In the lead up to International Women’s Day, Arab and Muslim women took to Twitter to combat misogynistic attributes of their communities in a hashtag #DearSister, started by Egyptian-American journalist Mona Eltahawy. Many of the girls and women used the hashtag as an opportunity to bring light to their personal stories. Others took a more structural approach, reflecting on their observations of those around them.
“To be honest, when I first tweeted it out, I did it almost as a joke,” Eltahawy told the BBC. “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.”
— Mona Eltahawy (@monaeltahawy) March 6, 2017
#DearSister ht tells how Muslim women deal with Islamophobia, misogyny and patriarchy all at once
— Farhiya Adan (@farhiyaadan21) March 5, 2017
#DearSister "Don't laugh too much. Be quiet! Your uncles and cousins are here!!"
– My aunty when I was 8 years old
— The Huff (@TheHuff_) March 6, 2017
The hashtag included some very important points, that are largely under-addressed, or even tabooed. Marriage, education, and harassment were all discussed.
#dearsister "you don't want to be too educated otherwise you'll never find a husband" because education is a threat to regressive constructs
— Yasmina (@animsche) March 6, 2017
Siyane A. Bari wrote about how women are encouraged to under achieve:
#DearSister Don't achieve/succeed too much in life Cs this might be intimidating for ur husband.
— Siyane A. Bari (@EthioPhenomenal) March 6, 2017
While Azadeh Akbari tweeted about a the common misconceptions amongst men and the culture of blame:
— Azadeh Akbari (@azadeh_akbari) March 5, 2017
"Stop with all this feminism talk, its unattractive." #dearsister
— ㅤ (@jinanmazen) March 5, 2017
Women bravely opened up about the threats they’ve received:
#DearSister "if you don't quit your post, I will kill you. We're threatening you in advance out of respect because you're a woman"-2007
— Rasha Al Aqeedi (@RashaAlAqeedi) March 5, 2017
They also highlighted the way they are judged by the way they dressed; debugging a famous parallel that compared women to covered lollipops.
— Diana (@SuperKnafeh) March 6, 2017
There were many who took to the hashtag to even address contradictions in culture versus Islamic teachings. Both Khadija and Aisha are wives of the Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him) and both have played very prominent roles in early Islamic history and were known for their contributions to the Islamic community, their strength of character and their self-empowerment.
#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
Let's be clear, most of the #DearSister comments we've heard throughout our lives are a reflection of culture, not Islam.
— Maggie Moose-Lamb (@ProfMagz) March 6, 2017
#DearSister Islam stopped you from being buried alive but now I'll allow my patriarchy, culture & superiority complexes to bury your dreams.
— Wurishmeen (@Afgeezy97) March 5, 2017
However, this did not go without controversy. Some men were worried that this trend would put Islam in a bad light.
This #dearSister hashtag plays into islamaphobic hands. Such stupidity. They will definitely think Muslim men oppress Muslim women.
— سرمد (@sarmadbdk) March 5, 2017
@sarmadbdk Dear Brother: You have the ability to change that… Fix the behaviours your sisters are talking about.
— warrior-rose (@WarriorRoseFit) March 5, 2017
@sarmadbdk pointing out muslim men' misogyny against muslim women isn't islamophobic. It's the reality.
— Mahi (@Maherush) March 6, 2017
There were also men who encouraged and supported their female counterparts in raising awareness and stood in solidarity.
Also, hashtag #DearSister is mandatory reading today.
— #ImWithDemocracy (@Real_Wordslayer) March 5, 2017
This. People say this to hide & protect abusers, which only further enables oppression. Don't hide them & don't protect them. https://t.co/VH42ki07Dq
— Âbdallāh (@irenicpoet) March 5, 2017
Most importantly, the women refused to allow Islamophobes hijack the hashtag.
non-muslims sitting in the #dearsister tag spewing islamophobic crap can stay in their lanes. this is an issue that has nothing to do w you
— farah (@stressedmuslim) March 5, 2017