A Q&A on International Women’s Day with Lailatul Fitriyah

Author: Josh Stowe

Lailatul Fitriyah2

Lailatul Fitriyah is a PhD candidate in the University of Notre Dame’s Department of Theology who specializes in Muslim and Christian feminist theologies. She is the founder and co-facilitator of the Ansari Institute’s Feminist Theologies in Global Context Reading Group.

Recently, Fitriyah (@MahameruLee) was featured in a social media campaign for International Women’s Day 2021. Here, she shares about her experience, and the important themes she was able to highlight.

Q: Describe the campaign. How did you get involved?

A: It was a campaign for International Women's Day 2021 with the hashtag #SheInspiresMe. The campaign was organized by Twitter Indonesia. It included prominent women activists and scholars in Indonesia who were asked to upload a short video to their Twitter accounts to share about women who inspired them and their work and why.

Twitter Indonesia invited me to participate. This year, they invited four Indonesian women leaders from different professions, and I represented women who work in academia.

Q: Talk about themes you emphasized in your video.

A: I mentioned that the Indonesian women who keep inspiring me are Indonesian female migrant workers, Indonesian female farmers who have been defending the protection of the environment against the environmental exploitation of the extractive cement industry, and Indonesian female factory laborers.

I also said that I chose those three groups of women to inspire me because:

  1. Feminism is about communal and societal liberation, and not individual liberation as is commonly projected within liberal feminist paradigms. There is no individual liberation without societal liberation.
  1. The struggles of those women are intersectional. Meaning, their struggles for liberation encompass multi-dimensional violence (economic, social, political, cultural, and religious) that Indonesian women face in their everyday lives.
  1. Their struggles for liberation also significantly involve anti-capitalist critiques, and this is important because it is so easy to co-opt progressive rhetoric and commodify it into just another product to consume—such as what happened to “Girlboss Feminism.” Thus, the Indonesian women’s consistency to call out capitalist exploitation, both of their bodies and the environment, is something that inspires me a lot.

Q: What are some of the things you want to highlight about your experience?

A: I participated in this campaign continue to show the importance, and also the complexity, of reaching out to public on the topic of Islam and feminism. On the one hand, it is crucial to introduce the public to topics involving Islamic feminism and feminist ethics that are important for eliminating real problems on the ground, such as domestic violence.

On the other, communicating such complex messages to the public also means we need to translate them into accessible language, and to present them in forms that are interesting to watch and hear. The latter has proven to be difficult for an academic like me, yet crucial if what we do in academia is to have a real impact on the ground.