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

Tag: stereotype

Personification of a Female

I’m obsessed with social media. At any point of the day, you can find me with my phone in my hand, scrolling through Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Some may call is obsessive, but I hardly ever watch TV and so I get all my news from articles posted by the local police, weather, and news stations.

So it’s no surprise that on a daily basis, I see posts made by friends on these sites that tend to irk me a little. For instance, the other day I was scrolling through Instagram and saw a mother post a picture of her daughter baking a cake and then washing the dishes. Underneath the picture was the caption: “future housewife in training.” My stomach roiled at the phrase. The girl was no more that 7 or 8 years old. Already, her mother was conditioning her to be a housewife. It unsettled me.

Why? Because we are still, as a society, giving girls the impression that they need to be good at cooking and cleaning so that they can be a good wife and mother, or else she is worth very little. Why not teach her to be an entrepreneur and give her the encouragement to start a lemonade stand? Or teach her about leadership and give her the tools to start a group with her friends that comes up with ways to help in society? Maybe you think I’m being dramatic, but it seems that all we do from the time a girl is born, is mold her into the future wife and mother you expect her to become.

Not all girls are meant to get married. Some may not have kids. Yet if this is what we continue to drill into their young, impressionable minds as they grow, they will reach adulthood and feel that if they do not adhere to these roles, they must be defective somehow. Women are meant to be more than just mothers and wives. They can contribute so much more to society if you would just let them. And while women can have a family and work, the stigma that surrounds a working mother makes her feel that she is selfish for wanting to do something for herself by working when she has children at home. I have heard it time and time again from a multitude of people: society and the values we used to hold dear have gone downhill because there is no mother at home, cementing these values and making sure the kids are brought up right. However, the blame should not be placed on the women; men have just as much responsibility in raising the kids as women do.

Too often we blame the woman for all that is wrong in society. Take rape for example. Women are taught to dress a certain way to fit into society, and when they are attacked by a rapist, they are told it is because the way they dress. Society has yet to take a stand against men and tell them that it doesn’t matter how a woman dresses; it gives them no right to rape them. The woman is told that she was raped because she brought it on, which leads to years of self-doubt and loathing. Men are now the superior gender in her eyes because as a female, she brought this upon herself. Just look at women overseas who are used as pawns in mens’ patriarchal games. A woman in India is raped by a man who was cheated by her brother as a punishment to the brother for his unprofessional business etiquette. Now that the woman is deemed impure by society’s standards, her brother will kill her in order to save the family’s honor. It is devastating and atrocious to see women used like this all over the world. And here we are in America, holding our daughters back from advancing by teaching them at a young age to be good housewives.

There is a balance. A woman can be successful and a great mother/wife. I will never think that any of my married friends are less than intelligent or accomplished. I can only imagine how hard being a mother is. I have seen enough glimpses of that life to know that it is not for me. But please, mothers, teach your daughters to be strong, independent, and successful women. It is the only way to truly secure their future. While marrying a great guy can give security, that security is fleeting. What will stay with a girl throughout her life will be the value that you invest her; value that no one will ever be able to take away.

“I Speak for Myself”

Ahhhh…finally! I have felt so lost without my writing the last few weeks. I apologize for this dry spell but school had kept me so busy with end-of-the-semester assignments, and I took my last final this morning. So I am DONE!

So much has happened since the last time I blogged, and it was so hard for me to choose one topic to discuss this time around and so this blog may jump around a bit. And it may be long, so bear with me.

It comes as no surprise that I want to discuss the reactions and debates that ensued after the “Mipsterz” video went viral. In case you missed it, I’ll post it below for you to watch. The premise of the video was basically a group of Muslim hipsters that have formed a group based out of Washington DC, and they showed themselves in everyday scenarios: skateboarding, taking selfies, laughing and hanging out in groups, etc. The song playing in the background is Jay Z’s “Somewhere in America,” and I’m not Jay Z fan, but the it has a good enough beat. However, it was the unedited version which threw some people for a loop. Whatevs. That’s not the only thing that upset people though.

One online writer posted an article titled “Somewhere in America Muslim Women are Cool,” where she went on to discuss the many “errors” in representation of Islam and Muslim women in the video. Now, I believe everyone should have freedom of speech and their right to an opinion; however, she was demeaning in her comments. She said the women were being sexualized, objectified, and the video didn’t really do anything but show a one-sided image of Muslim women. Well, yea….hence the title “Mipsterz.” Not every Muslim woman can identify with being a hipster; the women in this video clearly felt that they did. No big deal. As for being objectified? The girls were dressed in their own style willingly. No one told them what to wear. So if you felt that a girl’s pants were too tight, or her top too flashy….well, I’m sorry. That’s her style.

I actually know a few of the girls in the video, and when I watched it I felt so proud. Not only that, I felt that I could identify with them. Although I don’t consider myself a hipster, I do have my own style of hijab that has evolved over the years into something I am now comfortable with. Wearing hijab for 17 years it was always hard to balance Islam and my American identity. And when people say we don’t need to act “American” I must disagree. We live here; why shouldn’t we adapt? We can still keep our culture and religion. To me it seems like the ones that are threatened by embracing an American identity are the ones whose faith is weak. If you felt secure, you wouldn’t have an issue incorporating American culture as well.

But I digress.

Anyways, after that article came out, all hell broke loose. Facebook was filled with shares of the article, the video, and a follow-up article posted days after the initial one, titled “Somewhere in America, Muslim Women are Being Shamed.” And it was a good article too. Everything I wanted to say was said. Muslim fashion bloggers posted their opinions, as they too are always being attacked for their “incorrect” representation of Islam. To me, I felt like FINALLY, an issue that has plagued our communities has come to light. The problem with living in America in the age of social media is that everyone feels like the Big Man behind a screen. Words are hurled at fellow sisters, disguised as “advice,” but are really meant to judge and criticize openly with no repercussions. Bottom line is, no one can judge another person.

Oh, I know what people are thinking. Some girls I know even posted their thoughts on that under my status, saying things like “well, only God can judge BUT we know how she is dressed is wrong.” Um, no….we DON’T know that. Because you know what? We don’t know what is in her heart. We don’t know at what point she is in her spiritual journey. In fact, she might actually be at a higher level than you, even though you cover your hair. Yes, her neck might be showing, or the front part of her hair, or a sliver of her arm. That, however, does not give you the right to put her on blast on social networks for everyone to read. Come to think of it, that behavior doesn’t seem very Islamic to me, and yet YOU are judging HER? Give me a break.

That brings me to my last point (maybe). I am so shocked and appalled at the amount of negativity Muslim women aim at each other. No, it’s not all, but a significant enough amount that I have noticed. As I said, I follow many of the Muslim fashion bloggers on Instagram, and it just amazes me all of the negative comments I read. Again, it is so easy to hide behind a screen, and I doubt any of these women would dare to utter such hurtful comments face-to-face (at least I hope not). These negative comments are what drive our own AWAY from the religion. When a girl decides to wear the hijab, and then gets attacked on Facebook or Instagram for her style of dress, it makes her feel ashamed. I know one girl in particular who started off her fashion blog with hijab, endured many awful comments, and ended up taking off the hijab. The funny part is that once she took it off, the comments STILL remained judgmental and ugly, this time criticizing the fact that she took off the hijab.

Ok, wait. First, you don’t like the way she wears hijab, and nag her to the point she takes it off….and now that she has taken it off, you nag her even more. I don’t get it! I say leave her be, and focus on yourself. And while we all like to think we’ve achieved perfection, chances are, you haven’t. This particular blogger has since tried to wear hijab again, and of course the critics came out in droves. She has since made a statement that her wearing the hijab is a journey, and for everyone to respect her. Which I feel is admirable.It’s a personal journey that no one should feel compelled to comment on.

I titled this post “I Speak for Myself” which is both true as well as a title of a book. I received this book as a gift from a non-Muslim last year, as he saw my struggles in attaining the “right” identity. This book tells the stories of 40 Muslim American women from all backgrounds and in different professions. It talk about their journey to finding their identity and some of the struggles they faced. The common theme, however, is that all the women recognize that while they are all Muslim, their story is just that- theirs. Each story speaks to that individual woman. We are all Muslims, yes; however the thing that makes us so beautiful is our differences, and even more so, our acceptance of those difference amongst our sisters.

Link to Mipsterz video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z3Nq0NzRrfE


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.