“20 minutes of action”

In light of the ex-Stanford rapist father’s comments, I think it’s time we admit to ourselves that rape and the misogynistic ways of our society aren’t rooted in a no-strings-attached brand of misogyny. We resort to the term “rape culture” as an ambiguous catch-all, and we often neglect the weighted history of this culture.

Lately, I’ve been looking into the relationship between Arabia’s pre-Islamic tribalism and its remnants that still mark the religious culture of Muslim Arab customs. It taints the way  a woman is seen, the perception of her as not sub-human on the condition of her ability to excel in a capitalist work model, and much more. This intersection of oppression that many Arab Muslim women face is only one branch of larger misogyny.

It is very easy to cast judgements on the wrong-doings of other societies because, despite my being a feminist and a Muslim Arab woman, there is a detachment from their reality. I will never completely know what it is like, because I am outside, a part of a diverse diaspora. And I will always have to remind myself not to infantilize these women and not use my avenues of expression to speak over their voices.

Now, we have to assess the patriarchal structures looming over our larger culture, and how it intersects with other oppressions, most markedly colonialism, racism and ableism. Because when a judge decides to “cut some slack” for a rapist on the basis of him not deserving to have his life taken away from him, he isn’t saying that a woman’s life is less – he is blatantly acting on the deeply-held belief that women are accessories to man and that women have no right to life.

This quickly escalates to a conversation on colonialism and the genocide used to occupy Canadian land. It is the culture of the white man, who is stronger, whiter, and superior to everyone, and that the whole world is his for the taking. Note that Indigenous teachings do not enforce gender binaries, nor do they perpetuate oppressive conditions on women. Then, it only makes sense that our country is founded on a history of misogyny, patriarchy, racism and ableism. Further, to no one’s surprise, women, particularly racialized, economically disadvantaged, disabled, and LGBT+ women are overrepresented in sexual assault statistics. These identities are not (obviously) mutually exclusive.

What I’m trying to say is that the history that surrounds us necessarily has an influence on how we think and how we see the world. However, it has less power over us when we are aware of it and when we turn this awareness into a critical tool under which we should seek to examine the dealings between people. Because a label is useful, but it only matters if we choose to rummage through the box.

This post is a rant in response to the letter read by Brock Turner’s father.

No, I am not a fan of punitive justice. But I am not a fan of rape, either, to say the least. But in this society, that is how you pay a fraction of the price and it makes no sense to me for a person to be allowed to escape that.

Memory hand-me-downs

For as long as I could remember, memories would unpack themselves every night when I went to bed – half fact, half fiction. My child self was skilled at creating reels of how moments may have played out given the circumstances surrounding their occurence. I spoke of people I had never met, places I shouldn’t have remembered at the time, and largely of my mother and her life as it might have been. There is something about memory. Does it stay with the experienced or is it passed along discretely, mostly from woman to the next, in the shade of lofty trees and the intimacy of cooking alongside one another? Memory has mostly transcended the boundaries of time in my life. It has, however, respectfully filled the container of space till it was brimming with a knowing akin to intuition – clairvoyance, even.

With time, recollection is streamlined. This is the truth. The pathways of the mind shorten the distance between trial and error and wisps of inexplicable, deeply held truths are born out of the process. To learn from the experiences of others requires an emotional depth so profound that one could imagine the life of another in order to then enter it. They would then synthesize the memories of others into bits of understanding and empathy.

This empathy is painful at times. When we identify with the feelings of the people around us without knowing what caused them to feel that way, there is a tendency to either take on those feelings as our own or to push them so far away that we look down on ourselves when we feel the same way.

Striking a balance between empathizing with others and staying true to who we are is hard. It requires a constant state of mindfulness and an abandonment of self-judgemental tendencies. Over time, we naturally learn to know ourselves by means of compassion and self-criticism. Throughout that process, we also gain the tools to understand those around us. When this ability is lacking, we can look to memory to gently reveal to us the patterns in our lives and how they may present themselves in the lives of others. Every time I revisit a memory, I have no choice but to see it differently than I had experienced it.

As we honour our memories and the knowledge gained from those experiences, we can better appreciate the wisdom and experiences of our family, friends, and strangers, too. We can have the memory shortcuts without needing to analyze where they’ve come from or explaining them to other people.  We create an inventory of all our knowledge, whether it originates from lived experience or deeply held intuitions. Most importantly, we learn to accept who we are and to be confident in our viewpoint of the world, without needing to justify our vision and our actions to anyone.




Why You Should Get into an Argument

You might not be keen on the idea of being torn apart in a debate, but challenging your belief system is intellectually expanding.

A few weeks ago, I got into two arguments simultaneously (bless the Internet) on the topic of racism. Surely, we can collectively agree that race-based violence and prejudices target ethnically marginalized groups in particular. Having said that, both of these friends decided to challenge a belief that I strongly hold: that racism cannot be directed towards a socio-economically dominant group, specifically white people.

As you can imagine, I became defensive and although I didn’t resort to finger-pointing and shaming, I did feel attacked in the most intimate way I could. My views were being challenged and I, as an individual, felt invalidated. I squirmed in the insecurity that surfaced and discomfort pervaded the atmosphere. I shut off my phone.

Later that night, I turned my phone back on. Both of these people had expressed views that I instantly disagreed with, but more importantly, views I hadn’t even considered before. One of the debates moved in the direction of semantics and I had yet to consider the significance of how the word “racism” was defined. More than anything, I felt defeat.

In retrospect, the both debates contributed to my knowledge base. When all was said and done, I had acquired new perspectives and my safely-guarded opinions were shaken up.

This is important and I cannot stress that enough.

Engaging in conversation is merely an exchange of information, with varying degrees of intimacy. Argumentation, however, has the added dimension of explicitly challenging the views and beliefs of the party with whom we are participating in an exchange with. In order to be a good argumentator, one must first demonstrate that the opinions they are defending are true. Then, they must study beforehand the arguments that their opponent might deploy.

Beyond argumentation, challenging your beliefs benefits you more than anyone else involved in the exchange. Often times debates are sparked when polar views are expressed.  Two individuals can carry very different truths and most of the time, they will mutually discredit the validity of the other’s opinion.

To disprove a belief, the naive debater will seek to impose their position without justification on an empirical basis; on the other hand, the weathered debater will state the opinion of the other and proceed to dismantle it with tools such as statistics, scientific data and literature, historical context, as well as other methods of analysis relevant to the context of the debate.

As you can see, the wise and weathered debater possesses the knowledge necessary for conversion, but the humility to question themselves.

When argumentation becomes an exercise for the Self, it allows you to see that there are many ways to believe and directions of thought to explore. As a society, we should be more wary of deceiving ourselves than of being challenged by the positions of others. You just might surprise yourself.