Commentary

There is no gender pay gap, But that doesn’t mean the workplace is fair to women (3/3)

February 12, 2018

Gender Differences

While the biggest gender pay gap is not merely between men and women but rather between married women with children and everyone else, there is still a gender pay gap between single childless women and men. The gender pay gap between single (childless) women compared to men is $0.04, $0.96 for every man’s $1.00. So while it’s not dramatic, what might be the issue there? As we said in part one, “In discussing how we can make the workplace more women-friendly we have to have a discussion about the differences between men and women…”, let’s talk about a few differences that occur outside of marriage and babies.

Risk-taking Averse

For one, women are more risk-averse than men —on the whole, this is neither a good or bad thing, but in specific cases, it could be one or the other. In the case of asking for a raise and negotiating a salary our risk-aversion work against us and in favor of men.

A Harvard study concluded, “The authors found that when there was no explicit statement that wages are negotiable, men were more likely to negotiate than women,” when the wage negotiation was explicit women were just as likely as men to negotiate the salary. If we’re serious about closing the wage then more women need to be willing to take that risk. Now, we do have to acknowledge it is a risk, you can ask for too much and be denied a job and so it isn’t as if there aren’t negative consequences to taking that risk but women should at least know a negotiation is an option they can choose even if it’s not explicitly mentioned. And yes, of course, companies should explicitly state their salary as negotiable.

When women and men are offered jobs risk-taking behavior also plays a role, “A survey of masters’ students entering new jobs indicated that female students were likely to take the first offer of pay, while male students were eight times more likely to attempt negotiating a higher starting salary”. Ex-CEO Ellen Pat’s solution to this was to eliminate the possibility for salary negotiations in her company, as I mentioned in part 1 of this essay series, we cannot create so-called solutions that are essentially “Fairness for women and injustice to men”. We don’t need to discourage men from appropriate risk-taking we need to encourage women to take appropriate risks or at least teach them how to do so. This is a skill that should be taught in high school, college or career training programs. Once women know how to successfully take the risk they can choose to do so or not, that would level the playing field in a way that benefits women but does not hurt men.

$.24 vs $.04

There is newer research that suggests men and women ask for raises at the same rate and women are simply given raises less often or given negative feedback after asking, but most of the research on this subject overwhelming reports that is not the case, men ask far more —so we ought to take this newer research with a grain of salt until there are more studies with similar outcomes. This is not to deny the existence of sexism as a force that holds women back, the lack of support for mothers is a form of sexism, “But the failure to negotiate higher pay is crucial. Research shows men are four times more likely than women to ask for a salary raise.”

Women have to be taught how to assess and take appropriate risks in the workplace, this is not a skill that comes naturally to us —and in many cases, that’s a good thing, but in the workplace, a little risk-taking pays off. Yet, we must remember that when we rule motherhood out of the equation we are only talking about a $.04 gap —important but not as significant as a $0.24 gap. And when we focus on only the wage gap we’re missing out on a much bigger issue, workplaces that don’t accommodate women with families, workplaces that force them to choose between family and work, a choice that isn’t fair to women or their families. We can and must do better than that.

________

Resources:

+Gender Differences in Risk Aversion and Ambiguity Aversion, http://www.nber.org/papers/w14713

+Why Men Are 3 Times More Likely Than Women to Succeed in Salary Negotiations, http://fortune.com/2016/05/02/woman-negotiation-success/

+Do Women Avoid Salary Negotiations? Evidence from a Large Scale Natural Field Experiment, http://gap.hks.harvard.edu/do-women-avoid-salary-negotiations-evidence-large-scale-natural-field-experiment

+Research Stating ‘Women Ask For Pay Raises As Much As Men’ Is Misleading, https://www.forbes.com/sites/kimelsesser/2016/09/07/research-stating-women-ask-for-pay-raises-as-much-as-men-is-just-wrong/#6f7259a53983

+Ask For A Raise? Most Women Hesitate, https://www.npr.org/2011/02/14/133599768/ask-for-a-raise-most-women-hesitate 

+How to Fix Feminism, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/12/opinion/sunday/how-to-fix-feminism.html

There is no gender pay gap, but that doesn’t mean the workplace is fair to women (Part 2/3)

February 5, 2018

So how can we make the workplace more friendly to women, esp. women with children? Here are a few ideas:

Baby on board

One businesswoman, I’ve always looked up to was Rachel Zoe, she seems to have it all —the man, the business, the baby. But she became even more of a hero to me when she opened a nursery in her office about two years ago. About the decision, she said, “I wanted to create an environment where these new mothers wouldn’t have to make a choice between career and motherhood.” Opening nurseries in the workplace would make it easier for new moms to return to work, it allows mothers to both stays engaged in the workforce and in their child’s life, especially for those mothers who may want to breastfeed. In my alma mater, Teacher’s College Columbia University there were nursing rooms where the mother could feed their children. These spaces say, “you are welcome”, spaces that are welcoming to moms are women-friendly work environments.

Flextime

Flextime allows women to work the same amount of hours during the week but within their schedule. A mom with young children may opt out of the higher position at work or may cut back in her hours to spend more time with her children but she may not have to make that choice if her time was flexible. If she could work longer hours on fewer days, or work evenings instead of daytime or work weekends instead of weekdays, etc. she may be more able to stay in the workforce. Many women prefer balance and therefore would greatly benefit from flexible hours.

Work from home

Can she work from home? While many workplaces still demand their workers come in from 9-5pm it often isn’t necessary. If an employees job is largely comprised of using a computer and they have significant family responsibilities (like a new mom), why not let that employee work from home? If the work is quality and turned in on time, what difference does it make? A slight alternative to this is allowing employers to spend part of their workday working from home and to be present in the office on set days and hours, example, they must come in for 2 hours on Monday and Friday, that way they’re available for things like staff meetings but are able to work from home and attend to family needs most of the week.

Part-time

Some women are forced to leave their job if they aren’t able to work full time. This all or nothing attitudes pushes women out of the workplace unnecessarily, find ways to allow her to work part time especially after childbirth, other employees may be happy to pick up the slack and extra pay until she’s able to come back full time.

So, while I strongly believe women-friendly policies must focus on women with families since that is when women are most likely to “fall off” their career track and that is the group amongst women the largest pay gap as compared to men, some may still be tempted to ask How do we explain the gender pay gap between single men and women? That’s where I believe gendered differences do in fact play a significant role.

There is no gender pay gap, but that doesn’t mean the workplace is fair to women (Part 1/3)

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.

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, http://www.thelawcorner.com/news/1-5-women-experience-post-divorce-poverty

3. Why Women Still Can’t Have It All, https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/07/why-women-still-cant-have-it-all/309020/

More women are asking: Why should I suffer?

October 31, 2017

Marriage is an institution that forms the foundation of society. Marriage provides order, security, and protection through stable relationships and deep ties to other human beings. Ideally, it also provides love and companionship. But I would never suggest —along with the author of the Unexpected Legacy of Divorce (who painted a grim picture of life after divorce for the products of those broken unions), that anyone should sacrifice their personal happiness in marriage for the greater good of upholding the institution. No one wants to go back in time to a place where women stayed in bad marriages primarily because of the social stigma attached to divorce, this is part of the reason the divorce epidemic becomes a difficult problem to address. On a societal level, divorce is bad (One reason among many, it increases the number of children living in poverty who will then need to rely on government assistance —our tax dollars, see how personal decisions affect the whole?), and we need to address how we can decrease its occurrence, but on an individual level, no one can tell a woman or man who wants to divorce that they shouldn’t. No one knows the individual pain that both parties have suffered and so the decision is theirs alone.

It’s ironic that many magazines, publications, and speakers focus on how a woman can “keep a man,” in reality, there should be more of a focus on men “keeping their women,” since 70% of divorces are initiated by women. Women are often the ones to identify issues in the marriage, initiate resolution and initiate divorce when they feel the time is right. In reflecting on why this might be the case I came to the conclusion that many women may come to a point where they simply ask, Why should I suffer?

Despite the popular depiction of men having to be dragged to the altar, it’s actually men and not women who benefit most from marriage. Married men make more money than their unmarried peers (An average of $16,000 more), “In general, marriage seems to increase the earning power of men on the order of 10 to 24 percent,” as cited in the National Review (1). They also have more and better quality sex than their unmarried peers (51>39). Lastly, they’re healthier than their single male counterparts. Strange enough, the comment section of this National Review article is filled with men regurgitating negative stereotypes about marriage despite having just been given evidence that marriage benefits men… I guess ignorance really is bliss?

But what about women? Well, their health doesn’t seem to benefit, they make less, not more money —not due to a “pay gap” but to the fact that, “women, more so than men, subordinate themselves and their careers to their relationship, their children, and the careers of their husbands.” Along with this, “Women on average do more of the unpaid and undervalued work of households, they work more each day, and they are more aware of this inequality than their husbands. They are more likely to sacrifice their individual leisure and career goals for marriage.” (2)

This is part of the reason why I focus so much on the value of housewifery if you’re a woman who’s not only working but also contributing far more to housework and childcare (while also stalling your own career success to do so), eventually, you may not see much value in marriage. And statistics reaffirm my gut feeling, “Compared to non-working women, those with a full-time job have a 29 percent higher odds of divorce. Women who work more hours are found to have a higher divorce risk.” (3)

Marriage no longer has a unique benefit to women —most men are no longer primary breadwinners while simultaneously not doing an even share of housework and childcare, is it any wonder that once the love is gone, women ask themselves why they should suffer, and find no reason why they ought to? And while children are still a good reason to suffer through a less than satisfying marriage, the social stigma of divorce —even when children are involved, has largely been removed, as Eleanor Holmes Norton puts it quite plainly, “With children no longer the universally accepted reason for marriage, marriages are going to have to exist on their own merits.” If we want to keep this institution alive, maybe there need to be more national conversations on how men can “keep your women,” otherwise women who don’t seem to reap many benefits from marriage will continue to walk away, and that’s bad news for all of us.

Sources:

1— Hey Guys, Put a Ring on It, bit.ly/2lupgha

2— Women are less happy than men in marriage, but society pretends it isn’t true, read.bi/2gVQWyC

3— Working women more likely to seek divorce, ind.pn/2zkoEFD

4— 1 in 5 Women Experience Post-Divorce Poverty, bit.ly/2z1sVuU

_________

Want to donate to the blog? Click here: bythefigandtheolive.com/donate

Tuning out the kids

August 21, 2017

In 1965, mothers spent a daily average of 54 minutes on childcare activities, while moms in 2012 averaged almost twice that at 104 minutes per day. Fathers’ time with children nearly quadrupled — 1965 dads spent a daily average of just 16 minutes with their kids, while today’s fathers spend about 59 minutes a day caring for them.

Parents fifty years ago spent less time with their kids than parents today. That’s a bit surprising since it was more likely for a mom to stay at home back then and people, in general, worked fewer hours, yet somehow parents didn’t use their extra time back in the day to spend with their kids.

How is it that parents spend more time with their kids today than in the past? And how is it that increased parental involvement -which usually means better outcomes for kids, has occurred in the same time period in which childhood psychopathology has increased? From a basic human point of view, the more scarce time is the more you’ll try to jam pack into it. So maybe precisely because parents have less time, in general, they attempt to spend that extra time with their children.

Then there’s the fact that these days a lot of marriages end in divorce. The time that you might have allotted to your spouse now gets allocated to kids. But there’s also something else -people are quite afraid to let their kids be kids.

In today’s world, the idea that you’d simply let your child go outside and play is losing traction. Going outside to play has been replaced with organized activities and accompanying parents, hanging out with neighborhood kids has been replaced with organized play dates and accompanying parents.

And this may also answer my secondary inquiry -could it be that in our modern environment children are increasingly being treated like adults and therefore once innocent childlike behaviors are seen as serious cause for concern? Maybe a part of preserving childhood is the adult’s ability to tune out children. Kids are noisy, weird, a bit too talkative and a myriad of other characteristics that aren’t acceptable for adults. But if we give them a bit of space the kinks will probably work themselves out.

Bipolar disorder -a mood disorder in which you move between euphoria and depression, changed is diagnostic qualifications for kids in the 1990s to include children who had highs and lows in a matter of minutes -instead of weeks at a time as diagnosed for adults. Unsurprisingly this led to an increase in the disorder being diagnosed in children and them subsequently being prescribed medication for it, yet the behavior -going from crying one minute to being elated the next, isn’t new in children -but the way we view it is.

ADHD is another questionable disorder that has had a dramatic rise in children -kids not being able to pay attention for very long is nothing new. The adults viewing the children and their environment is what’s new, kids are still just kids. Maybe -and this feels ironic to say as someone who undoubtedly supports stay at home moms, especially in the early days of childhood, it might be said that one skill needed in in all caregivers is the ability to tune kids out. Maybe we need to spend less one on one time with them -while still being available, so we’re not so stressed out by their mood swings that we go to the nearest doctor to medicate them.

And it’s also true -though I won’t expand on it much now, that our environments have changed too dramatically and become far too unfriendly for children. Maybe we ought to forget spending more money on computers in the classroom and instead invest that money into playgrounds. It’s not normal for children to have the pressure of adults hovering over them so often and increasingly have little time to just be kids, use their imagination, explore their surroundings and have some screen free fun.

 

_________

 

Want to learn more about childhood and society? See my upcoming course, here: nooralshadhili.com/childhoodandsociety

Thought crimes of a concerned citizen

August 15, 2017

Unsurprisingly the word “bigot” was thrown my way after writing last week’s post about liberal attitudes towards transgender people. In one sense it’d be fair if I assumed the person who thought that insult appropriate couldn’t have possibly read my entire essay –but I’m not that naive. If homosexuality or transgender(ism?) is questioned in even the most thoughtful of manners people will assume that you are only dressing up your hatred. As I heard someone say, some time ago, “Why don’t you just admit it, you think homosexuality is gross”. Who knows, maybe that’s true, but even if it were true, arguments deserve to be defeated by counter arguments not merely by accusations concerning the beliefs and character of the arguer.

Yet something more than that concerns me when even an inquiry into the LGBTQ movement or why someone might choose that lifestyle is shunned the shunners are also doing some dressing up of their own. Their acceptance is only a dress up for their apathy, it’s to say I’m not interested in why you are the way you are because I don’t care so let me instead pretend as I “accept” you. When in reality, I couldn’t’ care less about you –which is why I’m not interested in hearing your story.

I recall sitting in a class in grad school where we were discussing the case of a promiscuous homosexual man. I brought up what I thought was an obvious point but had thus far been ignored in the conversation, which was to inquire as to whether or not this man being abused as a boy –by an older man, and his father being promiscuous (with women) might not have led to his current behavior.

The professor began to agree with me before quickly stopping himself and saying we shouldn’t “pathologize homosexuality”, discussion over -I’d committed the thought crime of going against the “born this way” ideology by suggesting that past events could affect current behavior-which would have been an acceptable line of thought on almost every other topic except sexuality.

So whether a man has become homosexual in connection with being abused as a child or a woman is promiscuous in connection with being raped as a teenager, we’ll never know –and no I’m not suggesting a simplistic  if x, then y explanation for all sexual behaviour –human being is far more complicated than that, but if we’re not even allowed to ask those questions -who does that serve? And how accepting we you really if we don’t even care to know.

Commentary: If “Transwomen are women” what do they have to “reveal”?

August 8, 2017

Liberals have been pushing the idea that, “transwomen are women” anyone who —daringly or mistakenly, “misgenders” them ought to be ready for the wrath that will ensue. Transwomen are women (they say). Youtube channels like Queer Kids, in fact, encourage us to ask strangers what pronoun they’d like to be called in the same way we’d ask someone what their name is. Gender is no longer an obvious link to biological sex, it is whatever anyone feels themselves to be. They’ve so beaten this idea into us that even conservatives politely refer to Caitlyn Jenner as “she”.

So those of us on the outside of their movement are particularly baffled by the score of articles and arguments from liberals that a transperson not “revealing” their trans identity would be deception. The heart of the backlash came after an article entitled, No, I Don’t Have To Tell You I’m Trans Before Dating You by Tiffany Berruti. In the article Berruti explains that many cis people (their term for men and women who align their gender with the sex they’re born in to, i.e. us regular folk) believe a transperson to be “lying” (her quotes) or deceptive when a transperson does not reveal that information. She states:

“Their argument is that they aren’t not attracted to trans people, so they should have a right to know if a potential partner is trans before dating them. These people view transness as a mere physical quality that they just aren’t attracted to. The issue with this logic is that the person in question is obviously attracted to trans people, or else they wouldn’t be worried about accidentally going out with one. So these people aren’t attracted to trans people because of some physical quality, they aren’t attracted to trans people because they are disgusted by the very idea of transness.”

According to liberal logic, she’s right. If Caitlyn Jenner is a woman just like any other woman —as liberals insist, if trans women are women, then what exactly is a transperson to “reveal”. According to liberal logic a trans woman is just as legitimately a woman as I am. Now the same liberals who chant “transwomen are women” simultaneously purport that a transwoman who doesn’t tell her date that she is trans is deceptive? That’s mind numbing. They either are a real woman or they’re not. If they are, then straight liberal men should have no problem dating them. If they aren’t, well deception would be an accurate description of their behavior when they don’t reveal their identity. Not just in dating but when they use bathrooms, go in to dressing rooms or attend “women only” events. You can’t have it both ways, they’re either real women and should be treated as such in every aspect of their life or they’re men playing dress up and consciously deceiving everyone they do not reveal their identity to.

As I wrote in my article on transgender people some time ago:  

“I will concede that I find something quite insulting about the entire phenomenon. It is an insult to the other sex to think that by “dressing like them,” “talking like them,” or claiming to “feel like them,” you can therefore be them. Being a man is about more than wearing a suit, and being a woman is about more than putting on makeup.”

A trans woman dating a man without revealing her full identity is deceptive precisely because transwomen are not women, it’s unfortunate liberals are too busy deceiving themselves to admit it.

____________
_________

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 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 about 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 of understanding why she has.

If 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 and 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.

________

Want to donate to the blog? Click here: bythefigandtheolive.com/donate

All rights reserved © Fig & Olive 2015 · Theme by Blogmilk + Coded by Brandi Bernoskie