feminism


teapartyFancy some irony, sweeties, tea, and riveting conversation?

I have the honour of co-hosting a unique art installation, titled, “A Feminist Tea Party: Straddling the 49.”

The exhibit, as imagined by two phenomenal artists Caitlin Rueter and Suzanne Stroebe, is a participatory, multi-faceted collaboration to engage and raise social consciousness in the set of a midcentury tea party.

Sounds like a blast, no?

This is the 15th installation and the first time the artists have ventured into Canada!

At each event, we invite a new group of guests and, with them, a new conversation. We hope to engage with each of our guests, asking them to experience the space we have created, to perform within it by playing our game, to learn from each other in an open, supportive space for dialogue and, finally, to witness our collaboration and join us to make it their own.

[The exhibit] draws on the iconographic heritage of contemporary representations of women—sex and service, the consumer and the consumed. The gallery is recast as a home, an open forum where essential and discomfiting issues can be discussed freely and with a sense of humor.

I’m incredibly excited to be a part of this project — and hope that if you’re in the area, you’ll join us for an informal conversation on Muslim Feminism!

On June 15 from 2-3:00pm I’ll be facilitating “Hijabs VS Boobs: Adventures in Muslim FEMENism” — an informal discussion highlighting the various ways Muslim women are portrayed as walking contradictions or stereotypes of oppression — and how debates over the hijab often overshadow the work being done to champion women’s rights by Muslim women and their allies. What do Muslim women want? Can someone practice Islam and also champion women’s rights? And how can feminist groups work together, be intersectional, and celebrate difference?

The exhibit is at the O’born Contemporary Art Gallery in Toronto (just a short jaunt from Ossington Station) from June 14 – June 16, 2013.

Pop in to add your voice to the conversation, have a cuppa, or just come to say “hi.” I’d love to see and hear from you!

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So much for colour coordination.

The other day the Hubby took Eryn so I could have some well-deserved girl time with a good friend. We had a fabulous date at a swanky restaurant — two Muslim girls drinking faux cocktails, laughing into our high-calorie salads, passing a chubby baby back and forth, and gossiping about our respective academic-stressed and dirty diaper strewn lives.

By the time I got home, Eryn was fast asleep — worn out by her own lovely date with Baba. He let her watch TV, they learned some sign language, then they went to the mosque before laughing into halal burgers and acting all cool playing with pretend mobile phones at a local cafe.

We’ve been extremely successful with potty training over the past month and recently started venturing out without diapers. So naturally, after finding out how the evening went, I just had to ask about bodily functions:

Me: So how’d it go?
Him: She had to pee when we were at the mosque. While I was praying.
Me: Oh no! What did you do?
Him: Well, I tried speeding up, but it was going to take too long. So I left prayer and took her to the bathroom.
Me: You stopped praying? You gave salaams?
Him: No. I left prayer, took her to the bathroom, came back to the musalla and picked up where I left off.
Me: Can you even DO that?
Him: *shrug* Not sure? Guess it’s time for a fatwa.

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Happy weekend everyone! We’ve finally recuperated from Eidoween and have a bunch of fun stories for your reading pleasure. So sit back and enjoy some fierce women, romantic Muslims, some historical Hajj and a little ideal Muslimah trolling that’ll have you snorting tea out your nose.

Enjoy!

1) Focus and breathe and stretch and Olympics. With this mantra, Amna Al Haddad is one woman I would not want to mess with.

The New York Times recently profiled this fantastic 22-year old athlete from the UAE along with her team mate Khadija Mohammed, the first female Emirati lifter to make the Olympics.

According to the article, a tough training schedule isn’t the only thing these women have to deal with. Negative attitudes about women weightlifting in their country include the belief that they’ll turn into muscular meatheads — thereby making them unattractive to male suitors. Because it’s not their athletic talent that’s important — no, it’s their marriageability. The team also deals with the stereotype that weightlifting only attracts masculine women, and *GASP* lesbians(!!!!)

“A lot of women say, ‘Wow, look at her body,’ ” Al Haddad said. “They ask me how to get lean, and when I say I weight lift, they get scared. But it’s the 21st century now. I don’t want to get married until I make the Olympics.” …

At a recent workout, Al Haddad, in the company of a male trainer, wore full arm and leg compression skins under her shorts and a short-sleeve shirt with the word “beast” printed in bold across it, a concession to tradition.

Fierce!

I SHOW YOU MUSCLES AND POPPING VEINS! MUSLIM FEMINIST HULK SMASH MISOGYNIST CIS-GENDERED HOMOPHOBIC ATTITUDES!

Seriously, don’t mess with a woman who can clean and jerk 100 pounds in the air. Keep lifting ladies.

2) There is nothing more romantic than receiving an early morning kiss from the Hubby — complete with shaggy hair, scruffy beard, and the dulcet sound of babies yelling. Probably because that’s about the extent of romance in our house.

Half the world away, Kamila Khan has written a terrific article about the lack of “romance” in her life for the online Australian mag Mamamia. In “Confessions of a Muslim Romantic” she recounts growing up in front of the television learning unrealistic expectations of romance:

I can literally quote you every conversation in the Breakfast Club. Sure, I was sent to madrasa and learnt how to pray, but there’s no way a Saturday morning learning Arabic could replace my Saturday night with 21 Jump Street. This is where I learnt all my morals, my standards and my expectations…

After all, from our religious tradition came the Taj Mahal (made by a male out of love for his wife); came the poet Rumi (a male truly in touch with his feelings); and from Arabic came the word ‘carat’ (to measure the size of my future wedding ring). It was impossible then for any Muslim male not to have romance in his blood, right?

Yeeeaaah… I didn’t mind getting my ideas about romance from Johnny Depp and Rumi either. *wink*

Go read and comment on her piece, it’s a hoot guaranteed to make you remember the 80s fondly and grab your partner in a hopefully baby-food-spaghetti-stain-free embrace!

3) Single ladies, listen up! You know those nights when you’re sitting all alone on Twitter re-tweeting Mona Eltahawy, or stalking random cat pictures on Facebook wondering at the ripe educated age of 28 when you’ll find that NORMAL Muslim to complete half your faith? Well, according to a now popular post on MuslimSpice, that IS why you’re all alone! Apparently, the worst women to marry include women on Facebook, Twitter, non-virgins, non-hijabis, the daughters of gas station owners, and feminists.

So instead of giving the troll more link love, here’s a mind-blowingly awesome, satirical rebuttal piece by Sara Yasin over at Muslimah Media Watch in the voice of the slow jam Imam:

You’re using social media: It might be time to axe your Twitter and Facebook accounts, because your online presence is probably warding off potential suitors. It has been proven, by many studies, that no Muslim woman can resist logging into a social networking site without making posts about getting lost in Tariq Ramadan’s eyes. Of course, all conversations held by females are useless, and men only use social networking sites for the important business of men. If you’re using it for professional reasons (trick statement: your only valid role is being a homemaker), then that might be OK — but I’m afraid that I would have to recommend doubling up on your prayer to avoid falling prey to the Internet’s slippery slope.

Oh God it’s true, it’s so true. I get so lost in Tariq Ramadan’s eyes. (I even have a signed copy of his book! *fangirl squeeee!*) Guess I’m on the hairy path to hell.

4) Hajj rapid-fire:

5) Finally, possibly the oldest recording of a Qur’anic recitation. Surah Duha as captured by Thomas Edison’s newly-invented cylinder phonograph, and set to a collection of pictures from pre-modern development Mecca.

After becoming a parent, my life and perception of the world changed in ways I could not imagine.

I worry now — a lot more than I did before. When I’m not praying that my daughters will grow up to be strong, confident women, I’m begging that (if they choose to marry) they’ll find someone who will respect them, care for them, walk with them — and will never, ever lay an abusive hand on them.

I’m more suspicious now. While it’s pleasing to be told that my daughters are adorable, I’m wary when others comment that they’ll be “gorgeous” when they grow up. It’s impossible for me not to suspect that their tiny bodies are being sexually appraised. It’s even more jarring when a stranger touches my babies. Smiles and a “how-do-ya-do” are friendly. But intimate pats and tickles can reek of insidious, evil intent.

I have daymares. Driving the girls for the first time by myself will result in a car accident (it didn’t). Having our breakfast on the balcony will result in a terrible accident (unlikely). Someone will hurt them (insha’Allah, no). A fire, fall, crash, earthquake, meteor, tsunami, [insert irrational fear] will strike them down. My stomach clenches painfully when I think there may be a time when I cannot protect them.

The plight of other children now affects me emotionally. News stories of parents losing their children to abusive partners, senseless accidents, orphans, child hunger leave me sobbing, spurs me to action, but also makes me hold onto my girls tighter and with more fervent prayers for protection.

The idea that someone or something could whisk them away from me is my greatest fear.

So it is impossible for me, on the International Day of the Girl — a day about promoting gender equality and celebrating girls lives and opportunities across the globe — not to mark the work and bright life of Malala Yousufzai.

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This hopeful image showed up on Twitter as part of the #mysubwayad #antihate campaign against the racist anti-Muslim New York subway advertisements.

I was looking at Eryn in the rearview mirror, when she suddenly took her fingers and slanted her eyes. We were singing “Old MacDonald” while driving to school and her shocking non sequitur gesture was horribly out of place. Like a game of “one of these things is not like the other” in the Twilight Zone: Cheerios, children’s rhymes and creeping racism.

Stunned into silence, she spoke before I could even think about what to say: “Why did he do that mommy?” — and that’s when, much to my relief, I knew my little girl wasn’t trading racist jokes with her friends during recess.

While watching coverage of the 2012 Olympics this past August, a one-minute segment was aired recapping the career of Brazilian swimmer Cesar Cielo — and showed video footage when he slanted his eyes for the cameras after winning gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. It’s amazing that a two second scene from two months ago made such a lasting impression on her. And makes me wonder what the daily exposure to subtle racism, or skin colour and body preference is doing to form her worldview.

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Happy Friday everyone! It’s a rainy movie day for us, so here’s a quick roundup on the Olympics, hijab, radical Muslims, and feet.

Enjoy!

1) Right now in London 10,000 athletes from more than 200 countries are competing in 30 Olympic venues. Over 2,000 of those amazing athletes are Muslim — that’s a lot of people to profile (pun intended). So the media is making sure we at least know about the hijabis. And not just the athletes. The referees too:

The dancers are dressed to titillate, and the players wear even less: bikinis that reveal every movement of their muscles as they dig and dive for the ball.

El Sergany does not need a referee’s platform to be noticed on a beach volleyball court.

No, of course not!! She wears hijab. So let’s all stare at her, other her, pit women against each other by comparing a religious dress to bikinis, sensationalize what one woman considers normal, and ironically objectify her by turning Amina El Sergany into an Islamic standard.

Okay, sensational journalism aside, it’s a nice article with Amina saying she hopes her hijab encourages women from all cultures to take up the sport. That sport being BEACH VOLLEYBALL!

Score one for freedom!

So the media might be focusing only on the hijabis. I’m sure you’ve heard that Judoka Wojdan Shaherkani made Olympic history for being the first Saudi female to compete in the Games, and that sprinter Noor Al-Malki missed her chance at Olympic history when she injured herself in a 100m heat. But did you know that Souad Ait Salem came 37th in the Women’s Marathon Final — which is fantastic, and that Halima Hachlaf ran her season’s best time in the women’s 800m semi-finals?

If it’s all about celebrating Muslim women, let’s give a moment to the non-hijabi athletes too.

Oh, and did you catch Mo(hammad) Farah go into sujuud after he won the 10,000m? Fantastic! A Muslim won Gold for Team GB. Has anyone made a big deal about this? Must be his lack of hijab.

2) Rapid-fire: And now for something completely different:

  • VICE publishes I Walked Around in a Burqa All Day (and I’m not Muslim) in their fashion section. Point and laugh at a cultural tourist while she walks around NYC in niqab pretending to be some kind of Muslim from some kind of far away land. Check out the brilliant and informed comment section telling the author how offensive and Orientalist the stunt was.
  • Oh, did you know that Muslims have diverse beliefs? It’s true. Some Muslims are Atheists, Bhu-mus, Su-shis, Sufis, Bohras, Feminists, Traditionalists, Salaafis, Whovians, Wahaabis, Trekkies, Qur’anists, and more! Really, Muslims shouldn’t be defined by what’s on (or not on) our heads, by how many times we pray (or don’t pray) a day, or whether or not we keep kosher — and now there’s a US study telling us just that. Thanks.

3) Finally for everyone interested in women’s prayer and prayer spaces, or anyone with a foot fetish — I give you the Movable Mosque.

Check out more at Deena’s fantastic photo blog.

Recently, (mommy) blogger and activist extraordinaire Safiyyah, turned me on to a particularly condescending and patronizing post on Muslim Matters called “My Dear Ramadan Stay-at-Home Mom, I Salute You.”

No doubt there are moms who will find comfort in some of the suggestions this male author decided to make for women in his terrible attempt to understand what it means to be a mother during Ramadan. I however, really couldn’t connect with his assertions that I long for the days before my girls were born; attending the mosque is a responsibility for men only, so I just shouldn’t worry about it; every woman who stays at home makes it by choice; I use my mensus as an opportunity to slack off; and that it’s simply impossible for a woman with children to attend the mosque.

Newsflash: it’s not impossible, especially if fathers and husbands work with moms and wives to help make it happen. So here’s my response, written in a similar style.


My dear Ramadan feminist dad,

I know how much pain it causes you to leave your wife behind at home, taking care of your children, while you and everybody else enjoys their taraweeh prayers at the mosque. I know how much you miss your family, and yearn for the day you can all grow in the deen together by enjoying the warmth and identity that comes with worshiping as a family in an inclusive mosque.

But I also know how embarrassing it is for you to bring your wife and children to the mosque, with the great hope that they will be welcomed — only to hear about the indignity they suffered after being forced to pray in a small, cramped room with other women and children. That while you enjoyed the gorgeous chandeliers, domed windows, and gold calligraphy in a large, air-conditioned room with other men, your wife had wet Cheerios flicked onto her hijab by an unruly 3-year-old, your young daughter sweated and cried for fresh air and your son ran around with other children screaming and disrupting any semblance of peace and tranquility that is always destroyed when women and children are hidden behind barriers and forgotten in basements.

I know how much you want your wife to enjoy just an hour of peaceful worship during this blessed month of Ramadan and that worship for her is crucial to her self-worth and identity as a Muslim, as well as her relationship with God.

For all the times you help her achieve this and more, my dear Ramadan feminist dad, I salute you, and may Allah reward you.

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