Most days, I cannot cry

Most days, I cannot cry.
Most days, I am too busy presenting The Strong Face, the Tough Face, The I Can Handle It Face, The You Don’t Mess With Me Face,
The Lean On Me Face, The Go On Throw It At Me Face, The I Am Your Therapist Face.
Most days, I am too busy over-being to simply be.
Most days, I’ve forgotten how to be.

It’s like how most weekends, I slip quickly into what I’m expected to do for others.
The smiles on other faces make me think:
Yes, another day!
I’ve done my job, I’ve done what makes “me” happy.
Who is this me.
And who is that me that is trapped in a box, trapped under the secret floorboards, hammering, screaming,
Let Me OUT! I need to get OUT!
Until one day, that other me stops screaming, her fists fall by her side, and she murmurs, barely audible:
I’ll do anything, please, just let me lie here quietly, under the floorboards, and I’ll be okay.

So, most days, I just keep going, propelled by the electrical power of expectations, congratulations, Facebook Comments, Likes, Twitter hearts, eyes seeking me out, emails saying thank you for doing your job, pay stubs, homework sheets, frenetic cartoons on the TV that shout BAD MOMMA loud and clear.

Most days, I barely look in the mirror.
And then I put my head down on the prayer-rug and say:
I’m so tired I can barely feel my hurt.

And I raise my head and the cat’s eyes are upon me.Photo on 4-6-15 at 11.07 AM
The cat is reclining in front of the prayer-rug, staring at me.
He’s not hungry. He’s just watching me.
Does he know how I feel? Is he sad for me? Does he hear my heart flagging?
Does he want to absorb my tears in his fur?
Does he want to lick my tears up with his sandpaper tongue?
Does he want to creep up to me and softly put his paws on my chest and crouch there, purring, resting his paws, claws drawn in, on my heart, turning his face, eyes half-open, watching me?
Does he know how I feel?
Do You know how I feel?
Do You feel it?
Do You care? Do You cry with me? Do You feel the hurt, the weariness?

And then, that day, I can let the tears loose. I can hear her under the floorboards.
Like in a crime thriller, I can rap on the floorboards, hear them hollow, and rip them out, splinters in my flesh, so she can crawl out, and sob:
Wait. What does she say? I can barely hear her now.


-February 21st, 2016.

feminism, gender, Islam, Muslim American women, pluralism, Uncategorized

Gender activism: within the system or without?

wadudAt times, I hear some Muslim women scholars sniff at activism. I hear people say that the activists who educate young women in conservative seminaries and teach them wifely obedience are superior to such scholarly activists who rock the boat, jettison baggage, and demand new gendered frameworks. I hear people say that such activists could have continued to be highly regarded scholars in “mainstream” religious circles, and that it was their own fault that they demanded too much, made too many big statements, and demanded – for instance – prayer leadership, the right to divorce, and so on.

This is an age-old debate of course: work within the system and slowly accomplish some goals, impact a large number of stakeholders, and slowly achieve change? Or demand more, and turn large numbers of mainstream community members against yourself – and potentially get them to dig in their heels even further?

I disagree with such claims – that working within the status quo is the only true path to reform. With all respect to warriors on the path, quiet, patient work within the system is one of the paths. We need all our warriors on this path. Scholar-activists like Amina Wadud have blazed a path for all of us. Whether you agree with her or disagree, she helped raise everyone’s expectations. For my part, whether you find your spiritual home within the status quo or not, if you work toward egalitarian ideals, we are all sisters & brothers.

But even if I love your community service, be warned, some of us wage war against the status quo.