The "F" WORD: Feminism
Updated: Oct 27, 2019
How many articles and books have been published about feminism and everyone who's ever been for it or against it? Probably hundreds of thousands. So why are we not progressing the way we want? I mean the whole feminism movement started back in 1848, in New York to be precise... or so they say.
But how far has all of this taken us? Where does the problem truly lie? Where do we stand today? Are the problems facing Western women similar to those facing Middle Eastern women? Is there just one book out there with all of these answers tackled logically? This is a necessary ongoing conversation that must continue to take place because every time we remain quiet, we set ourselves back decades in progression and growth.
“Feminism has never been about getting a job for one woman. It's about making life more fair for women everywhere. It's not about a piece of the existing pie; there are too many of us for that. It's about baking a new pie.” - Gloria Steinem.
Who is Gloria Steinem? I came across Steinem in an episode on HBO in a documentary titled, Gloria: In Her Own Words. Gloria Marie Steinem is an American feminist, journalist, and social political activist who became nationally recognized as a leader and a spokeswoman for the American feminist movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It is reportee that Steinem became famous by becoming more engaged in the women's movement after reporting on an abortion hearing given by the radical feminist group known as the Redstockings.
Now, if you're looking for the answers to the questions I've just asked earlier in my intro, I'm not sure I can give them to you. But what I will give to you is my own thoughts uncensored (as far as I can go) and I promise to not make this another boring article about Feminism, for those who are not avid fans of reading too much.
I'm here asking the same questions as you, I'm just doing it under the umbrella of a writer who has a blog and can do whatever the hell she wants.
So, let me begin.
When I first learned what the word feminist meant, this is what I read: Feminism is a range of political movements, ideologies, and social movements that share a common goal: to define, establish, and achieve political, economic, personal, and social equality of sexes. This includes seeking to establish educational and professional opportunities for women that are equal to those for men.
In short, it meant EQUALITY in all aspects of our community. So, I secretly sat there thinking to myself, wouldn't that then make us all feminists? Why is there this label for something we all want? But little did my naive innocent mind know, is that not everybody wants equality, including other women.
Therefore, in my article/blog post here today, I want to casually sit here and write to you what I've been reading up on recently lightly and what I really think of Feminism, those who do not support it and those who have lived their lives fighting for it.
The first reason some people may not support the “F” word and all of its implications is simply because they don't want it. There are many men and women out there who don't want equality, don't believe in it and feel very threatened by it because it represents things they don't know how to deal with Or even things they do not want to deal with. They've been raised a certain way, they see themselves a certain way and feminism would just mean that they needed to CHANGE and ACCEPT.
Yes, change =growth, and acceptance = open mindedness. These two words can scare the hell out of anybody who does not understand what freedom/liberty truly mean. It applies to us all and not some more than others. It’s also closely linked to something called “self confidence“.
"All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others." - George Orwell, Animal Farm.
This is one of my favorite quotes from one of my all time favorite books, Animal farm. I do want to get into the details of how futuristic this book was in terms of how everything applies to how the world is today basically and not just politically, but that's for another article.
Back to my points as to why some people hate feminism, it's also because some feminists do take it to the extreme and end up cussing out men in general and they go far enough to debating that men are less than women which I believe completely nulls the main message rooted in feminism which is "EQUALITY". We do not undermine others but we should never accept the undermining and belittling of us, women.
There are women out there who experience and live through injustice everyday, even if you’re not one of them, that doesn’t mean you shouldn't support them and the cause. Who knows what tomorrow will bring for you, your daughter, your mother, sister or friend. Whether it‘s women who are dealing with inequality inside their own homes, by their parents, husbands, family members to women dealing with harassment in the street even if it's a word thrown at them or a stare. To women in the workplace, girls at school, women in college and others who are working hard in their line of work and education and aren’t constantly met with additional obstacles coming from men and women who are sexist, unfair, lacking in knowledge and arrogant in their ways. we must speak up as often and as loud as we can. And this takes time.
Now, believe it or not, a third reason as to why some some people, including women don’t believe in feminism is because they truly believe we have already arrived at equality and are content with the world as it is today. I find that one particularly interesting if you ask me. Another reason could be simply because some would say feminism is about personal experience rather than any statistical data analysis where numbers and figures are to speak more truth than a human.
Last, on my list, but never least is, religious beliefs, yes I said it. There's a deep routed path in history as to how some MEN and even WOMEN, analysed and created their own perception of what their religions and their holy books say about men and women. So they've managed to pass on their understandings in a way to shape and build societies, society's morals, and beliefs based on this “information”.
Let’s taking a step back here, I have to be honest with you, I have to actually be very honest with myself and say I was bias at some stage in my life, a very long stage if you ask me, about a decade actually, that's how long that stage was. I’m mentioning this now because I just brought up the religious reference here.
I was bias and I didn't see women, and especially myself, to be capable of the things other men were allowed to be capable of. Yes, "allowed" is the word I have chosen to use here.
The reason I have chosen this word is simply because, the way we are programmed, or raised by family or by society is what leads you to believe you can or can't do certain things. It is what shapes you.
I put myself nicely and neatly in the box society told me I should fit in and I began to play the role they wanted me to play, pushing down everything I felt in my gut I could be and become. I honestly mean ALL of my needs, wants, passions and aspirations, just to become who I was expected to become.
Now, when I sit alone and think back to how feminism all started and what the women were thinking when they started, I wonder if they too had the issue I had, or have. I wonder if they too, were bias towards women, towards themselves at some point in their lives. The reason I ask is because we need to confront our own demons before we do others’, only then can we move ahead clearly. Because in all honesty, it's taking me time to work with myself to get to repair how I have been programmed to see and analyse certain things, especially womanhood and what it means to be a “good woman”.
A good woman. A good Muslim woman. A good daughter. A good sister. A good student. A good mother. A good friend. But how about a true woman? No? Doesn’t get as much promise of itself does it? Because what if she’s true but she’s not good? And then this begs the question, what if she’s “good” but not true?
Who cares right? It’s what she shows on the outside and what she gives others. How she feels about herself and how she‘s holding up mentally is not much of a concern to society.
Well, let me tell you this for a fact, the more true and honest she is about being her own self, the more “good” and love she will be able to give without limitations. You couldn’t even comprehend the strength that would come out of such an empowering process, because only when we feel empowered can we lift others.
So why is feminism scary to some people?
Just as feminism could possibly scare some men, it can scare some women too, but why?
Well, I like to think some women can't handle the thought of freedom, equality and liberation from all chains, and the reason being is simply because they'd then have no excuse to go out into the world and LIVE.
Yeah, you know living ain't easy.
Wanting to live has to come from a deep place of passion for life. And let's be honest here, how many of us have that passion? Very few. Now, walk with me here and let me explain further; there's a bittersweet difference between loving to live and being scared to die. Most of us don't want to die, whether it's fear of judgement and the sins in your life and you're just scared you haven't been "good" enough, or whether it's because you don't want to stop breathing, you don't want to leave your life, family, friends, and everything really. But that still doesn't mean you're making the most of your life. It just means you aren't ready to say goodbye to where you are now.
Another possible reason some women may not agree with the whole idea with equality is because they really don't believe men and women are equal. Back to the religion playing a factor here; they've been raised and programmed to think men need and should have more rights and in many societies they link this to one explanation "religion". And so they think, if a man has "the upperhand" in religion and has all these rights then surely he should do so too society. And so here's where I beg women and men to go back and read the holy Qur'an properly, IF that is their preference.
You see, I previously went through a phase that lasted a little over a decade where I was "very religious", read the Qur'an, trying study parts of it pertaining to the after-life and this life. I would haunt myself with the notion that this life is nothing but a moment similar to that of the blink of an eye. Scared the hell out me for a good amount years until it all got pretty dark. And of course, in my head I had the occasional "women can't and men can. This was at the core of who I was and I despised it. It took a lot of me to start questioning things that didn't make sense, statements and "facts" that were thrown at me that belittled women and made prophets out of men. And so I read further and listened more until I realized it was all about how one wanted to interpret God's words and people's actions.
Yes, politics and religion, man's two favorite weapons to isolate, control and rule. It seems that some think that women don't belong as leaders when it comes to the world of politics and that of religion. For some reason they have us thinking that men in suits and men in beards are a better, more viable option. However The Golden Notebook, written by Doris Lessing, would beg to differ on the political front. Doris was the oldest person ever to win a Nobel Prize in 2007 for Literature and was called "epicist of the female experience, who with scepticism, fire and visionary power has subjected a divided civilisation to scrutiny".
One of my favorite quotes for Doris is, "I find myself increasingly shocked at the unthinking and automatic rubbishing of men which is now so part of our culture that it is hardly even noticed.”
I’ll give you a small example of how men and women can misinterpret and misuse religion in certain situations. It happened in front of me too many times recently and not so recently.
If you have ready in Surrat al-Baqarah 2:282, you will have read the following:
"Oh! ye who believe! When ye deal with each other, in transactions involving future obligation in a fixed period of time reduce them to writing and get two witnesses out of your own men and if there are not two men, then a man and two women, such as ye choose, for witnesses so that if one of them errs the other can remind her." - Surrat al-Baqarah 2:282.
So the debate around this verse is why does a man’s testimony equal to to the testimony or witness of two women?
You'd think the verse spelled it out clearly enough, but if it wasn't you have thousands of interpreters and their analysis varies but it's all about following your heart and what makes sense to your head. And like I said earlier, it’s all about how one wants to interpret their readings and findings.
PSo when I heard that one of the interpretations as to why a man's testimony is equal to the witness of two women I was first a little stunned, and offended, thinking why on earth would that ever be the case??
And I kid you not, you would be surprised by the ridiculous findings and answers to my question. Some said it's all because in some science cases it's been proven that the man's brain is "bigger in size" therefore he’s smarter and can carry more information, therefore his words come from a smarter, stronger place!!! Don't believe me? I have quoted the below for your reference. This is information on many infamous Islamic websites.
With regard to the phrase, “that if one of them (two women) errs”, Ibn Katheer said: “This means, the two women, if one of them forgets the testimony, then ‘the other can remind her’, i.e., she can remind her about the matter concerning which testimony is being given.” (Tafseer Ibn Katheer, part 1, p. 724)
Allaah has commanded the testimony of two women so as to be sure that they remember, because the mind and memory of two women takes the place of the mind and memory of one man. (See I’laam al-Muwaqqa’een, part 1, p. 75).
This does not mean that a woman does not understand or that she cannot remember things, but she is weaker than man in these aspects – usually. Scientific and specialized studies have shown that men’s minds are more perfect than those of women, and reality and experience bear witness to that. The books of knowledge are the best witness to that; the knowledge which has been transmitted by men and the ahaadeeth which have been memorized by men far outnumber those which have come via women.
None of the above made any sense to my brain, call it big or small, so I continued to do some more research and stumbled upon a perfect explanation behind this, here’s the direct quote/reference. But first, let me put my findings on this in my own words for you, this verse in Surrat al-Baqarah 2:282 states that above under the following condition which is also so clearly states; this verse is written in this way as it refers strictly to Financial transactions involving a future obligation for a fixed period of time!! Look at how specific the conditions of this statement are!
Now before anyone out there gets offended and ask "Aren't women good with numbers? Is this verse trying to say that woman can't deal with financial things and handle money as men?!" Let me clear up the air for you, in Islam, the financial burdens and responsibilities are placed on the shoulders of men. This means that a woman before getting married should be taken care of, financially, by her father and brother(if she has one), and after marriage, this responsibility shifts to her husband's. It is not her duty or role or responsibility to burden herself with their financial responsibilities. So, if she doesn't carry this responsibility, if she does not deal with it at all or even if she does a bit, it is most likely that the man will have more information on the matter since it is he who is carrying this burden and/or responsibility.
This answer made a lot of sense to me.
Just because I referenced this talk, doesn't mean I would vouch for him or anything like that. I happen to agree with him on this particular topic and that is it for now. Let's move on
(Should you wish to read more on this verse, follow this link)
Now, this is not to say that men and women are not different. We are not the SAME. we are each created with our set of skills to a certain extent, for example, women can give birth, men can't. Men generally tend to be physically stronger than women, things along these lines, basic things we were created with. However, almost everything else is all up to how we train, and educate ourselves.
Recently BBC was covering a story on "Meet The Women Against Feminism" which shares the ideas of these women who feel like feminism has become toxic. This hashtag showed women taking selfies and holding up signs that read "I don't need feminism because.." and continued with each woman's feelings/beliefs accordingly.
A while back in an opinion piece for The New York Observer, Nina Burleigh, a critic of Women Against Feminism, explained why she believed that some posts on Tumblr were not submitted by women, but rather are "sock puppets of men's rights activists." She then gave some Tumblr example statements that included: "I don't need feminism because only the weak-minded buy into cults", and "because blaming men for your OWN insecurities and mistakes is WRONG & ABSURD."
Before I get angry here and say mean things, I know that some women out there do misrepresent the idea of feminism, with aggression, abuse to men's rights, mockery of the current laws and judicial systems and even offensiveness to religion and holy books. But that is not what feminism is about, it is about ensuring a safe and fair future for ourselves and our kids. It's ensuring there is fair treatment in houses, schools, cultures, TV and social media, the way we teach religion, correctly, holy places, as well as workplaces and proper representation in political environments. Both men and women should be treated with respect and then recognised accordingly based on their brains, capabilities and character.
Going back to the women who are a little uncomfortable with the idea of freedom, I must say that just because you don't know what to do with freedom and opportunities, doesn't give you the right to take it away from others. Just because some people think women should be happy with the way things are at the moment, given "it could be worse", does not mean we all should believe we have arrived at a satisfying destination. I believe we are nowhere close to arriving anywhere we need to get to in order to secure our children's future with regards to the following: bias, sexism, equality, justice and opportunity for all.
Want to know who also agrees with me on this point? Germaine Greer, she's mostly famous for The Female Eunuch. Her book argued that women have been repressed and alienated from their own bodies and sexuality, which Germaine believes is key to women's liberation. Greer states that she feels that feminism has not "gone far enough" and that women are now "settelling" for less than total equality. Kind of true, no? The way they talk to us about our bodies from such a young age doesn't exactly entail a bright future of confidence, self love and fulfillment. But this too sensitive of a topic for me to ever discuss right now.
Here's what I believe to be true, we need men and we need to teach boys and men about the world we dream of and have them understand how this benefits us all, benefits our future. We are not at war with each other, we do not hate men and we do not want to take something that is not ours. We need to work together, we need men as men need women. Therefore, it is a matter of understanding and constant communication that is never ending and always moving in all possible directions.
I want to conclude this article with a poem, because I love to write poems, I feel liek they tie the world together in with universal rhythm that speaks to the soul against all odds. Also because, this has been a heavy post to write and I need to leave things on a smoother note, if possible.
Before I share my own poem, I want to share one that is beautifully painful and sad. It is written by the incredibly talented and infamous Nizar Tawfiq Qibbani. Qabbani was a Syrian diplomat, poet and publisher. Nizar's sister committed suicide because she wanted to escape her arranged marriage. Upon her passing Nizar truly realised the kind of world many women live in. Thus, this poem by Qabbani.
I Have No Power – by Nizar Qabbani
‘I have no power to change you or explain your ways Never believe a man can change a woman Those men are pretenders who think that they created woman from one of their ribs Woman does not emerge from a man’s rib’s, not ever, it’s he who emerges from her womb like a fish rising from depths of water and like streams that branch away from a river It’s he who circles the sun of her eyes and imagines he is fixed in place
I have no power to tame you or domesticate you or mitigate your first instincts This task is impossible I’ve tested my intelligence on you also my dumbness Nothing worked with you, neither guidance nor temptation Stay primitive as you are
I have no power to break your habits for thirty years you have been like this for three hundred years a storm trapping in a bottle a body by nature sensing the scent of a man assaults it by nature triumphs over it by nature
Never believe what a man says about himself that he is the one who makes the poems and makes the children It is the woman who writes the poems and the man who signs his name to them It is the woman who bears the children and the man who signs at the maternity hospital that he is the father
I have no power to change your nature my books are of no use to you and my convictions do not convince you nor does my fatherly council do you any good you are the queen of anarchy, of madness, of belonging to no one Stay that way You are the tree of femininity that grows in the dark needs no sun or water you the sea princess who has loved all men and loved no one slept with all men… and slept with no one you are the Bedouin woman who went with all the tribes and returned a virgin Stay that way.’
I bid you farewell, for now with my abstract poem tackling the conscious and/or unconscious behavior that some men have. Body language can tell a lot about how people feel about each other. This is what my poem addresses.
Before you walk away - by Amira Shohdi
I wanted to speak, to respond, to reply.
Words were still floating,
making their way through my lips
and yet you walked away without saying goodbye.
But it seems, sir, you do not care to listen.
You do not care to see, because you believe the discussion
has ended once you have said what you wanted to say to me.
What arrogance you consume, and for so many years
it's been nurtured, never tamed.
So, you think when you turn
your back on me, my respect will remain the same?
You lack the knowledge and power to understand,
that I am the Woman and you are the man.
There is no
except our brains
and it seems that no matter
how much my knowledge can expand,
yours inevitably remains the
You speak stories of travels, books you've conquered
and lives you've touched, I am here to tell you despite it all
you are what people say about you,
which, right now,
is not much.
Simplicity in words, easy in meaning.
to tell the world how it can be so demeaning
to have a conversation with the back of your head
because almost every time,
I am not finished with what
is to be said.
What makes you think your words are of more meaning
Think about it,
before you have run out of time.
There is more of me than there will ever be of you.
There is more us than you will ever think true.
I wonder what your wife thinks of this habit you do
and what your daughter
will come to know true,
that the man in their lives will always turn his back
before the conversation is through.
Before I walk away, listen when I say
I am the Woman and you are the man.
Perhaps, in time, should you eventually
- Amira Shohdi