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Social Philosophy Today

Volume 37, 2021

Respect, Social Action, and #MeToo

Saba Fatima
Pages 57-74

Navigating the #MeToo Terrain in an Islamophobic Environment

In this paper, I explore the significance of an intersectional lens when it comes to our conversations surrounding the #MeToo movement, in particular the way that such a lens helps us in recognizing narratives of sexual assault and harassment that are not typically viewed as such. The mainstream discourse on #MeToo in the United States has been quite exclusionary when it comes to women who are non-dominantly situated within societal structures. In particular, this paper looks at how Muslim American women’s issues surrounding sexual assault and harassment are presented as exotic and a function of their religion and culture, further narrowing what is considered worthy of attention within the discourse of the #MeToo movement. I argue that one such instance of sexual harassment that isn’t seen as such, is hijab snatching within particular contexts. Furthermore, I argue that a lack of an intersectional lens results in not only privileging certain harmful voices under the guise of inclusivity, but even when invaluable voices are allowed to enter mainstream discourse, they are often the sort that sidestep issues of Western imperialistic practices, Islamophobia, racialization of Muslims, etc. I highlight the dangers of speaking for others, especially in ways that attribute sexual violence experienced by Muslim women to their cultures and/or their men. I argue that acknowledging these dangers is in itself a crucial part of an inclusive conversation on #MeToo.