Women are not a possession

Women are not a possession.

I am not a possession. I am not a toy. I do not belong to a male relative. I am not an extension of his body, his honour or his control. I am a daughter, an aunt, a friend, a sister, a niece and so much more. I am me. A person with my own autonomy, my own independence and life. These should be entitled to every girl in the world.

There are certain cultures and societies where a woman does not have the same degree of autonomy as other women. The culture I was in did not see women as independent beings. We were taught from an early age our standing in life, and it was far below men’s. We were taught that we would always have a key central male figure in our life to control us, first our father, then our husband. These men lived normal lives and had every aspect of independence where women were deprived of anything akin to that. Our role was to be treated like a virtual slave to our husbands, to bear as many children as we could (preferably sons), clean the house, cook food and be available for our husbands demands.

I would envy my non Muslim friends who could go to town and shopping and wear what they wanted. I couldn’t even leave the house without my father’s permission or accompanied presence. I couldn’t uncover or wear western clothes. I couldn’t even speak without permission. I sought solidarity in my prayers, away from everyone. Trapped.

I know so many girls in my family and community who did not have any independence at all. It was extremely patriarchal and religious. This was important because we couldn’t object to wearing hijab or ‘modest clothing. I couldn’t point out the fact I felt it was nonsensical and unfair that my testimony was worth half of a man’s, I inherited half of what a man did, my husband could beat me, I was called deficient in intelligence and religion by my prophet. To do so would be blasphemous, so I just did what I could and lived with it.

The mentality of my community was to women ‘she is so and so’s daughter’ , ‘she is so and so’s wife’ which made any weakness, any flaw or ‘crime’ magnify to not only damage and embarrass the woman, but her key central male figure too. It caused him greater embarrassment because of his relation to us. We were seen as ‘his’. That’s our primary identification. How we were related. We had to be extra careful to act perfect at all times. Possessions shouldn’t have any independence.

This is best described in the mentality of the Qua’ran , which never speaks to women directly, with the exception of Muhammad’s wives. It is always directed to men with vague reference to us, making us seem like an inferior afterthought, dependent and less valuable.

33:59: O Prophet, tell your wives and your daughters and the women of the believers to bring down over themselves [part] of their outer garments. That is more suitable that they will be known and not be abused. And ever is Allah Forgiving and Merciful.

4:34 Men are in charge of women by [right of] what Allah has given one over the other and what they spend [for maintenance] from their wealth. So righteous women are devoutly obedient, guarding in [the husband’s] absence what Allah would have them guard. But those [wives] from whom you fear arrogance – [first] advise them; [then if they persist], forsake them in bed; and [finally], strike them. But if they obey you [once more], seek no means against them. Indeed, Allah is ever Exalted and Grand.

Why did Allah not tell me directly? Why was I not included, an afterthought? It took me a long time to figure out I wasn’t responsible for anyone but myself, and that I don’t belong to any male. I am my own person. My actions do not reflect on anyone but myself. I do not need a mahram (male guardian) to go out of the house. I do not need a husband to order me about and treat me badly and think I am his object.

I am a big supporter of #StopEnslavingSaudiWomen, where women have absolutely no say in their own lives, no autonomy, and virtually need permission from a male guardian, usually the father or their husband to even leave the house. It is the epitome of oppression and patriarchy . I want every woman to be able to achieve sufficient independence and break away from this mindset they belong and are answerable to someone, or not in control of their own lives. They deserve to be.

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