Why I don’t give a damn that you have a linguistic issue with ‘FEMinist’

mankind

manpower

manfully

headmaster

firemen policemen mailmen

man-eating

You got a problem with ‘feminist’ because the word inherently excludes you? Check your privilege and get the hell over it.

You can treat women equally as much as you like but as long as you’re saying shit like this the truth is that you don’t CONSIDER us equal. If you can’t associate yourself with femaleness or femininity even in a word that is historically significant and integral to the liberation of women because that makes you uncomfortable, you are a sexist seeking to employ the patriarchal practice of denying women credit where credit is due and disassociating yourself with femininity.

Lilith / Eve, a Question of Translation

Has it been over a week since I’d last written?

Hi. It’s me. Are you still there? =P

I haven’t much time, unfortunately. But here’s an entry of what’s been on my mind, though hastily written. If you remember from this post, the creation of Hawwa (translated as Eve) and Adam in Islam differs from the one in Christian religious tradition, in that (1) Hawwa is not said in the Qur’an to have formed from Adam’s rib, (2) nor is woman said to have been created second after man (3) or even Adam disclosed to have been (for certain) the male variant in the couple. God addresses Adam, whose name is interchangeably synonymous with humankind, and tells Adam to live with Hawwa (spouse) in Paradise, but the sex of each respective figure is not revealed. Hawwa and Adam exist simultaneously, androgynous until they eat from the tree, with neither having been created from the other though both are made of the same earth (thus of equal purity), and it is both of them together who are tricked into disobeying God’s command. But Hawwa is often translated as Eve, though this story does not sound like Eve’s.

It sounds like Lilith’s.

If you don’t know the story of Lilith (except for this slight resemblance, it doesn’t exist in Islam by name or detail): she is rumored in Judaism and Christianity to have been Adam’s first wife, created not from his rib after he had already been formed, unlike their Eve, but as an original, from (impure) earth. However, “Adam and Lilith could find no happiness together, not even understanding. When Adam wished to lie with her, Lilith demurred: ‘Why should I lie beneath you,’ she asked, ‘when I am your equal, since both of us were created from dust?’ When Lilith saw that Adam was determined to overpower her, she uttered the magic name of God, rose into the air, and flew away to the Red Sea, a place of ill repute, full of lascivious demons.” (Patai, 1964)

The resemblance to Satan, who refused to bow to Adam, citing his fashion of creation as reason, is chillingly striking. But here it is Adam who commanded submission, not God. And it is through invoking the name of God that Lilith makes her escape to the Red Sea, uniting with demons, one of whom she becomes.

God then creates Eve from Adam’s rib, who naturally does not quarrel with him. In Talmudic tradition, Lilith commands ghostly she-demons that prevent childbirths in human women by causing miscarriages and barrenness: a class of succubae that leave men weak in nocturnal ejaculations. The story of Lilith is the story of a woman who is—quite literally—demonized. And for what? She would not submit to a patriarchal order established by men. Significantly, in these versions of the story, she returns as the serpent to tempt Eve, “corrupting” the “good woman” who does as she is told. Though she returns to God full-circle, Lilith is the first feminist recognized and defined by patriarchy—a seductress who disobeys men and kills infants as she leaves women barren. She is not only a woman, but a woman so beautiful and monstrous that even nature itself condemns her in this barrenness, an unnatural woman: “As Montgomery aptly put it over half a century ago, ‘the Liliths were the most developed products of the morbid imagination—of the barren or neurotic woman, the mother in the time of maternity, the sleepless child.’” (Patai, 1964)

But Hawwa is a Lilith who was never asked to submit to Adam. Hawwa is a Lilith who thus never felt any need to “abandon” him or to depart. Hawwa is a content Eve, fully and rightfully herself with all the powers to her own autonomy. With the heavy baggage that Lilith carries, even predating Abrahamic tradition, is it entirely understandable that Hawwa has been translated as Eve. She is Lilith’s beginning and Eve’s end. The truth is that Islam’s Hawwa, never asked to submit to Adam, is neither a Lilith nor an Eve. It is possible that both women erupted from the story of the First Woman with the gradual differences accumulated over the retelling of a story for centuries.

Lilith, not entirely human, makes strange and sudden appearances in Muslim theology long after she should have died, though never by that name. When I was young(er) my mother told me a story taking place during the time of Solomon (who had control over humans and jinn [other spirits])* in which two women fought over the possession of a child. To resolve the issue, the child was brought to King Solomon, who—with the intention of determining the true mother—commanded the child be cut in half. One of the women agreed; the other screamed in agony and exclaimed that she would give up the child so long as it lived. Solomon determined that this was the true mother.

As a girl the story had left me perplexed. Who was this other woman, and what did she want with the child, if she would only kill it? My mother wondered the same, but had no answers.

And then I read,

“While Lilith and Naamah thus have become unmistakably evil spirits, at least one other time in history they assumed human form—when, in order to try Solomon’s wisdom, they assumed the form of two prostitutes and went to Solomon asking for his judgment in their quarrel over the surviving child.” (Patai, 1964)

and felt my heart stop. The woman was Lilith!

In Islam she couldn’t have been the original Lilith, I don’t believe, but it makes sense that she was a jinn, not a human woman. There is also the charge that the Queen of Sheba was none other than Lilith, which is far-fetched, and doesn’t fit the Islamic tradition of the story. The Queen of Sheba is definitely a human woman, who ruled powerfully—and rightfully, without marrying Prophet Solomon (in the Qur’an), proof that women are entitled to such extraordinary positions.

All I can safely conclude is that Hawwa (or Lilith or Eve) was so torn apart over centuries of patriarchal retellings that she became multiple women with multiple stories, and slandered to have consorted with the devil, all until the introduction of the creation of a second woman out of Adam’s rib as an exemplar of the patriarchally preferred model of womanhood to replace her, or to convince human women that disobedience is demonic. Seeing that the purpose of the Qur’an was to restore truth to the revelations that were corrupted by men, it is likely that previously Eve was lessened and Lilith slandered, but these were naturally patriarchal fabrications. Hawwa was not made from Adam’s rib, and Lilith did not consort with the devil. Submission to Adam was demanded from neither.

Because woman will not submit to man,

I would not have bowed to Adam, either. Nor to Eve. (They were both the same.) How could I when I submit only to God? For Satan it was pride; for me, love. (Or, if it is not, then make it so.) And if this Divine Love is a sin, my Lord, then damn me to Hell! And let me burn with love so ardent that the Fire itself dies in shame!

And Eve says, “Never submit to anyone but God. I didn’t.” And Lilith says, “They will slander me. And they will slander you. But remember.”

*Classes of evil jinn (those who follow Satan) are called demons, but not all jinn are evil.

Patai, Raphael. “Lilith.” The Journal of American Folklore 77.306 (1964): 295-314. Print.

autobiographies

Whenever I’m asked to write an autobiographical section following a piece, I’m astounded that anyone cares or would be interested. Besides, what information could I possibly provide that would disclose who I am adequately? Could I encompass my entire being in a few short sentences? The notion is daunting and perplexing, and for the most recent request, after several minutes I wrote: Nahida sometimes wishes she were a more practical woman, but she is not practical enough to wish it often.

Rejecting Your Sense of Justice is Rejecting a Device of God

This post is brought to you by a bewildering conversation I had a while ago in which an XY tried to mansplain to me that his interpretation of a specific verse pertaining to women is not unjust because it is from God, and therefore [what is from God] cannot unjust. (Read: His interpretation is from God. That’s the blasphemous, sinful basis of his claim. Says Qur’an 3:78–79: and who say, “This is from God,” the while it is not from God: and thus do they tell a lie about God.)

After explaining where he had erred in his fallacious argument and how it had caused his misinterpretation of the verse, he naturally pulled one of these, and then declared my interpretation “interesting.”

What I found mind-blowing, and what I continuously find mind-blowing, is that men will argue that something is just and impartial “because it is from God” despite the fact that they really don’t believe it is just.

This is obvious, because on several occasions when I’ve debated over exegesis, they’ve attempted to ravel their losing argument into a pretty bow with something like “See? You used the Qur’an itself to liberate women! So we don’t need feminism.”

LOL so you knew your interpretation was oppressive this whole time, while you were trying to convince me it was “just” because the words are from God. I will decide what women need, and whether we need feminism, so please stfu. I don’t need a man to convince me that God’s words are just.

This mentality—in which men define what is just not by the reason that God has given them to employ, but through what they mistake as faith, while simultaneously confusing their own interpretations with the dictations of God—is blasphemous. We were created with reason specifically for this purpose.

Have We not given xir two eyes,
and a tongue and a pair of lips,
and shown xir the two highways (of good and evil)?
But xie would not try to ascend the steep uphill road.
(Qur’an 90:8)

Denying yourself the use of reason is to reject a device of God. We are commanded over and over not to proceed without knowledge or reason. Failing to employ our reason is a sin:

“The things that my Lord
hath indeed forbidden are:
shameful deeds,
whether open or secret; sins
and trespasses against truth or reason:..”
(Qur’an 7:33)

So when you truly feel that an interpretation is oppressive, and yet you continue to assert that it is not because you incorrectly believe that it’s a valid interpretation ordained by God, and then you sigh in relief when you realize it doesn’t say what you thought it said because surprise! you actually thought your interpretation was oppressive the whole time! it’s a dead giveaway that you’re (1) full of shit (2) attributing your own interpretation to God and (3) being entirely disingenuous about how oppressive an interpretation is / not employing reason in deciphering justice.

Say (O Prophet): “This is my way:
Resting upon conscious insight
accessible to reason,
I am calling (you all) unto God –
I and they who follow me.”
(Qur’an 12:108)

Behold, God enjoins justice,
and the doing of good and
generosity towards (one’s) fellow-humans,
and God forbids all that is shameful
and all that runs counter to reason,
as well as envy; (and) God exhorts you
(repeatedly) so that you might
bear (all this) in mind.
(Qur’an 16:90)

A sinner in Hell-fire will
say: “Had we but listened
or used our intelligence,
we should not (now) be among
the Companions of the Blazing Fire!”
(Qur’an 67:10)

Rant over.

some notes on romance

As lately I’ve been unable to write on weekdays, this will be brief.

With the qualification that “every issue is a women’s issue” I’m sure this relates to feminism in some way, though I’m uncertain exactly where to fasten the connection or articulate the interaction: I have a difficult time distinguishing romance within sexual relationships from friendship. Apart from the sexual element, why is one called romance and the other friendship? I have never experienced sexual desire for a man whom I hadn’t already considered a friend. And since so many attempt to establish a hierarchy (a sentiment I don’t share) I’d personally consider friendship a “higher” status of relationship than one that involves sexual activity, because for me friendship would be instilled in both as the foundation.

Observing the behaviors of best friends in my life, both others’ and mine, the differentiation only becomes more vague. I’ve both brought for and received from the best of my female friends, for whom I don’t have and never could have any sexual feelings, bouquets of roses on occasions like graduations and birthdays and sometimes just for visits. I’ve greeted them at airport gates, smothering them in hugs and presents and crying with happiness. I’ve written them poetry and short stories as gifts. I don’t contend that sexual relationships are somehow differently profound, only that on terms of “romance” I don’t see the distinction, except that in “romance” the presence of a sexual nature in the relationship is assumed. Possibly there’s an entire sphere of depth, complexity, and intensity that is encompassed in knowing someone sexually, but is that a dimension any more intimate than others?

Romance in traditional usage and practice is also gendered, and while I’ve engaged in exchanging gifts and roses and hugs with immense affection, I’ve always found the more structured gendered aspects of romance, like a man proposing to a woman on one knee or serenading her from beneath a window, absurd and apocryphal.

Conceptualizing how I exist in the realm of friendship / romance is difficult; it is something that simply is without explanation… passionate friendships imbued with depth, profundity, sincerity, and loyalty—even the stormiest of disagreements harbored genuine compassion. What about when romance is separated from sexuality? Is it a separate entity, or is sexual desire what qualifies this as “romance”?

In fact understanding another person on that level of depth supersedes (at least as far as I’m concerned) knowing their routines. I’m never too impressed with the conversations people have when they date, as they appear to rely on contrived questions concerned with superficial trivia (“What’s your favorite music genre? Have you been to Italy?”) that reflect nothing meaningful about the other person. The conversers may potentially springboard into an intriguing discussion but tend to occupy the territory of tedious hollowness with neither party making an effort. It’s usually after we’ve established a deep connection that I’m suddenly interested in the smaller things, which somehow have become meaningful and endearing.

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