This past week I’ve received numerous emails linking me to an article written by Rajbir Singh Judge that cites a vignette I drafted with the claim, in the fluid language of academic objectivity, that my desire to pray without a barrier is dishonest and selfish. A telling excerpt is this quote from the article,
“Rather than engage in contestations and reasoning about the Islamic tradition with the Aunties, who exist as serious repositories of knowledge through their extensive networks (which, in turn, could put into question TFF’s certainty), the individual takes precedence and is always already correct in breaking deemed barriers.”
The quote is telling not only because my entire website is dedicated to engaging in “contestations and reasoning about the Islamic tradition.” I already know he’s never visited, because the article cites the guest post on Orbala‘s blog instead of the vignette here. He has never sifted through my writing, but I don’t care for him to read it either. Rather, what is also telling about this excerpt is that, like the entire article, it relies on a sympathetic premise–examining the role of aunties compassionately and investigating their portrayal–in order to villainize younger women, whose arguments, positions, and desires it dismisses.
In fact, the article cites only younger women as the supposed “critics”. If the author were genuine in his exploration, he would have discussed young men’s dismissive attitudes towards aunties, or the uncles who create the oppressive structures which in turn necessitate some of the intrusive behaviors of aunties. Lots of young Muslim women have written about this delicate position of aunties before; in fact, everyone is fascinated with this article because it masquerades as considerate toward a population that is criticized for sexist and often racist reasons… except that, men like the one who wrote this article are exacerbating those reasons by pressing into an “older vs younger woman” dynamic and essentially pitting women against each other in some fantastical theory.
The author treats the piece as a standalone, which is fair, even despite his clear lack of research into what conversations we Islamic feminists have amongst each other, because it does to a certain extent stand alone. But it is not a standalone. It is in fact, part of my thesis, which mentions auntie amina wadud on several occasions, including in this particular vignette itself. In any draft of this piece, the “inquisitiveness, vibrancy and irrepressibility” of aunties is neither incompatible with nor undesirable to our individualism as the article alleges, but the author seems to specialize in south asia and the modern middle east, which against the Islamic tradition leaves out the inclusion of our black leaders. The characterization of my mother–who isn’t an auntie to me but is an auntie to the community, which seems to not occur to the author–as lying “in order to elude their questions” rather than tentatively stepping through complex and nuanced dynamics is already a meaningful observational omission.
If you want to read the full excerpt–you’ve all seen it anyway–I’ve imaged it below.
This is all greatly amusing to me, but for those of you who appear distressed, I assure you it is only expected for men to mischaracterize young women in order to preserve the integrity of tradition under a guise of credibility.
Those of you who’ve pointed out how unqualified the writer is have received some responses simultaneously admitting the author isn’t familiar with engagements in Islamic feminism and emphasizing the dismissal of the auntie nonetheless. Of course the obvious issue with this is that the examples in the article “supporting” its core observations are inaccurate. Needing so desperately to deliver a point as to invent scenarios demonstrates a weakness in the argument, and it’s bad writing. But that was already clear in its investigation of caricatures by reducing younger women to caricatures.
18 thoughts on “Men are going to write things to explain me, and y’all have to accept that.”
This is all over my TL and I was like, “When is Nahida going to say something about this?!” lol
Well I had better things to do until about 20 people asked me to make a statement.
This is a Sikh man writing about tradition in Islamic feminism with no research, though?
You know, some readers have pointedly mentioned this, but his discussing Islamic feminism while being Sikh doesn’t bother me so much as his discussing Islamic feminism via quoting the supposedly vicious things young women say to aunties while being a man.
In fact it’s slightly alleviatory: in this case I’m merely amused because this man has never impacted me negatively (Sikh women in particular have been incredible allies to me), but if a Muslim man positioned with a hand in the direction of outcome had written this I would have certainly been enraged at how daft and self-invested it is. For now it’s only shallow and irresponsible.
Why am I more mad about this than you?!
Nahida, I’m sorry, I don’t know if you’re just playing it cool but this article analyzing you was MADDENING. There were so many parts where I had to stop because it was clear the what the writer’s attitude toward women was. It’s so misogynistic, oversimplified and never portrays Muslim women as complete human beings. How did he even find this? How did he come into our spaces?
Imagine if he wrote this about someone else. Not you. You ARE representative of us here. Muslim men are not going to say ANYTHING to defend you, just like Muslim women sharing the article aren’t. I think what you describe in the post about self-deprioritization theory is happening right now.
Aunties would defend me.
(But only in public.)
@Asiya, Nahida lowkey enjoys reading about herself as a literary subject.
There’s nothing lowkey about that.
Nahida, did you see Mun Eeza’s comment on it?
Yes. Her entire comment begs us to view the writer as gallantly unconcerned about intentions (after all, younger women are only caricatures to him) while asking us to think of his intentions. She pointedly said he is not interested in empirical evidence, which necessitates him abusing quotes to adhere to his theory. She is blatantly admitting that he knows nothing about what he’s just cited while upholding him as qualified to use it as an example nonetheless.
She also argued that this piece isn’t about “spaces”… so basically I am the one sacrificing the collective for the individual, but when the writer does it it’s not negligent at all. And I’m also aware that about 13 people liked that fake woke comment.
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Kinda just looks like he skimmed things written by young women grazing for quotes he could use to create *his* construction of young women.
Orbala spoke to him on twitter because I couldn’t be bothered, and his responses were as expected. It is incredibly objectifying of him to write about whether aunties are irredeemable, but the issue is at the heart of the approach: he views this as merely theory. He has failed to examine who is or isn’t considered an “auntie”–why aren’t feminist women, like Asma Barlas or the Kecia Ali or amina wadud, the last of whom I know personally, live near and consider part of my community, and literally call auntie–considered “aunties” in his essay or in patriarchal perspectives? Since he does not question the patriarchal construction of the auntie, he believes we are responding to aunties as caricatures because only a very specific woman qualifies as an “auntie” to him (and thus he must uphold that caricaturization even as he critiques it), and we respond to that woman individually in a certain way, so the construction feeds itself.
What is going to be hurtful is that the most politically aware aunties, whom this article fails to define as “aunties”, are the ones who are going to be defending it, even though we have always engaged honestly with them and them with us–the very youth this article accuses of not interacting with aunties.
“he views this as merely theory.”
YES!!! This is what male (academic or non-academic) scholarship does. To us, studying women and women’s lives and histories is simply theoretical. They are too myopic to see that it’s not just theory, certainly not for those they’re writing about. It has practical impact.
I can’t get over what an excellent example his article is of how men think that they are entitled to defining things for us. He defines the “aunty” – no, no, he constructs the “aunty” per his imagination, and as happens with all definitions and constructions, it’s essentialist as fuck, which is why, as Nahida pointed out, feminist women don’t get to be aunties, the older women fighting patriarchy don’t get to be aunty. The women challenging other women’s patriarchy don’t get to be identified as aunty.
So much more to say this isn’t ending.
How does a person manage to write about a construct without dissolving the construct? Or even challenging its parameters? Only a man could manage an analysis so shallow that it neglects to address how diverse “aunties” are.
The examples he chose are questionable af. They don’t illustrate his points at all.
That’s because he denies attempting to try to “save” the auntie (only the aunties he considers aunties and thus worth saving), but then retweets non-intersectional bull like this:
To say this about an article that cites only younger women of color working under the pressures of multiple oppressions is revelatory. Men are terrible at hiding their patriarchal biases. They want to preserve a tradition in which those young women are shamed into not being more like the aunties they objectify.
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