Following the recent news of an offensive poll ranking local female Islamic teachers on social media, one mama shares how she combats misogyny through parenting
Trigger warning: sexual harassment
On Thursday, I woke up to screenshots of an online poll sexualising female Muslim religious teachers, also known as asatizahs, that were circulating online.
“Not again,” I thought. Just last year, we were calling out a local podcast for their offensive and misogynistic comments. They posted a public apology after President Halimah Yacob made a Facebook post urging them to apologise.
Today, we have to face yet another similar situation and this time it’s worse. It’s not just a casual sexist remark, but a poll that insulted the modesty of several women, complete with photos of their faces and names. The question posed was, “Which female religious teachers should be gangb*nged?” The poll concluded with over 1,000 votes.
When this happened, one of my worries was: how do I ensure my boys will not end up as one of these irresponsible men? How do I teach them that it is no longer a “boys will be boys” world?
My husband and I have these conversations once in a while when the boys are asleep. We talk about what we did in the day and ask ourselves if we have done our best to raise feminist boys, and how can we do better. At home, we always make sure they put their own dishes in the sink, clean up their mess after they play, help mummy and daddy with the chores whenever they can and instil in them that house chores are everyone’s jobs.
I think other simple things matter too, like how grandparents tend to say, “Boys cannot cry!” and I will say out loud, “Wrong, boys CAN cry and express their feelings.”
One of my sons, Raheel, wanted a My Little Pony toy and of course we were like, really? But he insisted so we just bought it for him. I’ve also recently started sharing positive stories about our prophets in Islam and how they treat women. I’m still learning. Sometimes it’s something that I’ve been taught since young and it feels normal – like how boys ‘shouldn’t wear pink’ or whatever. So I’m also unlearning and relearning at the same time.
While my husband also shares the same beliefs as me, it is a little bit hard to practise this in his workplace (a male-dominated environment) or when he meets his friends, where locker room talk is normalised. Once in a while when I get a peek at their WhatsApp chat groups, I would be horrified at the things I see. I usually notice that my husband does not engage in such conversations, but he does not exactly tell them to stop.
He’s also not someone who will discuss such things online even if we talk about it at home. He is more of an observer and only talks to me about how he feels instead of being vocal about it on social media.
But after this recent saga, I posted an Instagram post to show my stand on this mess. A few minutes after, imagine my surprise when I saw him reposting my post on his Instagram stories! It probably won’t mean much to most people, but I believe this is a huge first step for him and he may do even more in the future.
This is super important to me because this man is the man I will raise both my boys with. Who else will be their main role model in life if it’s not their own father? They will watch how he treats women and how he stands up for women in times like this.
I have to be honest. Every time a similar issue comes up, I can feel the weight on my shoulders getting heavier. It is a further reminder that at the end of the day, it is our responsibility to raise respectful and responsible boys and that everything starts from home.