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

Tag: double standard

Feminism and Islam: Does it Mix?

The other day I posted the blog of the Christian woman who wrote about her decision to stop wearing yoga pants in order to respect her husband and the sanctity of their relationship. If she would have left her sentiments at that, I could have accepted it. After all, a woman has the right to save for husband what she wishes. However, she included in her post that before coming to this decision, she asked her female friends and her husband about what they thought of women who wear yoga pants, and her husband admitted that it would be hard for him “not to look” if a woman walked by in them.

Um, what? So your husband openly admits he might sneak a look now and then, and instead of telling him to avert his gaze, you make the decision to stop wearing them so other guys don’t look at you- because it’s disrespectful for your husband? What about all those other women still walking around in yoga pants? And now you will only wear yoga pants at home for your husband, but he is still out there looking at other woman in them. Seems like a useless decision.

This is what I have a problem with. Women who choose to stop wearing something “because men” something: can’t help themselves, might be tempted, might get the wrong idea about you. How about, men control their mouths, their hands, their thoughts? Don’t tell me men are animalistic by nature. Don’t tell me they are primal beings that have the gene of provider and pro-creator. We’ve come a long way from the Dark Ages.

As much as this topic is interesting, what I really wanted to get into was the debate that ensued after I posted this article. My point in posting it was obviously from a societal standpoint- that as women, we continue to be blamed for men’s reactions to what we wear. And that in order to get them to stop, WE have to change. As a feminist, that doesn’t sit well with me.

A few people came on to the post and told me that from an Islamic point of view, this is why we women cover- to avert mens’ gaze. However, I don’t believe that should be reason enough. And really, it is not meant to avert a man’s gaze, but more so to keep hidden the things you should only want to show your husband (which is subjective in my eyes, since I have many friends and family who have lived their life uncovered and are by no means bad people). Ok, so back to the comments. I was told that is a woman PROPERLY covers (meaning that I do not), she will not have men harassing her or looking at her in a lewd way. So basically, if I don’t want to be harassed, cover up.

BIG ISSUE HERE. Because I have had friends overseas who will cover completely, and men will still harass them. Men will cat-call a plastic bag if it has the right curves, okay? Regardless of what you wear, you will get harassed. I was wearing no makeup one morning, barely awake, and filling up gas. It was sunny so I had sunglasses on, and the guy at the pump next to me said “Hey ma, why don’t you take off those sunglasses so I can see your pretty face?” I’ve had guys hit on me at the gym (insert lame “let’s workout together” comment here) as I was red-faced, sweaty and panting for air. Some guys will just harass because they can. And yes…it IS harassment. It is unwanted attention, it is not a compliment. See previous post for rant on that.

Once I got everything out of my system on why men should not harass a woman regardless of what she wears, and once I advocated why women should be allowed to dress any way they choose without harassment, I was told that as a Muslim covered woman, I cannot support that ideal. Because my religion encourages women to cover, I cannot advocate on behalf of women who want to dress provocatively.

Wait, what?

So because I am a Muslim woman, I cannot fight for women to be able to wear what they want without fear of retaliation? I was told yes, because fighting for that goes against the very ideals that Islam instills in us. Which is that women should be covered and therefore will be protected. Of course, this did not sit well with me, as I feel a woman should be able to do whatever the hell she wants to do. I have many friends and family who are not covered, and so I will fight for their right to be uncovered and not harassed. It has nothing to do with religion, it has to do with the fact that women are HUMAN beings, not animals, and they deserve to walk out of their homes without worrying if a skirt above the knee will warrant unnecessary comments. Or that a pair of heels will not invite men to make disgusting comments about where else they can wear them.

So can I, as a Muslim woman, be a feminist? Well, I say yes, because here I am! I am fighting for women’s rights all over the world and I wear hijab and identify as a Muslim. Now, many people seem to have a problem with that, but guess what? I don’t care! Regardless of whether or not you think my ideals coincide with Islam, I am content with still upholding my traditional Islamic values while also fighting for female equality and proper treatment. I recently read an article about a woman who identified as a feminist while being Christian, and she spoke of many of the same issues I have discussed here as well (although she went a bit further). Here is a link to her post: http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/worldview/christian-cleavage-probably-isnt-problem#o97qZSH5dpz14m3H.01.

It does stem a bit further than just Muslim women, so really, can we say organized religion and feminism cannot mix? As far as I can tell, yes, it can….it is those who doubt the power of the feminist movement and have yet to believe in its cause that seem to think it cannot. If you want to seemingly hide behind your scarf and use that as your shield against the “harassment” you go right ahead. But I will have no problem continuing to prove you wrong.

Power as Taboo

This topic has come up frequently in my life as of late; whether at school or in my daily conversations: women in power. Now, you might be wondering what I mean by this, as we see women holding very powerful positions in large corporations and even running countries. However, there is still the so-called “glass ceiling” that limits the progress of women. We are still less paid than men. In my poly sci class last week we talked about the perception of women in politics. Women, when in power, tend to get the reputation of a bitch. She is cold-hearted for leaving her children to pursue her own selfish desires, she is masculine because she adopts the image of strength and resilience in order for her to fit in with the men she works with. Even her husband is judged (if she is married) for allowing his wife to upstage him with her political position.

What century is this?! There should be no reservations about women in power, and yet we see it all the time. Let’s look at one of the most powerful women in politics today: Hilary Clinton. What did people say about her when Bill cheated? When she showed no classic response (crying, shrieking, demanding divorce) they called her cold. When she began to pursue her political career, they called her masculine, pushy, and aggressive. Let’s look at a very successful female entertainment mogul: Oprah. She started from nothing and worked her way up into a media tycoon. Yet when her relationships were revealed, they always claimed she was the “man” in the relationship because she made more money and held more power in the public eye.

What is it about our society that has women in this box? And the funny thing is; it is mostly women that are pointing out these “flaws” in other women. Whether that stems from jealousy or judgement, it is there. Men, however, also add to this perception by speaking out against these women in power. You all know where I am headed with this.

Arab men have a very profound issue with women in power. I have experienced this firsthand. When I was a manager for Best Buy in Allen Park, Michigan (right outside Dearborn), I employed many Arabs. At one point, I had three Arab guys working for me. It was apparent from the start that they were uncomfortable being managed by a female, but especially an ARAB female. I would assign tasks that would go unfinished. I was actually told by one of the guys when I assigned him to clean before a store visit from our area manager, that I would be better at the cleaning since- after all- I’m a female. There was no fear of repercussions when he stated this, as if he felt he had the RIGHT to say it. Needless to say, he was disciplined accordingly.

When I became a corporate trainer for Best Buy and was traveling to different states to train employees, I saw it again. I had a mix of different guys in each class, yet for some reason (while a lot of the guys had an issue I was a female) it was the Arab guys that had the most trouble accepting it. They would make comments to undermine my authority and competency, and through an activity we did, when they found out my age, made comments on the fact that I was still single because I was so career focused. They had no reservations expressing their distaste for my choices in life. I am very content in who I am so their comments never bothered me. But it was interesting to see their point of view.

Not only did I experience it in my job, but I did in my personal life as well. When I was engaged 3 years ago, I was still trying to pursue my career at Best Buy. I was working to become a manager or supervisor. When I expressed this to my partner, he made it clear that he did not want me to achieve that, and in fact, he wanted me to drop to part-time work only so that I was available to do my wifely duties such as cooking and cleaning at home. He insisted I drop out of any extra-curricular activities I was involved in such as volunteer organizations through work. Looking back, I can see now this must have stemmed from his insecurities and need to control me.

So what does this all mean? It means that men will forever be intimidated by strong women in power. That is why we still have a glass ceiling; that is why women like Margaret Thatcher were looked at like a monster while in power. If a woman makes more money than her husband, the man is seen as emasculated. I had a discussion yesterday with an Arab guy, and we were talking about a female doctor whose husband is not a doctor. He laughed at the fact that this non Arab male had ALLOWED his wife to have a better paying job than him. According to this Arab guy, the wife would one day use her status and power to throw it in her husband’s face that SHE is the bread winner. I responded that MEN throw it in women’s faces all the time, yet somehow THAT is acceptable? I just don’t get this double standard. God willing, when I get my degree and move overseas, I don’t want a guy to feel intimidated or turned off by the fact that I have a secure and successful career. In fact, I’d hope he would be PROUD of that fact.

Is there a way to change the perception of women in power? If everyone allowed women to be themselves, then maybe, yes. However, women feel the need to prove themselves daily, whether they are CEO, PhD, manager, or teacher. If a woman’s role exudes power, men and other women will have a problem with it, and although some may say that words are harmless, they can continue to perpetuate that double standard. A woman can be successful and powerful and still respected. So to all the women out there who have heard “no” over and over again, don’t stop what you are doing. Keep reaching for your goals because it is the truest form of expressing who you are.