Patriarchy in the (Peripheral) Workplace

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.

Islamic History and the Women You Never Hear About: Fatima Muhammad Al-Fihri

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.

Removed from Societal Context: Verse 33:53, the Veil, and the role of Umar

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,
then enter;
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
the truth.
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.

(Mernissi 85)

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.

Nahida sums up what is happening, in case you’ve been living under a rock.

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.

You have the right to bear children.

You have the right to bear children. No one may enter your body and alter the state of your existence with an entitled twist of cold medical instruments. If you are impoverished, you have the right to bear children. If you are disabled, you have the right to bear children. If you are of color, you have the right to bear children. If you are transgender, if you are intersex, if you are not heterosexual, if you are diaspora embodied, if you are ill, if you cannot read this, you have the right to bear children. You have the right to bear children in a country that is not yours. You have the right to bear children who may “burden” society for 18 years. You have the right to bear children of men who resemble you. You have the right to bear children of men whose hearts have been crushed by the weight of distress. You have the right to bear children of women in male bodies. You have the right to bear children you cannot afford. You have the right to bear children who are disabled, of color, transgender, like you. You have the right to bear children. You have the right to love, and you have the right to bear children.

And once they have been birthed, your children have the right to exist.


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 Shaked supposedly represents 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.


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