In celebration of the new year, Elle Beaver brings you profiles of courageous Canadian women who changed our world in 2014. Meet the icons, agitators, athletes, survivors and changemakers who challenged our view of womens’ place in Canadian society.
Québécoise. Feminist. Fashionista. Sociology student.
And arguably, the face and voice of the ‘Inclusives’ struggle against the Quebec Charter of Values.
Dalila Awada was thrust into Quebec’s pop-culture zeitgeist in late 2013 when she squared off with author and political pundit Djemila Benhabib on ‘Quebec’s Sunday Mass,’ Radio Canada’s Tout le monde en parle, even ringing in the New Year with a sketch on the network’s year-end Bye Bye special.
Through the vitriol of the Charter debates, which persistently pitted the ‘Jeanettes’ (mostly White, middle class recovering Christians) against the ‘Inclusives,’ Awada has persistently argued that she – and other Quebecois Muslim women like her – are far more than the sum of their veil.
But in fighting a movement that sought to instrumentalize veiled women – which many political commentators argued to be wedge politics tactics of a fledgling government – Dalila Awada was in her turn instrumentalized, racialized and vilified by her detractors.
Within a matter of hours of her appearance on Tout le monde en parle, Awada’s critics launched their attack, suggesting that Awada had a hidden, fundamentalist agenda. And in the coming months, more attacks: Awada is a ‘submissive woman’ who ‘paints herself up like a clown’ who objectified herself by wearing a ‘sexy’ Minnie Mouse costume. Months later, one of the bloggers who was most vociferous in his criticism, linking Awada to fundamentalist Islam, admitted that he had instrumentalized her to drive home his own agenda.
The violence inflicted on young, inclusive feminists like Awada – often most harshly inflicted by feminists of other stripes – reminds us that our struggles, our world views, and our political voice can be subverted in an attempt to silence us.
And if there is one thing we can do to support women warriors – particularly when they are feminist women of colour like Awada and targets of campaigns that aim to both silence them and entrench racism – it is not to speak FOR them, but to reverberate what they say while standing BEHIND them.