jdeena

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

Tag: work

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.

Fixer-upper

Last night when I walked into the house after a long, exhausting day of furniture building, work, and a tedious workout, my dad calls me over. Without even a “hello” he pulls out his phone, scrolls through his gallery, and holds up a picture of a guy. He just held it up; no commentary, no explanation. So I was forced to ask “who’s that?” He replied, “someone who wants to meet you!” I looked down at the phone, back up to my dad, and simply said “no” and walked away.

Now, you might be thinking that is rude and disrespectful. On the surface it does seem to teeter on the edge of that assumption. However, if you have read any of my other blogs, you’d know that this isn’t an unusual occurance. My parents are forever trying to set me up. It’s exhausting dodging their advances. But last night really got to me because it made me realize that it will never matter what I accomplish on my own; if there is no man by my side I will never be successful in their eyes. I recently landed a job as the fundraising coordinator for the Syrian American Medical Society. I will be moving to Youngstown in a few short weeks. This is an amazing opportunity for me and I couldnt be more grateful. Yet my dad is trying to set me up with some guy who lives HERE.  

Tell me, what exactly does he think will happen? That the guy will move to Youngstown for me? That he will accept waiting to get engaged until I have settled into my new role, which could be months down the line? That he will support my new career and give me the space I need to settle in? Okay, yes, maybe just MAYBE I will get lucky and he will do all that. But that is a very slim chance. I prefer to go with the majority, which usually is what happens to me. I have yet to be in a relationship where the man fully supports me. And that is fine; I am perfectly content with supporting myself. However, please do not come to me just after reciving the best job offer of my life and throw a man into the mix. It’s just not going to happen.  

After my dad went upstairs to bed, my mom and I sat down to watch our usual late-night Arabic shows. Of course the topic of marriage came up, and she asked me why I didn’t want to meet the guy. I told her about having a new job and that it wasn’t something I could allow at the moment. And then I told her how I didn’t find the guy attractive. That may seem shallow to you, but before you judge me I’d like for you to consider who your spouse or partner is and just TRY to convince me that you don’t find them remotely attractive. Just try. Anyways, I told my mom he seemed very old-school and had no taste in fashion and that I was looking for someone more put together. My mom’s response was that I could always fix him up and make him look how I liked.  

This guy is 28. If he needs MY help this late in the game in order to look decent, then I definitely don’t need him in my life! Look, that explanation may have worked on me when I was 22, but it’s almost 10 years later and I need a guy who already knows how to get it together. I’m in my 30’s;  if I meet a guy now I don’t have the same time I would have had when I was in my 20’s to help mold a guy into the image I want. Is it too much to ask for a well-dressed, put together guy with his shit together? Sorry for the language, since I rarely curse, but it had to be said! I am tired of friends telling me “you can fix him after you’re married.” NO. No I will not, because I dont have the time to “fix” someone else. It’s taken me almost 30 years to become the kind of person I am content with- no way am I starting that with someone else.  

I know people will judge me because I mention looks are important,  but I know it is important to everyone. Otherwise we’d all have ended up with partners we’ve lusted after. That rarely every works out in our favor. And some of you might tell me that if I indeed want someone who looks a specific way that I should just change him into what I want. But you are missing the point. I shouldn’t have to change him. If I did he wouldn’t be himself. I want a guy who is already himself, someone who has worked on achieving his perfect self just as I have. And you can tell me to hold my breath because it’ll never happen, and I’ll tell you that I’m perfectly content living my life until he decides to appear. No way am I going to miss out on an amazing opportunity just because some guy wants to make an appearance in it right now.

Veiled Perception

On March 1, 1997, I made a decision that ultimately changed the course of the rest of my life. I started wearing the hijab.

I was a freshman in high school, and nothing could have prepared me for what was to become the defining characteristic in my being. I’ll admit; high school wasn’t easy. I endured a lot of snickering and pointing fingers. I had rumors made up about me. I lost friends. None of that mattered to me though because I had my Muslim friends outside of school who supported me. I was involved in my mosque and had a lot to be thankful for.

Then I started college. This was a whole new world for me. I was exposed to so many new experiences. I joined the usual activity groups like the Arab Student Union and Muslim Student Association. But then I was invited to join Student Government, and once I was in, the doors were flying open. I was so involved on campus that people knew me by name. My social circle expanded beyond the typical. I was now friends with many non-Muslims, and so things shifted a bit. I now had people asking me questions about Islam and my hijab. However, throughout all these inquiries, I remained myself. I acted as who I was, and never hid or altered my true being.

Truthfully, it was those from my similar background who judged me more than anyone else. They felt I was being “too liberal.” Just because I didn’t fit into the mold they expected me to fit in I was cast as a pariah. Looking back, I know now that those people didn’t know any better. Or maybe I’m just giving them the benefit of the doubt.

When 9-11 happened, I really thought my reign as campus queen would be over. I thought for sure the students on campus would turn the other way and hide under their ignorance. But I will never forget my first day back on campus after it all happened. I was in the Student Government office and one of my friends told me that she had been so worried about me and my family. And then she said something that has always been something I carry inside me. She said, “I don’t even notice the scarf on you anymore. At first it was something I saw, but now it’s just become a part of you that I don’t even see it anymore.”

I remember my eyes brimming with tears and my heart swelling with gratitude that I had found such an honest and compassionate person. It wasn’t just her though; the entire Student Government members echoed her sentiment. That was the day when I realized I could rule the world as a hijabi.

Since college, I have been afforded so many wonderful opportunities. I have never interviewed for a job and been denied for wearing the hijab. I have never been singled out in a crowd, or felt uncomfortable walking into a room. Yes, people stare at me at the mall. Yes, I have had some people make unnecessary comments to me. But hey, everyone gets stared at for some reason or another. People make derogatory comments to anyone, not just hijabis.

So, with all that being said, this is what I want to discuss: should Muslim women in America wait to wear the hijab until a much later age to avoid the perceived complications it may administer? Yes, wearing the hijab makes you stand out in society. Yes, Muslims have a negative image thanks to the media and extremists actions of a few. Is it fair to say though that hijab should be pushed aside until society is “more accepting?” I have heard some women say lately that they have a good standing with their childrens’ school, parents of their friends, and teammates. Meaning, that they feel they are giving a good image of Muslims, showing how modern and non-threatening we are. To them, wearing the hijab would make them seem “extreme.” They think that if they “win” these people over with their “normalcy” then 20 years down the road put on the hijab, these people will be more accepting. Also, they don’t feel that it is fair for their kids to have to explain to people why their mother “wears that thing on her head.”

I have to disagree.

I think that you can still present a positive image of Muslims as a woman who wears hijab. So what if your kids have to explain why you wear hijab? Are you ashamed to have them do that? Why is it such a big deal? It seems to me that although you feel you are being a modern Muslim, you are hiding what Islam really is. Hijab can be a beautiful thing, even “modern” as you so like to emulate.

It seems to me that what people want to do is “win” people over with their personality and then wear the hijab once they are confident that they will be accepted. However, no one ever said that wearing hijab was easy. You stick out like a sore thumb in society, especially here in the US. So there is a bit of a struggle, but that is to be expected. My job requires me to speak in front of 40 strangers every week and get them to trust and respect me enough to learn things that will help them become more successful at work. It may sound like it is hard, especially for a hijabi training mostly in the midwest, but it honestly is not.

I never feel uncomfortable or uneasy walking into a room. I’m not wondering if people are judging me or calling me a terrorist under their breath. If anyone has ever had any reservation about who I am, I have never heard it. What I HAVE heard, however, are people saying that they give me credit for wearing hijab in such an unforgiving society. I have girls who come up to me, grateful to see a minority female in corporate America. My hijab has given me more power and confidence than could have ever been thought imaginable.

So to all those women out there who don’t want to wear hijab because it will draw attention to them, I say this:

It’s best you don’t wear it until you are 100% invested. Even then, you will still have doubts. What you need to remember is that in our society, people will judge you no matter what. If it’s not for your hijab, it’s for your name. If not for your name, for your skin color. If not for that, then the color of your hair. You can choose to not wear hijab, but if you are seeking to live without judgement, you will never find that.

When I first got this job, I was in Chicago at dinner with my boss. Over our appetizers, he confided in me that he was worried about me training employees. I was confused as I asked him why. He told me he was afraid of how people would react to me. I personally had not thought of that, as those things never cross my mind. I almost laughed at him but I saw how serious he looked. He told me that when I walked into my interview, he instantly got nervous. Not because I was Muslim, but because he wasn’t sure how people would perceive me.

However, he said, by the end of the interview he no longer saw the scarf. All he saw was a great candidate for a trainer position. And that was when he knew that I would be okay.

This is my point, people. You CAN be viewed as just a normal person in society. Whether you have a hijab, a different skin color, an accent, or a non-traditional name, you can still be YOU. It may take a little longer for people to push past all that, but once they do they will see an amazing person. If they choose not to, well, then….that’s just their loss.