The problem with calling someone a “role model”

To the otherwise really nice guy that posted “Islam needs more women like this,” my response is “Um, no.

I think it’s great that we have so many female Muslim athletes competing in the Olympics this year. The whole world seems to be in love with Ibtihaj Muhammad, and I don’t blame them, because she seems cool.

But, don’t make me feel that just because she and other female Muslim athletes are making strides in a field where Muslim women have been underrepresented, that I need to all of a sudden basically change who I am.

I am not an athlete – unabashedly so – mostly because I know I will never be an athlete and have no interest in ever becoming one.

This is not about defending an unhealthy lifestyle, let me be clear. I try to make exercise a priority in my life (or have, recently). But for me, exercise is a necessity for my health. I’d much rather be eating cake (my dream for heaven is being able to eat all the chocolate cake I want and not worry about gaining weight!).

Maybe, I’m just defending my lack of interest in sports. Everybody else seems to like it.

But a part of me feels like that, for some people, a woman is only considered a “success” unless she’s living the kind of life that has been deemed a success by, let’s face it, our patriarchal society. You know, a fierce, public, type A leader…

I don’t want to diminish all the hard work that these athletes put in to get to where they are; they deserve all the the success they earn. But by putting this type of work on a pedestal, it feels to me that we’re diminishing the millions of women who face different struggles.

This could all be in my head, I grant the possibility of this. But reading that “Islam needs more women like so and so,” in my opinion, serves to delegitimize the countless, unheard of Muslim women that don’t live that life and probably never will be able to. And in my case, don’t want to.

5 thoughts on “The problem with calling someone a “role model”

  1. I totally agree with you! And besides there are so many unsung heroines who are Muslims and are touching the lives of others in their unique ways…since when was being a role model restricted to one small sense?! Lovely post😄

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Very well said. I don’t want to go on a whole SJW rant (that’s more of an post-10am activity), but I will say I agree with you wholehearted.

    I do hope, Rafia, that you’re feeling deservedly proud of the numerous accomplishments you’ve made in your life, and continue to make. I don’t have a medal to give, nor a podium to give it to you on, so I hope you will settle for a virtual thumbs up across the interwebs. (check your phone in a couple of minutes!)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. So sorry for getting to this comment like 10 hours after the fact, but thanks for the thumbs up, Laura! Way better than any gold statue of a naked man!


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