Tasneem Afridi, AKA Tazzy Phe, was recently named a fellow for YouTube’s “Creators for Change” program after building a loyal following for her YouTube series The Secret Life of Hijabis which has a whooping 50,000 subscribers and 4 million page views. Tazzy is most known for her cheeky, humorous YouTube videos, often inspired by her Pakistani heritage and Muslim faith. In this op-ed for Refinery 29, the funny-woman turns serious as she discusses her personal experiences as an American Muslim woman at the workplace, when she worked at a healthcare company early in her career.
Here are some powerful snippets:
— … I worked for a healthcare company for almost a year as a recruiter. It was a customer-facing position, but I was lucky to be able to keep my physical anonymity — most of the work was done over the phone with people…I had heard plenty of stories of Muslim women being mishandled by customers. A friend of mine told me about a hijabi working in a hospital setting who was verbally attacked by one of her patients for being Muslim. I was relieved that all my interactions took place over the phone, and so most people did not know I was a Muslim woman. As bad as that may sound, I’m not ashamed or scared of people knowing I am Muslim. But when it comes to work, I just want to be treated just like everyone else.
— …I’ve come to realize that wearing a headscarf is sometimes taken as an open invitation for casual conversation about my background and religion. There are times when those conversations are welcomed, and times when it’s just another example of the countless micro-aggressions I face regularly.
— Considering the amount of time I spend with my colleagues, it’s natural that we should talk about our personal lives, and I want to help educate my peers about my faith. These discussions are crucial, especially considering the omnipresent machine of fear mongering that controls the narratives about Muslims. It’s nice to be able to speak for myself and educate people in my life. But it’s not appropriate to single people out because of their background, especially in a professional setting.
— Whenever my faith does come up at work, I do my best not to get too emotionally involved. I never want to create workplace tension that might make it tough to do my job. And so I’ve internalized a lot. I’ve never shouted my feelings across a cubicle, but in the last five years, I’ve channeled some of that energy into my YouTube channel.