Cruelty of “Acceptance”

When I was young (14-16), I’d witnessed straight male classmates make jokes to their bi and gay friends about how they better not hit on them. Since then, I’d seen other straight women do this too. The cruelty with which this “acceptance” was laced was so obvious to me. How is not immediate to someone how traumatizing and messed up this is to say to a person who’s already on edge about how they’re constantly sexualized and depicted as predatory or undesired. You all make me want to cry with how empathetically challenged you are. And that’s only secondhand. You don’t deserve those friends.

How do I make this the biography in every book I publish?

Me: There are white converts on this thread who think we will prioritize them over black Muslims.

This girl:

I busted out laughing at this so hard because that’s exactly the image I project online yet I’m somehow surprised when that’s what people gather.

My mother worked in an assembly line and raised us alone. But what’s even more absolutely more crucial–are you listening? this is crucial–is that it doesn’t matter how terrible I am at applying my makeup, because Nadia still won’t see the line where my foundation hits my real skin tone.

😂 In all seriousness, I am not mentioning my economic background to detract from privilege, but for the transparency of the fact, so affected parties are able to draw conclusions. I did go to college.

This is the first time I’ve ever been described as light skinned, but that is likely because my level of comparison was the white standards against which I was critiqued and I might be lighter than most people of color.

It’s a bizarre and out-of-place choice to to make this remark in the context we were discussing, in which I had pointed out that a white woman had just made the choice to ignore anti-blackness in favor of rambling on about “reverse racism,” but it falls in line with the trend of people using intersectionality incorrectly.

I still want to make it my biography because of how much it makes me laugh.

She ended up deleting the comment. I have no idea why.

Expect children to assert themselves.

I quite enjoy children who talk back to me. Presenting a line of reasoning to a child or, as with my 15-year-old disciple, Misha (who will tell you she is an adult) considering her arguments about what I’ve written is an invaluable experience. I can’t for the life of me imagine why anyone would want perfectly obedient children. It sounds so unbearably dull.

The concept of “don’t talk back” is also an insulting and bizarre one and, I might argue, kind of western. I won’t deny of course that some non-western cultures expect a degree of obedience, but my own mother, who always listened to reason, has never said anything so ludicrous as “don’t talk back to me”—whether in English or not.

The first time I’d heard of that phrase, in those words, was on television, and then from the parents of white friends, even though in both scenarios the child was saying something perfectly logical or otherwise clever or interesting. As a child then myself, I’d found the retort incredulous and confusing. If I’m being spoken to, why wouldn’t I respond?

If I ever do have children, I should be lucky if they were so observant and expressive. This is not of course to say that I dislike quiet, compliant children: children are people, and this post ultimately is not about what I do or don’t enjoy. It’s to say, rather, that children asserting themselves is a crucial component to being people.

I’m inclined to be argumentative myself (really, you didn’t know?), and when I’m close to someone, I enjoy debates that actually challenge me. At work as well, I typically find it thrilling to gather evidence for a case. And of course, to counter the arguments of a child. These are important to me, because I like to argue, and strangers and men are terrible at it.

Men cannot properly use the term “white feminism.”

I never let a white man pass when he’s accusing a white woman of white feminism because I recognize immediately that he’s using that term because he thinks he’s exempt.

The term in this usage adopts a sexist dynamic that targets BIWoC and ww and non-binary people. After all, why would a white man choose that term? BIWoC use it to speak against those who have undeserved privilege against us. White feminism is imperialism, so why wouldn’t a white man who is genuinely critiquing imperialism just use the term “imperialism”?

Because by choosing instead to identify imperialism as “white feminism,” he dodges accountability and responsibility. He is specifically detracting attention away from himself as an imperialist in order to appeal to the stereotype that classically feminine traits are manipulative and dangerous. He wants to exempt himself from critique while reinforcing his opinion that our femininity, the femininity of BIWoC, is dangerous.

We must recognize these inclinations at every angle. Watch out for this kind of sexism because it will turn on you. WoC can accuse white women of white feminism. A white man doing it wants to make a getaway.

One could make a case that he is using the term specifically to refer to the unique ways in which BIWoC are targeted as victims to be saved by the very people who make them victims. But that is not how this term is used; otherwise, we would frequently refer to MoC as white feminists. And there are certain WoC who cannot bear to ever hear MoC criticized. They will call actual WoC “white feminists” before they ever dare to say it to a man.

The default state of a man of color is white feminist. He wants to tell us how to free us.

I’m always side-eying Muslim men of color criticizing white women’s approach to “freeing” us as if they don’t do the same damn thing. If she says it, it’s because she’s trying to colonize me because I can think for myself. But if I say it, it’s because I’ve been colonized and can’t think for myself. It makes no sense to me that I would criticize only white women for their savior complex and ignore the man wearing her face just because he happens to appear to agree with me in that moment to serve his own purpose. I will legitimately criticize a dishonest man for “defending” me. I am no one’s shield.

I know there’s something off when we critique ww for helping us all wrong or interfering in discussions, but not moc.

Enough.

In response to descriptions of Ansari’s sexual misconduct, Caitlin Flanagan wrote a horrendous article which I will not link (but you have undoubtedly seen) with many memorable quotes, including this one:

“I thought it would take a little longer for the hit squad of privileged young white women to open fire on brown-skinned men. I had assumed that on the basis of intersectionality and all that, they’d stay laser focused on college-educated white men for another few months.”

This abuse of identity politics was no surprise to me: I’ve seen women do this consistently to defend men. Stop misusing intersectionality to cape for men—it’s abusive.

If you’re not a black woman, before you use the word “intersectionality” ask yourself, Am I hurting black women with their own theories in order to advance my agenda of defending trash men?

Caitlin Flanagan is throwing words like “intersectionality” (I doubt she ascribes to it) around to defend predatory brown at the detriment of women of color, which is, frankly, the very definition of non-intersectional white feminism. Remember that Aziz Ansari is anti-black. Don’t forget it. You don’t get to use the theories of black women to protect him.

And what am I even supposed to tell her? She has unsurprisingly followed suit of non-black women of color: Our article criticizing the sexist responses of Muslim men to frustrations regarding sexual assault had met with the same attitudes, with the same (mis)appropriations of black feminist theories. A staff writer from one of the publications featuring our article had accused it of being white feminist, even though the article centers women of color. Muslim men are not located at the intersections of sex and race. But she had prettied-up the same accusations of “divisiveness” men level against women of color, recasting these sexist accusations as “dichotomizing” sex and race to masquerade them as black feminist theory. Subsequently, she was actually being remarkably white feminist… while explaining to us what white feminism is.

That particular staff writer had also pivoted on her position as part of the staff in order to create an abusive power dynamic between us, deflecting to the prestige of the publication whenever I criticized her. Which worked, since after that yet another staff writer accused me of belittling the publication because I’d found the former’s tactic absurd.

pedantry

She’d bring up white feminism—a term coined by black feminists—in order to dismiss our critiques of abusive Muslim men, but then failed to understand why we replied with discussing the misuses of black feminism even as she misuses it. And then told us to go read about it. It was patronizing and an obscene projection of her own misunderstandings and abuses of black feminist theory. (We were, in all honesty, willing to engage with her until she hit “like” on the comment of a man who’d chanted “not all men” thereby revealing where she stood.)

In order for me to have any respect for someone (and by this I don’t mean basic human respect because everyone deserves that by default, but respect in their work) they have to actually propose critical analyses and produce their own theories instead of just regurgitating the ones that they’ve heard and relying on others (namely, black women) to do it for them. This is the issue with people who simply reproduce patriarchal interpretations of the Qur’an without offering anything on their own; only in this case, that work is the invaluable theories of black feminists, misused to advance a non-black woman’s agenda.

Non-black women of color are aware that feminism without intersectionality is white power. They can’t bother to also realize that feminism without intersectionality is patriarchy. They don’t want to ever critique men of color, but they want to call this “intersectionality.”

And it bears a strong resemblance to the abusive attitude of Flannagan, and of men like this:

Notice the excerpt he chose. Men of color linking Flanagan’s article under the guise of innocent curiosity, specifically choosing an excerpt that abuses the theories of black feminists, get away with this because they surround themselves with “progressive” women of color who build up their egos as “intellectuals.” (The aforementioned staff writer was quick to point out that she knew “decent” men, and I don’t doubt that’s “true.” I wonder where they are in response to Flanagan’s article.) Men like Wajahat Ali are defending Aziz Ansari whether they think so or not, and the excerpt they choose, one that attempts to twist intersectionality to excuse them of sexual misconduct, proves this.

Ansari was predatory. Black men have historically been falsely accused of assaulting white women, and I didn’t see any white women using the theories of black feminists to protect men who were actually innocent then. You’re all doing it for Ansari because (1) he’s not a black woman so of course you’re going to misuse black feminism to protect him and (2) he prioritizes white women over women of color. And you can’t lose such a valuable ally now can you?

The Oath Possesses Your Right Hand

Shortly after reading my article regarding polygamy, a beloved friend of mine (shoutout) maintained that “the responsibility possessing your right hand” should remain “the responsibility your right hand possesses” (translated across all other versions as “what your right hands possess”) because it is grammatically the right hand that is doing the possessing. I could see her perspective, and frankly, she has studied Arabic in greater depth and detail than I have.

But I disagree.

Structurally, the fragment reads word-for-word, “what possessing your right hands” or “mā malakat aymānukum”—there shouldn’t be a dispute that the “what” refers to a responsibility or an oath. It does not refer to directly to women, if the fact that means what and not whom weren’t clear. The Qur’an itself provides this antecedent by employing the form l-aymāna (oath) and yamīnuka (rightfully possesses), describing the nature of the “right hand” as responsibility. I feel that this is a crucial point that every exegete has overlooked.

However, translating the structure into English doesn’t require an inversion for its meaning to remain intact, even when Arabic inverts the subject-object orientation. We say things like this English all the time, particularly in modern and even contemporary poetry. Years ago, I penned the line in a poem, “Braves sudden movement, eye to eye.” Simplified, the object is structured as the subject, even though conceptually it is the eye that is doing the meeting.

In fact, since most translations of the Qur’an are not casual English, I find it very interesting that translators choose to invoke the inversion to make the phrase casual (and in their minds, I’m sure, clearer) when that is not its state, rendering it a judgment call and a deliberate decision considering the flexibility of the original phrase in Arabic. It’s true that in English we don’t speak in the language of poetic inversions of casual statements, but neither are Qur’anic English translations informal.

Translating “mā malakat aymānukum” as “what [oath] is possessing your right hands” honors the fluidity of the phrase in Arabic, whereas English interrogates for clarity in the ownership via subject-object orientation, which is already a philosophically imposed assignment. The implications of the oath being the object rather than the subject, particularly when we incorrectly understand (what) to mean “women” and not “oath,” are drastically grave in English.

Placing the responsibility as possessing the right hand in English emphasizes women as the entitled subject, rather than men as the entitled subject: you have rights rather than he has control. Arabic, however, lulls of a quality of possessive uncertainty.

I floated this past my love Zeina, a native Arabic speaker. “It’s both right?” I asked her at an obscene hour of the night when she certainly should have been asleep. “It’s more fluid in Arabic whereas in contemporary English it means two very distinct things.”

“Yes it is both. I’ve never thought about it that way. I think both work grammatically.”

Since in the inverted English the ownership is over an oath or promise or responsibility and not women, I’m not married to either structure in translation. In fact, there are also benefits, like the relief of responsibility from the marginalized, when the phrase is structured as the right hand doing the possessing. But in case anyone is married to either, I present this reasoning for my maintaining the Arabic structure in the English translation.