I am a huge fan of Dumbo Feather magazine and was excited to read that they had launched a new podcast. I was even further excited when I spotted the name of Melbourne-based sociologist and activist Susan Carland featured in episode three, along with the transcript included in Issue 47 of the magazine.
One night whilst cooking dinner, I listened to the episode and kept kicking myself for having not done it in my office with a notebook and pen. There was so much goodness in the discussion between Susan and Dumbo Feather editor Berry Liberman that I listened to it again and took copious notes. In the episode Susan “shares her experiences as an activist, academic, Muslim and mother while advocating for a more open hearted Australia and an end to ignorance.”
I highly recommend that you listen to the full episode or get your hands on Issue 47 of the magazine to read the transcript. But in the meantime, I hope you enjoy my fave takeaways and lessons from the interview below.
The Hijab and feminism intersect
Susan explains that for many Muslim women wearing the hijab can be a feminist act. In a world that sexualises and commodifies the female body, wearing a head scarf and covering their bodies can be a way of rejecting that commodification. It can be a statement that there are more important things about who they are as a person than their appearance, to take them for their mind, and that they get to decide who gets to see how they look.
However, for most Muslim woman who choose to wear the head scarf, it is first and foremost a religious act – an act of faith and worship – before being any political, cultural or feminist statement. Yes, there are feminist and anti-consumerist benefits to wearing the hijab – but for Susan, at the end of the day, the foundation for her has to be a ‘spiritual bed rock’.
Muslim women are fighting sexism within their communities
Susan’s PhD is called Fighting Hislam: an investigation into Australian and North American Muslim women fighting sexism within their own communities from a pro-faith perspective. She says that she chose this topic because people couldn’t believe that there were Islam women fighting sexism.
She says that her PhD wasn’t trying to portray every Muslim community as a feminist utopia – that this would not be doing the sisterhood any favours because of course sexism exists. She says that everyone knows that sexism exists, but no-one seemed to know about the push back coming from women in Muslim communities. She felt this needed to change and be documented.
When you receive hate, do something that aligns with who you want to be
Susan often receives ‘hate’ on social media because she is Muslim. She says that her knee-jerk response to this hate is to have a ‘stinging’ rebuke – but she wanted to be better than that. She therefore decided that for every hate tweet she receives, she’d donate a dollar to UNICEF. Within 24 hours, she had got 1800 hate tweets! As of 23 May 2016, she has donated $4110 to UNICEF as a result.
Just keep going and be who you are and try to do good
When asked who inspires her on Twitter, Susan didn’t name particular people, but instead said that the people who inspire her are the everyday people who do something to make a difference. She said they are generally the people that nobody knows, the ‘humble servants’.
Try to parent open-handed
Susan talks about wanting her children to have an open mind, and the need to parent open handed rather than clench our fist on who we want them to become and be. She says as someone who converted to Islam as a teenager, that it would be hypocritical to not want her children to make their own decisions about “who they are and why they’re here”.
Love always wins
To finish the interview, Susan shared a beautiful quote that continues to sit with me: “In the end love always wins. And if love hasn’t won, it’s not the end.”
I hope you have enjoyed this summary of some takeaways from Berry’s Dumbo Feather interview with Susan Carland. It is just a mere taster of the goodness that was within – so please do yourself a favour and listen to the full interview.
In the meantime, I’d love if you’d share which takeaway resonated with you most, that you will consciously choose to carry with you moving forward. In addition to the above, Susan also mentioned that there are a number of amazing female leaders in Islam literature that are generally not spoken about – this is something that I’m going to carry with me and research further. I’d love to learn more about these ‘badass female leaders’.