Abstract Chatter

B*tch Bad
November 20, 2012, 10:24 pm
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ImageYesterday during halftime at the Wizards game, we watched young children describe to the fans what they were most thankful for. The game was against the Pacers so one kid said he was glad to not live in Indianapolis; the other was thankful for the Wizards, and finally the youngest of them all said he was thankful for the Wizards girls. Now on the surface, this may sound innocuous. Beautiful people is indeed something to be thankful for. But it just didn’t seem to fit the response of a small child who couldn’t have been more than 4 years old.

What further angered me was how the conversation continued. So then Big Tigger laughed at the response, and continued on with comments which perpetuated the already degrading nature of the kid’s original response. Big Tigg said something along the lines of, “Oh- you do, don’t you?  Well, which one is your favorite Wizards girl? Go pick one.”

This, in my opinion, is more than just inappropriate. This is the (erroneous) socialization of our brown and black boys. This is exactly the type of conversation which infuriates me. It continues to validate why I’m not a fan of people, particularly black/brown men in public roles such as Big Tigger. The audacity of him to not understand his role as a public figure, and be completely unaware of the environment around him…

My mind has now wondered off to the role of cheerleaders. But that’s a whole different post that I won’t delve into now.

My husband, of course tells me I’m trippin- that I overreacting to the comment, and that many things easily upset me. I personally didn’t feel as if I overacted.

I then remembered Lupe’s song, Bitch Bad. I swear this man is a lyrical genius (sometimes.)

Now imagine there’s a shawty, maybe five maybe four
Ridin’ ’round with his mama listening to the radio
And a song comes on and a not far off from being born
Doesn’t know the difference between right and wrong
Now I ain’t trying to make it too complex
But let’s just say shawty has an undeveloped context
About the perception of women these days

This situation just made me more conscious of how we as adults can influence the very malleable minds of children. That in an instant, the brief moment of innocence that consumes a child vanishes as if it never exited.


Much Ado About Everything
April 25, 2012, 8:44 am
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Here’s to a much-needed discussion over Mona’s article entitled “Why Do They Hate Us?” Albeit being excited over the back and forth dialogue, I was quite disappointed at the ignorant comments sprinkled around. (Less of a sprinkle, and more like a disastrous flood.) My mind too felt like a pendulum swing, as my thoughts oscillated to and fro in an attempt to find equilibrium. But maybe at this moment, there’s too much friction to reach the level of stability I had hoped for.

I began reading the article earlier yesterday, but didn’t finish. Like Mona’s critics, I too came across the imagesImage (chosen by Foreign Policy Magazine, and not by Mona) of women being eroticized by stereotypical images fashioned “by the West.” It seems like so many of her critics focused on these images. Either way, I never finished reading the piece, as it didn’t spark the rage I saw from her critics. I nodded along, angered and frustrated at the suffering of women she mentioned throughout the article. But now, having read the piece in its entirety, along with the vastly forwarded counter-reaction, I have a few thoughts of my own.

1) Not being an Egyptian (American), but having lived in the country for a year, I could hear Mona’s experience running parallel to my own. What she described was analogous to my own experience. It was exactly what I saw and lived through. Not being of Egyptian descent might dilute my credibility, because I- as an outsider, as a foreigner, a Pakistani American – am less likely to understand why women were treated the way they were. And this may be true.

But in my mind, pointing out this experience, and the harassment that my roommates and I encountered, just meant I could more easily criticize what I saw around me without repercussions. It meant I wasn’t committed to representing Egypt in the best of light. I wasn’t married to Om Al Dunya’s (Mother of World) legacy or history. And pointing out our reality and negative encounters of sexual harassment in no way disregards the work that women have been doing on this issue—as some of her critics have stated. Now, I’m trying to figure out what I’m missing here, because nowhere in the article does Mona negate the work that women, and women’s rights groups have done on the ground. It more so outlines the nature of oppression that exits in the lives of Muslim women in Muslim majority countries.

But mind you, in public service, the goal is to not keep these organizations alive and breathing. The goal is to no longer have a need for them. So what does the existence of these organizations mean? It means, Houston, we have a problem.

2) Some folks didn’t like that the focus was on abused women from Muslim majority countries. But to separate that fact that we are dealing with Muslim majority countries from the way women are treated is a faulty and cowardly way to approach the problem. It’s a cop-out. For generations, men have used religion as a tool and/or weapon to exert positions of power. These positions of power have reduced women to mindless matter, or tried to at least. To extract Islam away from the problem, and to pretend as if it doesn’t provide the means to rationalize or interpret the way in which a woman should be treated by a man, or what a woman’s role in society is—is terribly misleading indeed. Thus, it needs to be part of the equation.

3) I don’t think the argument Mona oversimplifies the broken system, nor does it claim that Arab/Muslim men are inherently born to hate women. But it does shine light to the fact that there’s a large portion of the world, which preaches Islam, where women are disrespected, oppressed, and forced into premature marriages. These are facts. These are realities, which, regardless of what the West thinks, are very much the reality for hundreds of millions of women. Granted, I understand that she doesn’t delve into the debts of poverty, joblessness or lack of education. These are potential roots to the problem, yes. These are societal problems, for which no person can escape. And men are part of society. But that doesn’t justify the actions that we see conducted by men. That doesn’t justify genital mutilation, it doesn’t validate virginity tests, and it doesn’t excuse child-marriages.

I recall talking about suicide bombs a few years back. Condemnation of the act was always explicit. Never ambiguous. Alongside the conversation about suicide bombings came the reasons for why young boys were so easily manipulated to do such deeds. It was poverty, it was joblessness, it was expansion of madrasas etc. The religion was being hijacked and used as tool to legitimize martyrdom. But people kept condemning. Recognizing the root cause didn’t in any way discount the evil nature of suicide bombings.

4) It is also unfortunate that people are lost in the person they “think” Mona is. Critics got lost in what they believed she represented and stood for. I actually wrote a blog entry not too long back, discussing how much of a fool she looked, regarding the debate on the niqab. But that isn’t to say that I would approach this piece with previous baggage. I will come to assess this article for what’s at hand. Knowing that she comes from her own experiences. And knowing that I come from mine.

Update: I came across the following article and vehiminetly agree:

This is not a disease men are born with, or contract from the Arab atmosphere. Even Eltahawy herself, attributes it to “a toxic mix of religion and culture”. And to this I would add the political oppression and stasis that enabled these structures to become de facto governance, where entrenched tribal allegiances, pre-Islamic mores and social tradition trumped weak political culture. A general retardation that extends not just to women but to every aspect of personal freedom and civic rights.

I’m a hater, and haters gonna hate
December 2, 2010, 9:23 am
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I’m reading this article, with the hopes of being as open minded as I possibly can. But for some reason, bits and pieces of it rubbed me the wrong me. Maybe the simple fact that a man was writing it delegitimized the entire narrative (sexist, I know- but aren’t my weaknesses diluted because I recognize my own biases?). Or maybe it was because I skimmed the article, and missed the essence of what he was trying to say…but either way…

Let’s begin with the author’s assumptions:

1) That hijab is a choice, and not a mandate.

The problem is, depending on who is the authorizing force is, a hijab could be a choice for a child and an obligation for an adult. OR it could be a choice for an adult (and through transitive property, a choice for a child) per his suggestion.

If it’s an obligation for an adult, then it could mean the child (close to the age of puberty) is preparing for what God has prescribed. (Such as prayer and fasting, as he mentioned in the article.)

2) He’s making the assumption that context is irrelevant, simply by his universal tone in describing the hijab. (ie, a hijab in Egypt does not have the same meaning or understanding as a hijab in the States or in the West.) As much as we attempt to amalgamate our experiences into one, there’s a clear distinction. (Albeit one that I can’t fully define quickly.)

He is utterly unclear about his audience. He uses Egypt as the foundation of all his examples, yet his target audience are British citizens. The connections between the two are weak and it really produces an inadequate narrative.  In Egypt, the hijab can be associated as more of a cultural garb, which might not be the case in the West. Therefore, the idea of force is entirely different. And it just may be that all the little girls are wearing their fashionable, multi-colored scarves with bows along the side—making it a fad above anything else, and thus innocuous.

He should clarify what his intentions are, and who he aims to speak with.

3) How erroneous it is to say that sexuality is restricted to a specific age group. The fact that young children are having sex, or engaging in sexual behavior is a fact which cannot be ignored. But by no means, do I suggest to the solution to promiscuity is a hijab.

Now on to the points that disturb me, in some shape or form:

  • “Adult Muslim women are expected to dress modestly so that men outside the family cannot see their bodies.”

How is that men are left out of this conversation. From my very simplistic understanding, modesty is applicable to both genders. And we’ve once again, reduced hijab once again to sexuality, when in actuality, this “covering” encompasses so much more.

Here you have the author wanting freedom of choice; freedom for pre-pubescent girls to choose what to wear and not to wear, but he feels suffocated by the doll in an abaya. Maybe it’s not the most ideal of Barbie characters, but it’s another choice that a child can have between a blond, partially naked Barbie number 1, and a blond bikini-wearing Barbie number 2. Much research has been conducted on the psychology of young girls and dolls that resemble themselves… finding dolls “that represent some version of the reality of our tonal diversity.” It’s a critical component to a child’s upbringing and identity.

  • “If they see that their sisters have to be covered up from a very early age to avoid being exposed in front of men, it is only natural that they grow up with the concept that women have to be covered, controlled and restricted.”

REALLY? Why is child-rearing not part of the equation? Boys will of course think like this if we allow such a mentality to perpetuate in our society. It becomes necessary upon our society to educate men and dismantle myths on sexuality and women.

I agree that a childhood should be left untouched, and depriving one of such a thing is repulsive. And I may have played devil’s advocate throughout my blog. I just feel blessed to have enough mental faculty to see that we need to step our game up (at least in the West) when it comes to hijab and the beard; and not diminish our understanding of religion and of piety to the two VERY surface level characteristics. Or maybe I’m just being a hater.

Also, food for thought: Oprah magazine: 9-year old girl asks to wear hijab, shocked mom’s reaction