Monthly Archives: December 2011

Feminism Ain’t Always Perfect

And I, a feminist, have said this along with many others.

Jessica Yee says it best:

We’re not really equal when we’re STILL supposed to uncritically and obediently cheer when white women are praised for winning “women’s rights,” and to painfully forget the Indigenous women and women of colour who were hurt in that same process. We are not equal when in the name of “feminism”, so-called “women’s only” spaces are created and get to police and regulate who is and isn’t a “woman” based on their interpretation of your body parts and gender presentation, not your own. We are not equal when initiatives to achieve gender equity have reverted yet again to “saving” people and making decisions for them, rather than supporting their right to self-determination, whether it’s engaging in sex work, or wearing a niqab. So when feminism itself has become its own form of oppression, what do we have to say about it? Western notions of polite discourse are not the norm for all of us, and just because we’ve got some new and hot language like “intersectionality” to use in our talk, it doesn’t necessarily make things change in our walk (i.e., actually being anti-racist). And I have to say that these uncomfortable processes have been worth the many paths that brought the different contributors of the book together to tell their sometimes uncomfortable truths — not just about feminism, but about themselves and where they are coming from.

But now I’m going to take a stand and say that I’m constantly questioning what feminism even is, and I’m increasingly disturbed every day by the gate-keeping of who and what gets to decide the answer to that question.

So here’s another truth about me: I’m at a point in my activism where in many spaces I no longer feel comfortable just saying that I’m a feminist, full-stop, without adding a few words before or after. I say I’m a multi-racial Indigenous Two-Spirit feminist. I say I’m a hip-hop feminist, a reproductive justice feminist. Like many people, I feel like I’ve been burned out by the mainstream usage and representation of feminism and I’m not making any apologies for what I call myself, because I’m speaking the English language of the colonizer, and if it takes people a few extra words to give me my right to self-determination of what I want to be called in English, so be it.Being uncomfortable with this truth about feminism helps keep my fire alive to change it, and also helps me to not forget where we’ve really come from and where we’re really going.

(Source)

Like any woman of color, I can’t simply give in to feminism completely. It is a Western ideology that does not mesh well with mine. It has its roots embedded in a history that not only had White men oppressing their own women but their women were equally involved in oppressing my indigenous people – men and women together. I refuse to obediently follow every postulate stated by Western, Eurocentric feminists. Does that make me an incompetent supporter of women’s rights? Does that render me unsuccessful in this march against oppression and malevolent patriarchy? Does that invalidate my opinion on how to bring gender egalitarianism about? Does that make me an adversary in this struggle? Does that make me a bad person? My questioning of agendas and modus operandi should be taken as positive criticism for change.

When a white feminist conducts a conference on gender equality, I want her to introduce me as a Human Being, not an example for her friends and sponsors to examine and exhibit and capitalize on. I want her to ask me what my thoughts are concerning feminism in academia. I want her to understand that there are compartments to my feminist movement; that feminism in my society in the professional realm is far different than feminism in the domestic dimension. I want her to understand that things are not simple. I want her to stop reducing my people to a piece of cloth. I want her to look back and realize that feminists, too, can be very well racist and oppressive. I want her to know that enforcing her idea of success, happiness and liberation on women alienated by her very own culture does not help. I want her to talk to my sisters, cousins, friends, teachers, activists, women from the village, women from the city, women from every corner of my country, my culture, my history before she even thinks of concluding her thoughts on how to define feminism around the world. I want her to open her mind.

I want her to know that the conference she conducted on academic discussions on women’s rights, while poorly-paid migrant workers – my brothers and sisters – are preparing lunch for their lofty thinkers only to get deported the next day, is no good when she can’t acknowledge her own participation in silencing the rights of those around her. I don’t want to be invited to seminars where someone indirectly hints at me wearing my “cultural attire” to show diversity. What am I? A mannequin for the lot?

I want her to know that it is not necessary for anyone to have a post doctoral degree in women’s studies to speak about her own experience and to be regarded by the ones listening and reading. I want her to get rid of her own privilege before she goes on to highlight that of others. I am tired but undefeated of the constant sight of colored students who are expected and sometimes demanded to learn languages, theories, -isms that erase and appropriate but, worse, further colonize their history, heritage, culture and identity.

I want the West to understand that my women and men and I will not adhere to every single idea stated from that corner of the world concerning emancipation and progress. I know the men of my culture have committed extreme acts of brutality against their women but it makes you no good when your ancestry points to lineages and more lineages of colonizers who tortured and enslaved both men and women of my culture.

I am a feminist but consider the ineffectiveness of a title when sub-titles are added for further clarification, explanation and validation. When I speak on public radio or show up on TV, I have to explain my identity: A multi-cultural, anti-racist, Muslim feminist. Sub-titles are created when the primary title fails to encompass other identities, other voices. This is also why I have no issue with women of color creating their own movements like South Asian Women Equality, Womanism, Muslim Gender Equality, Racial and Gender Liberation, so on and so forth.

So stop forcing me to believe you have purged yourself of racism, of cashing in on my experience and history. Stop telling me feminism is “perfect.” Stop telling me you’re here to “help” and “save” me and my sisters. The only person you need to save is yourself before you turn into a subtle instance of yet another colonizer.

Muslim Pick Up Lines With Doodles

Flirting is an art. It is also one way to receive lashings, both of the religious and from-that-beautiful-girl kind. I, your loyal blogger, am back with sincere halal advice for my Muslim readers on how to score a Muslim chick. Non-Muslim friends and followers, please make sure your Muslim friends try this the next time they see that gorgeous chick around the block.

It may work. IT MAY WORK.

SSS: Show Some Swag

Yeah. Show some halal swag. Go up to a Muslim chick and do this. She’ll love you in this world and hereafter.

CHECK OUT MY OUTDATED HIJRI CALENDAR. SO MUCH SWAG.

 AHIH: Assure Her It’s Halal

By marrying her. I don’t know. Just do it.

The Fajr Trick:

It works. It always works.

And they woke up every Fajr happily ever after.

Put a Ring On It:

Marry her already.

GET KINKY:

IT’S GETTING JAHANUMMI IN HERE. TAKE OFF ALL YOUR SINS.

I’ll stop trolling.

Pro-tip: While studying Surah Baqarah in the Quran, I read that the prescribed manner in which a Muslim man should ask for a woman’s hand in marriage is simple. This time I am genuinely not trolling. Do the following and try not leering. It’s not nice or halal.

SCORE.

Allergic to Sexist Pity

When I was growing up, my mother would often hold cosy gatherings with her friends in the city. Sometimes if she found out a new neighbor had arrived in the area, she’d cordially invite them over as well for a cup of tea and some light-hearted chit chat. My sisters and I would play in the hallway while the ladies would discuss weather, Pakistan, recipes and health. During those conversations, I often found one lady or the other asking my mother a question that seemed less inquisitive, more accusing in its spoken nature: “To aap ki betiyaan hi hain, buss? (So you have daughters only?)”

My mother: “Jee. Teen. (Yes. Three.)”

Reply: “Haye, Allah baita de aap ko. Barri himmat hai. (Oh my, may the Lord bless you with a son. I commend your courage.)”

And I’d feel incompetent as though my being a daughter was somehow an insult, maybe some sort of incompetence on part of my parents. I love my mother for her response though: “Nahi, shukriya. Yehi baitiyaan hain, yehi baitay hain. Hum bohut khush hain. (No, thanks. These are our daughters, and our sons. We’re very happy with them.)”

But it didn’t stop. I grew up with classfellows in Pakistan asking me if I had brothers. I would reply in the negative. After which an entire group of students would sympathize with me and offer their brothers to give me “protection, honor and strength.” I never accepted the (pity-filled) offers – sometimes politely, sometimes with downright indignation.

Eventually I learned that due to a set of religiously exploited and malevolent patriarchal reasons, a daughter is viewed as a burden in our society. Bringing them up is not only considered a grueling test but a constant walk upon thin glass every single day of a subcontinental parent’s life. Phrases like “Baiti walay“, “Dheeyan aalay“, “Kaanch jaisi izzat ka khayal” and other highly dramatic terms flood households with daughters. It’s sickening. Everyone knows that, right? Why am I extrapolating the said and done? It’s not redundant; Shaming those who constantly offer unnecessary pity to parents with daughters and siblings with sisters only should be mandatory. Growing up while constantly questioning one’s self worth only because their gender perceived by the society inhibits them from deserving common respect is not only painful but humiliating. Silencing parents from airing their worries and speaking up against violence and discrimination is wrong and inhumane. Parents are often told, “Baitiyaan walon ko awaz neechay aur sar jhuka ke rakhna chahiye (Those with daughters should not raise their voice or head.)” Instilling fear into a family only because the child is female is a practice rampant in this region.

So I decided to do what I do best: Doodle my rage.

I’m illustrating a book some day with this cover for every girl in Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Afghanistan, Iran, countries in the Middle East, in North America, South America, Africa, even Antarctica. Here it is:

Depressing illustrations by Ms. Someone Really Sick Of Stupid Questions.

My mother usually had to go through this. She’s a civil lady so her disdain is often channelized into her tea cup. I don’t know how that works but whatever.

Which leads to:

Back in school, ironically enough girls would offer me sympathy for not having a brother. My basic reaction: You’re a girl too. Why let the culture and society control your idea of power and protection, of worth and esteem?

I also placed my (very unreasonable) demands when I was naive.

THE CHILD HATH NO IDEA OF WHAT SHE HATH ASKED FOR.

But my parents handled it ever so gracefully. Their stance: They don’t need sons to feel protected or respected. The biological sex of a child does not determine whether or not they are likely to bring shame or honor to the family. No one is a burden until you render them one. So the next time I find someone offering their “concern” when they find out I have no brother, I will most likely ask them to give birth to one and bring the kid to my place. Till then, shut it.

P.S. Hajj hiatus and other reasons kept me away from my WordPress blog. I’m back now and I’m ready to doodle. And stuff.

AND OTHER STUFF.