As a brown woman in a traditional South Asian Muslim home, there was much I bristled against almost constantly. The unacknowledged labour was not just expected but demanded from me. The requirement to keep my mouth shut in deference even if an older person, especially a man, was disrespectful, discriminatory, or just plain wrong in their frequent pontification.
What stands out to me about ‘Lady Parts’ as a show is that it exemplifies Muslims as not being a monolith. Instead of being reduced to one stereotype, they’re allowed to exist freely as who they are, accurately reflecting the melting pot of different individuals that form the religion. This subsequently allows Muslim women to reclaim their power — they’re allowed to just be, beyond their religious identity.
Growing up, I thought I had to suppress my identity as a Muslim because I felt like it made me stick out like a sore thumb. I grew up watching Disney Channel and Cartoon Network, where Muslim characters were non-existent. As I got older, I only saw Muslims portrayed as terrorists. At 22 years old, I am yet to see a Muslim woman in a TV show or movie, who has not been forced into the Hijab or felt trapped by her religion and family. I am yet to see a Muslim woman who is happy, thriving, and living life to the fullest, like so many of the Muslim women I know personally.
What I often hear from most people is that the spaces I created, are the first time they’ve had to learn about sexual health in a comfortable, comprehensive, non-shameful way. And I think that if this makes me feel happy, it also makes me feel sad, that a lot of women have not had empathy and compassion and information that empowers them to think and learn about their bodies.
Women have been made to feel and believe that they are not allowed to do anything with their lives apart from cooking. They have been made to believe that it is a religious obligation and by so doing, they have been condemned to the kitchen. This goes against the lifestyle of the Prophet (PBUH) himself who was fully active in doing household chores.
We were taught that being vulnerable, wild, and feminine was inferior and not desirable when in actual fact, our wild feminine was deeply feared by society. In order to understand how to reclaim our power as women, we need to understand why, in the first place, femininity was suppressed and vilified.
In a particular tradition, the Prophet (PBUH) stressed that a man should make sure his partner achieves orgasm before himself. He also gave glad tidings of reward for partners who had sex and satisfied each other, stating that pleasurable sex was an act of Sadaqah. According to him, sex is an integral part of spirituality.
I am tired of having to explain to grown men that random, unrelated women do not want your opinions and judgements on the choices that they make in their lives. Not unless they ask for it. That accosting and deriding a woman for her choices cannot be explained away as “enjoining good and forbidding evil”.