Can’t control your sons? No problem, shame their daughters.

It’s no secret that misogyny is within the very fabric of our societies. As women, we feel as though we are being watched over. We have to assess our surroundings and if we want respect, we act according to their norms, customs and values. We’re left confused and anxious because if we don’t calibrate our moral compasses with the norms of another individual, or society, we are unfairly targeted and shamed. It gets scarier knowing that the vast majority of the shaming happens behind our backs.

It’s even more perplexing when we find ourselves in a situation in which we are subject to the insecurity of others. For example, there could a particular person who may have a son that drinks, smokes and doesn’t believe in God. The parent of the son could be religious and would deep down condemn the actions of their son, but would not outwardly oppose him. So to compensate, the parent would focus on other girls and the daughters of others, as objects of honour and shame.

الْخَبِيثَاتُ لِلْخَبِيثِينَ وَالْخَبِيثُونَ لِلْخَبِيثَاتِ ۖ وَالطَّيِّبَاتُ لِلطَّيِّبِينَ وَالطَّيِّبُونَ لِلطَّيِّبَاتِ ۚ أُولَٰئِكَ مُبَرَّءُونَ مِمَّا يَقُولُونَ ۖ لَهُمْ مَغْفِرَةٌ وَرِزْقٌ كَرِيمٌ
Bad women are for bad men, and bad men are for bad women; and pure women are for pure men, and pure men are for pure women. They are free from the slanderer’s accusations; for them there shall be forgiveness and honorable provision from Allah.
The holy Quran – Surat An-Nur, Verse/aya 26.

The aya is crystal clear. The problem with the way it is interpreted many times is that people think it’s a flat out promise from God, implying the people we have in our lives are a reflection of God’s opinions of our actions. It isn’t; it’s a warning from God, telling us to stay around good people.

The previous verses in the chapter were defending Aisha (RA), the wife of the Prophet Mohammed (SAW) when she was accused of committing adultery and was ostracised from her community. The verse that I just quoted is a follow up of God defending her against the rumours flying against her. Ultimately, it was revealed as a form of advice for Aisha (RA) and to all humans who would then find themselves being accused and shamed the way she was.

The underlying message is we do not need to conform, nor impress. If bad people around you talk about you, stay away from them, not just if you’re innocent. Even if you slip up and make a mistake, you do not deserve to be reminded about it and punished for it constantly. We’re all human and we’ve all screwed up.

If someone has malicious intentions, there’s no need to prove yourself. Stay away and surround yourself with good people who forgive, motivate you to do good and elevate you.

The problem is, this is easier said than done and not only because we don’t always know who our real friends are. Because the shaming of women is normalised, we often subconsciously try to conform to their neurotic demands. We allow their norms to define who we are and we have been conditioned to accept their opinions of ourselves. Even if we’re doing nothing wrong, we have it ingrained that no matter how erratic or hypocritical they may be, the morals of others should define our behaviour and that they have a right to shame us accordingly.

In our culture, a man could drink, smoke and do all of the impermissible things under the sun and his mother (for the sake of embodying my point, of course fathers do this too) may not say a word to him. She may even go above not condemning him and would even full on accept his lifestyle. That’s between the mother, the son and God. No one has a right to speak about them. The problem is, however, is when the mother accepts her son’s lifestyle, but holds her daughters, or the daughters of others to account.

She would not condemn her son for having a girlfriend, or for drinking, but would condemn his girlfriend for being a girlfriend and would condemn a girl who drinks with her son. It doesn’t stop there. Usually, when this particular type of mother or auntie possess such attitudes, it’s as a result of an inferiority complex, which means her judging, double standards and hypocrisy know no limits.

She could speak to the mothers of girls who have done nothing wrong and belittle them and their parenting. She could make innocent girls or women feel disgusted by themselves, for no reason at all. How? By creating a bubble of her own scattered norms, which are derivative from her own double standards and facilitated by structural misogyny.

These attitudes must be directly resisted. We must make a conscious effort to unlearn the culture of shame that society has forced us to internalise. We must trust our own judgement and moral outlook. This doesn’t necessarily mean fighting every auntie that speaks ill of us. That gets tiring. The battle is an internal one that focuses on self love, self trust and the dismissal of nonsense. She is wrong, not you. She is wrong for talking about you, twisting your innocent actions or dwelling on your mistakes. We must refract, not reflect on the negativity of others.

Maybe at times you would want to, or even need to get into confrontations. When you feel it is right, don’t shy away. For the most part, rather than fighting everyone head on, simply ignore them. Do what you want and follow your own moral compass. Ignore and isolate those who shame you, even if it is almost everyone in your community. Don’t feel the need to justify your actions, or to impress them. Be yourself and don’t allow yourself to be a victim of the insecurity and hypocrisy of others. Only when you stop caring is when you find true contentment and peace and is when you’re secure enough to only allow those who truly wish you well and accept you for who you are to be a part of your life.

Your fault?

They were right. It is your fault.

It is your fault that your grace reaches the sun. It’s your fault that the sparkle in your eyes blind those who look towards you. It’s your fault that your selfless soul believes those who say they care for you. It’s your fault that you believe that they have a heart as pure as yours.

It’s your fault that you allowed yourself to trust and bring your walls down. It’s your fault that your smile reaches to the seventh heaven. Your beauty is your fault. Your empathy is your fault. Your amazing laughter is your fault. Your intelligence is your fault. Your smile, your warmth, your style, your ability to bring life to withering roses – all your fault.

It’s his fault that jealousy ran through his veins. It’s his fault that he sought to break you from the first glance. It’s his fault your heart had the power to melt his, so he forced his blood to run cold.

It’s his fault that he sought to view you as a lifeless doll to numb your perfection. It’s his fault that he closed his eyes to listen to the beat of your heart and sought to make it skip. It’s his fault that compensated for his misery by forming a dark shadow over you.

It’s her fault that she was willing to form a friendship that never existed. It’s her fault that she faked it. It’s her fault that she hated the very thought of your success. It’s her fault that she belittled you.

It’s her fault that she lied. It’s his fault that he lied. It’s her fault that she hates. It’s his fault that he hates.

It’s their fault for making you think it’s your fault.

They taught you. They force you to extend past our limits only to abandon us and make you realise that we go beyond the limits you’ve set for yourself.

Your broken heart will heal.

His evil heart won’t.

“A year after the war ends” – Darwish.

تقول: متى نلتقي
She said: when will we meet?
أقول: بعد عام و حرب
I said: A year after the war ends
تقول: متى تنتهي الحرب
She said: When will the war end?
أقول: حين نلتقي
I said: When we meet
— Mahmoud Darwish (Palestinian poet)

Static is what comes to mind. He wants the war to wait for a year after the war to end for them to meet, but the war officially ends when he meets her. Is the war internal? Is the war a matter of unfortunate circumstances that becomes a hurricane because she’s not by his side?

In some ways, the character has accepted the futility of his fate. You can imagine him writing to his love at 1am with a cigarette in one hand and the other resting on his head with the pen in between his fingers. A paper in front of him and Turkish coffee to the right. You can imagine his eyes fixated with numbness and his heart letting out an occasional sigh.

You imagine his lover seeking his comfort and finding strength in his words. It’s clear there’s history. There’s passion. History and passion that’s locked beneath this “war.” They thought they’d make it by now. They thought the wait would be over. Her palms have been sweating in anticipation, whereas his have dried up with his hope.

The older we get, the less purpose we seek. We seek to float. To merely exist and to enjoy each moment as it comes. The bigger picture matters less as it becomes an abstract fog into the distance that distracts us from now.

When we come to this realisation, we resist. We summon the energy that life has sucked out of us and we do it with such drive that we fail to foresee the logic that we will need to fall back on and forget to pick our battles.

We recognise futility and become numb again.