Friday, June 3, 2011

Muslim. Hijab. Conservative Garb No Longer? (Redux)

I wrote a piece on my other blog (which I have since ended) a few years ago regarding a particularly interesting site I saw of a young lady wearing a hijab and hot pants. Yes, hot pants. I had also seen Muslim women in public wearing a hijab and tight, low cut shirts and the like. And it made me wonder that maybe this was a new trend in Islamic religious culture? Was this an example of Muslim women seeking a freer mode of dress? Or a particular female's way of rebelling against her Muslim religion and culture? However, there is also the idea that she was not in fact Muslim, though her Hijab points otherwise from my general experience. But even if she was not Muslim the pairing of the two garments still points to a dramatic cross of style and dress.  

I have since matured in various ways but still find myself wondering many of the same questions that I did in 2009. 
As a young inquisitive and intellectual American woman I have things that just appeal to my very nature, and the place of women in Islam is one of them. I studied Archaeology in college and one of my favorite classes was Women in the Ancient Near East. One of the topics I remember was dress of women and how the environment (such as living in Bedouin tribes) was a main factor in what women wore. I learned that clothing much like the burqa and niqab were adorned by Bedouin tribes as early as c. 200 AD (before the creation of Islam) because of harsh weather conditions such as sand storms.
And as I grew up in America I took great interest in Muslim dress for women, especially when I had Muslim friends who chose not to wear the hijab and those that did. I had no idea that wearing the hijab (or niqab/burqa) was a choice (though depending on the sect it isn't) or that Muslim women questioned whether or not wearing such clothing was a necessary part of their faith. I consider myself a feminist on some points and like many outsiders I wondered if it was quite fair the clothing differences I saw between Muslim women and men here in America. I would see a man in jeans, sneakers, and a t-shirt standing next to a woman in a niqab and a part of me wondered what the reasoning was behind the woman being covered and the man not. 

I admit that as someone with only outside experience with Islam, I could only speculate. I found it unfair that a woman had to cover herself while a man didn't. But then I had the chance to spend a month working in the United Arab Emirates and many of my thoughts were turned upside down. I admit that I like to show some skin and before my experience over there, I would choose low cut tops and things that accentuated my ample curves. I liked the attention, sue me. 

But during my month in Sharjah, the most conservative out of the Emirates, I dressed much more conservatively and observed many types of Muslim dress that I had no idea existed. I saw women who even covered their hands with gloves and was fascinated. Why did they wear the burqa over the niqab over the hijab (and vice versa)? Did they have a choice in what they wore or was it dictated by their husband/ male relative (a common idea which is sometimes (but not always, unfortunately) a misconception)?  
In a conversation I learned something that totally blew my mind. Many woman choose the burqa and niqab because they believe that their bodies should only be seen by their husbands. And that small conservative part of me couldn't help but be enamored with such an idea, but only if it was a choice. As a Christian I fully appreciate the "body is a temple" idea and have tried to incorporate into my more than before conservative dressing style.  And some people will make the argument that these burqa and niqab choosing women have been indoctrinated into a way of thinking that stifles their freedom, and some women may have been, but definitely not all. Many choose to wear the niqab and burqa, because they believe that is the proper way to showcase themselves. And that choice is what many, especially many of those outside of Islam, fail to realize.

After reading this very enlightening blog post I’ve Gone and Done It Now: What It’s Like Without the Muslim Headscarf, about a Muslim woman who questioned the necessity of wearing the hijab and why she wore one, I was reminded of all my questions regarding Muslim women and their form of dress. This blogger, nadiaelawady, experimented with going out in public without her hijab and wrote about her struggles with trying to find the truth. She saw that she had become invisible in a place where Muslim dress was uncommon and knew that if she had done the same in her home of Egypt, the reception would have been much different. 
She wondered about many things that I myself wonder:
Why is the hijab considered obligatory in Islam for women? Is it really obligatory or was it just something that a group of men decided was most appropriate for women of that time and age to protect them? Does what applied more than 1400 years ago still apply now? And if so, why? Does a woman really need to cover herself from head to toe to avoid being harassed or being seen as a sex object?
At times I've even wanted to experiment with wearing the hijab to experience the reactions of others to try to understand what a Muslim woman goes through in America. I found her questions very interesting and that she was still trying to identify how certain conservative dress was connected to her faith. The most important thing I found in her post was the fact that she had a choice. 

Another blog I read went even further in enlightening me. This particular blogger wrote about how she went through a spiritual transformation where she became very conservative and strict. But she later questioned her very being and if what she wore and her actions was the correct Islamic form. 

Meanwhile, for myself, my own views changed over time.  I went back and examined the verses of the Quran referring to covering.   I asked myself what was the purpose in covering.  Was it supposed to be a way of showing others how religious we were, the way that we had understood it?  If that was so, how was one to show devotion in a Muslim society?  And, whether in extreme secularist ruled Muslim countries or in the West, why was it that Muslim men saw the right for women to cover as a necessity?  While there are male dress codes in Islam, they are not nearly as so obvious.  The reality is that by asking young women to bear the emblem of the community we are asking a lot …
And it occurred to me that that wasn’t what the actual teaching was; the actual teaching was about modesty and not showing off.  If I were making a display of my religiosity, I was hardly being modest.   And, if I covered and were not the most devout and chaste woman, would I not be making a mockery of the modesty I was claiming?
Reading these blogs has further garnered my interest in the politics behind wearing the hijab, niqab, and burqa. 
Why do some women choose them as a lifestyle versus those that only wear them during prayers? How has the hijab evolved- religiously, socially, culturally, and in the fashion industry? Is it now becoming only a garment meant to showcase a religious connection/belief, no longer a religious lifestyle? And how does one equate a garment equated with such conservatism with the continually more risque/revealing fashion trends of today? Does it even need to be? 

What's your take on the hijab, niqab, and/or burqa? Do you see it as a choice to wear them or not? Have you noticed a change in the fashion of women wearing hijabs?   

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Racist Bullshackle.


I am Black and therefore I experience and am subject to racist bullshit. For my fellow tinted people, I want to know how you deal with racist shit? How do you respond?

As we members know, there are many many many different forms of racism. Ranging from just straight up, no chaser, ‘you said what,’ to the ‘hmm I guess that girl from camp was focked up.’ The point is, we’ve all experienced it—even if you don’t want to admit it.

For example…yes, it’s story time. Here I am, in a sun dress a la Forever 21, black leggings, and beautiful all leather brown boots [BAM] walking down a major street in the city I live in. I mean you can imagine the soundtrack. I see this older white lady staring at me with a scowl on her face sitting in a parked car. So, I look right back atta!

As I walk by, the next thing I know, I hear the ‘clunk’ of her locking her ugly-ass-I-neva-get-laid-by-my-husband dark blue minivan. Oh hellz naw! And yes, it was personal.

Now, I’m quick to hair flip passive aggressive racism b/c I’ve been through enough PWI’s to write a manual on it, so it doesn’t surprise me that much. But this- really though?

Needless to say it bothered me. I called my wonderful Daddy [yes, I still call him Daddy and no, I don’t call ANY OTHER man that name] to tell him what happened. And he told me, ‘Welcome to the Club.’

Then I thought this type of shit must happen to other ppl, including white folk. What about the cat w. the skull and crossbones tattoed on his arm, or the transgendered person? I know that Blackness is especially criminalized so I will skip the history lesson. But my point is- there are many non-normative groups out there who are also met with suspicion from random uptight cumwads—if you’re don't fit into normative America and you experience discrimination from passersby, how do you deal?

*How STUPID is that image?! hahahha!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Airport Etiquette

There are some really annoying and inconsiderate people in this world. The kind of people who get the side-eye when you really just want to punch them in the face.

I've just returned from vacationing in the south (North Cackalacky and Georgia) and just had to blog about the annoying people and things I observed while traveling.

Now my transportation of choice was flying. I really enjoy flying and wish I could do it more often. But times are hard and I've yet to find a money tree. Now when flying is your choice of transportation, you see many people and many situations. And in my travels I've seen many things that just annoy the hell out of me. And I figure I can't be the only one who's peeved by these situations.

So here's my list of: annoying people and things people do when flying:

1. People who take up 3 seats lying down in the waiting area.

Okay, I maybe could understand if the weather is terrible outside and flights have been delayed hours. Maybe. But it's just being an asshole to take 3 whole seats so that you can stretch out and sleep while everyone else is stuck standing up. Assholes.

2. Women who wear heels and then struggle with their carry-on luggage because of them.

Now I love a mean shoe and I would love to wear heels more often. If only my friends were taller. But when you see a chick wearing 4 inch killer shoes, the kind chick should reserve for the club, and struggling to roll her bag or carry around her stuff because she can barely walk in said heels, it's both funny and annoying. They're trying to look cute but look extra stupid. Step ya game up ladies. Literally.

3. People sitting in front of you on the plane who put their seat back without asking you.

Boy how I wish this would happen to me while my head is down in my bag, I get a concussion, and then sue the mess out of that person.

These people annoy me badly because I am tall, so my knees are already struggling with the tiny leg space they give you. And then people don't even ask or look behind them and just put the seat back. And if they bang it back, well I've seen people killed for less.

4. People who board ahead of the class they have.

You know those people. You're at the gate waiting with everyone else to get on the plane. The flights full and everyone has a carry-on and personal item. You're seating towards the middle or front and are a bit worried that you won't be find space for your bag. But as it gets closer to boarding your class your worry lessens. You happen to glance over at the person to your right's boarding pass and see class 7 listed. They have a large carry-on and a suitcase, but that doesn't matter because you're class 5. But low and behold, when your class is called, they are at the front of the line. Now not only are they possibly taking that overhead of space that should have been yours, but they're going to hold up boarding because they're seated towards the front and everyone behind them has to wait to get past them. Assholes, the whole lot of them.

5. People who stand on the left side of escalators and moving walkways.

These people deserve to be kicked in the back. I see these people as some of the most inconsiderate in the world. They might not have a flight for another 4 hours but that doesn't mean your not running to your connecting flight because your first plane was late. Stand to the right people. The right! It's not hard. You can still look back and talk to your friend. And then they have the nerve to look at you crazy if you try to get past them. Make you want to smack a bitch.

Well that's my list. You guys and gals have any others to add?

AN: So I actually went through the full body scan in North Cackalacky. I don't see what all the hooplah is about. I didn't even notice it was a full body scan until I had to stand in it. So dude may have gotten a good look at my lady bits. I'll never see dude again and would rather be safe on a plane than not. What's your take on the full body scan? 

Relax Yourself Girl, Please Settle Down

This song doesn't even need an introduction.

A Tribe Called Quest was one of the most prolific rap groups the game has seen. They were a perfect counterbalance to the newly popular gangster rap in the early 90's. Phife and Q-Tip lyrics were political, artful and often fun. I couldn't decide on which song of theirs to feature but I chose 'Electric Relaxation' for the video, it being shot in Queens. Holla!

Q-Tip is my favorite rapper and me and Zipporah Pearce went to the kick off of the Fort Greene Summer festival where he and Pete Rock DJ'ed. It was dope. He is dope. This song right here, is dope.

Black Love Couple of the Week

What's good people?

I read this article on and it gave me e-goosebumps and a tingly feeling all over.

The social politics of their relationship are real and important but not what I'm choosing to focus on right now. I want to showcase their love on this blog because it's love. They seem like a happy, stable, drama free couple and that should always be celebrated.

You can read more here!
Have an awesome Toosday!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Wrong, again?!

'Wrong, again?!' That is the phrase I would recite as a I scanned through all the red smeared across every single graded math test I received from a teacher. I can't even count how many tests I have crumbled up and stuffed into the recesses of my backpack, hoping that I would forget them. No matter how I excelled in the humanities, social sciences and extra currix math always felt like a constant hurdle. But I have to tell the story from the beginning...

Picture it: It's 6th grade math and we are all sitting and watching our brilliant black, male, attractive, fit... math teacher write problems on the board. While going over the lecture he would randomly quiz students in the class. I'm sure you have all experienced this random quizzing teaching method. And if you haven't, then consider yourself lucky. I sat there, smacked by puberty and awkward, hoping he would not freakin' call on me. But, of course he did. All eyes shot to me and in my nervousness I lost track of my thought and blurted out any answer that sounded like it just might be right. Well, I was wrong, again.

My teacher sighed with disappointment and I tried to sink as deeply into my seat as possible. To make matters worse, a kid who was more popular than me snorted, 'stupid' from across the room. From then on, I vowed to mentally resign from every future math class. I repeated over and over to myself that math was just not something I was good at and I should stop trying. No really- I stopped trying to be good at it or even to learn it. I just checked the frack out and spaced out in math classes for the next 6 years.

And now I deeply regret it. You need math for freakin' everything. You need math to understand music, you need it to figure out a humane tip for a waitor/ress, to figure out if you're being cheated out of money etc. You need math to live in this society. And it's a skill I just don't have. More importantly, it's a deep source of shame. I feel that by not being mathematically competent that I have failed my parents by wasting a portion of the money spent on private tutors to supplement my private school education.

So what am I going to do? I am going to take some math classes at a community college - that's what!

Will I be scared? yes. Will I feel stupid? At times, yes, but those moments will pass. Will I wish that I weren't there? Heck yes. But you know what-- I really want to gain more confidence in this arena and I no longer want to feel math-handicapped!


The Diary of a Pretty, Dark Skinned Girl

Dark Girls: Preview from Bradinn French on Vimeo.

This is very hard for me to watch. I grew up in a black neighborhood and went to majority black schools. Virtually all of the popular girls were light skinned. The guys loved them. I did not enjoy such adoration. In middle school, I was called ugly every single day. It may not have been because of my dark complexion but I was certainly was not seen as pretty and I don't think its a coincidence that other dark skinned girls were experienced the same struggles.

Despite the hell the boys put me through, I cannot bring myself to blame them for their actions. We were bombarded with images from r&b and hip hop culture where light skinned, skinny-nosed chicks with flowy hair were greatly desired. Growing up in the 90's, the two most memorable dark skinned women in entertainment were Whoopie and Oprah. The two are talented and accomplished but neither are really celebrated for their beauty. Even the few pretty dark skinned women in the biz were still considered less attractive than their lighter counterparts (Naomi vs. Tyra, Kelly Rowland vs Beyonce, Foxy Brown vs. Lil Kim).

Could you blame a little dark skinned girl like me for thinking her complexion serveed as a hindrance to her beauty? My insecurities about my complexion were not as pronounced as the ladies in the trailer but I certainly empathize with them. It took a long time for others to appreciate my beauty but it took even longer for me to accept my own. I accept my deep, chocolate complexion, my slender curves, my nappy hair, my chubby cheeks and perhaps most proudly, my deeply set, glowing smile. I'm not waiting for the mass media or certain controversial "intellectuals" to catch on. My struggles with acne are not akin to my dark skin, for the latter is not an imperfection. Not anymore.

Unfortunately, many dark skinned black women have not yet traveled down the road I have. But they need to hitch hike and come on! Compliments from others can certainly help with a person's self-confidence, but sometimes you have to force yourself to learn about the complications of your beauty. Sometimes the mirror lies. If the mirror tells you that what you are seeing is inferior, you have to depend on yourself for self-actualization. If your reflection is equating you with negative associations with image then you counteract that with knowledge of the contrary. Know that interpretations with beauty is not universal and in this particular case, is often racist. Why then participate in that?
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