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(Un) covered

 

This is a post a few of my friends have asked me to do and as I haven’t written in a while, it seems like a good a moment as any. I am what people call a hijabi – a scarf covers my head. I don’t really like this term as the word “hijab” is actually to do with modesty and a scarf on my head doesn’t really signify that. I only started wearing a scarf a year ago on the 2nd day of Ramadan and I wanted to talk about how I came to wearing it as someone in their mid to late twenties and my experience of wearing it for 18 months.

Ok so here is the why part: there are several different elements that made me decide to wear it once and for all. I grew up knowing that we were fairly religious – modest garb which would mean no shorts past the age of like 11, we only ate halal, alcohol was not in my future, we prayed as much as we could, we fasted, paid Zakat, that kind of thing. However, we weren’t the most practicing, religious family either. Taking in my extended family, we only had one person who wore a headscarf and she was considered super religious. We just weren’t headscarf ready, we hadn’t had the headscarf graduation. 10 years ago, my mum started wearing the scarf as she started to learn more about the religion and she made a decision to increase her efforts at becoming practicing because everything made more sense to her. I was a teenager about to embark upon adulthood. I was nowhere near ready to be wearing a scarf then just because my mum started wearing it and my parents never forced me to either at that point. I needed to find it for myself as did my sister. Through social media, the internet and becoming more involved in my mosque, I was learning more and more and I knew one day I would love to wear it. It’s just that every time I thought this, I told myself you’re not a good enough Muslim to be wearing this and if I were to wear it, I would be wearing it for good.

Fast forward to May 2017. My sister had already started wearing the scarf a few months before and I still wasn’t ready. So here is what happened: 1. certain things had happened to me where I felt I needed to be closer to God, I needed to feel His comfort. 2. I went to a lecture by one of my favourite female Muslim speakers who said never feel like you’re not good enough to wear a scarf or be a hijabi and her words resounded in my ears as I knew I wanted to do it but part of me kept holding me back. 3. 22nd May, an attack took place in my hometown of Manchester where some lunatic took the lives of innocent people in the name of Islam. At that point, I knew I needed to step up to better represent Islam. So Ramadan was around the corner and I had all these thoughts in my head and the first fast came and I remember going to an Asian supermarket. I was the only woman in there not wearing a scarf and part of me felt like why can they do it and not me? I still wasn’t sure. I went to the mosque that night to pray Taraweeh (the night prayer during Ramadan) and I just remember crying as I put my head down in prostration saying “Give me strength to do this”. I texted my sister, my best friend, my work bestie saying “I’m going to do this, can I really do this? I’m nervous”. Alhamdulillah 2nd day of Ramadan, I got ready to go out and put a scarf on my head.

 

So how is it going so far? Honestly, I wish I had started wearing it earlier and taken that plunge. My worries of how work colleagues would perceive me, whether or not friends would stick around, would people think I was weird? vanished straight away. Everyone was normal. Being a Brit, some people were very PC when they spoke to me till it took the Spaniard at work to point out the elephant in the room and say what happened? People were curious as to why but once they found out nothing changed and others just didn’t care – they knew I was still me. I think one of the things that helped was that I was never shy about talking about my faith so my Muslim identity was very clear. I have since changed jobs at my current workplace, I’m not a weirdo in a scarf, just a regular weirdo and I love my work colleagues, I get on with them really well and my scarf is not a barrier to anything.

I live in a very non-Muslim, non-ethnic minority area so my first trip to the gym in a scarf wasn’t the best. I didn’t like people stopping their workout just to look at me or prod their gym buddy to get their attention, especially as I was already so self-conscious of being there. I realised the best way of going to the gym was before closing time in the evening when there would be no one around.

Funnily enough, I think my worst experiences as a scarf wearer were with other Muslims. Some less religious ones in the community acted like I had had a lobotomy or something and the first community event my sister and I debuted our scarves at, it was rather unsettling having all eyes on us. I tried to think why this would be, was it because I made them feel uncomfortable about their own shortcomings as a Muslim? Why did they flatter themselves to think I cared enough about them to judge? Just because I wear a scarf does not mean I am a perfect Muslim. I hold no judgement over others, as far as I am concerned it is between a person and God. Or was it because they just thought I had been brainwashed or something? I have no idea what it was but I just thought how bizarre – aunties are always so busy gossiping about which girl was seen with which boy and apparently me wearing a scarf was on that level.

Honestly, very naively, I thought my love life would improve. I thought now I wear a scarf, I would attract less randy freaks and I’d be a better prospect for a man who was trying to be as practicing as me. Sadly and quite bizarrely, the opposite happened. I got the most ridiculous, lewd messages on dating apps as well as social media. I became more popular than ever and treated in completely the wrong way. Some friends suggested that now that I was more covered up, I was seen as a cave of wonders, guys were curious to know what was underneath. I really hoped that was not the case but it has been very unsettling to get people talk to me about taking my clothes off for them, Muslim men at that who should know better. Or there have been hijabi girls who have screwed it up for the rest of us so it is now a given that I should be whipping my scarf off and getting my boobs out for the first man whose fancy I have tickled.

There has definitely been some upsides – a basic cow one is that I don’t need to worry about is how many days my hair can go unwashed before it becomes greasy enough to fry an egg in it. I feel much stronger in it, powerful – I don’t feel meek, covered up, oppressed. I feel like there is less of me for others to judge physically so you need to hear my voice and what I have to say.

I’ll tell you my personal issue with wearing a scarf and being a hijabi: living in a majority non-Muslim country, the scarf on my head doesn’t just represent my identity as a Muslim but I represent it. For example, I think twice when I am about to pull a cheeky move driving, I think to myself damn, if that guy is an Islamophobe, I’m about to give him more ammunition against us. Even worse, if he isn’t an Islamophobe, what if I am the reason he turns into one? I am so careful/conscious of how I come across with a scarf on. I smile more to strangers, a warm word, I make an effort to talk to them because if I am the first Muslim they have come into contact with, I need to make sure I’m doing the right things. All of this is exactly what the religion teaches anyway: being kind and compassionate. I feel quite lucky in that sense, if I had been living in a Muslim majority country, I might have become complacent so my Muslim manners would have been minimal. But when I do good deeds in public, I know that that is what the religion teaches, not the nutcases that make the news.

The scarf on my head isn’t magical. I am not perfect so please don’t expect me to be either. It just means that I am Muslim and proud of it.

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To ghost or not to ghost…?

As human beings, we form relationships, whether it be through family, love or friendship. We love that attachment to someone, it gives us some sort of validation and a place in society. You will find the most fiercely independent woman who may say she doesn’t need no man (snaps fingers in a Z formation) but finds comfort and solace in her girlfriends or the nerdiest person in the world who seems to only function robotically but once they prise themselves away from their PlayStation, they will have their own group of friends or even family to turn to.

But at what point do we know if those relationships are good for us or even worth it? Like I am in my late twenties and when I talk to people my age and older e.g. my sister in her mid-thirties and people complain that so and so has ticked them off, it feels like: …so why do we still know them?

Firstly, there is the energy zapper. This person means well, you liked them once upon a time and you still do but in small doses. They’re either so excitable you have to have buckets of enthusiasm which might mean taking a Prozac beforehand to prepare yourself or they will drain you by completely bringing you down, unintentionally, but you feel properly bummed at the end of the conversation.

Then there is the user, barely talks to you but uses you as a way of becoming a social butterfly or their messages will always start: “Hey, hope you’re ok. I was wondering…” because they are about to ask you a favour and you feel obligated to help them.

Finally, there is that friend that you once had a special bond with, you were super tight and super close and for whatever reason you drifted apart or fell out with but occasionally you or the other will just check in to see if you’re alive.

See the thing is, when you’re 16, it is so easy to just go along with anyone who shows you attention and try and be liked by everyone and feel popular. Friendships were so much more fickle: you fell out, you made new friends, you went to uni or whatever, made more new friends and as you got older, friendships started to fizzle out or were stronger than ever and they are your besties now. The above three groups of people are the ones that slip through the gaps and you still end up attached and I ask myself why? Probably because if I turned around and said: “You’re really getting on my nerves and I seriously can’t be bothered with you anymore” it would be extremely frowned upon and I wouldn’t ever dream of hurting someone. Most people turn to someone because they feel some kind of comfort from them and they feel cared about or in some cases they just want to feel popular and if that’s what helps you get through life then so be it.

I guess for me I don’t really like cutting people out. I find it hard to hate people, even ones that have hurt me or let me down. I could never get that feeling of “let’s go slash their tyres” or whatever people (or girls stereotypically) are meant to do so I can’t be cutthroat with people who turn to me. Some might call me weak, I personally think it is one of my strengths that I can put up with nonsense and still be me. What it mostly boils down to is that these people once meant something to me as I don’t make friends for the sake of knowing people, it takes me a while to get attached to someone. The death anniversary of a Uni friend is coming up and when she passed, it made me realise that actually it isn’t right to push people away. If anything happened to people I knew, I would want to know. I hadn’t spoken to her in a while and I regret that deeply because life got in the way. Different cities, different jobs, different lives.

Don’t let anyone take you for a doormat so be careful with the users and if they are taking the mick too much, be assertive, you are not 15 anymore and therefore no longer feel the need to be liked. But if someone wants your time, as tough and as annoying it might seem at the time, get in touch with them at some point. You may not be able to at that moment but make time for them after. Feel privileged, they have decided they wanted to spend their busy time with you and you don’t know what life has in store and how long you will be able to stay in touch for.

An old friend came to mind the other day and my bipolar brain was arguing what is the point it has been so long vs but you care about them and have thought of them for a reason so why not. After verbalising my thoughts, maybe I will get in touch after all.

*The above does not necessarily apply to relationships. If the person seems hopeless, they probably are hopeless and you don’t need their hopelessness in your life.

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Down in the DMs…

NB: Some necessary swearing in this post. Also, double whammy, don’t think I’ve ever written two posts in a week.

I was walking down the street the other day when a guy walked past and said hey how you doing? Having always been taught not to talk to strangers, I politely appeased him and went about my way. Next thing I know, he pulls his pants down and reveals his genitalia.

Totally unacceptable right? Public indecency is an offence. Except the story above didn’t actually happen. Here’s what actually happened: I was sat having my breakfast, totally chilled, scrolling through my Instagram account when I got a DM. A similar conversation to the one above took place followed by a dick pic that made my breakfast want to come shooting straight back out my mouth. Would this guy have unzipped his trousers in public? I doubt it unless he was mentally unhinged. Then again, who is to say he wasn’t – he’s sending random girls his bits.

I’d heard of this dick pic phenomenon and sexting etc – between two consenting adults who know and are comfortable with each other, fine, whatever. But with random people?! How many girls are actually responding to this and going yeah, I don’t even know your first name but I least I’ve seen the family jewels. You wouldn’t get away with it in real life so it doesn’t mean you can just do it willy nilly (no pun intended) in your virtual life.

Here’s what gets me though and I am talking purely as a Muslim girl because I know how things should be even if they aren’t. As mentioned in my previous post, I only recently started wearing  a scarf – I say recently, it’s been over a year now. This is all part of hijab, the concept of modesty and in line with how a Muslim girl should act and appear. Don’t get me wrong, a scarf over my hair doesn’t make me not sin, it doesn’t come with superhuman powers nor does it come with a golden ticket straight into heaven. By no means are all scarf wearing girls completely innocent, we are susceptible to a lot of things but it does show our identity as Muslim women. Now, you’d think the last person to be messing and being inappropriate with us would be Muslim men unless it was consensual on both sides and I’m not interested in getting into a haram debate about that. What I am interested in is why, since I’ve started wearing a scarf, more Muslim men seem to be inappropriate with me from the get go. Like what is the matter with you? I’ve had men online make lewd comments, ask me to take my scarf off and send sexy pics, send me graphic sexual messages about what he would like to do to me and now I got a dick in my DMs, all because he thought I had a “cute smile”. Like I believe you, you don’t need to send me your penis. If, once you got to know me and thought I was that kind of girl or I asked for that kind of thing, that’s a different matter. But not straight away into a conversation like what is the matter with you?! You’re embarrassing to our faith and you’re an embarrassment to yourselves. No girl, Muslim or not, should have to put up with that but like I said, purely from this point of view, I just don’t get it. Maybe girls are just as bad online? I don’t know because I’ve never been on that receiving end, feel free to enlighten me. It’s amazing how brave people get behind a keyboard and laws are getting stricter with stuff like revenge porn but this is a form of harassment. Also, my Instagram account is private he could only see my face in the profile pic bit, I could have been 12, what then? The vast ocean that is the internet is only getting murkier and murkier.

I don’t know what that guy was thinking when he decided to undress and send me a pic. We’d become best friends? We’d start a relationship? Think we all need to collectively pray for him to get better hobbies and a life. Poor sod.

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Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?

I’d be a liar if I said make up didn’t interest me, of course it does. I am liquid lipstick obsessed but I like to think of it as I have a colour for every outfit/occasion (even though I know my best friend would argue I have several shades of the same colour after watching me try them on for her on Snapchat). I like making myself look good because it makes ME feel good, not anyone else, however I have my limits because at the end of the day, I would like to look recognisable as a human female and like myself. No false eyelashes, no contour – If I look fat it is because I am fat, if I look slim it’s because I’ve managed to stop shoving food in my face and lost weight, it is as simple as that. I’d like to think of make up as a way to enhance my natural features. I have major admiration for girls who don’t wear make up, like kudos to you because even guys are jumping on the make up bandwagon. Whether they have insecurities or not, they have embraced their natural self and have the confidence to show it off. Because really, we are all beautiful in one way or another and any ugliness comes from a bad personality, whatever you deem to be a bad personality.

However, can we see natural beauty anymore or inner beauty? Everybody makes their own decision based on how far they will go with their beauty whether it is a bit of make up or plastic surgery or the increasingly popular non surgical procedures such as lip fillers and I won’t knock you for it, you do you because who am I to judge with my ruby red unnatural looking lips. The make up I have to wear is foundation to cover my embarassing acne prone skin even though I am in my mid twenties, like if I had clear skin I would chuck it all because that ish is expensiveeee. But if I ever meet my future partner, that (un)lucky fella would have to see me without make up because I just don’t think it would be fair on them to randomly one day see me without and he ends up crapping himself. If they don’t see any natural or inner beauty in me, awks. If it turned out I had a terrible personality I’d be massively screwed ha (even more awks if you’re reading this and you can’t even see me and you think I sound awful through my blogs hahah!) With beautiful girls making themselves even more beautiful with all this extra fakery we didn’t realise would become such a staple 10 years ago, do girls even feel like they stand a chance anymore looking more natural? People have seen me without make up – do I like it? No. Do I suck it up? Sure. But I definitely lose my confidence a bit and my personality has to massively step up and that’s the honest truth. Nowadays everyone seems to have lash extensions or false eyelashes on just to nip round to Aldi and a full face of make up: foundation, highlighter, mascara, contour, blusher, filled in eyebrows, eyeliner, eyeshadow, baking powder (I’m not even sure what that stuff does because I swear it should just be put in cake), the list of products is endless.

As a recent scarf wearing, I’ve watched a lot of Youtube/Instagram videos to see how to style scarves and dress modestly and look good and professional but that means I get a million video suggestions on how to do my make up and I’ve watched some and after a while I’m like how do people have a) the time b) the energy c) the money. Like, bravo – I get tired just watching the videos. It seems that every girl and their mum knows how to do make up better than the other and more and more women are randomly deciding they want to do to make up as a hobby. I didn’t realise it could be a hobby to be honest, I took it as a part of just getting yourself ready for the day, like do people do teeth brushing videos? You know what, they probably do. Hobbies to me are like painting and baking and by baking I don’t mean your face (seriously, what the hell does it mean?) All these videos might make it seem like you’re never enough and as someone who has insecurities but is trying to remain in control and not let them rule me, these videos don’t make me feel great let alone anyone who is really struggling for a plethora of reasons (love that word – plethora).

Whether you wear make up or not or have lash extensions or not or have botox or whatever it is, just don’t lose sight of the fact that you are worth something even without it and your personality does still count. Don’t have all those things to improve yourself aesthetically but then be a walking incarnation of the seven deadly sins or something. I remind myself of this first and foremost and boys, I know a lot of you like the natural look but I see some of you, getting your bald spots covered and what not – you’re not immune to a little insecurity here and there.

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Reality (TV) check

Been a while since I’ve written something and I have been itching to write and I couldn’t put my finger on what out of the 143603 musings that go on in my head a day but I have finally decided and yes, ladies and gentlemen, I have ended up plumping for “Love Island”. I blame a certain work colleague who peer pressured me into watching it because I could not get my head around why people with brain cells would choose to watch such drivel but his persistence paid off and there I was ready to watch it as it was conveniently on straight after the World Cup.

For those of you fortunate enough to have no idea what I am talking about, “Love Island” is a British reality TV programme about young singles obviously looking for love all in the same villa in sunny Majorca – super basic premise. Not just any old young singles mind, the contestants are “hot” (although I wouldn’t touch any of the boys with a bargepole”. The boys are all big, brawny beefcakes and the girls flit around all day in skimpy bikinis with perfect hair and makeup. No blobby messes which kinda takes away from the reality part of the programme. The nation seems to be hooked on it, it is all anyone has been talking about at work and even intellectual BBC R4 did an entire segment on its popularity so my main reason for this post is, what exactly is the effect of watching such TV? After succumbing to watch it, here are my 10 main observations from the like 3 episodes I have watched.

 

  1. Knowing someone for like a day can apparently constitute a relationship.

Once the contestants have coupled up with someone, they consider themselves in a relationship. How? What if outside of the villa he is an axe murderer or she is a psycho stalker? Relationships should be meaningful, not “I will take anything I can get for fear of being single” which sadly I think a lot of people live out themselves because they have no faith in themselves in making it alone. It makes me laugh, I’m sure I have had longer relationships with cake or something.

  1. The addiction

I’m not even going to beat around the bush here. It is awful and so cringe. It is the most brain dead TV ever. But you know what, sometimes if you’ve had a long day at work or whatever and you need to just wind down with something that requires no effort whatsoever, welcome to Love Island. As much as I have refused to watch all episodes because I can feel myself losing brain cells, it is SUCH an easy watch. When people are living to work, it is an incredibly easy way to kick back albeit not the best way, like take up knitting or something.

  1. Are we empathising or thinking “Thank God it’s not me”?

Heartbreak comes in hand in hand with “love” – I use this term loosely with regards to this show as I don’t believe anyone is in love like get a grip, seriously. In a society like ours, we love having a nosey into other people’s lives and feeling smug about ourselves or wishing we had what others had with all of our material wealth and filtered realities and too much disposable income at our, well, our disposal instead of saving. Beautiful holidays and scenery, fancy meals, living the dream. So when these couples get together and potential heartbreak is on the horizon, are people feeling for the contestants and reliving their own heartbreaks or thinking ah, poor sod, sucks to be you.

  1. Equality of the sexes

The drama, the scandal, the gossip. Sounds like a recipe made for a girls night in but what has really taken me by surprise is how much this show has affected guys as well as girls. The contrast from the football punditry to the “OMG NO S/HE DIDN’T” is remarkable and rather strangely endearing to see. Just shows when it comes to the topic of love, we’re all big softies. Or maybe it is just who I am surrounded by in which case I need to change jobs and find new friends.

  1. Mean girls

So last week some fresh blood was injected into the Love Island system where new boys and girls came in to turn up the heat and to see if people wanted to dump who they were with for the chance at something new. Dani had been coupled with Jack and part of the group of newbies was his ex that he had to spend time with and she worried about his loyalty. Lucky enough for her, he stayed faithful to her and agreed to stay with her whilst his ex coupled up with someone else. When this was revealed to Dani, she was relieved Jack was still with her but refused to talk to the ex or make eye contact or essentially acknowledge her presence. This is apparently normal female behaviour and totally acceptable so I must be a total bloke here as I thought that was incredibly pathetic. Jack is still with you, his ex is with someone else, why do you care so much to be mean when nothing has changed for you? Can someone please explain to me why girls do this because like the mind boggles.

  1. Changing partners like you change your underwear

Some of the contestants are notorious for floating from partner to partner (Megan) as they are hot on the heels of someone new and are callous with who they leave behind. I feel like this perpetuating a very real issue in 2018 where with all this tindering and swiping and scrolling, no one is ever enough, people are on the lookout for something better “just in case” without allowing themselves a proper chance to see if there are feelings that could be grown and nurtured into a positive coupling. If that’s how people live their lives, forget finding someone and settling down if you are always on the prowl, you will constantly compare and no one will ever be enough.

  1. Remember you are not entitled to another human

Georgia was with Josh, he dumped her for someone new. Thankfully she kept her composure and it was all very sad for her and the nation was #TeamGeorgia but really, if he found someone new and he has stronger feelings for her, he can’t stay with Georgia out of pity. Just because you feel something for someone doesn’t mean they have to reciprocate and some people forget that. You may absolutely be head over heels for someone, invest so much into making them happy but if they don’t love you, they don’t love you – c’est la vie. You can’t make someone be with you just because you put so much energy into it. Harsh but true and it is a bitter pill to swallow but I’d rather be alone than feel someone felt they had to put up with me.

  1. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

But apparently, we don’t need that anymore as we just go for textbook typical creatures to fall for. Bulging biceps, big boobs, pert bums #Sunsoutgunsout. But is there anything underneath all of that? Do we even care anymore? When the package is so pretty, do we bother to unwrap to see if that person can make us laugh, has manners, is respectful, and is kind? Do we care? Because according to Love Island, as long as you don’t feel the urge to paper bag their face, falling in love is super easy because you just need to look at them and discuss nothing and it is love at first sight whereas really, it is lust at first sight. I can look at a guy and go yeah he’s hot but do I develop strong feelings for them? No, take me out to eat and let’s talk then I’ll see if you’re worth my time.

  1. We’re a nation of saddos

Why are we sat watching randoms fall in love?! Go live your best life instead.

  1. Finally, the hottest thing on the show

Definitely the KFC burgers shown during the ads, the ones you know will satisfy you more than any man.

 

 

You might be reading this and thinking wow, get a life, stop analysing Love Island, it’s meant to be an easy watch and you know what? You’re probably right.

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Mind the Generational Gap

My nephew is turning three this month and he brings me so much joy and happiness as I gaze upon his mad little ways. Born in the UK and the product of British parents, he is well and truly British but with Bangladeshi and Pakistani heritage. I look at his play dates and the friends of my sister and brother in law with heritage from all over the world: Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, Iraq, UK, Libya, Greece and so on – a true reflection of multicultural Britain. I think of my future children and who they would make friends with through me – “Your friends are like the United Colours of Benetton” a friend recently said to me – not quite sure he knows exactly what that is but the reference to colours I think summed it up for him.

But then I look at my parents and the play dates we had growing up – mostly with British Bangladeshi children who were the product of Bangladeshi parents who had moved to this country as well as play dates we made through school. Looking at it now, I do wonder, would my parents have been friends with these people in Bangladesh and realised they were kindred spirits? Or did they flock together because under the circumstances their friendships were able to blossom? I know when I lived in France and Spain, it was very normal for the Brits to stick together – you were with people who knew where you came from and you could face your trials and tribulations with local life together. That’s just human nature.

The way of life in South Asia is very different to that of life in the UK in some respects. Our parents came from a country where alcohol is strictly prohibited unless you have a licence to a land where on every other street there are pubs selling this very substance, halal meat back then was next to non-existent, going to nightclubs and wearing less conservative clothing and having a boyfriend and moving out were all totally normal parts of life.  This was so different to society back home that there were two types of parents – those afraid of losing their children to a lifestyle they hadn’t grown up in and those who fully embraced it and let go of their past. Most parents were the former and did their best to ensure their children did not forget their roots, whether cultural or religious. I grew up knowing who I was and exactly where I came from but also adopting best of British. So how will I raise my kids? During a girly lunch, a British Bangladeshi, a British Indian and a British Mauritian pondered this question.  Would we allow our children to date as teenagers? Would we give them curfews? My answers came from a religious background but what amazed us was that as much as we had established our ways in British society, some of these things were still niggles in the back of our mind. Would we be cool with things our parents weren’t? Or at least would we be cool enough to openly discuss certain things with our kids that we would have winced at with our parents like who we fancied at school? How many generations would it take till things radically changed or would our heritage still be in the back of our kids’ minds?

I don’t look back and regret any of my parents’ decisions with me by instilling Bangladeshi and Muslim values – I don’t think the world would have been ready for my thunder thighs in a mini skirt nor do I think I missed out on dating awkward clueless teenage boys and I have always been mad enough without the need for alcohol in my system. The question remains though, will my children feel the same?

 

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Girl power

It’s been a while since I have written a post and what better time to write it than International Women’s day – a day of celebrating women. I love this day – as everyone posts quotes and pictures of women, it reminds me of several things: how amazing women are, their accomplishments, how I love being a woman and how I am surrounded by the most incredible, intelligent and fantastic female role models amongst my family and friends.

However, reality strikes and I’m brought back down to earth with a thud. Women face so many issues around the world that 8th March is not just a day of celebration – it is a day of reminders and action. The number of issues affecting women in 2018 boggles my mind – technologically we are so advanced and we live in a world that is all about betterment but then at the same time we have backwards attitudes towards women such as the gender pay gap in the Western world, daily misogyny and sexual harassment which sparked the #MeToo movement globally, female infanticide in India and China and women being raped as a form of weapon in Congo. These are just some of the major and very real issues women are facing. But you know what? As we try and campaign and fight for our rights and for respect, we should take a look at the sisterhood and work out the issues amongst ourselves – a baby step towards some semblance of unity.

I’ve said this before – I have the most amazing set of girl friends and today after work I met one of them for coffee, cake and catch ups as most girls do quite regularly but I love female company. I find it refreshing, I find the conversation to be intelligent, I find them witty and sarcastic and it is just such a laugh – no holds barred. It’s not to say that I can’t do that with men but I feel like sometimes girls don’t appreciate how much fun it is to be around smart girls and not necessarily talk about boys or go out in packs to pick up boys. Problem with going out to be on the look out is girls end up acting differently around guys from the usual hair flicking and batting their eyelashes like you see in films to being more uptight, like they can’t be themselves because they have to act a certain way around men, like just be cool and stop worrying how men perceive you.

My next point is crucial. As a woman, I am not going to deny this, we are very critical and the worst part of it is that we are so critical of each other to the point of putting each other down. What’s the point on hating on a girl because she is prettier than you or smarter than you or is more popular than you? It won’t make you prettier or smarter or popular and won’t help your sanity at all. And if you are those things, don’t look down on women that aren’t – what are you gaining? We have enough problems as it is fighting misogyny and patriarchy that we really don’t need to be fighting each other *cue old school Destiny’s Child*. There are too many memes and posts on social media about girls wanting to claw each other’s eyes out that are meant to be funny but as is the case with a lot of jokes, they stem from some truth in them. Stop hating on girls that your boyfriend talks to – if he is being inappropriate, that’s your fault for dating such a moron because he’s the one in the relationship. A lot of girl-on-girl hate comes from relationships – you think guys sit there and stalk their new girlfriend’s exes or their ex girlfriend’s boyfriend? Some might but wow, go get a hobby. Stop hating on girls to make yourself feel better. Just thinking about this is exhausting for me, like I really don’t have the energy to spend so much time hating on another girl. At the same time, I’m not some sort of hippy dippy girl who thinks that we all need to hold hands and force everyone to make friends with everyone but if you can’t be nice to each other, just leave each other alone and concentrate your efforts elsewhere. Be civil or walk away. The only thing is worse is to be fake about it and pretend like you are being nice to your fellow female.

Something else that really pains me is that there is still so much sexism amongst Muslims where people feel women shouldn’t be doing certain things or acting a certain way because it is “un-Islamic”. Erm ok, hold on a second. Our Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) married Khadijah (RA), his first wife- a lady who was one of the most powerful businesswomen at the time and 20 years older than him who HE worked for. You think she did that sitting at home? No, of course not, she was dealing with traders daily and she was an inspiration to him. What about Khawlah Bint al-Azwar, a female warrior and a Muslim. When things go backwards, people say we are going back to the middle ages but this was the middle ages and as a community we’re not even good enough for that – where did we go wrong?

I’ve ranted a fair bit now and coming back to the idea of celebrating International Women’s day there is one thing I will say: I am unapologetic about being a strong, feisty independent single girl. I work, I pay for my own holidays, I pay for things that make me happy etc. I’m proud of my achievements and how far I have come and I am blessed to come from a family that supported me to pursue my own interests and helped me to literally get a life. I’ve had people try and dumb me down for the typical Asian thing of I have to get married asap and guys don’t like such ballsy women so I need to tone it down but I’m not toning anything down for anyone. You know why? Because if I ever get blessed with a daughter, I refuse to give her a father who will try and bring her down.

Happy International Women’s Day – stay fierce.

xxxxx