Writing back to the misogynistic tirade that is plaguing our communities.

Tired of  the male
narrative? Yeah, me too.

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Seeing the western world so openly hateful of Muslims is
deeply worrying and can make Muslims feel dejected because it just affirms a
fear of being hated. But seeing the Muslim world so hell-bent on presenting
women as a problem, is also deeply worrying and likewise just affirms a fear of
being hated, ironically by the very community in which you should feel
accepted.

You don’t need to be a cynic in order to see that we live in
a world that thrives of hateful rhetoric and it is often down to the writers
and the activists to undo worldly views that bash marginalised groups. You don’t
need to be a feminist to recognise that women are written about pejoratively
or, in the male Muslim world, seen as either unruly beings that must be
halalified or a trophy rightfully rewarded to man.

(I mean, even small things. Even the teeny tiny things.)

Like the amount of times I have been told that shayari (poetry) is for men and the
amount of times I have been told that men are allowed to do more just because
they had the privilege of being born male. The amount of times that I’ve been
inadequate wifey material because I don’t live up to cultural ideals and because
women with education are too clever for your maa da laadla* of a son.

*(Translation: Mollycoddled by his mother so much that he is a sinless, saint like
son with no flaws whatsoever and he is far better than his sisters in his
mother’s eyes.)

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The problem with you sisters is…

Recently, I saw someone use social media to ‘rant’ about how
he feels about female nudity and modesty, where he stated that
women ought to be respected based on how much they are wearing. So, the less a
woman is wearing, the less she respects herself and thus the less she deserves
to be respected by men.

Hold the fridge door.

SHE DESERVES LESS RESPECT BECAUSE  SHE IS WEARING LESS AND THAT MEANS SHE DOESN’T
RESPECT HERSELF?

Yes. He actually said that, oblivious to the fact that these
‘rants’ do nothing but uphold the same narratives as rape culture, the same
narratives that justify sexual assault by saying that women who are wearing
less are ‘asking for it’.

Surely
respect is earned based on character and a person’s conscious behaviour and not
decreed by how much she is wearing? Surely
personal integrity should be respected no matter what, and not just because a
woman satisfies your definition of modesty?

That’s not even the worst part.
What’s worse is that he then tried to justify it with Islam, saying that women
should cover what is only halal for their husbands. Hold the fridge and the freezer door. 

halal for their husbands’?

 

I assure you hijab isn’t observed for men, nor was it ever command
to be worn FOR men. Hijab is a physical manifestation of faith that means many
different things for different women, and is worn both physically and ideologically.
For some women, Hijab is a political statement that saves them conforming to
societal ideals about beauty, for others it is worn as an act of constant
worship, for some it is worn only during prayer. There is no singular
definition of what hijab means, nor are the experiences of Muslim women in any
ways homogeneous. Its not a magical halalifying cloth.

What does all this have to do with male narrative?

How and why can some men sit there and perpetuate religion
through hatred and misogyny and never be corrected or called out for their
bullshit? I’ll tell you why. THEY DON’T WANT
TO HEAR IT
. This is the same kind of narrative that will tell you
he doesn’t care what anyone else thinks and that he doesn’t need anyone to
justify nudity. (Even though nudity isn’t
something to be justified, it’s your brain that needs to unlearn the
hyper-sexualisation of the female body but apparently you can’t do that because
you were born fully clothed, bearded and with male privilege oozing out of your
backside.
I’ll save that for another day though.)

This is why my writing very often refers to man as an
object. Positioning man as the object of my writing is an imperative way of
unpicking male narratives about… well, everything.
Desire, sex, female conduct.

Male attitudes have often dominated poetry, drama and prose
and man has always positioned himself as the overbearing subject that only ever
romanticises or proposes how the female is problematic by her very nature and
existence. However, by positioning man as the object, it allows me to portray
fictitious events that utilise that male objectivity to empower the female subject.

Complex? let me put it in laymen’s terms:

Women are not short of
male commentary about pretty much everything that we do, we have plenty, we
have shit loads. We don’t need it, how about we write about how man problematizes
our entire existence instead, how about we portray how misogyny is not a thing
of 17th century drama.

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As expected, there’s often a backlash of men who think that
the poetry or writing is intended to insult them, but I’m not in control of
reader reception.

You have the power and freedom to receive my writing as you
wish, it doesn’t change my method and my intentions, it just makes it a great
artistic piece that allows a spectrum of views. To offer different readings is
one thing but to assert that your reading is the correct one is another.

Poetry is not necessarily personal, and I often have to
remind people of that. The experiences alluded to in my poetry may not be my
personal experiences or may not be something that I will experience. However,
if I have experienced emotion that is akin to a certain experience and I can
express that in writing, then why not? That being said, a lot of poetry is
personal, even if it is the highly cynical pieces. It means that I have felt
enough to give my views and verdict on said event or person without actually
spilling private details of my life. That is what makes poetry so remarkable.
It’s more than just words, and people who quote poetry to help them perfect an
expression aren’t committing a crime, they’re researching their emotions.

For example, Sufi poetry plays a huge part in interrogating
the spiritual self. Someone who wants to learn about spirituality or attainment
of a state of spiritual contentment may utilise Sufi poetry as a starting
point. It communicates the experiences of people who have gone through the same
things that you might be going through now.

My writing isn’t exclusively feminist, but may be beneficial
for someone who needs reassurance that male narratives aren’t definitive of
female conduct.

My intentions are pretty simple. I’m aiming to desexualise
the female as a male object and instead put female sexuality and female
narratives at the forefront of poetry and art.

Whatever I do, is not for male validation and no matter how
many times I make that clear, it does not seem to hoover up the crappy opinions
surrounding female conduct. Whatever I do is not to erase my heritage and no
matter how many times I make that clear, it doesn’t seem to windex the
shitstain of a western, male-dominated narrative that likes to portray female Muslims as
nothing but oppressed, under-achieving and irrelevant.

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I’m not British enough because of my skin tone and because I’m
adept in speaking languages that frighten people. I’m not Muslim enough because
I don’t wear plain black abayas. I’m not woman enough because I have opinions
and a blessed hand to write them with.

But one thing is for sure, the relentless
efforts from marginalised communities to write back, shout back, peacefully
protest, make effort into standing ground for their existence and who they are
is all the evidence you need to show that we still live in societies that
thrive off whiteness, misogyny and systematic oppression. 

For me, that is what
writing is all about. I don’t care if it touches hundreds or if nobody reads it
or if it stays confined to my journal, writing is liberation when you are so
marginalised by every community that you are meant to feel part of.

– Shazmeen

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