jdeena

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Tag: feminism

Why We Need Male Feminists

I was having a conversation with one of my male friends, and he was telling me about his day. It was a pretty typical conversation for us- we usually text every night or every other night, the things we discuss ranging from typical (work, family, gym) to more elaborate (politics, religion, feminism). This conversation started typical, then took a turn for the worse, simply because my male friend did not realize that in discussing a specific thing that happened at the gym, he had crossed the line into misogyny.

I try and be more understanding of my male friends, because I know none of them (or I’d hope to believe that) are actual misogynists. Sometimes they say things that seem funny, or inoffensive, when- in fact- they actually are very offensive. Sometimes I point it out, and sometimes I let it go.

I could not let it go this time.

While describing his workout for the day, my friend referred to the thigh abductor machines as the “good girl/bad girl” machines. At first, I overlooked the comment, because I wasn’t sure what he was talking about. I personally had never heard anyone use those terms in a gym to describe any machine or exercise. When prompted, he explained which machines they were- the ones where you spread your thighs open against weights, and the other when you press your thighs together.

My mouth actually fell open at these descriptions. He thought it was funny.

I did not.

To have such a disgusting view of a machine at a gym stems from a much bigger problem than just the name. Think about what those terms indicated: a “good girl” would close her legs, while the “bad girl” spread them apart. See the problem?

Why are we still valuing and labeling women by their sexual lifestyles? Why do we place such disgusting labels on women in the first place? Do we do that for men? No. We don’t. Yet somehow we think it is ok to continue to label women in this way.

I pointed out as much to my friend, and his initial reaction was laughter. He thought my response was funny. Why? Because he felt I was overreacting. He said “it’s not a big deal” and that I “take things too seriously” and “that’s just what the guys at the gym call them.” Ohhhhh, ok. My bad. Since everyone seems to call them that, I MUST be overreacting! Let me test that theory.

I asked three male friends of mine if they had ever heard of those terms before. They said they had not. And they are avid gym-goers. However, it doesn’t mean that my other friend was lying- maybe it’s a regional thing. Regardless, those words were said. And while my friend laughed, the fight for women’s equality was set back another 10 years or so.

What people don’t seem to realize about feminism is that true feminism- not white feminism- believes that women should be treated with respect, and be afforded the same opportunities and rights that men have had for, well, ever. It really gets me when men feel they have the right to tell you how to react or feel towards something. And that is exactly what my male friend was doing when he laughed and told me I was overreacting.

We need more male allies; we need male feminists. Actually, it perplexes me why most men don’t say they are a feminist- if you are human, why wouldn’t you support such a movement? But when I brought this up to my friend, he said that he couldn’t stand against these types of comments because “the other guys will laugh at him and call him a p***y.”

Seriously? That word had always triggered something in me, especially because how is it an insult to be called a woman’s private part? Come on. Seriously. Stop it.

But to all the males out there, why do you care so much if your fellow “bro” makes fun of you or calls you names? Do you think what they are doing is right? Do you AGREE with them? No? Then it’s simple- stop them from continuing this. The problem with male allies isn’t that they join in and continue this misogyny. The problem is that they stay silent- and some think that staying silent is a form of support. In a way, I’m glad you aren’t dumb enough to join in these conversations, and that you somewhat respect women.

However, that is not enough. When you hear a guy make a comment about a girl as she walks by, and you see her uncomfortable with his cat-calling, maybe you should tell him to stop. Maybe you should tell him that it isn’t ok to treat women this way. Because honestly, that is what we want to see. Not to see you stand next to him, staring at the ground as he harasses me as I walk on by. You, at that moment, are just as complicit.

Imagine if one guy in each group stood up to their friends and said stop. Imagine how many more women would feel safer walking in the street. How many more women would not feel insecure working out in the weights section at the gym. I always feel insecure doing my squats because the guys openly stare. Why though? Never seen a woman in your life? Maybe you concentrate on your reps on the rowing machine, and try to keep your back straight instead- because dude, you’re doing it all wrong.

I have a lot of guy friends. And if I cannot see any support from them in regards to feminism, then they can no longer be a part of my life. I said as much to my friend towards the end of our conversation, and he told me I was being “dramatic.” How is wanting your social circle to be filled with positive people who uplift you being dramatic? I cannot be friends with someone who laughs at my pain. Who seems my offense as an overreaction.

After a few days, my friend came back and apologized. He said that after thinking about it, he realized why those terms were offensive. He promised never to use them. He won’t stop others if they use it, but that’ll be the next step. I was just happy to know that he finally understood me. And that is all I wanted.

Someday soon, he will be a feminist. He just doesn’t know it yet.

 

 

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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.

The Price of Feminism

I’ve had quite a few conversations lately about the status of women in society- ranging from street harassment to body image. It seems that the internet has helped launch a campaign to showcase all the terrible things women face daily. From death threats for refusing advances to hateful comments being posted under Instagram pictures, women are facing the biggest battle of the century.

It comes as no surprise to my friends and social circles that I am an advocate for women’s rights. I abhor anything that resembles objectification of women. Women are not commodities, so for men to feel that they have the right to harass them verbally or physically builds a rage in me so strong that any objection to my view can result in a very severe tongue-lashing, no matter who you are. I actually have been in many heated debates with my best friend, who has the view that women should be objectified if they so desire. She thinks that if women have the assets and men find them attractive, that we should feel pride and accept it. Which obviously doesn’t sit well with me. She also claims that women who push for feminism shouldn’t be hypocritical and allow women who want to pose nude to do so, as it is ultimately their choice. I can understand that part, but from MY perspective, WHY does a woman feel she should be nude at all?

So the purpose of today’s post- while it can go many ways- is going to focus on the much talked-about picture of Kim K and what it means for feminism.

I, of course, am disgusted by her display of her body in such a classless way. Forget that she is a mother. Forget that she is clearly photoshopped and covered in oil (gag). The first emotion that rose in my chest was shame. I was embarrassed for her.

How desperate must a female feel to be accepted by society to stoop so low as to bare it all in a magazine. And before everyone jumps down my throat to claim “it’s her choice, her body,” let’s discuss that. Is it REALLY her choice? Did she dream of growing up and posing naked for magazines, or was it just a product of her fame? And while we are on that subject, what is she famous for exactly? Being naked and engaging in sexual acts on camera. I’m not saying she can’t have sex, but to have a video released for all to see? Classless.

So, back to the objectification of women. Yes, Kim K is an adult. Yes, it was “her choice.” But why is this even a choice for women? Why is it that we view nudity as empowering? Is it because society has taught us that as women we should embrace our bodies and not be ashamed? I can contend to that idea, however, I feel that most women who flaunt their bodies (and IG is FULL of them) are really just seeking for approval from society, and from men specifically. I’ve read the comments under some of these pictures, and they are so degrading they make me cringe. What woman with any self-respect would allow a man to say those things to her? And on top of that, claim she ENJOYS it?

The women who are standing up defending Kim K and these other women are contributing to the larger issue at hand, which is allowing men to continue to see women as objects. Although many women object to it, there are some who approve of it. So men are not seeing this as being a real issue since some women are accepting it.

This doesn’t only stop at the nudity issue, although it is a big part of it. The other part of objectification includes women who are fully clothed as well, yet are still seen as an object. Take the street harassment video that was recently released. I don’t know how many guys I personally know who saw nothing wrong with the video. According to them, women should take those comments as a compliment as it means they are beautiful enough to be noticed. Which is a load of crap.

It doesn’t matter if I am beautiful; that does not give anyone the right to harass me. And YES, it IS harassment. Because most often, it is unwanted attention. I don’t leave my house every day wishing for men to notice and compliment me. Yet I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had comments directed at me that are unwanted and uncomfortably inappropriate. Don’t tell me God gave me these looks so I should embrace it. Don’t tell me to feel flattered. Don’t presume that I want the attention- THAT I SHOULD EXPECT IT- because I’m wearing heels, makeup, skinny jeans, etc. What I wear and how I look give you NO RIGHT to comment. NONE.

So to all the guys who think it’s funny or cute, let me just say this: the more you continue to act this way, the more women as a whole will continue to be guarded. Guys wonder why women act so defensive when they first meet; well, how am I supposed to let my guard down when there are guys out there making a living on teaching men to emotionally and mentally manipulate women to sleep with them, degrade them, harass them? You want us women to stop being so “bitchy” and “prudish?” Teach your fellow brothers to respect women, and to give us the space we deserve while out walking the streets.

I know many think feminism means women being treated better than men. It’s not. It means women receiving the rights that are due to them. But feminism is not just for women. Men who also want to fight for the respectful treatment of women are also feminists. That doesn’t make you less of a man. In fact, I feel it’d make you MORE of a man, to help stop the mistreatment of women. I know there are plenty of guys out there who have started this campaign, but in truth, we need so many more.

So before you argue that women need to stop acting or dressing a certain way to receive respect, know that this mentally is what is ultimately holding back feminism. We aren’t looking for special treatment; in fact, it’s quite the opposite.

The Feminist Manifesto

It’s fitting that I use this title, as I am currently reading about communism in my poly sci class. And lately, the term “feminism” has appeared in many conversations I’ve had as well. There was an article posted on Facebook called “How Feminism Hurts Men” that stirred up a lot of debates. The author was clearly sarcastic as he pinpointed all the issues women have tried to fix over the years through feminism, but have seriously failed at. Women still don’t make as much as men, they aren’t elevated into higher positions in the workplace as quickly as men are, they are still harassed, raped, beaten, and made insignificant in the media. And if you are a woman of color? Forget it. You are 10x worse off than any other woman.

A lot of women feel that feminism, in essence, has actually set women back. The fight for equality essentially turned into the fight to rid the world of men period. Feminism does not focus on how to make women achieve as much as men, but to surpass the level men have achieved, and go farther beyond any attainable realm. The idea that “I don’t need a man” or that the “world is better off without men” has turned the phrase “feminism” into a negative concept, not one that was started to fight for equal rights.

Take relationships, for instance. I have noticed two types of women in the world of dating. The first type has been influenced by the feminist movement, thereby asserting her authority in the relationship, often refusing gifts and insisting on paying when the couple goes out. In her eyes, this woman is “independent,” “successful,” and can handle the monetary part of the relationship since she makes a good living. Any offer from her partner to pay, and she feels insulted, going off on a tirade of how men use money to control the women they date, and the fact that she can stand on her own must threaten him.

The second type of woman has refused the idea of feminism so severely that she has actually reverted to what I like to think of as the “1800s woman.” She feels the man must pay all the time, for everything, and that it is his job to take care of her. She will buy him gifts, but she will never pay for dinner, offer a surprise trip on the weekend, or buy him anything “just because.” She thinks feminists are idiots for giving up the comfort and security that a man can provide them. The only time she will regret the decision is when, one day, the man will use his control of the money and the relationship to force her to do something she does not want to do.

Comparing these two women, you can see that they are both extremes. There is, however, a median, where men and women can be equal with neither reigning over the other. It is true that women are afforded more opportunities than in the past; although there is no need to flaunt them, nor to dismiss the idea of chivalry. Men will always be the protectors of women; it’s a psychological fact. There is a way that a woman can be comfortable with that if she finds herself a man who respects her for her own abilities while providing support. The same goes for the men. Women need to realize that allowing man to take care of them does not necessarily make them weak; in fact, it allows both parties to be stronger, together.

A man who is threatened by a successful woman is no man. Yet women need to understand that to always diminish the role of men in our society will not lead to the rise of the feminist movement. It will, in fact, continue to hold us back, and when in 100 years we are still working for less wages than men, represent a small percentage of CEOs, and continue to fight the battles of rape and domestic abuse, only then will we realize how futile our fight has been.