By Tommy Chung
Jenan Matari is like a walking oxymoron. A 25-year-old Muslim feminist, Jenan knows that people hear those two terms and think they contradict each other. But they’re part of her identity and what makes her unique.
She helps break down those stereotypes and misconceptions through media. Jenan is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Miss Muslim, a women’s empowerment website that covers topics such as faith, dating, sexual health, politics, and pop culture. The site sparks conversations about topics deemed controversial or taboo for women in various communities.
While she admires her culture, she’s also an activist who is passionate about equality and human rights around the world. At a young age, Jenan realized a person’s voice could have a huge impact on making a change in the world.
“One person alone is so powerful but when multiple powerful people get together and become activists for the same cause, a movement happens,” Jenan said.
Using social media, blogging, and speaking at schools and rallies, Jenan encourages her audience to be true to themselves even when society expects something else from them. She hopes that by spreading her ideas to the world, it will inspire women to speak out and demand that their voices be heard. (Jenan participated in National Women’s March earlier this year and Mic News documented her day below).
Jenan will speak at TEDxNavesink IDENTITY on May 20 at the Paramount Theatre in Asbury Park. Her talk will focus on embracing one’s identity and remaining true to self when the pressure to conform is at an all-time high.
“My identity has been something I've struggled to fully understand throughout my life, and I'm now in a place where I must defend it,” Jenan said. “I am honored to be given this platform to help the audience relate to other people like myself and to develop compassion for those who are different than us. Hopefully, I'll even be able to help others embrace their own identities with my talk.”
It was difficult for Jenan to embrace her identity because it crosses so many cultures. She is Arab and Latina and Muslim. After years of trying to choose which parts of her life should become her identity, she realized she should just embrace all the parts that make her who she is instead of trying to choose parts of her identity.
Now she boldly declares and lives all aspects of her identity: “I am a woman, I’m a writer, I’m an activist, I am Arab, I am Latina, I am Muslim,” she declares.
She hopes her talk will help the audience realize that blending in is not so great and becoming a unique individual is a beautiful aspect of life.
Hear Jenan and other dynamic speakers share ideas worth spreading at the fifth annual TEDxNavesink. Get your tickets today to join us on the Asbury Park Boardwalk in May.