jdeena

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

Tag: male

Women Are Not Your Slaves

It’s been a while, lovely readers. The past few months have been tumultuous, with job searching, interviews, emotional and physical struggles. But I am always assured that coming back home to my blog will make things right in this world. To keep myself occupied (and earn some income) I took a job as a server at this new hookah lounge in Toledo. I went there sometime back in July to write (coincidentally, the last post I have on here), and the owners offered me the job based on my background in restaurant experience and customer service. It’s a fun job, very laid back, and although standing on my feet for 7-9 hours is exhausting, I’ve met some great people.

However, I have also met some not-so-great people, mostly males. Arab males to be exact. So before I took the job, my bosses failed to mention that the majority of their customers are men. Mostly Saudi students from the university nearby, but also men from the community. At first, it didn’t bother me much that these were the majority of my clients. Well, the Saudis bothered me because they don’t tip well (or at all). But slowly, I started to realize certain behaviors from these customers that have since propelled me to speak up even if the time and place isn’t exactly opportune.

For instance, when asked about my status (relationship, of course) most of the males are shocked to hear I am 34 and single. Many will see me work every night and make a comment like “you should find yourself a man and get married so you won’t have to work.” The first time a guy said that, I looked at him and said “why? So I can sit at home with the kids and take care of the house for him while he works?” He said, yes, that life is a much better fit for a woman, and this way she won’t be worrying about living expenses because- lucky her!- she has a man doing it for her. Um, no thanks dude.

There are two types of married men who come into the lounge. The first type are the ones who will hit on the servers even though they make it clear they are married. These guys are scum no matter what anyone says. How dare you defend a man who is married, with children at home, who finds nothing wrong with stepping out on his marriage for the “fun of it?” This one customer actually pointed his ring finger at a server and said “look, I’m married, but I want to take you out after your shift.” She said no, and he kept pursuing it, going as far as leaving her a large tip at the end of the night. I know who he is and who his family is and I could easily shame him in the community, but what good would that do? I’d probably end up being the one who is shamed for exposing him, as that is “unlady-like.” Fuck off.

The other type of married man is the sexist misogynist. These guys come in almost every night and stay until close, hanging out with other married men. They never bring their wives. I know the majority of them and know they are married, so one day I asked a group of them why they don’t ever bring their wives. One replied “we have 4 kids, who else will babysit?” I stared at him in disgust and told him “I’m sorry, I didn’t realize your wife is your babysitter.” He gave me  a dirty look (because God forbid I call him out in front of his friends). The other guy with him told me that his wife goes out with her friends other places, during the day while the kids are in school. So I asked if she ever gets to go out at night, and he said she can’t because they don’t have anyone to watch them and they don’t trust babysitters. When I suggested maybe he could watch his own kids- gasp!- he stared at me blankly, as if the concept was foreign to him.

Another married man calls in on his way home from work for me to get his hookah ready, as he usually only has 45 minutes or so before going home for dinner with his family. The one day he was talking to one of my bosses, and his wife started calling. He groaned and silenced his phone, then started a tirade against his wife, calling her a nag. I was sitting there and looked up from my phone and replied “well maybe she wouldn’t be a nag if you didn’t force her to stay at home with the kids and allowed her a life of her own.” He laughed and said “oh, now look, we have a feminist amongst us!” As if me advocating for women to be something other than an imprisoned housewife is something to be laughed at.  Asshole.

Now, when any of these men tell me that I should get married, I say “why? So I can be like your wives who sit at home with your children, cleaning your house and washing your clothes, just so you can be here smoking for 4 hours while you piss me off with your misogynistic rhetoric? No thanks.” I know a hookah lounge is probably not the best place to argue my feminist points, but when this is all I see every day, I can’t help it. It’s an uncomfortable feeling when one of these men tells me a hookah lounge is no place for a woman, but they have no problem with me serving them or them looking down our other server’s blouse.

They want to be hailed for keeping their women at home and “protected” from men just them; men who will ogle and harass the few women who do enter the lounge. Men who seem to have an opinion on everything I do: smoking hookah, living away from home, being single, and not wanting kids. They want to “fix” me; they want me to be just like the women in their lives. Why? Because I scare them with my decisiveness and independence. I talk back; I fight. I make it clear that the lives they have provided for their wives hold no interest for me. I’d rather be working 48 hours a week, exhausted and weary, driving my old car and living with roommates, than live in their mansions and drive their luxury cars with a diamond as big as a pistachio as a center stone.

The talk I hear about women from the men who come in either show them as sexual conquests or their domestic employee. But women are not your damn slaves; we were not created to do things FOR you. Unfortunately so many women feel as if they have no choice because of the way they were raised. So what we need now is a revolution, one where women will start shutting down these men and their ideas of what it means to be a woman in this world. Only then will men start to realize that we will no longer be silent in the face of their sexism and misogyny.

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Married Men Cheat

Oh, I know I am going to get a lot of hate for this post. And it’s probably a subject that most people will shy away from, but it has become so common in my life that I need to address it.

Married men cheat.

Yes, they do. Oh boy, do they! I remember reading a statistic once that about 80% of married men cheat. I laughed at the time, thinking to myself that there is absolutely no way the number could be that high. But after seeing and experiencing advances from many married men, I can see how that number could be true. Now, before you start to blame me for their actions, such as saying that I lead them on, or I manipulate them, read on.

I don’t go out of my way to meet married men. More than half the time I don’t even know they are married. Rings do come off you know. And if the guy does not mention a wife or kids, how am I supposed to know?

By the way, I know married women cheat as well- I’m not going to deny that fact. However, this post is based off my personal experience, which is why I am focusing on married men.

The first time a married man approached me, I was hanging out with friends at a cafe. The guy was seated across the room from me, and he kept looking over. Towards the end of the night, he approached me and made small talk. He seemed nice enough, and he had no wedding ring on. So when he asked for my number, I said ok. We exchanged information, and he said he’d call me so he could take me out to dinner. As soon as he walked out, our waiter (whom I knew) came over and asked me what the guy wanted. I told him, and he looked at me and said “Jinan, he’s married. And he has four kids.”

I was appalled. Seriously? He came up to me that casually, asked me for my number with the intent to take me out and he was MARRIED? What the hell! So I thanked my friend, and decided to see if the guy would even contact me. He did, later that night. In order to not assume anything about him upfront, I played along, not wanting to unfairly accuse him of something until I was sure. Maybe he was looking to offer a business opportunity, or something else along those lines. However, the conversation was anything but professional. When I hinted at the fact that I knew he was married, he got upset and said it wasn’t true. I told him I knew for a fact that he was, and that he was lying, and he finally admitted he was but he was unhappy and looking for companionship. I told him that if this was true, he would need to tell his wife, get divorced, and then contact me. He did not like that, and I ended the conversation by asking him to never contact me again.

The next time it happened, a guy messaged me on Facebook. I didn’t know who he was, but we had one mutual friend in common. As the conversation became inappropriate (from his end, not mine) I felt so repulsed that I texted our mutual friend (who was a close friend of mine) and asked him what this guy’s deal was. He asked me why and I told him. That’s when he said “Jinan, he’s married.” WHAT THE HELL! I went back to the guy, told him I knew he was married, and he gave me the excuse that he was “separated.” I asked my friend, and he said no, he is definitely still married. I told this guy as much and he got upset, saying that he knows his life better than anyone, and if he says he is separated, then he is. I told him that may be, but I wouldn’t consider talking to him until he was fully divorced, or had a legal separation notice. He didn’t like that. Our conversation was over at that point, and I blocked him.

I could probably go on and on with similar stories, some of them worse than others, but I won’t. I’m sure you get the idea. Unfortunately, I do not have friends who know all the married men who have approached me, so I don’t find out until after we have gone out. I mean really, how am I supposed to know? I’m sure there have been times when I have never found out. That is the part that really pisses me off. If you are that good at hiding your marriage, what else are you capable of?

Here’s my take on men like that: you are all cowards. You live a life where you lie, constantly. You lie to your wife, to your kids, to me- and most importantly, to yourself. You claim you are unhappy in your marriage. Well, guess what? You can get a divorce. You claim you are trapped, and can’t divorce because you love your kids and you’d lose them. Well then, pick a side. You cannot have the fun without facing the responsibility as well. You feel tied down? Then don’t get married! It really drives me crazy when guys will get married- because duh, it’s what they are supposed to do- and still expect to have the fun of a single guy. If you are not ready to uphold the values of a married man, it’s simple- DO NOT GET MARRIED.

You may think these guys are random men, but let me explain something to you. These men are my friends’ husbands. They are prominent men in the community. They are men who sit on boards of reputable charities. Men who seem like the most religious type on the outside, but have the sickest, most twisted thoughts swarming around their head. You may want to blame me at this point, and ask me why I engage with these men. Do you know what it takes to get an unhappily married man to spill these things? Pretty much nothing. If you even engage in a conversation, and you are a single female like I am, married men will start dropping hints in the conversation early on to gauge your interest. They will throw in winking and heart emojis after you’ve answered a basic question about work or an event. They will want to “drop by” your hotel room to help you with conference materials, or ask you to stop by theirs to look over their speech.

Don’t tell me that married men are innocent. Maybe a small percentage are, but the majority need to realize that some of us won’t keep it quiet. They use their power and authority to intimidate, but let me tell you something: I WILL reveal names if it continues. I WILL send screenshots to your wives and fellow board and community members. I have no problem being seen in a negative light for a moment, if only to reveal the HYPOCRISY of the married men in our community.

I know a lot of women want to have the ideal marriage where they feel they can trust their partner. That is so admirable. I applaud you. But just remember that your husband is not perfect, and at some point he will be tempted, just like I am sure you will be. I am not saying monogamy doesn’t work. I am just saying that as humans, we cannot expect people to be without faults. I have come to terms with that, and if I ever get married, I will realistically recognize that my husband may step outside the marriage at some point. It doesn’t make me naive. It makes me smart. But to you married men out there who think YOU are smart, I have to tell you that you are sorely mistaken. You may cheat on your wives and try to justify it any way you can- she doesn’t appreciate me, we don’t have sex anymore, we drifted apart- but the truth will always be there when you look at yourself in the mirror.

And that truth is: you are a CHEATER.

 

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.

 

 

Forced to Marry

I see it every day, all over my newsfeed and social media: girls are forced into marriage. No, I’m not talking about overseas in some remote country. I am talking about here in the US.  You might be thinking “Jinan, you are CRAZY!” but let me explain what I mean.

I know women have the right to choose their partner in Islam. I know no one can actually force you to get married. However, culturally, I feel that we are still bound by the obligations passed down from one generation to another. Think about it: when a woman says she doesn’t want to get married, what is your first reaction? Probably horror. Or, let me put it this way: when you meet a woman and ask her age, what is your reaction if she is over 30 and still single?

I am not singling myself out in this post, although I do face both scenarios quite often. But I am trying to open your eyes to a bigger issue in our society- one where a woman’s marital status and her ability to bear children is valued more than anything else she can offer. Just scrolling though social media and seeing how many comments a woman gets when she posts an engagement or wedding picture versus one of her new promotion or a solo trip she’s taken is enough to prove my point. However, it doesn’t seem to be enough for people to be convinced that we- as a society- are obsessed with marriage.

That point alone could have been enough to push me away from that institution; yet I chose to still become a part of it at the age of 27, when I first got engaged. To be honest (and I didn’t admit this at the time), I didn’t want to get married. I did it because my parents were becoming more and more frustrated with me, I was close to thirty, and the guy seemed decent enough. Everyone I knew would always tell me they thought something was wrong with me because I just wasn’t jumping to get married. What can I say? I just felt like I wanted to be on my own, and that I’d never find a guy who could tear me away from my singleness.

So, I got engaged. I went through the motions, made everyone happy -and then just as quickly- disappointed everyone when I took off the ring and left it on the bathroom sink before work one day. It was just two months shy of our wedding day. Yet I felt freer than I ever had that day.

Of course, everyone told me that I shouldn’t give up, and that I needed to keep an open mind. So I did, and I entered into yet another serious relationship that would be the beginning of the demise of my character.

Our culture fails to understand that we of this generation are looking for more than just a man to support us. We want a partner, someone we can love and respect and build an empire with. This second relationship chipped away at my self-confidence over 9 months. By the end of it, when he decided he wasn’t ready to get married, I was the shell of a human being. I was devastated and went into a depression so deep it consumed me. I felt lost, confused, and unmotivated. I was sure no one would ever love me, and spent my days crying and wondering what was so wrong with me that no one wanted to marry me.

And that was it- the breaking point. I went to therapy, and she asked me “why do you feel you need a man to love you to make you feel valid?” And it was such a simple question. Yet all my life, I was taught that marriage is half my faith and my culture made me feel that without a man I was nothing. I mean, just look at the questions we are asked when we meet people: How old are you? Oh, are you married? Oh, why not? I mean, are we seriously validating a woman by her marital status?

So since that day in my therapist’s office, I have vowed to work on loving myself. I have thrown myself into work and activities, focused on my writing and activism, and learned to be alone. I have a great circle of friends, but they are all married. So to count on their company proved fruitless. I go to movies alone, I go to restaurants alone; hell, I even travel alone! It’s empowering and liberating, but even more so, it shows that a woman does not need a man in order to enjoy life. I am not saying I will never get married; but I will definitely be enjoying the journey until that happens.

Do I get questions from my family and friends? Always. Everyone is scared of the “single girl” especially when she is so content in her singleness. But no matter; I don’t let it bother me. I have learned to laugh it off, and to focus on what is important to me. The way I look at it is, this is my life. Not theirs. To live your life for others will mean you will never truly live. So be content in your choices, as I have become.

They won’t like it, but then again, who cares?

Get Off Your Soapbox

I encountered one of many internet trolls yesterday when I was online.

I am subscribed to a few “matchmaking” Muslim sites, in the effort to meet someone, as my city offers very little in the dating scene. So last night, after a fun evening out with my coworkers, I came home and was scrolling through my phone in bed and a chat box popped up from one of the sites. I usually never respond to chat requests, but for some reason, I decided to click “accept” and see what this guy was about.

We exchanged hellos, and he asked why I was up so late (it was 12:30). I told him I had just gotten home from an evening out with my friends. He asked where we had gone, and I told him a local hookah bar. He then asked if I smoke, and I said yes. He responded less than enthusiastically, so I asked him if there was a problem, and he proceeded to tell me that smoking hookah is haram (forbidden).

That right there, for me, was a red flag. When someone decides to say something is haram right away, and it in fact IS NOT haram, to me that shows that the person is ignorant to the most basic concepts of what is forbidden and allowed in Islam. So I proceeded to correct him and say it is not forbidden, just not recommended as it can hard your health. He then said that the sheikhs all deem it haram, and their job is to research these things, so their ruling must be right.

He THEN proceeded to tell me that it is also contradicting that I, as a hijabi, smoke hookah, as my hijab represents purity and piety, and by smoking hookah, I am a hypocrite.

Yes. He actually said that.

I didn’t know how to respond, as my instinct was to initially rip him to shreds with an argument about how Muslim women who cover are not to be used as flawless examples of what a Muslim woman should be. We are not without imperfections, and to assume so is setting us up for failure, as we are all human and surely make mistakes. Also, we are individuals, so to categorize all Muslim covered women into one category is unnecessary and harmful to the image of Islam. However, I held my tongue and explained to him that he can have his own opinion of what he would like his Muslim wife to be, but to belittle and criticize a woman who does not fit that image is ridiculous and small-minded.

He then proceeded to tell me that I was wrong for assuming he was small-minded, and that as a Muslim woman, if I was not to cover “properly” why cover at all? He said my hijab was “showy” and that it defeated the purpose of hijab (which, by the way, my photo on that site was a simple photo from everyday- no jeweled headbands or heavy makeup present).

The thing that really bothered me was not the fact that he said these things- in fact, at some point in my life most of the guy friends I have have brought up these points- but, it was how comfortable he felt in saying these things to me so bluntly, and so soon into our conversation. The whole conversation lasted less than 5 minutes. And in that short time he felt comfortable enough to disrespect and discount my knowledge about Islam and my experience in hijab.

To me, this presents a very real problem among the guys in our community. Let me explain something to you: YOU do not wear hijab. YOU do not understand the day-to-day experiences of a woman who wears hijab. YOU don’t know what it’s like to be a very prominent representation of Islam, and have to watch your every move for fear someone will misrepresent your personal actions with those of all Muslim women. So YOU do not have the right to tell me how I should and should not be wearing hijab.

Wearing hijab in the US is a challenge. But to me, the biggest obstacle I face is not from those in the non-Muslim community. It is from those within my own community. The ones who deem it haram to do one thing or another just because they can. I have seen Muslim women ripped to shreds on social media, by men and women alike, who judge their every move. I have seen great examples of successful, intelligent Muslim women who have taken off the hijab permanently because they could not take any more criticism. What are we doing to ourselves? Why are we placing the blame on others, when our biggest problems come from within?

Get off your soapbox. You are not better than another. And if you truly want to help someone, you will find a kind and respectful way to do so. Throwing accusations at someone, calling them a hypocrite and telling them their hijab is wrong will not support your cause. It is people like that who push others away from Islam. Our religion is supposed to be beautiful, welcoming, and understanding. It is not demeaning, harsh, or oppressive. So next time you feel like you want to point out the “faults” of others, be sure you are standing in front of a mirror.

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.

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.

A Numbers Game

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of seeing one of my really good friends Nabil. Every time I’m in the DMV area, he makes time to see me, but nothing compared to this time because when he showed up he was so deathly ill, I thought he was going to collapse right in front of me. However, he pulled through (because he’s awesome like that), and we had one of the best 3 hour dinners I have ever experienced with anyone. Forget the fact that he told me some news that shocked me into a frenzied state of mind (still shook up about that FYI). We ended up discussing- which we usually end up doing anyways- relationships.

As a trusted friend of mine, I have always turned to Nabil for advice and a male’s perspective. Even when I was engaged or going through a breakup. Knowing him for ten years has given me the comfort and ease of opening up to him, and he- in turn- is candid in his responses. So at one point during our conversation, I was telling him about my last attempt at a serious relationship, where I gave the guy 3 months to make the commitment. And Nabil told me something I never would have thought about. He told me that 3 months was way too long. Because as short as our life is, we cannot afford to spend 3 months with each person we meet. His theory is that once we meet a person, we know within 10 minutes if we want to see them again. And within 24-48 hours, we know whether or not we like that person. So, at most, we will know whether or not that person is a compatible match for us within a week. And at the end of that week, as a female, we cut the guy off. If he is serious, the guy will come knocking down the door wanting to be with you. If he doesn’t, hey- you only spent a week with that fool.

I stared at him, trying to figure out if he was being serious. (He was.) But as he went on, I realized that his theory made sense. Why do we always drag things out? Yes, it is important to find out each others likes and dislikes, but you will never fully know the person no matter how many months you date. So maybe the idea that we focus on the positives from the start and have pure intentions for a solid commitment are what we need in order to find that partner. Plus, as a female, it helps us weed out the assholes who are just using you.

So all of what he said to me that night resounded in my head all weekend. I kept turning it over and over in my mind, trying to make sense of it. So if I met a guy today, I’d know in a week if I wanted a solid commitment with him? Could I really do that? And if I am doubting whether or not I could, wouldn’t that make ME the problem? Doesn’t that mean that I am the one running from commitment?

It’s true that I was the one who imposed a 3 month limit in my last relationship, but if the tables were turned, and he wanted to commit after a month, would I have agreed? That’s what scares me. Because I think I probably wouldn’t have. Because since then, I have had a few guys show their interest in a commitment, who in fact want to rush into an engagement almost right away, and I admit it scares the hell out of me. How can they be so sure about me? What if they find out my flaws and realize they made a mistake? I admit that I’m not an easy person to love. Not because you need to prove anything to me, but because I am so used to being on my own that I have a hard time letting someone love and care for me.

So, since Nabil told me I have nothing to lose, I plan on trying this new method. I just need to force myself into this state of mind that not every person will meet all my standards, but that I can overlook the not-so-important ones and focus on what really matters, which is (according to Nabil): physicality, religiousness, and character. All the other things are just minor.

After I made it back home from my vacation, I texted Nabil and he told me something that I will end with. He said: “It’s a numbers game. Just don’t hold on to one ticket too long. Keep swapping them out for newer tickets until one fits the bill.”

So that’s what I’ll do.

Emotional Stalemate

What happens when you find yourself at an emotional stalemate?

A lot of times, we are so guarded that we don’t recognize a good thing when it comes. Then, when we see how amazing it can be, we dive deep into the welcoming, warm water without any thought to safety. And we float on for a while,  enjoying this amazing feeling. Until one day, we are tossed so violently from this pool of happiness into the murky darkness of our worst imagination.

So now what?

I always talk about being secure with yourself as a female. Because we cannot expect a man to come and “save us,” nor to “complete us.” But I also feel that we need to be open to new experiences, and not let past experiences prevent us from feeling those amazing emotions that can be so addicting.

This presents a problem, though. How do you find the right balance between guarding your heart, but opening it enough to allow someone in? Is it all or none? Can you really still be guarded but open to a relationship?

As women, we are programmed to be more emotional. Yet when we try and hold back these emotions, we are seen as unfeeling and cold. I myself try to limit the strength of emotions that I share with the opposite sex. Because it isn’t fair in my eyes for a man to use those emotions to take advantage of you. However, what do you do when the guy has let HIS guard down, and now expects you to do the same?

From experience, I can tell you that you can do two things: you can also let your guard down, and expose your heart to the possibility of being hurt. Or, you can continue to hold your ground until you know the guy is being sincere. The latter option may create some problems, as the guy might feel you aren’t taking the same risk he is, and therefore he might not think you are serious about him. That’s a bit tricky, so you’ll need to play it as it comes. The first option often ends in heartbreak (at least for me).

So what do you do? It’s honestly hard to predict. I guess it depends on the guy. All I know is, I almost had my heart broken recently, but I was able to catch it just in time. The reason being, I gave myself a time limit on when I could emotionally “let go.” I bet that sounds odd, and you’re thinking “how can you place a time on emotions?” Well, it’s simple. I told myself that if I did not receive a promise of an engagement in the future by the three month limit, then clearly this guy was not serious. And it isn’t like I didn’t tell him my plan. He knew. It was our agreement when we first started talking. I made sure to remind him (but not too often), and genuinely enjoyed our time together.

But I was starting to fall for him, and I knew that unless I placed an ultimatum, I would have my heart broken. So I did. And my answer was what I expected, so I am glad that I forced him into an answer. Because I am too good of a person to be dragged around for months while he made his choice. I want to move on, and this way it is so much easier to bounce back because really, the emotions I invested were very minimal. While I enjoyed his company, a serious future would not have materialized, and I need more than that.

So, I guess my lesson here is this: don’t be afraid to experience life and love. But, as females, we have to be smart about it. Especially those of us in our 30’s. We don’t have the same time to bounce back as we did in our 20’s, and so play it smart. Have fun. And, depending on who you are, YOU set the time limit you need to figure out if he is the one. Always remember though to stay true to yourself, because that is who will always be there, even after he is gone.

Baby Steps

The other day I was talking to my friends about my take on relationships. Apparently, I’m cold and unromantic because I think that certain things guy do are stifling and obnoxious. For instance, I don’t like it when a guy is completely adoring in the first few weeks of meeting me. I have my own life going on and can’t drop everything to talk on the phone multiple times a day. A guy who constantly praises my looks turns me off because I feel like after the first 20 or 400 times….I get it, ok? You think I’m pretty or whatever other generic term you like to use. I also find it odd when a guy is ready to spend money on me from the first time we meet or hang out….like, shouldn’t you know if I am worth the $50 you’re about to spend on dinner? I don’t mind if we go dutch the first few times until you’re positive you like me.

So is there something wrong with me thinking that way? My friends tell me over and over again that I push guys away with this type of thinking, but I really don’t know how to be that other type of girl. I can’t let a guy just wine and dine me because- let’s face it- this ain’t no movie and we’re not characters in The Notebook. (Excuse my English there, I just had to let that out)

The problem is, when a guy showers me with gifts and adoration, I feel that it isn’t genuine. Why? Maybe because I never experienced that before in any relationship and I feel like it’s just a ploy to get me to let me guard down and then break my heart. Maybe. I haven’t really thought about it that much. Haha. But seriously. I just feel like it’s so fake and just a show. But a lot of these guys are truly genuine, because once they realize I’m a cold bitch, they move on to wine and dine another girl I know and live happily ever after. So what I have realized is that I need to let go some of the previous relationship trepidation and allow a guy to treat me in the way he feels I deserve.

This isn’t to say that I will turn mushy and clingy and expect a dozen roses every month (I hate roses, such a typical choice. Surprise me with Casablanca lilies and we’ll talk). Or that I will let him pay every time we go out (and I won’t because I work too so why not?). Or that I will decalre my love for him on social media and stamp our date with those annoying marriage emoticons on my IG profile (seriously, just stop it girls. We know you’re engaged/married. We saw the bajillion pics you posted for the past 4 years.)

What I WILL do is allow a guy to tell me he likes me, call me, pay for me…on occasion. I will be charming and sweet, until he touches on one of my hot-button topics (like misogyny or hijab) or he says something that truly offends me (then the gloves come off). I guess it’s like I have reverted to my pre-adolescent stage and I need to start off the next relationship with baby steps until I feel I am ready to run right into his arms (which is SO cheesy that I’d never do it.) The truth of the matter is, I just turned 32, and honestly, I have too much potential as an amazing partner to let it go to waste being single. Call me arrogant, but hey, it’s the truth.

So, here’s to a new change in my life. Let’s pray that I don’t overdose on this and become one of those annoying girls we’ve all come to hate.