Nowadays, anyone who wishes to combat lies and ignorance and to write the truth must overcome at least five difficulties. She must have the courage to write the truth when truth is everywhere opposed; the keenness to recognize it, although it is everywhere concealed; the skill to manipulate it as a weapon; the judgment to select those in whose hands it will be effective; and the ability to spread the truth among the people.
Bertolt Brecht, from Galileo.
There is some debate with Japanese historians whether or not the female warrior class of feudal Japan, the Onna-bugeisha, functioned in the way today’s popular culture currently portrays them. The more conservative view is that there might be two or three of isolated occasions when high-born women trained for and participated in warfare, but to say anything more would be pure poppycock dreamed up by wishful thinkers. I don’t personally buy that. The Onna-bugeisha were a real social class, much like their male counterpoint, the samurai, and as such to simply write them off speaks much more about the embedded sexism that is still found in those who call themselves historians than anything else. The Onna-bugeisha in this picture wears a mask of a fox (a trickster) and holds the long blade known as a naginata. Behind her is a folding screen depicting two of her ancestors practicing (or fighting, hard to know) using similar weapons.
O my Best Beloved …
… hear and attend and listen; for this befell and behappened and became and was, when the Tame animals were wild. The Dog was wild, and the Horse was wild, and the Cow was wild, and the Sheep was wild, and the Pig was wild — as wild as wild could be — and they walked in the Wet Wild Woods by their wild lones. But the wildest of all the wild animals was the Cat. He walked by himself, and all places were alike to him.
Of course the Man was wild too. He was dreadfully wild. He didn’t even begin to be tame till he met the Woman, and she told him that she did not like living in his wild ways. She picked out a nice dry Cave, instead of a heap of wet leaves, to lie down in; and she strewed clean sand on the floor; and she lit a nice fire of wood at the back of the Cave; and she hung a dried wild-horse skin, tail-down, across the opening of the Cave; and she said, ‘Wipe you feet, dear, when you come in, and now we’ll keep house.’
That night, Best Beloved, they ate wild sheep roasted on the hot stones, and flavored with wild garlic and wild pepper; and wild duck stuffed with wild rice and wild fenugreek and wild coriander; and marrow-bones of wild oxen; and wild cherries, and wild grenadillas. Then the Man went to sleep in front of the fire ever so happy; but the Woman sat up, combing her hair. She took the bone of the shoulder of mutton — the big fat blade-bone — and she looked at the wonderful marks on it, and she threw more wood on the fire, and she made a Magic. She made the First Singing Magic in the world.
Out in the Wet Wild Woods all the wild animals gathered together where they could see the light of the fire a long way off, and they wondered what it meant.
Then Wild Horse stamped with his wild foot and said, ‘O my Friends and O my Enemies, why have the Man and the Woman made that great light in that great Cave, and what harm will it do us?’
Wild Dog lifted up his wild nose and smelled the smell of roast mutton, and said, ‘I will go up and see and look, and say; for I think it is good. Cat, come with me.’
‘Nenni!’ said the Cat. ‘I am the Cat who walks by himself, and all places are alike to me. I will not come.’
‘Then we can never be friends again,’ said Wild Dog, and he trotted off to the Cave. But when he had gone a little way the Cat said to himself, ‘All places are alike to me. Why should I not go too and see and look and come away at my own liking.’ So he slipped after Wild Dog softly, very softly, and hid himself where he could hear everything.
When Wild Dog reached the mouth of the Cave he lifted up the dried horse-skin with his nose and sniffed the beautiful smell of the roast mutton, and the Woman, looking at the blade-bone, heard him, and laughed, and said, ‘Here comes the first. Wild Thing out of the Wild Woods, what do you want?’
Wild Dog said, ‘O my Enemy and Wife of my Enemy, what is this that smells so good in the Wild Woods?’
Then the Woman picked up a roasted mutton-bone and threw it to Wild Dog, and said, ‘Wild Thing out of the Wild Woods, taste and try.’ Wild Dog gnawed the bone, and it was more delicious than anything he had ever tasted, and he said, ‘O my Enemy and Wife of my Enemy, give me another.’
The Woman said, ‘Wild Thing out of the Wild Woods, help my Man to hunt through the day and guard this Cave at night, and I will give you as many roast bones as you need.’
‘Ah!’ said the Cat, listening. ‘This is a very wise Woman, but she is not so wise as I am.’
Wild Dog crawled into the Cave and laid his head on the Woman’s lap, and said, ‘O my Friend and Wife of my Friend, I will help Your Man to hunt through the day, and at night I will guard your Cave.’
‘Ah!’ said the Cat, listening. ‘That is a very foolish Dog.’ And he went back through the Wet Wild Woods waving his wild tail, and walking by his wild lone. But he never told anybody.
When the Man waked up he said, ‘What is Wild Dog doing here?’ And the Woman said, ‘His name is not Wild Dog any more, but the First Friend, because he will be our friend for always and always and always. Take him with you when you go hunting.’
Next night the Woman cut great green armfuls of fresh grass from the water-meadows, and dried it before the fire, so that it smelt like new-mown hay, and she sat at the mouth of the Cave and plaited a halter out of horse-hide, and she looked at the shoulder of mutton-bone — at the big broad blade-bone — and she made a Magic. She made the Second Singing Magic in the world.
Out in the Wild Woods all the wild animals wondered what had happened to Wild Dog, and at last Wild Horse stamped with his foot and said, ‘I will go and see and say why Wild Dog has not returned. Cat, come with me.’
‘Nenni!’ said the Cat. ‘I am the Cat who walks by himself, and all places are alike to me. I will not come.’ But all the same he followed Wild Horse softly, very softly, and hid himself where he could hear everything.
When the Woman heard Wild Horse tripping and stumbling on his long mane, she laughed and said, ‘Here comes the second. Wild Thing out of the Wild Woods what do you want?’
Wild Horse said, ‘O my Enemy and Wife of my Enemy, where is Wild Dog?’
The Woman laughed, and picked up the blade-bone and looked at it, and said, ‘Wild Thing out of the Wild Woods, you did not come here for Wild Dog, but for the sake of this good grass.’
And Wild Horse, tripping and stumbling on his long mane, said, ‘That is true; give it me to eat.’
The Woman said, ‘Wild Thing out of the Wild Woods, bend your wild head and wear what I give you, and you shall eat the wonderful grass three times a day.’
‘Ah,’ said the Cat, listening, ‘this is a clever Woman, but she is not so clever as I am.’ Wild Horse bent his wild head, and the Woman slipped the plaited hide halter over it, and Wild Horse breathed on the Woman’s feet and said, ‘O my Mistress, and Wife of my Master, I will be your servant for the sake of the wonderful grass.’
‘Ah,’ said the Cat, listening, ‘that is a very foolish Horse.’ And he went back through the Wet Wild Woods, waving his wild tail and walking by his wild lone. But he never told anybody.
When the Man and the Dog came back from hunting, the Man said, ‘What is Wild Horse doing here?’ And the Woman said, ‘His name is not Wild Horse any more, but the First Servant, because he will carry us from place to place for always and always and always. Ride on his back when you go hunting.
Next day, holding her wild head high that her wild horns should not catch in the wild trees, Wild Cow came up to the Cave, and the Cat followed, and hid himself just the same as before; and everything happened just the same as before; and the Cat said the same things as before, and when Wild Cow had promised to give her milk to the Woman every day in exchange for the wonderful grass, the Cat went back through the Wet Wild Woods waving his wild tail and walking by his wild lone, just the same as before. But he never told anybody. And when the Man and the Horse and the Dog came home from hunting and asked the same questions same as before, the Woman said, ‘Her name is not Wild Cow any more, but the Giver of Good Food. She will give us the warm white milk for always and always and always, and I will take care of her while you and the First Friend and the First Servant go hunting.
Next day the Cat waited to see if any other Wild thing would go up to the Cave, but no one moved in the Wet Wild Woods, so the Cat walked there by himself; and he saw the Woman milking the Cow, and he saw the light of the fire in the Cave, and he smelt the smell of the warm white milk.
Cat said, ‘O my Enemy and Wife of my Enemy, where did Wild Cow go?’
The Woman laughed and said, ‘Wild Thing out of the Wild Woods, go back to the Woods again, for I have braided up my hair, and I have put away the magic blade-bone, and we have no more need of either friends or servants in our Cave.
Cat said, ‘I am not a friend, and I am not a servant. I am the Cat who walks by himself, and I wish to come into your cave.’
Woman said, ‘Then why did you not come with First Friend on the first night?’
Cat grew very angry and said, ‘Has Wild Dog told tales of me?’
Then the Woman laughed and said, ‘You are the Cat who walks by himself, and all places are alike to you. Your are neither a friend nor a servant. You have said it yourself. Go away and walk by yourself in all places alike.’
Then Cat pretended to be sorry and said, ‘Must I never come into the Cave? Must I never sit by the warm fire? Must I never drink the warm white milk? You are very wise and very beautiful. You should not be cruel even to a Cat.’
Woman said, ‘I knew I was wise, but I did not know I was beautiful. So I will make a bargain with you. If ever I say one word in your praise you may come into the Cave.’
‘And if you say two words in my praise?’ said the Cat.
‘I never shall,’ said the Woman, ‘but if I say two words in your praise, you may sit by the fire in the Cave.’
‘And if you say three words?’ said the Cat.
‘I never shall,’ said the Woman, ‘but if I say three words in your praise, you may drink the warm white milk three times a day for always and always and always.’
Then the Cat arched his back and said, ‘Now let the Curtain at the mouth of the Cave, and the Fire at the back of the Cave, and the Milk-pots that stand beside the Fire, remember what my Enemy and the Wife of my Enemy has said.’ And he went away through the Wet Wild Woods waving his wild tail and walking by his wild lone.
That night when the Man and the Horse and the Dog came home from hunting, the Woman did not tell them of the bargain that she had made with the Cat, because she was afraid that they might not like it.
Cat went far and far away and hid himself in the Wet Wild Woods by his wild lone for a long time till the Woman forgot all about him. Only the Bat — the little upside-down Bat — that hung inside the Cave, knew where Cat hid; and every evening Bat would fly to Cat with news of what was happening.
One evening Bat said, ‘There is a Baby in the Cave. He is new and pink and fat and small, and the Woman is very fond of him.’
‘Ah,’ said the Cat, listening, ‘but what is the Baby fond of?’
‘He is fond of things that are soft and tickle,’ said the Bat. ‘He is fond of warm things to hold in his arms when he goes to sleep. He is fond of being played with. He is fond of all those things.’
‘Ah,’ said the Cat, listening, ‘then my time has come.’
Next night Cat walked through the Wet Wild Woods and hid very near the Cave till morning-time, and Man and Dog and Horse went hunting. The Woman was busy cooking that morning, and the Baby cried and interrupted. So she carried him outside the Cave and gave him a handful of pebbles to play with. But still the Baby cried.
Then the Cat put out his paddy paw and patted the Baby on the cheek, and it cooed; and the Cat rubbed against its fat knees and tickled it under its fat chin with his tail. And the Baby laughed; and the Woman heard him and smiled.
Then the Bat — the little upside-down bat — that hung in the mouth of the Cave said, ‘O my Hostess and Wife of my Host and Mother of my Host’s Son, a Wild Thing from the Wild Woods is most beautifully playing with your Baby.’
‘A blessing on that Wild Thing whoever he may be,’ said the Woman, straightening her back, ‘for I was a busy woman this morning and he has done me a service.’
That very minute and second, Best Beloved, the dried horse-skin Curtain that was stretched tail-down at the mouth of the Cave fell down — whoosh! — because it remembered the bargain she had made with the Cat, and when the Woman went to pick it up — lo and behold! — the Cat was sitting quite comfy inside the Cave.
‘O my Enemy and Wife of my Enemy and Mother of my Enemy,’ said the Cat, ‘it is I: for you have spoken a word in my praise, and now I can sit within the Cave for always and always and always. But still I am the Cat who walks by himself, and all places are alike to me.’
The Woman was very angry, and shut her lips tight and took up her spinning-wheel and began to spin. But the Baby cried because the Cat had gone away, and the Woman could not hush it, for it struggled and kicked and grew black in the face.
‘O my Enemy and Wife of my Enemy and Mother of my Enemy,’ said the Cat, ‘take a strand of the wire that you are spinning and tie it to your spinning-whorl and drag it along the floor, and I will show you a magic that shall make your Baby laugh as loudly as he is now crying.’
‘I will do so,’ said the Woman, ‘because I am at my wits’ end; but I will not thank you for it.’
She tied the thread to the little clay spindle whorl and drew it across the floor, and the Cat ran after it and patted it with his paws and rolled head over heels, and tossed it backward over his shoulder and chased it between his hind-legs and pretended to lose it, and pounced down upon it again, till the Baby laughed as loudly as it had been crying, and scrambled after the Cat and frolicked all over the Cave till it grew tired and settled down to sleep with the Cat in its arms.
‘Now,’ said the Cat, ‘I will sing the Baby a song that shall keep him asleep for an hour. And he began to purr, loud and low, low and loud, till the Baby fell fast asleep. The Woman smiled as she looked down upon the two of them and said, ‘That was wonderfully done. No question but you are very clever, O Cat.’
That very minute and second, Best Beloved, the smoke of the fire at the back of the Cave came down in clouds from the roof — puff! — because it remembered the bargain she had made with the Cat, and when it had cleared away — lo and behold! — the Cat was sitting quite comfy close to the fire.
‘O my Enemy and Wife of my Enemy and Mother of My Enemy,’ said the Cat, ‘it is I, for you have spoken a second word in my praise, and now I can sit by the warm fire at the back of the Cave for always and always and always. But still I am the Cat who walks by himself, and all places are alike to me.’
Then the Woman was very very angry, and let down her hair and put more wood on the fire and brought out the broad blade-bone of the shoulder of mutton and began to make a Magic that should prevent her from saying a third word in praise of the Cat. It was not a Singing Magic, Best Beloved, it was a Still Magic; and by and by the Cave grew so still that a little wee-wee mouse crept out of a corner and ran across the floor.
‘O my Enemy and Wife of my Enemy and Mother of my Enemy,’ said the Cat, ‘is that little mouse part of your magic?’
‘Ouh! Chee! No indeed!’ said the Woman, and she dropped the blade-bone.
‘Ah,’ said the Cat, watching, ‘then the mouse will do me no harm if I eat it?’
‘No,’ said the Woman, ‘eat it quickly and I will ever be grateful to you.’
Cat made one jump and caught the little mouse, and the Woman said, ‘A hundred thanks. Even the First Friend is not quick enough to catch little mice as you have done. You must be very wise.’
That very moment and second, O Best Beloved, the Milk-pot that stood by the fire cracked in two pieces — ffft — because it remembered the bargain she had made with the Cat, and when the Woman jumped down from the footstool — lo and behold! — the Cat was lapping up the warm white milk that lay in one of the broken pieces.
‘O my Enemy and Wife of my Enemy and Mother of my Enemy, said the Cat, ‘it is I; for you have spoken three words in my praise, and now I can drink the warm white milk three times a day for always and always and always. But still I am the Cat who walks by himself, and all places are alike to me.’
Then the Woman laughed and set the Cat a bowl of the warm white milk and said, ‘O Cat, you are as clever as a man, but remember that your bargain was not made with the Man or the Dog, and I do not know what they will do when they come home.’
‘What is that to me?’ said the Cat. ‘If I have my place in the Cave by the fire and my warm white milk three times a day I do not care what the Man or the Dog can do.’
That evening when the Man and the Dog came into the Cave, the Woman told them all the story of the bargain while the Cat sat by the fire and smiled. Then the Man said, ‘Yes, but he has not made a bargain with me or with all proper Men after me.’ Then he took off his two leather boots and he took up his little stone axe (that makes three) and he fetched a piece of wood and a hatchet (that is five altogether), and he set them out in a row and he said, ‘Now we will make our bargain. If you do not catch mice when you are in the Cave for always and always and always, I will throw these five things at you whenever I see you, and so shall all proper Men do after me.’
‘Ah,’ said the Woman, listening, ‘this is a very clever Cat, but he is not so clever as my Man.’
The Cat counted the five things (and they looked very knobby) and he said, ‘I will catch mice when I am in the Cave for always and always and always; but still I am the Cat who walks by himself, and all places are alike to me.’
‘Not when I am near,’ said the Man. ‘If you had not said that last I would have put all these things away for always and always and always; but I am now going to throw my two boots and my little stone axe (that makes three) at you whenever I meet you. And so shall all proper Men do after me!’
Then the Dog said, ‘Wait a minute. He has not made a bargain with me or with all proper Dogs after me.’ And he showed his teeth and said, ‘If you are not kind to the Baby while I am in the Cave for always and always and always, I will hunt you till I catch you, and when I catch you I will bite you. And so shall all proper Dogs do after me.’
‘Ah,’ said the Woman, listening, ‘this is a very clever Cat, but he is not so clever as the Dog.’
Cat counted the Dog’s teeth (and they looked very pointed) and he said, ‘I will be kind to the Baby while I am in the Cave, as long as he does not pull my tail too hard, for always and always and always. But still I am the Cat that walks by himself, and all places are alike to me.’
‘Not when I am near,’ said the Dog. ‘If you had not said that last I would have shut my mouth for always and always and always; but now I am going to hunt you up a tree whenever I meet you. And so shall all proper Dogs do after me.’
Then the Man threw his two boots and his little stone axe (that makes three) at the Cat, and the Cat ran out of the Cave and the Dog chased him up a tree; and from that day to this, Best Beloved, three proper Men out of five will always throw things at a Cat whenever they meet him, and all proper Dogs will chase him up a tree. But the Cat keeps his side of the bargain too. He will kill mice and he will be kind to Babies when he is in the house, just as long as they do not pull his tail too hard. But when he has done that, and between times, and when the moon gets up and night comes, he is the Cat that walks by himself, and all places are alike to him. Then he goes out to the Wet Wild Woods or up the Wet Wild Trees or on the Wet Wild Roofs, waving his wild tail and walking by his wild lone.
This is a story I struggle with because I love it so much. It is a story that was imprinted in my DNA as a child, my mother read it over and over to me before I even understood what a singing magic was. It’s poetry is breath-taking. When Pablo Neruda wrote, “The cat, only the cat, appeared complete and proud … smallest living-room tiger … But I do not know the cat … “ he was speaking of the Kipling’s Cat. And yet — and yet — and yet it is a story where Woman is the domesticater, a trope that has always been problematic, a sorceress undone by a wee little mouse. That’s where the story falls apart for me, the idea that someone so powerful in the craft that she can bring the First Singing Magic into the world is then reduced into a cartoon Tom and Jerry housewife standing on a chair, squealing because a mouse is in the room, allowing the Cat power over her. Sorry, Rudyard, I just don’t buy it. Still, outside that bit of daft sexism I still love everything else about the story, which is why I present it here. I love that some country (Australia? New Zealand?) actually made a stamp celebrating the story. Bravo.
This is a shout-out to those who wrote to me when I was feeling very blue last week. Your kindness was exactly what I needed, thank you! It’s still a bit crazy on my end.
To make a long story short, my grandmother was 92 years old when she passed over, so it wasn’t shocking, but sad. I flew out to California last Friday for the funeral, but something went wrong. I’m back in Michigan now, the funeral hasn’t happened just yet, though I fly back out to California on this coming Sunday. My grandfather is a retired marine (he fought in World War 2, in the Pacific) and he wants for himself and my grandmother to be buried at the marine cemetery Riverside, CA (it’s a big honor to be buried there). You’d think this would be a simple request, but no. Everything comes down to waiting until a governmental office in Minneapolis that deals with arranging for marine burials gives the funeral home where my grandmother’s body is currently at the OK to bring her to Riverside. We had been told it was going to happen yesterday, on Sunday, so the whole family flew in from Colorado and Michigan and parts of California down to Santa Ana where my grandparents lived. What no one told us was that last Monday was Veteran’s Day, being a holiday, so that pushed everything back a week. We believe the screw-up occurred with the funeral home, since they were the ones who told us the date. Unfortunately they’re also the only service in all of LA that deals with Riverside directly, so it wasn’t like we could go use someone else. Anyway, what this means to me is I’ll be in Michigan until next week, when I’ll battle Thanksgiving holiday crowds to head out to California for 48 hours for the funeral (I hope it happens this time) The good side of all this is that we were able to have our service for my grandmother on time, since the whole family was together. That felt good.
Once again, getting your kindness last week was a delight and surprise. It was exactly what I needed =)
DID YOU KNOW?
Nobel Peace Prize winner and international symbol of freedom Nelson Mandela was considered a terrorist by the US government and needed special permission to visit the USA all the way up to 2008. This is because in the 1980s South Africa’s ruling white minority declared the anti-Apartheid African National Congress (ANC) a terrorist group and no one in the US government thought to question this until 14 years after the fall of Apartheid.
Phoolan Devi (10 August 1963 – 25 July 2001) popularly known as the “Bandit Queen,” was an Indian dacoit (armed bandit), and later a politician. She was born into a poor rural family belonging to the Mallaah caste. Married to a much older man at an early age, she was branded as a social outcast after she left her husband to escape domestic abuse. Kidnapped by a gang of bandits hired to kill her, she subsequently married one of them, Vikram Mallah. The group then murdered Phoolan’s ex-husband, carrying out several highly publicized robberies at the time. Later, a different group of bandits, belonging to the Thakur caste, murdered Vikram and gang-raped Phoolan. After escaping from them, in 1981, her gang raided the Thakur outlaw village, killing twenty-two Thakur men in what came to be known as the Behmai massacre. As a result she gained a fearsome reputation as the “Bandit Queen” and some villagers started calling her an incarnation of the Hindu goddess Durga, goddess of flowers. In 1983, she surrendered and spent 11 years in prison. The 1994 film Bandit Queen, made against her wishes, was a highly romantic take of her life. After she left prison she ran as a candidate for the Samajwadi Party, getting elected to parliament in 1996. In 2001, she was assassinated by gunmen claiming revenge for the Behmai massacre.
2013 World Muslimah, bell hooks, Colonialism, essay, freedom of choice, hijab, Imperialism, Islamophobia, Lifestyle Feminism, Lori Ginzberg, Muslim Feminism, Muslimah, Noor Al-Sibai, Obabiyi Aishah Ajibol, Patriarchy, Pro-Choice, racism, White Privilege, xenophobia
[the biography] Elizabeth Cady Stanton: An American Life, states that although Stanton is well-known for her involvement in the women’s rights movement, she descended to some rather ugly racist rhetoric along the lines of, ‘Only we educated, virtuous white women are more worthy of the vote’ … That is where my disagreement with Stanton is strongest: Whose rights are you going to put down in the process of demanding your own?”
There has always been racism within the various mainstream Feminist movements. From Suffragettes like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who spent a lifetime advocating that black women should never have the same Constitutional rights as white women, all the way up to our modern age with Sarkozy’s France and FEMEN claiming that Muslim women should not have the right to choose how to dress themselves as they see fit.
I focus here on the debate over the hijab, the Islamic head-cloth that many Muslim women choose to wear, because for me it has direct parallels to the same logic and reasoning found in many Pro-Choice and Sexual Rights movements operating today; that is, that every woman should have the freedom to choose what they want to do with their bodies. Control over her body and the freedom to decide the course of her own life is critical not just to woman’s civil rights but all human rights as well. The fact that the people—-who seem blind to their own racial privileges and use xenophobia and Islamophobia to support their cause—-just happen to be women does not strengthen their arguments, it simply shows that we still live in a time and place where the dominate culture feels that it has the right to declare who gets to be called a Feminist and what a Feminist should look like.
Writing in her essay, Does Your Lifestyle Make You Unworthy of Feminism? Noor Al-Sibai says:
The term “Lifestyle Feminism” became a buzzword in the second wave of Feminism during the 1960’s and 70’s (in the Western-centric view of “Waves” of Feminism). The term, as defined by influential writer Bell Hooks in Feminism is For Everybody, is “the notion that there could be as many versions of Feminism as there were women”. It is the recognition—-or rather, the lack thereof—-of the fact that there is as much plurality within Feminism as there are Feminists that’s been troubling me recently. Many Feminists of all flavors (queer, fat, etc.) seem to be engaged in policing who can and can’t identify as a Feminist based purely on their own preferences and lifestyle choices. While this sort of internal division and conflict is nothing new (like when Black Feminism and Womanism split from mainstream Feminism, or the Feminist Sex/Porn wars of the 80’s and 90’s), it has reached a peculiar pinnacle when it comes to specific lifestyle choices such as the decision to engage in sex work (defined broadly as anything from webcam porn to stripping to escorting), or the decision to be a Muslim and wear a hijab …
I find the disassociation between fighting for the right of women to have freedom of choice over their own bodies when it comes to sexual reproduction but not when it comes to faith, fashion or lifestyle utterly bizarre. The fact that in 2013 there are still Feminists who are not only attacked and silenced by the larger “White Imperial Patriarchal culture,” as Bell Hooks points out, but also by members within their own struggle disastrous on all levels. I am not Muslim but as long as there are women in this world who choose to wear a hijab then I will help fight for their right to do so. That is, after all, what freedom of choice is all about.
The photos I use here were taken from various Muslim Feminist websites I read as I was writing this essay. The last, of the woman wearing the tiara, is Obabiyi Aishah Ajibola, from Nigeria, who was crowned 2013 World Muslimah in Jakarta.
I am in love with your hands, your fingers,
they have brought you more pleasure than I will
ever. Swift movements in the night where blur
and swish is called for, touch and stir, until
a coast of flesh, repeated broken beat
your chants, your prayers, bombastic solitude
when no one else would have you. Your discreet
pleasure, because it always is. Prelude
of things to come – like you. Show me your hands,
let me praise what you do effortlessly.
Grasped at length stroked, stroked – liquid gasp, your breath
in twos, threes, fours. Downs. Down in your lowlands,
where no one goes, I call that mystery.
Show me how you pray. Show me your small death.
Come, find me: others might have promised you
love but I’ll be the one who goes to hell
to win back your soul. Julius Caesar, who
crossed the Rubicon, loved a jezebel,
a war queen, a shy girl, promised as such
— “alea iacta est” — now the die is cast.
This is a promise I’m staking so much
on. War queen, Jezebel, Love: Hell is vast
and I am small, but I will go looking
for you. Orpheus taught me where to go.
I can fill the gods with tears. Our dreamland,
even our dreams, knows this song. I’m singing
you back, love. What is love to a shadow?
I’ll show you when I steal you from death’s land.