Soheila: My story as an Iranian Feminist

I was born and raised in Esfahan, the second largest city in Iran. I grew up with a blurry understanding of the role of religion in constructing public and private spaces. I was born in a middle-class family of six. Islam directly affected my experience especially after my Islamic adolescence age. My father as a feminist man always gave us a chance to choose and to question social norms, and my mother taught us to perform femininity. These juxtapositions put me in a gray space where I could see life from different perspectives.

After I immigrated to the US, I started learning English. At the age of 22, I was adjusting myself to a new culture as well as a new language. I started to find out about the importance of community, as I felt lonely in a few years of my stay in Michigan. I started doing eyebrow threading for Muslim women and my skill became a bridge to a new world. After speaking with many Muslim women who cover up in the US, I realized how they were targeted by stereotypes. I then moved to a small town in Pennsylvania and I became the target for those stereotypes. I was the only person of color in a very white American town. I realized how people feed their brain off of the media without questioning social norms. I thought about my father and how he taught us in Iran to not accept everything without re-thinking.

It became my mission in life to do something about the misrepresentations of Muslims in the US. I now actively am involved with socially engaged art in Chicago where I challenge the white supremacy. My hope is to bring my art out of galleries and have it accessible to all.