As soon as she opened the door I was met with the smell of simmering spices and warm food. I carefully took my boots off trying not to get snow on the plush creme carpet. I was greeted with kind and familiar smiles as I walked into the house. It was a typical December evening in Chicago. The kind of weather where your face went numb if you stayed out in the cold too long. I was relieved to be behind closed doors. Both my body and spirit were marinating in the warmth that surrounded me.
These type of gatherings were rare when the temperature reached subzero digits, so naturally I looked forward to the comradery of sisterhood, laughs and good spirits. We talked about various topics which included work, school, politics and of course marriage (for those of us that were married) and dating ventures (for those of us who were on the prowl).
The conversation shifted to womanhood and it left me with several thoughts.
What does it truly mean to be a carefree, spiritual and emancipated woman?
I’m talking about a woman not burdened with societal and cultural baggage. Many would say this is not possible in Islam, but I disagree. Throughout the last several years of my late twenties I have found solace not only in myself but, simply put, being myself.
There is a huge difference between the two and I believe many women use other people or standards to define who they are. Respecting your individuality is a huge component in becoming the woman you are destined to be.
I can not say this without paying attention to the reality that there are consequences to being a woman without inhibition.
Most people will misunderstand you.
Every time I hear Nina Simone’s “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” I often imagine her supplicating this song. If you closely listen to the words it is a prayer. She lays her problems in front of Allah and pleads for Him to aid her. She reminds Him that “I’m just a soul whose intentions are good”. As most know Nina was a woman who, herself, was often misunderstood by the world.
So, I thought as a woman these are the main points of judgement many of us face (irregardless of your ethnicity or religious affiliation) at some point in our lives:
*How you dress.
* Your relationship status.
*What you say.
These three things will be the judging ground for society. If you allow they will ultimately rule your life. You, as a woman, must endure it.
Men will use this as a means to see if you’re suitable for marriage and other women will use this as leverage for comparison. Being a woman, particularly a Muslim woman, means that you must adhere to certain expectations without fault. Men on the other hand are given the leeway to have fault. This is a privilege of manhood.
This is just the way the world works. Again, a reality you must accept.
You will often be misunderstood. If you are single (by choice or circumstance) folks will not get it. They will question if something is wrong with you or perhaps why no one wants you. Additionally, you may wear hijab, may not or perhaps you only cover some of the time. You will not only be judged on the frequency of when you wear it but how you wear it.
Or perhaps you are the type of woman who is strong willed, vocal and firm in your opinions. You are often, again, misunderstood. People will tell you to tone it down. You may even be reminded that men don’t like women who “talk” too much. Reality is that most of these men are insecure and use your strong personality as their excuse. Perhaps this will lead to you changing fundamental parts of your character to fit into what society wants of you.
Keep in mind that there are ways you can combat these stigmas. Walk at your own pace not following the steps of someone else. Our identity should not be solely wrapped in how society or Islam views us. As women we should all be the sole definer of our lives.
I am all woman. I am all Muslim. I am all Black. I am so much more.
Be true to your womanly ways and never apologize for being you.