Thursday, October 11, 2018

Burned Tree

Did you think
You were made of blood and bone,
Daughter of the sky,
When the women you came from,
Dug the ground with their nails,
And gave life to the stars?

Do you forget,
How your mother raised,
Lions and jaguars,
Slept of her feet,
To break the ground in two,
So you could walk?

What wonder,
Within a woman’s chest,
When she can stand on her feet,
Feed the world with one hand,
And balance the universe,
With the other.

Like the burned trees,
With the blackened skin,
Still standing under desert suns.
Even in death,
The mushrooms find life,
Within her womb.

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Thursday, January 18, 2018

The Dull Area Between Rape Culture and Dating Culture

2017 is the year a lot of us would remember as the year women spoke out. It is a start. For many women, #MeToo was not just a hash tag, it was re-living certain painful moments over and over again. It was a striking number of women living the same experiences. We must acknowledge and appreciate these women who spoke out. It is nothing short of courageous and brave to be able to stand firm in the face of oppression.

The past year didn’t just slap us in the face with the realization that even seemingly nice men could be predators; it also made us aware of our shortcomings when it comes to addressing these issues. We built a society that revolves around sex yet any conversation around sex is almost taboo. That is what makes the situation with Aziz Ansari so peculiar. Once the story of Aziz’s misconduct broke out, a lot of us were faced with the realization that our society is crumbling. The intersection between rape culture and dating culture is the reason why we must find a way to discuss these situations without labels.

To start of, I would like to point out that what Aziz did in no way makes him a rapist as he believed what they had was consensual however, Aziz is a predator like many men. Sexual coercion is a common occurrence in dating culture. Right from childhood, a lot of us are taught that persistence is romance so a lot of women and men grow up with distorted ideas towards dating culture. Based on twitter opinion, a handle I will not name tweeted at me “Women like it when you try a little harder.” The ideology that women’s No, lack of interest and excitement is a call for men to find a way to coerce a woman into engaging in sexual relations is toxic. It is what brought us here and what put Aziz in the position he was put. Little girls in school are told that boys pick on them because they like them, this is the most tragic ideology I had to unlearn.

Right from the moment we are born, the demarcation between gender roles is drawn. We are taught to normalize sexual aggression as a comfortable part of dating culture. The objectification of women, which begins from childhood, reinforces and allows for the continuation of rape culture. Women are seen as pretty objects that need to be kept safe and pure until marriage while men are advised to take the reigns of the horse and ride into the night. This childhood socialization allows male children to grow up with a sense of entitlement and women as meek creatures. Sex is often discussed as something that is done TO women and not WITH women so a lot of us grow up with this warped idea of dating culture. Often times, sex is seen as something that can be taken from women. Rape culture is not only victim-blaming, it is anything that reinforces gender-roles stereotypes. So dating becomes problematic.
How do women let lose while constantly safety conscious especially when alone with men??

When the Aziz Ansari story broke out, too many of us were forced to face the reality of sexual assault and coercion. To successfully deconstruct the system of patriarchy, we have to start by addressing issues that fall into the gray area.
What is consent?
What is appropriate consensual behavior and what is not??
Is reluctance followed by mild/severe coercion into engaging in sexual activities predatory or not?? It is.
Any sexual engagement that occurs as a result of little to a lot of pressure from a partner is predatory and borderline abusive.
To accept this reality is to accept that many of us have been assaulted in one way or another. We have.

When rape culture, which is the normalization of toxic sexual violence, intersects with dating culture, the lines become blurry. Many women are left wondering what is what.

A lot of women usually find themselves in a bind when it comes to reacting to forced/coerced sexual advances from seemingly nice men who take them on nice dates and treat them well. Are these men exempt from the rules of morality and respect for personal choice?? They are not.

Often times, consent doesn’t come in verbal responses. When two people are ready to get intimate with one another, body gestures and excitement are the normal queues any person should look for.
Is my partner comfortable?? Does my partner want this? Many women are not able to verbally say NO because we know that men usually have more physical power so fear plays a big factor. How will he take my NO? Will he force me if I say NO? Will I be in danger for saying NO? These are all valid fears. More than half women killed in the US are killed by their partners, so this fear that women feel towards saying No is rightly justified.

Consent comes in different forms and once mutual respect for one another exists, picking up on body language queues become very obvious and easy.

Until men are forced to have to consider sex as something that happens WITH women not TO or FOR them, we will still be faced with the issue of these blurry areas. However, we can discuss them, we can find ways to provide support for victims. Men must be held accountable for their actions against women. We cannot keep normalizing sexual aggression as consensual sexual behavior when too many women have to live with the psychological trauma that ensues.
Dating Culture and Rape Culture are seemingly at a cross road but it does not have to be. We can discuss this issue as intellectuals and find a way to better our societies. 

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Monday, September 25, 2017

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

The Thing Around Your Neck

They say sorrow looks good on me,
Her silvery pearls accentuating my neck,
They say she dangles sweetly from my lobes,
Like diamonds found deep within African soils.

I am acquainted with sadness,
Like long lost lovers.
She and i fit perfectly like pieces of a puzzle.

She nests her heavy head on my ample chest,
And i generously pat her icy back,
Singing her songs of a once upon a time.

They say sorrow looks beautiful on me
The way her selfish fingers clutch my throat.

Note: Title is adopted from Chimamanda Adichie's novel titled, The Thing Around Your Neck
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Saturday, June 17, 2017

A June Poem

This is the poem of a night in June
When the song that sung
Was a saddened ode
A prayer on the tongue
For a fire that burned
From darkness to daylight
Under the watchful eyes of God.

Love is a wicked friend
Who grips a heart
With hands made of roses and thorns.
"Mourn your loss"
The old friend begs
Only the lover understands
The pain that is felt.

You with the vizer over your eyes
Refuse to see them
The sons and daughters
Lovers and friends
All with the smell
Of death on their feet.

Do you not see how a night in June
Has stormed their worlds
A thief in the night
Now gone with the wind.
Let us leave this darkness
And find the light
Maybe, one morning in July.
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Sunday, March 19, 2017

How Do You Say Gender Based Violence and Consent In Nigerian?

There has been a lot of conversation regarding gender roles, sexual assault and gender based violence in Nigeria of recent. This is in no way because these issues are new problems that are riddling and corrupting our society, this is because a problem that has pervaded our society for ions, is finally being acknowledged.

The Emir of Kano State, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi plans to enact a policy that prevents men whom cannot afford to keep multiple wives at home from getting married to more than one wife. This in itself makes sense, Emir SLS has seen the effect of polygamy in our communities when it is not done right, how women are most of the time, unwillingly pushed into living very difficult lives due to the fact that their men keep marrying more wives and having more children. As the Emir, SLS stepped up to protect his people. He also plans to enact a law that protects women in situations involving domestic violence by making domestic violence a punishable offence which directly contradicts this belief: “There is a deep cultural belief in Nigeria that it is socially acceptable to hit a woman to discipline a spouse ”(Wikipedia). He has acknowledged the fact that domestic violence is a big problem in Nigeria. However, this has not been sitting well with a lot of Northern Nigerian clerics. Too many of them have come out to vehemently oppose the law. Emir SLS has of course, not been deterred. The plan still stands.

As many of the clerics who have come out to oppose The Emir’s law said, this new policy will allegedly change the law of the Qur’an. One cleric whose name I refuse to mention said in an article (paraphrased), that men must take the law of their homes into their hands and it is up to God to judge them (in reference to domestic violence). In all of the articles I have read, what these clerics claim is that God will judge a man if he does not do right by his wife but a woman will be judged here, on this earth, by the hands of man. You understand how hypocritical, misogynistic and just plain wicked that is?

Nigeria is a heavily misogynistic society, whether we like to admit it or not. By admitting that sentence, I am in no way implying that other countries are any less misogynistic, the world is a pretty misogynistic place but the focus of this write-up is Nigeria, where laws and policies affect me and the people I love directly. Too many Nigerian men have cried out that the law banning men from marrying multiple women (if they cannot afford to) is against the sunnah of Muhammad S.A.W whilst ignoring the fact that each one of Muhammad’s wives was well taken care of. The common trait with if not all but most clerics, is to dissect the sunnah of Muhammad S.A.W and then pick and choose whatever fits into their lifestyles. That which does not fit is ignored and it is backed up by “religion cannot be interpreted in the same way as it was in the time of Muhammad S.A.W”.

Another instance that has my mind all mangled up is the issue of consent that does not seem to be a conversation in Nigeria. The show Big Brother Nigeria has been back on television for a few months now. Regardless of our morality clause that judges the show, we have to admit that the show is a show watched by millions of Africans. Even if we ourselves do not partake in increasing viewership for the show, the show does find it’s way into many households and remember, the TV/internet is this generations main source of information. I digress. A few weeks ago, a participant of the show was disqualified (thumbs up to the show for that) because he directly or indirectly assaulted a housemate while she was asleep. Believe me, the responses I got from both men and women regarding this issue still freezes my blood. I will add a few conversations that had me the most shook up.

“ Me: It does not matter if the world knows he likes her or not, as long as she did not give him permission to get into her bed and do whatever he did, it is a violation of her right to privacy at her most vulnerable state (sleep).

Colleague: If she did not like what he did, she could have woken up to stop him(ignoring the fact that some people are actually deep sleepers). I’m sure she enjoyed it. ”

“ Colleague: But he likes her, everyone knows that. It is not like it was a stranger that got into her bed. He should not have been disqualified. (Ignoring the fact that she has made it explicitly clear that she did not like the accused)

Me: It does not matter. He did not have her permission; he should not have gotten into her bed and touched her. That is sexual assault.

Colleague: *laughs and calls me an “activist” * ”

“Colleague (female): I feel bad for the man, he had such potential.

Me: You are literally sympathizing with a possible rapist.

Colleague: *laughs nervously* ”

What I took from these conversations is this, the topic of consent is not discussed in Nigeria which is directly related to the misogyny I mentioned earlier. A woman’s body is free for the taking as long as it is “right there”. There is a difference between a Yes, a No and a No Response. A lack of response is not a Yes, it is not consent, it does not give any man, any right to a woman’s body. I am now more terrified of Nigerian men than ever. The heavy sympathy the accused man received all over the Internet left my jaw hanging.

We have begun discussions about gender-based violence; soon…we should have this conversation on a national scale meaning, the National Assembly (even though we all know the amount of testosterone in that dome makes doing the job the Assembly was created for i.e. enacting laws that affect the general populace, actually impossible).
Unless more women study and discuss Islamic jurisprudence and work with the way our laws affect women in today’s society, men would continually make us victims of their interpretation of Islam as it is been done today.
We must talk about consent; we must educate people about consent. We must protect our women from the wickedness of ignorance. After the scene aired, the show was quick and swift in their response to disqualify the accused, which was highly admirable considering the kind of society we live in. Even other housemates were quick to isolate the lady who was the victim here.

We live in a society where a victim receives no emotional support but an accused receives heaps of it. This must change. This is not the society our ancestors sacrificed for.

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Thursday, December 29, 2016

twentySixteen: reeCap

I think we can all collectively agree that this has been a very hard year. I can only speak for myself of course without having to force you to agree with me but with world events that I cannot list here because well, not the purpose of this, I think it is safe to assume a lot of us have had it exceptionally hard. Amidst all of the chaos that enveloped us (me) this year, I have come to understand myself more. I realized that I underestimate my strength and resilience. More than anything, I learned that I am a survivor and even if I am dropped in the middle of the jungle alone and afraid, I would survive if I choose to.

I found myself in situations I never imagined I would ever find myself in and get this…I did not die. This year only went further to reinforce my belief in the non-permanence of our situations. “This will pass” became my daily mantra. I had constant bursts of light within me. I would wake up one morning and nothing would go right the whole day but then I would go to bed at night thinking “Well look at that. The day has ended and I am still here.” Few weeks before moving back to Nigeria, I met with one of my dear friends and while discussing my move, I explained to him how terrified I was about moving back, how I worked hard to become this person that I am proud of and how I did not want to change. That was when he said to me “Only dead men don’t change, Asma” at that moment, I stopped fighting this battle to hold on to who I was. I became open to change and learning and boy did I learn.

2016 has redefined the word “deliberate” for me. I created a system of control for myself called “Deliberate reaction”. This means that I get to decide how I react to every single occurrence in my life. I taught myself how to utilize my circumstance to enhance my reaction and it has been nothing but light in my life. Situations where I would naturally get angry, I deliberately choose forgiveness. I know what you are thinking, that I am naïve and what if I get trudged on by not reacting, well, so be it. In the case of that happening, I would deliberately choose how I react to said situation. No one is born with hatred, anger and all negative emotions. I found out that my system kept my spirit elevated and I did not carry toxic energy with me through my day hence, enhancing my interactions with people.

One other important philosophy that I have coined for myself using an existing word is to assert my truth without fear of judgment or persecution and I refer to it as “Assertion”. I know who I am, I know my values and beliefs and wherever I go, whomever I stand before, I can confidently and proudly assert my beliefs. Life is a series of reactions fueled by actions. If my actions are guided by my beliefs, which are backed by my spirituality, then the series of events in my life would be for me positively. I am not afraid to be kind and soft. Someone told me that I am too sentimental and you know what, I am very sentimental, unapologetically in fact, if that is a flaw then so be it.
I cannot begin to list here how 2016 has influenced my life, I cannot begin to list the experiences and interactions that will inevitably shape the course of my future but all I can say is “We will be fine”.

If there is anything we know to be truth in this life, it is that This too shall pass.


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