Misperception of Independence

By A Muslim-African Woman in the ‘Diaspora’

***

I write this as a conclusion of my own experience and the experience of many women I personally came to know

Through my high school and college education, I was taught and reminded constantly of the inequality that women suffered for centuries. In the literature classes, I read about women inferiority which is portrayed in almost all of the classic writings. In sociology, I learned about the studies that document the gender differences and oppression of women. In psychology, I learn about Freud’s theories belittling woman to nothing but little envies creature of the man’s far better equipment. In Religion class, I learned how almost all religions of the world favor the superiority of men while treating women as a second class citizen. Most importantly, in history, I learned of the few great women who made it through the pens and into books of male historians. In the Art class, I learned of the notorious Artists who saw in a woman nothing but a magnificent sculpture and a piece of Art. And in many other classes, many young women including myself were daily reminded of the weak creature we once were and will always be under the domination of the almighty Man.

Now, growing up with that ideology, many young women come to aggressively fight against all these cultural and religious believes to gain their power and absolute independence. And that is what I personally did. I became a working woman at a very young age. I supported myself to the best I could. I allowed no one to help me, but few family members. Also, I had to live with the family, because it is a cultural must. Yet I was able to declare my independence from the domination of the “man.” Thus, I was powerful in my own world. I built a strong shield, a weakness-free zone that I imprisoned myself in. I armed myself with my job, education, and rights and fought against every feminine behavior that presented any signs of a weak and a needy female. And still today, our text books, the media, and society keep on boosting or fueling this understanding. They remind us how Women must abandon their femininity and fight endlessly to earn respect and survive in the man’s world.

As a consequence of this war, women became too independent, that a man’s presence on earth is almost useless. We can cook, we can clean, we can drive, we can cut the grass, we can earn a living, we can take the trash out, we can travel, and we can surely just buy a gun for protection or get an alarm system set up in the house, or even hire a body guard “who might be a man, but paid of course.” A need for “Adam” is just a need for a person to interfere and control one’s life.

Lately, and after years of fighting, I have come to learn that our perception of independence and the theories of power of men vs. weakness of women are false. Sadly, our teachers have betrayed us. So did our families who themselves misunderstood the religion and blindingly imposed on us cultural believes that striped away our rights, chocked our dreams, and left us wandering on the scriptures of modern western writers who so inaccurately claim to know all the rights of women and the way to claim these lost rights.

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Categories: Africa Related, Education, Life Style, Religion, Women | Tags: , , , | 16 Comments

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16 thoughts on “Misperception of Independence

  1. Om

    Now there goes my “Women Should Rule the World” argument to the trash, hahaha. Seriously though, you raise an excellent point when it comes to how ‘women independence’ have been defined in the last 40 years or so. I mean, there are feminist scholars who, while advocating a woman’s right to do as she pleases, demean if a woman chooses to become a mother or stay-at-home wife because they see this as an ‘oppressed/weak/needy woman’ even though that woman chose to be a mother or a housewife just as she could’ve chosen to become something else. My point is, there was a ‘defined idea’ of what an independent woman ought to be or do and it did not include a woman choosing to be something seen as weak or submissive to a man, as you rightly pointed out. It is like your parents telling you that you have a total freedom, except that you can’t stay past 9pm or hang out with that dodgy friend of yours, or study something you love as opposed to something they want you to study.

    Maybe I misperceived but it sure seems like women’s independence has been constructed under a defined multiple choice answer-like in the past 40 years.

  2. hmalik

    I had to read your reply couple times to understand you Om. Haha I just wanted to be sure on what you are saying before I attack you “MAN.” But you are right, women’s independency” became linked to anything other than the traditional roles of women. Which isn’t really fair, because becoming a housewife or a devoted mother is itself a choice. I think that this perception emerges from the fact that most women around the world do not choose this life style independently. Meaning that their religion or society compels them to make this choice. And this same forceful behavior gives women today the incentives to rebel against traditions and sometimes religion itself. Sometimes without even searching deeper into the meanings behind traditions or religions. Most young women become simply disgusted with the brutal traditions and especially those wrongfully linked to religion and are executed under the name of god and his messengers. I mean traditions and acts such as, forcible marriages, circumcision, abuse by its various colors, also neglect of women rights in general including their rights to education. The list could go on and on of how women in most of the world’s regions are still being treated as property.

    It truly amazes me how some people would still ask the question of why young women today behave the way they do? Behave with absolute freedom and independency, careless of what the world have to say. These women are not just corrupted by the western media like many claim, they are simply fed up.

    I am not saying that young women going wild is right, but to correct this misperception of independency, a reform of society as a whole is a must. Education is a necessity. Education not only of Ethics and philosophy of Socrates and Pluto, but of the origin of our traditions, cultures, and of religion in particular.

    “don’t tell me that the hallaqa is for the brothers only. Don’t blame me if I am ignorant of my god given rights and search for them somewhere else” 🙂

  3. hmalik

    oops, that is a really long reply

  4. Om

    Yes, that was loong! But comprehensive in its indictments of our society. If you look at both situations – the general mistreatment of women around the world either through cultural or religious practices and the Western concept to free these women from their oppressors – they both involve two extremes. The first one, as you described, is based on the intentional corruption of religions to legitimize terrible cultural practices, who by themselves see women as inferior to men. Naturally, women should rebel against these unfair, unnatural practices that attempt to strip their God given rights to get education, choose their mates, work, etc. etc. The second one attempts to recover these rights for women but in the process also goes on the other end of the extreme by encouraging women to pretty much emulate the ‘men.’ So instead of a society that promotes human rights for everyone and cooperation between the sexis, we have an ummah that either allows the mistreatment of women under false religious pretenses or a society that promotes the competition of the two genders as if there is a prize to be won.

    So yes, I believe that a fundamental change in societies’ attitudes and approach needs to take place before equality and cooperation can take place. More importantly, as you said, we need to stop corrupting religions and stop abusive cultural practices that have no base in any religion, much less than our own deen.

    PS: Your avatar pic is ridiculously cute:)

  5. women will always be the scape goat, if you want to seek revenge on a father, husband or brother…you always aim at the women surrounding him, to get the maximum damage. it’s unfortunate, but its the reality of life, yet they are blamed for the cowardness of men, and therefore they construct rituals, and practices that would hinder their freedom, and punish their femininity. the western perception of the emancipation of women is nothing but an illusion, there are still phenomenal wage gaps between the sexes for the same job, shameful maternity leave ect… the difference now is that women instead of continuing the struggle they began years ago, have halted their efforts, thus living in this mirage of freedom. They were slaves to husbands and children, now they are slaves to a dictate to reach an impossible goal. The west it is one extreme and the rest is another, if our status and our self worth is always linked to the men in our lives, regardless of our independence or the discourse we choose to espouse, we will never reach “equality”. what i love abt our religion is that we are muslim before anything else, everything we do is subjected to the pleasure of Allah. tangent over
    lol i think i can keep going, i should’ve written a response on my blog. Btw, this article needs a part 2!!!

    ps: Plato was known misogynist, and i agree with Om, the avatar pic is beautiful!

  6. great article you guys should read, its from Abdul Hakim Murad, Boys will be Boys

    http://www.themodernreligion.com/women/boyswillbeboys.html

  7. hmalik

    Well, I agree that the article need many other parts. At least we agree on the roots of the problem. I wish that many women have your understanding that we are Muslim before anything else and everything we do is subjected to the pleasure of Allah.

    Btw,when I read the name of the article “boys will be boys,” it automatically reminded me of an article about women abuse. It stated that one of the factors that crimes of rape are underreported is this same believe that boys will be boys and that initially women are the ones who provoke men to commit this crime. As you mentioned, women will always be the escape goat. But somehow it also might be true.

    I read half of the article, but Insha alah I will read the rest soon. I promised myself that I would not write long replies, because I know you have better things to do than sit here and read this. I tried.

    And you two made me really shy, which is unusual lol, but Thank you very much for the generous complements.

  8. cigaal

    hi hindi! interesting article. i don’t know any assertive females personally, but i have received jabs and sharp elbows from those i encountered. i think scandinavia is flooded with those types, and it never ceases to shock my system as i was brought in a very traditional household: mom the homemaker and dad the dude who brought goodies home.

    if a girl is unable to do simple domestic chores like cook a meal i get worried. i’ve some whom i had to show how the kitchen functions. i try to explain to them that this is not about proving ‘stuff’. it’s for your own good to cook a decent meal. i hate processed food and fast food (hey guys don’t be shy about your allergies).

    i actually came to read about the pirates, but i think the pirates are holding the somali blogs on ransom. take care folks.

  9. cigaal

    let me qualify. assertiveness is a good thing in both sexes but it should be directed constructively or positively. i worry about radical females like ayan hirsi ali, khadra from my hometown, etc
    why do some somali women go overboard in extreme ways?

  10. Pingback: Ignorance Is The Culprit and We Are Its Accomplice. « A Shackled Traveller

  11. hmalik

    Cigaal, “you should eat to live, not live to eat.” Cooked food isn’t really an essential component of a good life. For example, if you are talking about a wife, I am sure she will have other crucial skills that would qualify her as a good wife and mother. Don’t be disturbed or worried my friend, cooking skills don’t come natural to females, they come with practice (sometimes after marriage lol).

    Btw Cigaal, would you worry if your guy friend doesn’t know how to cook a decent meal for himself? I don’t think you will, then it is not just about cooking a decent meal to sustain one‘s life, but it is about being a woman who should be born a cook.

    I am waiting for the pirates stories as well.

  12. cigaal

    if a guy is a decent cook it is only a bonus, so is a girl who is as good as a handyman in fixing things. i don’t know how it is where you live but fewer and fewer people are able to do things with their own hands. guys can’t fix minor things or repair small chores in their homes, women are similarly hopeless in traditionally dexterious activities. there you have a problem.

    next time you’re at the supermarket don’t buy your typical juice packet but instead buy the fruits and press the juices yourself. compare the packet ‘stuff’ and your freshly pressed juice. however fancy the restaurant i think nothing is better than a home-meal. it doesn’t matter who the cook is, but my opinion of a girl who is hopeless in the kitchen is…..’caloolo yaanay kaasoo saarin baakeedhadan aad cunnisid’….

  13. hmalik

    I don’t understand the last sentence you wrote, but I do agree with you that there is a general problem with both genders these days. But where I am from, there is not a constant need for a man to fix or repair things around the house, but there is a greater need for food, almost three times a day. So, usually men are not bashed by their lack of skills, but women are held accountable for that same deficiency. Around the world, while both women and men share the same duties and responsibly of studying hard through school, colleges and working outside the home, once back at home, the man sits in his couch watching or these days even playing the game, while the woman take on the second shift of cooking and cleaning the house.

    I am speaking about a daily reality not a theory of a perfect collaborative domestic world that ceased to exists. So you really can’t say it doesn’t matter who cooks it,” because that is the center of the issue. If you truly believe that it doesn’t matter who cooks the meal, then we don’t have an argument.

    Btw, I am a woman who can cook very well, but I will refuse to cook when cooking is used as measurement to my capabilities or even my femininity.

    And don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that women shouldn’t cook, but in today’s world, there should be at least a just, if not equal, division of labor that is not based on gender. Meaning, if there is not a daily need for a man to change the flat tires or fix the plumping, he should clean the house, take the trash out, wash some dishes, or even just take care of the children.

    I thank you very much for your terrific comments. It brought up an important issue.

  14. Om

    Wow, what a great discussion you guys (girls)! Cigaal, the proverb is great but it is useless to Hind…

    So let me attempt to translate Cigaal’s proverb relating to his opinion of a hopeless girl in the kitchen. In effect, the proverb says that a girl who can’t cook is like a “packaged meal that will give you a bulging/fat belly stomach.” It is not a good translation I know. Hey what do you expect, Northern dialect is very tough for someone like me from the south-west!

  15. A Shackled Traveller

    “I am a woman who can cook very well, but I will refuse to cook when cooking is used as measurement to my capabilities or even my femininity.”
    Thats sums it up perfectly.

    The Prophet(saws) said
    “A man marries a woman for four reasons: for her property, for her rank, for her beauty, and for her religion (and character). So marry the one who is best in the religion and character and prosper”.
    No one in there does it say that cooking, or domestic shores are a deal breaker. As Hind mentioned it is a learned skill, the couple can take cooking classes together, marriage is a learning process. It shouldn’t be a factor that supersedes the characteristics mentioned by the Prophet(saws) it’s more of a detail that the couple can deal with at the negotiating table;)

    ” why do somali women go overboard”
    same reason that other women are lead astray. Its not like somali are immune to this.

  16. hmalik

    Well said Shackled Traveler. Barak allah fieek

    And I like the Proverb ya Omer. lol, unfortunately the majority of men, for some biological known reasons, end up with bulging bellies. Don’t blame it on the food.

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