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Muslim women – and men

Some people believe a woman should be covered from head to toe in order to prevent unwanted gazes or attention from men. I have several issues with this sentiment, one of them being that the full burden, blame and responsibility of how a man perceives a woman is somehow placed upon the woman. What does this mean? It means that men have a carte blanche by merely existing as men. I’m not going to generalize and point my finger at Muslim men and how they treat their Muslim women because they are not the only ones that do this – I’ve seen non-Muslim men act the same way. I’m singling them out because these are supposed to be ‘our men’, and ‘our men’ need to be held accountable for their actions, thoughts and words towards us.

While growing up, I was taught that I had to cover up from head to toe and be a good Muslim little girl and then a good Muslim man would love me forever. Instead, I witnessed Muslim men telling women that if they were not submissive then they were whores, that they needed to be within a certain weight range they to be allowed out of the house, that if they were educated then you need to be punished for trying to be better than men –  and that if they so much as sneezed at another man then you are also a whore.

Meanwhile, these same men that are yelling and screaming at me are like little puppy dogs when it comes to non-Muslim women. They are practically begging them for attention and they shower them with gifts. So, what happened here? Why does this discrepancy exist? I’ll tell you what happened here: due to Muslim understandings of who Muslims were permitted to marry, men were giving the green light to pursue non-Muslim women whilst Muslim women were stuck within the loop of only being able to choose Muslim men. This means that Muslim men feel that they can ‘play the field’ as much as they wish, while knowing that no matter what they do, a good Muslim woman would always be waiting for him at the end of the line because she has literally nowhere else to go.

This gives Muslim men an impetus to abuse the women he thinks have no other options, and to treat the women he feels he has to pursue with delicate love and care. Men have the advantage in this game. They created the rules, after all. The world is their playing field. Women end up going nowhere very quickly, with no choices. Men decide what women should be like, dress like, and act like, instead of just letting women be women.

Let me give you an example. I had been spending time with a Muslim man who seemed nice, educated etc. He didn’t seem to mind that I had several degrees. The issue that arose was that one day he’d say that he loved that I had ‘natural beauty’ and that I never wore makeup, but the next he’d be annoyed with me because I hadn’t bothered putting on a little makeup before I saw him. The aspiring psychologist side of me was curious as to where this confusion within him came from. I eventually found out that his last girlfriend – yes, he was allowed to date, although according to him I was not – was a gorgeous woman that would always be ‘dolled’ up for him. He just couldn’t help take his eyes off of her. After dating for about a month he found out the hard way that he had been dating a person that he now described as ‘a man in a dress’. I was literally a woman, whereas he had become accustomed to a more exaggerated version of femininity. To my Muslim friend, it was as if I, and every other woman out there, had lied to him somehow by not being the imaginary version of womanhood that he had created within his own head. I brought up that particular story because men create their own versions of what a woman should be, and by so doing they negate what a woman actually is. Ask any Muslim man what a period is and he’ll say it’s at the end of a sentence. Ask any Muslim man what an intellectual woman looks like and he won’t understand the question. There is an obvious rift between what Muslim women are and how men – and Muslim men in particular – perceive them.