Episode 010 – Shireen Ahmed, Sports Journalist

Shireen Ahmed

Bobbi-Sue speaks this week with Shireen Ahmed, a freelance sports journalist and one of the hosts of Burn it All Down, the feminist sports podcast you need. Shireen is an athlete, advocate, coach, mentor, and community organizer who works with Youth of Colour on empowerment projects. She and Bobbi-Sue discuss her life as a Muslim woman in sport, soccer, her advocacy work in social services, and cats… of course.

And we are so excited by the number of you all listening! Thank you so much, please keep sharing.

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Additional Show Notes:
  • Shireen has participated in almost every sport but stuck mostly with soccer.
  • Her parents played sports (mom was a table tennis champion of her medical school) and were very into watching sports.
  • Soccer always seemed seamless to her and was logical. It was always her passion.
  • The women talk about kids playing sports, how cute it is.
  • At what age in the Muslim faith do women make the decision as to whether or not to wear a headscarf?
    • Shireen made her own decision when she was 20. Her daughter was 14.
    • Typically, the decision is discussed with peers. Shireen made her decision on the fly – she had been the organizer of “Frosh Week” at college and showed up wearing her headscarf.
  • Young girls and women wearing a hijab while playing sports is something that Shireen talks about a lot in her work and the women discuss it.
    • Shireen’s experience was different than her daughter’s experience. Her daughter’s school and league were accepting. Shireen’s was not. It was a painful experience for her.
    • This has motivated her passion for writing about sports equality, misogyny, etc.
  • Regarding FIBA, Shireen looked for a case of someone getting hurt by wearing a headscarf and she found none. There’s never been an injury due to a headscarf. Moya Dodd pushed really hard with FIFA to change the rules.
  • The women bond over their shared love of LTPF Tribe member Sally Bergesen.
    • Oiselle did a lot to help by way of Muslim women in sport. They created a “kit” for Sarah Attar. By working directly with Sarah, they looked at not only the requirements of the team but also the fabric and what would actually work for Sarah.  She designed it with them.
  • Modest sportswear has been there for years. Nike came out with a line in spring 2017 but Capsters has been around for years. The fact that Nike is doing it, though, is great for Muslim women in sport.
  • Bobbi-Sue and Shireen gush over Ibtihaj Muhammad. 
  • Advocacy in sport is discussed and how those who say “stick to sports” are coming from a place of great privilege.
  • Shireen went to U of Toronto and studied women’s studies and political science. She was REALLY interested in Canadian constitutional law. She found law fascinating.
  • Her first job was in social services. She used sport as a way to connect with the kids. Everyone knew the language.
  • Bobbi-Sue talks about how important the work Shireen does is. How she’s learned a whole lot from listening to Burn it All Down.
  • Shireen talks about how the international roller derby federation was the first to come out against DJT’s travel ban.
  • Working with a social services agency can cause burnout and that happened with Shireen. People in that work, though, are so tenacious and helpful.
  • Shireen’s friend on Twitter saved the day for another friend of Shireen’s regarding gymnastics rules in Ontario.
  • The freelance hustle isn’t easy. Shireen discusses how hard it can be with pitching and getting rejected.
    • There are no stats on how many women of color are in media.
  • Shireen talks about the other women on Burn it All Down and the amazing things that they do.
  • And… of course… cats. And baby animals.
  • Make sure you check out Burn it All Down!

Quotable moments:

  • “This idea in basketball of sitting there and taking a charge is ridiculous.”
  • “The hope is that the girl herself is supported in whatever decision she makes.” – regarding whether to wear a headscarf
  • “It’s literally men in boardrooms making decisions about what women wear across the board.”
  • “This looks to be so unsafe, let’s ban it.”
  • “That whole story is really great. It’s a story about solidarity in sports. And ultimately feminism in sport.” – regarding Sarah Attar and Oiselle
  • “It was literally me writing because I wasn’t happy with how other people were writing.”
  • “Who is telling the story is as important as the story itself.” – a lesson Shireen learned from her BIAD co-host Jessica Luther

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