The Fetishisation of Nadia Nadim (Post #13)

by Shamayel Shalizi

15 July 2021
by Shamayel Shalizi

The Fetishisation of Nadia Nadim



          Nadia Nadim plays for NWSL club Racing Louisville FC and for the Danish national team and I am so proud of her! Being a footballer is high-key one of the coolest jobs on earth. I love seeing Afghans succeed- no matter where they are- especially when they proudly represent Afghanistan. I do, however, have a problem with how Nadia’s story is being used.

          I’ve been seeing a lot of men - especially diaspora Afghan men - promoting Nadia. These diaspora men are not talking about what a fantastic striker she is- no, not in the slightest. They are focusing on her to fetishise her story. 

          Again with the refugee-sensationalising! Aren’t you guys sick of yourselves? Aren’t you tired of regurgitating the same thing over and over again for the past 3 decades? Of course it’s amazing to defy the odds of systemic racism, identity-crushing assimilation, and the deep trauma that is fleeing your homeland, but don’t make Nadia your token. She is a whole person, not just clickbait.

          You know what this refugee narrative is really used for? To perpetuate capitalism. Mhm. The C word. Because when we talk of Nadia’s story, we are never saying “oh I can’t believe she had to flee war, I wonder how she’s doing emotionally?” or “what’s that like?” or “why has there been 4 decades of war in Afghanistan? What’s happening there?”

Yes she may have “overcome” but let’s not let any more daughters have to go through what she did to actualise their dreams. It’s like one of those “heartwarming” stories where little kids sell lemonade to pay for their medical bills which only begs the question...why must they do this? This system is flawed! We don’t need to be doing any of these things.

          How come Nadia doesn’t play for the national team of Afghanistan? Why is she using all of her great talent to play for another nation's team? For a country that helped actively destroy hers, forcing her family to flee in the first place? But no god forbid we ask those questions. Instead, Nadia’s story is used by non-Afghans to “feel grateful” for their lives as well as to make sure they continue being cogs in the machine of capitalism.

          If poor little brown Nadia from Afghanistan is a footballer what’s Joe Shmoe's reason for not being a more efficient cog in the machine? Nadia had to flee war, and she’s still better than you, so what’s your excuse? And same with the Afghan diaspora. I see the diaspora reposting her sensationalised story as some kind of goal to attain: I made it in the West. I am a good little Capitalist drone. This affects everyone, not just women. I wouldn’t be surprised if most of the Afghan diaspora men reposting Nadia didn’t feel a pull in their stomach to “be better” on a capitalistic level. The diaspora is taking pride in the wrong parts of Nadia's identity.

             Let's never forget as well, how depending on what time period an Afghan refugee has fled wataan, so does their story become politicised in the West to suit the American imperialist agenda. Did you come in the 1980's? Great, your story will be used in an anti-communism, anti-leftist narrative. Come in the early 90s? Perfect, your refugee story will be used to perpetuate the narrative of how violent Afghans are, and how we cannot keep peace in our country. Or did you come in the late 90s? Even better, they'll use that story to perpetuate all the Islamophobia in the world. Your family's pain and trauma becomes a reason to throw billions of Western tax dollars to justify funding drone strikes on our own children. Children who also dreamt of growing up to play for the national football team of Afghanistan.

          I see Nadia being compared to Kim Kardashian, as a woman we should encourage our daughters to look up to instead of people like the Kardashian's. When you use one WoC to pull down another WoC…uh oh! Sounds like your feminism isn’t intersectional. We can celebrate Nadia without positioning her as a Kardashian foil.

          I have absolutely no desire to exalt the Kardashian family and the things they do, but I do think it’s some patriarchal bullshit to bring down another woman because her career is somehow less based on merit. In an ideal world, every woman’s success, no matter how large or small, would be something to celebrate. One woman isn’t superior to another just because she’s a polyglot. Do we only have room for one brown woman in the spotlight? Can we not be strikers as well as wear makeup? Why can’t one exist being exalted without the urge to take down the other? Why are we always policing women? Oh yes...

          There’s definitely layers of slut shaming to this whole situation as well. Because I see all of the Western Muslims, like Khaled Beydoun and Reza Aslan types, who spend their time trying to pander to the whites, on how they’re religion isn’t scary, using Nadia as some kind of emblem of pious-ness. That makes my internal alarms go off. Are we only allowed to exalt sexless women?

          You can’t position two women against each other like that. All you do is ostracise women who have other talents or hobbies outside of what’s deemed universally halal, as well as create a divide when there doesn't need to be. What do these diaspora Afghan men reposting Nadia expect? For all women to speak a dozen languages fluently, play football professionally, as well as look beautiful 24 hours a day? Is that when we are allowed praise? There are already ridiculous expectations for women the world over, from crazy beauty standards (let’s not forget that Nadia is absolutely gorgeous), to needing to somehow be the Madonna and the whore at all times, all of which they must do while living under active global patriarchy that crushes the soul.

          Give us a break. It’s too much. Whether we agree with Kim Kardashian and what she does, doesn’t make her any less of a human being. It’s especially more ridiculous when this judgement is based on the content of their careers and nothing more.

          Fuck this system, fuck what it asks of women, and what it asks of the everyday proletariat. I support Nadia Nadim and am so proud of her, solely because she is my watandaar. Stop creating caricatures of the refugee experience.