Rebels v.s. Revolutionaries

Patriarchy will always perceive the actions of two groups of people as “rebellious”–women, and teenagers. Take note that although “rebellious” is denotatively defined as resisting authority, the connotation is that women and teenagers are disobedient and insubordinate for the mere the sake of resisting authority, and not for the grander revolutionary cause of upholding the inherent value in their beliefs. Unlike rebellious men, who seek to overthrow an unjust system, the rebellious woman is perceived as one who seeks to destabilize the morals of society and needs to be “put back in place”–much like the rebellious child, whose opinions are “just a phase” and will come to end upon the adulthood realization that authority figures were correct all along.

I’m aware from your emails that some of you are teenagers. I was 19 when I started writing here. I’m now 24. When I was a teenager, I was a pedantic, quietly imaginative, overreaching kind of child. I was the kind of child adults enjoyed and other children disliked; I was a know-it-all or–worse?–a goody-two-shoes. Perhaps it is some kind of cosmic joke that I am fonder of children now. I didn’t like teenagers when I was one of them. But that was such an injustice! I hope you see that more clearly than I did. Teenagers are in fact quite wonderful. It’s a shame I disliked them—it’s a shame I disliked them while I was one of them, having accepted the myth that teenage problems don’t matter (“You won’t care about them when you’re older,”) that the only use for my intelligence was to prove my worth to adults, that I was immature if I refused to seek adult approval. I am amazed by teenagers routinely when I really shouldn’t be stunned–by Sarah Volz, who grew financially viable algae biofuels under her bed; by Paul Hyman, who invented a camera to aid firefighters seeing through smoke; by Adebola Duro-Aina who invented a urine-powered generator to address Nigeria’s energy problem. (And yes, it works.) The brilliance of teenagers is obvious, not astounding. After all, Louis Braille invented braille when he was 15.

Not that anyone should expect you to be a genius, or expect otherwise for that matter–that complaint about the pre-frontal cortex employed to discredit you every time gets pretty old doesn’t it?–no one should really expect anything at all for anyone. My point is that I was 19 when I began writing here, and despite the common side-smirk accusation about my beliefs and interpretations of Islam being transitory, they were not, in fact, a “phase.” They were the core of who I was, emerging from myself. I hypothesized that after I became an adult–I think I have yet to accomplish this–it would be accepted that I’m not “rebelling” for the sake of rebelling, that I’m just being who I actually am, living my life the way I saw it fit to be lived, but of course in anticipating this I had neglected to account for the fact that I’m a woman. Which means my “rebellion” will never be taken seriously. It is rebellion and not revolution. The Great Male Revolutionary may be revered, but the kindred spirit in a womanly form, eternally disparaged, is the true lone ranger.

Don’t let anyone claim your beliefs, your identity, anything about you is merely transitional. And if it is, don’t let anyone attribute it to your age. After all, transitional things are lovely, and their temporariness makes them no less valuable. Patriarchy will have you believe only men are allowed to change their minds whilst maintaining validity on any decision, on any assumed identity, as though this very human tendency to change is a privilege afforded to only those whose genders–and age–have been wrongfully associated with strength of character. I’d tell you it gets better as you get older–but why should it? You needn’t grow out of a certain age for people to begin respecting your perspectives. And you, 19-year-old reading this in your late teens on-the-brink-of-20–don’t you dare forget what it was like. I was 19 five years ago, and I still haven’t. Just because it stops mattering to you one day once you’ve passed a convenient threshold doesn’t mean it isn’t still important. The rule is suspended in the timelessness of morality. All it means when you think you “know better” now is that you’ve become oppressive as soon as you were given the opportunity to forget.

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.


Stop Talking about Drones

This is going to be a quick post, and it’s prompted by various Muslims–and naturally, they’ve pretty much all been men trying to “put things in perspective”–detracting from the tragedy of the Nigerian girls who’ve been kidnapped, raped, and sold into slavery by competing with the attention the kidnapping is receiving, via lists of various things happening to Muslims in other places. There’s some guy’s picture circling around somewhere on the Internet with a sign reading that Michelle Obama’s husband has killed more children with drones than Boko Haram has kidnapped. I’m sure you’ve seen it. I don’t know what the FUCK is wrong with you, but you ALL need to shut the hell up.

Black women have worked HARD for this to even be a news story in the first place. The girls had been kidnapped for a month before it made international news. Maybe this tragedy isn’t tragic enough for you, but despite what you might believe the problems of black women deserve even more of a spotlight than they’ve fought to have. STOP distracting from the issue, stop using their activism as a foothold for yours, stop pushing your interests in children who look like you and pray like you at the expense of theirs. This is especially aggravating because (excuse me while I turn into an US-centric asshat for a moment here) all people of color living in the US who have immigrated here are leeching off the Black Liberation Movement, have always leeched off the Black Liberation Movement, and have time and time again failed to show solidarity with black women.

Can you shut up about colonialism for just one moment? Do you have to take over every conversation about global misogyny? What is it about violence that targets black women or involves sex trafficking that suddenly prompts men to come along and “put things in perspective”?! You there–you, the guys calling out the President’s wife for violence against Pakistani children–you will say you’ve never hurt a child but you are LIVING on a country built on the corpses of children, you are BORN of an ancestry that provided white colonialists with black slaves, you travel between the US and Saudi and engage with governments and empires who have sold out their people, and who still systematically oppress the black populations from which they’ve supplied slaves to colonialists. And you want to point fingers at Michelle Obama’s husband while she’s trying to draw attention to girls who’ve been trafficked? And whom have you killed!

By all means, talk about drones. Do it on your own damn hashtag.

Stop distracting from people who are marginalized in not only their race but their sex–THAT is something you will never understand, even as you continue to use it as a prop to promote your own agendas.

In response to anchor Ana Kasparian

New Jersey Superior Court Judge Sohail Mohammed ruled that a woman has the right to privacy in the delivery room; specifically, that she has the right to the privacy of her medical records, procedures, complications, and/or any other medical information that may be disclosed in a delivery room with the father of the child present. She therefore has the right to disallow the presence of the father in the delivery room if she does not desire it. The Superior Court Judge ruled that the father’s presence may pose an “unwanted strain” on the mother, who is already deeply stressed during childbirth. He also ruled that a woman is not required to inform the father of the child when she is going into labor.

In response to this, news anchor and commentator Ana Kasparian reported that although the ruling makes sense in terms of the privacy of the mother, the father should have the right to know the child has been born and that he should be informed when the mother goes into labor. Kasparian maintained that the father should not be allowed in the delivery room against the desires of the mother. As to support her opinion, the anchor mentions that the father is likely expected to pay child support, and therefore has the right to see his child and experience “precious moments” with the child.

As unsurprising as it is that Kasparian would adopt this view, given her (notoriously misogynistic) audience–and the natural influence of any audience–it’s absurd that this perspective was upheld under her scrutiny. First of all, informing the father that the woman has gone into labor and informing him the child has been born are two different things. The former, pertaining to the medical state of a woman’s body, is still a violation of privacy. Second, child support is not a “token” a father pays for moments with the child. It is the financial support of a life because it exists. To believe there should be any kind of “return” for child support is ridiculous, and ultimately, unenforceable.

After all, who’s to say which moments are “precious,” and yes, while I concede that the birth of the child is hardly comparable to, say, the child’s swim competition, what if in the latter case it is the child who does not desire the presence of his or her father? Should the father be legally allowed to suspend his financial support? I doubt there is any rational man who would argue he should not be required to pay child support for a child who does not desire his/her father’s presence at the school swim competition, as precious a moment it is. He’d be laughed out of court.

And that sheds light on the real issue when it comes to child support and “men’s rights”–the men who are looking for ways to weasel out of it aren’t doing it because they are concerned about principle; what they are concerned about is revenge. They’re more likely to exact that revenge on a woman who doesn’t want to see them than a child who has the same wish. They view child support as something not received by the child, but received by the mother. Otherwise, it would be unthinkable to suspend financial support for a child when a woman refuses to allow the father in the delivery room, an act fully within her medical right. The real objective is to “punish” the mother for practicing this right. Those against the ruling are less interested in the effect this has on the child, the real receiving party, than in themselves as the injured party–but why would they be, when they are assured that the child will be supported regardless, by the woman herself? When a woman aborts her financial support by giving up a child to adoption (a right men have argued should be shared by them when the child is “adopted” by the mother exclusively) she often does so because there is no one else to help her support the child, and no one who will see to it that the child is supported no matter what. A man arguing that he should be able to see the child as long as he pays child support, as though child support is a “token” inserted into a slot of experiences, and not the lifeline of another very small human being, is able to do so when he is accustomed to a sense of entitlement that is sustained by his expectation that the child will be taken care of financially by the mother without his support, even if she struggles. He is assured of this, and takes advantage of the work being done either way, deciding that he’d rather “punish” the woman and make her struggle to accomplish it.

It’s nearly self-evident that these issues with child support in “men’s rights” are deeply personal ones that are championed by men wishing to bring them into the legal sphere where they have no place.

Girl Sues Her Parents for the Right to Carry a Pregnancy to Term

In Texas, a 16-year-old girl sued her parents who were pressuring her to abort her pregnancy. She won her case.

While the pressure itself is not illegal (and shouldn’t be, even though it sucks), some of the extreme methods of coercion on which the parents unfortunately relied definitely should be illegal, because these are consistent violations of the daughter’s right to bodily autonomy. The girl’s mother threatened to slip her the morning after pill, which is horrendous, and slipping anyone medication against their will should amount to jail time. The father threatened to physically abuse her, which should also amount to even more jail time. Both parents wanted to take away her phone and her car.

Considering the fact that they pulled her out of school to take two jobs, their concern seems financial. I suppose they are worried their daughter is destroying her life. (She also wants to marry the 16-year-old kid who would be the child’s father, for the record, and he’s agreed.) However, I have no credit to give them for this: it seems if whether her life is destroyed were truly their concern the last thing they would do is deprive her of her resources.

Which brings me to my next point: it is inarguably WRONG, and illegal, to slip the girl medication or physically assault her. But what’s also wrong is to take away things that have been given to her.

I don’t doubt that she probably didn’t buy the car or the phone with her own money. And that is the number one excuse parents always use to take things away from their children. It is also the only excuse that applies unfairly and exclusively to children: if you give someone else–anyone else–a gift, you can not demand it back as soon as they’ve ceased to please you.

This isn’t just legally true, it is also true by social expectations and conventions. Unless you are a child, in which case you have no right to property. Think for a moment about how truly atrocious that is: there is nothing that belongs to you. In a moment anything can be taken away; it is enough to strip a child of not only their sense of security but to an extent of defining their identity.

The parents might cut off the insurance for the car, or stop paying for the monthly phone bill, but they cannot take away the car or phone itself or her direct access to these things. These were gifts from the parents to their daughter, which means that now they are HERS. They are now her property.

What she sued for was to secure access to what was already hers.

This post isn’t just about a woman’s right to choose, or about the incredible violation her parents have committed by denying her that choice, but about child rights. This girl is legally still a child, and thanks to anti-choicers’ (and some pro-choicers) insistence that minors have to notify their parents about medical decisions concerning pregnancies, she is subjected to the tyranny of her parents as intermediaries to her right to bodily autonomy.

Her decision to marry her boyfriend is a bad one–I genuinely believe this. I sense that her parents won’t be much financial support to her, so she will have to work instead of going to school–another really bad decision. These decisions are still, however, hers. The right way to handle the situation would have been to sit her down and have a long talk about all potential outcomes so that she would make an informed decision, and, if she really is determined to carry the pregnancy to term, the healthiest thing to do is offer enough support that she may recover from any mistakes while still taking full responsibility for them.

“The Myth of Forgiveness” by Sarah

I really really love Sarah’s new blog, and this is a post that resonates with me and feels so comforting and relieving. Excerpt,

Would I ever tell a person who has been through a certain trauma at the hands of another that they need to forgive that person? No, I would never do that. Forgiveness can have it’s place, but many people hastily forgive because they think that is what has to be done in order to be “healed,” and to “move on.” What they find is they tell someone they forgive them, and then somewhere down the line they get triggered, and angry, and hurt – and instead of allowing themselves to feel the genuine emotions, they feel guilt and internalize a deep sense of shame because they “should forgive” but just can’t seem to do it. This does not aid in actual healing at all, it just becomes another emotional hurdle to work through and try to gain understanding of.

It’s ok to be angry about what was done to us. It is ok to walk in that anger and feel it. It doesn’t mean we are bad people, or somehow doing something wrong in our “path to healing.”

Anger is part of the process, and we deserve to be angry! It is our right to blame those who have hurt us and violated our emotional and physical well being!

What is not ok is when we get pressured into forgiving when we are not ready, and possibly not even able to.

For years this was all I needed to hear.

Things I Would Never Do to Children

When I was 4 years old I was being babysat by a lady who I am sure was a very well meaning adult. Sometime in the afternoon, however, I decided I wanted ice cream, and thus began one of the most infuriating exchanges of my 4 years of life.

“There is ice cream in my freezer,” I informed the babysitter. “Can I have ice cream please?”

Now, for whatever reason the babysitter decided that no, I may not have any ice cream. Except, absurdly, instead of just replying, “No,” which would have been perfectly effective (I may have demanded an explanation but I was a fairly reasonable child) she proceeded to give me vanilla yogurt and attempted to convince me that it was ice cream. “Here you go!”

I stared down at the bowl. Then I looked up at her. “Can I have ice cream please?”

“That is ice cream Nahida,” she said insistently.

I looked down at the yogurt. It was clearly not ice cream. First of all, it was not the correct consistency, and second of all, I had clearly just seen her retrieve it from the refrigerator instead of the freezer. Relatedly, it felt not nearly cold enough in my hands. Last of all, it was a different shade of white. I knew all of this at once, but unfortunately at the age of 4 I did not know how to tell her.

“I want ice cream,” I repeated. “Please?”

She crossed her arms. “Nahida, that is ice cream. Now do you want it or not?”

Apparently she was not going to stop telling me this yogurt was ice cream. I decided on a different approach. “I want that ice cream,” I clarified, attempting to reach the freezer door.

She pulled me away and pushed the bowl of yogurt toward me again. “This is ice cream.”

Her voice was condescendingly sweet. I looked down at the bowl helplessly. Why was she telling me that yogurt is ice cream? If I can’t have ice cream why can’t she just say so and explain why not? Instead there I was, at the age of 4, being told over and over that yogurt is ice cream as though I were expected to believe it because I was a child. I was frustrated and insulted.

But even though I thought all this, I could not express it.

“Please, I want ice cream.”

“Take this; it’s ice cream.”

There is a quiet hysteria to realizing how truly powerless you are. “Please? I want that ice cream.”

“This is ice cream.”

I began to cry. “I want ice cream please.”

I don’t remember what happened after that, but the frustration that arose within me was a hundred times larger than my size. I knew what was right, and I could not be tricked. I did not feel this babysitter was “doing what’s best” which I could sometimes sense from adults—I felt, quite frankly, that she was being cruel.

I don’t know if that was my first experience of my voice unjustly overridden because of someone taking advantage of a power structure, but I can say for a fact that it would not be the last.

Children are smarter than you think they are. And you’d best not be an asshat.