Episode 112: Political Bodies, Part 1 (Featuring Good Muslim, Bad Muslim)
Published September 29, 2017.
Aminatou: Welcome to Call Your Girlfriend.
Ann: A podcast for long-distance besties everywhere.
Aminatou: I'm Aminatou Sow.
Ann: And I'm Ann Friedman. This episode and our next one are about bodies in politics from a bunch of different perspectives.
Aminatou: We have some announcements for our Midwest divas. Tickets are basically sold out for our Chicago live show. Come see us Saturday, October 21st at the Woman's Club of Minneapolis.
Ann: Yeah, and all the details and links to tickets, you can find it at callyourgirlfriend.com/events.
Aminatou: Hello Ann Friedman!
Ann: Oh, I . . . I'm so excited because we are pre-recording a few episodes. We're taking a little break. I'm traveling. You're traveling. It's . . . I don't know. I mean I feel like -- I feel like actually a CYG travel bonanza episode, like a meta episode about traveling, is something that we should do at some point.
Aminatou: I mean between now and November 4th I'm about to be all over this planet.
Ann: It's true. And as we were just discussing, like I also just feel like packing tips and solo travel tips. I mean I know you did a whole podcast about this so maybe my interest is greater than yours. [Laughs]
Aminatou: Yes, please listen to my podcast, On She Goes, available on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts. [Laughs]
Ann: I guess what I'm trying to say is I feel like I know you covered this territory but you have never covered it with me and maybe we should at some point. But anyway . . .
Aminatou: My main problem with how I travel is that I . . . the rest of my life is kind of a disaster, but I like to ruthlessly edit my suitcase. And I am faced with some particularly tough logistical challenges this time, like many climates. It's like it's going to be tough.
Ann: I know. Many climates, and also just like it brings out anything that you're feeling. Like for me, anyway, if I feel like oh, what my wardrobe is missing right now is the perfect jacket or the whatever. You know what I mean? I'm just like ugh. I tell myself stories, like if I had only shopped better in the past packing would be super easy. [Laughs] Which is like a capitalist lie.
Aminatou: I know. Let me tell you how I have wanted an Anorak my entire life, like since elementary school/French school. And every time I travel in the fall I'm just like if only I had found the perfect Anorak I would not have this problem.
Ann: I love the word Anorak. Also you have a kind of Anorak-like jacket, am I wrong? Like a green . . .
Aminatou: You know what? It's a kind of Anorak. It's not a real Anorak.
Ann: [Laughs] Spoken by a true former French student.
Aminatou: Let me tell you, it's that, and it's also . . . I don't debut looks on . . .
Ann: Oh hell no.
Aminatou: I'm just like if you don't get worn at home you're definitely not getting worn on vacation. You know what I mean?
Ann: Right. The road is for your defaults.
Aminatou: Exactly. I'm just like I am trying to be my best self. Nothing is going to throw me off here. And it's just like when I'm packing what it makes me realize is how much of a mess my home wardrobe is. Then I start putting things aside to donate and give and it's like pack. You have to actually pack. And also I hate spending more than an hour on packing. Like that's how much time I give myself. Like after an hour I'm like if you're not in the rotation or you're not in the zone you are not coming. You are not going anywhere.
Aminatou: Ruthless. Ideally 30 minutes, domestic trips. Not even kidding. I was like you need to do this. But I also have like, you know, because I travel so much I basically have duplicates of everything already ready to go. [Laughs]
Aminatou: So that's like . . . I am focused on clothes because my toiletries are already packed.
Ann: Amazing. Well, since we are going to be gone for a few weeks we . . . I think it was your idea. You had this incredible idea that we could maybe . . .
Ann: Sorry. I'm saying we like both of us thought of this but it was not the case. You had this good idea that we ask some podcasters who have podcasts that we love and listen to to contribute some segments to our show to help us fill in the gaps while we're gone.
Aminatou: I know. A great scam, but also a scam for all of humanity because we love all of the shows that are featured and hopefully all of our listeners will love them too.
Ann: I mean also it's like a shine theory scam, right? This is making shine theory work for you. [Laughs]
Aminatou: One hundo. I'm like help me help you shine so I can shine also. Thank you.
Ann: And so lest things get too out of hand we gave guidelines to our guest podcasters to talk about bodies and political bodies and the way bodies are politicized. And so thematically this episode and our next one are about bodies in politics.
Aminatou: First up I spoke to Jessamyn Stanley whose new book -- well, I guess it's not so new now, but it's a great book, Every Body Yoga: Let Go of Fear, Get on the Mat, Love Your Body. It's out now. If you're into wellness and yoga and all of that stuff she's definitely an Instagram account that you should follow, but also she's a very good guru for the age of like posi-bodies.
Jessamyn: My name is Jessamyn Stanley. I'm a yoga teacher and a writer and I'm the author of Every Body Yoga: Let Go of Fear, Get on the Mat, Love Your Body.
Aminatou: Thank you so much for joining us today on Call Your Girlfriend, Jessamyn.
Jessamyn: It's my pleasure, Amina.
Aminatou: I was really excited to be reading your book. The day that it came I had one of the very quintessential Brooklyn days where I walked in front of probably 20 yoga stores and every time thought "Hmm, one day. One day I'll start that." [Laughs]
Jessamyn: Oh my god. But it seems so unappealing when you see it that way, like when it's on the street in Brooklyn and you see everyone in their Lululemon clutching their -- make sure you've got your coconut water and the right mat. I feel like it looks like a really trendy exercise thing that, I don't know, I feel like I wouldn't be into it from that.
Aminatou: Yeah, I'm like it's a lifestyle that one day I will join. Nobody has had more failed yoga attempts than me. I go like one time to every studio in every city I've lived in and it just never takes. But I was so struck when I got your book on how beautiful it is and just how, you know . . . and it's obviously about learning all of your poses but it goes so much deeper than that. It was such an antidote for the like "Ugh, I feel like I'm about to have a bloody day from all of this stuff that I just . . ."
Aminatou: From all of this stuff I just saw, you know?
Jessamyn: Yeah. It's just that it's funny to me because the practice gets associated with this really materialistic and kind of egotistical space and it's not about that at all. It's really just about looking within yourself for truth and authenticity. And that was why my book I guess is so different from other yoga books because it's about really what it means to be honest with yourself so that you can encourage other people to be honest with themselves.
Aminatou: The stories that you kind of tell too just really reinforce the whole idea that having a positive body image actually takes a lot of work.
Aminatou: It's like in the same way that you . . . in the same way you want to be physically strong, you have to be really emotionally and mentally prepared for really reckoning with your body and loving it every day. And I think you go really deep into that.
Jessamyn: Yeah. I mean I feel like it's really more about that process than anything physical. It's wild to me that everyone is so obsessed with the physical aspects of it, because those are -- I mean they're cool I guess but there are a million different ways that you can become more fit, get flexible, be stronger. Yoga is not . . . it's not the only way to do that. But it is one of the best ways to really tap into something that's larger than yourself. And I feel like when you walk down that road, that's way more interesting than just some exercise thing that you would do on Saturdays if you had the money, if you had the time. It's got to be about something more than that.
Aminatou: Yeah. You know, I think too that one thing for those of us that are kind of on the outside of the yoga community, or any kind of . . . I want to say anything that looks physical on Instagram, it's that you feel like everything has to be perfect all the time.
Jessamyn: Oh yeah. Oh yeah.
Aminatou: And one of the points that you really stress is that it's not about having perfection if you really want to have a worthwhile yoga practice or do anything that is art.
Jessamyn: Exactly. Anything that's worthwhile in this life is difficult. Everything that is good comes with effort. And I think that when you really establish that on your yoga mat and then you establish that in the other parts of your life then you can remember that throughout life so that when you encounter things that are difficult you won't feel inclined to run from them; you'll run towards them. Because you know that at the end of that difficult thing is something very bright and worthwhile.
Aminatou: Yeah. You know, one of the other things that you're really honest about too is not having this picture-perfect kind of Instagram situation that's going on. Like I was reading an interview where you talked about just being really deeply afraid of your body and having to film it more and really your relationship with the camera. And I thought that was really refreshing and honest just in this world where we're essentially all posing, you know? And nobody really talks about the hard parts of that, especially when it relates to like self-love and body love.
Jessamyn: Well I think it's quite possible that many people who are on Instagram do not have a connection to something. I feel like there are a lot of people who are yoga practitioners who post their pictures on social media who are really in a very egotistical and narcissistic space and they enjoy having people say like "Wow, look how amazing you are! I could never do that! You're so strong." And they get off on that. And so they're not really having like a conversation with the camera or resolving body issues. It's about how other people see them. And I think that that's a completely understandable space to be in and I have no shade towards that. No shade. But for me it's always been a lot more than that.
And as a fat-bodied woman I was always taught to really avoid the camera and that if I'm going to be in front of a camera that I have to turn my body in certain ways. There's certainly like fat girl poses where it's a safe way to be seen.
Aminatou: There's so many rules.
Jessamyn: Yeah. There's all these rules and it's like when I first started taking photos of myself I found myself adhering to those rules and I would take photos from certain angles and I would only take photos of poses that I thought would hide my belly or that I thought I just looked "good enough" in. And it took me a while but eventually I realized that I need to be more open with myself, and as I started to peel that back it turned into something way deeper and way more intimate.
And I do. I still love the aspect of photographing myself and looking back at it and really remembering the moment when I was in the pose, but that's a very separate interaction than putting it on social media. So I feel like I want to differentiate between these two things. There's the photography and there's the whole putting it in front of other people thing and that is something else. But the photography, it's very cathartic.
Aminatou: That's fair. You also say fat, black women have been doing yoga forever even though there's not really [0:13:44] around that. I guess what's your advice for somebody who is not -- you know, they're not so sure their body type is the yoga body type and they want to think about getting into it, like where should they start?
Jessamyn: I mean you can just walk into a random studio. [Laughs] Like that's honestly my best advice is to just be brave, go into a space. If you're afraid of people staring at you you have to get over that because people are going to stare at you. And I think that is really the reason why people are afraid to go. It's not really because they're afraid of the actions or afraid of . . . it's less fear of the yoga itself and more fear of what other people think. And if you really can't get over that boundary of what other people think . . .
Because it's totally true that you could go to a studio in any city, especially if you're in LA or New York, and you could be body shamed by the students, by the teacher, by the studio owner. Everybody could make you feel uncomfortable. And the only way to really counter that I think is to not go to a studio and to practice at home. And I know that that can be really intimidating, especially for a brand new practitioner, but if you find the right online yoga classes. I have classes on codyapp.com. That's Cody App. So there are classes out there that are available for a beginner up to intermediate or advanced. I personally subscribe to yogaglo.com. It's Yoga Glo without the W at the end. And if you have a good selection of different kinds of classes, different kinds of teachers, and you're in an environment -- when you're at home you're in an environment where you are safe. There is not going to be someone there to make fun of you. You can just be yourself.
Cultivating a calming environment is one of the most important things in a yoga practice because ultimately it's not really about -- it doesn't matter what other people are doing and it doesn't matter what you look like. You just need to be in a space where you really feel comfortable.
Aminatou: Like it's a thing that you're going to have to get over, you know? And it's a constant battle all the time so you might as well start practicing now.
Jessamyn: Yeah. And I mean I definitely still get -- like I hate going to studios sometimes because I have always been self-conscious about having people watch my practice. And now that people know who I am people will literally just stop practicing and watch me practice and it's very uncomfortable. So I really understand that struggle but it's just you have to find a way to get over it.
Aminatou: Thank you so much, Jessamyn. I really appreciate you taking the time.
Jessamyn: Thank you.
Ann: I think there's this distinction in my mind between people who do yoga, which I would count myself among that group, and then yoga people -- I'm air quoting.
Ann: And it's like my goal in life to find teachers or like-minded people or apps or classes or whatever that seem to be for people who do yoga as opposed to people who are like "This is a holistic lifestyle for me and I'm very bound up in . . ." I have a lot of anxiety and a lot of issues with the idea of the yoga person but I can do it if I tell myself I'm a person who does it, not a yoga person.
Aminatou: Yoga is hard for me. Like obviously I love stretching. I will do any stretch in the world. If all of exercise was just focused on stretching I would be the fittest person in the world. But it's like it harkens to so much religion bullshit that I'm not into.
Aminatou: Even when I go to the yoga classes that are like Pharrell Happy or the Beyonc one or whatever the minute they try to tap into spirituality I'm out. I'm like I cannot . . . I was like I was raised into oppressive religions. I don't really need this right now.
Aminatou: [Laughs] So that is really hard for me. It's like a lifestyle also that can be so steeped in capitalism. Like the shit just adds up where I'm like I don't understand this. Like now I'm spending money on retreats. I'm spending money on juices. I'm spending money on mats that cost so much money. But the truth is those are my hang-ups and some yoga lifestyle -- like yoga lifestyle should definitely be examined.
But the thing that I loved about talking to Jessamyn is she made it so clear that all bodies belong in all spaces, you know? And so seeing her reclaim that. Well, I was going to say like reclaiming my time. Seeing her kind of really expand on that and also just be somebody who has really smart things to say about fitness and wellness in a way that's not centered on losing weight or like looking great for your wedding or being the object of somebody or something's gaze, that is very healing for me. So support.
Ann: Yeah. And I think for me also figuring out that I just need a recommendation from a like-minded friend if I am going to do . . . I mean pretty much any group movement or exercise, but yoga in particular, where the last time I went to a class it was because friend of the podcast Beth Pickens who was on a show at the beginning of the year, she sent an email saying like "Hey, this is a teacher I really like. It truly is modified consistently throughout for all bodies and skill levels. It's a really great environment." The class was not at a yoga studio. It was at like an independent art space. And also just, I don't know, there are certain people in my life where if they ask me to do something I have a policy of always saying yes. [Laughs] And Beth is one of those people.
So anyways, so I really liked that because I was like okay, here is someone who has similar politics, has similar feelings about some of the trappings that tend to go along with this culture sometimes. She's been to a class from this teacher and she's telling me it's good. I'm like then I feel comfortable showing up. You know, it's like the friend endorsement is so key for me.
Aminatou: Right, somebody that you trust that's been in the space. Here's the other thing about Jessamyn's book that was so fantastic is that it's honestly the first time that I've seen any kind of exercise paraphernalia like media or whatever that had a body that was not some very thin model. And like I wasn't even reading. I was just looking at all the pages where it was like what? Like this is . . . it's so crazy, the power of media. I'm so conditioned to believe that only a certain kind of body does yoga and really looking through those photos and scrolling through her social media was such a good corrective for me also. It was like oh, no, the reason that I think that only a certain kind of body or whatever does yoga is because that's literally the way that yoga has been marketed.
Aminatou: Like the book is such a service. Like for somebody who is like "Yoga is not my jam," but seeing like modified positions and seeing somebody who has a body type that's closer to mine be like "Oh, this person can be strong too and this person can be flexible also," and do all of that, it's so crazy. 2017. It's the small things that count. But I was like this is very revolutionary. I wish that more exercise books or exercise media would do that.
Ann: Yeah, completely. And I do think that people like Jessamyn are in the vanguard. I think about places like here in LA there's a gym called Everybody that is not just sort of nominally inclusive of a lot of different body types but the instructors are often people who look like Jessamyn or the people who are leading classes are queer. And it's not just like we say we're welcoming to all people, but it's like no, actually the people at the front of the room and the people who are putting together the movements that you're going to be doing are people who live in bodies that are not often normalized in gyms or in yoga culture or in classes. And I think it's the very beginning of watching a certain type of politics come into a more consumer space, like for people who want to do this, and whether that means buying a book and sort of learning how you can modify poses or if you're really lucky to live near one going to a gym or a class where that's the case it makes me really excited. Like it's one of those things that for all things feel like they're kind of moving backwards, I'm like this feels like the future, you know?
Aminatou: I know. It's like some things really are moving forward because I think that for a long time the lie of fitness and health is that you have to be a certain body weight and a certain shape to be in shape. And the thing about seeing media, you know, like seeing the work that Jessamyn is doing and so many other people like her, it just pushes back against that narrative because it's absolutely not true.
Ann: Yeah, totally.
Aminatou: Yeah. And the other thing that drives me crazy is when I start thinking about the capitalism of all of this stuff also I'm just like one more place where people leave money on the table because they are obsessed with not being inclusive.
Ann: Right. Yeah. I have gotten to this point too where if I don't see some sort of explicit commitment to inclusivity from the class or the messaging or the book or whatever it might be that is an immediate turnoff for me, you know? [Laughs]
Aminatou: Like the whole thing is nuts. Like I was shopping for some workout clothes recently and this brand that I like that was like oh, we've expanded our sizes, and none of the models on the expanded sizes, they didn't have inclusive models. I was like how can I tell . . .
Ann: They expanded the sizes but not the models?
Aminatou: Yeah. I was just like how can I tell? I'm like how can I tell? Like this is so stupid. Also why are you ashamed of having bigger women modeling your clothes?
Ann: I know.
Aminatou: This makes no sense. Like you'll take my money for more stretch spandex but you won't bother to do a photo shoot? Like this is crazy.
Ann: Completely. Well, so yeah, a shout out and thanks to Jessamyn and I feel like this is the kind of thing too where I'm excited to talk to more people who are doing this in the future. I guess I'll just leave it at that. I'm excited that she is in the vanguard here.
Aminatou: Also she's been doing a couple of ads recently. I saw her when I was watching Younger on an ad and it was great. I just wanted to also plug Younger separately. [Laughs] The ad was not about Younger. I just love that TV Land show. But yeah, she was like on this ad that was -- I think one was like a Kotex ad that was talking about doing yoga on your period and then the other one was maybe another product. I might be conflating the two. But I was like get it. This is great.
Ann: Oh my god. So good.
Aminatou: This is great. You know, yoga is like a trillion dollar industry. Like three trillion dollars in fact. I want her to get at least one trillion of the yoga dollars.
Ann: Ugh. One third of the trillion yoga dollars.
Aminatou: Yeah. I was like this lady is literally on the vanguard of reshaping your garbage workout industry. Give her all the money. Thank you.
Ann: Ugh. Yes.
[Music and ads]
Ann: So for our next segment which is also about political bodies but with a slightly different take we wanted to hand things over to our friends at Good Muslim, Bad Muslim, which is a podcast if you haven't heard it that's hosted by Taz Ahmed and Zahra Noorbakhsh. They do a segment with awkward like "Ask a Muslim moments" and we asked them to kind of adapt that segment to things that are related to bodies and Muslim women's bodies and their bodies out in the world. So have a listen to Taz and Zahra.
Zahra: Welcome to a conversation with . . .
Zahra: And Zahra.
Taz: Of the Good Muslim, Bad Muslim podcast!
Zahra: Should I be as quiet as you?
Taz: No, you should speak up.
Zahra: Good Muslim, bad Muslim. I like that. [Laughs] It's like a sexy whisper.
Taz: Yeah, we're going to change our time to that. Wait, we are live from Hawaii. We've been in Hawaii for, I don't know, it feels like forever. I think it's been ten days.
Zahra: In paradise! We're on the beautiful island of Oahu at the Shangri La Museum for an artist's residency.
Taz: Shangri La was a space that was Doris Duke's home once a long time ago. She used to collect Islamic art. And now the space has turned into a center for Islamic art and culture and they provide art residencies to people who make Muslim art which apparently we were. So we were delighted to be here and we're so excited to be joining Call Your Girlfriend today.
Zahra: We have so many stories to share and we're very excited to pluck out from those stories our Awkward Ask a Muslim moments that in a way shed a light on the political identity that's projected onto us kind of regardless.
Taz: Yeah. The Awkward Ask a Muslim is a segment that we do on our monthly podcast and, you know, I've been referring to the Awkward Ask a Muslim as kind of our time to showcase microaggressions that we experience as Muslim-American women. You know, most of them . . . I think one of the things we realized with Awkward Ask a Muslim is now that I'm documenting moments every month that I'm remembering everything that happens. But we get so many microaggressions constantly that I forget. I forget that that's what's happening.
Zahra: Yeah. And this month doing the show at Shangri La live it was particularly interesting because there was this way that since we were there to record our live podcast it was like we were also then there . . . it felt like for some audience members there -- the white audience members in particular -- we were also there to sort of answer all questions as an exhibit of Muslim women.
Taz: Yeah. It felt like we were in an art museum. Like we were the exhibit in the museum and they were here just to watch us be the exotic orientalism tokens.
Zahra: But this time the exhibit got to talk back and that was cool. So okay, Taz, your Awkward Ask a Muslim moment?
Taz: Yeah, my Awkward Ask a Muslim moment is we're in Hawaii and every time I tell people I'm going to Hawaii they're like "Oh, are you going to swim?" And I have to say "Yeah, I don't swim." And everyone always asks "But you live in LA." Like for some reason in everyone's heads who don't live in LA they think if you're in LA you're an automatic swimmer. And then I had someone say "Oh, but you're a surfer." I'm like "I just told you I don't swim. How could I be a surfer if I don't swim?"
Zahra: Both of those examples she gave were of me by the way.
Taz: They weren't just of you. This is like repeated conversations I've been having with people. I mean one of the reasons I don't swim is because I am scared of water. So I can swim on my back, but I can't swim on my front. I can't put my face underwater. But another reason is that I just wasn't in a house where it was appropriate for women to wear bathing suits and bikinis and jump into pools. So I think first to fifth grade I would so swim lessons every summer and after that it was like oh, your body is not to be in a bathing suit. Go wear pants and a t-shirt and go swimming. And that's just awkward.
Zahra: Oh my god, I'm nodding like crazy over here because that's exactly the same as me.
Taz: Did you have to do that for PE?
Zahra: Well we didn't have swimming for PE but it was like all elementary school years I spent . . . my mom dropped us off at the pool. That was like our babysitting time, hanging with the lifeguard like all day. And then when I hit like puberty, right, then all of a sudden it was exactly like you said: t-shirts and shorts. Go swimming, have fun, but cover yourself. And also go have fun but not too much fun.
Taz: And it's terrible to swim in a t-shirt because you have -- it collects all the water. And I think the other thing was we had swimming in PE because we were in southern California. I was in a suburb of LA. And it's embarrassing, you know, to have to go swimming and be like "Oh, I have to wear a t-shirt." I don't think there was leggings back then but I think I wore something. [Sighs] It was really awkward and terrible. And, you know, as I was planning for this trip I went bathing suit shopping and I found a bunch of really cool modestish bathing suits. One of them is kind of loose at the belly, which you know, I kind of need. And some of them have like sleeves and some of them are like boy shorts. And I was like, you know, if I was in high school I totally would've rocked one of these more modest bathing suits.
Zahra: Yeah. I remember you sent me the link too because I also was struggling, because I have that issue where I can buy extra-large for my top but it's not going to take care of my bottom. That is like no curve and is shaped like a chair. That's it. That's all I've got.
Taz: [Laughs] Well what did you think of some swimsuits you saw on the site?
Zahra: Okay, I typed in like looking for like the swimsuits that you showed me and all of them still I was like uh, this . . . these women I don't see as plus-size.
Taz: Oh yeah.
Zahra: Like some of them look like they were a size four but they were modeling it as plus-size and I was like okay. And it was messing with my mind a little bit. I was like am I saying that they're this size? Are they that size? What are sizes even?
Taz: Yeah. I bought a bathing suit off of Amazon and the site that I bought it off of said that the size 8/10 was extra-large.
Taz: Yeah. Extra-large.
Zahra: See? And then I'm like this is why I just put on a t-shirt and shorts and jumped in the water.
Taz: Yeah. Well you had a tankini on and I think tankinis . . . tankinis were not an option when I was growing up. I think my life would've been much better if there were tankinis.
Zahra: Or burkinis. I would've been better off this trip if I had had on a burkini because I got stung by a jellyfish which would not have happened if I had a burkini on.
Taz: Burkinis, they keep the jellyfish from happening.
Zahra: The jellyfish was sent by Allah.
Taz: Yeah, so that's my story of bathing suits and why that was my Awkward Ask a Muslim. So don't ask me. If you see me, don't ask me why I don't swim. And also don't say that you're going to give me swim classes. I've gone through enough swim classes. There's been a few people that have offered. I'm just like I'm good. I'm good. I'm good.
Zahra: So my Awkward Ask was like a super Awkward Ask. Like it was literally asked of me on behalf of all Muslims. And when she asked me this question I joked "You mean like on behalf of all Muslims?" And she said "Yeah." Just like unironically, unapologetically. This white woman came up to me after the show, and during the show, and you'll hear this on our episode of Good Muslim, Bad Muslim for the month of August actually. I talk about this rash that I got on my arm that I had to go to urgent care for and it was one of those rashes where you're like is this an emergency room rash or just like a bad rash? Or an emergency room rash? And I actually went in and they were like "Oh, yeah, this is a total emergency," and I got two penicillin shots and it was this big deal. And I talk about it in the story and the hot doctor involved. And it's very funny and you should go listen to it.
And after the episode this woman walked up to me, this white woman, maybe 50s, and she says "I'm so glad that you got your arm taken care of because my husband lost his leg. Can I wear hijab? Why can't I wear hijab?"
Taz: So she just went straight from one into the other question? It's like no stopping?
Zahra: Boom. Just like no . . . and I was like "I'm sorry, what?"
Taz: Like you didn't have time to recover from the fact that her husband lost a leg from the same thing you're suffering from, and then all of a sudden you have to talk about hijabs?
Zahra: On behalf of all Muslims. And I made the joke. I was like "Oh, ha, ha, you mean can you wear a hijab? Like you're asking me as a Muslim woman speaking on behalf of all Muslims?" And she said "Well, yes." And I was like "I'm sorry, I don't understand. Are you religious and you want to wear it? Are you converting?" And she said "No, I wanted to wear it to see what it's like to wear a hijab and be affected. And this other woman . . . to be affected by the political atmosphere that we're in. And this other woman told me that other Muslim women might . . ." There are a lot of others involved in this descriptive.
Zahra: "That other Muslim women might feel like I was coopting their narrative. Do you feel that way?"
Taz: Yes. Yes. You say yes.
Zahra: I was just so stunned because, okay, also she was just like saying other Muslim women and this other woman and being really general and talking in these really general brush strokes. And then she was like "Am I coopting your narrative?" Which is like . . . [Laughs]
Taz: She did not say that. She said that? Am I coopting? Were you like "Yes, don't do this. Just no. Don't. No."
Zahra: Well here's the trap: I don't wear hijab.
Taz: True, and yeah, we talk about this on our episode a lot, our podcast. We're constantly talking about how we hate talking about the hijab.
Zahra: It's a trick question because I don't wear hijab so I can't answer as a Muslim woman who does or does not wear a hijab. Like is she coopting my narrative? Technically no. I don't wear a hijab.
Taz: But you're speaking on behalf of all Muslim women so . . . so maybe it's okay.
Zahra: I just told her it's complicated.
Zahra: Because I didn't want to have to give her the yes or no answer. And I said "You know, that's what our whole podcast is about is there is no yes or no answer."
Taz: The perfect answer would've been go listen to all 32 of our episodes. You should've just told her that.
Zahra: I told her go listen to our episodes. We talk at length about this. And she goes "Sure, sure, sure, sure. But can I just -- can I wear it?" She wanted like a yes or no.
Taz: You say no. No, no, no. Always no.
Zahra: Okay, but then maybe I kind of wanted her to go wear one.
Zahra: I know. But I was so annoyed with her that I was like I kind of want you to just go do this thing.
Taz: Yes. Only if it's a flag hijab. [Laughs]
Zahra: This just got really layered. What I told her was, you know, "Listen, you're a white woman who wants to understand the whole experience of what it is like to be a Muslim woman by going out and wearing a hijab and taking it off. And that by itself is extremely reductive," which I thought is a word she might know because she said coopting narrative.
Zahra: And I said "So, you know, I think it's really nuanced, the question that you're asking. On one hand you're asking can I put this on because I want to understand an experience? It's one thing. Solidarity is another thing." I was trying to get her to think about it differently.
Taz: Look at you trying to meet her in the middle. That was really sweet of you to at least attempt.
Zahra: I'm drowning.
Zahra: I'm just even drowning in this explanation. I'm getting hives already. I'm getting a rash. I have to go to urgent care.
Taz: We need to get you that hot doctor to give you a penicillin shot in your butt because of this hijab question.
Zahra: It's already giving me a headache just remembering it. See, this is the thing is it is like a very physical experience being in these awkward conversations.
Taz: Oh, it absolutely is. Do you get like . . . because I break into hives when I'm upset, and it's really annoying because whatever passionate emotion I'm having, if it's like an emotion I break out into hives around my neck. I just kind of like cut people off. I got corrected on the term lychee. We went and got ice cream and I said I wanted "lee-chee" shaved ice and the only guy in the group said "Here we say lychee." And then we continued on and I was like "But in my culture we say lee-chee." Then I went back to my conversation. Apparently he kept talking after he corrected me and I just kind of tuned him out. So that's my way of dealing with it is to just kind of pretend like they don't exist. And then I didn't make eye contact with him for the rest of the night. [Laughs]
Zahra: See, I need to have your pivot power. You have amazing pivot power. I get sucked in and end up in these conversations. Right after that woman I ended up in a 20-minute conversation with another woman about Baklava and its origins and I don't even care.
Taz: Yeah. When I was giving a workshop at Shangri La and this older white man was in my Muslim Valentine's Day card workshop. My Muslim Valentine's Day card workshops are about these cards we make -- hashtag #muslimvday. They're very raunchy. They're very crass. And somehow in my group of people that I was workshopping there were all these much older people who I felt very blushing when they had to say words like g-hard n-spices.
Zahra: Taz has a Muslim V-Day card that says "I have a g-hard on for you." They're amazing.
Taz: Yeah. So I was shy to make eye contact. Anyways, there's a guy who asks me about where he could sign up for the Muslim registry and I was like yep, that's a good topic. Listen to our podcast. Next. Because I just don't feel like people need room. They have all the room in the world. Literally white men have all the room in the world. I don't need to give up my space, my precious one-hour workshop space, to explain to this white man about how that's not how a registry works because I had to talk about g-hards.
Taz: And on that note we're going to leave you our wonderful Call Your Girlfriend audience. We love the show. We hope that you join us on our podcast.
Zahra: Where you can hear our standard conclusion to our Awkward Ask a Muslim segment, which is . . .
Zahra: If you enjoyed our conversation here you can find Taz and I at goodmuslimbadmuslim.com.
Taz: Thanks, y'all. Bye!
Aminatou: Ugh, these ladies are so great. [Laughs]
Ann: I love them. Thank you so much for sharing your show with us. Find out more about their show at goodmuslimbadmuslim.com. You can also find their podcast on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen and they are the best. Thanks Taz and Zahra.
Aminatou: Oh my god. I've told you this before but I feel like if the Internet was around when I was a kid, or even podcasts, or I had known these ladies, I would probably still identify as Muslim. I can't handle it.
Ann: I mean just a tiny hint of all the important work they're doing right there.
Aminatou: Oh my god. I was like thank god I got out of this before I became . . . this is crazy.
Aminatou: This is how I feel during Ramadan where now there's cool Ramadan memes and I'm like -- it's like a tinge of sadness, but also secretly I'm like oh, thank god, because I'm so impressionable. I would still be . . .
Ann: We have totally discussed Ramadan memes and their effect on you. [Laughs]
Aminatou: [Laughs] I am powerless. But yeah, this show is great. I'm excited for more of Good Muslim, Bad Muslim.
Ann: Yeah. So come back next week to hear from another special podcast guest and to hear more chat about bodies in politics and we'll be on vacation so see you maybe on the Internet but maybe not at all for a week. [Laughs]
Aminatou: You can find us many places on the Internet, on our website callyourgirlfriend.com, download it anywhere you listen to your favorite podcasts, or on Apple Podcasts where we would love it if you left us a review. You can email us, firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook at callyrgf. You can even leave us a short and sweet voicemail at 714-681-2943. That's 714-681-CYGF. Our theme song is by Robyn, original music composed by Carolyn Pennypacker Riggs. Our logos are by Kenny Sheshne. This podcast is produced by the wonderful and amazing Gina Delvac. See you around the world. [Laughs]