jdeena

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

Tag: stereotypes

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.

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Age IS Just a Number

Everyone has heard the saying “age is just a number.” Usually it’s someone younger saying it to justify their actions that are deemed too adult. Or an older women uses it as a defense when dating a younger man. Or, in my case, when a guy who is ten years younger than me tries to pursue me. But this post isn’t about me; not entirely.

One of my guy friends turned 40 this past Saturday. Granted, in most people’s lives, this would be cause for celebration. You have established a career, you have a great circle of friends and family, and you are content. I was browsing Instagram and Facebook and noticed no one had wished him a happy birthday. So I text him wishing him a wonderful birthday and many more healthy years to come. His response was less than enthusiastic. And I knew it would be, because I knew he felt he was missing something he should have had by his 40th birthday: a wife and kids.

Now, my friend is handsome (despite his protests that he isn’t), he’s VERY smart, accomplished, involved in the community, and respected by many. I have know him for ten years and he has always been there for me. Seeing him upset by this upset me as well. Why? Well, because I know where he is coming from. For males, it is more accepted that they get married and start a family later. For females…not so much. But my friend feels that even he has pushed the limit. The thing is, he is SO amazing that it boggles my mind as to why no girl has snatched him up yet. Granted, he is a bit picky, but so is everyone.

After our brief text exchange, I concluded by telling him he has so much to be thankful for. His life is fulfilling and rich with purpose. If nothing else, he should be proud of those accomplishments that most people need a lifetime to achieve.

Later on in the day, I started thinking. It seems that my friend was feeling that he was missing something, but only because of his age. Had the two not been linked, I’m sure he would have been happy to celebrate his birthday. (He actually deactivated his Facebook so no one would know, and ignored all his friends’ phone calls and texts). The fact that he was 40, an age which most guys would have a family established, and was still single himself must have tugged at his heart. If there was anything I could do to convince him of his worth, I would have. What bothered me the most was the fact that he was consumed with the one thing missing in his life to appreciate all that he DID have.

If society doesn’t place an emphasis on age in regards to anything we accomplish, then no one would ever feel inadequate. People expect you to graduate college by 22, get married at 24, and have a child shortly after. When you don’t follow this timeline you are now viewed as a pariah. When I quit school 8 years ago to pursue my work in sales, everyone gave me the “that’s so sad” look when they heard I didn’t graduate college. But what we all need to remember is that life isn’t so perfect all the time. Sometimes the career comes before the degree. Sometimes marriage comes after 30. Sometimes kids come after 40. To me, whatever makes YOU happy should determine when you do things.

Right now I’m 31, bordering on 32. When I turned 30, I was single. I was working my hourly sales job after stepping down as a manager. As much as I wanted to sulk, I didn’t. Because at 30, I had been afforded opportunities most hadn’t experienced yet. I was loved. I had a wonderful family and group of friends supporting me. So what if I was 30 and didn’t have a husband or kids?

Am I the only one who sees no importance in being married? To be so accomplished across the board and then be missing just that last puzzle piece should not make you feel incomplete. Focus on what you DO have going for you. Don’t dwell on the one thing that is taking a little longer to make its way to you. If you do, you’re going to miss out on all the great things life has handed you. Enjoy your life now.

Understanding Love

A couple of weeks ago I came across an account on Twitter called “Love, Inshallah.” I think one of my friends retweeted one of their tweets. Anyways, it seemed interesting and so I clicked on it. Turns out, it was a good thing I did. “Love, Inshallah” is actually a book written by two talented authors: Ayesha Mattu and Nura Maznavi. They took the stories of 25 American Muslim women and published them in one book. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started reading the book, but I know that I had never expected to relate so much to the women in it.

I had expected the usually sugar-coated versions of love stories. However, these stories were so raw in the sense that they delved into the subject of sex and cross-religious relationships openly. For the first time in my life I felt like I was not alone in my struggle to find love. Some of the stories mirrored my own so specifically that I found myself crying without realizing I was doing so. The women in this book (as well as the authors) risked a lot in order to honestly tell their stories, and I appreciate it so much.

It’s not a secret that I have refused the idea of marriage. I was raised in a typical Muslim household, with the emphasis on no dating and allowing my parents to help me choose my mate. As I grew more independent, the idea of a traditional courtship held no appeal to me, and I couldn’t imagine meeting my husband in such a controlled and formalized setting. I wanted to be able to meet the guy on my own and then fall in love. It’s what every girl dreams of, right?

However, I have not been lucky in love. It may be that I am a difficult person in the way that I demand things done a certain way. I am not traditional by any means when it comes to relationships, whether you are Muslim or not. I believe both the man and woman need to still retain an independent life away from the other while married so as not to lose themselves in each other. I see too many women who give up their hobbies and goals in order to be someone’s “wife” and I cannot bring myself to do the same. It may be selfish, but to me, my hobbies and interests are who I am; they make me the person that I am and to take them away will strip me of my identity.

Because of my non-traditional views, I have always been seen as the rebellious one. Everyone has a comment to contribute when I bring up my ideas. I sometimes feel so much like a pariah that I try and convince myself to just get married and do what everyone else did…that it won’t be so bad. But then my mind thinks of the unforeseen obstacles down the line and I recoil as quickly as I approached the idea. I just don’t see it for me…at least not in the traditional sense. So I’ve floated along, alone in my thoughts, until I read “Love, Inshallah”.

The fact that there are 25 different women in the book is great because it gives you 25 different stories on love. We all know that love is not the same for every person. Each of us values something different. Some may want an unconditional love. Some may want an all-consuming love. Even some may want less love- such as an arrangement as a second wife. I used to judge the women who were second, third, or fourth wives, but now I know that some of them simply want a marriage- just not everyday lol. Being a second wife gives you the freedom to still be independent while married (although I still don’t think I’d ever do it myself.)

So stop trying to fit women and their love into a box. Society places such emphasis on the “right” kinds of love: chasteness, reserved, shy, etc….when in reality Muslim women are just like any other woman out there. We all want to be swept off our feet; we want romantic nights and special dinners. Being Muslim does not mean the absence of emotion. Yet when we admit that we feel these things we are labeled and made to feel ashamed. Why?

Reading this book has given me a perspective that I now feel more comfortable and confident in expressing my beliefs. Whereas I was once leery of being the outcast, I can now proudly hold true to my beliefs without fear of being categorized as a bitter, lonely singleton. I am a smart, driven woman who just happens to be single. It’s not a crime. And when my love is ready to find me, it’ll know where to look.