Culture

“What Does It Take To Be Australian Enough?”: Yassmin Has Spoken About Her Year From Hell

"They wanted the perfect brown Muslim woman... But they didn’t realise that that brown Muslim woman had opinions."

Yassmin Abdel-Magied

Yassmin Abdel-Magied has opened up about the abuse she received during the media furore over her infamous Anzac Day Facebook post last year, telling the hosts of The Guilty Feminist podcast that “I genuinely do not think I would have survived if I’d stayed in Australia”.

Abdel-Magied was a guest during a live taping on the show in Kings Place, London on April 16. She was originally meant to be in the United States around that time for some speaking engagements, but was refused entry at the border. She touched on that subject on the podcast, remarking that “I’ve had quite an intense 12 to 15 months, so this was just kind of the icing on the shit cake”.

“You Would Think I Had To Decided To Join ISIS”

But the bulk of Abdel-Magied’s time on the show was spent talking about what happened to her in the weeks and months after posting “Lest we forget (Manus, Nauru, Syria, Palestine)” on Facebook on April 25, 2017.

“You would think that I had to decided to join ISIS,” she said. “The level of backlash, and the kinds of things that were said about me and the kinds of things that happened to me, are so ridiculous that it feels ridiculous to even say.”

“Within a couple of weeks, over 100,000 words were written about me in the press. The Prime Minister commented on it … I was debated in Senate estimates, I got more death threats than I could count. I lost all of my work … All of the campaigns and speaking events I was [involved with] were cancelled because there was too much backlash.”

The Model Minority

Abdel-Magied said the experience taught her a lot about how Australian society operates.

“I was Young Australian of the Year for my state,” she said. “I graduated First Class Honours for mechanical engineering. I’ve got more awards than I could crap out. I could not remember the number of boards and councils that I volunteered on. I could not have been more of a model minority. They wanted the perfect brown Muslim woman, they got it. But they didn’t realise that that brown Muslim woman had opinions. Or that that brown Muslim woman might say something that was a little bit confronting. And the moment she did, they completely flipped. Completely.”

“Every single company that I worked for, every single organisation that I served with, do you think any of them stood out, went on television and defended me? The people that did defend me were the writers and the creatives and the people of colour … But the people with institutional power? They were nowhere to be seen.”

“People tell me that I should have faith in the system, that things will work, that you should just work hard enough. Bullshit. I worked harder than anyone ever could. I was 16 when I started a youth organisation. I was 24 when I published my first book. I got the best marks that you could, across every part of my academic career. What more does it take to be Australian enough?”

The Personal Costs

Abdel-Magied told the hosts that she worked with a therapist after the ordeal, and temporarily cut herself off all forms of media.

“I gave my phone for ages to somebody else, because any time I logged on to Twitter or my inbox or looked at a paper, I would be sad,” she said. “I had to literally isolate myself from all forms of media, because I knew if I took it in it would damage me. And then I moved countries.”

“I genuinely do not think I would have survived if I’d stayed in Australia,” she added. “It was so toxic, and they were so obsessed, and they still write about my tweets, and they still write about what’s going on, and I don’t live there, and I haven’t lived there for seven months.”

You can listen to Abdel-Magied’s entire interview below. It’s definitely worth it. Her segment begins around 52 minutes in.