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Ramadan and the Feminist Agenda

Disclaimer: I will be calling out Muslim brown boys and if that makes you uncomfortable you probably SHOULD read this. 

Peace and blessings, ramzan kareem, it's that time of year again. I genuinely hope all my Muslim brothers and sisters across the globe find serenity, deep reflections, and comfort during this holy month. Surely we should acknowledge that we are all "Ramadan Muslims," for there shouldn't be a stigma surrounding an increase of good deeds and spirituality. If we aren't using these next 30 days to self reflect, we aren't celebrating properly. Here's a shoutout to the struggling muslims, those who fast with little to nothing to eat, the converts that have to hide their faith or celebrate alone, the queer muslims who find it exceptionally hard to find community, and everyone else whose faith is dismissed. I hear you.  

Before I begin my timely rant, I'd like to take a minute to say that Muslims with mental illnesses deserve to be appreciated during Ramadan; nobody understands how difficult the smallest of tasks could be. Between Muslims who have health conditions that prevent them from fasting to Muslims who can't get out of bed to perform obligatory prayers because of depression, let's allow 2018 and every year after to be the year everybody ceases to judge. Thank you. 

Now let's break out the bottle of rooafzah and fry Muslim fu*kboys like samosas. 


I can thank my mother a million times and sit here and wonder how she has the strength to wake up an hour early to prepare suhoor, make sure everyone has eaten, drank enough water, taken their medicine, and have time to eat herself, but it'll never make up for her patience and care. On another note, it baffles me that for all 20 years of my existence, my dad has not once woken up early to help her prepare. Furthermore, he's made it clear that it's perfectly acceptable for my brother and him to roll out of bed five minutes before fajr to eat while my mom and I get everything ready. This is one of the many types of patriarchy manifest in desi households. Women need as much time for spiritual immersion during this special month as men, not a list of more food preparations and housework. It shouldn't be difficult to split the tasks, take turns, or even help from time to time @ muslim boys in my twitter mentions. 

Although (alhumdulillah) this doesn't happen anymore, there was a time in my childhood when my parents instilled the belief that I, the eldest daughter, had an obligation to do basic tasks for the men in my family simply because my biological gender predetermined who serves and who gets served. In all honesty I've been punished or given the silent treatment from my parents for not making my brother a sandwich or forgetting my "duty" of washing dishes with the crude illogical statement: "because you're a girl." 

          "Hey mom, dad, can I go hang out with my friends?"
          "No it's late"
          "But Bilal is out with his friends..."
          "You're a girl"

Before anyone pushes the "protective parent" agenda, let's decide to teach young boys how to be decent toward women rather than sheltering girls in fear. Of course we're not out here claiming that the world is a safe place for girls to venture freely, but is that going to stop me from living my best life? This is not say that women shouldn't take whatever precautions they feel necessary to be safe, because we should. Don't go out alone, share your location with your friends girl, make smart choices if you're going to be out late with strangers, please! However sheltering your daughters instead of teaching your sons how to be decent humans is not a progressive act.  

On to the main course! I've been waiting all year to talk about periods. 

All too often muslim girls find themselves sneaking snacks into their bedroom or hiding out in the kitchen when they're on their period; god forbid our dads and brothers make the realization that we're healthy menstruating women. Oh, your mom woke you up to have a pretend sehri meal to avoid suspicion? Been there. To non-muslims and boys who have no idea what i'm talking about, let me educate you. Menstruation is a factor that nullifies a person's fast and automatically "breaks" it, so for 5-7 days of Ramadan, women don't fast. Growing up, we got teased about eating as if someone "caught" us. For years I felt obliged to fabricate a cover up story for why I'm eating instead of admitting that my uterus is bleeding. Cultural norms and patriarchal societies compel women to feel awkward confessing to men about a natural, god given, thing. The taboo and stigma associated with menstruation devalues and censors our bodies. Periods are a defining symbol of womanhood and nobody should feel ashamed or be forced to be secretive about it if they don't want to! 

The main reason Muslim boys feel so uncomfortable about it is due to restrictive traditions that regard menstruating women as "unclean." People are intentionally ostracized for something they have no control over. A god given function necessary for procreation is not something you need to hide to keep boys from feeling "uneasy." Centuries of male dominance across the world plays a major part in the expulsion of women, and the fact that this concept is still prevalent is tragic. I've had whole ass grown adult brown men say "ew" or "I don't need to hear this" when I mentioned periods. Let's talk about periods as a normal, miraculous thing, and separate it from the shameful and indecent connotations it's come to bear. 

Aside from womens' cycles, a number of things could be preventing people (men and women) from fasting: being sick and needing medication, being mentally unstable, having an eating disorder, being pregnant/nursing, or traveling! So stop asking questions and putting us in the spotlight. 

Tell your brown men to stop saying the n word, respect women, and do the cooking for once. Thanks for coming to my Ted talk. 

Sincerely, 

a fasting samosa 

Beyoncé and Ratchet Respectability

[Re: Beyoncé feminism class spring 2018]

Transgressing all notions of female subjectivity at the hands of patriarchal and imperial modes oppression, Beyoncé’s use of hip hop feminism uplifts a feminist attempt to create a pro sex stance amongst women of color while simultaneously destroying raced and gendered perceptions of black masculinity. I did not learn the importance of contemporary black feminism in easily accessible mediums until I took this course. Hip hop feminism strives to embrace the contradictory awareness of misogynior within the genre. Not only does this third wave feminist movement open dialogue about non conformity, but denounces the oppressive essence of respectability politics that places rigid strains on black diaspora women. By engaging in social activism, hip hop feminism brings attention to the disproportionate experience of violent forces against women of color such as sexual violence, negative self perception, and love. Furthermore, the overt/ growing digital presence is key evidence of the movement’s strength and commitment to creating spaces in which women don’t have to ascribe to ‘traditional’ (sexist) roles of womanhood. The fact that figures like Beyoncé are role models to young black children and children of color is evidence enough of hip hop feminisms’ impact.
 
Between a generationally specific emphasis on intersection and the importance of recognizing the inherent political appearance of black bodies, as multiple generations of black feminists channeled their unapologetic discourse into music, Beyoncé has created an image that supports sexual freedom, promotes radical black femme self love and destroys heteropatriarcy. Significant to several of Beyoncé’s pieces, including 7/11, is the space given for sexual expression that is normally not afforded to black women. 7/11is a showcase of black girl joy, normalizing women’s sexual liberation disjointed from the male gaze/ a society that hyper sexualizes the WoC body. An emphasis on platonic intimate relationships with other women of color is hardly something to dismiss. Beyoncé strategically places focus on herself and the dynamic she creates with women of color; ensuring that men do not take up space in this moment of carefreeness. While serious reprisals exist for woman of color who freely express their sexual agency and desire, engagement with anti heteronormative forms of musical aesthetics attempts to lessen this burden. Hip-hop feminism aims simply to redefine modes of femininity within queer affirming stances, that transgress gender stereotypes evident in sexual politics. 
 
An intellectual grasp of hip hop feminism is needed to fight the stereotype that black women are undeserving of proper love. This radical conception of feminism is anti-state, anti-normativity, and anti-capitalist in it’s “[refusal of] essentialist political stances about what is right or wrong and who or what gets to be called feminist” (Cooper et all, 2013). The percussive manner in which hip hop, a presumably male dominated musicosphere, is synthesized with feminism goes beyond the confinement of femininity. Through this framework, Beyoncé furthers a gender-sensitive and queer inclusive discourse in the context of contemporary hip hop aesthetics. She seeks to allow black girls and woman (and men) to be comfortable in their social realities with fear of being abject to gross stereotypes. Respectability politics generally dictates what minority/marginalized groups are forced to teach themselves in exchange for better treatment amongst power dynamics. Examples include regulated speech, conformatory beauty ideals [not wearing natural hair], getting married, hiding queerness, subduing expression, etc.
 
A lot of contemporary black hip hop feminism centers around the idea that black women can be both ratchet and respectable; alluding that ratchetness is used to vehemently resist and challenge norms that black women are subject to. Challenging stereotypes that sexualize black bodies for simply existing by in turn, displaying a free range of non hegemonic sexuality is also achieved by black female performers who offer positive messages on sexual confidence. It’s important to recognize that authentic intersectional feminism challenges black male sexuality “as an undifferentiated and monolithic racial and gender” (Richardson). Evident still in black male contemporary rap/hip hop, masculinity does not exist without femininity because masculinity is always an extension of a relationship with a woman. Femininity can literally undue masculinity, which makes is a powerful force in changing the dynamic of how black men treat emotions, intimacy, etc. The chance for “femme” and queer spaces in videos like Jay Z’s Smile, draw attention to physical and emotional intimacy present, but subdued. By publically announcing his sexual orientation, Frank Ocean contributed to a more inclusive outlet, allowing artists to express themselves beyond the rigidness of heteronormative behavior. While there is an inherent “hardness” in male rappers’ performance of gender, hip hop feminism aims to deconstruct hegemonic masculinity to make room for creativity unfocused on racial capitalism. I have a deep appreciation for music vide themes that center platonic female relationships and those that exclude men entirely. 
 
Ratchet respectability is performed in a multitude of ways based on age, geographic origin, the modes of heteronormative and homo romantic relationships, and the role of femmes/nb+ individuals. Beyoncé’s significant stage presence identity goes beyond the dichotomies imposed on black women, “Beyoncé is an acknowledgement of the impact of racialized sexism on black female sexual expression and a brazen unwillingness to conform to respectability” (Brown 186). In the attempt to incorporate pain, work and anger, Beyonce’s “6 inch” shows us that sex is not always sexy. A song about a girl who works as a stripper in a club for autonomous financial gain while she “grinds from Monday to Friday, works from Friday to Sunday” defies respectability in every form. Between working class visual representations to completely owning making money as a stripper, “6 inch” single-handedly normalizes sex work as respectable and pushed against stereotypical narratives that stigmatize non-tradional gender role work. Black femme communities are often taught to internalize the white and/or patriarchal gaze and to behave in accordance to what that gaze would want to see to gain basic respect. However, Beyoncé, and the many other radical feminists both in and out of the music industry, do not stand for that.