jdeena

Never settle for what is…come tomorrow it will be what was

Month: March, 2015

I’m More than My Looks

This is a topic I’ve always wanted to explore, but have had a bit of hesitation as I am afraid of how people will perceive it. Too many times, women are admired for their outer beauty and the overall appearance they present to society…but as soon as they open their mouths and start talking about ambition and independence, people automatically get turned off. And I, for one, am sick of it. And I want to know why that is.

For the last few years, every time I relay my marital status to someone (which is frustrating in of itself that I am constantly being asked to present myself according to that), the very first thing they say (99% of the time) is: “Oh my God how are you still single? You’re so beautiful!” As if being pretty is the only requirement for getting married. As if men only look for outer beauty when looking for a mate. AS IF I, AS A WOMAN, only have my looks to offer someone.

Why is it, that when people hear I am single, they don’t cry: “Oh how is this possible? You are accomplished, intelligent, and ambitious…any man would be lucky to have you!” Why is it, that instead, they use those same traits to create an excuse as to why men DON’T marry me?

I have worked VERY hard to be the person I am today. I have also gone through a lot in life, and I believe it has made me a much stronger person. One who won’t take any bullshit from others. And I pride myself on knowing what type of partner I want in life. Is that so wrong?

Why should I just “let things go” and “not be so picky” just to satisfy the majority? Just because that makes you more comfortable and will safely nestle me into the society-accepted role of “wife” doesn’t mean that it is the best decision for all involved. You are uncomfortable with my singleness? Tough. I am uncomfortable with your single-mindedness; your unwavering ability to look beyond your box to see that there is more to a woman than a status; than her looks.

Maybe I’m not meant to be married. Maybe I think this way so that I can continue to go out there and make a difference in this world. Maybe my ideas about marriage are not conventional, but that just may be because times have changed, and so have the roles of women. Yet both men and women are staying in them because they provide a level of comfort and stability. Maybe living alone presents a fear in you so debilitating that you would rather be joined in matrimony with someone you tolerate, than live alone the rest of your life. Or maybe you truly believe in marriage. Either way, do not push your ideologies on me, and tell me that I am wrong for thinking this way.

The older I get, the more I feel that I truly could not be happy in a “traditional” marriage. And by that, I mean one that is based on dated roles where the wife is the main domestic character, and the male the hunter/gatherer. And while that may work for many, I know for a fact it will not work for me.

I want something bigger; I want something MORE.

I want someone who will look at me and be inspired. I want someone who will be proud of my accomplishments and will boast about them to everyone he knows. I want someone secure enough that he will not feel bad about supporting me in my travels and endeavors. I want someone who will give me the respect I deserve, and not place my life on the back burner as he goes on to live his life. I want an equal partner. 100%.

But most of all, I want someone who will see my heart, the depth of my soul, the kindness in my eyes, and the soft words that flow from my tongue, and believe those to be the most beautiful traits in me. That he will appreciate my delicate hands for the words they type, and my lips for the inspiring words they speak. That he will notice my strong, long legs, and appreciate the way they have held me up as many times as I’ve been knocked down by the trials of life. That he will see, in me, beauty. Beauty as a whole; the mix of emotions, struggles, and success.

That he will notice me- for more than just my looks.

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The Power of An Education

This past weekend, I had the pleasure and honor of speaking at Kent State University for the Arab Student Association’s Women’s History Month event: Modest Me. I haven’t done much public speaking in regards to Muslim women in a very long time, but I’ve never been shy about speaking in front of large groups. I was on a panel with two other influential women, Winnie Detwa (a fashion/lifestyle blogger) and Fatina Abdrabboh, (the director for the Michigan Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC)).

We were given questions ahead of time to prepare, but the answers I gave were a lot of the same ideas that I present in my blog, so I didn’t have to write anything down. One thing really stood out to me throughout the event, and it was that the questions asked by the audience members came from an uneducated space. Which is completely acceptable; I am in no way saying this is a bad thing. Quite the opposite; these events are created for this exact reason. But this just reaffirmed a view I’ve always had about non-Muslims’ perception of us: they are simply uneducated.

I included in my introduction the clause that I welcomed any question, no matter how offensive it may seem. I wanted people to feel comfortable asking anything, because I feel that is the only way to truly seem approachable. I made sure to notice people’s reactions as the panelists spoke, and I saw a lot of nodding heads and smiles. It was important to also add in humor, which I wanted to do in order to make the subject a little less serious.

The best part of the night came at the end, after the event was over. I had students come up to me, thanking me for speaking on such an important topic. They told me they had learned so much from our talk, and many exchanged information with me so we could plan more events in the future. It really warmed my heart to know that in that span of two hours, I was able to reach over 200 students and give them a different view of Muslim women than what they see in the media.

This reaffirmed my belief that so many people have the wrong idea about Muslims, simply because they are uneducated. The proof of this lies in my daily interactions with people. I am always asked about my hijab at the gym, as many people don’t know that Muslim women- can in fact- work out! I am asked about it at the mall as I shop for clothes at Express, or as I buy $5 scarves at Charlotte Russe. It amazes me that as many Muslims as there are in my city, many have never spoken to one. And a lot of it has to do with the fact that we are unapproachable.

I cannot stress it enough; we NEED to be more approachable. That is the only way to show who Muslims truly are in this country. We can post articles on social media until our fingers are tired, but the only way to prove ourselves is by living our life and being the embodiment of a good Muslim in our society.

Another way to help educate is by pointing out the wrongs in people’s thought process when we hear them. We cannot allow false assumptions to be made and let go. I read a post today on an Instagram site I follow, and the girl was talking about how she was in an elevator at a hospital where she works. She overhead a woman saying all these awful (and incorrect) things about Muslims. Yet because she was at work, she couldn’t say anything to this woman. While I can understand that, I would have politely tried to approach the woman and ask her to check out some sites or visit a local mosque to learn more about Islam. Letting it go only adds to the fuel that woman has, and as she was talking to someone else, that is one more person who will have the wrong impression of Muslims.

However, I think that while there are many injustices happening to Muslims nowadays (as Fatina pointed out in our panel, anti-arab/Muslim hate is at an all-time high, even more so than 9-11), we cannot dwell on those. Because for every negative incident, there are so many positive ones. And to use those negative experiences as an excuse to turn the hate around on another group, is not only cowardly, but it contradicts the defense we use when a Muslim commits a crime and we disassociate ourselves from them. The hate/acceptance goes both ways.

Maybe I am a rare exception, but I rarely have negative experiences with non-Muslims. And I am giddy at the thought of being asked questions about my faith and culture. I NEVER get offended. And I’ve had some crazy questions haha.

So the next time you are given the opportunity to speak to someone about Islam or Arabs, take it. You never know who that person may be in contact with; you may end up passing knowledge that will travel across many groups. And if you encounter those very few who are so deep in their ignorance that no amount of education will dissipate, take a deep breath, smile, and move on. For people like that are not worthy of your time. Focus on what you CAN change, and eventually, we’ll get there.