Career and Motherhood

Today my alarm did not go off. I was supposed to be at the store at noon, and I woke up at 12:30 and knew I could not get there until another 2 hours.

While getting dressed, my daughter woke up crying. She had been sick for the past few days with a slight fever due to an ear infection. My husband had been taking care of her these days that I have been working at the store. I had to return to the store because we need the extra cash.

Walking out the door, I here my daughter calling out to me in-between coughs from her room. I stopped, turned around and walked back to my daughter to carry her for a bit. I changed her diaper and rocked her for a few minutes before I started to cry. I didn’t want to go to the store to work today. I wanted to play with my daughter who was suddenly well and happy when I came to her. 

I called the store manager and explained to her that I wouldn’t be coming in today. She understood and gave me the day off.

Going back to the workplace after 15 months, I am going through a lot of emotions. I miss my daughter every second that I am away from her. She goes to daycare for a few hours per day, but it’s not the same when I feel like I am leaving her. Friday night, I came home at 8:30pm and she wasn’t in her usual friendly mood. I blamed myself for being away for so many hours. 

I am currently seeking a full-time job within my own career field, the education industry. It may not be long before I need to start working full-time. I think it’s important for a woman to be independent and work, especially if she has invested so much time in building a career. I also think it’s important for mothers to be mothers. Finding the perfect balance without shredding your emotions apart is an art. This balance depends on women’s ability to act in superhuman ways and do a juggling act in perfect harmony. 

Right now, I am typing this and watching my daughter chasing our cat. Earlier, she was dancing to the tune of Garfield. She also stole my cell phone and ran around the house pretending she was talking to someone on it. It was all hilarious. 

I am glad I stayed home and I thank God for the wisdom and strength to make that decision today. I know that I will not always be able to make this decision and I know there may be moments i will miss. There are many sacrifices that women have to make today in order to pursue careers, achieve independence and be good mothers. These sacrifices causes us to second guess ourselves, blame ourselves and peel at our psychological wellness. 

I pray for my daughter’s growth and that a smile will always be spread across her face. I pray that the bond that holds my husband and I together continues to strengthen. I pray that the efforts that my husband and I have put into our education and into building our careers will foster happiness and reward and never division. I pray that I find my balance and that I never forget that every moment is an important moment.

What I’ll Teach This Quarter

Just finalized the reading schedule for the course I’m teaching this quarter (Writing About Literature). Mainly an introductory course filled with freshmen and sophomores who being coerced into taking a college-level writing course. This quarter, it seems I have a science/pre-med cluster. This can go awfully well, or awfully awful. Nonetheless, I am thrilled at making students read! read! read!!!

My course theme is the intersection of race and sexuality, by the way. And this is my list:

Novels: The Rain God by Arturo Islas; The House of Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros; and Stuck Rubber Baby by Howard Cruse.

Short Stories: “And Of Clay We Are Created” by Isabel Allende; “Secret Pleasures” by Ernest Hemingway; “Mules and Men” by Zora Neale Hurston (an excerpt); “Through the Stories We Hear Who We Are” by Leslie Marmon Silko; “Rape Fantasies” by Margaret Atwood; “Up In Michigan” by Ernest Hemingway; “The Man Who Was Almost a Man” by Richard Wright; “What America Would be Like Without Blacks” by Ralph Ellison; and “Dry September” by William Faulkner.

Theory: “Epistemology of the Closet” by Eve Sedgwick; “The Storyteller” by Walter Benjamin; “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution” by Judith Butler; “Borderlands/La Frontera” by Gloria Anzaldua. I am not a fan of Butler nor Sedgwick, but alas, it’s not always about my personal politics. These pieces, I think, provide useful lenses for the primary texts.

Other things: Read an excerpt of Incognegro (a graphic graphic novel set in the South in the 1930s about an African American man who is set to be lynched for rape of a white woman–without any evidence, of course); Watch the Hijabi Monologues performance in class; Watch/Listen to “The Danger of a Single Story” by Chimamanda Adiche; Read poems by Mohja Kahf.

I hope to show how the paradigm of White heteronormative masculinity often perpetuates violence against women, non-whites and individuals who identify under non-heteronormative categories. These texts will also naturally cross with the influence of religion. I didn’t make this a primary focus, but I also hope to touch up on how various ideologies can lead individuals to feel empowered and at times alienated (and the pros and cons of that).

If any interesting primary text comes to mind (a shorter piece: e.g. short story, poetry, an excerpt, a video clip, a blog post) please feel free to let me know. I’ll be revising the syllabus until Sunday evening!

Watch Your Language! (part 1)

I thought’ I’d make a post on bad words. Not the f-word kind, but on real foul language. Those who know me may already have heard my Saussurean perspective on language–That is, language as a set of signs (visual and phonetic symbols) that are empty until we organize them in meaningful ways. Actually, this isn’t just a casual perspective, but my belief because it follows logic–words are only seen as “bad” when we (society) decide on their connotations. Therefore, there is no such thing as a “bad” word. There are words. Words are either economical (productive) or destructive.

This is my list of destructive words–again, not the kind that make delicate ears blush but the kind whose very manifestations are like festering sores.

1. Natural: I cannot emphasize how much I detest this word and all its variants. This word has been used historically to justify the subjugation of other people. For example, at one point Black bodies–because they were larger and stronger than the bodies of white colonizers–were considered to be “naturally” designed for labor (enslavement). Nowadays, few people make essentializing claims between races, though I have heard a few that have left me wide-eyed: X* people are “naturally” corrupt; B-women are “naturally” hornier than C-women; Y people are “naturally” cleaner than Z people. I mean, we all joke around privately and are probably guilty of using stereotypes for a good laugh– but the disturbing part is when a person makes these statements wholeheartedly believing them.

Most recently, it is the gender/sex “natural” statements that irk me.

Women are “naturally” more emotional than men; Men are “naturally” more sexual than women; Men are “naturally” more rational than women; Women are “naturally” more talkative than men; Women are “naturally” more nurturing than men; Men are “naturally” made for the public sphere and women for the domestic sphere.

No, No, No, No and No.

Get your science straight, people! Men and women are both equally capable to being caring, nurturing, sexual and rational human beings; equally capable of sharing tasks and responsibilities. Honestly, I could care less how people/couples choose to organize their lives–whatever works for them. But please leave archaic “nature” arguments where they belong: in medieval science books.

2.Impossible. Yes, it is possible. We should never blame the things around us for our failures. It is up to us to work hard to achieve our goals; to possess the things we want; to make things happen. Yes, sometimes things are out of our control. If a blind man says he cannot see, it would be cruel to tell him he isn’t trying hard enough. There are some things that are out of our control. The problem is that we often pretend that situations are out of our grip when they are not. As a believing Muslim, I pray to God and I ask for help, but I will never ask God for something for which I am not prepared to meet Him halfway. I do believe that if I try my best, God will do the rest–and that is why I believe that nothing is impossible. 17 years ago, my father had his left leg amputated. Although wheelchair bound, I never heard my father say it was impossible to walk, work, drive, and do other things he wanted to do. The odds were against him, but he still made things happen. Why should we ever use our weaknesses as excuses to let ourselves and others down?

More Foul Language Is Coming Soon!

Feel free to add your own “bad” words to this list in the comment box below!

Why I’ve started to resist the “Feminist” label…

1. The Undefinable. What exactly does it mean to be a “feminist”? According to the Webster dictionary, “feminism” refers” to movements aimed at establishing and defending equal political, economic, and social rights and equal opportunities for women.” And a “feminist” is someone who practices feminism. What does that even mean? How do you practice feminism? What principles do you have to accept to be considered a “feminist”? Who knights you into feminist-hood? What pillars unite the various schools of “feminist” thought? Moreover, what if you don’t practice the principles of “feminism”–can you still be “feminist”? Do you have to have time in your life in order to be an active participant (or practitioner) of “feminist” ideas? The more I think about these questions, the more I am annoyed confused when someone labels themselves as “feminist”. What does it mean to be a “feminist”? I would not consider myself completely ignorant in “feminist” theories . My undergraduate minor was in women studies and I know Judith Butler, bell hooks, Faludi, Friedman and Steinam. I am quite limited in my knowledge of the criticism, but I just want a working definition. What does it mean to call yourself a “feminist”? And if you do not fit a definition of a “feminist”, then are you an anti-feminist?

2. The “Backlash”. Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women. One thing that is also beginning to bug me is empty terminology. If you critique the Israeli government, you are labeled an anti-Semite. If you critique a principle accepted as “feminist”, it becomes an attack, or a backlash, as Faludi termed it. If you think against the grain, you receive a label that marks you a cancer to “modern” society. The backlash mainly refers to religious resistance against “feminist” movements around the world who want to confine women to the domestic sphere. This is problematic to say the least. The assumption that religions require women to remain in the domestic sphere is a false one. If religions will be criticized by “feminists”, I at least hope that the critics have studied the religion’s scripture and the representation of women in their sacred text before religions take the beating for social ills.

3. The Timeline. how many”feminists” are aware that Islam ensured women of their rightful inheritance (property, wealth) and that the first wife of prophet Muhammed (pbuh), Khadija, was a business woman who ran and maintained her own successful business? If “feminism” serves to secure rights to women, then Islam has been a feminist religion from its conception. Islam demanded an end to female infanticide occurring in pre-Islamic Arabia, secured a woman’s inheritance and rights to her OWN wealth, encouraged education, and corrected Biblical account of Adam and Eve by dividing blame equally between man and woman instead of the Biblical blame on Eve.  “Feminism,” as we have come to know it, is a collection of ideals and principles by white upper-class women that served the needs of white upper-class women. The first wave of “feminism” is dated in the 18th century. This is absurd to say the least. It completely wipes out efforts that were taking place hundreds and thousands of years before the 18th century.

4. The Mold. According to the definition, a “feminist” must practice “feminism” (nevermind that “feminism” remains undefined). What if a woman chooses to take part in “things” that reflect patriarchy? A self-declared “feminist” chooses to get married…or adopt her husband’s last name…or perform gender…or wear things that are interpreted as representing patriarchy (wedding ring, head scarf). What if you don’t support abortion?  If you don’t practice feminism at all times, then what does that make you? No, really. This is a serious question. Who is a practicing “feminist” and who is not? Is there a space in “feminism” for women who follow religion? Is there a space in “feminism” for women who believe there is power in the domestic sphere? Who fits the mold? Who doesn’t?

5. The Violence. An abuse of power carried out by those with “feminist agenda” on third world women. I don’t have another word for it, really. I recently read an article in National Geographics titled “Veiled Rebellion” focusing on the issues surrounding women in Afghanistan. A picture that caught my attention was a women who partially shields her face from the photographer. Another picture that caught my attention was one of a group of unveiled women at a wedding. The first question that came to mind was “who gave National Geographics the permission to publish these photos?” Did every woman give her consent and was she aware of the agenda/purpose that her body would be fulfilling? There is something inherently violent about penetrating the private lives of women who may not even know their bodies are being used for a so-called “feminist” agenda. What is most disturbing is that articles like these are published every day and they inspire a greater voyeuristic curiosity into places where  the public may not be welcomed.

6. Liberation. What does it mean to want to liberate women? From what are you liberating women? And what makes one lifestyle more liberating than another? As far as I am concerned, everyone needs liberation from something. So how does a shift into “liberal” mode offer a woman a more fulfilling life? What does it mean to be liberated? I tend to prefer the word “empowerment” rather than liberation as I have come to realize that many women feel empowered through ways that may not always be in line with the connotation of the word “liberation”.

I always considered myself a “feminist”. As I mentioned, I did my undergraduate minor in women studies, though I am no expert in the theories and am sure I am overlooking a lot of criticism. Nonetheless, I have begun to resist the label of “feminist” because it no longer makes sense–and because I admit I no longer know what it means. A fight for equality (and equal access to information, education,  rights, etc) for women makes sense. But I feel that the word “feminism” has taken a life of its own–it has a face, a system, a rhetoric with which I no longer identify.

I wouldn’t be surprised if this post gets labeled as “feminist backlash”–it’s a predictable response.  I am not seeking to make “feminist” efforts seem unimportant nor trivial, but I want to start at square one–That is, with a clear understanding of the word “feminism”, the principles that belong to “feminism” and what it means to practice “feminism”. Until then, the word is empty rhetoric to me.

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One thing I failed to mention when I drafted this post is that I am aware of what is called the “third wave” feminist movement where the needs of women who were originally marginalized (black women, women in third world countries, LGBTQ’s, etc) ‘write back’ against the second-wave feminist movement. A favorite book that raises many of the questions that I pose here are also raised is The Color of Violence: Incite! Anthology. I actually just purchased it because I have checked it out of the library over 10 times and still constantly refer to it. Maybe I should revisit it to get over this slump I’m having over the “feminist/feminism” label.

The Color of Violence: Incite! Anthology


Can I start a fourth wave?