Here’s some love to the littlest feminist I know ❤
When Kashmala was turning five (last year), I decided to start writing letters to her as a birthday message – that I hope she’ll read when she grows older. Or now, whatever works. The first letter can be read here. Here’s the second one. InshaAllah, I’ll write many more to her, if I don’t forget ❤
I’m actually not sure what I’m going to say here … then again, I wasn’t sure what I was gonna write in the last one, either, but I feel like I wrote a pretty good letter to her ❤ Just being real and honest when I say I’d consider myself pretty darn lucky if I had an aunt/uncle like me. But I’ve got a niece who love me unconditionally, so no complaints here!
The last letter I wrote to you talked about how much I love you and how I promise to do so always and unconditionally (and trust me when I say that’s a big deal – unconditional love – because as you grow older, you’ll learn that few if any people are actually capable of loving another individual unconditionally. Especially when you’re a girl. We’ll talk about this the next time we talk, since you’ve started learning about patriarchy now). This time around, I want to give you a recap of your accomplishments and growth during during your 5th year in this world. I’ve blogged about you a lot, I’ve Facebooked about you even more, and everyone on Facebook loves you to pieces. 🙂 God reward them for their love for you! Their love for you is so apparent when I talk about them to you that you yourself have actually commented, “Your friends are biggest fans anyway” – the context of which was your writing a letter to a friend of mine who’s going through a hard time right now, and when I asked you if you wanted to share anything with her, you got your art toolkit and painted a little girl, the sun, and some grass and wrote this beautiful message “I hope you feel better soon! I love you so much.” Then you put it in stamped envelope yourself, sealed it, and asked me to write our friend’s address on it so we can mail it off. And I said, “Janana, but I haven’t put my letter in there, and the card we were gonna include in there, too?” And we eventually agreed to just mail it off to her that way in the hopes that she’ll smile just a little bit seeing your name on the envelope!
So your wisdom. Your accomplishments. Your brilliance. God preserver you and your every beautiful quality that makes me very proud of you and that makes me look forward to the world’s future because a child like you has been blessed with it. Many, many alhamdulillahs for you! May no one who knows or knows of you ever tire of loving, appreciating, and praying for you.
Here’s a recap of some of the smartest things you’ve said that give me hope, things because of which everyone who comes to hear of you falls in love with you for:
1. That time when, as I described to you how I was losing so many of my friends that year and I was missing some of them because of how close we’d been, you said: “Shanu, ALL of your friends are not talking to you! Maybe YOU are the bad one.” Details here. You made me speechless this time, and you’ve made me speechless many other times after this. Thank you for providing me with perspectives that I really wouldn’t have been exposed to otherwise. Thank you for listening to me ❤
2. Then there was that time when I explained to you why the One Direction song “You don’t know that you’re beautiful. That’s what makes you beautiful” is a patriarchal song with, as is characteristic of patriarchy, a deeply harmful message for girls and women. And you responded with, “Shanu, that’s not what he’s saying! You just don’t understand the song.” (Details about this anecdote here.) I think we should re-visit this song now that you’ve understood the essence of patriarchy and see if you still find this song to be harmless, habibi ❤
3. That time when we were sending voice messages to each other and you kept ending each message with “okay, bye now, Shanu!” but then you’d realize that we’re sort of chatting and you don’t have to say bye with each message so you said, “I’m sorry I keep saying bye! Does it bother you that I keep saying bye? No, wait, I know what you’re going to say – you’re going to tell me not to be sorry and to say whatever I’m comfortable saying.” It warms my heart that you know this much about me, that you know that I value your comfort, that you know that I’ll always tell you to be comfortable with what you say and do, to own what you say and do, to love what you say and do.
4. Oh my GOODNESS, Kashy!! ALL the patriarchy talks we’ve had this year!!! You blow my mind!!! You’re so perceptive, so intelligent, so aware it brings peace to my heart knowing it all! It makes me happiest that you know you can always discuss patriarchy with me, and/or any other forms of injustices. Here are some things you said patriarchy-related:
a) When you took me by the hand to the kitchen to show me [my sister’s] class photo on the fridge, and we both hugged tightly because of how proud we are of her – God bless her intelligence and career, and God grant her more and more success in both worlds, aameen. And then you moved me with your perceptiveness as usual:
“Shanu!!! LOOK! There are 1, 2, 3, … NINE boys and only 1, 2, THREE girls!! Can you believe that?!”
Me: (just stunned)
You: “That’s not fair, you know! It should be the same number for girls and boys! If there are like 1, 2, 3, …6 boys, there should be 1, … 6 girls, too! If there are 1, 2, 3 girls, there should be 1, 2, 3 boys! If there are 1, 2, 3, … 9 boys, there should be 1, 2, 3, … 9 girls, too! Otherwise, it’s just not fair.” And the way you counted on your fingers as I watched you and digested what you were saying … Ya Allaaaaahh!! Yes, you are absolutely correct that it’s not fair that the number of girls is so much lower than that of boys in her class.
I don’t remember when we first started talking about patriarchy, but I wonder if this was the first time? All I know is that now you understand how patriarchy works, you know what things in life are patriarchal and which are not. Which reminds me …
b) When you said to me: “Shanu!! Can you BELIEVE Siri doesn’t know what ‘patriarchy’ is?!”
Me: “Oh, ya? What’d she say when you asked her?”
You laughed hard and said, “You try it! Ask her what patriarchy means, and watch how she doesn’t even know it!”
So I tried it. If I remember correctly, Siri’s answer was something like this (from google): “a system of society or government in which the father or eldest male is head of the family and descent is traced through the male line.”
Then you called me back and said, “What’d I tell you – she doesn’t know what patriarchy is.”
You see, when you and I talk about patriarchy, I have no problem using “big words” like “society” and “male authority” – I just explain to you what these terms mean, too. And it’s worked each time. I have no trust in people who believe in dumbing things down for kids. If we’ve to dumb things down for a kid, it’s only because no one’s ever trusted the kid with non-big terms to begin with. That’s not okay. I trust you with big words, and I trust your openness to knowledge and learning to ask me what something means or to find out through other legitimate means (like Siri, obviously!). BUT the reason you were sure that Siri didn’t know what patriarchy was is that she used words like “social structure” and “system” and “head of the household,” and I haven’t used those words with you yet when discussing patriarchy. I’ll start doing so ❤ But then I explained to you what these words meant, and you understood that Siri was saying the same thing you and I have been saying about patriarchy.
My thing is, what else is a person supposed to talk to a kid about if they’re not talking about the harms of patriarchy and stuffz, y’know? So #deathtopatriarchy, inshaAllah.
But the best part about this anecdote from your life, janana? This: That you were thinking about patriarchy at some point in the day and wanted to test Siri’s knowledge about it. That you took some time out of your day to ask Siri what patriarchy was – that you were thinking about patriarchy!!! And then you went, “Uh. WRONG, SIRI! YOU GOT IT WRONG!”!! I’m having my proudest #auntymoment right now. And I feel like with you, I’ll always be having my proudest aunty moment.
c) You asked me a couple of weeks ago: So patriarchy is when men think they’re better than women and can boss us around, which is really mean, you know. I mean, who likes to be bossed around?! So is there a word for when women think they’re better than men?” And I said no. Then we talked about feminism and the importance of equality for all. And you pointed out how “mean” patriarchy is. This makes filled with joy. If you can grow up valuing kindness over all other things, I’ll be a happy, happy aunt.
d) Every time I have shown you a picture of an all-male event (and I’ve shown you so many), you’ve remarked: “Whoa, that’s a MILLION men right there! Where are the GIRLS??!” (I love how humans for you are currently divided in men and girls ❤ We’ll correct this with time, no worries.) Organizers of all-male events should be completely ashamed of themselves. A child who’s lived hardly 5 years on Earth can spot patriarchy from over a thousand miles away, and these misogynistic dummies can’t? And they’re our leaders? They’re the ones leading and organizing events that are shaping our future? Death be upon this mindset!! Death be upon patriarchy.
e) When you asked me the other day why women have to cover their hair and/or faces but men don’t. ❤ And I told you to keep asking that same question for the rest of your life for everything women are expected or required to but women aren’t, or vice versa. My ultimate answer, of course, was: patriarchy (but it gets a little complicated when faith is involved, though our ideas of faith, spirituality, piety, modesty, and what God likes and doesn’t like are also so gendered and sexist that it’s not exactly a lie to attribute things like the hijab, hijab-policing, etc. to patriarchy).
f) When you asked: “So people think that women are shaitaans [satans] that they make men do and think bad things???” And my mind was blown because I’ve never thought of it that way. Yes! That people think women and men should not be in the mosque together or that in general, women and men should not be mixed together or that women should hide their faces or hair or bodies while men can show skin without any policing definitely means that people think women are like shaitaans. Shaitan’s role in our lives is to misguide us, to make us do and think bad things – and that’s exactly what people think about women: They make poor, innocent, decent men think and do bad things, and so we should keep them as hidden and distant from men as possible.
Here’s the context of your statement, though:
I started to tell you about my adventures at my mosque the night before (praying in front of the curtain instead of behind it), and before I could tell you, you said, “Shanu, Shanu, wait, okay? Can I tell you about MY mosque? The women’s room is sooooooooooo big. And have you seen the women’s room? It’s sooooo small!”
I know which mosque you’re talking about, Janana, and I dread that place. It’s anything but a mosque, a place of worship, a place of God.
Me: “Oh, ya? How do you know?”
You: “Because I went with Baba this one time and that room was huuuuuuuuge.”
Me: “Ugh, I know. Many mosques are like that.”
You: “Why is it like that?”
Me: “Remember when we talked about ‘patriarchy’ the other day?”
You: “Yeah, like when people think that men are better than women but they’re not? Oh, oh, oh – like how there are more women than men in [my sister’s] class?”
I go on explain briefly to you the role of patriarchy in the size and situation of women’s spaces in mosques.
You: “But that’s CRAZY. Why can’t the women and the men pray in the same room? They get married together, so!!! ❤
Eventually, we get to the bottom of it all: “So people think that women are shaitans that they make men do bad things?”
A lot more examples of how much you’ve impressed me with your knowledge of patriarchy, but I’ll stop here ❤
5. I keep learning from you, and you keep giving me reasons to look inside myself to improve myself. This last time when I visited home (and you were there), you pointed out several times that something I was doing, thinking, or saying wasn’t “fair.” You were right each time, and I’m so infinitely grateful that I have you in my life. That you are not ashamed to point out when something is wrong, when something is unjust. Thank you for that and for everything else ❤ Always.
6. The other day at the party we went to when someone told me that Kashmala has grown so beautiful she’s going to be a heartbreaker. And because I can’t exclude you from any conversations especially about you in your presence, I explained to you what the person meant, and you said, “So what if boys are going to like me?” Ya Rabb ❤ That’s what I wish every girl would say! Yes – so what if boys like you? You don’t need to make any efforts to make them not-like you, you don’t have to feel bad that boys like you, you don’t have to hate yourself or be ashamed of anything boys say to you. When I first got my nose piercing (last year), I noticed it was attracting a lot of attention from men around me. There was a brief–very brief–moment when I paused and asked myself if I was doing something wrong that men were very obviously showing their attraction. And then I remember feeling amused at the thought that the problem was on my side. No. I’m not the problem when men stare at me; the problem is those men, the problem is our society that makes men feel totally safe and comfortable staring at women and harassing women, the problem is this patriarchy that makes women feel guilty and filthy for attracting the attention of men. So I decided to own my attractive piercing and call men out on it when they stared at me because I realized that patriarchy wanted me to hate myself for the attention I was apparently “inviting” for men because of the nose piercing. (Nose piercings are no biggie in many parts of the world, but in the West, for some reason, they carry different symbols. We’ll talk about this another time, inshaAllah.) Harassment is one of the most dis-empowering thing that *every* girl goes through, janana, and I wish it upon no one – though that’s not a practical wish, so I’ll just have to talk to you about it and teach you how to deal with it as you experience it, too.
7. My friends and blog readers have expressed their love for you in many ways. One reader from Canada sent you a children’s book that he wrote himself; another person sent you a beautiful letter decorated with confetti all the way from Brazil; another person sent you a jewelry box with your name carved on it. Everyone always sends you their love on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, this blog, and I pray you never feel unloved, unwanted, unappreciated. I also pray that you continue to spread this love all around you and light the world with so much love it never sees darkness again. Aameen. God bless you, my little revolutionary ❤
7. You’ve learned sign language, and that makes me SO proud of you!! Here’s pics of you telling me “I love you” in sign language:
I cannot express the excitement I feel for humanity’s future that you exist, janana. I don’t want to pressure you – and I hope never to pressure you; please let me know when I do – to achieve big things in life, but I have complete faith in you. You’re so full of life, of love, of wisdom, of intelligence – God preserve you, God preserve these equalities of yours, aameen – that, if you wanted to, you could go far in this world. I wish you every good opportunity, I wish you the love you are always spreading around you, I wish you the kindness you’re always showing others, I wish you peace at every stage (and transition) in your life, aameen. God be your Light, Love, and Peace, zama janana, zama da stargo ranra. God be your Company wherever you go, whatever you do, whatever choice you make. Aameen. Thumma aameen.
Now for some pics … I’ve no idea how you grew into the girl you are in the first picture below from the infant at the bottom ❤
We celebrated your birthday when I was home last week, about a week before your birthday, because I wouldn’t be able to celebrate it with you on your actual birthday. We invited a friend of mine who loves you very, very much, and we all had a good time. I’m so sorry, Kashmaley, that you had explicitly told me you don’t like hearing the happy birthday song sung to you, and I still went ahead and did it. That was me prioritizing tradition over your preferences and comfort. I’m sorry. I’ll keep that in mind for your future birthdays and will never do that again, okay? The last couple of years, I’ve been abroad during your birthday, so this year was special because I was here ❤
You wanted a small carrot cake and insisted on not having “Happy birthday” on it – so I had it that way. You loved it, and that makes me happy. You got a whole bunch of presents for your birthday, and you’ve shown gratitude for each one.
Here’s to many, many more feminist and/or anti-patrirachal adventures with you, my little feminist revolutionary! God keep you smiling, God keep you brave, God keep you passionate, God keep you outspoken – always. Aameen.
Before the pics, though, here’s you dubsmashing! You talented little miracle of God!
The pictures now.