Posts from January 2018

There is no gender pay gap, but that doesn’t mean the workplace is fair to women (Part 1/2)

January 15, 2018

Making equal pay the main issue women face in the workforce is a mistake. Women make $0.76 compared to every dollar men make —black women make even less, on the surface that seems pretty outrageous, sexist and an issue that deserves continuous attention until resolved. But that’s on the surface. When you delve into the numbers you begin to see that painting the picture in this way is a bit deceptive. The figure $0.76 for every man’s dollar is a comparison of all women’s wage earnings and all men’s wage earnings over a lifetime.  Comparing the wage earnings of all men and all women then attempting to close that gap is both impossible and potentially unjust. For one, more women work in minimum wage jobs, more men are willing to ask for a raise, and men do in fact work longer hours than women —43 minutes a week more, which adds up in the long run. So at this point some may be tempted to assume that all is well for women in the workforce, women simply make different employment decisions, they value home and family life more than men —according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “85% of women compared to 67% of men often spend some time doing daily housework, and on the days that women do housework they spend an average of 30 more minutes doing so than men and… spend as much as double the amount of time on childcare than men do” and don’t desire to take the risk of asking for raises or spending any more time on the job than necessary. The problem with that conclusion is that it pretends these are easy choices for women to make when the reality is that women are often forced into these decisions because the workforce continues to lack women-friendly policies. Knowing that women make $0.76 for every man’s $1.00 is useful in that it begins to tell us something may be awry, but it is not the issue in and of itself.

In discussing how we can make the workplace more women-friendly we have to have a discussion about the differences between men and women, it’s unavoidable. If we don’t talk about our differences there will never be any justice for women in the workforce and I believe more women will begin to choose home over work if the US continues to ignore their needs —this past decade was the first time in decades that the number of women not in the workforce, rose. One of the differences between men and women is how their work habits change when they have a family. When men have a family, they tend to work harder. When women have families we tend to work less. Is that inherently a bad thing? Of course not, women and men are free to choose their own path in raising their family but if we want to support women, we have to acknowledge that when they have family they don’t want to spend as many hours in the workplace, how can we allow someone to spend more time with their families while still excelling in their work? We have to fight for both flextime and maternity leave.

Fairness for women without injustice to men

Some feminists have acknowledged that men work more than women, their solution? Get rid of overtime. That’s not only injustice to men, it doesn’t support women in any way —especially the women who benefit from their husbands’ overtime when they take time off of work to be home caring for their family. If we want to support women, we have to focus on what women actually want, and what a lot of women want is to spend less time at work when they have a family and even less when they have a new baby. On the other extreme conservatives may say, well that’s a personal choice women make I.e. why should anyone have to support someone’s personal choice. But having a family is not merely a personal choice, it’s a part of life that most women will experience —most women will have a family, and so it is as much a personal issue as it is a social one. Let’s also think of what would happen alternatively if women decided not to have children in preference for having a career, then we’d be in a panic about slowing birthrates —which has already begun to creep up

Ignoring the needs of women is a degradation of our value that stems from the aftermath of World War 2. After WW2, women in the US were asked to leave the jobs they’d taken over from men during the war, return home and let the men work. Alternatively, in Europe, many countries, who also had women working in place of men during the war, wanted to retain those women after the war, and so they incentivized the workplace in order to keep women working. The US stills sees women as expendable and doesn’t see fit to help women, most of whom will have families, retain their jobs or succeed in them. Considering the fact that over 70% of women are in today’s workforce it’s strange that it remains as unfriendly today as the day it asked them to leave.

Gender-neutral policies won’t cut it

And gender-neutral policies like FMLA don’t cut it. FMLA gives workers 6 weeks off unpaid for family or medical emergencies. If a pregnant woman attempts to use this, that’s 6 weeks to have your baby, recover from pregnancy and bond with that baby, unpaid. Again, someone may say, Well it’s her choice to have a baby but how can one hide behind the “personal choice” argument when it’s an issue that most women will face —that’s like saying menstruation or menopause is a personal issue, personal sure but it’s also a women’s issue and therefore a societal issue. To listen to women calculate how they’ll group together their sick days, vacation days and their 6 weeks from FMLA -how they’ll work until the very last moment of their pregnancy so they can take most of their time after the baby is born, is heartbreaking.

A workforce that benefits from the labor of women needs to figure out how to support those women in their time of need, the only way to honestly do so is to acknowledge and support a woman’s role as caregiver. The “equal pay gap” is a distraction that removes us from acknowledging the real issue, which is that the American workplace was never built to accommodate women with families, the questions that are far more valuable then asking why women only make $.76 on the dollar is to ask why more companies don’t have nurseries, nursing rooms, flextime and maternity leave? These are the questions that matter most and their resolution will have a significant impact on the lives of women.

When life gives you lemons

January 13, 2018

I was blessed that for the first six months of my marriage I was able to be a housewife. That was something I always knew I wanted to do at the very beginning of marriage and so I’m grateful to God that I did. Unfortunately, because I had no real preparation for being a housewife it was mostly filled with trial and error —something I’d warn any woman of, please don’t go into marriage without knowing how to and having ample practice in the daily management of a household. And I warn anyone, simply knowing how to cook or clean is not the same as cooking and cleaning every single day, learn and practice at least a few months before marriage so you don’t have to go through the frustration —with yourself or from your husband, of learning on the job. I think we all take the idea of being a housewife for granted, the name doesn’t help, as it implies a passive state of staying at home. In reality, a woman who chooses to be a housewife should be adding value to her home, her marriage and her children, ideally her not working should be not solely an individual choice but a choice for the benefit of her family. As so aptly put in her article on why she chooses to be a housewife, “There’s more than one way to add to your worth.”

So, I’d always imagined myself being a housewife at two crucial moments in my life —the beginning of my marriage, as I just stated, and once I had children until they were at least young teenagers. Though I’d still want home and family to be the focus of my life I think I could put more focus on other areas of my life outside of those above stated crucial times without causing harm to either.

Housework to “real” work

After the initial six month mark, I went back to New York from Morocco and began looking for work. Another six months went by and no success, so we decided I would go back and visit. Only two weeks after booking my ticket, I got a call back from a job inquiry I’d sent a few weeks ago, went in for an interview on Thursday and got hired immediately. After so much job disappointment I’d almost given up on ever finding a job,  suddenly everything shifted and someone saw the value in hiring me.

One of the things I often hear women say about being housewives is that they miss the outward validation of working outside the home. I think a lot of women work for that very reason, at work you get promotions, paychecks, and other forms of acknowledgment to let you know what you’re doing is of value, at home you rarely do.

Many husbands will complain if their stay-at-home-wife doesn’t clean or the kids aren’t well kept, but how many husbands will actually compliment their wives when floors are gleaming and the kids are well behaved? Traditional women’s work is rarely rewarded in ways that are easily apparent. A women can feel accomplished knowing she is doing God’s work, knowing the hardship that she alone faces, juggling a million tasks at once, but the missing outward validation can take a toll on some women to the point that they themselves begin to internalize their work as unimportant —how many housewives say, “I’m just a housewife/stay-at-home mom,” belittling their own work before anyone else gets the chance? When women decide to be housewives we need a strong dose of self-confidence and internal validation, the world —which often includes your own husband, won’t give it to you.

Job over family?

I canceled my tickets. I’ve never had a real 9-5 job before, I’ve had a few internships, I worked a short gig at a chaotic bakery, and a summer at a variety store. I expect that working will be a dramatic shift in my life, I’ll no longer be able to go to bed whenever I want or wake up whenever I want, my life has to be structured. But I’m happy, happy for the experience and, inshaAllah for the money it will bring me. Money I can use to support my own interests and fund my own projects -how good it will feel to fund my own projects and not “beg” for other people’s money.

But how will my marriage be affected? Probably not well at the onset. But I think the structure work provides will benefit me when it’s again time for me to be a housewife. In reality, I should already have a structured life, because a life without structure is a chaotic one, but it’s not easy to force yourself to change when there are no real consequences to not doing so.

Nevertheless, it’s difficult to be in the exact situation I never wanted to be in, where one would choose work over family. I canceled my tickets in order to work at a job, isn’t that the exact type of woman I don’t want to be? But in our situation, or anyone’s situation where a woman working allows the family to excel in their long terms goals, isn’t it worth it? I don’t know, I could have gone to Morocco and hoped for a better job to come along when I got back, but after months of disappointment I couldn’t help but say yes to the first job offered to me.

When life gives you lemons, sometimes you just have to cut it open and take a bite. Which is to say, sometimes lifetimes life won’t give you exactly what you want but you have to accept it graciously anyhow.

Have a blessed weekend.



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Fumio Sasaki’s Book on Minimalism, Goodbye, Things

January 10, 2018

The Author, Fumio SasakiI find some people are turned off by minimalism and somehow believe it is something only the privileged might indulge in. Only the one who has known “the good life” can denounce it. I suppose this assumption is warranted, many of the popular minimalist stories -including the story of The Minimalists, feature people who lived the good life then realized they weren’t happy and began to downsize. While that may inspire some others may feel the same wouldn’t apply to them, “give me the money and I’ll show you how happy I’ll be”. This is why I find Fumio Sasaki’s book particularly valuable, he wasn’t rich, he wasn’t living the good life, he didn’t “have it all”. He simply realized he had too much of the wrong stuff.

As modern people, we all have too much stuff, too many products, too many services, too many expenses. There are poor people in America with cell phones, flat screen TVs, and video game consoles. I often talk on this blog about the value of traditional women’s work but the truth is, it’s very difficult to have that conversation without talking about our consumer habits. If we’re all required to have smartphones, phone plans, tv, cable service, Netflix, etc. it becomes impossible to imagine a family living off of one income, but when we start to question our consumer habits it becomes easier to question our work habits.

“Why do we own so many things when we don’t need them? What is their purpose? I think the answer is quite clear: We’re desperate to convey our own worth, our own value to others. We use objects to tell people just how valuable we are.” 

We also have to question what our stuff means for us. How much of the things we buy are just for show? The things we buy are easy ways to signal to others who we are and what we’re about, an easy and expensive way. He also asserts that our stuff often serves as an excuse to be anti-social, people were shocked by one Japanese minimalist who threw out her high school yearbook, how could anyone throw away something so precious? Yet, in reality, Sasaki replies, she will actually gain far more by not having the book because it will give her a chance -whenever the mood strikes, to call up an old friend not only to see the book but also reminisce about the old days, together. This point rung quite true for me,  why do I personally need to own so many books? Wouldn’t it be better to give them to the library where they’ll be accessible to everyone? I’m not quite ready to do something so radical, but I heed his point.

“Minimalism is just the beginning. It’s a tool. Once you’ve gone ahead and minimized, it’s time to find out what those important things are.”

In the end, Sasaki tells us, minimalism is not a goal but a tool. A tool that helps us better discover what’s actually important to us. Whether you take this approach to your clothing, your home or your office space, the more you get rid of what you don’t need you’ll also discover what you do need. Though this isn’t a major point in the book, I don’t think the connection between minimalism and a host of other issues can be downplayed. Overconsumption is at the root of environmental issues, worker’s rights, obesity, clutter, hoarding, waste, anti-social behavior etc. A lot of our modern issues boil down to an issue of over-consumption and a minimalist approach is one valuable solution.

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Teaching our daughters to be resilient, resourceful and unafraid

January 9, 2018

I’ve heard it a lot, particularly in the black community and steadily growing sentiment in mainstream culture -partly influenced by feminism, we need to teach our daughters to be independent. It seems like an obvious statement, teach your daughters to be independent so they don’t have to depend on men and they can take care of themselves with or without them. But something has always made me uneasy about this statement, and I realize now that it’s because it comes from a place of fear. I understand that many think it’s simply practical —men die and people do get divorced, but I can’t help but hear a sense of fear under the guise of pragmatism.

We live in a divorce culture, meaning that even if my parents, in particular, are married, a great deal of people I know don’t have parents who are married, that divorce is a common part of our lives and the mere fact of many people experiencing divorce in our society creates in us a fear that we too may go through the same thing and the sense that it is only practical to prepare for one just in case. And we also worry about the woman who goes to the opposite extreme, we see women who aren’t financially independent and put up with abusive relationships primarily because of their fear that they won’t be able to support themselves and or their children on their own —we don’t want our daughters to end up like them either.

So it’s only practical to want your daughter to be independent so she can leave a marriage if necessary and never have to worry about taking care of herself if it fails. The problem with this conclusion is that it may perpetuate the fear we’re fighting against. If the fear is divorce, being financially independent does not “divorce-proof” one’s marriage, in fact, women who work outside the home are far more likely to divorce than those who don’t. And despite most women working outside the home, after divorce, 1 out of 5 live in poverty (1).

Should our daughter’s independence be our primary goal?

In encouraging our daughters to be independent (which in reality means being dependent on a corporation to fulfill her needs instead of her husband) we’re also treating divorce as a passive occurrence. But the fact is, people actively get divorced —arguments are unresolved, problems aren’t fixed, and papers are filed, no part of a divorce is passive. Yes, people do get divorced, and the divorce rate in our society is quite high, but every divorce is an active choice. Instead of teaching our daughters to be independent in case of divorce why don’t we teach our daughters to take care of their marriage so they won’t have to divorce? We prepare our daughters their entire lives for careers, so is there any surprise that their marriages often fail? Instead of handing us the tools for independence why not hand us the keys to a happy long lasting marriage? And yes, I can feel your fear creeping up as you read this, after all, people do get divorced.

But can we not teach our daughters to be resourceful and resilient outside the context of a possible divorce? If we teach our daughters how to be resourceful, they will undoubtedly know what to do if her marriage ends, but if we also ensure that she pours a great deal of energy in to the maintenance of her relationship, divorce will only come about when absolutely necessary. One of the great powers money holds is the ability to walk away from a bad marriage, and so our daughters should know how to acquire money even if they don’t work outside the home —every woman should know how to make passive income. Most of us will want to take time off of work when children arrive or even wish to follow our mates if they get a new position in another city, but if the only way we only know how to make money is through a job and we hold the fear of divorce in the back of our minds we will force ourselves to work even when our intuition tells us its best to take a step back.

“Having control over your schedule is the only way that women who want to have a career and a family can make it work.” —Mary Matalin

Another, but I’m sure less popular means of our daughters having money without tying themselves to a 9-5 is through a large dowry. Despite dowries being a part of marriage in Islam, large dowries are often looked down on within the Muslim community because many believe high dowries prevent marriages from occurring —since many men simply can’t afford it. But large dowries needn’t be paid off at once, they can be paid in installments and the security it can offer women usurps all other concerns. I deeply believe every woman (in the West, I couldn’t give an estimate for anywhere else) should make her dowry at least $5,000, this is enough money to pay for a studio apartment for about 3- 5 months in New York City (And several months more if you live in a cheaper city). In Islam there is no concept of alimony and even in the West the concept seems to be waning, despite the notion that women “win big” after divorce, the fact is 1 out of 3 lose their homes, 75% don’t receive full child support and as already mentioned 1 out of 5 will fall in to poverty. So a large dowry allows for a woman to have some finances to depend for at least a short amount of time while she decides what to do post divorce —dowries must be paid off even if the couple divorces. Setting up an allowance could also achieve a similar outcome, as long as it’s contractual and agreed upon before marriage (i.e., not up to the husband’s whims).

Money is not the only way our daughters can protect themselves from devastation post-divorce.

But money is not the only way our daughters can protect themselves from devastation post-divorce, money is only one resource. Yet there are other resources available like having a useful skillset or being economical, having the characteristic of resourcefulness is what matters —essentially an inner power that ensures her if it all falls apart she’ll make a way. But parents are also one of the greatest resources a daughter can have. If her husband commits a devastating offense, she needs to know that she can come back home and her husband needs to know that as well. In fact, deep family ties allow for a woman to more easily get out of a bad situation —in its immediacy than money can. And parents can also set up a monetary emergency fund for their daughters “just in case”. Resourcefulness, passive income, dowry and/or allowance and deep family ties armor more than enough to protect our daughters from staying in awful marriages or being in financial straits if their marriage must come to an end. But the differences between what I’ve mentioned and the insistence on women working outside the home and being independent is that working outside the home and being independent actively takes away energy from the marriage while resourcefulness, passive income, dowry and/or allowance and deep family ties, do not.

Many women of my generation are slowly moving away from the previous generations’ focus on career to one more centered on family, Ann Marie Slaughter quotes Mary Matalin —who worked in the Bush Whitehouse, as saying, “Having control over your schedule is the only way that women who want to have a career and a family can make it work.” (3) Maybe that’s in part because we live in a divorce culture and realize our marriages aren’t just going to work, we’re going to having to make them work. So we choose career paths in consideration of our families, sometimes even before we have one. Women have spent too many days contemplating if they can afford to stay home with a sick child knowing they’d be risking their jobs, too many days longing for more time with their children and too many days chasing after independence for fear that their will be no one to depend on. Is this really what we want to pass on to our daughters? Can we not free them of this fear and give them the possibility not of being independent in a masculine results-driven way but to be independent spirits who let their hearts guide them (while still taking the measures listed above as security).

Teaching our daughters to be interdependent.

What if we shifted more of our focus towards being interdependent? Taught our daughters how to take care of the home and their husbands and their kids, after all, there are tons of programs teaching them how to do good in school, get a career and climb the career ladder, but who is teaching them how to have and maintain their households? It’s not the case that our parents don’t teach us anything about how to have a good marriage —they give us tips here and there and they’re our first go to in times of trouble, but living in a divorce culture, we need so much more than that. We need to know how to “divorce-proof” our marriage as much if not more than we need to know how to take care of our selves in the event of divorce.

We live in a culture where marriage often fails, we need more than pep talks and occasional advice, we need all the help we can get including time to prepare ourselves for a union that so many no longer value but many more of us deeply want to. And we also live in a culture that is in more desperate need of homemakers than ever before —cheap clothes, are made in inhumane factories where men and women are paid slave wages, fast food makes us increasingly sick, too much screen time hurts our memory and socializing capacity, etc. So much of the world’s modern issues could be fixed if more women were able to focus primarily on their households instead of a false sense of independence tied the very corporations that contribute to modern ills. Many women are beginning to realize how valuable their contribution to the home can be, but they don’t have the support of their parents —especially their mothers. If you’re afraid that she’ll be financially dependent and unable to leave a bad marriage —teach her how to be resourceful, and if you’re afraid she won’t know how to take care of herself after a divorce —teach her how to be resilient. But don’t teach her to live in fear, a fear that never allows her to truly live.

1, 2. 1 in 5 Women Experience Post-Divorce Poverty,

3. Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,

This woman’s work

January 5, 2018

Momma and I in my college years“Women have to work.”

This is a statement I rejected from really early on. As a young woman growing up with both parents who worked and shared parenting responsibilities, I always had a distinctly different feeling about my mom working than I had about my dad working. Of course, I need to make it clear, before anyone assumes otherwise, I completely respect my mother’s choice to work now that I am an adult woman. I do not believe women must martyr themselves for the sake of their families, it is a choice and everyone can freely decide for themselves what’s best for their lives. Nevertheless, I certainly wished my mother didn’t work when I was younger up until my late teens (weird, no?), it wasn’t until I was in college that I could begin to respect her as much as I loved her and through that respect of her as an independent adult woman I could appreciate the fact that she was allowed to make choices based on her own desires and was under no obligation to do what I wanted her to do.

That being said, I missed her. It was a distinct missing that I didn’t have for my dad. When my dad was out working it seems noble, when my mom was working I just wished she was home. When my mom was home, home felt like home, there was something that could not be replaced in her absence. Because of my stance on SAHM/Ws many may mistakenly believe I must have been raised by a SAHM myself or that I must have some deep pain associated with my mom working, neither is true. I just knew from a very young age that there was a distinct value her presence gave to our home and to our lives and that I wanted to do the same one day for my own children, that I wanted the home and family to be my main focus.

Momma and I when I was just a baby

I was also fortunate that my mom didn’t have to put us in a nursery/daycare -not that I think she would have, her and my dad juggled their schedules so that one person was always home with the children while the other was at work, and so we always had the fortune of being primarily reared by our parents.

I also felt there was something valuable about serving others from a young age, at thirteen my first niece was born and I became enthralled with being a caregiver, caring for another

human life gave me immense purpose and value, I knew this was something I hoped to do when I have children of my own.

I make a lot of generalized statements on this blog about what I believe to be true whether based on my personal feelings, experience or research but there is no doubt that what is true for most may not be true for all.

When my younger sister gave birth the first thought that came to me after the sheer amazement of the event was this, “Your mother doesn’t owe you anything”. When God speaks in the Quran about mankind being grateful to his mother He says, “His mother carried him with hardship and gave birth to him with hardship”, He does not say “your mother sacrificed her entire life goals and career for you”, what a mother does in the months of carrying us and delivering us is more than enough to make us fall to our knees in gratitude. I do not believe that mothers must or should forsake their lives for their children, but I do believe there is immense value in doing so for both the mother and the children.

As I heard a woman say recently, women have “seasons” in our lives, I wouldn’t mind working before having children and while my husband and I are attempting to work on some specific goals that would be helped by my working, but I couldn’t foresee myself working with young children, or working just for the goal of financial independence, or working when there is no higher purpose in doing so.

There’s a lot more I can say about the value of cooking, cleaning, relationships, balance, etc. but my last thought for now is that we as women should feel comfortable about our life choices as long as its good/halal and we honestly believe it best for our lives and current situation, my hyperfocus on the value of women’s traditional work should not make a woman who decides that working outside the home is best for her, uncomfortable. And if it does, maybe that should be a push for you to reflect on your choices and if it’s really yours or rather an outcome of economic and social pressures.

Happy Friday and have a blessed weekend.

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InshaAllah, our plan is to write our more formal topic based essays on Mondays, book reviews (even if short) on Wednesdays and reflections (which may include bits of my personal life) on Fridays. Hope you’ll enjoy this new format.

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