Finding Our Voices: Media, Blogging Activism & Creative Expression

            I’ve spent a lot of time away from classes working and trying to make ends meet for my siblings. It took me a long time to open up about my experiences with oppression, not that it is necessary to push your boundaries to answer questions in the face of oppression, as these conversations are often difficult and unsafe. However, in the current political and cultural climate, and being away from school, it was important for me to find ways to make, learn, and share front-line feminist pedagogy, art and activism that creates space for community, inspiration and hope, through an intersectional lens, in these complex times.

                  One way I managed to tackle this initiative was through blogging. I reached out to friends in our Pakistani community, first- and second-generation immigrants in the Unites States, to talk about the prospect of marriage. What happened to ‘that one girl’ we used to play with? She was sent back to Lahore. What happened to ‘that other one’, wasn’t she a University of Chicago pre-med? Oh, she got married and dropped out.  We came to the eerie realization, that we were normalizing these real-life scenarios. That there is this silence surrounding child marriages and forced, or arranged, marriages. That there is an incredible fear of speaking about these experiences.

                  Speaking briefly of the cultural pressure to marry: it creates blockages in access to education, healthcare, and community. The project I started, The Chai Collective, was inspired by my experiences being mixed race, and being raised by my Pakistani-Muslim grandparents. As I watched my younger cousins come of age, I realized they weren’t being let off the pressures to marry in the same way I was almost dismissed. Using my privilege as a bastard child, I needed to create safe spaces to hold these conversations about marriage, and internalized racism. So I decided to collectivize via blogging: opening the front end to anecdotal, personal, artistic, and mixed media submissions.

                  The creative component is essential to opening safe cross-generational dialogue and effectively communicating our challenges. Discussing issues marriage, the value of same-race marriage, the effects and fears of interracial, and intersex marriage, or choosing not to marry, etc., does not come often without a threat to reputation. Blogging is a perfect medium for these conversations, because anonymity is an option.  The shamed sentiments are veiled through creativity: crafting a submission of one’s own personal feeling and experiences for the consumption of a larger audience removes the individual behind those sentiments, enabling people to add more content without fear for their reputation.

                  Thus far, we’ve had a few very brave contributors, and over 100k views. Sharing ideas on various social media platforms [Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.] disrupts silence and delivers these conversations to the fore-front of academic and political discussion. I’ve had the opportunity to speak on community panels with other students of different cultural makeup about marriage. We’ve built an even larger community of Indo-Paki, Filipino, and Latina challenging marriage, as well as systemic oppression pervasive in various aspects of our lives. My hopes are that these conversations grow, and can be brought to the complex policy-making world in order to provide services and support to victims of forced marriage and/or bride kidnapping in the US.