Empowered Woman? Who is She?

Author: Khadija Begum

I was at a local film fest earlier this week that was screening movies by amateur film makers on gender based violence. During one of the audience discussions, a girl who must not have been older than 13 and an actor in the movie, in a very well-meaning manner asked a question: How do we teach boys/men to deal with the new generation of empowered/progressive women?

A lot of answers flew around the room but the question bothered me for some reason and I couldn’t put my finger on it for a long time. Then I realised it was the very phrasing of the question “How do we teach boys/men to deal with the new generation of empowered/progressive women?

It gives us an insight to the problem of power imbalance. That female empowerment is a problem that men must “deal with.” Instead of teaching men to “deal with the new generation of empowered women” we should be teaching them to “understand the new generation of empowered women.”

Perhaps the best way one can begin to understand an empowered woman is by defining her. Is she someone who wears a red lipstick? Is she ambitious and career minded? Can she be called empowered if she wears a hijab? Does she have to be well-versed with theories of feminism? Can she really be defined by her choice of lifestyle and clothing? It isn’t that hard to say.

We must begin to change the question from “deal with the new generation of empowered women” to “understand the new generation of empowered women.”

While an empowered woman is definitely not a single construct, at the heart of it all lies one idea – an empowered woman is the one who is able to devote herself to that which she finds meaning in; who can exercise her rights and her choices.

If this idea can be grasped by everyone, the Indian society which has been opening up slowly for a while now, through the efforts and initiatives of many, will reform at a quicker pace. Our business is and always will be to ensure that this awakening is uniform in all cultures and classes of society.

How to ensure? By addressing the issue on all levels that it exists, i.e., societal, professional, household and the individual. There must be gender sensitization sessions in schools, colleges, offices etc. That media and literature is needed which challenges the mainstream notions and stereotypes. The gender roles in office spaces and homes have to be redefined or rather undefined so that they loosen any paradigm of unwarranted limitations. As an individual, one can understand an empowered women by being conscious and critical.

However to truly check the problem of power imbalance, we need to take the next step of awakening, which is, evolving. We evolve when we leave behind our distrust in change; when women empowerment is not a topic of discussions, dialogues or debates but a way of life; when the idea of empowered woman becomes a norm. All of which could take a little more time. Until then, one can strive to be more empowered each day because the best way to make someone understand an empowered woman is to project one.

Khadija Begum writes at ‘Unduly Unruly’ and is a contributing writer at the Conversation Room. You can follow her blog here:

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Teach Your Daughters To Break Glass Ceilings Not Break into Glass Slippers.

Why parents should worry less about their daughters fitting into glass slippers and more about shattering glass ceilings.

Author: Ana Rasheed

 

Attend tuition 100 hours a week. Check.

Make sure you get 4 A*’s at A-Level. Check.

Get into a Russel Group university. Check.

Get a first in your degree. Check.

Now sit at home, get a job near home and wait to get married. Urm…what?

Something I have always struggled with in my community is this disparity we seem to have between our sons and daughters when it comes to pursuing a career. (Alhamdulillah, I never faced this in my personal experience but saw many of my female peers go through something similar which prompted me to write this article.)

Parents will push and push and push from the moment we start school to college to university, endless tuitions, endless lectures, endless study groups – to ensure we are following the pre-determined path to get top grades, all the scholarships that the school budget can afford until we get that damned degree paper in our hands. Parents will impatiently wait till we graduate so they get the opportunity to hang our graduation pictures – hats, gowns and the whole shebang – on the wall (my grandma has an entire wall in her room dedicated to all our graduation pics) – a metaphorical trophy up for display for anyone and everyone to see.

But then what? Can we honestly say that we as daughters are given the same liberty and impartiality to pursue our careers with the same determination as our brothers? Can we really #jetsetgo from the onset? For many of my peers, unfortunately, I found that that was not an option.

To my dear parents out there…if you are going to educate your daughters to the same caliber and resolve as your sons, you must give them the same amount of autonomy to go and pursue their careers just like you give to your sons.

Surah Al Alaq (96: 1 – 5); Read in the name of your lord who created, created man from a clinging form. Read!”

This “read” in this ayah for me is not just subjected to us obtaining a paper education to fit the social norms we are constantly confined within as a community – but rather a continuous journey to not only attain but also implement knowledge. We encourage our daughters through laborious projects, dissertations and examination stress for 10 years of their lives, yet to what objective – have a framed degree certificate on the wall and stop achieving? Why do we expect our daughters to start slowing down after their degrees whilst we push our sons towards achieving the next milestone?!

We must ask ourselves, how are we supporting our daughters to continuously develop and learn? What are your daughters doing to break the status quo and become the next directors, managers and leaders of their companies, of their cities or their countries? What example are they setting to pave the way for other girls to follow suit. Why is it that less then 10% of executive directors in the FTSE 100 companies are female? (Guardian, n.d.)

This is a real cause for concern in our communities that we must address and work towards rectifying. The stress of getting our daughters married is sometimes so prominent that it becomes the forefront of our priorities – tunnel visioning us from being able to see the social and developmental growth that a career brings for an individual. Nothing else seems to matter then finding the right match for some, even if it means telling our daughters to “find jobs closer to home”, “nothing with too long hours”, “nothing where travel is involved” and the list of constraints can become an endless abyss if we are not careful.

The task of getting your daughter “married” should never be a hindrance to her career, rather a spring board for its success. The right partner will support your daughters in her career, not hinder her. Both can run in parallel and there is no greater example for us in this than that of the companionship between Bibi Khadija (a.s) and the Holy Prophet (SAW).

An esteemed, brilliant and independent business leader upon her own merit – one of four of the most remarkable women of mankind. Bibi Khadija traded all sorts from furniture to pottery to silk through primary commerce centres comprising from Mecca to Syria and to Yemen even. Her business was larger than all the Quraysh trades combined and infamous for its fair-dealing – gaining her the title Al-Tahira (The Pure One). Yet did her pursuit of brilliance stop when she got married? No. She only got bigger and better.

1400 years ago, in a severely male dominated Khadija was slaying in trade and commerce. So why in the 21st century are we not letting our daughters effortlessly follow this incredible example? If these are the role models we want our daughters to aspire towards, we as parents we need to pave the path for them to follow suit.

Thus, we as parents need to stay consistent, if you are educating your daughters to the highest levels, let them pursue their careers to the best of their ability. Indeed, teach your daughters to worry less about fitting into glass slippers and more about shattering glass ceilings.

Ana Rasheed is an engineer, blogger and contributing writer at the Conversation Room. You can check out her blog ankaraweb here:

https://ankaraweb.wordpress.com/

When A Desi Girl Goes to University

Rabia Khan writes on the everyday difficulties of university life for women in the sub-continent. 

 

‘My mom asked me to send her a picture of what I was wearing.’ 

All of us flinch. 

OMG, same.’

More flinching.

‘What did you do?’

‘I stopped replying.’

All of us laugh.

I can’t say if this is something all girls living away from home at university experience but it’s definitely something common. 

About two years ago when my sister was preparing to leave for university,  she was sent out a list of clothing she was allowed to wear on campus/ dorms etc. She had to get almost an entirely new wardrobe. According to university requirements; necessary wearing of dupatta (long scarf), no jeans, no short shirts, no heels, no capris etc. I remember my mom rushing my sister from gulf to dolmen mall, buying her dupattas, longer kurtis etc.

Thankfully, the university I am currently attending doesn’t have a strict dress code like this but conversations like the one at the beginning of this piece still take place. The only difference is, now, far from home, there is only so much your mum can do to check up on what you are wearing.

We live in a society where girls have to dress a certain way, be back home at a certain time, have a certain sort of  company to not be termed ‘loose’ women. Therefore going away to university is a whole new world, especially for women. There is so much more space and freedom to navigate around; it’s liberating, yet, at the same time it’s overwhelming.

Conversations between friends tend to go something like this: 

‘Man, I went back to my dorm room at like 4 a.m last night.’ 

‘What were you doing until then?’ 

‘Nothing just hanging out with ‘x,y and z.’ It was so boring and exhausting, yet, I didn’t want to go in.’

‘Why not?’ 

‘Because, like, at home, my parents have never let me stay out this late ever. And now, to be able to do that, it’s just like you don’t want to miss the chance to stay out.’ 

I remember my first week at university was spent staying out of the dorm till at least 2 a.m, doing absolutely nothing but sitting with a group of people and laughing over the stupidest stuff. It felt great. The conversation eventually grew stale and boring, but knowing that hey I can do this. I can exist outside of ‘home’ this late at night, without being told that girls aren’t supposed to be out at this time of night, was worth it.

When you start living in a hostel with a bunch of other girls you start having conversations and start noticing how many of the things we do are simply because of the restrictions placed on us by the society we have lived and have grown up in. 

If you are out with a group at the mall, someone is going to say, ‘hey, I wanna get a picture with just us girls so my mom knows that I have female friends.’ Or that she knows I was out with girls only. 

You ask your roommate to take a picture of you in a proper shalwar kameez and dupatta, to send on your family group, because that’s what good girls wear, and because you know that’s what your family expects you to wear. 

Before your roommate’s mom comes to visit, you both have ‘the talk’ where you decide what things you are supposed to mention and not mention. And, as her mother asks what time her daughter goes to bed at, you tell her with your face in the closet, ‘Aunty, she is back by 10 everyday.’ 

The first few times you go out in jeans and that T-shirt your borrowed from a friend, you are extremely apprehensive. You keep asking if you look fine, if your butt isn’t too obvious, or maybe if you should just change into a kurti. 

When you go out late for coffee or dinner off campus, you are scared and you keep asking your friend ,’ what if my mom calls?’ You make sure that you call your parents early and tell them you are tired and going to sleep so they don’t call you when you are out. You stay off social media, in case they see you online. 

You hear the line, ‘ there is a difference between lying and omitting the truth’ about a gazillion times, because you have told your roommate, about a gazillion times, how much you hate lying to your parents. This conversation takes place right after you have both just told your mothers that ‘yes, we have been praying.’ 

Sometimes the worst thing is sitting in a group of people listening to your friend talk to her mom, trying to convince her that she isn’t lying, and then being made fun of by the boys at the table because they just don’t understand. 

And the thing is, it is so hard to come to terms with the fact that what you are doing isn’t wrong, but that you have been socially conditioned into believing that it is. It isn’t easy to rid oneself of almost two decades worth of conditioning. It is relentless and unreal how difficult existence is made for women in society. 

Rabia is a blogger and university student in Pakistan, you can visit her blog ‘Travesty’ here: 

https://rabianajmkhan.wordpress.com/

Has Western Feminism Been Hijacked By SJW’s?

In this piece Jo Rogan speaks with Jordan Peterson to discuss some of the ideological misgivings of how Feminism is being framed and used to discuss things which aren’t about gender equality in America and the West.

While it is perhaps unfair to have a real discussion on this without a woman on the panel, the debate raises some key concerns about the dilution of Gender Equality and increasing victimology as opposed to female empowerment. 

What do you think? 

Is First Lady a Demeaning Role?

 

What is the role of First Lady? Is it a dated, patriarchal role or has it evolved into something worthwhile and meaningful?

The first lady’s role has never been codified or officially defined in the U.S, yet she figures prominently in the political and social life of the nation. Since 1790s the role of first lady has changed considerably. It has come to include involvement in political campaigns, management of the White House, championship of social causes, and representation of the president at official and ceremonial occasions.

In this powerful clip, we see how Michelle Obama has evolved the role of First Lady and has been a hugely significant and resonating force of the White House. She has refused to accept that Trump bragging about sexual assault is another blip in the election campaign but has called on women and men alike to truly contemplate the horrific, magnitude of the Trump Tapes.

 

michelle-obama