On June 09, 2022, at Auditorium B, West Hall, at the American University of Beirut (AUB) the Asfari Institute for Civil Society and Citizenship invited guest speakers Paola Salwan Daher, senior global advocacy advisor at the Center for Reproductive Rights, and Fatma Torkhani, the founder and editor-in-chief of Arabia Vox to hold a panel discussion, alongside Asfari Institute director Lina Abou Habib, on Impostor Feminism: Instrumentalizing and Depoliticizing Feminism as part of the Gender and Feminism Roundtable Series. The event engaged in an earnest conversation about the undemocratized privileges that reinforce power dynamics without shaking the oppressive patriarchal structures.
Asfari Institute Director Lina Abou Habib initiated the discussion by defining “imposter feminism” as adopting a language of verbiage that is very safe and would not shake any tyrannical structures, one that would not affect the status quo. Imposter feminism uses soft strategies that are constituted of engaging, dialoguing, and befriending the foundations of the patriarchal system.
The speakers were then asked to retrace their journeys through which they found feminism. Fatma talked about the dominant white feminism she encountered while growing up in Paris while remarking that feminism was used by France to justify colonization. She discovered intersectional feminism during her undergraduate studies, with black American authors like Toni Morrison. Fatma exemplified the biased selective recognition of injustice; how patriarchy is imprinted with minorities in France such as Arabs and people of color. This is an ideal example of one of the different forms that imposter feminism can take.
Paola discussed the inherent power dynamics and the various layers of discrimination that take place globally. Her political education came in parallel through engaging with feminist collectives in Lebanon and leftist political parties. She identifies as an intersectional Marxist feminist, and her upbringing was influenced by the works of Angela Davis. Paola has also spoken against the inherent sexual violence and objectification that take place in these parties and addressed the disengagement of male comrades from vital socioeconomic causes. Paola then also explores the three levels of problematic dynamics.
These are ideological principles within the left where comrades assume that once capitalism is abolished, then all of the other power dynamics will be magically resolved. In intersectional feminist thought, there is no hierarchy within oppressive systems of discrimination. These patterns and layers of discrimination reinforce and sustain each other correspondingly. In other words, capitalism does rely on sexism and racism to sustain itself and thrive.
On an individual level, Paola spoke of the hardships of revictimization that women face within major leftist political parties to come forward with a history of sexual abuse, as recent examples show that they weren’t offered any forms of accountability or solidarity because of the democratized hierarchies of commissions and committees that are structured within these parties.
With the insightful mediation of Abou Habib, both speakers also discussed how the instrumentalization of feminism serves the state, politically and economically, while still insisting on undermining social care, and gender struggle, even after all the international push. Paola also discussed the issue of the “we can do it” attitude, which is a problem because some of the women that cannot “do it” (mostly referring to financial success) may feel ashamed, and it does not take into account variables like access to education, money, family, marriage.
Finally, Abou Habib opens the floor for the question, in which the guest speakers reinforced that experiences change across time, space and background, they are all different, with different perspectives and beliefs as well.
This summary was written by Mohamad Hojeije and Umer Al Dulaimi.
Meet the speakers and moderator
- Lina Abou Habib, Director of the Asfari Institute for Civil Society and Citizenship
- Paola Salwan Daher, Senior Global Advocacy Adviser at the Centre for Reproductive Rights
- Fatma Torkhani, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Arabia Vox
Watch the full recording here: