jdeena

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

Tag: change

The Evolution of Gender Roles

So lately I’ve had multiple debates about the roles of men and women in today’s society. Take a step away from cultural roles, because that’s a topic in itself. I am talking about the roles men and women play NOW, in 2015. It may seem that we have come a long way since the early 1900’s, and even towards the end of the 20th century women were starting to rise as powerful, professional members of society. But now, in 2015, with the possibility of a female president in our next election, I have seen many people (men and women alike) who have already started to advocate against Hillary as president. Their reason? She is a female, and therefore she should retreat into the role she was meant to fill: mother, wife, and respectable citizen of society- let the men run society.

It frustrates me when I hear these comments on radio, TV, and scrolling through my timeline on Facebook. Why shouldn’t she be president? Politics aside (because I don’t want to open that can, and I don’t want people assuming I do or do not support her), I think it is unfair to say that today, in 2015, we should not consider it an option to have a female president. Some excuses I’ve heard are: women are too emotional, she won’t be logical in her decisions, she will be neglecting her family, and she will give other women the idea that they can run for politics.

Well, DUH!

We need more people like Hillary. We need more women who are willing to step over that “line” that was drawn to segregate the genders. Why shouldn’t a woman be the CEO, the VP, the Senator, the President….if she is, in fact, perfectly qualified to do so? Just because she has certain anatomy that differs from that of a male, she should be punished? I never understand what people are thinking when they say things like “that’s not a role for women.” What is, then?

And, for that matter, who decided what role women should play in society? Who decided that women should be home taking care of the kids? Why is it not seen as masculine when the man stays home to raise the kids while his partner works? Or is that seen as noble and progressive? And if it is, why then when a women steps out of the home to work and pursue a career she is seen as selfish?

Our view of gender roles needs to change if we ever want to progress as a society. The sooner people realize that women are just as capable as men in holding a career and excelling at it, the easier it will be for people to sustain long-lasting, healthy relationships. One of the biggest obstacles I hear from females wanting to meet someone is that their life is unconventional from those who were married ten years ago, and so they are viewed as being unrelenting and difficult. But why? Why can’t the male be seen that way NOW, and for the last 100 years? And yet, when a woman decides to follow her goals, she is now being judged? Seems a bit unfair.

I met a girl who is a doctor, and she said that while she was studying to become a doctor, she was judged by people for being to driven, and not wanting to jump into marriage right after college. They asked her why she bothered with becoming a doctor. Then, when she was finally a doctor, people are now telling her she is arrogant about being a doctor and that she will never get married because men don’t want a woman who is more successful than them. Um…that doesn’t sound like it’s her problem. Sounds like some men are too insecure to be with a woman who has her shit together. That’s your problem guys, not ours.

I am not being unreasonable here. I am not saying men need to start carrying the child, and I am not saying women need to treat men the same way women were treated by men all these years- as second-class citizens and housewives. No, I am suggesting that women stand up and fight for what they believe is best for themselves, and for men to set aside their pride and old traditions to support these women. It is okay for a man to be proud of a woman who is driven, successful, and confident. It does not make you less of a man, I swear! But to continue to demean and degrade women who are making strides and following their dreams WILL make you look like less of a man.

I hope that with the emergence of social media and the plethora of stories and articles showcasing the achievements of great women, there will come a day when the question of gender roles will cease to exist. However, it could very well be that women will continue to make great strides while fighting this gender equality battle.

That, in itself, should show you how determined we will be.

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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.

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.

Fixer-upper

Last night when I walked into the house after a long, exhausting day of furniture building, work, and a tedious workout, my dad calls me over. Without even a “hello” he pulls out his phone, scrolls through his gallery, and holds up a picture of a guy. He just held it up; no commentary, no explanation. So I was forced to ask “who’s that?” He replied, “someone who wants to meet you!” I looked down at the phone, back up to my dad, and simply said “no” and walked away.

Now, you might be thinking that is rude and disrespectful. On the surface it does seem to teeter on the edge of that assumption. However, if you have read any of my other blogs, you’d know that this isn’t an unusual occurance. My parents are forever trying to set me up. It’s exhausting dodging their advances. But last night really got to me because it made me realize that it will never matter what I accomplish on my own; if there is no man by my side I will never be successful in their eyes. I recently landed a job as the fundraising coordinator for the Syrian American Medical Society. I will be moving to Youngstown in a few short weeks. This is an amazing opportunity for me and I couldnt be more grateful. Yet my dad is trying to set me up with some guy who lives HERE.  

Tell me, what exactly does he think will happen? That the guy will move to Youngstown for me? That he will accept waiting to get engaged until I have settled into my new role, which could be months down the line? That he will support my new career and give me the space I need to settle in? Okay, yes, maybe just MAYBE I will get lucky and he will do all that. But that is a very slim chance. I prefer to go with the majority, which usually is what happens to me. I have yet to be in a relationship where the man fully supports me. And that is fine; I am perfectly content with supporting myself. However, please do not come to me just after reciving the best job offer of my life and throw a man into the mix. It’s just not going to happen.  

After my dad went upstairs to bed, my mom and I sat down to watch our usual late-night Arabic shows. Of course the topic of marriage came up, and she asked me why I didn’t want to meet the guy. I told her about having a new job and that it wasn’t something I could allow at the moment. And then I told her how I didn’t find the guy attractive. That may seem shallow to you, but before you judge me I’d like for you to consider who your spouse or partner is and just TRY to convince me that you don’t find them remotely attractive. Just try. Anyways, I told my mom he seemed very old-school and had no taste in fashion and that I was looking for someone more put together. My mom’s response was that I could always fix him up and make him look how I liked.  

This guy is 28. If he needs MY help this late in the game in order to look decent, then I definitely don’t need him in my life! Look, that explanation may have worked on me when I was 22, but it’s almost 10 years later and I need a guy who already knows how to get it together. I’m in my 30’s;  if I meet a guy now I don’t have the same time I would have had when I was in my 20’s to help mold a guy into the image I want. Is it too much to ask for a well-dressed, put together guy with his shit together? Sorry for the language, since I rarely curse, but it had to be said! I am tired of friends telling me “you can fix him after you’re married.” NO. No I will not, because I dont have the time to “fix” someone else. It’s taken me almost 30 years to become the kind of person I am content with- no way am I starting that with someone else.  

I know people will judge me because I mention looks are important,  but I know it is important to everyone. Otherwise we’d all have ended up with partners we’ve lusted after. That rarely every works out in our favor. And some of you might tell me that if I indeed want someone who looks a specific way that I should just change him into what I want. But you are missing the point. I shouldn’t have to change him. If I did he wouldn’t be himself. I want a guy who is already himself, someone who has worked on achieving his perfect self just as I have. And you can tell me to hold my breath because it’ll never happen, and I’ll tell you that I’m perfectly content living my life until he decides to appear. No way am I going to miss out on an amazing opportunity just because some guy wants to make an appearance in it right now.

Making Room for a Man

I was talking to a guy the other day, and he said something to me that has stayed on my mind for the last week or so. I’m getting to know this guy as someone I’d possibly date, and while we were having the normal getting-to-know-you conversation, I mentioned everything I am involved in. I talked about my classes, work, involvement in the community, babysitting my cousin, writing my blog, social gatherings, etc. I talked about my weekly lunches alone to read and have 2 hours to myself at my favorite lunch spots, getting my nails done once a month, taking myself out shopping. I mentioned that after work every night, I come home, have dinner, and read or watch Friends until sleep overtakes me. Then this guy said something that got me thinking; he said that it sounded like I was happy with how my life was going, and that it seemed fulfilled and including a guy into that lifestyle would be inconvenient.

I paused mid-answer. Was he right? I was ready to defend myself and say that I could easily accommodate another person in this life I had cultivated over the past 3 years of being single, but would I have been lying?

It’s true that since my last engagement fell through, I have struggled to find my own happiness- one that doesn’t include a guy. So I have done something most people don’t think of doing while single: I have courted myself. I found out what motivates me, makes me happy, and brings me joy. I have wooed myself with presents, dinners, and travel. I have spent many long hours having conversations with myself about life and love. I have allowed myself to be selfish and focused on my own happiness, rather than finding someone to make me happy. Is that wrong?

In order to love someone, you must first love yourself. For the longest time, I felt that without a man in my life, I was incomplete. Most of what I come across in social media daily tries to coerce me to feel inadequate without a man. Quotes that I read, pictures I see, events that go on…they all make you feel that as a single woman, you are wrong, and you cannot enjoy life without a man. So because I have been unlucky in love, I must be miserable so that society can feel more at ease? No way; not going to happen.

So could I allow a man into my life right now? Or am I so set in my ways that I’d be hard to compromise with? To be honest, I can’t really say. I am so happy with my life right now, that for the first time in my life I enjoy being single. Even the comments from friends and family don’t bother me anymore. I laugh it off. To me, the one thing I am missing (someone to fill my intimate and emotional desires) isn’t as big as all the other great things that fill my life. And honestly, isn’t that what is more important? We always place such an emphasis on finding that special someone that we lose sight of our own needs and happiness.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I am not looking for someone to complete me. I am complete within myself. However, when I do meet the right guy, I will be sure to share myself with him. I still expect to have my own life and interests, as I hope he will too. What I want is a companion, someone to share great moments with, but not someone who will expect me to drop my life for him. To be single for so long makes it much harder to change from that mindset when you do meet that special person. That doesn’t mean I won’t change; I was engaged and made time for fiancee. But when you suddenly find yourself as the lone single friend in your group, and you have no one to go to movies or dinner with, you learn to adapt. So maybe I have gotten used to being alone. Maybe I do relish the quiet hours at a bookstore, browsing titles and sipping coffee. Maybe takeout sushi and bad TV make up the perfect Friday night for me….now. That doesn’t mean that if the guy is wonderful I’d turn him away.

But for now, I will continue to love myself. I will spoil myself. I will do all those things that my friends have a spouse to do for them, for myself. After all, just because I’m single, it doesn’t mean I have to miss out on all that.

I deserve it, too.