Words, as harsh as they can be, can also heal any open wound if we allow them to. “you are beautiful regardless of what they say” she whispers in my year near the balcony at the Irish pub. She hugs me tight and tells me to stay strong. I am her inspiration, kind of like a love song. See, I know I can aspire to inspire but to actually hear someone say that I inspire them to be better makes all the difference in my life. They all know what im facing and look at me with pity. I’m a borderline alcoholic with too much alcohol in her system. Im mixing toxins and engaging in unprotected sex and all for what? To feel alive? To feel good? To feel beautiful? These men feed of my insecurities and I feed off their fake affection. We feed each other’s egos’ with sex and cigarettes. I don’t know how to act if I don’t feel wanted. I only know how to exist when I am wanted. Girls like me are hardly ever wanted, you know. I’m used up and sad and drunk and perpetually waiting by the phone for someone to pick up and tell me that I did good. but I didn’t do good. I failed at this, and failed at that and feel victim to this and fell victim to that. And all for what, to feel alive, free and liberated? I feel humiliated and ashamed. That jerk Turkish guy had the nerve to look me straight in the eye and push me away like I was some piece of garbage he had already used. Or that other guy who found it funny to insult my weight because as he put it “if your going to act like a man, you better take it like a man” so there wasn’t any room for me to feel sensitive. All I wanted and all I still want is for someone to help me out and stand and sleep by my side regardless. But I guess I cant have that until I learn to love and respect myself. To feel comfortable in my own skin. I need to go on a journey of self-discovery. And that journey starts tonight.
Let us hit pause on the crazy for a bit and sit down and have a cup of tea. Tea is supposed to calm you down because of the hot water and anti oxidants or something. An episode just ended and im crashing down. Mania is fun, sweet, and exhilarating. I miss him sometimes when im in that state. We would always have fun when I was acting like a crazy person.
I sit there, in the red painted kitchen, with my lipstick smeared on my checks and chin, and Im tired. I need some sleep and I should probably sleep this off anyway. It would be the safest thing to do since im coming down from a high. I used to pop pain killers and muscle relaxers as a teenager to feel good and relaxed. I was always tense even then. Funny thing is, I was happiest when I was clean but the dark side always had a way of seducing me back into it’s web.
I watch the steam rise from the cup of tea, so I take a sniff; it smells like mint, my favorite. I need to sleep before I hit my point of low and no return. My mother, sitting across the table from me, rises to give me a kiss and to remind me she loves me regardless. It’s bitter sweet to have someone love you unconditionally. She tells me to finish my tea and go to bed because I look tired. Its funny, just 10 minutes before I was in midst of a hypomanic episode. Oh the sweet life of having rapid cycles.
I was standing in the living room with the music blasting at 94%. I could hear every beat rush through my body and make me shiver. Then it started. As the base begins to drop I begin to twirl around uncontrollably. Jumping up on the couches, dancing and singing along to the music. “I think I may love you if you give me some time” I scream on the top of my lungs. Im in an oversized button down and boxers, my hair is down, my eyeliner smeared on my face from the crying and my lipstick smeared on my cheek from me trying to wipe off the tears. Im just so happy and I cant control myself. These are tears of joy, so why does it hurt so much to be this happy?
So before reading this, watch this video, as the whole essence of this post relies mostly on this videos content.
Ok now that you are speechless and maybe a little turned on, let me have your full attention. Answer these questions: can Muslim women be sexy? Should they be sexy? Doesn’t it defy the purpose of the hijab to be sexy? These questions have been the center of many conversations in modern Muslim societies with the increase of women wearing the hijab and increase in the amount of hijabi’s interested in fashion and dressing according to trends. Just like many young women, Muslim women have managed over the past 20 years to transform the hijab from something that was basic and black to something that is beautiful, unique to ever individual, colorful, and attractive in some way. Maybe it is that whole “you cant see what’s underneath this” mystery that drives guys crazy or maybe it’s the whole “saving myself for that one and only” that has gotten guys to become attracted to hijabi women. From my personal experience, I have been told many, many times that the hijab amplifies my beauty and makes my facial features stand out. Besides my face, I have been told by many men, Middle Eastern and other ethnicities, that they find the hijab sexy because of the mystery behind it, like “what are you hiding and can I please see it” type of thing. I guess it is kind of like lace, you can see some of the skin but not all of it, and all you want is to see all of the soft skin but you want to be the only one to see it. Point is, some of the most beautiful and attractive females I know wear the hijab, and yes they might not show their skin or hair, but they still manage to capture the attention of everyone for all the right reasons.
This might come as a surprise to many people but Muslim women DO have hair, and most of the time it is breathtaking and beautiful. You really don’t know what happens behind closed doors. Honestly, many of my hall mates my first and second year of college were beyond surprised to see me walk around the dorm with short shorts and a tank top with my hair down. Before meeting me they believed that Muslim women were so “oppressed” that even behind closed doors they had to wear the headscarf. But that can’t be any further from the truth. Muslim women are capable of enjoying fashion and trends just as much as non-Muslim women, some trends indoors and some outdoors depending on how comfortable the woman is with the trend and if it suits her modest standers or not. But back to what happens behind closed doors, and this applies to women in general, not everything we do is for guys and their eyes to see. Some women enjoy wearing sexy lingerie underneath their clothes because it gives them confidence. Some women like to sleep in lacy sexy nightgowns even if their sleeping alone, I know I do,just because they like feeling sexy for themselves. So what does this all mean? Well just like in the video, you would never expect the ending to be what it is because of the stereotypes people associate with women who wear the Burka and Muslim women in general. The point of this commercial is to break stereotypes and boundaries, and in my opinion it does a great job at doing so.
After posting this video on my facebook page a few months ago a former male friend of mine, who was of Middle Eastern decent, sent me along message explaining how this video along with getting to know me on a personal level has changed his perception on covered Muslim women. It is good to note that this does not mean I represent all Muslim women to him but I represent an existing sector of covered Muslim women that not many people know about or chose to ignore for personal unknown reasons. Also, the majority of my gay male friends along with my sorority sisters have seen me without my headscarf and in little clothing, and at first they were surprised but after hearing about what happens behind my closed doors, they began to change their views on the headscarf. Point is, we shouldn’t judge people based on what they believe in or how they dress. I’m less modest then my friend who is Christian and wears short shorts and tank tops. But people will never guess because of stereotypes and preconceived conceptions of what the hijab and how we dress all means.
I meet Deema in Middle School. She was a grade below me but the same age as me. Our sisters were friends so I guess so were we since we both went to small all girls private school, had mutual friends, and kind of had the same upbringings, you know, American Arabs who were brought back home by their parents to learn Arab and Muslim culture. Once I left the all girls school I didn’t really speak to Deema much because of the perception I had of girls who went to the all girls school, you know, didn’t have a care in the world, didn’t really care about anything, undereducated, and plain dumb. But Deema, as I later found out, like a lot of the girls who graduated from that school, was anything but undereducated and dumb. The reasons why I thought this in the first place can be discussed in another post, as I font want to take the focus away from the main point of this post. Deema, however, has been a recent inspiration in my life because through her I came to learn that it really isn’t about how you are brought up or where you go to school, if you want to become someone or change the world, it starts with you.
While thinking of females I would like to interview about this project, the “Why I wore it” project, Deema was the first person to come to my mind. After reading the rest of this post I am sure you will see why I chose her to start with!
**This is told for the first person narrative, and it is Deem’as voice not mine.
Why She wore it:
I think women wear the hijab for various reasons. Some women wear it for religious reasons; some wear it for cultural reasons. Some women wear it out of personal choice; others are forced to wear it. Some believe it is a more modest and appropriate dress for women, modesty as a cultural construct, which goes with the belief that women always have to dress humbly in the hopes of being perceived as humble on the inside. And honestly, some women wear hijab because they think they look good in it. So there are many, many reasons, so much that hijabi’s are not confined to a single one.
All hijab wearers are not one homogeneous group. I honestly don’t agree with this whole “cover yourself so men don’t look at you” argument, I think it’s ridiculous and NOT religious in any way, but enhanced by traditions and social customs, the Quran states both men and women to shield their eyes when in contact, regardless of the woman’s dress. I feel this argument victimize women and is already making a stance that a woman’s dress determines if she is to receive respect or not, which is objectification. It also perpetuates gender stereotypes that men are [supposed to be] sexual beings who can’t control their desire and women are [supposed to be] submissive and docile. What I’m trying to point out is that hijab is beautiful because of its complexity and differences which can’t ever be generalized.
Personally, I wore it because I thought it was the correct thing to do, religiously. I knew it was right from feeling good while wearing it. Also, the positive reaction from my surrounding’s to it further enhanced that “it feels right” feeling. I continue to wear the hijab because it has shaped a significant part of my identity and my ability to redefine hijab to suit myself.
And how do I identify myself? I identify myself as thoughts first; exterior appearances are a collected extension of the way society made me, and the extent to which I redefined society’s norms to fit my own perspectives. Part of the reason why I wear hijab as identity is to prove that hijab is a choice, and will not limit my aspirations. I can wear hijab and do anything I want, and that’s basically how i define myself. I identify with feminism in the concept of living out of personal choice, first and foremost, and equality between the sexes reached out of fighting the misogynistic norms of political regimes and institutionalized tolerance that oppress men and women alike. Most importantly I identify with anti-colonial and anti-oriental feminism, as taking off hijab in order to prove freedom is a personal matter, and is not fair to generalize a society by. Not all women that wear hijab are oppressed by it.
On it’s own the hijab does not necessarily empower me, but my willingness in practicing my freedom while wearing it that empowers me. Would I ever take it off you might ask? I doubt it, however, I am open to experimenting life without hijab, even if just for a few hours. I think it’ll be interesting to see if I feel the same way without hijab as I do with hijab, which is probably true.
As for my take on muslim women who do not wear the hijab I respect their freedom not to wear it and I would never dictate them into wearing it. Having choices to wear or not wear hijab are important in shaping a diverse understanding of identity and I will never disrupt that phenomenon.
All i have to say is wow. I would like to thank Deema so much for helping me out with this and sharing her thoughts!
Dear Mr. White Man with the brown hair, brown eyes, and white skin staring me
down as I walk by the cereal aisle. What’s making you stop and stare?
Is it this “thing”, as you guys say, I have around my head?
Is it the fact that I look different?
Is it the fact that I remind you of a people, a people who to you represent an evil,
who to you have caused you some type of personal pain?
Tell me Mr. White Man, what is so offensive about my head scarf?
Do you see me judging you for what is around your neck or the lack of anything
around your neck?
Tell me Mr. White Man, why is it okay for you to hate me but not okay for me to
defend myself against your harsh words? Why is that when you speak it is “freedom
of speech” but when I speak it is “hate speech”?
Tell me Mr. White Man, have I offended you by expressing myself through my
religious practices? Why do you look at me with that look of disgust as if I was a
dirty person for being a Muslim woman?
Tell me Mr. White Man, do you know what I go through everyday? Do you know the
struggles I face as a Palestinian Muslim female in this “modern” western society? No.
I didn’t think so.
Dear Frat Boy who tried to pull off my headscarf at a bar while I was dancing with
friends, why did you feel you had a right to touch me?
Is it because of this “thing” you say I have on my head?
Is it the fact that I don’t look like your typical girl at a bar?
Is it the fact that I’m strong enough to do what I please so that you feel like less of a
man and try to “put me in my place”?
Tell me Frat Boy, what is offensive to you about my headscarf?
Do you see me judging you based on your Polo button down shirt and J.Crew shorts?
Tell me Frat Boy, have I offended you by being a liberal feminist Muslim woman?
Did I hurt your ego by not being at home “praying” like you said I should?
Tell me Frat boy, why is it that from all the frat bros you where with, it had to be you
who had to pull it off? I always thought men of color understood the hardships that
resulted from white supremacy.
Tell me Frat Boy, what if someone pulled your mother’s hair or shirt off while she
was at a bar? How would that make her feel?
Tell me Frat Boy, do you know the struggles I face every time I go out? Do you know
how it feels to be the only fully dressed, covered up, stared down girl in a social
setting after 10pm? No. I didn’t think so.
First off, I am very flattered that a lot of the topics I received to write more on had to do with: what do I like in a guy, what makes a guy attractive to me, my love life, if I was willing to date someone and things of this sort. It’s really sweet. In this post I’m going to address these kinds of questions but only about appearance. I don’t feel comfortable now sharing what makes me like a guy and want to spend time with him.
I’m not into the stereotypical definition of handsome, blonde blue eyes and tall or tall dark and handsome. No. When it comes to physical futures I really look at someone who is taller than I am, darker than I am, and let’s be honest I’m really white so any skin tone darker than mine will do, dark facial hair, nice smile, white teeth and a full head of hair,. These are the essential needs and requirements I have. As for ethnicity, to me it doesn’t matter. As for physicality, they must and I mean must, have nice shoulders and arms. Other than that I’m pretty good with anyone really. Oh also, they must have a deep voice; there isn’t a thing in the world sexier than a man who sounds like a big strong man, trust me.
Presentation is a huge factor as well. A guy who dresses well and smells good is bound to be a catch because it shows they care about something at least. Guys who smell good make me week at the knees. I’m not even kidding, my guy friends know that if they want to ask me to do something they have to smell good because I just cant say no. I like it when a guy dresses in a white button downs or a white v-neck t-shirt, and especially if they are dark-skinned, it complements them well, my god!!!
So in a short summary: taller than 5’8, darker than me, facial hair, nice smile, white teeth, has a full head of hair, dresses well and smells good. However, these things aren’t an assurance that I will be into someone. That has a little to do with how someone looks.
I guess there is a reason I am attracted to broken things. I find beauty in things and people who have been through suffering and pain. It makes them special to me and beautiful in my eyes.
This post is dedicated to my dear sorority sister, Katie.
“The Hijab, what does it mean to you?” I have been asked this question numerous times, and with all honesty, I have given numerous answers. The hijab is part of who I am. I have had it on since I was 10 and I wore it at such a young age because I was afraid of dying and not going to heaven. My parents begged me not to wear it but I really wanted to, and my parents, it being in their nature to let me make my own decisions, let me do what ever I wanted. The hijab is part of my identity. How you might ask? How can a piece of cloth be part of my identity? Well for starters, to me, sometimes it is more than a piece of cloth around my head and neck. I say sometimes because honestly sometimes I feel like I wear it for only traditional reasons rather then religious. But that is only sometimes. Other times, I feel it brings me closer to Allah (swt) and my faith. For those who know me and follow this blog regularly, you know I have struggled with my faith a lot over the years. I have sinned in many ways and I am not the cover girl for Islam, but I still love my religion and God more than anything in my life right now. I often feel, it is this love that justifies what I do, because it makes me think “oh because Allah (swt) loves me, he will forgive me for my sins.” I know it is wrong to think this way but being human and imperfect, I can’t help but think this way sometimes. But this post isn’t to justify why I did or do what I do and have done in my life, it is about the hijab and what it means to me. I have struggled a lot with the hijab since I’m in a Pan-Hellenic sorority, a went to a southern school, and I like parties. But I still love and try my best to respect the hijab as much as I can. So before you go on judging me, remember Islam is a religion of acceptance, love, and forgiveness.
The hijab gives me the personal space some women search their whole lives for. “Personal space? Whaaaat?! How can something that makes you dress a certain way and cover your body, even when it’s hot, give you personal space?” Well, it’s easy, it allows me to show or not show what I WANT to show of my body. It allows me to hide my body from the eyes of men I do not want seeing my body. It protects me as a woman, it protects me as a human being, it protects me. Yeah, I know I sound like a hypocrite since I wear tight clothes, semi-see through tights with short skirts and shorts, but honestly, even when I dress like that I feel that it’s better than showing off all my skin, at least to me it is. This isn’t to say that women who don’t wear the hijab aren’t protected, they are, and they have full control over their bodies, if they dress the way they want because they want to not because society and culture makes them dress that way. And the same goes for the hijab, if it’s a personal choice, it is liberating, if it’s not, then that is when it becomes oppressing. Also, I know many women who don’t cover their hair but dress in very conservative ways, more conservative than hijabi’s do, and that is also a form of giving themselves personal space.
I choose who I want to see my body and hair. I choose who I want to share gods gift, to me, with. Because honestly, the female body is one of the most beautiful things created and it’s a blessing to be able to enjoy the sight and touch of the female body. So I decided to be selective in who gets to enjoy my body, and this to me is empowering like nothing else can be. As a feminist, I usually get criticized for wearing the hijab. “ How can you be free if you wear something that holds you back?” Well, it’s easy, it doesn’t hold me back; it makes me stronger and makes my voice heard. It gives me the power to show or not show my body. It gives me the power to either disappear or shine in a room. It simply gives me power.
As I sit here, at the same cafe I have lunch at every Monday and Wednesday, many things cross my mind. I do most of my work here and I get a lot of reading done here between my classes. I usually see the same people here every time I come. You know, the sweet African-American lady who rings up my coffee and bagel, the Arab looking guy who just freaks me out, the cute Asian girl with a great sense of style. But today, unknown faces of people in suits surrounded me, well, it is the business school after all. But two people stood out to me in particular, and they took me back to a bittersweet place. It was two young adults, both from Middle Eastern decent, who were meeting for lunch. It seemed to me like they were just friends from the friendly hug they shared. They sat down and began to enjoy their lunch and I just watched them. Yes I am aware that is kind of creepy but I couldn’t help myself. I couldn’t hear anything they were saying because I had on headphones but they seemed like they were deep in conversation about something personal. The girl was beautiful, with her naturally tan skin and dark curly hair. The guy, kind of out of shape but he had that Middle Eastern charming look, with his facial hair and dark wide eyes. It seemed as if the girl was more into the lunch date then he was, but it was obvious he cared about her from the laughs they shared, to the “accidental” hand and arm touching that took place. It was a cute thing to see and it made me smile; it reminded me of my close guy friends back at UVa. It took me back to the lunch and coffee dates I used to engage in every day. It took me back to smoking cigarettes in the cold in front of the library. It just took me back to bittersweet place.
Oh no, oh no, I cant sing even if it was for my life. I cant draw a straight line even if your life depended on it. Oh you sweet thing, all I want to do is create something pretty. Maybe draw with my red lipstick on your light brown skin and tap my fingers on your chest and make my own melody. Laying there on your blue sheets with my hair sitting perfectly still on my bare too white back. You count the threads on the sheets and stare endlessly at the ivory wall. You tell me a story, the only time you really speak. You tell me a story about a girl who broke your heart. This seems way to familiar, way to similar to the story you told me last night. You fall asleep talking about the girl that got away, the one who hurt you in indisputable hurtful ways. I put you to bed and move to another bed. I have issues with sleeping on the same bed as men.
Clock hits 2 and I feel your tears dripping on my left arm. Your panting breath whispering my name in this dark empty room where the only light is from the 2am moonlight hitting the walls. Startled out of my mind, I jump out of bed. You are crying and it feels like time has stopped. We are both frozen and my soul escapes to read your face. Standing shirtless in my room, your face is soaked with tears and your facial hair shining in the moonlight and your hair is in a beautiful mess. Your eyes, red and white mixed in with one another around your brown iris. The folded skin around your eyes and the dark black circles under them take my breath away. Your lips, pink and brown, open aimlessly soI can see the bottom of your top teeth. I can almost taste your breath in the still moment. You are such a beautiful creature my sweet friend.
Your arms placed flat across the space between us and your hand grabbing on to my upper arms. We both catch our breath at the same time and look straight into each others eyes. In milliseconds you are in my arms, crying talking about a nightmare that just woke you up. We sit on the floor and I hold you in my arms, I promise I wont let you go no matter what. We are creasing one another on the floor and my head is on your shoulder and my lips on your ear. “Calm down, darling, please, I’m here.” The clock hits 3 in you are still crying in my arms. I cant believe this is happening. You are a man of grace and strength, a “manly man” as they would say. Now here we are on the floor in a city where we are both foreign, both crying over the loss we still don’t understand.
Clock hits 4 and you finally fall back asleep, still in my arms, you wont let go of me. This time I don’t move because I have no place to go. Breaking the rules for you once again. I wont tell my mother because she wont hesitate to ruin this. I wont tell my dad because he would never approve. I wont tell my sister because she wont understand. And I wont tell you because you don’t believe I can ever change.
Drink one, drink two, drink three. Now I’m crying because I realize you love her and I think I love you. They tell me I do, but I wouldn’t know, now would I? I drunkenly text you asking to see you but you know better so you don’t respond. I know you are with her, so I run back into his arms to feel loved for the night. Back to him and his dark brown skin, black hair, strong arms. I’m safe with him. He loves me like no one else ever can but I can’t get myself to love anyone but you. Now I smell like him, not like you, I can taste him not you. He is here and you are not. But being the big girl I am, I will get over you and she can keep you. She deserves you.