“He Named Me Malala”

Before watching this film, I knew little about Malala. I knew that she was a young women born in a “third-world” country, where the leadership did not believe in education for women and girls. I knew that she had been shot in the head for standing up for her right to an education. And, of course, I knew that she was a renowned so-called “feminist” icon. Going into the film, I did not expect her parents to be the way they were – the title of the film stood out to me before I saw it. It emphasizes the power of the act of naming, and, based on the concepts I assumed the film would address, I figured its wording was highlighting the power of the “man” who named her, and, thus, the implication of her rebelliousness to name herself. Quite the contrary, as I learned in watching the film, Malala is close with her father, and she identifies with the name he bestowed upon her. He ignited her passion for education through the way he raised her, and encouraged her – but did not push her, as she confirms – to speak out. Malala’s father named her after a woman in a story about war, who used her voice to encourage the soldiers to continue fighting. Following this, the most striking thing in this film was the quiet presence of Malala’s mother. She seems to embody the spirit of “the unimposing woman,” which seems to be the exact spirit Malala is fighting against. It must be noted that her mother is not being coerced into doing something unjust, and is simply doing what is best for her family, though borne out of this care is a slight personal resentment; she misses home, and encourages Malala to be more modest. I found this juxtaposition between an activist father, a daughter infatuated with knowledge and rights to education, and a more docile mother, quite surprising. Stereotypes surrounding activism in Islam point to more conservative and “extremist” Muslim men feeling threatened by the notion of “women’s rights,” and outspoken, educated Muslim women as the proponents of change. In this case, however, the marriage appears traditional in that the husband embodies a “stronger” figure, as the wife embodies a more gentle one, but in looking at the family, the father-daughter relationship sets this traditional aura off-course. This shows the beauty and importance of education – it has the ability to grant one courageous conviction.

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