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Category Archives: Feminist in the Workplace

On being American & considering marriage to a Kuwaiti National Guardsman: I’m not mad at him; I just know we can’t be together.

I’m not mad at him; I just know we can’t be together.

I know he wants forever, connection with me. I know he dreams; but he also knows his reality.

We could kiss forever, admire one another eternally. We could bring forth children that were clever, critical thinkers and free.

We could encourage the health of one another with the meals that we’ve cooked, making sure to never overlook the sweet pleasures in life. I could have been his wife.

He could have been my man, my helping hand, my lover’s rock. Too bad it didn’t happen though.

Too bad money became his captain, his guiding seas. Too bad he loved his money more than he loved me.

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It’s too bad he lives in a country that suppresses his liberty, a place where his employer controls his matrimony. Beginning a marriage with an American is a felony… unless you start all over again.

And Again was something he couldn’t do. Couldn’t throw away 5 years of hard work just to be with his boo. Couldn’t stand not being a bread winning man, not even just for a few. He needed to take care of me, protect me, guide me, whatever he needed to do.

When a man needs help, it’s hard to come to, because he has to allow his woman to be strong, to take care of him too.

All easier said than done. I’ve come to a place where I know what I want. Or should I say, what I need, because I can’t stay with a man that won’t commit to me.

More than a pretty ring or a wedding invitation, I need someone that’s going to assist in the creation of a unit: 1 family, 1 home, 1 lifetime.  I need him to bank on our time spent together.  I need him to adore me even through stormy weather.

But I’m a traveling woman and a traveling woman must find doors to walk through, always seeking the next level, unless… he came along, or I was willing to stay. Either way, we had some serious decisions to make.

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So he chose is money, his security and his 5 years of hard work. He chose to base our future on his potential income instead of basing it on my worth.

What’s a risk taken without a commitment to see it through? A bluff to give time, time to enjoy the woman who’s willing put in effort, effort to support you, with or without your ability to financially contribute. But you’re only in this as long as your money plans work out for you, because if they don’t, we’re over and this just wont continue.

And for that reason honey, I’m not mad at you. I just know that our time is up, and we can’t be together.

On being an American feminist living in Kuwait

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I have not blogged in a while and it is because experiencing life takes up a lot of your time.  Since I’ve moved here, I’ve learned so much about Kuwaiti life, Islam and cultural norms.  I’ve also started a new relationship with a native black Kuwaiti so needless to say, I’m fully engrossed in the day to day culture of what it is to live in Kuwait.

As a woman and feminist, I find it hard to deal with the daily expectations of having to cover, even more so because of my vuluptuous body type and my ethnicity.  Black women here are assumed to Ethiopian, which is synonymous for prostitute.  I was never the type to have many clothes in my wardrobe, so to come here and face the fact that most of my clothing is inappropriate even for grocery shopping, is challenging.

Let me just begin by saying that I’m a women that does not wear jeans because I simply have an awful hard time finding a pair that fits me well.  So I tend to opt for cotton-based materials (stretch) that allow me to breathe and not force my body to conform into any shape.  What I’m finding is that it’s not my clothing that’s offensive in this society, it’s my body.

I have seen Arab women wearing hijab, with pants that hugged their butts so tightly that it creased under their butt cheeks.  I have seen women wearing abaya that had a belted waistline, accentuating their hour glass figure.  I have also heard stories from various witnesses of women who spread their legs when wearing abaya to show a man that they are interested, or who attend Kuwaiti parties where Western men are invited and remove their covering to show their skimpy outfits underneath, all to wear abaya again the next day.

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I want to be clear that this behavior is not seen as respectable under Islamic law and that all cultures stratify holiness regardless of the religion.

My Syrian friend is Muslim and she chooses not to cover.  She says that Islam is in her heart and not on her body.  She despises the covered women because so often in her life, she’s seen these women do the most sexual acts while demonizing women like herself who choose not to cover.  My boyfriend even, has told me stories about how some Kuwaitis go to bed with a man so fast, that the expectation for immediate sex exist here in this country as well.  Not to mention, anal sex isn’t seen as loosing virginity, so many women opt for this instead.

At work, I have been admonished for wearing clothes that were tailored to my body, while my less curvacious coworkers show cleavage, wear jeans and accentuate their figures freely.  It hurts me to see others being overlooked because of their thinness while I’m being scrutinized because I’m not.  This occurs in America as well, though.

I have also had a hard time dealing with the lack of wellness centers for women here in Kuwait.  Most of the gyms are for men only and women-only gyms are much more expensive with less spectacular facilities.  My boyfriend goes to a beautiful gym down the street from my house while I run in the construction site behind my home or run the stairs in my apartment building.  I subject myself to street harassment and traffic danger when I do so, but I have resorted to it out of sheer desperation for exercise.  I have almost been hit by a cement truck while running, but what can I do?

Kuwait spends a lot of time shielding it’s large homosexual population, particularly males, from the world’s eye.  The amount of homosexual men and transgendered people living in secrecy here will blow your mind, and you can find them in large numbers within the online community.  It’s sad, but my boyfriend tells me that the saying in Kuwait is that if you see a very attractive woman with a nice face and body, she was probably born male because the Kuwaiti women are typically overweight and/or ugly.

This obesity problem that he’s speaking of comes from the lack of wellness facilities for women and the childhood obesity rates, which is amongst the highest in the world.  There is no nightlife here, so people often spend their leisure time eating out.  Even the schools serve Dominoes Pizza as the main course everyday, with the majority of the lunches coming in a vacuum sealed package.

One of the things that brings my boyfriend and I together is our desire to be healthy and fit. We love each other and this is honestly the best relationship I’ve ever been in.  His priorities in his manhood are defined a bit differently than American men.  He is big on paying for things and will not allow me to pay for anything when I am with him.  If I do, it’s because he honestly doesn’t have it at the moment, which kills him on the inside.

His concept of “gayness” is different and the culture around the “No Homo” phrase doesn’t exist here in Kuwait.  For example, he was less uncomfortable telling me about his experience talking with a transgendered women online, only to discover her original sex upon meeting her, which he then ended the relationship.  But a black American man, in my experience, would not have even had the courage to tell me these things in fear of being called gay.  My boyfriend is extremely heterosexual, but he does not have the same dimensions for gayness as black American men do.  He also keeps pictures of topless men on his screen savers to remind him of his fitness goals.  Most men I know back at home wouldn’t be caught dead with such images.

The reason why I am speaking of black American males and not males in general is because of my own limited experience with males from other races.  So I want to be clear on the cultural dynamic.  Anyway…

Men here hold hands together while walking in the malls and it is seen as a gesture of friendship.  The first time I saw this, I wanted to stare.  It’s amazing how the constructs of “gayness” transform according to the cultural lens.

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With all of this being said, holiness is something that looks different all over the world.  This is a very conservative country, but once you see how these people live, it’s not much different than how we live in America.  You have your “holier than thou” people who wear dishdasha and abaya, some who even wear gloves and socks.  You even have some women who will not allow their husbands to see their faces during sex.  You have some Muslims who don’t listen to music due to their faith, just as we have orthodox Christians and Jews.  And within the same land, we have Muslims who drink alcohol, eat pork, have premarital sex and don’t cover.

What I have learned about holiness is that it resides in your actions.  My boyfriend swears that I will convert to Islam one day, and says that all great thinkers do eventually.  I know this is not true, but we agree to respect each others beliefs and allow God to deal with us.  What I do like about Islam is its willingness to deal with science and seeing science as the creation of God.  But as I have told him, I can never be in a place where I wont allow myself to question any holy book, especially if God has given me the brain and will I need to think.  I am finally comfortable saying that I do not accept Jesus as my Lord and savior.  It was a lot for me to say that the Bible is not my final answer and I explained to him that the Holy Quran will not be either.  God did not write a book for man; God speaks to our hearts.  He will have to go through this process for himself as a Muslim.  It’s a lot to rethink everything you’ve been taught since you were a child.  Who knows where we will end up in our spiritual journeys.  All I know is that I want my children to experience God on their own without having religion forced down their throats.

There is also much to learn from this society.  Yes, they have a “constitutional monarchy” but citizens here are very well taken care of.  They do not pay taxes and do not pay for any schooling, whether domestic or abroad.  I honestly can’t see the difference between their dictatorship and our own.  We aren’t any better.

College debt does not exist. I also like how the government prioritizes its citizens in business, forcing foreigners to have a Kuwaiti partner in order to open business.  I think America should adopt this policy.  Both societies have much to learn from one another.

So, back to living.  I will continue to keep you posted on this new Kuwaiti life I’m living.  Ttyl!

The blogosphere is now our feminist living room | WoMen Dialogue

The blogosphere is now our feminist living room | WoMen Dialogue.

Images & Facing Mirrors: telling black history from a black feminist perpective

For 500 years, African people were rationed off in North America to build the land of the free.  They were beaten, burned, raped, humiliated, separated, denied their food, medicines and language.

From the moment we left our land, our bodies, our thoughts, our spirits deteriorated.  Some beyond recognition. As Dr. Sebi, a Honduran biochemist shares with us,  moving a people from their land and neglecting to bring their food and medicines is murder.  “There are no incurable diseases.  Only incurable people.”

Through the constant beating, mulling of our hearts and rape of our women and men, an energy emerged in the form of heat which aided our aggressions.  The Law of Conservation of Energy tells us that it cannot be created nor destroyed, which means that our ancestors live in our bones and a reaction is to be expected.  As our bodies and resources are continuously consumed by our colonizer, the trophic energy waste continues to accumulate; thus why we are a combustible people across the globe, and thus why revolution is among us.

Of that trophic energy came the heat or hyperactivity of colored people — jazz, blues, art, dance.  What also came with this trapped energy is the prevalence of localized violence, over consumerism, drug abuse, sex trafficking,  gambling/lottery playing and a die hard will to survive by any means necessary.  This is why Malcolm X was so effective in his teachings — he understood and articulated what we are going through.

African American culture is simply a byproduct of racist patriarchal christianity.

We now glorify the “hustla” because he was the first black millionaire, the first black man to even peep inside the white man’s house without serving in it.

I want to be clear that I am using the term white man deliberately to show race and gender.  It is no lie that the white man has ruined everything in his path.  “Look it up.” as advised by Dead Prez.

This obsession with hustling hit black men hard.  In the hood they were called bosses, ballers and P.I.M.Ps.  In America they were called murderers, thieves and rapists.

In our homes they were called son, grandson, daddy, uncle and brother.

In Africa, our men who communed in our purpose were called the jihad and local militia.  In America, they were called gangsters.  In addition to joining gangs, we joined the army and died there too.  We also found comrodery within the prison system and on the streets of our neighborhoods.  Women in particular were kept with the same menial jobs as their men, except this time there was no “helper” at home.

In combination with the Rick Ross effect on drug use in low income areas and sheer psychosis, we learned helplessness.  Our needs for survival have been sadly reduced to mere food on the table, clothes on our back and a roof over our heads.  We are still struggling to maintain these very things today.

In order to maintain this means of survival our men left to the streets in alarming numbers and our women left to begin work or work more.  She headed her household both voluntarily and involuntarily.  Reduced to domestic labor, she scrapped up whatever was left of a black man’s education in America.  Since our beginnings in this country until this day, the black mother has become a 2-generational father, both to her children and to her grandchildren.  We have been this way for some time now.

For the longest, all displaced African people have ever tried to do on this earth was survive.

In our native heritage (regardless of tribe), survival meant to preserve the family name with legacy.  It meant carrying on traditions.  We must rediscover our ability to survive, post Garvey.

The African American woman went to college in significant numbers and became all that of a secretary.  The African American man, without guidance, went to jail, died or is on his way.

He became a pimp.

She became a ho on welfare.

And then music left us.  It stopped being about survival and became nothing more than a hustle.  Hence why we, “hustle, hustle, hustle real hard.” Jay Z said it best — He could use a broader vocabulary if he wanted to but the niggers want violence.  That’s what we buy into.  That’s how we feel.  (When I say nigger, I mean that deliberately.  Nigger meaning, those who lack knowledge and in this case, knowledge of OneSelf.) If the common mind in the hood knew more about the rich soil from which they were meant to dwell, rappers would have much more to say.  Hence Nas, Mos Def, KRS 1, Common (even though he isn’t my personal fav) and 2 Pac.  I think 2 Pac is a perfect example of the internal conflicts being African, American and male.  Thank God he was vocal about his story.  Imagine us without his words… his influence…

We are now milk-drinking (mammals don’t drink the milk of other mammals.  Only Europe was doing that shit.  That’s why so many of us are lactose intolerant now), brand whoring, drug rehabilitating, survival by any means necessary people.

Our children are born unnaturally.  We induce labor without the slightest respect for the process of birth.  The greedy white man told everyone that this practice was uncivilized and of lower status.  Children are being born according to when the doctors shift is over, disrupting the release of endorphins that chemically bond our babies with our physical love. (The Business of Being Born Documentary, check it out.) They are deprived of the nutrition of our ancestors and fed McDonald’s and other various renditions of “soul food”; which ironically tells our stories, but starves us of vital minerals and enzymes at the same time.  Our bodies are no longer able to fight off disease as it once did.

Unfortunately, our food replaced our music.

As Americans, we became fatter.  As black lower class people, we became systematically unhealthier and die at disproportionate rates.

We now live in hoods, suburbs, on college campuses, in jail, with our grandmothers, and on the street.

We historically score low on standardized test and populate special education more and more as the years progress.  We work far more than we own and our insurance policies do not cover enough or further, exist.  The cost of survival has caused us to inherit and produce tremendous debt within the global economy.

What we should know is that we have always resisted.  We resisted on the way to the ship, on the ship, getting off the ship, during captivity and until this very day. Today, overt forms of resistance demonstrate itself in what we know as “urban” wear, rap music, and gang communities.  The theme “Fuck da police” has been done over many times — NWA, Lil Boosie, 2 Pac… just to name a few.  The police has always been our most direct personification of the oppression of the white man. We resist in our hairstyles, centering ourselves on black cultural displays such as creative hair cuts and the infamous Galaxy t-shirts that hung down to our mens’ knees at one point.  If you don’t know, white tees initially caught on heavy under the idea that all a black man needed was a white tee, his headphones and a fitted cap.  This was a uniform, so to speak, that represented an intentional resistance to assimilate into mainstream capitalist culture.  This t-shirt display also served as a decoy to resist police profiling.  It’s hard to find a man in a white tee when everybody in the hood is wearing one.

Africans resist today by not putting their money in banks that are controlled by an unstable government.  They resist with arms the same as we did here in America.  We have been resisting with armed force since we’ve been able to even have arms to defend ourselves with.

I ask, what else is a community to do when their livelihoods are threatened daily, their leaders are murdered and their homes set afire?  When your daughter bears the child of white slave owner and police raids are happening on your block every week, hauling your family and friends off to jail for crimes they did not commit; when the police come to investigate and violate you instead; when they don’t come at all; when your grandfather is dying from prostate cancer because that in combination with his diabetes cost more than his fixed income; when foreign oil pumps continuously poison your only water supply for your people, what will you do???

Africa will RISE, as my Kenyan friend has told me.  MARK HIS WORDS.

As African Americans, and more closely as Africans, we have been rendered worthless.  But praise God as told by our grandmothers, we are not.

References:

-The Wretched of the Earth,  Frantz Fanon

-The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Malcolm X

-The Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. Dubois

-The Woman Who Watches Over the World: a native american memoire, Linda Hogan (my personal fav of all time :-))

-Spencer Wells Journal of Human Genetics, Spencer Wells