Exploring a range of emotions that can only come from having known oppression at some level, ‘powerful’ is the first word that comes to mind when describing Farida D’s (@farida.d.author) poetry.
With an array of books out in the world and a rapidly growing audience on social media, the prolific Arab poet and gender researcher’s words have found a place of belonging amongst the several marginalized communities that she continues to fight for.
The brutal honesty and electrifying rage from her poetry resonates with many.
Amongst feminist poetry, her work, such as The List of Shit That Made Me A Feminist series, is bold and unapologetic, showcasing the common experiences of women all over the world. It gives rise to feelings of solidarity, along with the resolve to create change and emerge from the ruins, stronger than ever.
Q. How would you describe your writing to someone who isn’t acquainted with your work?
My writing is fierce, yet soft. Angry, yet calm. Loud, yet quiet. I aim to capture the untouchable varied essence of the human experience and imprison it on paper. I write what most of us are afraid to even feel.
Q. What is the main aim of your poetry, and what community of people do you want to connect with the most?
I am an intersectional feminist, and the aim of my poetry is to dismantle the various oppressions of gender, race, class, sexuality, and much more. I write mostly about women and for women, with the goal of unlearning and healing our world.
Q. Do your readers have an impact on what you write? What is something you have learnt from your audience?
Of course, I often get messages from readers asking me to write about their stories. As a researcher, I am trained in listening and recording people’s experiences. As a human being, I feel their pain. And as a poet, I combine those two strengths to create my poetry.
I have learnt from my audience that no matter which part of the world you are from, the essence of women’s joys and pains is one. Most of my readers are from the U.S., even though I mostly write about the oppressions that face Arab women.
Q. To what extent and how does being Arab influence your writing?
Being an Arab makes me part of the sample I study. It helps me understand the oppressions Arab women experience, because I go through them myself. As a researcher, I am trained to separate myself from the subjects I study to report on their experiences objectively. As a poet, I put on the shoes of the women I study and walk into their lives, to breathe with them and bleed with them.
Q. What do you believe are the major differences between Eastern and Western society, especially in terms of gender and sexuality?
I think the similarities are much more than the differences. At its essence, the oppression of women in the two societies is one; they just manifest in different ways. For example, in the East the hijab treats women as a sex object by concealing her sexuality. Meanwhile in the West the mini-skirt treats women as a sex object by revealing her sexuality.
Q. You have studied gender and you recently wrote about JK Rowling’s transphobia. How do you think such backward mindsets can be changed, and more importantly, do you think it is worth trying to change them?
It is devastating that someone like JK Rowling, with a massive platform, cannot recognize and constantly justifies her transphobia. Is it worth changing her mind? I am more concerned about the millions of minds that follow her and take her word as an excuse to justify their own transphobia. Unlearning is harder than learning. Changing mindsets is harder than moulding mindsets. I believe that what we teach and educate our children with is what matters the most right now. They are the future.
Q. In relation to the previous question, how can cis people can be better allies to those who are genderqueer?
Don’t be a silent ally. Use your voice to call out those everyday discriminations against genderqueer persons. From calling out “harmless” jokes against the Queer community, to intervening to stop bullying, and everything in between- those acts create a radical change in the long-term. Some might say “oh that’s just a harmless joke, I didn’t hurt anyone” – but that joke comes from a system that is designed to laugh at, then marginalize, then discriminate, and then abuse Queer people. It all adds up in the end.
Q. How have you grown and transformed with the last four books you have written? What are your plans for the future?
Each book makes me feel that I am leaving a footprint in the world that will stay long after I’m gone. Writers don’t die, and there is something mystical and calming about this kind of permanence that unites you with all humanity. I carry the writers before me in my words, I hope I will be carried by the writers after me too.
I am actually not sure what my future plans are. I plan it day by day. Right now I’m just going to keep on writing and see how far my words can travel.
Q. In your opinion, has the position of women improved in society in the past few years? If yes, how? If not, what is one change that you would like to see right now?
I think the position of women has improved, yet older obstacles are constantly being replaced with new ones. e.g. women can work outside the house now, but they are paid less. Women can opt out of motherhood, but they are seen as selfish for doing so. In most Muslim countries the hijab has become optional, but women who choose not to wear it (or wear it then take it off) are shamed.
The change I would like to see is for women to not only be given choices, but to not be controlled or punished for the “choices” we choose to make for ourselves. Because what is the point of giving me a choice, and then shaming me if I don’t pick the choice that society wants?
Q. What, to you, is the meaning of representation?
Being inclusive. In our books, education systems, entertainment, workplaces, etc. I want to see a slice of society included everywhere. I’m sick of seeing the world in all those spaces be reduced to favour one mould; heterosexual, cis, male, white, able-bodied. I want gay fairytales in the children books I read to my son. I want trans teachers in our schools. I want women in positions of authority. I want Black peers in my workplace. I want sign language to be an integral part of our education system and incorporated in every TV show. I want to see the silenced slices of society screaming out of every corner. And I want them to be heard. We all make up this world.