Freedom of Speech

Informing Western culture of feminist issues in the East through visual arts



Emma Watson was recently asked if she was a white feminist, her answer of course was: No.
It’s not the sort of question you would want to say “Yes” to! But when in comes to art, how much can artists (the minority ) who have had an experience of patriarchy in the east, inform other feminists about their experience through their art?

Personally I have experienced what it was like to live in a country that controlled my every move. Where I had to hide every part of my flesh. Iran was a place where my body was a sin and my existence was just for the purpose of male enjoyment. In that country you can’t have sexual liberation, or in fact any other liberation.

This has very highly effected my art. The walls of my room started to get filled with the images of female body parts. I have spent a lot of time learning how to paint breasts accurately. But as an artist you always have an eye on the audience. To my western friends these images are a rebellious act of my sexual imagination. A comic way to decorate a canvas. To me however these ideas are political, I would be arrested if I did this sort of art back home.
I have experienced two different sides of patriarchy; One told me to hide my body and my voice. One is telling me to hide it but not too much, and only say certain things like: “sorry”. The current one also tells me only white skin is beautiful and mine is a fetish.Therefore through my art I need to change two perceptions which may differ but have the same aim, to control my freedom.

Western feminism needs to realise some issues may be solved in places like the UK, but there are so many more countries who still fight for equality, and to only notice the problems around yourself and ignore the women around you who are highly influenced by those issues is a very un-feminist attitude.

Suffragettes was a great movie in terms of showing how hard working those women were and the beauty and power of a woman as both an activist and a mother, so delightfully touching and it’s always great to see women strongly portrayed on screen. However as we left the theatre after watching the movie, I heard comments that suggested the fight was over and done with.

The first thing I learned about the suffragettes was that : “they’re racist” Which might be an over exaggerated term to use. But yes the screen was full of white faces. But how much knowledge did women back then of crises considering women in the east anyways? And shouldn’t feminism today with such great development in media transportation be so much more considerate of the third world countries? And that’s why you wouldn’t want to be called a white feminist.

A woman of colour’s expression of patriarchy is a powerful imagery. We are the minority in the west and in our own country we are hardly treated equally.

Art has more power than we expect it to and so do women of colour. We don’t need to sit and listen no more. We need to stand up and paint and create and act to tell our story. We need to occupy and create space and reclaim what is ours.

So when I paint a brown skinned woman with her legs spread open and her breasts un-ashamedly and proudly pointing towards the sky. Yes I am making a feminist and political statement and I’m hoping to change how they see me.


Katy Jalili

SoN Guest Blogger