State of Israel Devises Ethnic Cleansing of Ethiopian Jews and Palestinians

Ayelet Shaked is a parliament member and lawmaker in Israel, the settler state built on Palestinian land, who remarked that all Palestinian mothers “have to die and their houses should be demolished so that they cannot bear any more terrorists,” appearing unaware that her agenda and occupation of Palestinian land breeds the “terrorists” intent on re-securing their homes and human rights. Although supposedly representing only the politically far-right of Israel, the rest of the occupying state actualizes her vision, as more than 425 Palestinian citizens have been killed and over 3,000 are injured. At least 100 of these are “terrorist” children.

At Shifa Hospital, a girl who looked about 9 was brought into the emergency room and laid on a gurney, blood soaking the shoulder of her shirt. Motionless and barely alive, she stared at the ceiling, her mouth open. There was no relative with her to give her name. The medical staff stood quietly around her. Every now and then, they checked her vital signs, until it was time. They covered her with a white sheet, and she was gone. A few moments later, a new patient lay on the gurney.

On the side of the occupiers, 18 soldiers are killed, and 2 citizens.

Basically sums up your author's position.

Basically sums up your author’s position.

The tactics of the occupiers to target women to prevent the birth of children are unsurprising, given both the widespread implementation of ethnic cleansing throughout the history of any illegal occupation as well as Israel’s obsession of producing a nation of non-black Jewish citizens in order to maintain the majority. Not only have Bedouin women been aware for decades of the shifty atmosphere,

But the hospital also inspires troubling rumors, the most alarming of which involves a general distrust of Caesarean sections owing to fears of un-consented sterilization. Other rumors suggest that hospitals “use Bedouin women’s placentas for all kinds of experiments and even sell them.”

but these “rumors” are supported as Israeli officials admit that Ethiopian Jewish immigrants are forcibly sterilized. The immigrants themselves have verified this claim.

“They told me if you don’t take the shot, we won’t give you a ticket, so I took the shot, but I didn’t know that it would prevent pregnancies. I didn’t know,” one woman told RT correspondent Paula Slier.

The vaccination, Depo-Provera, forcibly sterilized 13,000 impoverished women, half of whom were black, in the U.S. state of Georgia as a cruel human experiment during which several of the women were unaware that their bodies were being used for immoral scientific advancement. A great many of them died. Consequently, white women were provided with safe methods of birth control.

The same injection has been forcibly used for several years on Ethiopian women in the settler state, a strategic method to curb a population it views as inferior. Forced sterilization, under the guise of “birth control” campaigns, has been paraded by several United States organizations (as well as employed in US-backed Israel) throughout non-white countries, carried out by even reputably benevolent organizations, such as the Peace Corps. As Frances M. Beal writes in “Double Jeopardy: To Be Black and Female,” “[...]what the authorities in charge of these programs refer to as “birth control” is in fact nothing but a method of outright surgical genocide.[...] Under these circumstances, it is understandable why certain countries view the Peace Corps not as a benevolent project, not as evidence of America’s concern for underdeveloped areas, but rather as a threat to their very existence. This program could more aptly be named the Death Corps.” In the United States, Beal notes, “Threatened with the cut-off of relief funds, some Black welfare women have been forced to accept this sterilization procedure in exchange for a continuation of welfare benefits.”

Following suite after its unrelenting sponsor the United States, the Israeli settlers of Palestine have denied Ethiopian Jewish women relief (apparently you’re not promised the Promised Land by God if you’re black?) unless they accept a vaccine that will sterilize them. In traditional Judaism, sterilization is illegal.

Posted in feminism, misogynoir, morality, race, rape culture, sex, social justice, War On Women | 7 Comments

Imitating the Appearances of People of Color

I’ve been thinking about appropriation–not just cultural appropriation, but of a variation of appropriation that is equally if not just a little more sinister: the appropriation of appearance. This is something that is bodily, involves policing the autonomy itself of women of color, and results in valuing the woman wearing the imitation more than the woman whose body inspired it.

There is, in other words, a kind of appropriation that is merged with white supremacist ideals of beauty, and how, in order to remain the standard, these ideals have relied heavily on disparaging physical features of people of color that are otherwise “objectively” attractive. For example, the first thing that comes to mind are caricatures of black women’s/men’s lips as drawn by racist white artists. Because these lips are stereotyped to be fuller, they’ve been exaggerated in political and cultural cartoons/”art” to ridicule the entire black race.

But fuller lips are more appealing. And as a feature, they are not just appealing on women; they’re equally as appealing on men. I would even be so brazen as to argue that people who are attracted to men tend to prefer full lips on men–if not for the aesthetic, for the sensation. It’s bizarre then that this was one of the features chosen to be mocked. To be a little more impudent, I would go so far as to allege that it’s jealousy.

There’s historical evidence for this being a petulant act of jealousy. The hair of women of color, which tends to be thicker, more voluminous & abundant, and has the ability to hold a variety of styles with less effort, is constantly under attack as “frizzy”, “unkempt,” and altogether “unprofessional.” Consequently women of color are compelled to change our hair, sometimes at devastating (financial and personal) costs. And because most salons charge extra (typically an extra $10) to the list of provided services for women with “more hair,” not measured only in length but thickness (read: mostly just women of color) we’re not just driven to appeal to white standards of beauty but simultaneously discouraged from “raising our statuses” with these additional costs. But as Cassandre explains, black women were banned in the 1800s from showing their hair in public–not because it was unsightly but because it was too attractive:

Apparently, women of color were wearing their hair in such fabulous ways, adding jewels and feathers to their high hairdos and walking around with such beauty and pride that it was obscuring their status. This was very threatening to the social stability (read: white population) of the area at the time. The law was meant to distinguish women of color from their white counterparts and to minimize their beauty.

While women of color are discouraged from wearing their hair without flattening, thinning, chemically treating, or otherwise travelling great lengths to force it to comply with the settled string-yness of white hair, white women meanwhile seek out all means possible to thicken their hair–because, of course, white people quietly know what is actually attractive, and a function of institutionalized racism is convincing women of color that they aren’t, while white women transform themselves to have these very features. The shelves of any store selling shampoo are lined with products promising to provide volume. It doesn’t stop at hair either, of course–the descendants of white artists who parodied the lips of black men and women in outrageously racist cartoons are the first clients for lip injections that imitate the very feature they publicly disparage.

Black women have constellations in their hair.

Black women have constellations in their hair.

And a woman (most likely a white one) might angrily and defensively claim that I’m stretching it by including this, but, I kid you not, a white woman once tackled me in a drug store because I had picked up the last jet black mascara.

She was blonde.

So were her eyelashes. I was 17 at the time and aghast at the fact that I had just been tackled. Why do blonde women insist that their eyelashes have to be full and voluminous and jet black? Stunned as she flew out of nowhere into my vision and pried the mascara from my hands, I cried, “That doesn’t even match your hair!” It was a cruel thing to say, I realize. But by the mercy of all that is heavenly, she just, like, physically assaulted me. For mascara.

It’s characteristic of both women and men of color to have fuller and longer eyelashes, but that’s something desirable, that isn’t as prominent as hair or lips, and is thus never attributed to race. There’s a lot about “the problems with Asian hair” or “the problems with Black hair” but never about “the problems with white eyelashes.” White people, you’ve got to stop tackling me at Rite Aid with your eyelash issues, seriously.

She's a threat alright. Who wouldn't want to look like that?

She’s a threat alright. Who wouldn’t want to look like that?

One of the (obvious) reasons it’s so irritating that white people will often reply with, “But light skinned women tan their skin all the time!” in response to black women bleaching their skin and using harmful lightness creams is that a white woman who has tanned her skin to be the same color as a woman of color’s natural skin will be valued more highly for her beauty–even though it’s only an imitation. I don’t mean to sound all, “But are they REAL?” about this, but it’s a clear and disturbing indication of how harmful cultural appropriation, especially when it comes to appearance, is when a white woman attempts to thicken her hair, tan her skin, inject her lips, and assault a woman of color for her eyelashes and still walk out considered more beautiful. This phenomenon has all of the symptoms of a kind of appropriation: when these features/customs are worn/practiced by a white person, it’s “stylish, worldly, and beautiful”; otherwise, it’s something that needs to be altered and suppressed at all costs.

Posted in body image, color, feminism, misogynoir, race | Tagged | 12 Comments

The State of Oppression and the Strategic Refusal of Responsible Parties to Recognize Justice

When confronted with criticism from immigrants, white Americans will often nonsensically retort, “If you hate America so much, go back to where you came from!” with the intention of forcing an admission that the place in question is worse. But what they neglect, as expected, is to apply that segregative logic evenly: I might not have minded returning to where I came from, if you hadn’t destroyed it. Why, after all, is it worse? Why are these countries, like China, that were once so far advanced that after venturing into the world chose isolation upon recognizing other civilizations had nothing to offer; like India, whose citizens in the awareness of their cultural fluidity alone withstood intrusive violence until the British strategically fostered in them a destructive self-hatred; like the Islamic Empire, whose discoveries serve as the foundation of contemporary scientific and mathematical advances, much worse? Why do white Americans have the right to interact with civilizations, to change them, to traumatize them, and expect that their peoples will not influence the makings of the United States?

Subsequently, it becomes obvious why, “If your country is so great why don’t you go back!” is a suggestion of self-serving hypocrisy; much like the colonialist mentality that forces Palestinians to pay Europe debt to the state of Israel rather than expect Europe to pay for its crimes, the retort attempts to right wrongs to the convenience of the oppressor so that a third innocent party is the one who must pay in place of the West. Certainly, if entire nations had not been destroyed by Western colonialism, the United States would not have an “immigration problem.” It might have, in fact, never existed. The quietly understood benefits to the oppressor reduces justice to pure simplicity, leaving ongoing symptoms of historical crimes unconsidered. The reality is that once the West has destroyed a civilization, it cannot expect to cut off ties with the people of that civilization by simply demanding they “go home.” You cannot murder, rape, torture, commit grievous harms on someone, and then expect your morality to be extractable from their existence by a simple parting of ways.

Rather, is the nature of these things to haunt the souls of those inflicting them. As it should be. America’s appalling history has a right to incorporation into the American identity. This is who you, who we, are now. That identity in its nature demands acknowledgment, and in an effort to cleanse ourselves, should be undone. The reason, of course, that white Americans are so distraught by the presence of immigrants in this nation is that we, of immigrant families, are constant reminders of the West’s despicable involvement in foreign nations. We are told to “go home”–because out of sight, out of mind. You do not need to think about the crimes you committed against the original country of an immigrant when you are not looking her in the face.

Reluctance toward any true justice is demonstrated not only in these defensive retorts. What is also evident is the failure to recognize those who have been wronged by Western visions of nation-building as people who now have a right, by having been involved as victims in these crimes, to be fully participating citizens of the West. Consider, for example, the common response to any suggestion of retributions paid to members of the black community (i.e. most black American citizens) whose families were enslaved. If the black community were repaid for forced labor, an estimated total of $77 billion would be repaid to black families for the labor “provided” by slaves. Setting aside the fact that the U.S. does not have that money, economists make the argument that these retributions, if paid, would devastate the economy. But let’s ask the question, whose economy does really this devastate? Are black citizens not participating members of the U.S. economy? After all, this is not money that is being exported to foreign nations. In other words, it is not currency that is lost to foreign economies, but dollars that will continue to remain in the US and fuel the US economy. Would black citizens not buy cars, houses, etc. with those wages that they earned? Would they not significantly stimulate the economy rather than devastate it? The response of white Americans that retributions to black families would be economically destructive is an indication they do not consider black citizens as citizens, who have not only the right to the wages earned by their families but the ability to contribute to the economy with those wages. What happens instead is that “retribution” is reframed as “redistribution” to emphasize the effect on white families rather than black ones.

Opponents of retributions will also attempt to employ the slippery slope fallacy. “If we pay back descendants of black slaves,” they will say, “who’s next? Native Americans? Women?” And to what, exactly, are you objecting? What else should be expected? If you rob five houses, and you are made to return the belongings of one of them, are you going to cry, “What next! You want me to return everything I stole?” Clearly we do. It is only the most reasonable expectation. And is that not justice?

Although in theory it may well be impossible to return everything stolen, unless the crimes are undone over thousands of years, this same practice of the application of practicality does not seem to deter those, who make the claim that retributions are impractical, from applying the mercy of practicality to only themselves: if it so impossible to undo the damage that we should not begin to attempt it, why should the impossibility of black citizens or indigenous peoples to continue to live in institutionalized oppressions be tolerated? Is this not equally impossible? Are they not equally human?

Common responses to suggestions that the West, or that specifically America, should seek moral reconciliation for its atrocities involve appeals, both real and theoretical, to historical crimes committed by non-Western civilizations. It is claimed by Westerners that theoretically, if non-Western civilizations had been as powerful, these civilizations would have “done the same.” Except, in a lot of cases, they actually were, and they actually didn’t. Since this isn’t the main point, however, it will not be explained. What will be explained is that in any civil society, one cannot, for example, steal from someone and then, when called to justice, claim that the victim would have done the same. That is not the reality with which we must work. It is an attempt only to derail the proceedings and obstruct the sentence. Likewise, the truth that non-Western civilizations have wronged each other should be of no concern to the West when seeking moral reconciliation. When having done wrong and attempting to undo the consequences so that we may be at peace with ourselves, why are the wrongs of others of any relevance?

Genuinely seeking reconciliation means a distinct uninterest in the historical crimes of others when they do not involve the West. The crimes of nations that the West has wronged and whether these nations are answering for them would be seen instead as “none of your business.” It is, rather, the business of those respective nations and their victims. But, as pattern demonstrates, the oppressor is disabled by his own atrocities from coming to this realization. The involvement of himself in the “immigration crisis” is one, like his involvements in any issue, that can not be acknowledged. When it is claimed, for example, that Palestinians lived in the region that should have been known as Palestine prior to the establishment of the terrorist state of Israel, many siding with the occupiers reply, “but what about before that?” or declare that it is uncertain whether Palestine or Israel existed first. But who existed first at the beginning of time is not relevant. Again, it is the unrecognized involvement of the West that was (and still is, with the “aid” afforded to Israel that should be used to repay black families) what erected this structure of institutional injustice. It is true that, as there are over any pieces of land, there were undoubtedly quarrels over Palestinian land among its own citizens, before the intervention of the British, but smaller wars between peoples of the same geographical culture are distinctly different from a powerful, persecuting third party that enforces the manifestation of its perspective on Palestinian boundaries.

And the perspective of Western oppressors have been enforced not only in drawing those boundaries, but in the convenient defining of Palestine as a territory and not a country, and therefore of its occupation as not occupation or apartheid. What makes a country, and who decides? If every nation in the world decided not to recognize authenticity of the British passport, will the associated country cease to function as a country? Should the lack of a military be any indication of whether a people make a country, when (1) that military is not allowed to exist and (2) the residents still clearly function coherently as a nation and identify one another as culturally, geographically, linguistically, and familiarly akin to themselves?

Necessary to the creation of a just world is a true, unselfish attempt to reconcile with the wrongs of the past and its prevailing symptoms. It is imperative, for this reason, that the interests of those who are disadvantaged are heard, valued, and operated upon above the reluctance of those who fear confronting their guilt. Those who are victims of the problem are demonstrably better equipped to draw a solution, having experienced the full extent of the enormities. That is the true objective party.

Posted in feminism, social justice | Tagged , , | 12 Comments

Prophet Maryam and Her Successor, the Prophet Muhammad

Although I’ve already written about Maryam as our Prophetess, I’d like to expand on her significance by comparing the cosmological role of our Prophet Muhammad to that of our Prophetess Maryam. There are several interesting parallels between Maryam and Muhammad; the first and most obvious is not only that both recieved word from the Archangel Jibril (Gabriel) of their Prophethoods, but that the reactions of these two Prophets to that word are strikingly similiar. When Muhammad is greeted by the Angel, he is terrified until he comes to recognize the entity; the Prophet had, at first, run frantically down the moutain. Likewise, when the Angel approaches Maryam, she cries,

“Indeed, I seek refuge
in the Most Merciful
from you, so leave me
if you fear God!”

until her visitor responds,

“I am only a messenger
of God to bring you news
of a child.” (19:18)

But what is more intriguing is the dialogue that takes place. Maryam proceeds to ask,

“How can I birth a child
when I am a virgin?” (19:20)

while Muhammad, when commanded to “Read!” at the revelation of Surah Iqra, responds, bewildered, “But I cannot read.”

The Prophet was indeed illiterate, and in this exchange his illiteracy plays the same role as Maryam’s virginity. This response, “I cannot read,” is paralleled with Maryam’s, “How can I birth a child when no mortal has touched me?”

Since Islam does not elevate the Maryam’s virginity to the extent that it is certainly elevated in other faiths accepting her as a religious figure, the Islamic approach to Maryam’s virginity is the same as its approach to Muhammad’s illiteracy. In other words, these two states are considered neither particularly virtuous nor are they frowned upon. They are merely the conditions in which these historical figures existed before greeted by the Divine. I am not entirely comfortable in drawing the theory that Muhammad’s illiteracy and Maryam’s virginity are symbolic of spiritual receptiveness to the Word of God, that the absence (of literacy and sexual experience) of each of these “worldy pretenses” made each Prophet the most receptive vessel, unobstructed by human finitude, for the Word of God to be Delivered–for Maryam, God’s Word in childbirth, and through Muhammad, God’s Word in the Qur’an–but it is nonetheless one to be considered.

A second parallel is the cleansing of both Prophets before the creation of the universe and all that exists. A hadith reads, “There is none born among the offspring of humankind that Satan does not touch; a child, therefore, cries loudly at the time of birth because of the touch of Satan, except Maryam and her child.” (Sahih Bukhari) This is an indication that both Maryam and her son are free of sin, like Muhammad who is distinguished by his isma, protection from moral depravity: “Did We not expand your bosom?” (Qur’an 94:1) so that the Messenger of the Qur’an could convey the message without error. Our Prophet’s heart is cleansed during his ascendance through the Heavens, and several hadiths, in which this described concept has been meditated upon by mystics, read that the Prophet existed before the very creation of the first human being, and several hadiths read that “the first thing God created [when Adam was still between water and clay] was my [the Prophet's] Light.” As the Prophet is distinguished as exceptional compared to all humankind, so is the declaration made for Maryam at her birth,

“When she [the mother of Maryam] had delivered,
she said: “O my Lord! Behold! I am delivered
of a female child!”—and God knew best
what she delivered—
And no wise is the male
like the female.

I have named her Maryam (Mary), and I commend her
and her offspring to
Thy protection from the Evil One, the Rejected.” (3:36)

Just as the Qur’an is protected from defect through the protection of the purity of Muhammad from moral depravity, so is Prophet Isa’s protection from Satan invoked in the same protection of his mother.

What are then, the cosmological and mystical implications of both these figures? It is no accident that the Prophetess and the Prophet have inspired the same passionate praise and meditative repose among those who follow them and submit to God. One of the most fundamental attributes of the Prophet is his Light, believed to be a direct reflection of the Light of God, the noor of Muhammad is so close to God that Muhammad is Loved if God is Loved. Likewise Maryam, who occupies the realm of the Womb, is tied closely, almost inextricably, to the realm of the Divine, as made clear in 4:1. Prophet Isa, son of Maryam, is secondary to his mother, as the Qur’an reads he declares,

“I am a servant of God;
God has given me a Book and made me
a Prophet,
and blessed me and enjoined upon me
prayer and charity
and made me dutiful
to my mother
who bore me
.” (19:30-32)

There are two things to take away from this: (1) Prophet Isa was made dutiful to his mother, which has interestingly never been interpreted as a Divine Ordination of matriarchy (though Isma’il’s dutifulness to God has been conveniently misread as dutifulness to Ibrahim as a patriarch), and (2) although it is true the conception was Immaculate, it is emphasized over and over in the Qur’an that Isa is the son of Maryam: she, alone, birthed him, harnessing the Divine powers manifested in the realm of the womb and acting singularly (without a man) to perform a miracle, a sign of the Prophets.

And Maryam is most certainly a Prophet. Whether she can be called a Messenger, having carried and delivered the Word of God in the form of a human being, just as Muhammad delivered the word of God as the Qur’an, is a decision I personally haven’t made and will leave up to you, dear readers. One thing is certain: Maryam, and Asiya, and Eve, and the numerous women who inarguably qualify as Prophets demonstrate with their capacities that the distinction between a Prophet and a Messenger is hazy and not so distinct, and more uncertain than widely defined.

I propose that there is an entire league of female Prophets who transcend patriarchal categorizations of Divine Interaction.

Posted in feminism, Feminism, herstory, interpretation, Islam, misconceptions, Quran | 3 Comments

In which Nahida addresses a question she’s been asked too many times

This is kind of a bizarre topic, and I normally don’t write posts that are directly related to emails, but yesterday I received a message that had been asked about four times too many these past few years: You seem like a rational person, I hope you don’t judge me. I relate pretty accurately to my astrological sign, the message reads, but astrology is forbidden in Islam, so am I sinning when I read my natal chart? I feel really bad about this.

Hell if I know. Why does anyone think I know anything?

Let me make two things clear, however: (1) I am a rational person. Whatever that actually means. So, Writer of This Email, you predicted correctly when you hinted that I do not … “believe” (?) in astrology. The anxiety that I would judge someone for reading their natal chart, however, is preposterous. I would certainly not judge anyone for having beliefs that cannot be explained save for scattered, feeble support. And (2) I am unconcerned with whether people do or don’t follow astrological asseveration, but I am very much concerned with whether they feel guilty for things that are frankly unworthy of guilt.

Just like what you like.

I know that’s easier said than done, especially when there is a sense (as with astrology) that liking what you like is an indication of inferior intellect, but I have a couple of (very, very smart) friends who are rather fond of astrology, and only a complete and utter fool would believe they weren’t brilliant. And I don’t mean brilliant despite their inclination to read their natal charts. I think there is something to be said for those who consider every possibility for why they might harbor certain inclinations or attributes within and acknowledge–against all social disapproval–eerie tendencies for astrologers to accurately describe one’s personalities based on the arrangement of the sky at birth.

That’s why I want to make a distinction between psychological astrology and predictive astrology. I do believe that predictive astrology is a bad idea. I don’t remember the Prophet ever calling it a sin but he sure as hell discouraged it, and everything that is either a sin or discouraged in Islam for is for good reason. “You shouldn’t drink alcohol like ever,” is a solid idea. So is “Put down that bacon it’s disgusting–and forbidden.” And “Don’t pay people to tell you your future that is a ridiculous waste of your resources,” is one of those things that is an obvious attempt to end a tradition that has deceived people and possibly stripped them of their means of living–and of their lives. When the Prophet discouraged fortune-telling, he did it because he wanted to eradicate the scientifically unfounded, superstitious beliefs existing in the pre-Islamic Arab community that aligned earthly events with heavenly movements. (An eclipse, for example, was at the time nonsensically viewed as bad sign.) That is why the Prophet went as far as to say that even when predictions of the future are true they are still untrue. Meaning of course that even if the event comes true (“something bad will happen”) the premise is untrue (“because bad things happen during eclipses”) rendering the entire prediction untrue.

So I do hope no one is using astrology to predict the future. But while attempting to decipher the orbit of heavenly bodies in order to tell the future is a sin (I believe) because it is founded on no science at all, there is a portion of astrology that is concerned with portraying accurate personality profiles with careful calculations. And personality profiles are, eerily accurate. These don’t involve fortune-telling. While I highly doubt this is “scientific” either, the fact that it works, over and over again, outnumbering the ratio appropriate of coincidence, is something that can’t be easily dismissed by a rational person. There is a healthy balance, I think, in regards to how cynical someone is before they are irrational. It is fallacious to say that the veracity of personality profiles cannot be coincidental, but it is equally foolish to say with confidence that reoccurring accuracy is meaningless. Who’s to say God doesn’t assign personality based on the position of the stars?

It’s not only the tendency to be rather accurate; I know some of you also achieve a deeper, almost enlightening, understanding of yourselves by reading your natal charts, as though your own inclinations have been explained and are now under the comfort of your control and can be addressed. That is something powerful and relieving, and I don’t believe anyone should deny that to you.

So please don’t feel guilty. Will everyone just stop feeling guilty for things? The most ridiculous things, seriously. These are intra-personal, not interpersonal. You didn’t hurt anyone.

Look here,

Your author provides her personality chart so that you feel less bad.

Your author provides her personality chart so that you feel less bad.

Did anyone die? DID ANYONE DIE?

Posted in Islam | 5 Comments

Men Need to Learn to Read Nonverbal Cues

This post is actually a primer to another post I’ll get around to writing sometime, in which I make the argument that that there are racial and sexual implications in men (physically or otherwise) attacking women’s hair. In this particular post there are two themes: the importance of reading nonverbal cues (which is incidental) and the adamant denial by men that their less overtly sexual actions are tempered by any kind of sexual desire or rage. The reason I point this out is because I know there is going to be some jackass out there who accuses me of thinking so highly of myself that I would assume a man physically attacking my hair is sexualizing me without my consent. But that is exactly what he is doing, under the guise of non-sexualized violence.

You see, when it comes to anything related to male desire trumping your personhood, men do this thing, where they think they’re really subtle. A strange man will walk up to a woman, start a seemingly innocuous conversation, and even though the woman knows what he wants, she has to tolerate this until he has revealed his intentions. She can’t ask him to leave her alone immediately, because then he can dismissively assert that she is presumptuous of his actions and thinks too highly of herself. If she rejects his advances too quickly, before they are obvious, he will pretend he never made them and insist that she’s so stuck up that she’s delusional. So she has to put up with this entire mind-numbingly inane conversation, until he finally asks for her number or whether she’d go out with him, and that’s when she’s “allowed” to turn him down. She may not be straight with him and turn him down before, or else she’s conceited (because he was never going to ask, supposedly.) Even though she’s right. Every time.

Every woman reading this knows what I’m talking about. Every single one.

I didn’t know how to describe this before, but I know I’ve read scattered stories in different contexts on the web before I categorized these incidents as belonging to the same phenomenon–one woman recounts the time that a man asked her to dance, and, upon her turning down the offer, he proceeded to claim that she misheard him and he was really telling her she looked fat. In addition to these sorts of examples of men denying they’ve made an advance I can, unfortunately, provide an example myself. When I was around 15, I was friends with someone whom I’d like to believe was generally a good person. He had a bit of an impish, mischievous quality to him, however, which would have been fine if he’d had the sense to know when it was fine.

This friend of mine was between girlfriends. He’d had a number of failed relationships, and although I never told him–he never asked and I do not assert my opinions about why people fail at relationships when those opinions have not been invited–I’d detected it was because he had a fear of losing his independence. Subsequently, I knew the kind of woman with whom he was compatible; she would have to have enough to do in her own life to not care if he didn’t call for weeks.

Although we were friends, I was rather detached with him. I didn’t do this on purpose. When I actually interact with someone, I can be very intense–but I can also disappear for months. The disappearing act isn’t malicious, and it isn’t something I do to be enticing (and certainly wasn’t to entice him); I’m just that kind of person. You know the type. The introvert who needs her time in solitude. I am explaining that I didn’t do this to attract him because, although the complete disregard for my lack of consent to what he tried to do next renders whether I wanted to appear attractive to him or not irrelevant, the fact that I wasn’t trying to attract him speaks volumes about how he either (1) was so self-absorbed he thought otherwise or–even worse–(2) that he didn’t care. That in that moment, his desires trumped mine.

Let’s talk for a minute about that first theory. I happened to be someone who didn’t “threaten” his independence, so he wrongly believed that, because I was the Right Kind of Girl for him (according to his own assessment–I would have disagreed), I must have existed for him. He never considered that the reason I didn’t impose as an obstacle to his independence was because I had more important things to do, and that that meant I had my own life, and, you know, preferences. No, when a man notices you have certain qualities, he thinks you have them for him.

So there we were, one perfectly normal day, when he tells me to come closer. Being 15 (he was 16), I was familiar enough with childhood uses of this line to expect some kind of practical joke. To make things more suspicious, it was an odd request considering we were talking–which meant I was standing rather close to him already. But, to give him the benefit of the doubt (that maybe he was about to tell me a secret) I inched a centimeter closer. He asked me three more times for me to come closer still, and I laughed and refused. (“No, what is it?”)

And then he tried to kiss me.

I knew seconds before he dove from the look in his eyes that it was going to happen. I turned my head. His lips landed on my cheek instead. At this, he looked surprised, and he tilted his head back and laughed awkwardly, and then walked off to class.

I stared after him, fuming and confused.

When he approached me the next day, I addressed the issue directly. “Did you try to kiss me?” I demanded. My tone might have not been the friendliest.

“It wasn’t a kiss,” he grinned. “I was going for a head bump.”

I shook my head slightly, without breaking the deadliest lock in eye contact I’d ever delivered. “And now you’re insulting my intelligence,” I concluded coolly. “You’d best be careful.”

“Come on, Nahida. Trust me, if I tried to kiss you, I would not have missed.”

You tried to kiss me. And you missed.

Years later, at the age of 18, I agreed to meet him at a cafe. As we walked down the street after coffee, he glanced at me and said, “Can I confess something to you?”

Since I’d already forgiven him for the incident the moment after it happened (not for the denial of it) I calmly walked on alongside him.

“Remember that time you thought I tried to kiss you and I said it was a head bump?” He paused. “I… tried to kiss you.”

I didn’t say anything.

“Nahida?” he asked.

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“You were so pretty,” he answered nonsensically, “and mysterious. I was really attracted to you. I still am.”

That explained nothing. I looked away from him. “I wouldn’t have been mad.” It was true. I was horrified that he tried to kiss me, but I was more angry that he tried to deny it.

The denial was an explicit demonstration that he cared more about keeping his ego pieced together than coming to terms with the fact that he’d done something wrong and apologizing.

The attempted kiss itself wasn’t the worst thing a man had ever done. If he’d ever discussed anything of the sort with me, he would have known that unless I explicitly expressed interest in someone it was NOT okay to try and kiss me. But he was 16. And he did not persist when I made an obvious indication that it was undesired. Let me make it clear these are not excuses; pointing this out is only an exercise of human sympathy, which even a ball-busting feminist like yours truly is capable of feeling. It was understandable, but it still a Whole System of Wrong.

I shouldn’t have had to say ‘no’ by dodging him;–I should have had the opportunity to say ‘no’ preemptive to the attempt. And I did. The reluctance to come closer, the eyes looking past him, the clenched mouth–they were all signals.

Of course, he couldn’t read them. Didn’t want to.

But I had been willing to forgive all of that. Because he was 16. Because he did not persist after I made it obvious. Because he’d been conditioned to ignore body language unless it was obvious. But what I couldn’t settle easy was the fact that he denied making the unwanted advance. He had not only saved his ego–he had done so by essentially calling a potential victim of assault a liar.

And that, I knew, was deadly. It was the deadliest. It was worse than the attempted kiss.

Men need to learn nonverbal cues; they also need to learn to own up to their mistakes. The fact that he denied making an advance, just as it does in the woman who must patiently tolerate an entire conversation when she knows already where it is headed, grated on my nerves more than the fact that a friend of mine tried to kiss me. Had he read the nonverbal cues, or cared about them, the mistake wouldn’t have been made, and had men not such enormous egos that they believed a woman’s rejection is the worst thing that can happen to them, plenty of women wouldn’t have to recover from not only the discomfort of a dodged assault but from essentially being invalidated of the truth of that experience.

Being able to read nonverbal cues is an indication of high intelligence, but because it is a rather feminine indication of high intelligence, it is misconstrued as exactly the opposite: the woman who preemptively rejects a man’s advances is made out to be so conceited she’s in fact stupid–because of course he wasn’t hitting on you, you airhead.

When, actually, she’s much, much smarter than you—not only in predicting that you’re about to make an advance, but calling out your bullshit when you deny it.

Coming into play with this is also the cultural expectation that women are supposed to be oblivious to a man’s advances. We are conditioned to believe that this “innocence” (and, in most cases, feigned unintelligence) is an attractive quality, and a woman who lets on that she’s smart enough to know what a man is thinking is unacceptably boorish. And has figured out the patriarchy. Which makes her of course, extremely dangerous.

Posted in feminism, Feminism, misconceptions, privilege, rape culture | 4 Comments

It’s the 2nd day of Ramadan and my fast has already been interrupted for the next 7 days.

Since it’s been a while since I’ve written here, I’ll remind everyone asking What is the meaning of this!, that according to mainstream interpretation women should avoid applying nail polish because it acts as a barrier (we’re suddenly against barriers now) between the water during wudu–ritual purification before prayer–and the surface of the nail. However, since–also according to mainstream interpretation–women are exempt from prayer during their menstrual cycles, many take the opportunity to wear nail polish during this time.

Continue reading

Posted in culture, feminism, interpretation, Islam, menstruation, Muslims | 7 Comments