Are women allowed to laugh? (This question makes me ROFL)

Shahla, what are you doing? This is a man’s job, leave it alone. I will hire a labor tomorrow and get it done, leave it alone, NOW”, ordered my Mother out of love and care for her fragile 17-year-old girl.

Guess what was the job-at-hand?

Hanging 8 large-sized curtains around the enormous living room, the day before the Islamic festival of EID.

I got down at that moment quietly.

Next morning when my mother woke up, she found all the curtains well hung and shiny, ready to welcome our guests. Slightly perplexed she questioned me “who did you hire, what did you pay, how did you find someone early morning on the holiday?”

I smiled, “Mom, I did it when you were asleep in the night and apparently I didn’t need a man, it’s really quite simple and there was no heavy lifting as such, I was six feet high on the ladder but nothing too complex ”.

My mother smiled back and nodded her head “you are one rebel in the family!”

This story is from 10 years ago.

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Apart from telling us girls not to hang curtains on the poles on high ladders, there were many other things we were told to do and to not do, though (thankfully) we were not monitored like in a conservative family. My Dad on the other hand always said “go out, learn how to drive, work, shake the world and be happy”.

The recent comments of the Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc “women should not laugh out loud” reminded me of the dreadful ‘rules-for-women’ invisible book I came across while growing up in India.

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One of those rules was ‘to keep our voices low and never to laugh out loud’ or in other words “NEVER BE HEARD” in this world; this was the trait of a decent and dignified woman. ‘A nice woman is a silent woman’, trust me this is not a joke, people religiously say that!

On questioning the origins, I was told this is what Islam teaches us.

I HIGHLY DOUBT.

Now for a moment, forget about women and think about a typically ‘Loud Person’ that you may have come across. He/she may be a friend, a neighbor, a co-worker or someone in the family. The person who would laugh excessively on silly things or make rude remarks about others and think they are doing some great job, bad table manners and constantly annoying others around with their loud voice?

Sounds familiar?

I am sure we all know at least one loud person we resent meeting. Nevertheless we would not go as far as to humiliate or punish this person for their annoyingly loud personality.

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The Islamic perspective aka COMMON SENSE

Islam is mainly about common sense and with that logic, it says ‘to be polite and courteous in your conversations’. If at all anything about laughter, yes don’t laugh on people or in a way that would annoy others around you.

And mind you, this is for both men and women, unlike the deputy PM’s declaration specifically about women. Islam is in fact about positivity, happiness and sharing jokes and laughs with those around you. I can say this NOT from some typical Islamic ideology but from how I perceive the inscriptions based on common sense.

Patriarchy has however picked up on tiny things like this and made it to be like RULES FOR DECENT WOMEN because this way it is easier to suppress women (in the name of religion not reason). Another example: women prohibited to drive in Saudi Arabia where years ago women used to ride camels and go to wars right next to the Prophet (PBUH). Thanks to another woman Manal Al-Sharif who chose to not be the typical decent silent woman and made some noise and changed few things around. She is my personal favourtie superwoman. 

Thus, having a friendly and polite pleasant personality is a nice quality for LGBT, men and women, of all religions and countries.

PERIOD

What makes me sad is that people who have such power and prestige, who sit on prominent chairs, have control over precious resources and have a million ordinary people listen to them use their words, ideas and feelings to express such silly things based on a million year old cave man ideology (sorry couldn’t find a better word).

I had heard a million such things about the typical orthodox Indian woman. She must be like this and like that, blah blah blah but as a person it is up to me to either question those teachings or to blindly follow them.

I agree, it is not easy to question patriarchal and traditional beliefs but hey, what is? If you think it is easier to shut your voice and never laugh for the rest of your life because of some stupid perverted man’s declaration- go ahead. But when you do so, you also shut down your little daughter’s voice and create generations of sad, suppressed and laughter starved women. And this is really on you.

You make decisions for the entire generation, not just for yourself, so chose wisely and be able to sleep at night with your choices.

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This sexist statement coming from the Turkish Deputy PM is actually not the only sexist remark ever made. In 2012, after the Delhi gang rape news ashamed India internationally, many Indian ministers and priests came out with the same victim blaming and sexist comments. One dude even said that protesters are publicity seekers. Furious, I did a piece called ‘Is India a Nation of Perverts’ that you can read here and another one openly addressed to the political leaders of my city who made statements that rape victims must not be hanged because of false rape accusations.

I therefore wonder…

In business organizations, we have the ever-loving HR department who look after work place harassment cases and ensure there are strict policies and procedures to deal with it. Those employees guilty of making such remarks are advised to take training courses to actually ‘learn what is inappropriate and sexist and must not be repeated’. Those accused of major violations are even fired and sent to prison (of course not at all organizations but certainly at all the good ones).

Why isn’t there a sexual harassment and prevention of sexism course mandatory for people in power?

Is this even possible? Isn’t education key here? (Sending them all to sex education schools)

Wouldn’t it have the same effect on gender equality and violence prevention as that of compound interest in Mathematics?

(Do you get the logic?)

If you hold any resources, there are people who read/listen/watch you, and if you are privileged enough to be in a nation where speaking up is not life threatening; are you using your power to influence those around you on gender equality?

If you are, give yourself a pat on the back and a hug from me right now (a cup cake would be good too if you are not worried about calories).

Hope you smiled, if not laughed.

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Keep up the good work.

In Friendship,

Shahla

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