The Challenges of a being a Woman, Colored Body and a Mother in a Post 9-11 World

Diya Khanna
Freelance Journalist with a focus on diversity, integration & migration

On Wednesday March 8th, I decided I wanted to be a part of an International Women’s Day night walk protesting violence against women. I was in Seattle, and marching and chanting, I held up a sign that read, “the future is female”. I felt exhilarated and alive, and could feel a rush go through my body. My social media feeds were infiltrated with women celebrating other women and thanking their friends, mothers, sisters and daughters for the roles they played in their lives. It was definitely a day to acknowledge my womanhood and to also recognize the challenges associated with my gender.
Two weeks ago, I was sitting in the waiting room of an immigration office at the Toronto international airport getting ready to submit my visa application to live in the United States under my husband’s work contract with Amazon. We are professionals and have worked and lived in Japan, Singapore and Germany. I had no reason to worry. Yet, I still had an uneasy feeling in my stomach. The truth of the matter was we had brown skin and a Muslim last name in a post 9-11 world. I was moving to a country which had just come under the power of a President who was talking about building walls and had implemented a travel ban that restricted the entry of certain people based on their place of origin. I could easily fall into the hands of an officer that could decide I was a threat to the country and for whatever reason could deny me the visa I was sponsored under. In that moment, I was alert and aware and very conscious of the color of my skin.
Then just 2 days ago something happened that crystallized my role as a mother and how three dimensional my set of identities really were.
I was in the hospital sitting across from a speech pathologist who had just told me that my 2-year-old son had what was likely a neurological motor skill disorder for which we would have to seek therapy to help him communicate the way he would need to in order to get by in this world. All of a sudden, I was overcome by my sense of motherhood and the role and responsibility I had for my child.
All three of these identities; woman, colored body and mother have relevancy. All three make up who I am and neither one can be separated from the other. They are all examples of intersecting traits that explain who I am and how I approach my position in society.
‘Intersectionality’ was first coined in the late 1980s by an American civil rights advocate and scholar, Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw. By focusing on systems of oppression, Crenshaw argued that traits such as gender, race, social class, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, religion and illness all intersect to create a sum that is greater than its parts. To really understand somebody, one should look at how their identities are interlinked.
Education is crucial to understanding this intersectionality, as it is through learning that we are able to discover our multiple identities, make the laws that govern our societal institutions and discuss and understand the problems associated with oppression. It is a way to fight for visibility and inclusion.
Education can take us on a journey of self-discovery and invite others to do so alongside us. It is a path of enlightenment and one we should put a lot of our resources toward. The complexity of our world requires us to seek out complex solutions. We hope that through this approach we are able to create a fairer and more just world for us all.


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