There are a lot of stories told about Dearborn, but rarely do they come directly from those who know the city best. Frustrated by the lack of ownership the city’s female residents had over their own narratives, Dearborn natives Rima Fadallah and Yasmeen Kadouh launched Dearborn Girl last May. It’s a podcast that gives Arab and Muslim women a chance to share their experiences and challenge the stereotypes that are often held about them. Hour Detroit sat down with Fadallah and Kadouh to talk about mainstream feminism, female camaraderie, and why they almost never talk about men on Dearborn Girl.
Hour Detroit: Why do we need something like Dearborn Girl in the year 2020?
Yasmeen Kadouh: It’s important to instill pride in the community and in our identities. We want to create something that makes it so that we don’t have to leave our identities at the door. Something that allows us to carry them into the room and say that we are wholeheartedly Arab Muslim women.
How do you define mainstream feminism?
Rima Fadallah: Yasmeen and I talk about this a lot and I’m just going to go ahead and call out that when we talk about mainstream feminism we’re talking about white feminism. I didn’t understand intersectionality until I went to school away from Dearborn and I heard what a lot of the conversations were like in women’s spaces, specifically white-dominated women’s spaces. I think one of the biggest things that’s frustrating me right now is that we don’t accept differences in values. Mainstream feminism tries to push an agenda of liberalism that looks and sounds and acts a certain way. I remember in college I heard a comment from a girl that I’ll never forget. She said, “If you abstain from sex, you’re basically oppressed and you’re internalizing your own oppression.” I’m not saying that’s all white feminism stands for, but there’s this perception of the Arab or Muslim woman who wants to be more modest as oppressed or part of a male-dominated space.
“There is a way to be feminist that doesn’t jeopardize our personal values.”
So, what does feminism with the Muslim community look like?
Fadallah: Within the Muslim community there is a way to be liberal and feminist that doesn’t jeopardize our personal values. Within our space [Dearborn Girl], we’ve been able to discuss such raw, pressing, urgent stories. One of things that Yasmeen said that made me look at this another way is that we honestly barely talk about men. That’s beautiful. There’s so much fixation on being oppressed by the patriarchy, which is obviously a real thing. But that’s not all feminism is and not all there is to being a Muslim or Arab woman today.