jdeena

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

Tag: different

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.

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.

Veiled Perception

On March 1, 1997, I made a decision that ultimately changed the course of the rest of my life. I started wearing the hijab.

I was a freshman in high school, and nothing could have prepared me for what was to become the defining characteristic in my being. I’ll admit; high school wasn’t easy. I endured a lot of snickering and pointing fingers. I had rumors made up about me. I lost friends. None of that mattered to me though because I had my Muslim friends outside of school who supported me. I was involved in my mosque and had a lot to be thankful for.

Then I started college. This was a whole new world for me. I was exposed to so many new experiences. I joined the usual activity groups like the Arab Student Union and Muslim Student Association. But then I was invited to join Student Government, and once I was in, the doors were flying open. I was so involved on campus that people knew me by name. My social circle expanded beyond the typical. I was now friends with many non-Muslims, and so things shifted a bit. I now had people asking me questions about Islam and my hijab. However, throughout all these inquiries, I remained myself. I acted as who I was, and never hid or altered my true being.

Truthfully, it was those from my similar background who judged me more than anyone else. They felt I was being “too liberal.” Just because I didn’t fit into the mold they expected me to fit in I was cast as a pariah. Looking back, I know now that those people didn’t know any better. Or maybe I’m just giving them the benefit of the doubt.

When 9-11 happened, I really thought my reign as campus queen would be over. I thought for sure the students on campus would turn the other way and hide under their ignorance. But I will never forget my first day back on campus after it all happened. I was in the Student Government office and one of my friends told me that she had been so worried about me and my family. And then she said something that has always been something I carry inside me. She said, “I don’t even notice the scarf on you anymore. At first it was something I saw, but now it’s just become a part of you that I don’t even see it anymore.”

I remember my eyes brimming with tears and my heart swelling with gratitude that I had found such an honest and compassionate person. It wasn’t just her though; the entire Student Government members echoed her sentiment. That was the day when I realized I could rule the world as a hijabi.

Since college, I have been afforded so many wonderful opportunities. I have never interviewed for a job and been denied for wearing the hijab. I have never been singled out in a crowd, or felt uncomfortable walking into a room. Yes, people stare at me at the mall. Yes, I have had some people make unnecessary comments to me. But hey, everyone gets stared at for some reason or another. People make derogatory comments to anyone, not just hijabis.

So, with all that being said, this is what I want to discuss: should Muslim women in America wait to wear the hijab until a much later age to avoid the perceived complications it may administer? Yes, wearing the hijab makes you stand out in society. Yes, Muslims have a negative image thanks to the media and extremists actions of a few. Is it fair to say though that hijab should be pushed aside until society is “more accepting?” I have heard some women say lately that they have a good standing with their childrens’ school, parents of their friends, and teammates. Meaning, that they feel they are giving a good image of Muslims, showing how modern and non-threatening we are. To them, wearing the hijab would make them seem “extreme.” They think that if they “win” these people over with their “normalcy” then 20 years down the road put on the hijab, these people will be more accepting. Also, they don’t feel that it is fair for their kids to have to explain to people why their mother “wears that thing on her head.”

I have to disagree.

I think that you can still present a positive image of Muslims as a woman who wears hijab. So what if your kids have to explain why you wear hijab? Are you ashamed to have them do that? Why is it such a big deal? It seems to me that although you feel you are being a modern Muslim, you are hiding what Islam really is. Hijab can be a beautiful thing, even “modern” as you so like to emulate.

It seems to me that what people want to do is “win” people over with their personality and then wear the hijab once they are confident that they will be accepted. However, no one ever said that wearing hijab was easy. You stick out like a sore thumb in society, especially here in the US. So there is a bit of a struggle, but that is to be expected. My job requires me to speak in front of 40 strangers every week and get them to trust and respect me enough to learn things that will help them become more successful at work. It may sound like it is hard, especially for a hijabi training mostly in the midwest, but it honestly is not.

I never feel uncomfortable or uneasy walking into a room. I’m not wondering if people are judging me or calling me a terrorist under their breath. If anyone has ever had any reservation about who I am, I have never heard it. What I HAVE heard, however, are people saying that they give me credit for wearing hijab in such an unforgiving society. I have girls who come up to me, grateful to see a minority female in corporate America. My hijab has given me more power and confidence than could have ever been thought imaginable.

So to all those women out there who don’t want to wear hijab because it will draw attention to them, I say this:

It’s best you don’t wear it until you are 100% invested. Even then, you will still have doubts. What you need to remember is that in our society, people will judge you no matter what. If it’s not for your hijab, it’s for your name. If not for your name, for your skin color. If not for that, then the color of your hair. You can choose to not wear hijab, but if you are seeking to live without judgement, you will never find that.

When I first got this job, I was in Chicago at dinner with my boss. Over our appetizers, he confided in me that he was worried about me training employees. I was confused as I asked him why. He told me he was afraid of how people would react to me. I personally had not thought of that, as those things never cross my mind. I almost laughed at him but I saw how serious he looked. He told me that when I walked into my interview, he instantly got nervous. Not because I was Muslim, but because he wasn’t sure how people would perceive me.

However, he said, by the end of the interview he no longer saw the scarf. All he saw was a great candidate for a trainer position. And that was when he knew that I would be okay.

This is my point, people. You CAN be viewed as just a normal person in society. Whether you have a hijab, a different skin color, an accent, or a non-traditional name, you can still be YOU. It may take a little longer for people to push past all that, but once they do they will see an amazing person. If they choose not to, well, then….that’s just their loss.