In the absence of the Prophet, you are your best advisor.

In the shower, I nicked myself, on accident. I prefer to wax, so I hadn’t shaved my legs in a long time, since waxing is considerably more convenient. But having decided on laser hair removal for the benefit of silky smooth legs, I was no longer permitted to wax between sessions. I’d decided to handle a razor, and I stared in shower-trance at the soft tiny fuzz gathered between the blades, which the cascading water was not forceful enough to disengage. I swiped the hair off with a finger in a single swift motion–horizontally, in the direction the blades ran, rather than vertically, which would have unlocked them.

Since the blades were sharp, there was no pain to warn me, but my mind bolted alive at once, conscious of hitting the wrong note somewhere, of peculiar activity, of moving in a way I shouldn’t have. I stopped and pulled away before the blades penetrated too deeply. It looked like a neat cat scratch, from a very tiny cat; for a few seconds, I thought I had not broken skin, but I knew this could not be true. I waited. Sure enough, minuscule droplets of blood formed along the edges.

This wasn’t an ordinary shower. I had just finished menstruating: it was farz gusl. In any other circumstance, regardless, drawing blood would have invalidated the state of ritual purity. If I were frantic enough, I would have stopped the water, leapt out of the shower, thrown on a towel–or maybe even clothes–applied bandages in dismay, made sure give it a few minutes until I was certain the bleeding had stopped entirely, and sulked over whether I had destroyed everything before proceeding to redo everything I had undone. I know this woman. I receive emails from her all the time. I love her and wish her well. She even birthed me. And I am always pained by her self-deprecation, her perfectionism of faith… her unjustified guilt.

I used to preform the same prayers over and over, convinced I had done them wrong.

But there, in the shower, watching tiny droplets of blood form, I did not turn off the water, dry myself, and begin again from the first step. I pressed the finger to my lip to stop the bleeding. I thought of God and smiled and kissed it. I performed ablution, gave everything a final rinse, and stepped out of the shower. And then I prayed.

To the woman writing to me, asking whether she should bleach her clothes, her sofa, her bedsheets, everything she ever touched, love, you already know. There is a reason you are writing to me and not a sheikh. You will not allow yourself to hear the truth you have already told yourself. The reasonableness, the practicality, the compassion that you know is Islam–your heart is leading you to where you know it is reflected, and you have the answer already.

It’s the 2nd day of Ramadan and my fast has already been interrupted for the next 7 days.

Since it’s been a while since I’ve written here, I’ll remind everyone asking What is the meaning of this!, that according to mainstream interpretation women should avoid applying nail polish because it acts as a barrier (we’re suddenly against barriers now) between the water during wudu–ritual purification before prayer–and the surface of the nail. However, since–also according to mainstream interpretation–women are exempt from prayer during their menstrual cycles, many take the opportunity to wear nail polish during this time.

Continue reading “It’s the 2nd day of Ramadan and my fast has already been interrupted for the next 7 days.”

showy menstruation

I haven’t done this in forever, but it’s that time of month again. Which means–nail polish! (Here is an explanation. Basically, according to mainstream interpretation nail polish creates a barrier to the nail for the cleansing ritual before prayer, so Muslim women tend to only wear it when they are not obligated to pray–during menstruation, which has developed a reputation of impurity. Sometimes Muslim women are asked why they are wearing it [“Do you want everyone to know you’re menstruating?!”] as though menstruation is shameful, to which I say LOOK AT MY NAILS THEY ARE SO PRETTY!)

I decided to try metallics this week, and began with a rose gold color named “Penny Talk.”

Penny Talk by Essie

I don’t think I much like the foil-y look, but I do like sparkles and (though you can’t tell in the picture) I applied a top of coat of them on the nail of the ring finger, from a little bottle of Essie labeled “A Cut Above.”

A Cut Above by Essie

There you have it. I’m not much a nail polish kind of person (I don’t miss it when I’m not menstruating like I would miss, say, red lipstick–thank God I can wear red lipstick whenever I want) and so far I only have 2 colors that I really actually love seeing on my nails. (Not these.) So I might do a nail polish giveaway some time after the lingerie one, since it is like a thing about this website.

Reproductive Control

I have needed birth control.

My current method of not getting pregnant is abstinence. This is highly convenient. Though it’s always listed as a method along with the cervical cap, vaginal ring, IUD and other preventative measures with an emphasis on efficiency (100%!), as someone who hasn’t much time (and does not enjoy errands) it’s also efficient in other ways. It slides easily, quietly, unnoticed, into my life.

But that also means there are other ramifications. It means I will rarely have motivation to see a doctor—if at all—for problems relating to my cycle. Even if there is pain. It means no one will inform me until I have passed out that I am iron deficient and that accounting for this is critical. It means that when I experience irregularities I will offhandedly dismiss them as an indication of nothing serious. It means I don’t have to listen to the burn in my legs or the searing in my abdomen. It means that I will assume—though I know objectively that it isn’t true—that nothing could possibly go wrong because I am not sexually active. It means that after being condescendingly told by conservatives that the expansive complexity of my reproductive health is reduced to my sexual activity I have begun to believe it. It means that I have accepted that being in pain—even excruciating pain—is simply a part of being a woman.

Losing control of your menstrual cycle is not just mildly unpleasant. When a woman is unable to predict when she is going to start her period, she doesn’t take painkillers until half her day is ruined. The interruption does not only mean you might happen to have been caught unprepared without feminine products. It means you have to stop working, often for more than a few minutes. It means you need urgently to lie down or else you will faint. It means there may not be a place to lie down. It means you could have taken painkillers that morning if you had known this was coming, before the agony overcame you like this, and your schedule has been deferred and if that weren’t enraging enough it involves awkward explanations.

Now you’ve become an excuse for the wage gap. (Women have periods and get pregnant—obviously fair pay is a joke. Vote Scott Walker!) How’s it feel to know that the fate of your entire sex has been determined by the fact that you can’t predict your own damn period?

Okay, okay, try answering me when you’re not PMSing. Geez.

Women don’t take birth control to have sex. They take it to control their lives. Because that is to what our worth has been reduced. And it is infuriating–infuriating–that those who overcome this by dealing with it through seeking better coverage, are the ones accused of causing this reduction. It’s a dangerous and effective game—and it has been played for centuries.

“The bottom line is that before the ACA,” writes Sari Weintraub, “insurers legally discriminated against women who purchased health insurance. Women’s premiums were higher because insurance companies claimed that women use the health care system more often and incur higher total health care costs. It’s called “gender rating,” and it’s used to charge women more than men for the same policy. There are also particular health services specific to uterus-owners, such as Pap smears, pregnancy and prenatal care, and childbirth. For insurance companies, being female is a risk factor in determining coverage costs.”

As a 21-year-old woman, with the ACA I will save at least an estimated $9,108 on birth control in my lifetime, assuming I have one child.

According to the app, that money can fund a shelter for 50 girls surviving sex trafficking for a year.

Half that money can pay for a child’s education in a developing country for 10 years.

And this is what anti-choice Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) had to say about it,

“I know in your mind you can think of times when America was attacked. One is December 7th, that’s Pearl Harbor day. The other is September 11th, and that’s the day of the terrorist attack….I want you to remember August the 1st, 2012, the attack on our religious freedom. That is a day that will live in infamy, along with those other dates.”

Insurance typically covers vasectomies (without a man needing to prove it is absolutely necessary for his health.) And Viagra.

The rest of us, of course, are whores, which is why a bunch of XYs should pass laws regulating our vaginas, the only problem being that if they try to do that you can’t say words like “vagina” without conservative men believing you are casting a spell on them.

If you don’t have that control, someone else does, because you are a thing to be controlled. Make no mistake of it. You have always been. And when they think they can control your uterus, they will believe they are entitled to control your First Amendment rights. Because this is a mentality, and it lives on reducing women to the sex class.

I am menstruating, so nail polish obviously.

If you’re unfamiliar with this little routine (since it’s been a while since I’ve written a post like this) long story short(ened): the majority of Muslims believe that one cannot perform the ablution ritual before prayers with nail polish on her fingernails because the polish creates a barrier between her nails and the water, thus rendering the cleansing ritual incomplete. However, when a woman is menstruating, she is not required to pray, and so there is no need for her to refrain from wearing nail polish. Unfortunately (and unIslamically) menstruating women are culturally viewed as shameful and unclean, and so there is supposedly some kind of element of shame in “advertising” that we are menstruating by wearing nail polish.

Which of course compels me to wear nail polish when I’m menstruating, because LOL I can do it and cis men can’t. I’m pretty proud of the fact that I’m a woman, even when it’s painful. (If you want the longer explanation of the attitudes in the Muslim community toward menstruating women, can read about them here.)

My nails this week are pastel, although I am usually not fond of wearing pastel colors. It’s a varnish called “lilacism” but it should really be called “lavenderism” because the undertone of the blue is lavender, not lilac. (Lavender has a blue base; lilac has a pink base.) It’s actually kind of grown on me; I find it sort of cute in a really grotesque way:

I’ve been thinking a lot about participation in what has been regarded as “feminine culture” and what that means—both in terms of the boundaries established by patriarchy to limit femininity, and in terms of the defense mechanisms emerged to survive those limits. While I’ve written about modesty quite recently, I’d also like to examine why we perform femininity the way we do, and why we comply with certain defining or limiting systems.

In the meantime, I’ve decided that since I’ve already ventured past the dictations of what is acceptable to wear according to how I look (pale colors like this blue are said to be unsuited for the skintones of women like me—more on this later, possibly) I thought I might as well veer off one of my most staple looks and go with a lipstick that is *gasp*! other than red. So I bring you… pink.

I am also wearing bright eyeshadow with bold lips, which supposedly no woman is supposed to do EVER. I hear because it makes us look like whores? If I want to look like a whore then DAMMIT I WILL LOOK LIKE A WHORE. (What exactly is wrong with looking like a whore? I have nothing against sex workers anyway. Just their “clients.”)

In case you’re wondering if I deliberately posed with the fish face, the answer is ‘no.’ This was snapped just as I realized I’d forgotten something. Yes, that is my =O face.

The necklace I am wearing, which you can get just a glimpse of there, is a locket from Khadeeja, a gift that I absolutely love. I’ve always wanted one exactly like it.

The best kind of performance of femininity: the kind that symbolizes a strong friendship.

nail polish as I bleeeed (and gifts)

I am in SO. MUCH. PAIN. Luckily, there are painkillers.

My period commenced yesterday, a day early. So today I randomly grabbed a bottle of nail polish to apply. It’s a sort of coral, an orange with an undercurrent of tender pink I would imagine on a fish. Out of season, obviously, but I never care anyway. I’m not sure I like the color itself, but my skin seems to like it, which is always a relief. I’ve just discovered that I can wear colors on my nails that I can’t wear on my face, strangely. The emerald greens, gunmetal teals, and sultry grays that I love when I wear eye shadows seem harsh as nail polish on my hands, which for some reason prefer softer colors. Other than a clean French manicure my favorite thing to wear on my nails has (surprisingly) been OPI’s Set the Mood. Which is a golden… pink. Who would have thought?

Anyway, here’s the chorally orange fish color I’m wearing on my nails this week, along with a floral ring gifted from a friend, toward which the focus of the camera gravitates.

The ring is from a three-piece set that she selectively put together, along with a bracelet and earrings. I’ve been told that I’m a difficult person to gift, which both amuses and baffles me, because I’m pretty much happy with books and music. Or anything, really. But despite her worries, I think they’re each lovely and she is thoughtful and amazing and all her fretting was unnecessary and I love her. I didn’t even know it was possible for me to adore a massive ring, but apparently it is! She knows me better.


Menstruation in Islam (Quick Clarification on Last Post)

So sometimes I forget that when I go on a reckless rant not everyone knows what I’m talking about. =P I’ve had a couple of questions from non-Muslims in regards to what this nailpolish thing is all about, and I suspect some were secretly wondering why I seemed to be on the verge of psychotic rage. Someone asked me in a private message why women can’t pray while they’re on their periods.

Actually, many Muslim women hold that you can pray while you’re menstruating, because the Qur’an says to pray all the time unless you are sick or certain times during pregnancy (so basically when you’re sick) and the idea is that no one can excuse you from prayer except God. But there are hadith of women coming to the Prophet and telling him that they are menstruating and the Prophet responding that they are excused from prayer. Because hadith is all we know of ritualistic prayer and it is one of the only things the Prophet actually meant to be passed down, I believe that we’re not obligated to pray during our periods. Whether or not the Prophet was correct in doing this is a subject of great debate. I don’t think he’d have messed with something this serious if he wasn’t supposed to. Either that, or the women who came to him weren’t feeling well because they were on their periods and the Prophet excused them under the blanket of illness. One of the problems with hadith is that they only record dialogue, and rarely emotion or expressions.

But (male) scholars have interpreted from this information that women who menstruate are dirty.

I suspect it must come from misinterpretation of this verse:

They will question thee concerning the monthly course. Say: ‘It is a vulnerable condition; so go apart [sexually] from women during the monthly course, and do not approach them till they are clean. When they have cleansed themselves, then come unto them as God has commanded you.’ Truly, God loves those who repent, and God loves those who cleanse themselves. (Qur’an 2:222)

Some translators choose to use “impurity” rather than “vulnerable condition” (yes, the language is that flexible.) One justification for this preference is that the verse clearly speaks of “cleansing.” (But Nahida, why don’t they realize that just because you’re cleaning something off doesn’t mean it’s dirty? Good question, imaginary person! I am glad you have better reading comprehension than these asshats!)

But note that even if it is translated as “impurity” the verse does not excuse women from prayer. As a matter of fact, the verse isn’t even about prayer–it’s only telling men to not have sex with women while they are menstruating.

I’ve been told to leave the prayer area during my period because I was “contaminating” it and “ruining everyone else’s prayers.” (Of course, I did not move.) They claim this even while there are multiple hadith of the Prophet interacting with menstruating women just as he always would if they hadn’t been menstruating. As a matter of fact, one of his wives (Umm Salama) left his bed once because she was menstruating and feared she would “contaminate” him, and he called her back. Another one (Aisha) narrated that when she was on her period the Prophet would still touch her vaginally with his fingers–if THAT doesn’t emphasize that menstruating women aren’t dirty or contaminating I don’t know what does.

Narrated ‘Aisha: The Prophet used to lean on my lap and recite Qur’an while I was in menses. (Bukhari 296)

Narrated Umm Salama: While I was laying with the Prophet under a single woolen sheet, I got the menses. I slipped away and put on the clothes for menses. He said, “Have you got nifas (menses)?” I replied, “Yes.” He then called me and made me lie with him under the same sheet. Umm Salama further said, “The Prophet used to kiss me while he was fasting. The Prophet and I used to take the bath of Janaba from a single pot.” (Bukhari 319)

Narrated ‘Aisha: The Prophet and I used to take a bath from a single pot while we were junub. During the menses, he used to ask me to put on an izar (dress worn below the waist) and used to fondle me. While in Itikaf, he used to bring his head near me and I would wash it while I used to be in my menses. (Buhkari 298)

I want to stop and appreciate the significance of that last one for a minute. The Prophet and his wife are bathing in the same bathwater while she is menstruating. And not just any bath–being in a state of junub is, in English, a state of impurity by either intercourse or sexual discharge. This is a ritualistic bath to spiritually cleanse the impurity in order to return to prayer, and he is taking it to purify himself with the same water used by his menstruating wife.

And yet here we are. Dirty. Contaminated. These scholars have even twisted the concept so that “you don’t have to pray on your period” furthered to “it is forbidden and a SIN to pray on your period.” My mother grew up believing not that she didn’t have to pray on her menses, but that she was forbidden.

In addition, she was taught that once the menses were over she needed to clean everything she ever touched. This is nowhere in the Qur’an, and hadith state the exact opposite.

Narrated Asma’ bint Abi Bakr: A woman asked God’s Apostle, “O Prophet! What should we do, if the blood of menses falls on our clothes?” God’s Apostle replied, “If the blood of menses falls on the garment of anyone of you, she must take hold of the blood spot, rub it, and wash it with water and then pray in (with it).” (Bukhari 304)

Only the part that has blood, people! You don’t need to run around lighting things on fire because you touched them. And even this doesn’t imply that the blood is spiritual contamination–unless you want to force a patriarchal interpretation on it. Objectively all it says is that you should clean off the blood from your clothes, which–if you ask me–is freakin common sense. Yes, if your clothes are stained, do clean them by all means.

And the one to knock ’em all down:

Narrated Maimuna: (the wife of the Prophet) During my menses, I never prayed, but used to sit on the mat beside the mosque of God’s Apostle. He used to offer the prayer on his sheet and in prostration some of his clothes used to touch me.” (Bukhari, 329)

So no, you may not send women away from the prayer area because they are menstruating.

It’s ridiculous and outrageous. And that, dear readers who were a little lost, is why I was so passionate. Menstruation is falsely used as an excuse to keep women out of the mosque, and to brand them as filthy. And that is why I will proudly “announce” I’m menstruating with nailpolish.

(hadith disclaimer)