“Before We Met” by Zehra Imam
there is a booth at my college campus where i am stopped one day,
one of the people at the table say.
“our organization is here to raise awareness
about the depiction of women in media
and standards of beauty imposed on them.”
“here. take a thumbtack,”
“put it anywhere on the cardboard body silhouette.
anywhere where you don’t like your body.”
i look at it.
i look at all the thumbtacks already pierced through
like bullets on the cutout cardboard person.
“you can take more than one,” they offer.
i pause to consider.
i hold the thumbtack and then slowly say,
“but, i love my body.”
i remember flashing a smile then
and my eyes must be shining because i mean it.
“it’s not perfect but i think it’s beautiful.”
i remember the people at the booth are taken aback.
“we’ve done this many times before, but no one ever says that.”
Share your response to this work, in any form, here
Zehra Imam Artist Statement:
My mother told me that, when I was a little girl, I would gather all my stuffed
animals in front of a little blackboard and teach them the alphabet. I have wanted to be a
teacher since I was four-years-old. I grew up with a mother who was a blacklisted
journalist in Pakistan with friends who had been to prison for their reporting. My family
immigrated to the United States due to religious and political unrest in Pakistan. My
passion for education equity was sparked during the time I attended nine demographically
distinct schools between Pakistan and America. Between the ages I was six and sixteen,
we moved eleven times. Most of the cities I have lived and worked in since – Karachi,
Lucknow, St. Louis, Detroit, Madison, Chicago, Brooklyn, the South Bronx, and now
Riyadh – face major struggles, particularly with race relations and segregation.