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.

Islamic History and the Women You Never Hear About: The Rights of Girls

When Umm Salama, a woman famous for her intelligence and sound judgment and argumentative nature, asked the Prophet “Why are men mentioned in the Qur’an and why are we not?” she did not only challenge the pre-Islamic customs that were abrasive to women and had not yet been overturned by the unfinished Revelations, but almost single-handedly initiated a powerful feminist movement–and one that was sealed into morality by God. Not only was the following verse revealed in reply to her:

Indeed, the men who surrender to God and
the women who surrender to God,
the believing men and believing women,
the obedient men and obedient women,
the truthful men and truthful women,
the patient men and patient women,
the humble men and humble women,
the charitable men and charitable women,
the fasting men and fasting women,
the men who guard their modesty and the women who do so,
and the men who remember God often and the women who do so –
for them God has prepared forgiveness and a great reward. (Qur’an 33:35)

but the women who came to the wives of the Prophet demanding the recognition of their sex were so successful that an entire chapter of the Qur’an (Chapter 4, An-Nisa, or Women) was revealed. The verse cited above was not only evidence of the total equality of men and women–but, most significantly, it is GOD who speaks of men and women in these equal terms and recognizes both sexes as members of the community and consequently grants them, mutually, all the rights accompanied with being a member of the ummah. Also incredible is the expectation that men maintain characteristics that the patriarchy in which we live expect only of women: obedience (to God), patience, humility, and modesty.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a feminist movement if it weren’t immediately met with violent outrage by men.

An-Nisa, chapter 4 of the Qur’an, established new laws that would regulate relations between the sexes. In pre-Islamic custom when a woman’s husband passed away, she would be inherited by the dead husband’s son, who could then marry her himself (if she was not his mother) or else marry her to someone else and pass her rights to his nephew or brother. The widow was ripped of her rights, and was no more than the property that sons inherit. She could not oppose; as Tabari noted, “If the son and heir was too young, the stepmother was prevented from remarrying, and she was obliged to wait until he became old enough to be able to make a decision regarding her.”

And then verses were revealed that not only strictly prohibited this, but guaranteed women inheritance. When women were once property to be inherited, they could now inherit themselves. Naturally, men were infuriated (awwwe) and threw hissy fits accordingly. Many of the Companions were of the opinion that Islam should not interfere with the privileges men have over women. Now men had just lost a great portion of their inheritance, not only by being unable to inherit women–who themselves constituted a large part of inheritance–but losing inheritance to women, who were given by God the same rights as men.

The men immediately rejected the laws. They rushed to the Prophet and demanded that he retract them. When neither worked, they began to look for loopholes and interpreted the verses in ways that would privilege them. The war on Islam by patriarchy had begun even while the Prophet was still alive. But Muhammad (P) was unmoved. And so were the women. They did not allow their God-given rights to be taken by patriarchy. On various occasions of injustice, they complained directly to the Prophet and demanded the application of the new laws. Kubaysha bint Ma’an, distressed by the persistence of her son-in-law to attempt to “inherit” her, came to the Prophet and said, “Prophet of God, I have neither inherited from my husband nor retained the freedom to remarry whom I wish.” In reply to her verse 19 of An-Nisa was revealed.

O you who have believed!
it is not lawful for you to inherit women against their will.
And do not make difficulties for them
in order to take [back] part of what you gave them
unless they commit a clear immorality.
And live with them in kindness.
For if you dislike them –
perhaps you dislike
a thing wherein God has placed much good. (Qur’an 4:19)

Additionally, since the unjust argument of men for why women should not inherit had been that women do not mount horses and fight in wars, the son-in-law in question lost his privileges of engaging in warfare. Of course, none of this prevented patriarchal men who had converted Islam from fighting against it; in Medina, the ‘adl was employed, a contract which prevented a divorced woman from marrying without the permission of the ex-husband. Verses were dedicated to declaring such contracts immoral and wrong.

When Chapter 4 of the Qur’an was revealed, the very early verses involved not just the rights of orphans but particularly the inheritance rights of orphan girls. This was absurd and ridiculous according to Arab men. Before the Revelation (and after, despite it) orphaned girls were sexually abused and mistreated: the aesthetically pleasing among them would be forced to marry their guardians, who took over their inheritances. The ones who were not conventionally attractive would never be allowed to marry, so that the guardians would wait for them to die and claim their inheritances. To condemn this practice was–among others–verse 2 of An-Nisa.

Give unto orphans their wealth,
and [in your management] exchange not the good for the bad,
nor absorb their wealth into your own wealth.
That would be a great sin. (Qur’an 4:2)

This was incredulous. Incredulous! Why should a female orphan have the same inheritance as a male orphan, especially if she is (gasp!) unattractive? Why should children of both sexes be granted such rights? There was a parade of strong resistance to this idea. A man, who was the guardian of his fatherless cousin and refused to marry her away so that he may have her inheritance for himself, came to the Prophet and demanded, “Does an ugly young girl who is blind have the right to inherit?” To which the Prophet replied–yes.

The plans of God do not center around the tantrums of men, and this made it clear. But the men continued to attempt to distort the verses with the instrument of interpretation so that their privileges over women would be restored and maintained.

And they still do. Because they are douches.

No, you do not have the right to a child-free prayer area.

Yes, even if the child is screaming.

I am not a mother. I would say–and have said–that I plan to be a mother, but I don’t really plan. If I get married, then great! If I don’t get married, then also great! I’m not really planning my life around having children or choosing a living based on flexibility for this very purpose like a couple of women I know; mostly, I’m looking forward to being finished with school and having a (hopefully) stable career for which I fully enjoy getting up in the morning. I’m looking forward to having a car, which would actually save me a lot of time I could use to cook real food. I’m looking forward to a small two-story house and a garden and coming home–my house! with large windows and shelves and shelves of books!–to dive under the blankets and have homemade pasta and read in peace and quiet and wear great shoes assuming I am not a complete and total failure.

Were I to imagine having children, I realize that I am looking forward to raising them. In fact, I think I would make a very good mother.

Which is why I will tell you to STFU if you ever–EVER–tell me to remove my crying child from the prayer area at the mosque.

It is one thing when the child is screaming and the parent is totally ignoring him/her in a public area that is supposed to be quiet, like a library, movie theatre, or sometimes a restaurant. It may be up for debate whether or not the child should be removed simply for screaming. (In restaurants the only reason kids act up is because they don’t know how to behave–precisely because no one wants them there; it is different in other places. In a movie theatre, I would definitely take my kid outside.) But at a mosque?

Never. You don’t have the right.

I have seen this happen too often. A baby–baby!–is crying as the prayers begin, and the mother (always a mother) is trying her best to calm the baby down. “Shhh,” she says in desperation as she rocks the child in her arms, “shhhh.” And she glances up apologetically because people have the nerve to turn around and glare at her. And she is trying to finish her prayer, and she is trying to calm down the baby, and her husband is on the other side of Satan’s Blasphemous Barrier of Hell so she can’t get to him for help, and she is desperately sorry and embarrassed for distracting everyone from their prayers, and everyone is shooting her dirty looks like why do you exist? just go kill yourself and she looks like she is going to burst into tears–

And then a woman walks up to her and for a fleeting moment she looks relieved, except the woman is not offering, “Here, give him to me,”–the woman is ordering, “Take him outside.”

And she looks hurt. Because she has a baby, and according to Islam she is doing everyone a fucking favor by giving birth and she is sacrificing everything for the future of the community and you are supposed to honor your mothers, and now she is being thrown out.

Whose fault is it that Islam is in the state it is today? Your fault. You have exiled the bedrock of the Islamic community and torn women and children away from the mosque. You have created an environment in which women turn on each other, forgetting that they too are and were and will be mothers, forgetting that the reward for giving birth is inconceivable in its value, forgetting that this is struggle, forgetting that this mother and her child are human beings who both have as equal a right to be there as you.

Man the hell down.

Two-year-olds have the tendency to run around the prayer area, chase each other, and fall into fits of delighted laughter. They are excited by the expansion of the unfurnished area. They can run without bumping into things and there is soft, soft carpet to fall on. So they chase, and giggle, and squirm, and are joyful. You’d have to have a heart of steel to not allow it. But there’s always someone who physically forces them to sit down, be quiet, and behave. Because it’s “disrespectful.”

Disrespectful? To whom? God loves the laughter of children, and we are here for God–not you.

May God fulfill the prayers of those who pray with the laughter of children in the background.

May God fulfill the prayers of those who pray with their fussy infants beside them.

May God fulfill the prayers of those who pray with the sound of tiny, tiny feet running and stumbling across the floor.

Because they are praying as the Prophet prayed. Our Prophet, who prayed while children climbed over his shoulders.

In Islam, it is expected that there will be children. In Islam, adult spaces and child spaces are porous, and it is well accepted that there will be a lot of small people around. In Islam, men take the kids to the prayer area as often as women. In Islam, we smile at children and play with them, and we don’t banish mothers to the outskirts of society. In Islam, adults are not stuck up entitled douchecanoes who can’t handle the sound of a wailing child. Pray over it. Is your concentration so easily diverted? You pray five times a day–haven’t you got the hang of it by now?

No. The truth is you are perfectly capable of praying over it–you just want to be a total jackass because it’s empowering to act all holier-than-thou-see-me-in-the-grandeur-of-my-judgment.

And this is yet another tactic to keep women out of the mosque. How many have we got already? I will take my child outside when my child is old enough to have done something wrong. I will be stern with my child when my child is old enough to understand she/he has done something wrong.

And I expect the rest of the Islamic community to be patient. I am raising this kid–you know, the one you’ve been telling me for centuries is my duty to have?–and I am entitled to your patience. And to your teachers, and to your mosques, and to this community. Because I gave birth to it.