The Joys of Gender Inequality

Sunflower

by Lenna

Feminists often tell me I’m not really against feminism. The problem is simply that I don’t understand feminism, which is about “equality.” Today I saw a video where a Muslim woman was asked (~ minute 1:26) to define “Islamic feminism” and she said it’s about “gender equality” and that “every Muslim woman is a Muslim feminist.” 

I’m a Muslim woman and I’m neither a feminist nor in favor of “gender equality.” I would like to know how Muslim feminists reconcile their “Islamic feminist” gender equality with this:

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. ~ Quran 4:34

Perhaps a Muslim feminist will stop by and explain. In the meantime, I want to give some real-world examples of welcome inequality from my own life.

A few weeks back, I was driving to one of our weekly social events and it began to rain very hard. Soon there was such a downpour, I had to periodically pull over and by the time I reached my destination, the parking lot was flooded. I texted and said I was outside, and the men at the gathering were immediately dispatched to wade through ankle-deep water and take my bags, which were heavy with beverages. I had never talked to the men before and haven’t since, as our events are gender separate, but they were sent nevertheless, because I needed help. They also offered valet service, but upon realizing how deep the water really was, instead directed me to a nearby space and plotted the least flooded path back to the door.

That isn’t equality. 

A couple of weeks later, we went hiking together and one of the women left her daughter’s shoes in an area where there were pools of water under a fountain. It was a hot day and we had walked miles from the waterfall to have lunch at the picnic tables under a shelter roof. She had not noticed the shoes were missing because her husband had carried their tired daughter to the picnic area on his back–another burden a woman would not be expected to accept. It was her husband who put off his own lunch to trek back, all the way to the waterfall, and retrieve their daughter’s shoes.

That isn’t equality.

Justice

I went to a recent congregational prayer at the masjid, where the women have three areas and the men only one. The men have a large central area on the first floor and we have a fairly large area on the first floor off to the side. We also have a wonderful, large balcony space upstairs and a “cry room” off to the side on the second floor for women with small children. We can see the men easily from all three spaces, but they can’t easily see us. I would say our balcony space is premium, and that the space allocated to us is at least as good, if not better, than the space allocated to men.

That isn’t equality.

Today is Eid and we had a gathering where the men were outside in the back yard and the women were inside, in the front parlor. When it came time to eat, the women first helped the children get their food in the dining area, then the women took whatever food they wanted, and then finally, last but not least, the men got their food.

That isn’t equality.

My point is that in all of these scenarios, there is welcome inequality. Because men and women have different roles. Of course there are examples of scenarios where men have the advantage over women as well. That’s the very nature of separate, complimentary gender roles.

Men are the primary providers, protectors, and leaders. What’s so terrible about that?

From a spiritual perspective, Islam has always granted men and women equality. There has never been a question among Muslims as to whether or not a woman has a soul or is equally entitled to the blessings of Allah. Men and women were also granted equal rights where appropriate, to such a degree an article in Time Magazine once proclaimed, “…For his day, the Prophet Muhammad was a feminist.”

Nevertheless, in Islam, men and women have prescribed gender roles. Those roles are not necessarily rigidly enforced in all scenarios. For example, many people might be surprised to discover that many, if not most, Muslim men cook. Often quite well. And while the women are primarily responsible for preparing the food for our gatherings, the men always make some contribution. Often grilled meat, or at our last gathering, a large pot of lamb curry. There is no sense among us that cooking is “women’s work” that necessarily excludes men.

Similarly, while the women are primary caretakers for the small children at our events, the children move freely between the men’s space and the women’s space. At one of our recent gatherings, an adorable little boy yelled “baba! baba! baba!” and ran all through the house, trying to find his father who had gone with the other men to pray at the masjid. These men and women are complementary partners, equally invested in raising their kids. 

We don’t have “gender equality” nor do we want “gender equality.”

So no, I’m not a “Muslim feminist.” And unless and until someone has a more convincing argument than I’ve heard so far, I don’t see how there can be any such thing as “Islamic feminism.”

***
What did you think of this article? Let me know below in comments. You also reach me via email at lenncat@protonmail.com or find me on Twitter: @LennCat.

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