Commentary

Toxic masculinity, well -what’d you expect?

May 22, 2017

It isn’t uncommon of liberal ideology, in general, to try and piecemeal ideas of the past, without realizing that they worked within an entire way of life -attack religion then try to piece together spirituality and morality, and be left utterly confused and constantly spun around because you lack any core values -homosexuality is good because hey it’s not hurting anybody… transgenders should go in the bathroom they like because of freedom of choice (but women don’t get to choose if they want transwomen in their bathrooms?)… pornography is bad good because it’s liberating (or bad because it exploits women…?) It’s no wonder those of us who are conservative -I use that term in a nonpolitical sense, or religious wonder “what’s next?” since there seems to be no underlying theory behind their movement, except maybe that what is old is quaint and what is new is good. But how do they formulate these new rules concerning goodness and who gets to formulate them? The feminist movement (which is part of the liberal movement) suffers the same confusion -chivalry is bad because it implies that women are weak, modesty is bad because it exerts male control over women, making any distinction between women and men is bad because it allows us to not be treated equally. Then comes the piecemealing, men should not be aggressive to women, show sexual attraction or hit on them because that is sexual harassment. Yet, when there were clear rules regarding male and female interaction there was no need to threaten men with lawsuits, chivalry was expected -and men who dared cross the line were swiftly dealt with, by other men.

But once we as a society take on the feminist assertion that chivalry is sexist, what exactly do we expect will follow? If men are asked not to treat women with any deference because they should treat them the same why are women fighting for things like sexual modesty, honor, and respect? These things can never be given in a vacuum. Men have been convinced -as have women, to believe that men and women are the same -so why are men simultaneously being asked to hold women to a higher standard than themselves?

Women are sending men mixed messages, and I personally feel bad for them. I remember a guy in grad school musing that he didn’t know if he should hold the door for women -is it sexist and offensive or is it still considered good and chivalrous? What I remember is (the classroom filled mostly with women) laughing, but was it really funny? Just the basic rules of conduct between genders have been lost and men, as well as women, are confused. I recall thinking of men who didn’t hold the door as rude but simultaneously feeling bad when they did –You don’t have to do that, I’d think. And no, it’s not as simple as “people should hold the door for people”. Obviously, there is a common level of courtesy that we should all exert to one another, but there is a very big difference none-the-less between common courtesy and chivalry. Holding the door long enough for the person behind you to come in is one thing, but chivalry is a man opening the door for a woman and letting her go first.

But who cares, right? We can all hold our own doors.

And this is why we have “toxic masculinity” (“Toxic masculinity is a narrow and repressive description of manhood, designating manhood as defined by violence, sex, status, and aggression.”). Firstly, let’s be clear that the term is clearly women’s experience of men, it is not objective. And that is partly the point. If and when men treat us equally, we feel the force of their masculinity as brutish. In reality, they are just being themselves with no consideration for you, just as requested -equality. Why do I and many other women experience something as simple as a man not holding a door as rude? Because men have a superior physical strength to women and doing things like holding doors is a symbolic gesture that says “I choose to use my physical strength to protect you not hurt you”. When the door closes in our face or even when they simply hold the door only long enough for us to grab on and hold it for ourselves instead of opening it and allowing us to go first, it signals to us that we are not protected and if it comes down to physicality, he wins.

For the first time in Jordan, I experienced another chivalric gesture. Anytime a man saw me -or any woman, waiting for an elevator, they’d take the stairs. We didn’t have to spend two minutes of discomfort together in a small square space, I didn’t have to worry about sexual assault or rape -no, I don’t think those things are so common that one should worry about it every time you enter an elevator, but it was a signal from those men to us women that we were safe from them. It was also a small sacrifice to say they’d rather the bother of taking steps than making any woman feel uncomfortable.

When men are able to recognize their superior physical strength and use it to protect women, they do not need laws and conferences to scold them about toxic masculinity. But when women make men afraid and ashamed of their physical differences, when they belittle them by asserting that chivalry is no longer needed. Then we begin to experience men, full strength and unfiltered. It is similar to what has happened with women, we were told modesty is blasé so we began to strip ourselves of our clothing and put our full feminine beauty on display, now men experience our complete lure, the veil of modesty has gone so they are no longer inspired to court us, they instead ogle and pant like hunting dogs -what we call sexual harassment.

Male aggressiveness and female sexuality were dressed in the cloaks of chivalry and modesty for a reason. The world without both is one filled with chaos where men don’t know how to treat women and women don’t know what to expect from men. You cannot piecemeal aspects of chivalry through and ever growing list of laws and academic terms and expect to piece together an honorable man. Nor can you preach that women should be able to do whatever they want and still expect the full respect of men. Chivalry and modesty go hand in hand -if you want one you better be working for the other as well. We’ve gained nothing but broken societies and confused people when we pretend men and women are the same, we are not, we’re different in important ways and once we value that women will no longer have to fear men, for they will use their strength to protect us.

Another post about hijab

May 20, 2016

jersey-hijab-for-women-13First, let’s just face the fact that hijab may for eternity be a topic of discussion. As much as we may attempt to declare that it’s just a choice or just a scarf the questions surrounding hijab continue. Recently one of my Facebook friends who is somewhat of a public figure decided to take off their hijab. I wrote a comment of support under her post. Not support of her taking off her hijab but the support of her choice to make a decision based on the circumstances of our time.

When it comes to wearing hijab in the modern age -if you live in the West, I don’t believe there’s a one size fits all solution. Hijab is an obligation and no reputable scholar (that I’ve come across thus far) has said otherwise. Not wearing hijab -I refer only to the headscarf as hijab in this post, is not listed in the section of enormities in Reliance of the Traveller, one of the greatest books summarizing Shafi’i law. The only time I’ve heard it mentioned as a major sin is when it is mixed in with a hadith mentioning women who are clothed yet naked not going to paradise:

“There are two types of the people of Hell whom I have not seen: men in whose hands are whips like the tails of cattle, with which they beat the people, and women who are clothed yet naked, maa’ilaat mumeelaat, with their heads like the humps of camels, tilted to one side. They will not enter Paradise nor even smell its fragrance.

But it seems like a far stretch to categorize women who don’t cover their hair with the women the prophet, peace to him, mentioned in this hadith. So I mention it as not being a major sin just to put it in perspective that we are not talking abot a sin akin to blasphemy or adultery. Strictly speaking, a woman is ordered to cover everything except her hands and face -some scholars include feet in what can be shown, some exclude it. For this reason, I never understood the stress on covering the hair in particular. Many women feel comfortable showing parts of their arms, neck, ears, legs, chest and would in the same breath condemn women who show their hair.

“Asma’ bint Abi Bakr entered upon the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) wearing a thin dress. The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) turned away from her and said, “O Asma’, when a woman reaches the age of puberty, nothing should be seen of her except this and this” – and he pointed to his face and hands.”

Yet my issue with hijab -or rather my issue with the way the Muslim community deals with hijab, is largely my feeling that it comes from a place of sexism and control. Imam Zaid and Shaykh Rami Nsour are two of the few scholars I’ve heard encourage men to also wear something on their head in solidarity with Muslim women. But far too many men demand of women a strength in the face of hardship that they do not demand of themselves. Far too many men are not interested or concerned about the safety of their Muslim sisters as much as they are about her covering. Far too many would rather judge a woman who decides to take off her hijab instead understanding why she has.

When we approach this issue with an intention of understanding  we wouldn’t be surprised when women choose to take off their hijab or struggle to wear it. Our beloved, peace to him, promised us that Islam would become more difficult to practice as time moves forward:

“There will come a time of patience when the one who adheres steadfastly to his religion will be like one who holds a burning coal.”

This is not an excuse to take off the hijab but it is a reminder to men and to women who find hijab easy to wear that they should approach women who take off hijab off struggle to wear it with kindness and understanding, maybe for them wearing hijab has become like holding a piece of hot coal.

I don’t know what the world will look like in the coming years, but chances are things won’t get easier for Muslims living in secular societies. At some point we may have to hide our faith, leave our countries, or live in seclusion. But what we must keep hold of is our prophet, peace to him, and God. We have to continuously attempt to do our best and be sincere and that will look different for each of us.

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In The Days Of Noor: The Impact Of Mothers

March 27, 2016

Have we begun to devalue the importance of mothers and does in align with the social science data on the impact of mothers on their children? That is what this episode explores.

Prefer YouTube? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5KFz7Y8IO7k

In The Days Of Noor: “Male Abortion”

March 15, 2016

If you’ve benefited from this audio please consider donating, I’m currently studying Arabic abroad and would appreciate your financial support. Thank you. Donate here: bythefigandtheolive.com/donate/

“Don’t kill your children out of fear of poverty…”

March 14, 2016

smiling-babyAbortion is a difficult and emotional issue. It is far too often empty of concrete facts and statistics. In a typical pro-life vs. pro-choice debate -when pro choicers seems particularly desperate for an argument they’ll site incest and rape -“Would you force a woman to give birth to her rapist’s baby?” And we are often told abortion is not an easy decision for women to make. The typical ‘her body her choice’, can’t honestly continue in our current scientific environment when we know a separate heartbeat is developed only weeks after conception.

I first doubted how often women aborted their children because of rape or incest and secondly the idea that often seems all too insensitive -that many women abort their children out of convenience, seemed like a real possibility to me. After all in an environment of sexual promiscuity it is more than likely that the man a woman decides to have sex with is not the man she wants as the father or her child, it is also highly likely that in this environment she is having sexual intercourse with a consequence free mindset and the child she conceives is neither planned no wanted, i.e. a big inconvenience.

Accordingly to a study by Finer, et. al. entitled “Reasons U.S. Women Have Abortions: Quantitative and Qualitative Perspectives.” The tragic picture of a rape victim conceiving her rapist child as a reason for abortion was %1 -abortion as a result of incest was less than .5%. The first and primary reason women gave for abortion was precisely inconvenience, 74% felt “having a baby would dramatically change my life” (which includes interrupting education, interfering with job and career, and/or concern over other children or dependents)”. 73% -most women gave two or three primary reasons for their abortion, reported, “…they “can’t afford a baby now” (due to various reasons such as being unmarried, being a student, inability to afford childcare or basic needs of life, etc.)” Other reasons included not wanting others to know they were pregnant, not wanting to be a single mother, being finish with childbearing, not feeling mature enough to raise a child, partner or parent wanting them to have an abortion, not feeling mature enough to raise a child and health problems with themselves or the fetus (See a full summary of results and percentages here).

When we hear of a poor family giving off their young daughter in marriage in some far away country, we cringe. When we hear of a new-born being left to die because of fear of poverty, our heart breaks. We sympathize with the family, the woman and their hardship but we are still able to recognize their injustice and qualify it as immoral. Is the silence of the baby in the womb the only reason we cannot realize the injustice of killing them? And now that we know “The fifth week of pregnancy, or the third week after conception, marks the beginning of the embryonic period… when the baby’s brain, spinal cord, heart and other organs begin to form…” (2) We can no longer pretend the baby is a mere attachment of the woman’s body, that is simply antiquated and unscientific.

There’s a character in the book ‘Beloved’ by Toni Morrison who, upon the fear of being enslaved, kills her children. This horrendous scene sparks in me an unbearable amount of sadness. The enslavement of Africans in America is one of the most horrendous crimes to happen on the face of this planet. The character Sethe who decides to kill her baby knows that pain first hand -a lifetime of forced work, abuse, and rape. If there is any scenario in which one could empathize with a mother killing her children this would be it. But our empathy for this character does not overrides what we know as a moral truth, the basic human right to life. When she is imprisoned we sympathize, but we clearly acknowledge what she did was a crime.

In the holy scripture that serves as a blueprint for my life, God says “And do not kill your children for fear of poverty. We provide for them and for you. Indeed, their killing is ever a great sin.” (Quran, 17:31). In the depth of our souls I think we all can agree killing another human being for no just reason is a moral sin and a heinous crime. But before we attempt to or even become interested in reversing roe v. wade we have to tell the truth, the truth about life, the truth about why woman have abortions and the truth about morality. We should not be interested in simply making abortion illegal which may only cause abortions to go underground, we have to be interested in opening people hearts and minds, we have change the culture, the pro-choice movement cannot continue under its cloud of fallacies but the pro-life movement will never reach the masses if it does not understand why women end up in the abortion clinic in the first place.

Image source: here

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Commentary on work vs home

November 17, 2015

tumblr_m9fi3fUZ4H1r7v8w6o1_540“I would argue that, if anything, the fact that she raised five children and devoted her life to providing them with a safe, secure, balanced family life is a tribute to her.  She has contributed greatly to society by creating self-sufficient, independent children who are self-reliant and, hopefully, good and decent folk.” Link

This argument has been my battle cry since I was a kid though it’s more of a whimper now -women should “stay” at home. In Islam women are not obligated to work to financially maintain themselves or anyone else -no it doesn’t matter if she’s a widow, unmarried, young or old, she is always under the care of the men in society. Of course we know this is not always followed but this is a part of the Islamic tradition. When women dare desire to be a stay at home wife we’re often met with retorts of how impractical that is these days. Polygamy in the west is just as impractical but you’ll find few Muslim men berate the institution. In my former blog I wrote quite a bit about this topic and was always very clear about my views on women working which have been negative for some time. But the truth is that the argument is unnecessarily polarized.

There’s no way I’d finish my degree in psychology at my current masters level or at the doctorate level then proceed to get married have kids and never use those skills I worked so hard to obtain. The question is not really and either or but a how, when and what. In no uncertain terms I believe as per my faith and my personal conviction a women should never be forced to work to provide income to her family that is her husbands’ responsibility. To think otherwise is to degrade the institution of marriage, family and femininity. To say that the women should work also is to imply that if she stays at home she’s not working, lazy and needs to be an adult get a job and contribute. But women in the home do contribute, they are responsible for the running of a household, for looking after others, and creating an environment of solace and peace for their spouse and children. Would anyone think a women running a small business is lazy? Yet a stay at home mom does equal if not more than a CEO of a small business so how is her work devalued? She not only runs the household management but cooks, cleans, decorates, plays conflict resolution and ensures the well being of those in her household, yet somehow this deserves no credit?

So women work, women will always work no matter the setting and whether or not there is monetary gain. But I think it’s important to note that not working a 9-5 does not mean not working in any way to for monetary gain. Though I desire to primarily stay at home when/if I get married and have children I also plan to work in some way all my life. In the beginning of a marriage I imagine having a job as a part time professor, writing, teaching various Islamic studies, and continuing to explore the world of online business. If there are young children I’d stop working outside the home to primarily be at home with them, teaching would stop but maybe I’d have some online classes, I’d still be writing, online business would hopefully keep going. To keep within the psychology field I probably attend monthly lectures to be in the loop and maybe do a speaking engagement here and there. When the kids got older if they were in school I could resume some teaching outside the home assuming they may have there own classes to attend or could sit down and be still while I taught. When they’re much older I’d be free to work outside the home if I choose though flexible time would remain important, etc., etc. The point is working or staying at home aren’t really at complete odds. Women with degrees shouldn’t throw it all away if they can avoid it but they also shouldn’t feel pressure to dive in an ignore the call of domesticity, wifehood and motherhood.

In reality I think we should all work more flexible hours both men and women. There is so much life to live, so much to explore, and when you have little people around why resist the urge to give them the best you can, they’re only young once. Though I promote, support and believe in men as bread winners and women primarily as domestic engineers in reality it is both women and men who have forgotten the importance and primacy of the family. We’ve all left the home to financially support it but who is supporting the spirit of the home? If both men and women are working 9-5, watching 3 hours of TV a day while Jimbob’s (naturally your kid’s name) is on the computer, the answer is simply ‘no one’ how is that a decent trade off for a few more bucks?

The End of Fast Fashion

November 9, 2015

Watch this and make an effort to live more consciously.

Minimalism vs. Versatility

October 16, 2015

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“When the earth is shaken with its [final] earthquake. And the earth discharges its burdens. And man says, “What is with it?” -That Day, it will report its news. Because your Lord has commanded it. That Day, the people will depart separated [into categories] to be shown [the result of] their deeds. So whoever does an atom’s weight of good will see it, And whoever does an atom’s weight of evil will see it.” 99, 1-8

After reading what I thought to be two excellent articles on the “slow fashion, pay per wear, capsule wardrobe, wear the same thing everyday… movement” I was both surprised and unsurprised by the commentary below both articles. Both had the same basic idea, buy less and get more out of what you wear. One of the articles focused mostly on cost, buy good quality clothes that you love less often and pay a significant price for them forcing yourself to put more thought behind each purchase. The writer specifically suggested not purchasing anything less than $150, just enough to make the spender a bit more self aware. The comments on this article ranged from people who thought the idea was ridiculous and people who thought the writer was out of touch to those who didn’t think it made a difference in terms of what the clothing factory worker would be paid. Is a $150 shirt really guaranteeing the worker get paid more than the $15 shirt or is it merely putting more money in to the designers’ hand? On the second article it emphasized being iconic, less stressed, and less time wasted on choosing from a plethora of outfit choices. I understood the negative feedback on the first article since telling people to spend more money on something they can get for significantly less is never going to be popular, the negative feedback on the second article came in a more interesting form -what about versatility? What about those who enjoy choosing a new outfit every morning?

I was really surprised by the second round of feedback. It’s a good point, if you love fashion then why wouldn’t you want to enjoy a versatile closet and a range of choices? And if, to tie it in to the first batch of commentary, there is nothing to show workers get paid more if you buy less but more expensive items, what’s the real incentive?

Firstly I’d have to say the mistake the first article made was to not also emphasize and encourage buying American made clothes and clothes made from any country in which there are regulatory laws on work environment, places were unions and minimum wage exists. My guess is that anyplace -besides America, in Western Europe would abide by those standards, I’m sure there are other places but that would take some research. The last time I went shopping at a local store in my neighborhood I was pleasantly surprised to find two garments that were ‘made in America’ and both were less than $50. Another issue that should be further emphasized is the environment. The more we continue to produce tons of stuff we don’t need we hurt the environment, buying less allows us not to continue to contribute to the earth’s burden. Something we usually forget and will forever stick with me (God willing) from the documentary ‘No Impact Man‘, “‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ is in order of importance”. If we refuse to reduce or reuse at the very least we must recycle and give our old clothes to those in need.

I sometimes think about how much money I spend on myself compared to others and I must say it’s shameful. The amount of money we spend on frivolous things to make our selves feel better, to raise our self esteem, to express our selves, the less money we have to spend on the things that actually matter. Imagine what would happen if we bought just %15 less clothing items and allocated that money to the poor or to a worthy cause. For me that is the greatest motivation behind the movement that can be simply put as “being more intentional with one’s time and money”.

Here are the articles I referred to and one bonus which I also love:

  1. The Case For Expensive Clothes
  2. Wearing The Same Clothes EveryDay

Bonus: hello.jcrew.com/2014-10-oct/alice-gregory

WE NEED OUR SHUYUKH

June 5, 2015

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“There has been nothing greater in my life after the shahada than following the tariq”
-Sheikh Nuh

There are real sheikhs out there who abuse their students. I think most of the abuse is spiritual and sometimes marital –if a student becomes a wife, and despite some reactionaries I think it is rarely sexual. A simple reason is that men and women have such strict boundaries that physically inappropriate behavior is very unlikely. A man and woman being in a closed room together would ring off alarm bells in the Muslim community. And both parties involved know that sex outside of marriage is blatantly impermissible. This is something we take very seriously in the Muslim community. But men do take advantage of their students through emotional and spiritual manipulation. How often does this occur? I don’t know. Many criticized Ustadha Zaynab for not naming names but I think it is as wise of her not to do so. To name names would be to give the false illusion that if we just get rid of a few bad apples the problem will dissolve itself. But the problem isn’t (just) the particular men engaged in spiritual abuses but the behavior that all men in that position and the women in their lives should be very aware of and make the ultimate effort to carry themselves with adab and avoid the pitfalls of “shaykhy crushes”.

As someone in a tariqa I believe in the value of having a personal guide. I think it’s unfortunate for Ustadha Zaynab’s article to be used as an excuse to “cast suspicion over our teachers” or to no longer venerate them. There are few things greater than taking baya (oath) with a sheikh and dedicating one’s self to a spiritual path. It is not for everyone, but for some like myself would be incomplete without it. People will say bad things about any sheikh, especially if he is popular, as a mureed I would advise anyone considering a tariqa to watch their potential sheikh closely for themselves. When I wanted to become a mureed I went to my sheikh’s wife and she advised me to wait; read the sheikh’s book, listen to his lectures and make istikara before making the decision. Our trust is in Allah and following a sheikh –someone more knowledgeable than you who has been on the path longer than you, is a means to do so.

“Whoever thinks the path is closed should wonder if he has not therefore closed it on himself”
-Sheikh Nuh

Some are under the mistaken belief that there simply are no true sheikhs left. That’s not how God works, the doors of mercy are always open and saints are always among us. There are a lot of rotten people who want mureeds to follow them for their own desires but there are still sheikhs who are teachers only for the sake of Allah. I remember before becoming a mureed listening to a lecture with Sheikh Nuh where he said “Ask Allah to guide you, that is one dua that is always answered”. The solution to the problem of spiritual abuse is not to simply “turn away from our sheikhs” as I’ve seen some readers comment on Ustadha Zayab’s article; it is to turn back to Allah. The Sheikh is a means, not an end. Before I left for home (from Jordan) I went to the Zawiya for the Latifiyyah lecture. As I walked up the steps I became almost frightened, “Where is Sheikh Nuh?!?” I thought. The prominent voice broadcasted throughout the Zawiya wasn’t his. I turn back and started to make my way home until I came across a friend who said to me “You’re coming back, right?” In that moment I said to myself “What are you doing? The tariq is not about Sheikh Nuh it’s about Allah” And I went up and made my dhikr.

“The shariah is higher than the sheikh”
-Sheikh Nuh

One of the signs of a true sheikh is his knowing that the law is above him. And you should know the law is above him. We all have, now more than ever, practical means to learn fiqh. If someone claims to be a sheikh (of any kind) and does not sacrilege shariah, leave them. The very least anyone of us can do is avoid the haram and do the obligatory; a sheikh should be an example and avoid the makruh as well. God’s law is higher than any sheikh and if you want to protect yourself from spiritual abuse you must know the law by which to judge the sheikh’s behavior.

Our community is in desperate need of a religious revival. Anyone who takes Ustadha Zaynab’s article as a means to turn away from shuykuh has come to a dangerous conclusion. The solution to poor human interaction is to improve it, not to end it, especially when what’s at stake is the acquisition of Islamic knowledge, and knowledge is the right of every believer, wherever he finds it, he takes it.

How does that make you feel?

May 31, 2015

How does that make you feel?
Introspection is a very important part of the work of a psychological. Talking about king the silence, explaining emotions, reflecting on reactions are all valuable to move the clinical process forward. That does not mean it has a place in life outside the clinician’s room. Even in the clinician’s room the process is frustrating and akward. Having a spouse ask you ‘how that makes you feel’ or to reflect on a given emotional action is less valuable in real life. In real life the primary goal is not merely self reflection but creating better relationships -which self reflection enables you to do. And example is when some says “I’m sorry I you felt that way” instead of acknowledging the hurt you are responsible for, rightly or wrongly, you place the focus on the person who is hurt and their responsibilities for the emotions. Self reflection on why things make you feel the way they make you feel is a valuable to for self growth but in a relationship acknowledging the other person is hurt without acknowledging your role in their hurt can lead to rejection and distance.

Childhood connection
Lots of people I the psychological field *don’t* care about a person’s childhood and don’t think it’s necessary in understanding someone or helping them change. Not everything is connected to your childhood and trying to connect everyone’s bad behavior to that time long ago is not only painfully annoying but shallow and deterministic. Over the course of several sessions -sometimes lasting years, psychologists concerned with childhood connection can do so in a valuable way that frees the client and help them to reflect and heal. Casual conversations about so and so being like such and such because of their childhood do neither and are too often and excuse rather than a starting point for change.

Psychological parlance in everyday language
Islamopobia, homophobia, transphobia, etc. Why?!? A phobia is a psychological disorder, none of the “phobias” listed above are. I suppose people think they’ll be taken more seriously if they use scientific language. People may very well be afraid of Islam, homosexuality or transgender and I’m not against it having a word but why conflate clinical psychological disorder and the everyday dislike or even hate for a particular group.

In short, be a normal person and just make things better when you’ve hurt someone instead of assessing their psychological state, be empathetic with the person you have in front of you instead of with their assumed childhood, hate can be taken seriously without giving it pseudo scientific names….

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