Stereotypes: Eastern Girls vs. Western Girls

8 Jan

In the last few days, I’ve come across some pretty one-sided articles purporting the supposed East vs. West dichotomy among Muslim women. The overwhelming attitude seems to be this:

Western Muslim women:

  • domineering
  • man-hating
  • can’t cook
  • anti-domestic
  • too focused on career
  • ‘hos

Eastern Muslim women

  • submissive
  • shy
  • great cooks
  • domesticated
  • family-oriented
  • angels

Just…what?

Has it ever occurred to anyone that all of us women, regardless of which religion, race, or creed we come from, are the combined total of our life experiences? And that regardless of where we grew up or come from, be it “East” or “West” (and even this differentiation is subject to debate) we all have unique characteristics and values?

We’ve heard the song and dance before: “Oh, Muslim girls here are too wild, we need to go back home and find us a nice, ‘gaow-wali/village’ girl.”

But that’s all it is, a song and dance. And I think people repeat this just to repeat it, because it’s catchy and it’s what they’ve heard, and it’s what everyone is saying. But honestly, I don’t think anyone, Muslim man or woman, really believes it.

Just today, I had a delightful lunch with a friend of mine and her lovely co-worker, who I met recently at an office party where my friend works. All three of us (I feel safe to include myself in this group 😛 ) are educated, intelligent, and gainfully employed…and guess what we talked about? COOKING! It started with my Mediterranean Veggie sandwich, and from there escalated into an exchanged of recipes, the similarities between Columbian, Arab and Indo-Pak cooking, and the power of knowing exactly what you’re eating and how it was prepared.

Not a single one of us felt like we were discussing an inferiority-inducing topic, or that a village fairy would descend from on-high and with a touch of her magic wand banish us to some fictional village where we would be chained to a tandoori oven.

It’s funny, but so many of these articles I read focus so much on MEN do this and WOMEN do that…doesn’t anyone remember we’re all people, too?

There is an amazing vidder out there, named Lim. She made an amazing video, called Us. It put whatever is coming out of these cutting-edge studios to shame. Someone commented and said, This is fantastic. Which company do you work for? She quite succinctly replied, I’m a housewife. 🙂

It’s unjust to box Eastern Muslim women into this category of submissive, shy doormats whose only existence is to serve her man and keep her mouth shut.  It’s unjust to box Western Muslim women into this category of loud, overtaking, domineering you-know-whats who hate men and hate anything to do with domesticity and spit on babies and tea-cozys alike. I’ve noticed so many Muslims here in the ‘States and abroad, men AND women, have this attitude and it simply isn’t true.

Every Muslim woman I meet is a complete, multi-faceted creature unto herself. We’re all struggling to be good Muslims, insha Allah, and it’s unfair to try to box us into a single category and call it the truth. It’s not.

***

In other news, I walked and ran almost 4 miles today. Feel grrrrreat. That, my friends, is what’s up. 🙂

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6 Responses to “Stereotypes: Eastern Girls vs. Western Girls”

  1. MIMI January 9, 2010 at 6:44 am #

    That is almost true 🙂

    • runningmuslimah January 9, 2010 at 9:20 am #

      hehe thanks mimi 😛

  2. Mario Mustache January 9, 2010 at 2:46 pm #

    dude i never heard that song lol. can u send it to me?

  3. me February 10, 2010 at 11:29 am #

    jazak Allah khair for the article. I agree we shouldn’t be boxing people into categories, but I feel like there is an underlying issue and find myself to believe, in part, that stereotype and am not just repeating it because others are. I think the issue is what’s lady-like and what’s not. A lot of our sisters in the West have forgotten that, more so than those in the ‘East.’ It’s simply a result of being a “combined total of our life experiences” as you said. A lot of our brothers are the same way, in the opposite direction – they’re feminine. The culture around us is becoming that way and we as a Muslim community in the West are not immune to it. I think we should try to hang with those who really embody Islamic qualities and those most appropriate to our gender. Yes, obvious and easier said than done, but I think true nevertheless. Excessive, casual mixing is partial source of this as well, and Allah knows best.

    • runningmuslimah February 10, 2010 at 11:22 pm #

      you bring up some very good points. i find myself confused on what is ‘lady-like’ and what is not here, and i know a lot of brothers go through the same struggles here with what is masculine, and not. it seems like the rules are always changing up on us. thank you for the thoughtful and thought-provoking comment.

  4. ya February 11, 2010 at 10:10 am #

    ya, i agree sis, same here. i think metrosexualism has taken over! i probably speak from a lot of experiences at school, and i’m probably too hard on my friends as well. its a tough balance between bollyvood and gaow-wali. things are all out of wack and we’re stuck in the middle. i think people want the gaow-wali’s because the rest of this world is exhausting. the problem is the gaow-wali has problems surviving in the west and makes for a strange marriage too. another interesting thing is the sisters are the only ones who do anything, including leadership stuff, so any negative consequences are on the shoulders of the brothers too for having failed at that. like look at your blog list too, it’s one sister’s blog linked to another to another to another…the brothers are mia. o vell, keep at it ukhti!

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