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LANALLAH __Islamic BlogZine__
Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Not Without Her Make-up

This is a satire written to mimic articles, reports
and stories generally written about Muslim women by
women from Western non-Muslim backgrounds. It is, to
some extent, an attempt to convey to the readers
>how
it feels to be 'othered' and to be judged
superficially in accordance with only one's own
perceptions. I hope you take it for what it is - a
satire.


>I do not clearly remember the first time I was here.
>My earliest memories
>of Australia start when I was
>around six or seven, probably my first trip after I
>was born in the city of Sydney. My parents were not
>particularly happy with the idea of me growing up
>there. So, they took me out to Iran at the first
>oppo
>tunity.
>
>As I grew up, my impressions of Sydney were formed
>from stories I heard from my parents, shows I watched
>on television and of course, what I saw on my trips.
>From my first trip at the age of seven, I vaguely
>remember the peop
>e I met and the places I visited. I
>remember more from my second trip, though, which was
>at the age of fourteen. I recall my parents warning me
>over and over again about how women were treated in a
>society so fundamentally Western. While I
>as there, I
>learnt that individuality was something Australians
>only dreamt about. I soon discovered I had to conform
>to the dress code everyone else followed. I had to
>have my hair highlighted and defrizzed. I had to spend
>between fifte
>n ad twenty minutes every morning
>brushing it and putting on clips and hair ties. I had
>to make it into a ponytail one day, a braid the next
>and a bun when I went to dinner parties. I was coerced
>to wear short skirts and tight tops, with a
>ush-up
>bra to give me cleavage. My legs had to show, smooth
>and unscarred, and everyone had to be able to make out
>my waist. They told me I had to 'fit in'. Part of the
>ritual of fitting in meant that I had to paint my face
>with what the
> called make-up everyday. I discovered
>that Australian females liked to attract as much
>attention as they could to themselves, by hiding
>behind their make-up. They made their kohl in liquids
>and pencils, instead of pots like we do, and sold
>them
>in stores under a range of different names and prices.
>They all seemed the same to me, though. Anyhow, I
>bought what they told me to buy and used what they
>told me to use, from lipsticks to abdominizers,
>changing my body from head t
> toe to please their male
> ‘gods’ Such things ensured that everyone wanted to
>'hang out' with me (a term denoting something to the
>effect of spending time and/or social acceptance).
>
>In the five years between then and now, I had
>convince
>d myself that Australia would have joined
>other countries on the road to progress. But my return
>to Sydney both shocks and saddens me. While many parts
>of the world have seen development, Australia has
>dragged behind, especially with regard
> to the status
>of women. It seems as if it has only succeeded in
>digging itself deeper into a bottomless pit of
>regression. At this rate, I fear that Australia is a
>second America in the making.
>
>Upon arrival, I have come across some
>typical Sydney
>women. I can see that they are dictated by the strict
>dress code imposed on them by the social system. They
>are not allowed to wear loose clothing, headscarves
>until they are old or ailing, and it is preferred that
>they show
> as much of their bodies as possible. Women
>who break this rule face harsh penalties. Sarah, a
>victim of such injustices, told me the specifics. As
>punishment for wearing non-revealing clothing, she is
>deemed unattractive and given unequal
>treatment by her
>employers. She says she is not considered 'normal'.
>
>A day in the life of a normal woman here requires her
>appearance to be the focal point. Her sexuality must
>be available for everyone to consume. She cannot
>choose to
>whom she will disclose her intimate parts or
>exercise her sexuality. She does not have much choice
>in what she wants to do with her body. Since the
>fundamentalist regime insists that it must be
>available for display in a certain manner, she
>must
>follow these rules.
>
>The rules are based on the Australian Holy Scriptures,
>two of which are Dolly and Cosmopolitan. Also known as
>magazines, these contain the teachings of hard-liner
>editors and reporters/writers who design the
>ay in
>which society must view women and the way women must
>dress and act. Since the advent of these magazines,
>there have been mass conversions in the country to the
>faith they preach. Authority and control have been
>transferred onto the
> and they play a vital role in
>the life of women. They have institutionalized radical
>guidelines such as the 36:24:36 measurement of a
>woman's body. Furthermore, they propagate intolerance
>and hate to be internalized in all women - hate for
>
>their own bodies, natural intelligence, privacy and
>inherent dignity. These women are brainwashed into
>believing that their Creator is to blame for their
>deficiencies in not automatically meeting these
>standards.
>
>In accordance wit
> these oppressive impositions, the
>country's commerce has developed. Industry is devoted
>to the development of products to assist women in
>looking as artificial as possible. The market is
>filled with products for the face and every different
>
>part of it plus the hair, the hands, the legs, the
>nails...the list goes on. I suppose one must concede
>to the fact that Australia's delayed development
>causes it to prioritize looks over the fact that
>millions of people in the world go
>hungry.
>
>It is interesting to look at some of the
>advertisements for the beauty products. I will warn
>you, though, that coming from an emancipated society,
>these will be very disturbing. For instance, an
>advertisement for hair color us
>es the motto "L'Oreal -
>because I'm worth it". A model in an ad for a shampoo
>claims that using the shampoo gives her more
>confidence. These poor women must shampoo, condition
>and color their hair in order to legitimize
>themselves. They
>need the perfect curl, the right
>bounce and the shiniest color. Their value to society
>is directly linked to their hair.
>
>Other significant practices are the prevalent marriage
>customs. A woman is required to perform the ceremonial
>'go
>ing out', which can span any period of time from a
>day to ten years. This starts as early as primary
>school and as she grows up, she goes out with various
>men. Until she finds the one she wishes to marry, she
>does not commit to any one man.
>
>
>All the men she goes out with are allowed to touch her
>and sleep with her. All this time, her status and
>acceptance in society is determined by how many of
>these men she has accommodated in her life. The
>greater the quota of men, the
>more sufficient she is
>considered. Particularly in high school, young girls
>have little to contribute to their own identities.
>Their identities derive from who they go out with and
>how many boys they go out with. Though this kind of
>mental
> torture is less obvious in later years of their
>life, my conversations with many women in university
>and work indicate that they still suffer. Some feel
>they must get married in order to make a place for
>themselves.
>
>Marriage, though
> is subject to a bizarre rule. A
>woman cannot legally marry until she is eighteen years
>old without parental consent. It is socially expected,
>however, for girls under eighteen to lose their
>virginity. When I was listening to one of the popu
>lar
>radio stations, 2DayFM, I was informed that the
>average age that Australians lost their virginity at
>is between thirteen and fifteen. As a consequence of
>this, many girls under eighteen become pregnant.
>Society accepts these girls as
>mothers before eighteen
>but does not allow them to have husbands, who could
>also take responsibility as fathers to the children
>born. While women must bear the responsibility of
>parenthood, men can get away with it. This is one of
>the man
>y contradictions that exist in Australia today.
>
>Inequalities also exist for women who do get married.
>Marriage requires the woman to play multiple roles.
>She must be wife, mother and often a breadwinner of
>the family. She shoulders the
>responsibility of taking
>care of her husband and children at home while also
>earning money not only for herself, but also for the
>family. Whatever she earns is not solely her property.
>Unlike Islamic societies, her husband and her family
>
>gave a claim to her income and she even pays for
>groceries!
>
>Often, she is not given the choice of whether she
>wants to stay at home or work. The society she lives
>in enshrines materialism and money, money and more
>money. It is vital to
> their lifestyle. As a result,
>she must go out and work. On top of that, her position
>in society is judged on her ability to work outside
>the home. She must suffer the greatest burden in
>society. She really does not have the right to choose
>
>Can you imagine a life where your identity is judged
>by everything you have and not everything you are?
>
>Even more surprising is the widespread cultural
>practice of women changing their surnames to that of
>their husbands' once they a
>e married. Amanda, a law
>student, who opposes this practice, tells me that, in
>previous times, this act symbolized the transfer of
>all of a woman's rights and property to her husband
>from her father. Though the custom of a woman becoming

>her husband's property has ceased to exist, women
>still change their names to that of their husbands'.
>
>Seeing all this, I am aware that Australian women are
>denied the rights that are basic to many Muslim women.
>What concerns me, though
> is whether or not they are
>aware of that fact.
>
>I remember from my second trip to Australia that I
>felt I had a Western noose tied around my neck. I felt
>I had no space to breathe or to let myself free. The
>air around me cloaked my be
>auty, my spirit and my
>soul. But I was lucky. I could leave.
>
>Most of the Australian women I spoke to do not have
>that alternative. They do not even know of their
>plight. They are pushed into a corner where they
>cannot see outside the
>boundaries of such a
>fundamentally Western society. Women immune to Western
>correctness - mostly the educated Muslims - have begun
>programs to educate others around them. They are
>asserting themselves by breaking out of the
>confinement,
>wearing loose clothing and denying just
>anyone access to their sexuality. I see their efforts
>as a glimmer of hope. It is crucial that before women
>can improve their lot, they are taught the rights they
>have that society has taken away from
>them.
>
>Nevertheless, there is still hope. I call upon the
>Muslim women in the world to come to the rescue of
>Australian women. I urge that all of us stand up
>against Western oppression in different parts of the
>world. It is our responsi
>bility to bring progress into
>these societies and it is up to us to save them.


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