Editor’s note: Malala Yousafzai has been extensively covered in media lately, and several MMW writers wanted to weigh in on the way she is being portrayed. Yesterday, Amina wrote about portrayals of Malala as an exception, and today Nicole Hunter Mostafa looks at the focus on Malala being a child. Stay tuned for a final Malala post by Eren later this week.
Are you tired of hearing about Malala Yousafzai yet? If you type “Malala is” into Google (at least, here in Saudi Arabia), the first three search suggestions that pop up are “Malala is annoying,” “Malala is fake,” and “Malala is drama.” If you are a person making one of those Google searches, the Internet has probably not been an inviting place for you in the past few weeks. Regardless of how one feels about the Malala saga, the truth is that nowadays, it’s Malala’s world, and we just live in it.
In all honesty, I’ve personally been quite torn on the subject of the Malala media frenzy, which MMW’s Merium wrote about last year. On one hand, Malala is obviously an exceptional young woman who undoubtedly deserves every activist accolade being heaped upon her. I would be honored to meet her, to sit down with her, and talk about her vision for the future of the world.
On the other hand, as Emaan wrote about here on MMW earlier this year, Malala fits into the preferred Western media narrative about Muslim women, one in which Muslim women are acknowledged as brave, powerful, and strong only when their exhibition of those qualities support the idea that, in Emaan’s words, “controversial U.S. military actions are a necessary sacrifice in order to save girls like Malala.”
Regardless of what made Malala’s particular story resonate with the consumers of Western media, I think she’s fantastic, and my admiration of her rose even more when she met with President Obama this week and, according to a statement that she released after the meeting, informed him that his drone policy was “fueling terrorism”—i.e., inadvertently supporting the groups that want to attack Malala and girls like her.
I was impressed by this revelation, because the statement released by the White House touted President Obama’s meeting with Malala but made no mention of her recommendation on his administration’s drone policy. Malala obviously knows that there are many more like her who never got their chance to make their voices heard, and by releasing a statement that acknowledges that the Taliban is not the only existing threat to precocious Pakistani schoolgirls, it seems she is taking a step toward wresting control of her media narrative. [Read more...]