Posts Tagged ‘muslim women’

Girls Who Wear Hijab

August 13, 2012

Girls who wear hijab, as opposed to girls who don’t, are more likely to make me feel self-conscious, insecure, and critical of myself. Generally, they are composed, polite, widely accomplished, and (most importantly) articulate, of which I’m particularly jealous.

They are usually (generalizing again here) successful human beings, and the fact that they possess the extra grace and security to express it visibly with hijab fills me with envy. It might be surprising and in some cases totally inaccurate for me to say this, but a lot of hijab-wearers I know exude a “devil-may-care” attitude about society’s demands on their lives and bodies. It’s very attractive.

The running theme here is self-confidence. In my limited experience of friends, family and acquaintances, girls who wear hijab value themselves more highly than their similar-aged counterparts. Sometimes this translates as arrogance, which is an unfortunate byproduct, but usually that’s not the case, because these self-confident hijabis are also—incredibly and unbelievably—good people.

Girls who wear hijab love their parents and their siblings, and they show it in ways I could never imagine. They serve their communities while everyone else is too busy running around; they’re running around, too, meaning they get more done than the rest of us. They can be shortsighted and judgmental, but more often they’re generous, forgiving and kind. They are effortlessly sincere.

Girls who wear hijab are by no means perfect and, like I said, they do sometimes make me feel inadequate. But a few that I know are some of my favorite people in the whole world, and I’m grateful to have every one of them in my life.

Les Femmes du Maroc photography by Lalla Essaydi

April 26, 2011

My class got a stimulating break from the usual routine today for a field trip to the art museum. We were shown two sketches of Matisse’s odalisques (drawn at the time of France’s colonial empire in North Africa) and a large photograph by Lalla Essaydi, a contemporary Moroccan expat artist.

I don’t think this picture is the exact one we looked at (I couldn’t find a copy online), but it’s very similar. Essaydi uses henna (interesting) to write, in Arabic calligraphy (traditionally a male sport—so also interesting), passages from the Qur’an and her own diary (very interesting!) to cover both the background and the subject of her art, as you can see.

To use a nauseatingly liberal arts phrase, there is a ton to unpack here. We talked about it for a long time and I won’t go into it all, but one point in particular was very thought-provoking:

Someone brought up the significance of words—whether they were verses from the Qur’an or the artist’s own—on the shroud itself, as if saddling the woman with their weight. A great observation, I thought! The veil is imbued with meaning [transcribed with language], whether we intend it to be or not.

My introduction didn’t really do Lalla Essaydi justice, but you can check out more of her fascinating work here.

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.

Highlights:

“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.

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?”)

Why My Women/Gender/Islam Class Sometimes Makes Me Uncomfortable

February 24, 2011

For the standards of this school, it’s a pretty large discussion class, with over 20 people sitting around a sort-of-pretentious boardroom table. Though I’m only auditing and don’t have to turn in any written assignments (which is GLORIOUS), I’ve been trying my best to keep up with the readings, of which there are a lot!

What makes me uneasy sometimes is that our discussions force me to confront some really, really bad stuff about Muslims. Not about Islam—and the professor is fantastic at pointing out this distinction as well—but about the people all over the world (and the history of the world) who profess to profess Islam.

Today, for example, someone brought up the story of Faleh Hassan Almaleki, the Iraqi man who ran over his daughter with his car, then called it an “honor killing.” Which led predictably to the topic of religiously justified honor killings in general, naturally causing me to SUIMS.*

*Shift Uncomfortably In My Seat. (Duh. A GOOD ONE, RIGHT.)

Something else I can’t forget, probably the worst thing that’s happened so far, is what I overheard a girl say to a classmate before class one day:

“I just don’t see how, based on what we’re learning, you can be a feminist and religious at the same time.”

Yikes!

But I keep reminding myself:

  • The preconceived notions of smart, informed, cultivated liberal arts college kids are SO hardly the worst of what’s out there. Their opinions are a good window into what kinds of misconceptions exist in general, giving me a better idea of how to communicate on the subject.
  • This type of confrontation is EXACTLY what is healthy in the realm of identity study; it’s an excellent thing, even if I don’t speak up every time. The Bad Stuff isn’t going to go away if I just don’t think about it.

There’s also my self-consciousness about being an obvious Muslim female perspective in a “Women & Gender in Islam” class. I’m always worried about representing Muslims poorly or unjustly, but I do think it’s mostly self-consciousness (and that I’m distorting my own authority in my head). Working on it!

Overall—and I’ll tell anyone who has a half-second to listen—I am madly in love with the class. The readings are great, the professor is great, my fellow classmates are great, the discussions are great. The 75 minutes whiz by every time.

Essay Collection: “I Speak for Myself”

February 24, 2011

Just got wind of a book of essays called I Speak for Myself: American Women on Being Muslim, due to come out this summer. According to the book’s website, the women were born and raised in the U.S., and they’re all under the age of 40.

In addition to having a like perspective, it turns out that I know a couple of the contributors personally. Awesome!

Looking forward to its release (June 1st).