16 Mar 2018

Norwegian women wear masks against racism

The Norwegian women's movement took a clear anti-racist stance in this year's March 8 demonstrations. The streets of Oslo were filled with people wearing cardboard masks of a young Muslim feminist in a show of solidarity.

Madeleine Schultz
Madeleine Schultz NewsMavens, Norway
Norwegian women wear masks against racism - NewsMavens
Sumaya Jirde Ali. Twitter

Why this story matters:

After a Norwegian alt-right online magazine wrote a story criticizing a 20-year-old Muslim Norwegian feminist for using the word "fuck," a intensive campaign of online harassment against the woman began.

The threats were such that the woman, Sumaya Jirde Ali, had to get a private alarm system for her security. She also had to withdraw from public speaking events, including a speech she was supposed to give in Bergen, Norway’s second largest city.

Nevertheless, in just a few days a Norwegian activist and feminist, Susanne Kaluza, launched a campaign for Sumaya, inviting fellow feminist to print cut-outs of her face and to wear them as a show of support. As a result, thousands of cardboard Sumayas appeared on the streets on March 8. What's more, Sumaya herself was so touched that she chose to defy her attackers and gave her speech about gender equality anyway.

In Norway -- and elsewhere -- the colour of your skin can make you more vulnerable to harassment.

Even in Scandinavia, one of the most equal parts of the world, your gender defines the public space you are given. And sometimes these two vulnerabilities intersect.

But above all, this is a story about the growing racist and sexist online trolling community in Norway, and how it can be defeated by feminist solidarity. 

women's issues, religion, protests, race, gender

Details from the story:

  • In the story from the alt-right magazine, Sumaya was referred to as an “Islamist” and was aggressively criticized for using the word “fuck”.
  • According to the Norwegian online media archive A-text, the word “fuck” (in Norwegian: faen) was used as much as 4,600 times last year, 6000 if you include the English version. Therefore it is clearly not the word in itself that offends Norwegians.
  • It is a long-standing tradition of Western culture to rob women of their voices, from the cutting of Philomena's tongue in Antiquity to Disney's mermaid Ariel who has to choose between love and her voice. But the women of Norway will not be silenced.
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