I just had an epiphany.
By just being little, old me, by being a voice, using my voice, not giving two flying fucks about what a hater gotta say, I’m threatening people with my very existence.
I’ll repeat that for the ones in the back. The ones that are hard of hearing.
By being unapologetically me, I’m threatening Muslim men who are clearly sexist, Muslim women who are oppressed and don’t even know it or fail to see it, people from local Islamic communities who are stuck in their archaic and rigid ways of thinking, fatphobic individuals, and white women and men who don’t see color with my mere existence.
That’s crazy. Powerful. Odd.
I’ve been hearing things. Noticing things. Taking in the comments, sly remarks, and whispers of those around me. I’d like to think that I’m a pretty objective person when I’m not being completely one-sided. And, honestly, I have no problem with constructive criticism. Stuff that’ll actually help me, I don’t know, grow in some way. But some of the things that I’ve been experiencing lately has been ridiculous. If you’d like to paint a picture of me, then you better damn well make that shit accurate, or as close to it as possible.
I’ll give you a bit of insight without going into too much detail because I’m trying to get to a bigger point here and not dwell in the bullshit of others. A few things I’ve noticed are people either blatantly lying about my character, taking slick shots over the internet when they have nooooo business talking, and attacking me (my content) over social media.
“Leah V.” My friend told me, “As you get bigger, more people are gonna come harder with the faux-ness. It’s the name of the game. People are going to make you out to be some kind of villain. Talk shit about you. Hell, even try to ruin your career. Those people have no life. They are just jealous. You gotta let it go in one ear and out the other. Be the bigger person.”
A lot of stuff I agreed with but I’m a human being and letting negative words or comments just pass through without being affected at some point takes its toll. I also have feelings. Feelings that I try my hardest to protect. What does one do when they take the high-road but other people go low? Take the cheap shots as you sit there and block, play defense? And in most of these cases, you can’t even speak up for yourself because a web of lies has already tarnished your name.
Things like this really makes you wonder why people hide, shield themselves with the strongest of walls, and never put themselves or their work out there. It’s hard, man. This shit ain’t easy. Divulging my life. Admitting my faults. Placing my body out in the open for heavy criticism by strangers. By Muslims. Islamaphobes. This isn’t what I signed up for…
In between rants and angry outbursts and curse words of frustration and sadness, I figured out something. When you have problems or issues or you want to figure anything out, you go straight to the source. So, that’s what I did with one question: what does Leah V stand for?
I stand for equality for girls to be able to do the same as boys. I stand for people being comfortable in their own skin. I stand for having the right to decide how you view your body. I stand for one having the right to practice religion or spirituality freely and without the restraints of man or groups of so-called religious communities. I stand for doing what the fuck you want to do when you want to do it. Being you without rules. Twerking. Getting divorced. Wearing hijab. Being proud. Getting an education. Equal pay. Creating art. Exploring your sexuality. Figuring shit out on YOUR own terms.
The last question was why would something I stand for openly make someone else so uncomfortable?
When I started sharing my work, blogging. I told many, many people that I wasn’t a role model. I didn’t want the heaviness of that title to weigh on my shoulders. That I wasn’t a good person and that no woman, man, or child should follow me. That I wrote for me. And if it helped other people then cool. If not, then I wasn’t going to force it down anyone’s throat. You dig me or you don’t. I keep it 100%
But, see, that’s how they wanted me to think. They wanted me think so negatively of myself that I couldn’t successfully push my work, my stories, my narrative. I was told no, no, no. Write this way. Look that way. Don’t be that. You’ll go to hell with the rest of the rebel women. The ones who don’t listen. I just knew that I was going to hell for the way I looked, the thoughts I had, and my inability to please the other Muslims in my community.
They are threatened by me because I embody everything that they are against. They spew lies because they want everyone to know that I’m not worthy of the attention. That what I’m saying has no merit. Who had I thought I was? Breaking down barriers. Telling little Muslim girls that they absolutely do not have to get married at the age of 14, 15 to an old ass man. Telling them that they could be something other than a mother or a housewife. That they could travel alone and not ask for permission.
When I post a photo. Post a bomb caption. Telling girls to leave that shell behind. I’m doing what they don’t want me to do: empower. Empowering girls. Empowering women. Allowing them the power to make their own decisions about religion, free of constraints, makes them uncontrollable. Free. And the oppressor never wants you to be free. They always want control. And tearing me down and others like me who preach about feminism and equality threatens the control they have over their wives, sisters, and daughters.
I’m here to tell you that although I’m human, I’m also part unicorn. Which means I’m rare, resilient, and easy on the eyes. Trolls, butt-hurt Muslim men, and Islamaphobes won’t silence me. I’ve come too far in my personal life and career to be scared off by some very mean yet personal comments. There’s a girl right now, sitting at home, perhaps sneaking and reading this post or has seen my Instagram feed. Probably hopeless before, she might be empowered, inspired to ask questions, be less conforming, be more herself.
My job as a writer, an influencer is to create a spark, and it’s up to you to turn it into a flame.