Schamlos Fragen stellen – ein Gespräch über Scham, negative soziale Kontrolle und weibliche Sexualität

Schamlos – so nennt sich das Buch von Amina Bile, Sofia Nesrine Srour und Nancy Herz. Und so kann man auch die drei Autorinnen nennen, denn schamlos sprechen sie in ihrem Buch, 2017 erstmals in Norwegen erschienen, über wichtige Themen, wie weibliche Sexualität, negative soziale Kontrolle, das Patriachat und den Kampf zwischen zwei Kulturen aufzuwachen. Schamlos hatte ich auch die Chance Sofia Nesrine Srour, nach der Lesung, alle Fragen zu stellen, die mich zu dem Thema und dem Buch interessierten.

Von Sarah Luisa Ostermann

In the book other Muslim girls and women are getting a voice in order to tell their story. How did you get the idea of giving other people a voice?
We believe that the personal is political and as it is a very political book, we needed the personal stories. And we thought what better way to use the book as a platform for giving space to others. Because this fight isn’t about us, it is about people, what they experience. The girls in the book are actually girls that we have met and interviewed. We used their stories in order to show how social control works. With every story, we are changing. Because every story is another nuance into the debate. And every story is a number. We don’t even have statistics in Norway. We don’t know how many people experience this. But I always say that our stories are a part of the statistics, and that’s how it starts. 
Your book tells stories about Muslim girls. But why do you think is it important that all different ages and ethnicities read this book?
Because it’s important for everybody. Those things do not only happen to Muslim women, it happens across culture, across religion, across ethnicities in all different ways. And we know that in some societies, it happens more than in others or maybe in more extreme ways.  For example, especially the Arabian violence can sometimes be very extreme, but still what we are saying is that it is more than what we just hear in the media. It is not only black and white, so that is why we do not have a specific group of people as our aim, more the general public. Because we want to inspire people to maybe learn a bit more. Because everybody who works with the youth, has to understand where the youth comes from and has to understand what they face on their daily challenges in order to help.
You yourself have got roots from the Lebanon. What would you say would people from the Lebanon say when they read this book?
Our book is still not out in Arabic sadly, but we hope it will be. Because I would love to go to the Lebanon and say: “Hey maybe you need some feminism. Maybe you need that in your life.” But also, because Lebanon as a country is a pretty diverse multi-cultural, very progressive country, people are very progressive. And right now, there are huge revolutions. Only the politics have always been corrupt. So, Lebanon as a whole I think is open to it, open to new ideas.
So how do you think can girls be raised up, in order to feel free and be self-independent in later life?

We need to teach girls about self-worth and about a positive body image. What you see on social media is not what you are supposed to see, because people are different, and the perfect girl does not exist. We need to talk about the body in a way that is not shameful. Why do we sexualize women when we talk about their bodies? It is just a body. And teaching girls that from a young age will change the way they feel about their bodies. That is how you start changing.
And how can they learn to be shameless?
Being shameless means first of all not that you do not have shame. It means that you know what good shame is and that you do not feel the bad kind of shame that people put on you. So, whenever someone is telling you to be shameful for how you are. Tell them: I don’t have your shame. I don’t own your shame. I am living my life for me. So, I am the one who has to live with myself for the rest of my life. So, I might as well just be myself.
And this is also what all the shameless movement is all about, isn’t it?
Yes. The shameless movement is basically for everyone who have felt anything that we have talked about earlier. If they have felt like they could not be themselves, or cannot be who they want to be or how they feel like. And this applies also to people who have feelings for the same sex and to non-binary perspectives or for those who feel like they can’t be free in their own lives. That’s who this is for.
And the shameless movement is still going on…
Yes, and right now, we are working on a TV show in Norway about this movement, which is coming up next year. It is pretty much like a documentary. It is about these topics. It’s going to be nationwide on TV.
I am going to watch it! I think it was also so interesting to read about the reasons in your book for and against a hijab. What is your personal opinion, as you are not wearing one anymore?
If we think about it on a political level in society, I wish I had known that I would experience that much discrimination, hate and racism, just for looking differently with my hijab, so this is a cons. But also, the pros can be anything. I mean to me there is no longer a pro, because I don’t wear it anymore. But there was a time where I felt like a bigger part of a community. I felt like it was fun, mixing the colors, style and fashion. Especially when having a bad hair day, I never had bad hair days (laughs). I had always hidden my hair. So, there is also fun stuff about it, there is also political stuff. But to me personal, I didn’t have a good experience, that is why. I was bullied a lot because of it. But on the other side, other girls feel empowered wearing it, like others feel empowered wearing a skirt. So, it is up to them.
Which advice would you give to any girl who is wearing a hijab and is getting bullied because of it?
It is really hard to give an advice on that, because I know, it really affects you. Because when you are bullied, it will stay with you the whole life. The most important thing I learned is, to not let those things define you. All I know is that we all reach a point in our lives, a turning point – hopefully we do – where whatever people say to us, doesn’t really define us. For me it was when I learned about feminism, I also started to appreciate myself and my body.
Yes, I think it is good to have this sentence in mind. Now you, yourself are such a self-confident person, giving speeches everywhere …
Oh my god! Let me tell you a story about it. I am not really that confident. I also have a lot of nerves. I have some high school anxiety back then, before going on stage. And that is because what I experienced in high school and before that as well. So, it does affect me in a lot of ways. But I have grown. And our point is, that we are calling ourselves shameless for a reason, because we still feel the shame. There is a reason why we keep working against it. And the difference now is that we are more aware of what it is, that makes us feel that way and then we don’t live like it is getting in our way too much. It feels like it is always going to be there. But the important way is to know how to handle it.
And how do you handle it now?
It is hard to answer. Because there are so many things. It is just the fact that I do not wear the hijab anymore. Quitting meant also that there were no rules for clothing anymore, because when I was wearing it, I had to wear long things under. I don’t have to do that anymore, but I still feel shameful when wearing dresses for example.
Because it is still inside you.
Yeah, it is still inside. Whenever I am being loud or when I am taking space, I feel bad. But I haven’t stopped doing those things, that’s the difference. Because I know now, that this is not me. Just something that is imposed on me.
And when you think about social control, the main topic in your book. How do you think can we eliminate this problem in the future?
These things do not change with one generation or overnight. But whenever I meet the younger generation today, I know that they will raise their kids differently. We cannot change what the grandparents think, but the young people can change how they raise their kids, when they have kids. And I think that this is what will change. We also need political force in a good way, in an intersectional way, realizing that this affects different people in different ways. We need solutions. Not one, but many. It starts with the schools, the health system, legal system, maybe some things are even going to be criminalized.
And why do you think social control mainly affects girls and not so many boys?
That’s because this is always how it’s been. In the history in the world, women have always been attacked, as societies have made the women and their body weak. And this is how patriarchy works about limiting women and their sexuality. So, changing these patriarchal structures, where there will be the abuse of women or honor-based violence, harassment and rape is the main exercise. It’s about sexuality, it is about sex, it is about talking about this in a different way and this has to start in schools, treating women as humans and not as objects.
There we are at the keyword slutshaming. In which way do you think does slutshaming control women?
I mean when you are a girl in the playground in school and someone calls you a slut, it is really objectifying and sexist and as a girl you will take that with you, because it is such a personal attack. And we call women who kiss a lot sluts and men who kiss a lot not… There are so many double standards when it comes to the female and the male body. At the end we are all humans and women are not losing their worth, when they are kissing or sleeping with whoever they want. But we talk about it, like they are. That is why we need to address these issues, telling kids why it is wrong to call others – for example – sluts.
And why do you think it is so important to talk about these topics, from a feminist perspective?
I mean without half of the world’s population; the world is not going to change. And feminism is not only about women’s rights. It is about all these fights we see today, it’s for men and for women, it’s for everything in between. So, I mean, this fight is not like “ah just women fighting for your rights”, it’s about women changing the world. And if you are not including half of the world’s population, the world is not getting anywhere. And you see that.
So, what can men do in the movement of shameless?
Men can have their own shameless movement. Because men also experience being limited in a lot of ways and as long as we have women and girls limited, boys and men are always going to be limited in some ways, too. Because men need to talk about feelings. Men need to talk about mental health. Men need to talk about equality. And men also need to be allowed to feel free of shame, that we impose on them or being what society defines as feminine. Because what is feminine?  And what is masculine? These general rules have always been so limiting to humans, because we are not either or, we are a mix or a balance between all these things, so just allowing each other to be as humans, I think is a good starting point.
Yeah, I think, this is also maybe the answer to my last question, which was: What do you think is the most important message of the book?
Just be yourself and care. Because even though not everything is personal, this book is also about caring. Even if you have not personally felt anything of this, I still want you to care and do something about it. Talk about what hurts.
I think this is a good conclusion. Thank you for your interview.

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