Joana Kadi: A Self-Proclaimed Working-Class Arab Half-Breed Queer Girl

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joanna-kadi“Many lesbians know nothing about working-class oppression and choose not to learn, many treat their lovers as badly as my husband treated me and choose not to change, many know nothing about Arabs and choose to remain uninformed. As a member of these oppressed groups, I have to make conscious choices about my life, particularly as I moved through the residue from years of sexist, racist, and classist oppression. How could I truly love Arabs without feeling, comprehending, and letting go of the self-hatred forced on me by my white oppressors who taught me that we are dirty? How could I truly love women without feeling, comprehending and letting go of all the self-hatred forced on me by my male oppressors – my father being the first, with many men following his lead – who taught me that women are “only good for one thing?” And how could I truly love working-poor and working-class people without feeling, comprehending and letting go of the self-hatred forced on me by my wealthy oppressors who taught me that we are stupid?”

Joana Kadi, “A Lesbian Love Letter

Born and raised in Canada, Joana Kadi is a second-generation Arab emigrant of Lebanese descent. She is the writer of a memoir entitled Thinking Class: Sketches of a Cultural Worker and the editor of the acclaimed anthology Food for Our Grandmothers: Writings by Arab American and Arab Canadian Feminists. Kadi is also an activist and a grassroots community organizer when it comes to issues such as ending violence against women and to projects related to the Palestinian cause specifically. She teaches classes in critical thinking at the Center for Arts Criticism and is in the LGBT Programs Office of the University of Minnesota.

In Thinking Class, Joana Kadi locates herself at the site where all oppressions seem to intersect. From there, she explores her experiences as a “Working-class Arab half-breed queer girl.” She says, “I know a great deal about oppression. About racist oppression because I am Arab Canadian, about sexist oppression because I am a woman, about class oppression because I am a lesbian.”

Joana Kadi moves easily between the analytical and the personal, and examines the mechanics of silence against the power of words. She connects acts of speaking and writing to revolution, assertively marking that “all systems of oppression — from child abuse to racism to ableism — function most effectively when victims don’t talk. Silence isolates, keeps us focusing inward rather than outward, makes perpetrators’ work easier, confuses and overwhelms … The few times I managed to croak something truthful, I experienced repercussions, swift and brutal, that left no doubt about my oppressors’ intentions.”

Joana Kadi’s writings are engaging and bold, powerful in their transgressions. Her feminism comes from a place that is raw at heart and very much lived.

Lynn is actively involved in Meem, a community of queer women and trans folk. She's also into pixels, among other things.

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