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Trending hashtag on twitter seeks to empower Muslim women against misogyny
You don’t need to be a feminist or liberal to recognise a misogynistic remark thrown at you at some point in life, you just need to be a woman. But unfortunately misogyny, dehumanisation and superiority complex towards women is still very common amongst Muslim communities. By using the hashtag #DearSister, Muslim women are expressing the male chauvinistic attitudes and unfair remarks typically received by men with double standards.
It was this twitter thread that paved way to the 18,000 tweets associated with #DearSister. I spoke to Mona Eltahawy the woman behind the empowering hashtag who is a feminist, author and Public speaker.
Was the hashtag aimed at Muslim women only?
“Yes, I wanted this to be space for Muslim women to speak and for everyone else to listen because too often Muslim women are spoken for and spoken about. It was necessary because it’s important that Muslim women around the world can see each other and see how similar our struggles are and a platform like Twitter is useful for that”
Do you think a #DearBrother hash tag would be as successful or is it even needed?
Men are rarely offered unsolicited advice. Muslim women on the other hand are offered unsolicited advice from men as well as other women. Constantly, as #DearSister shows.
Were there many men who used the hash tag? #DearSister?
“There were Muslim men who attacked #DearSister for “making us look bad.” There were non-Muslim men who tried to coopt #DearSister to make Islam look bad. I want both sets of men to go away. I’m not interested in either. It’s not about them. Men always want to centre the conversation on them. This is about Muslim women. But there were also some Muslim men who said “Brother, we must listen and learn from this hash tag.” I appreciate those men. We need more of them”
Women from all around the world are tweeting their experiences and common misogynistic phrases they’ve heard. After speaking to Mona and having looked at all the tweets associated with the hashtag, I noticed that majority of them were related to a Woman’s character, marriage and her career.
It’s as though every aspect of our demeanour is judged, that we obviously ‘belong’ to a man, first our father then our husband, so ultimately we are held responsible for upholding their ‘honour’- but not a scratch touches it due to their own wrongdoings, no, it’s always the woman. Our character is described almost as fragile as glass, and that’s why “covering up” is vital to prevent harassment and rape, which apparently depends on what a women wears, because morality and respect is out of a man’s control when it comes to their biological instincts right? Whether or not a woman chooses to cover up, is her own personal decision, and nothing to do with a man. Unfortunately some men believe that this is also about a man; we dress to impress them or cover to repress them from us. I’m sorry to break it to you brother, but you’re wrong, it isn’t about you.
We’re under pressure before we get married, pressure whilst we’re married, and pressure if we get divorced. Marriage is one of the biggest topics that concern people within the Muslim community. Before marriage we are expected to keep ourselves pure and away from anything that may ‘harm’ our fragile character whilst men are able to do absolutely anything until they wish to one day settle and ‘pious’ wife. We should be married before our expiry date (often 25 or even younger) or else were made to feel old and unwanted. After marriage we are expected to mould ourselves into whatever pleases our husbands and his family, even if that means compromising your career and hobbies. A divorced women is considered a burden, and remarrying is made extremely difficult for her, whereas for a man, not so much.
“You’re too ambitious”
Oh God forbid a women with ambition! ‘Women belong in the kitchen’, I’ve heard this one quite a lot. So why do you educate your daughters, send them to university, even pursue a masters, so that at the end she can give it all up because of a man? What about her dreams, goals, ambitions? Some of the worlds greatest lawyers, doctors and journalists are women, and I’m sure they cook up some tasty food too, and if they can’t then so what! They probably have more important things to do like saving lives, fighting for justice or reporting from a war-zone.
I apologise for my consistent sarcastic tone throughout this piece, the hashtag must have got to me. It’s important to remember not all men are like this, shout out to the good brothers out there.
But jokes aside, let’s please not forget that although misogyny is common in Muslim communities, it is certainly not the teachings of Islam as a religion. Muslim communities have long been in bewilderment between pre-Islamic patriarchy and the revolutionary spirit of early Islam. The pre-Islamic environment of 7th century Mecca, with its tribalism, constant warfare and lack of law and order, was strongly male-dominated. The arrival of Islam sought to challenge that status quo and introduced a new social order that limited the excesses of Meccan society, which had often directly harmed women and girls. For example, Islam forbade the practice of burying unwanted new born girls.
However the problem we face now has also has a lot to do with cultural and behavioural inherence, for example Pew has done broad research on Muslims’ views of women. A deplorably high percentage of Muslims worldwide, across all countries, believe a woman must obey her husband. Pew reports that Muslims in South Asia and Southeast Asia overwhelmingly hold this view.
But after all, matters are always seemingly in a ‘man’s hands’, in that case, misogyny can and should be stopped at home. So dear brother, please don’t pick and choose privileges from our beautiful religion to suit your own agenda. Use this opportunity to listen to our silenced opinions and experiences, treat your mothers, wives and daughters with the respect they rightfully deserve teach your sons to do the same. Don’t go around giving advice to women you don’t know when its uncalled for. Now please sit down, and lower your gaze whilst we continue to be fabulous.
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