Friday, June 20, 2008

women are like tea-bags

perhaps we need to change the images we have of a feminist. i do not pretend to know how to best define a feminist and i’m too smart to even fall into that trap, or too obsessed with deconstructing labels. either way, i have learned that just like how i hate being defined, i hate defining others.

in my mind (which is a very dangerous place to be), a feminist is like a snowflake, unique and intricate.

the women i am meeting are so incredibly different and none of them are easy to dismiss. one woman i met, who is a private english teacher, described the woman of syria so beautifully: we are simple, yet clever women.

these women are sick of the colonial powers’ desires still limiting their lives. as one woman was driving me home, she told me that the first Arabic fashion designer rose about ten years ago. great, i thought. she paused before the clincher: “who then has been designing syrian clothes for the past 50, 100 years? the clothes we are wearing, both male and female, are what the french colonizers want us to wear.”

the word ‘moda’ (fashion) follows me everywhere. walking down al-hamra street or the white bridge, i see stores like “raghda’s mode” copying after designer stores like “vera moda.” if you speak to some of the revivalist women i have been talking to, you will hear woman after woman complain how ‘moda’ has limited their movements, oppressed their creativity and destroyed their sense of identity.

tomorrow i will be trying to hunt down some women artists. we’ll see how far these thoughts reach across the rest of syria.

i suspect that same fed-up-of-the-west-telling-them-what-to-do sentiments will not be hard to find.

as for me, well, i think this poem says enough:

let me put on my scarf

she gathered herself for an
odd, normal ritual,

ducking under twisted teal drapes,
or perhaps,
raising green’s careful spread,

she intricately pins
covered freedom
-exactly three feet squared-

reaching in delicate tucks
wrapped by whirling,
she sighs in the day’s face
that will tan her liberty
into a shield.

originally planned as
a self test of her control,
forcing the world along
her eye-line,
she would fold and arrange
their vision
in rainbows.

but she took this morning to
remembering the private joys
of inner peace

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