Fatema Mernissi, a Moroccan sociologist, was widely known as a pioneer in Middle Eastern Women’s Studies and as a prominent Islamic feminist. Her works include Beyond the Veil: Male-Female Dynamics in Modern Muslim Society (1975), The Veil and the Male Elite (1987), and Islam and Democracy (2002). Fatema passed away on November 30, 2015, leaving a legacy of insight and passion to inspire all.
WATER colleague Diana Pierce offer a personal remembrance of Fatema:
I too had the privilege of meeting Fatema, in Morocco. Seattle’s Center for Women and Democracy made a trip to Morocco in 2009. She was still boycotting the United States (over the Iraq invasion/war/occupation), but when I approached her regarding my work (the feminization of poverty) – her PhD was from Brandeis (in sociology/social welfare as I remember, so we had that in common as well), said she would meet with us. I read Beyond the Veil many years before, when working with women and women’s movements in (Muslim) Central Asia, and was struck by her insight and directness: she stated then, if (thru patriarchy) you can suppress women, then you only have half the population left to suppress in other ways! Her writing was centered is Islam, a welcome feminist perspective that was so relevant for my work in that part of the world
She met us at her home, a delegation that ranged in age from a teenager to 60s. She “held court”, and talked about her current work, as I remember, on men and Islam, and poetry – she wrote every genre, fiction, nonfiction, poetry, academic studies, etc. Our teen member had brought her laptop, and showed her how she was reading her book on the laptop, and she was thrilled by the new technology – always adaptable, thinking of the new possibilities.
She also agreed to meet with our group, and the Moroccan women’s group meeting with us, here is my contemporaneous description from that meeting:
she came in wearing this fantastic jacket/robe, and a frenchish hat/wrap, robe made of upholstery material with braids, very unusual, quite spectacular. so i am up on the stage with her, do my intro [carefully not calling her a feminist, as she wasn’t identifying as such any more], and she certainly warmed to it…and then she blew away the audience, talking about the need for optimism, to read the humanists, to work together against violence, and also talked about the new media, the internet, and how Arab women are dominating the Arab media. there are 500 channels, and if one is too much stupid propaganda, and here she grabs a glass by the stem, and points it like a remote, and says, we just zap it, and go on to a channel that tells the truth..
at the end the audience sat stunned, then cheered, and eagerly asked questions…\moroccan women as well as american both, and she personalized the answers, had the young women come up…everybody was thrilled…\\
She will be sorely missed…