I don’t remember what point a colleague of mine was making when he said something to the effect that we should “put aside our emotions and deal with the facts” to which my teacher retorted, “I believe emotions inform”. This may be the most brilliant statement she has said thus far. The statement itself is really a summary of many of the things she’s said in class. I love this class and fortunately it has given me an opportunity to broaden my view of feminism and actually find myself nodding in agreement in many instances. The idea that “logic” and “emotion” can coexist on equal terms is what I hope we as women can begin to strive for in feminism and in life.
The struggle of old school feminism was to basically say, “I want what they have”. A striving for equality and power which we have been given in many ways –more women are working and receiving higher levels of education, but what I think we did not realize is that competing with our male counterparts and succeeding on their level may have brought us superficial equality and power but it has not brought us respect.
Firstly it caused a large segment of women to abandon characteristically feminine roles and take on traditionally masculine roles, essentially saying to men “You know what you’re right, you are better them me”. In that way we gave men the permission to further degrade our tradition roles in hopes of gaining power and equality. But in our entering the work place we found ourselves again subordinated to men whether through being given menial jobs, lower pay or never breaking the glass ceiling. Worse then this most women were not relieved of their traditional roles at home, if they still chose to have a family, men still do little house work and women are still the primary care givers. So we found ourselves essentially overburdened and still searching for power and equality in a man’s world.
We have yet to deal with the underlining issue that women continuously face whether in a male dominated work world on in the feminine domestic sphere. The essential issue is the very core of male- female relations; men simply don’t value women or characteristically feminine roles, ideas, behaviors, attitudes, etc. Men in any field will never respect women if men simply don’t respect women in a larger more general sense. And women only further push the idea of inferiority when we dress up in men’s suits and sit in meeting were we silence any thought that is remotely feminine. I am being purposefully stereotypical in order to deal with the bigger picture; in general women are more talkative, nurturing and emotional then men. Men on the other hand are more logical, physically stronger and one- task oriented (men are usually poor at multitasking). But what makes being logical inherently better then being emotional? I would argue, absolutely nothing. As my teacher beautifully said, “emotion informs”.
This reminds me of the famous story of the Messenger of God, peace upon him, after giving his army a command to shave their heads (I’m cutting out most of the story to make a particular related point) they all disobeyed. Not knowing what to do he went to his tent and told his wife , Umm Salama, she then told him, peace upon him, to shave his on head. He listened to her and the companions followed suit. Logically the companions should have jumped to listen to any command of the Prophet, peace upon him, but emotionally these were trying times. Umm Salama informed her husband through emotion not logic. When the companions felt the command over simply hearing if they were moved to action.
When women are respected simply for being women and for contributing in a unique way in society we will be respected in all parts of society. But until we pride ourselves in our femininity we can never look forward to a society where we are equally valued as our male counterparts.*
*Note: Obviously some women are not stereotypical feminine nor are some men stereotypically masculine. Which argues the larger part that people should be accepted for their contributions as individual human beings that have something unique and purposeful to offer to the world. I am of course not including the sin of women making a point to act like men (i.e. imitating a masculine voice) or men acting like women (i.e. speaking in a feminine voice) this is an entirely different issue. I would rather point to someone like Ayesha, may Allah be pleased with her, who never bore children, lead and army, and was a great woman of knowledge or men like Imam An Nawawi, may Allah give him mercy, who lived as an ascetic, never married and also dedicated his life to knowledge.