This Political Fashion Blogger is Breaking Down Barriers
Hoda Katebi knows how to resist
By Reza Cristiàn
We live in a world post-Trump, where being woman of color--specifically a Muslim woman is extremely difficult. Imagine being a child, growing up in a world not knowing why people hate you. For Hoda Katebi, a 23-year-old blogger from Oklahoma, this was her daily life, one she no longer accepts and has since created her own space to resist.
Katebi is daughter and middle-child to her two immigrant parents from Iran. This Muslim woman like many Muslim women, felt discrimination for simply wearing a hijab on their head. Her blog, which she states is based on this specific hate, JooJoo Azad (“Free Bird” in Farsi) started in 2013, after she entered her first year in college at University of Chicago.
After Donald Trump got elected, the fear that Muslim women all over America endured has increased. According to ALCU, “69% of women who wore hijab reported at least one incident of discrimination.”
For Katebi, her blog has been more than just about fashion. “My blog is my way to yell about this issue, but in productive way, online,” Katebi said. JooJoo Azad as described in her about page, is “a radical anti-capitalist, intersectional feminist, and body-positive activist fashion blog.”
Katebi knew that when it came down to going to school she wanted to get out. It was one thing that helped change her perspective on life. “After my first year of college, I was able to reflect and go 'wow Oklahoma was fucking racist.’”
In her first two years of college, Katebi would post almost every other day and would skip class constantly. Using her voice was so much more important than the small steps she has to take to graduate. Now--post grad--one of her main challenges is consistency. You can take one look at her website and know that her passion really is where her heart is.
From a boycott list of brands that violate human rights and labor laws, to immense environmental destruction like H&M and Zara, she is tapping into the minds of her readers and helping them see truth.
One headline reads, “4 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT POLICE, MILITARIZATION, AND ISLAMOPHOBIA,” where she goes on to write about her first arrest in 2016 at a protest against Illinois Tactical Officers Association (ITOA) 2016 Tactical Training Conference and Weapons Expo.
When Katebi is not seen writing about her beliefs and trying to change the mindset of others on people of color, she can be seen organizing in her city of Chicago.
“Being an outspoken woman of color, you'll get your death threats,” she warns.
Close to the end of her time at University of Chicago, she traveled to Tehran to write her thesis on underground fashion. It was there that she decided to showcase her own people by publishing a book called Tehran Streetstyle in 2015.
“I should create art for my own people and that in itself is a form of resistance,” Katebi said. “The book is a physical manifestation of a shift in my blog and relationship with my work.”
Katebi makes sure to use her platform for good and to help those who need their voices heard. After graduating college in 2016, Katebi’s blog was becoming more successful; she was even recognized in Mother Jones earlier last year. This was the start of her first book tour in multiple states like California and New York City.
Through her 48,000 loyal followers on social media and blog, one thing Katebi loves most is hearing her reader’s stories and engaging with others who struggle with the same thing Katebi does. She is a true role model for the younger generation.
Now that Katebi is full time blogging, she has decided to started multiple new ventures, one that puts her money where her mouth is, as she puts it. She is organizing a women’s sewing cooperative to help refugee woman find work. Just in time for her new sustainable and gender fluid fashion line to launch this year. Along with this coop, she is launching her first clothing line called Azadi Collection, which will be representing Iranian architecture through “gender and femininity.”
In a time where Trump’s America means the Muslim ban, the fear against Muslims and any people of color has heightened. Katebi talks about her recent encounter with fighting the city of Chicago as they voted for a $95 million project to police and fire training academy in a Garfield Park--a poor black community.
Katebi and the organization she helped, Assata’s Daughter, a group of radical Black woman, asked Chance the Rapper to be involved. He showed up on the voting day with Katebi and many other protestors. Although they had a lot of support for #nocopacademy, they still lost. But these small bumps in the roads do not scare big-hearted people like Katebi away.
“Moral of the story we need more men like him both aesthetically and morally.”
At this pace, nothing seems to be slowing the badass and kind-hearted, Katebi down. She is hoping to change people’s minds through the power of fashion and social media.
She is not afraid to speak her mind on the things that matter to her most. Whether it's online or in person. She is there are rallies, protests and always speaking up. This Iranian-American is a true form of resistance.
“I never felt like 'oh shit, maybe I should calm down'.”