Archive for March, 2011

What Were My Game Changers?

March 16, 2011

(This is an idea I’m thinking about turning into a category of blog post.)

What do I mean by “game changer”?

You should know: in addition to wearing hijab, I spend quite a bit of my time being unnecessarily nerdy. Reading useless information, endless list-making, googling how-tos on things that don’t need how-tos (purely to compare notes). Moleskine notebooks and everything. I can probably out-journal you in a blindfold.

Anyway, one of my guiltiest pleasures is reading business/marketing/entrepreneurial blogs; I suspect it’s the hobby that introduced this particular term to my subconscious.

So, by “game changers,” I mean specific events, people, decisions, or new situations in my life that changed the way I think about wearing hijab. They’re the things that redefined the game itself (or, at least, the way I play it).

The first and biggest game changer, of course, was my decision to start wearing the hijab, sometime in late 2000. (It still surprises me sometimes to think of how very young I was—but no regrets.) Anyway, my choice forever transformed a) the way I think about myself and b) the way others think about me—and since those are like two mirrors placed opposite each other, the impact is infinitely reflexive. It set a precedent for the game, established rules, lay the groundwork for scorekeeping.

G.C. #2 came less than a year later: September 11, 2001. I have more to say about the subject than I’d thought, so more on that to follow.

Link: Houria Bouteldja Essay on Decolonial Feminism/Identity Politics

March 14, 2011

The one thing that annoys me about the otherwise fantastic reader-tool Instapaper is that, when you save a page to read for later, you aren’t prompted for a short note about said essay or article or whatever. I’m a compulsive tagger (obvious by now), and I have a pretty poor memory, and I also write in all my books, so it’s important to me to have that space to indulge in my anal-retentive habits.

Bourgeois problems, I know.

The point is, I don’t remember who linked or where I found the following essay, because it’s been sitting sans marginalia in my Instapaper queue for a while now, and I got to reading it only recently.

THAT ALL SAID, take a look if you have 15 minutes: White Women and the Privilege of Solidarity by Houria Bouteldja (with intro). Topics treated: decolonial feminism, privilege of solidarity, universality of feminism (is it or isn’t it?), Islamic feminism, identity politics, cultural relativism, and all SORTS of other fun stuff.


“After a solidarity trip to Palestine, a friend was telling me how the French women had asked the Palestinian women if they used birth control. According to my friend, the Palestinian women couldn’t understand such a question given how important the demographic issue is in Palestine. They were coming from a completely different perspective. For many Palestinian women, having children is an act of resistance against the ethnic cleansing policies of the Israeli state.”

“For me, [Islamic feminism] legitimizes itself. It doesn’t have to pass a feminist exam. The simple fact that Muslim women have taken it up to demand their rights and their dignity is enough for it to be fully recognized. I know, as result of my intimate knowledge of women from the Maghreb and in the diaspora, that “the-submissive-woman” does not exist. She was invented. I know women that are dominated. Submissive ones are rarer!”

Read more.

Heart’s still beating

March 14, 2011

It’s been a while, but I’m still around, and haven’t forgotten about this blog! Here’s just a sign of life.

I’ve been feeling a little blocked lately (due in part to what I talked about last time), but I have a long list of ideas I just need to expand into posts.

More immediately, I’m always happy to receive feedback and/or answer questions, if any. Let me know via comment or email if there’s something I should be writing about.

A Matter of Language

March 6, 2011

This blog is hard to write in part because I find myself worried so much about tone. Language is inevitably political, so how can I choose just one vocabulary on every related point?

1. I can have lunch with a wonderful Muslim friend and feel a warm sense of pride in what we share, ready to come back and relay that enthusiasm for faith. 2. I might have a fantastic, effervescent conversation about sexism and make a mental list of all the fascinating gender-and-sexuality-related things that it occurs to me to consider. 3. The class I’m in reminds me of the importance of careful research and even more careful articulation, but I can’t stand the idea of sounding unapproachable or lofty. 4. I’m also worried about sounding too sure of myself because I am rarely all that certain about anything. (And so on.)

I think about how some people (myself included) tend to write off experiences that are too one-sided or fanatical, immediately off-put by any of a number of buzzwords. So I try to tone down the zeal a little bit, even just for myself, leaving traces of betrayal.

It’s not about balance: there’s no “right” formula, because they all apply at once.

What Would Bill Maher Do? Start an Arab Sexual Revolution

March 1, 2011

Thanks to Muslimah Media Watch for the alert about Bill Maher’s latest cause: the plight of Muslim women. Specifically, calling for a sexual revolution in the Middle East because The Men Have Got It All Wrong.

If you have a few minutes, watch this conversation between Maher and Tavis Smiley on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher. (I couldn’t embed the video, but isn’t this screen shot a gem?)

In short, this is the argument:

BM: We (American men) treat our women better than they (Middle Eastern men) treat theirs.

TS: Okay. But should we be telling them what to do?

BM: Yup.

It’s easy to get caught up in Bill Maher’s logic, I’ll admit. But he’s simplifying like nobody’s business, and Tavis Smiley impressed me in standing his ground. Sara Yasin blogs about it nicely as well:

“While the Western world has made wide strides for women, acting as though it is a finished project ignores the work that we still have to do as American feminists and treats feminism and equality like a video game.” (Read more: MMW, “Knight in Shining Armor or Idiot in Tinfoil?”)