Salaam everyone! Thanks for joining me this lovely day.
After some consideration, and in follow up with something I wrote last week, I am kicking something new off today: a new series where I can give vent to a lot of thoughts that I carry around all the time. You may have noticed from posts like this and this that I can get kind of crazy-bananas about things that have to do with women and so-called “women’s issues,” both in Islam and in the wider socio-political context that I live in as an American Muslim woman.
What really got me wanting to write about these kinds of things are some comments that I a highly ignorant man so graciously left on my Goolge+ account a few weeks ago, that really drove me up the metaphorical wall.
They were on my I am an (Islamic) Feminist post, where he promptly informed me that I cannot possibly be a Muslim woman and a feminist at the same time. He went on to cite Saudi Arabia, Iran, and “shariah law” as his reasons, and he even had the face to quote some ayat of the Qur’an at me, and then explain them. TO ME. Incorrectly I may add.
Naturally I contradicted all of this with ever-undervalued facts, and seeing that he had lost the battle on one front, he went on to attack the whole feminist movement in its many iterations, since the very beginning. He even blatantly told me that perhaps it was the fault of the suffragettes themselves that they did not have the right to their own property, to an education, or to vote and participate in public life. Which is why, according to him, men are now “leaving you women behind and going their own way, because you are not worth the effort and no matter what we do for you, you just complain about it.”
Oh the very fount of ignorance I have stumbled upon!
So for this post, I want to talk a bit about some feminst-y things. Feminism is a subject that I am very interested in these days (though in the past I have vehemently rejected the label of “feminist” for myself), and I am trying to learn more about it every day. Not only do I do a lot of reading on the topic, both from an Islamic and secular perspective, but I would totally love any discussion here from some of my readers as well!
That being said, I am by far no expert on the topic. And I understand that there are some valid critiques of the feminist movement in general, especially those that come from women of color, which I hope to learn more about and address in the future inshaAllah. I also understand that there are aspects of the feminism movement that may not align directly with Islam, which is why I am very mindful of taking the good from feminism that can coincide with my higher value system, Islam, and leave the parts that are conflicting.
But for today, I want to talk a bit about two aspects of the feminist movement that my comment-conversation with that dude brought up in my mind, and have been stuck there ever since.
Firstly, and something I feel very, very strongly about: body autonomy. What I mean by that is that every woman has the right to control her own body (what is on it, what she puts in it, what she in general does with it), and another woman’s choices are most likely none of my business. I definitely touched a bit on this topic in last week’s Hijab Fridays post, but I just want to re-iterate it again with a slightly different focus.
This is especially relevant where the case of non-Muslim women is concerned. Within the Muslim community, I may offer sincere advice to a sister if it is done properly and comes from a place of love and care, not a place of “you have to be just like me or you are going to hell.” And even then advice is all I can do. But outside of the Muslim community, I cannot and should not impose my beliefs on the women around me just to make myself feel more comfortable, or worse, like I am “saving” people.
Would I love it every woman could feel the self-respect and dignity that I do when I put on my jilbab to go out of the house? Yes, of course. Am I going to tell every woman I come across that she is naked and hideous and makes me uncomfortable? Goodness, no. Whether you are covered or not, it is about your choice to dress how you are comfortable. Not my opinion, not the government’s opinion, not your boyfriend’s opinion, etc. etc. And not anyone’s business (I’m lookin’ at you, all the men who used to catcall me pre-Islam, and swear and spit at me now).
Because of my belief system, I do not believe in abortion except in exceptional circumstances. This means that I myself will not be getting an abortion unless it is a life or death situation. This also means that the choices other women make is absolutely none of my concern, and quite honestly that option should be available to the women who need it.
Because at the root of feminism is the idea that women should be spending their time building each other up and not tearing each other down.
Going a step further in this idea, I firmly believe that no room full of middle-aged men has any right to make any single law about what a woman can or cannot do with their bodies, down to cutting a single fingernail. A man has no right to tell me what birth control I can or can’t take, what surgeries I can and can’t have, and what services and screenings I do or don’t need.
And I believe this the other way, too; I believe a group of middle-aged female politicians would have no right to be drafting laws on circumcision and prostate matters. If you don’t have to deal with the repercussions of your laws on your own body, you don’t have the right to make them.
The second issue I have had on my mind quite a bit lately is the issue of equality.
I know this one can get tricky, because Islamically men and women have the same human value, but different functions on this Earth. And obviously being a Muslimah, that is the view that I am most inclined toward.
There is a vein of Western Feminism these days that does take men as the be-all end-all “standard” of what it means to be human, and therefore a woman has to have/do every single thing that a man has/does in order to be considered equal.
The equality I am talking about is more of a “levelling the playing field” kind of equality. The kind of equality where if a man writes this article for $100, I would also get $100 for writing the same article. If I write the article for $75 to my male counterpart’s $100, that is where the problem lies.
It is also about opportunity: I should not be turned down from a job that I am 100% qualified for because my age, sex, and marital status make me “pregnancy risk.” Equal opportunity to work, study, and participate in the aspects of public life that affect us are essential areas where equality is necessary.
And like I said before, it goes both ways. (think Emma Watson and the HeforShe campaign…). Yes, I think a woman should have the right to a paid maternity leave, and not be at risk for being fired from her job for also happening to have a family. And I also think that men have every right to a “paternity” or some other type of paid family leave so that they can spend time with their wife and newborn without having to use up all of their vacation or sick days.
And if you think that gender stereotypes only negatively affect women, I need to write another whole blog post just on that. Which I think I will do, since I am guessing by now y’all think I have gone on quite enough for today!
I would love to hear your thoughts, men and women, Muslim and non-Muslim (as long as they are actual thoughts not ignorant rambling). Do drop me a comment, or hit up the contact form and let me know what you are feeling about this article, and my plan to write more like this!