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an open letter to the patriarchal anomalies guarding my freedom

Dear Society,

What do you want from me? Please, I am very confused and I need some clarification. I feel like I am in a constant battle with you. I feel as though I have to constantly prove myself when I just want to be. Yes I am a Muslim and I have claimed my identity as such, but now I just want to blend in and be normal. I am not saying that I want to take the hijab off, as this would not solve anything. I am saying that I honestly feel that my scarf is the answer to all of your woes; yet you attack it, degrade it and treat it as though putting it on somehow wipes out an individual’s identity. Please, I am sure that if you were to look at the issue of women’s status from my perspective I am sure we could come to some agreement.

I recently watched the “Miss Representation” documentary and I absolutely love it. The premise is this: as women become more affluent in North America, especially in the US, there is always a backlash seen in the media. Art imitates life and throughout the decades we can see how the media has achieved their goals at different stages. For example, the “Leave it to Beaver” era when the war had just ended and the men were coming back and needed to return to the workforce. In such sitcoms homemaking was romanticised. The message to women was “Move aside ladies, even though you have been running the show since we went to war and have proven yourselves more than capable, the big boys are back in town and we want our jobs back!” The Miss Representation commentary on women in the media today is spot on. Women being objectified in commercials or the seemingly catty and selfish nature of women in present day reality TV are just two examples of what’s going on out there. It isn’t pretty.

As I watched this documentary, I could not help but think about hijab. It was seldom shown and was never even thought of as a possible answer. Obviously it is not the norm. When I went to Chapel Hill, North Carolina this summer the only time I saw another hijabi was when I went to the Masjid. This was the case in my own city until just recently.  The scarf has only become a visible entity in the last five years and it is only in the last two or three years that I am seeing hijabi’s around town that I don’t know.

I am a hijabi and have been for seven years. I put it on because I had a strong inclination to it. Anyone who knows me on a personal level will know that although I believe hijab is an important part of modesty I actually wear it as a form of protest against Western society’s unattainable expectations of women. Growing up for me was very difficult. Well actually, the growing up part was easy as it is inevitable; but the emotional changes that came with it weren’t always to my advantage. Since I can remember, I have always been headstrong and opinionated. That is why when I was fifteen I shaved my head. A lot of people thought I was being a rebellious teenager, and to a point they would be right. But during that whole “phase” only a handful of people asked me why and so I told them: “I don’t want people to see me for my beauty. I want to be appreciated for my mind and the way I think and that I am an intelligent person with something to say.” But of course people just assumed I was nuts and moved on. Now that I am older many people, Western women especially, wonder why on earth I would “choose” to wear hijab? The answer is simple, and honestly it has not changed since I was fifteen. I want people to see me as a whole person. I am not my hair or my eyes or my legs. I am whole and I am perfect just the way I am.

I am sure people are reading this thinking…. “um Islam is a patriarchal religion!”  Really? Who classified it as such? Did the prophet (SWS) ever say such a thing? No. I am in no way a scholar nor do I see myself as particularly knowledgeable in any way, but please consider this:

  1. Women do not have to work.
  2. If they do work, the money they make is theirs to spend on whatever they want. The only time the husband can legally step in is if she is doing something haram with her money, for instance, buying drugs or alcohol or gambling. Another reason might be if she has a shopping addiction.
  3. If a wife demands a maid or another type of domestic help, the husband must oblige her; and
  4. Women govern most, if not all decisions in the family. True, the husband has the final say but let’s be honest, women will “voice” their opinion until they get their way.

A woman’s only obligation is to raise her children to be strong, independent, moral and knowledgeable Muslims. Contrary to what most people think, it is not her duty to cook and clean. Rather, these are considered sadaqa, or something extra. Nowhere in the Sunnah or in the Quran does it say that a woman must do these things. So I ask you, does this sound like a patriarchy to you?

Knowing all of this I wonder when women are going to rise up against the media and say no to the gender scripts imposed on us by the patriarchal ideologies governing this beautiful land?

My girl Brooke Van Buskirk ❤


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