage ever prevented an assault on the female’s body. It matters that women are systematically used as weapons for war, call it the highest form of collateral damage. It matters to me, that if freedom for all women does not include the black, Muslim, queer & disabled, then it isn’t freedom at all. A world of boxes, designed to entrap lives and restrict minds: boxes whose terms and conditions weren’t signed by us, but defined for us to abide by If I truly mirrored all the ugliness around me, I’d be unrecognizable. Imagine the state of a plant that constantly bears harsh weather and is never given the opportunity to become its true potential. Is the plant then questioned or the conditions it endured? Reflections cannot be blamed for what they reflect cause they only show what is in front or around them, it's just basic science: signs of hurt and neglect reflect that which we were exposed to from infancy. Like Parents projecting their insecurities and lost souls abusing the first sight of clemency. What becomes of someone who learns to care for others before themselves is a replica of others and never themselves. In all the applications I have filled out in my life, I swear to God I never once signed up to be “that” person. We were the children that played the adults that were absent, we filled the voids for our parents and our sacrifices were never recompensed. I have laid my back down to bridge far too many differences. My own problems have legs and they too need to run their course. Life's an individual sprint and I can no longer cover the tracks for you. This doesn’t mean that I don’t love you, it just means that I’m tired of you not loving me. Tell me, how does one go about claiming something they have never owned but was always rightfully theirs? Like telling a girl to be free and expecting her to spread her wings without teaching her to fly. We can’t take our lessons from the boys because they were given a manual, supervision and the supply. Supported by the good and the bad and given the platform to do what they like, despite culture and religion, cause both culture and religion weighed the girl down to mere expectations and what came before.
By Muna Hassan