Look at him.
Look at him.
My heart my heart my heart.
White people, how does anyone not look at a man like that and think–What do you want? You can have it Jesus Christ you can have it take it all.
My first lesson in economics–specifically, in capitalism–came when I was 16 and decided to apply for a job at a Tutoring Service That Shall Not Be Named. Mind you, my mother would not have actually let me work at 16, but I was determined to be an independent young lady and applied for the job anyway.
Months before I came to this decision, I wanted to write a play for my school. (God, don’t ask me why; I was full of terrible ideas.) One of my friends, who was quite skilled in photoshop, offered to make promotional posters. I told her I’d do her better and pay her to make them. We settled for $10/hour, which, at the age of 16, was appealing enough. In the end, I owed her $50, but, because she was a friend of mine, I paid her $100 out of the savings I’d accumulated over the years. Consider it an early birthday gift, I told her.
Fast forward a few months, when Tutoring Service That Shall Not Be Named asks me for a job reference. I think for a few seconds, and then realize I’d had a perfectly refined, polished, and mature business transaction with the aforementioned friend of mine. She happily agrees to be a reference. A week later I get a call from Tutoring Service That Shall Not Be Named informing me I’d been declined for the job.
This comes as a bit of a surprise to me, considering I’d had an outstanding review, aced every subject area test, and demonstrated complete competence in working with children. I asked Tutoring Service That Shall Not Be Named politely if they might provide a reason for the declination, because–as tactful as was the independent young woman I was determined to become–I would always welcome some constructive criticism.
The woman on the phone responded that she actually had no criticisms. I was communicative, exceptionally bright, and had a disposition that made people naturally like me. She said, “But then we called your reference…”
“Oh…” I began, my heart sinking. “Did she say something negative?” I felt personally hurt despite reminding myself this was a professional context and I should be a grown up lady about it–the friend and I had a smooth, easy, trusting friendship and I could not imagine her saying anything negative about me that she didn’t tell me directly.
“Oh no!” said the woman on the phone. “Not at all. In fact, she said you were patient, fair and generous…” her tone changed as she added, “and that you overpaid her.”
“…We don’t feel comfortable hiring someone we suspect might be too generous with company time. Since we charge clients by the hour, we need to make sure our employees aren’t the type to provide services for free. It’s a loss of company money. We monitor this carefully.”
“Okay…” I said slowly. “I respect your decision, although I must point out that one makes a distinction between money that is hers to spend and money that isn’t.”
Then I hung up, and from that point on, would ask any pianist, hairdresser, graphic designer, florist, or anyone else I ever hired or worked with closely, to never mention that I possibly might be remotely generous.
You can’t make this shit up.
My coworkers and I are rather fond of each other. I’m very lucky that way, and seeing as I’m one of those women who have always drawn a distinct line between their personal and professional lives, it’s really saying something as to how wonderful these women are. They’re both white women, and when one of them burst into laughter at the sight of a resume (“Look at this resume. Only a white male would list his children on his resume.”) I nearly proposed my eternal love to her. I’ve discussed the violin with them, described my writing, borrowed classical music composition books, made confessions as to the exact degree of my introversion, inquired about the effectiveness of ballet as a workout, ruminated on the possibility that all we know emerged from a collapsed star in a 4D universe–I even once texted one of them at 3am about my day. We’ve talked about life and dreams and love.
There are still certain boundaries I’ve drawn (I won’t, for example, be Facebook friends with them) to make it clear we are, ultimately, coworkers, not friends, but in all honesty I sometimes share more with them than anyone else–I would have said it’s a common trait of the career woman, but I know I couldn’t do this with just anyone I worked with; it’s their personality types. Somehow we mesh really well. We exchange glances. We make the same humorous remarks. The same injustices outrage us, regardless of how “minor.”
When one of my coworkers went off on a week-long vacation (the other was a new mom and checked out early before I arrived), I happened to feel like wearing a flowy olive dress on a Friday. Because of the coworker on vacation, however, I thought no one will see me in this and, since I wouldn’t wear it twice within one week, reserved the dress for her return. (Of course, people would see me in the dress. What I meant was–no one whose opinion I cared about would see it.) I wore the dress on Monday instead, and realized when I got to the office that she wouldn’t be back until Tuesday.
It occurred to me then, as it had before, that I, a straight woman, had just dressed up for another straight woman–that it was some form of affectionate bonding. I would not have actually commented on the dress, or expected her to, but the fact that I had waited until I could share the vision of myself in it with her is subversive of any patriarchal claim that women dress certain ways for men. There were men in the building, but regardless of whether I wore heels and pencil skirts, I would never dress for them.
As I walked out of the office into the general building, I happened to pass by a stairwell up which a man was struggling to pull a very heavy desk. Despite sensing immediately that the piece of furniture could roll down at any moment and was therefore a threat to my physical safety, I called out, “Need any help?” I couldn’t stop myself; the poor man was red in the face. It would be callous, I thought, to simply walk past him, even though I recognized that at 100 pounds, I would hardly be of any real help and might be committing some grievance against myself.
“Yes please,” he blurted, heaving out the words. I walked up to the massive piece of furniture and attempted to shove it up the stairs in his direction. I didn’t know who he was; I was all too aware of the fact that if he were to let go even a little, the desk would come crashing down into me. As I grabbed the furniture, the man was able to relax a little, but I couldn’t move the desk. He tried pulling it up again, and this time was able to move it further.
“I don’t think I’m much help,” I remarked. What I meant of course was that I wasn’t enough help to actually relieve him of the weight of the desk;–I only made a difference in so far as countering its gravitation pull downward, which, seeing as that ultimately got him to move it, was pretty significant anyway.
“Ha, I should get one of those young guys to do it,” he laughed.
I scoffed audibly. He must have realized he’d offended me, because there was a slight change in his expression. “What you need,” I wanted to say, “is someone who’s more than a hundred pounds–of any sex.” I was well aware I couldn’t lift enough to really help him; I was also aware this had nothing to do with the fact that I’m a woman and everything to do with the fact that, with ballet, I had chosen flexibility over the applicable kind of strength. Unfortunately, I was in a position in which he could very easily hurt me (by simply letting go) and I didn’t know enough of his character to determine whether he could handle being antagonized or would throw an emotional fit. It was not worth paralysis.
“You have this then?” I said, sounding irritated.
“Just–a little–more,” he strained. He took a brief pause. And then, almost as though in attempt to undo the wrong he’d just committed, said, “You must be restricted in that dress.”
It was a vain attempt to blame my unhelpfulness on the dress rather than my strength, and a horribly offensive one, as though my choice of this feminine attire (which is actually rather liberating to the legs, and would have otherwise been an imposition of his patriarchy) was what made me weaker, not the fact that he was expecting a fish to climb a tree. (Let’s see who can do the splits?) I clenched my jaw in suppressed anger. To make matters worse, in that moment as he rested, his eyes swept over me opportunely–the way I was positioned, further down the steps below him, made me conveniently accessible to him–and I could tell, from both my familiarity with the male gaze and from his expression, his thoughts were uninvited ones. I shoved the desk suddenly in his direction, and he started, as if remembering his task. With a single determined heave he pulled it up entirely into the next floor.
“That’s it then,” I said coolly and turned to walk back down the flight. “Thanks!” he called out.
I told myself I shouldn’t have stopped to help him; the worst that could have happened is that he would have been unable to lift the desk, would have let go, and the furniture would be damaged with nothing to stop it from rolling down. If he’d made that mistake while I tried, I wouldn’t have had the strength of/or weight to stop it from continuing down the stairs even on my impact–and it would’ve destroyed me with it. I don’t just dislike putting myself in situations where I’m dependent on some else’s mercy–when that someone else is a strange man I can not trust, it’s a psychotic fucking hatred of the circumstance. But I couldn’t have just walked past him–I hadn’t been conditioned to think of myself first.
Why had he been attempting to lift that thing up the steps himself anyway, without a lift? When he endangering not only himself but anyone who chanced to walk by below? What an idiotically masculine thing to do.
The incident reminded me of something else that had dawned on me early into my current employment; my workplace isn’t just wonderfully non-toxic for a corporate office–the fact that I work closely with mainly women meant events like this never happened. This man worked outside of my office, in the same general building, and chances are I’ll probably never have to hear his “benevolently” misogynistic remarks again.
With my coworkers, however, there wasn’t just the absence of misogyny–there was the kind of bonding that, when between men and masculinity, makes a male-dominated workplace impenetrable for women. As much as I’d wondered whether it was objectionable that I had texted my coworker at 3 in the morning–well, let’s face it, the glass ceiling exists because men text their coworkers at 3 in the morning. And have “business meetings” at strip clubs.
It’s interesting, then, what’s considered “professional”–and who is policed to that perception.
In my quiet little corporate workplace, there was a warm, inviting shift in the cultural makeup, where we discuss piano accompaniments and religion and astronomy rather than boisterously appealing to each other’s masculine inclinations. Any man–if he didn’t fit the atmosphere pre-established by our personalities–would feel like a fish out of water. And this is what patriarchy does to women, with exaggerated demonstrations of masculine culture forming exclusionary impenetrable connections, on a systematic level.
Are you aware of what has been taken from you? I have seen fragments of liberation. If we only knew the full extent of how we’d been wronged, we would set the world on fire.
Did you know the first institution granting academic degrees in the world was founded by a Muslim woman? Of course you didn’t.
Fatima Muhammad Al-Fihri’s university, the University of Qarawiyyin in Fes, Morocco, is still in operation today. It is the world’s oldest institution of education to continually operate, and after its construction in 859, the university quickly became one of the leading education centers in the world. Conveniently located within the compounds of a mosque that would in the coming centuries expand to become the largest enclosed mosque in the continent of Africa–capacity 22,000–the university attracted scholars from all over the world to the magnificently influential city of Fes. Abu Al-Abbas al-Zwawi, Abu Madhab Al-Fasi, and Leo Africanus are some of the leading thinkers, theorists, and writers produced by Al-Fihri’s university. Renowned mapmakers, astonomers, and historians attended as students. Al-Fihri’s sister, Mariam built the Al-Andalus mosque.
Both sisters were known to have been extremely pious. Fatima Muhammad Al-Fihri, despite having no experience in architecture, oversaw the construction of the mosque and the university in great detail and with great dedication until the project was complete. Non-Muslims were attracted to the mosque as well, and the university played a pivotal role in the cultural and intellectual interactions between the Middle East and Europe. A variety of subjects were taught at the university, including Islamic law, medicine, mathematics, astronomy, chemistry, history, and–gasp!–music.
Although Al-Fihri was a wealthy woman and contributed considerably to her community, little biographical information has been written or preserved about her. Women who inherit their fathers’ fortunes, you see, give grandly, live quietly, and vanish from the face of the earth while the universities they establish are associated with a patronage of sultans– and their extensive biographies. Al-Fihri, instead, will be (and has been) renowned instead for her modesty and her charitable nature–the “sacrificial Muslim woman (TM)” who gives unthinkingly to her community–and not for her great leadership.
For some reason y’all keep emailing me about relationship advice, presumably because when Muslim women convert to Islam there are imams who actually tell them they need to divorce their non-Muslim husbands. Forget those imams. What kind of “religious man” is that kind of a homewrecker? Also, what is wrong with you? Why are you taking that seriously? You need me to tell you not to divorce the spouse you are perfectly in love with, really? People, you have got to stop sending me this question. The answer is NO. The answer is NO of course you don’t have to divorce your non-Muslim husband, you fool. What really infuriates me is that you KNOW those same imams are advising patience to women with abusive husbands. It distresses me to no end that a woman who has just converted to Islam and is likely attempting to reconcile so many things already would be pressured by her new community into further destabilizing her sense of self by divorcing a spouse she does not wish to divorce.
The next time I get this question (it will have been the 40th) I am linking you directly to this post. And metaphorically smacking you upside the head.
So that’s that. And it’s pretty final. Moving on, I have Things to Say About Other Things I’ve been asked. Like WHY ISN’T THIS WORKING and such.
When two people first begin to consider each other as romantic possibilities, if they are reasonable they will each know that the other has faults. But it’s not likely either will know what those faults are. A man who’s romantically interested in me likely doesn’t know that I daydream to the point of neurosis, that I’m impatient–sometimes (horrifyingly) even with people I love, that when I’ve grown comfortable in a relationship I’m prone to an escapism that substitutes interaction with the fantasy that fulfills the need for it in reality. That the kind of relationship I need is an unconventional one. Once the relationship begins to quiet into a predictable routine, I will inevitably mistake it for an unbearable kind of dissonance with the core of my being–but due to my growing uninterest, I will not be able to engage the effort to communicate this. Attempts will result in vacuous conversation. This is hard for me to say–but I do let go emotionally. I know that I need to have both an independent life to avoid burn-out and somehow simultaneously maintain enough interest to want to disclose what is happening in that life so that I’m not emotionally distant. Eventually I will need to resolve this.
Whether one personality accommodates or responds appropriately to weaknesses like these in the other is something people should know before they get married, but the problem is that hardly anyone knows these faults about themselves, much less each other. They don’t know the kind of person they really need. They know the traits they find desirable–meaningless things, like “sense of humor” or “intelligence” or any of the other generic words that really mean nothing at all without a point of reference, which is, inevitably, one’s flawed sense of self. But I have never short-changed myself by choosing my friends based on personality rather than character. I am wise enough to know I should do the same with lovers, and I would advise this for anyone–except the way we live, we haven’t the chance to know character to the point of intimacy. What contributes to the difficulty in realizing someone’s character is that everyone, or at least I, tend to romanticize flaws when we list them. I’ll mention that I’ve flown off within a moment’s notice to another country across the sea for a friend or worthy cause. Certainly, that all sounds noble and romantic–until it isn’t. Until it manifests itself into an obstacle; I don’t know how yet, but it is, after all, an impulsion. A sign of unreasonable stubbornness. Almost a delusion; a level of passion that is incompatible with reality.
Most people know that what they are looking for is character but haven’t quite registered it fully. For example, sometimes I hear ridiculous or troublesome things, like, “I want someone who doesn’t have a problem with the fact that I’m smarter him.” Let’s set aside for a minute that that’s kind of a really gross sentence. I mean, I understand the spirit of it; I know first hand it’s frustrating when men overcompensate because they are intimated by a woman’s intelligence. I don’t know how you even compare something like that; it’s not something I really do (or have any interest in doing for that matter), but I know it’s likely not the speaker herself who is responsible for the comparing, but her partner who has brought it to her attention by behaving unreasonably about it. But what the speaker is really saying is she wished her partner were of better character. When a man is “less intelligent” than you he shouldn’t behave like an ass–he also shouldn’t behave like an ass when he is “more intelligent.” That is blatantly equally sexist. That is what you are trying to say. You’re welcome.
The problem is, when it comes to traits like “intelligence”–however it may be measured–sentiments like “someone who doesn’t have a problem with the fact that I’m smarter than him” run the risk of shortchanging an individual by readjusting her mentality to look for someone who isn’t. Why would you actively do that to yourself? I don’t even–just stop. Stop thinking in terms of traits that (1) don’t mean anything (2) make you kind of a horrible person for keeping a scoresheet (3) fool you into believing you should expect him not to be smart–you want him to be smart, trust me. Once again, don’t shortchange yourself.
Which means I’m not saying that personality doesn’t matter, obviously–you need to be able to hold a conversation with each other. That is an urgent and nonnegotiable truth. But character–character is all the things you want and couldn’t explain. Until now. I know, I’m a genius.
It’s also possible everything I just wrote is nonsense. I don’t know–I’m an unmarried woman. Take it for what it’s worth. Next up: parenting advice for parents from a woman who isn’t a parent. *claps enthusiastically*
Umar, the only corrupted caliph of the first four, publicized stoning as a punishment for adultery, a penal ordinance that does not appear in the Qur’an and was delivered by the Prophet in cases when the adulterer was non-Muslim, such as the case of a Jewish woman in Medina whose people had agreed to an Islamic government only if it were separated from Jewish law. The Prophet, in order to keep peace and maintain religious freedom by recognizing non-Muslim laws among the residents he governed, allowed Jewish citizens to maintain their own sub-courts. However, association of stoning with Islamic law was promulgated by Umar after the Prophet’s death.
Unsurprisingly, Umar was known to be cruel to his wives and to physically assault them. Attempting to confine women to their homes, Umar also sought to deter women from attending prayers at the mosques, and, though he failed to accomplish this, managed temporarily to assign not only separate groups but separate imams for men and women. Although the men were led by an imam of their own sex, the women, of course, were led not by a female imam but a male one. They were also prevented from being imams themselves, though while the Prophet was alive, a woman—Umm Waraqa—was appointed to lead both men and women in prayer. This separation arrangement was revoked by the succeeding caliph, Uthman.
Part of Umar’s agenda to confine women to separate quarters manifested in his prohibition for Muhammad’s wives to go on pilgrimage, from which they had not been forbidden while the Prophet was alive. He lifted the restriction the year before he died, but the (historically influential) damage of this and other laws was done. It was not the first time that Umar sought to regulate the behaviors of women by restricting their ability to travel or interact with the opposite sex; while Muhammad was alive, Umar insisted that the Prophet separate his wives from himself, as was the practice of wealthy leaders. Umar was initially unsuccessful with this, as Muhammad did not have his own separate room but shared different rooms with his wives on different nights. While it is true that Muhammad’s wives were harassed by hypocrites who would attempt to assault them, Umar’s proposed solution (that the wives make themselves unrecognizable as the Prophet’s wives by separating themselves from the Prophet) was different from God’s—which was the veil.
But unlike what is commonly understood as the function of the veil, the purpose of the hijab is to separate the intimacy between a wedded couple from the patriarchal intrusions of the outside world. When the Prophet married Zeynab bint Jahsh, a woman renowned for her incredible beauty, he was quietly frustrated by indiscreet male guests who overstayed their welcome, and—as the verse curiously notes that none of the Prophet’s wives are permissible to other men—may have been meddling for indecent reasons. The verse reads,
O you who have believed!
do not enter
the houses of the Prophet
except when you are permitted for a meal,
without awaiting its readiness.
But when you are invited,
and when you have eaten, disperse without seeking
to remain for conversation.
Indeed, that [behavior] was troubling the Prophet,
and he is shy of [dismissing] you.
But God is not shy of
And when you ask [his wives] for something,
ask them from behind a partition.
That is purer for your hearts and their hearts.
And it is not conceivable or lawful for you
to harm the Messenger of God
or to marry his wives after him, ever.
Indeed, that would be in the sight of God an enormity.
It is clear from context then that the notion of whether the men were inappropriately interested in the new bride is not one that is out of question. This opens the verse to the possibility of an abstract interpretation: a veil over the heart, to ensure its purity.
Fawzia Afzal-Khan writes in “A Feminist Reclamation of Islam?” the following:
“The verse on the hijab descended at precisely the moment when the Prophet’s desire to consummate his marriage to the beautiful Zeynab was frustrated by the boorish behavior of his male guests who kept sitting in his living room long after the wedding banquet was over, and who the overly polite (“bordering on timid” as Mernissi describes him)—prophet of Islam, simply could not muster up enough courage to ask to leave. Finally, when they did depart, one male companion still hovered around, by the name of Anas Ibn Malik, and it is he who reported the event of the revelation of the verse about hijab as a witness.
Thus, according to Mernissi, the circumstances of this revelation point to an understanding of the notion of hijab as a tool to protect the intimacy of the wedded pair—their privacy—and to do so by excluding a third person, the man named Anas. He becomes a symbol, then, of a male dominant community that had become too invasive in the life and personal affairs of the prophet.”
This means that the hijab, in the most traditional sense, is meant to serve as a sanctuary against patriarchy; and not in the wear-this-and-you-will-be-protected-from-the-male-gaze kind of way accorded by mainstream, contemporary interpretations of Islam. Rather, it is meant to preserve the private expression and pursuit of Divine Love within a marriage from the overbearing reach of patriarchal exhibitionism.
Originally intended to keep out overbearing men, like Umar who attempt to tell other men how to behave toward their wives and seek to seclude them, from the privacy of quiet, marital understanding, the veil, over the centuries, has been misconstrued as a symbol of the exclusive rights of a husband to the beauty of his wife. In reality, the husband is included behind the veil, encompassed in a shield of love, and protected from the bellicose forces of masculine performance and societal expectations. Umar, patriarchy embodied, had attempted numerous times to impose the patriarchal practices of pre-Islamic societies and of the surrounding cultures onto Muhammad—an infamous preoccupation of the patriarchal male.
The hijab-literally ‘curtain’—‘descended,’ not to put a barrier between A man and a woman, but between two men.
A woman’s beauty, of course, belongs to no one, and can be policed by no one. Umar had tried—for the rest of time Umars will continue, in vain, to try.
When Colonialism Isn’t Enough Boko Haram, the male extremist militia who laughably refer to themselves as People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad, is still terrorizing Nigeria. Scholarly male douchebags of color who have claimed that Boko Haram is responding to a culmination of income inequalities, deprivation & poverty, insecurity, and political corruption fail to explain why Nigerian women who also suffer from income inequalities, deprivation & poverty, insecurity, and political corruption aren’t kidnapping schoolboys to traffic into sexual slavery. Since 2009, the male extremist group has slaughtered thousands and are responsible for the rape of hundreds of schoolgirls.
According to Boko Haram, women needn’t attend school because–as their name reads–Boko Haram’s philosophy is that ‘Western education is a sin.’ This, of course, provides men of color all the more opportunity to blame Boko Haram’s crimes against God on the imposition of the West in Nigeria, a symptom of colonialism that has, again, failed to manifest in the women who’ve suffered not only from colonialism but misogyny. But men of color, like white men, will find any excuse to rape women. What’s the difference between a white man and a man of color? The excuse he gives for rape.
Nigerian women have bravely protested and resisted the terror of Boko Haram, initiating every kind of movement except any that match Boko Haram in organized violence and sheer terror, because Nigerian women, like all women everywhere since the beginning of time, are fucking angels.
ISIS is really uncool, and so is the questionably racist propaganda circulating about them Solidarity to the Iraqi Christians who have been forcibly removed from their homes by the absurdly erratic ISIS, who not only insist that women comply with their restrictive dress codes, but have blown up religious sites revered by Christians and Muslims alike. Is it just me or can men seriously not aim? Did the West impose its educational system on you? Take it out on non-Western women! Did the US unlawfully invade your country and bomb it to the Stone Age? Take it out on Christians who have also been bombed to the Stone Age! In like, the same country. For the love of God, stop scoring into your own goal.
In White People Are Assholes type news, someone spread a rumor that ISIS is mandating FGM for all women and girls, which is bullshit and never happened. Where would you get that idea. Could it be STEREOTYPES.
Update: ISIS crucified 8 Christian members of a rival rebel group. What kind of psycho thinks of things like this? (The Romans, you answer, but it’s a little more twisted to do it to Christians for apostasy. That is like a special kind of sick.)
Israel is trying to be white Oh, what the hell, Israel IS white. They are all European Jews, and anyone who is not a European Jew is sterilized for being the Wrong Kind of Jew. Israel receives $3 BILLION dollars in funding from the US because it’s a US colony. It’s a US colony in which white people from all over Europe, who happen to be the Right Kind of Jew, recreate the ultimate vision of Manifest Destiny, slaughtering nearly a thousand Wrong Kind of Muslims and Christians in a matter of weeks. Certain imams believe the Palestinians are being murdered because they aren’t pious enough. I see your poor application of 13:11 and raise you 29:10.
Muslims in China are fired for being Muslims in China “He told me that his relatives back home were asking: would their fast count if they were forced to eat and drink by the government during the day? [...] I asked him how the government does this. He replied that there is a public luncheon (for example his relative is a schoolteacher) and the Muslims are monitored to see if they eat or drink. So there are people whose job it is to check whether Muslims are eating or not. [...] I asked what were the consequences if they refused. He said that best case scenario is that they would eventually lose their jobs, and worst case scenario, jail and imprisonment and fines.” via Yasir Qadhi-who-should-have-never-said-that-one-thing.
According to a friend of mine who’s lived in Saudi her whole life, the government will beat you up if you’re a man who’s seen eating during Ramadan. (They leave the women alone, for menses I presume.)
If no one else pisses me off sufficiently, regular posts pertaining to Islamic feminism will now resume.