Sunday, September 28, 2008

Objectification, Marriage and Deen: Lessons from Domestic Violence class

I must admit the domestic violence class has not been all bad and several times it has sparked lively debates from the attendants and there are several things that I have learned. I don't agree with all of them, but they would preclude future run-ins with the law if followed.

This class has taught me to look at the marriage crisis and the Muslim marriage crisis specifically. One of the things that has come out in the class is objectification. The class is led by a female Doctor who is very passionate about the objectification of women. Words like chick, broad, hoe, hootchie etcetera are quickly doused with stern opposition and sometimes accompanied with a short etymological history lesson to bring everyone's vocabulary up to speed. As in the word broad as being referred to a woman's hips as opposed to a man's hips which until the explosion of the McDonalds era were generally wider than men's. However references to men are not met with such staunch opposition. So in class there is always a red flag brought up when terms such as, she looks good, she's fine, she's hot, she knows how to treat a man, she's my girl, my baby, my wife or any other language that objectifies a woman to something other than an independent entity comes from someones mouth.

So I looked at this quality of objectification and as Muslims we do not objectify based on physical qualities such as rump size, hair or other things but we do objectify based on appearance of Deen. For the man it is often stated does she wear hijab, one of my personal prejudices and therefore anyone who doesn't wear hijab is excluded from the matrimonial search. Does she pray, does she read Quran. How does she feel about Zakat? All of these things that are quickly perused on how to pick out a mate in Islam guide. However all of those checkmarks ultimately wind up in the objectification bin. They are only a cursory view of the depth of the person. Usually the list is shortened substantially, are they cute? Check. Do they wear hijab? Check. Okay let's get married and have a house full of kids. This pattern is repeated over and over in Islamic circles the world over. It is even worse for us because many times we don't even get to know the person. We meet on the internet and ask a couple of questions and bam then we get married. It also poses several problems because the structure of what marriages are supposed to be arranged has been completely dismantled. Especially here in the West. Traditionally when couples in Islam were to marry the families got involved and due scrutiny was taken (or should have been taken) to see if the couple was in fact compatible. Today with the psychology and western influence the process of finding and choosing a mate is about as deep as swinging into a fast food joint and driving out.

The level of objectification currently performed in Muslim marriages is staggering and the culture of the west is to not treasure your objects. Objects should be traded out as soon as new and upgraded models come online. It is a sad statement but women are turning 18 everyday so the assembly line is constantly rolling out new and updated models. Also with the divorce rate being what it is older slightly used models are becoming cheaper and cheaper to attain (that goes for both women and men). So the merry-go-round of marriage is constantly being rehashed over and over again. Spewing children and destruction in their wake. As divorcees come out of one relationship and immediately look for the "problem" quality absent in the next relationship thus adding one additional check on the already short checklist. Doesn't drink, check, Prays check, doesn't want polygamy, check ok I'm good only to run into a relationship of entirely different problems and just as troublesome if not more troublesome as the polygamy or whatever PROBLEM that they believe caused the break-up in the first place.

The point of bringing out the obvious objectification of each other as Muslims hopefully forces us to rethink how we approach marriage all over again. We have several problems with marriage. The Wali process is greatly misused and often abused if not discarded altogether. What the Wali is supposed to do is first have an indepth knowledge of the woman involved, Second he is supposed to perform a detailed investigation into the character and moral fortitude of the groom to be. This whole process has been undermined. For the most part Wali's in the states are usually a friend or some random "pious" brother from the community, whose role is mostly cursory and usually very after the fact. Women who are divorced with children do not need a Wali in the first place lending to this massive surplus of women. This adds to the number of women competing for good men which is further exacerbated by men being weak and knowing the ease of being able to fulfill their sexual desires and refusing to marry be they Muslim or not. Creating a massive competition race for the available man and the mentality that if Mr. Right is not available then Mr. is good enough.

So what is the solution to getting past objectification? The solution of the good Dr. is time. That is reasonable enough because it takes time to get past all of the facade that one can portray on several initial encounters. Time and the elimination of talking about sex. Yes it would be great if we could all hold our heads up and say that we can just talk on a friendly basis about marriage and the Deen and responsibility, but invariably when a woman and a man start talking it eventually leads to sexual discussions of some level or another. Sex and the desire thereof can and will always skew rational objective thinking. If sex for you is lacking and you are desirous of it chances are in that 6 months to a year of talking you will become comfortable with your prospective spouse and begin talking about sex. We can jump up on the holier than thou high horse, but even the most pious of brothers and sisters are swayed by desire for intimacy. Especially if it was either lacking in a previous relationship or there was a sexual infraction. Sex and sexual security will be discussed. It is one of the necessary questions. Will you do this, will you want that, how much, how often, what can I expect. After that question is asked the subject just normally doesn't go away. Then the fortitude of objectivity dwindles and later becomes next week. The only thing that naturally extends this process is finances.

One of the other topics that comes out in the class is the wholesaling and commodifying of female sex. In the West we live in a sex sells economy. A sex sells world and men created weak in his desires to abstain from sex is now thrown into that world. Now in a class of all non-Muslims it is shown to be a problem as these men try to find meaningful relationships and begin to wade through the massive amounts of junk sex to find the real woman that they are looking for. It has become painfully evident to me that if I wanted 20 girlfriends it would be a feat that would take minimal effort. Regardless of her status, income earning potential, background, race or whatever. It is that way because there are just so many women out there who will accept a man just based on having a man. They will have children with him, they will sex him endlessly pay his bills or whatever else because competition is so stiff, and if you are a man who is commited to his children then the door of buxom babes is endless. So in light of that the man Muslim or non-Muslim is left with this massive sifting process while fighting his urges for sex. No man who is basically available has to ever sleep alone in Miami. He really doesn't even have to be available all he has to be is interested and possibly get hair and nails done. And if he is trying to remain chaste and be upright then it only means that the stack that he has to sift through is larger and larger. He doesn't even have to try all he has to do in some cases is just be at the same venue as available women. He doesn't have to look good, have a job or anything, it is just the way of the world. No one wants to be lonely, and for those who haven't mastered the art of solitude and reflection then when one relationship ends, immediately another must begin, whether it is the right time or not. Sometimes the relationship doesn't have to end, the object of affection may just be gone, either at work or on vacation or whatever and the other person NEEDS someone to fill that void which is themselves.

So the solution to end all of this nonsense was a litany of tests and a due process investigation as to the veracity of the husband or wife in question and developing a relationship of depth based in Deen, mutual understanding and commitment, like values and goals for a family and not emotions. Then there is the ever famous three choices that the class has really brought to bare and that is Negotiate, Accept or Divorce. Those three things will be remembered by me to the end of time, because really those are the only three options. If your husband/wife won't or can't come to an agreement you can either chalk that argument up as a loss and accept the consequences or if they are serious enough you can get divorced. However I found it amusing on the Power and Control Wheel it clearly points that threats to leave where one of the points, but the class advocates leaving as the third solution. However to give them the benefit of the doubt it was classed under coercion and threats right next to threatening suicide. The class I have found is led by a lesbian, not that it matters, or so it is supposed that is her orientation. The Duluth Power and Control Wheel model that is used as a backdrop for the class has come under scrutiny of male-bashing types as can be read on wikipedia. It makes me want to stir the pot with a more lively debate next week, who knows maybe I will work up a fuss and make her throw out that model. Because either gender can be abusers as represented on www.batteredmen.com. And to be honest both myself and Sakinah are represented on the Duluth model wheel. I think we would find a little of all of us there.

So the three choices were the next big thing that I learned and that was insightful and should preserve my freedom as far as relationships are concerned.

The last thing that I would like to talk about is Marriage VS. a Relationship. There is a lot of debate in secular and non-secular circles of what is and what is not marriage. Here on my blog I have been accused of quite a many things and I appreciate it. Accusations allow me to grow intellectually and I think I may repost this on Sobia Forums at least this part. When a relationship boils down to divorce or when someone feels that they have been wronged in marriage there is always a lot of hubbub about what marriage is and what it isn't. Currently marriage as defined in secular society is :

marriage

n. the joining of a male and female in matrimony by a person qualified by law to perform the ceremony (a minister, priest, judge, justice of the peace or some similar official), after having obtained a valid marriage license (which requires a blood test for venereal disease in about a third of the states and a waiting period from one to five days in several). The standard age for marriage without parental consent is 18 except for Georgia and Wyoming where it is 16, Rhode Island where women can marry at 16, and Mississippi in which it is 17 for boys and 15 for girls. More than half the states allow marriages at lesser ages with parental consent, going as low as 14 for both sexes in Alabama, Texas and Utah. Marriages in which the age requirements are not met can be annulled. Fourteen states recognize so-called "common law marriages" which establish a legal marriage for people who have lived together by agreement as husband and wife for a lengthy period of time without legal formalities.

Pasted from <http://dictionary.law.com/default2.asp?selected=1217&bold=marriage||>


This definition is then complicated by this one in some states:

common-law marriage

n. an agreement between a man and woman to live together as husband and wife without any legal formalities, followed and/or preceded by cohabitation on a regular basis (usually for seven years). Common-law marriage is legal in Alabama, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas and Utah, thereby recognizing a marriage for purposes of giving the other party the rights of a spouse, including inheritance or employee benefits. Such informal partnerships are recognized by some local governments for purposes of the rights of a spouse under employment contracts and pension rights even where the state does not recognize this as a marriage.

Pasted from <http://dictionary.law.com/default2.asp?selected=249&bold=marriage||common||law||>


The technicalities of which lend itself to both the legalization of same-sex marriages and the polygamy debates. In actuality though marriage is a piece of paper that enable the individuals involved access to a legal vessel containing rights and privileges sanctioned by the state without further documentation. Unless specifically excluded by documentation a state sanctioned marriage will provide to a certain extent the following rights and provisions:

Marriage Rights and Benefits

Learn some of the legal and practical ways that getting married changes your life.

Whether or not you favor marriage as a social institution, there's no denying that it confers many rights, protections, and benefits -- both legal and practical. Some of these vary from state to state, but the list typically includes:

Tax Benefits

  • Filing joint income tax returns with the IRS and state taxing authorities.
  • Creating a "family partnership" under federal tax laws, which allows you to divide business income among family members.

Estate Planning Benefits

  • Inheriting a share of your spouse's estate.
  • Receiving an exemption from both estate taxes and gift taxes for all property you give or leave to your spouse.
  • Creating life estate trusts that are restricted to married couples, including QTIP trusts, QDOT trusts, and marital deduction trusts.
  • Obtaining priority if a conservator needs to be appointed for your spouse -- that is, someone to make financial and/or medical decisions on your spouse’s behalf.

Government Benefits

  • Receiving Social Security, Medicare, and disability benefits for spouses.
  • Receiving veterans' and military benefits for spouses, such as those for education, medical care, or special loans.
  • Receiving public assistance benefits.

Pasted from <http://www.nolo.com/article.cfm/pg/1/objectId/E0366844-7992-4018-B581C6AE9BF8B045/catId/F896EE61-B80C-4FE1-B1687AC0F07903BA/118/304/ART/>

Employment Benefits

  • Obtaining insurance benefits through a spouse's employer.
  • Taking family leave to care for your spouse during an illness.
  • Receiving wages, workers' compensation, and retirement plan benefits for a deceased spouse.
  • Taking bereavement leave if your spouse or one of your spouse’s close relatives dies.

Medical Benefits

  • Visiting your spouse in a hospital intensive care unit or during restricted visiting hours in other parts of a medical facility.
  • Making medical decisions for your spouse if he or she becomes incapacitated and unable to express wishes for treatment.

Death Benefits

  • Consenting to after-death examinations and procedures.
  • Making burial or other final arrangements.

Family Benefits

  • Filing for stepparent or joint adoption.
  • Applying for joint foster care rights.
  • Receiving equitable division of property if you divorce.
  • Receiving spousal or child support, child custody, and visitation if you divorce.

Housing Benefits

  • Living in neighborhoods zoned for "families only."
  • Automatically renewing leases signed by your spouse.

Consumer Benefits

  • Receiving family rates for health, homeowners', auto, and other types of insurance.
  • Receiving tuition discounts and permission to use school facilities.
  • Other consumer discounts and incentives offered only to married couples or families.

Pasted from <http://www.nolo.com/article.cfm/pg/2/objectId/E0366844-7992-4018-B581C6AE9BF8B045/catId/F896EE61-B80C-4FE1-B1687AC0F07903BA/118/304/ART/>

Other Legal Benefits and Protections

  • Suing a third person for wrongful death of your spouse and loss of consortium (loss of intimacy).
  • Suing a third person for offenses that interfere with the success of your marriage, such as alienation of affection and criminal conversation (these laws are available in only a few states).
  • Claiming the marital communications privilege, which means a court can’t force you to disclose the contents of confidential communications between you and your spouse during your marriage.
  • Receiving crime victims' recovery benefits if your spouse is the victim of a crime.
  • Obtaining immigration and residency benefits for noncitizen spouse.
  • Visiting rights in jails and other places where visitors are restricted to immediate family.

Note that if you are in a same-sex marriage in Massachusetts or a domestic partnership or civil union in any of the states that offer those relationship options, many of the benefits of marriage won't apply to you, because the federal government does not recognize these same-sex relationships. For example, you may not file joint federal income tax returns with your partner, even if your state allows you to file jointly. And other federal benefits, such as COBRA continuation insurance coverage, may not apply. Consult a lawyer with expertise in this area to learn more about the rights and benefits available to same-sex couples.

Pasted from <http://www.nolo.com/article.cfm/pg/3/objectId/E0366844-7992-4018-B581C6AE9BF8B045/catId/F896EE61-B80C-4FE1-B1687AC0F07903BA/118/304/ART/>

This is in essence the embodiment of the social contract that we deem marriage between the state and the partnership of individuals. In Islam the contract reads much the same way. The husband and wife are joining a union for the protection of religion and lineage. It is the duties of the husband to provide a home on a level where the woman is accustomed to living, instruct her in Deen, provide food and clothing, sexual rights and protection from outside forces. This is to state to the point where the woman does not have to Work, Clean the house, Instruct the children, cook the meals , nurse the kids or anything else that we traditionally think of as to what marriage is. Many women get angry and ask if they are only there for sex and theoretically that is the only thing that she is responsible for and to look after his stuff while he is away, other than that ISLAMICALLY she has no other responsibilities imposed upon her. That is a brief view of Islamically what marriage is on paper. However to quote at length you can look at any of these sites for a full explaination. However again it is simply a contract between two people to perform a specific function for a matter of time. That is all that it is a legal instruction providing certain entitlements to the participants involved. It can be altered or ratified or irretreivably broken.

As a contract it is necessary to lay out the lay of the land prior to marriage. If there is going to be polygamy or not and if so what are the provisions. When I used to argue on beliefnet I used to go over multiple comprehensive stratagies for women to use to avoid polygamy or recourse for when it actually did happen. The primary was in the marriage contract itself. You can place anything in your marriage contract and just as men can go into polygamy with a myriad of justifications most men hopefully know how to honor contracts and if not you have a clear resource of what you will leave with. In your marriage contract you can state that the husband has to provide for you in the same manner of living as you were accustomed to before any subsequent marriages. So in effect if he provided for the home $50K a year for maintenance unless he gets a raise to $100K or more he has to maintain you at your standard of living of $50K and you can factor in a revision of provision at directed intervals. You can also state that you have the right to divorce and keep property, custody of children or a cornucopia of other things and the US courts will honor it if it is signed and notarized. My wife signed a marriage agreement that I would get the children in case of divorce, however that copy was lost and although I have the actual text of the document if I had the original signed copy our divorce case would have went a lot smoother, or I would have at least been in a better position to get my children.

That is marriage. It is only an instrument that dictates what needs to be done in areas of responsibility of assets and children and it is primarily the same in both Islamic and secular systems. What is argued by women and men primarily on the issue of marital strife is not marriage but the relationship that ensues after a marriage has been established which is the relationship. When you talk about issues financial, polygamy, fidelity, child rearing or otherwise you are not talking about the written or verbal contract you are talking about behaviours associated with your spouse and that deals primarily with the relationship itself. It deals with effective communication, mutual respect, honor and the things that are talked about in this website. These are the things that people begin to expect however they are different from marriage this is the relationship between the husband and wife and to preclude problems in the relationship aspect of marriage you have to listen and become human. I just wanted to say this because there is a lot of angst where the discussion of marriage is concerned because as a Muslim woman you are not required to be in charge of anything at all whatsoever. Except in the absence of your husband. So when you break everything down to raw basics we can clear away the clutter and realize what it is that we are actually upset about. Is it the piece of paper or is it the individual. Yes you may feel like he can do whatever he wants, but the fact of the matter is so can women. As a Muslim woman you are not obliged to do squat except be available. Period. His house is his responsibility, His children are his responsibility, feeding is his responsibility and everything else is his responsibility, you are essentially responsible for yourself and nothing else.

Now most people want the fairytale. I love him he loves me and we will be happy and in love and etcetera and that is what people interpret as marriage, but that is not marriage. Allah says that HE will put love there, love is not a prerequisite for marriage. Allah said that He would join the hearts, but a marriage without joined hearts is still a marriage. If I said that my heart was irretrievably broken, but I was going to do something for the Deen and went out and married four widows/ divorcees and only provided for the house the marriages would all still be valid and good and in keeping of the spirit of taking care of the Ummah, because that is what it was for. After Uhud it wasn't please go out and find all the hottest women and marry them for the sake of the community no it was marry them because there is a community need. I don't have any qualms in doing that. There should be no qualms with marrying old or young, women with a lot of children, or none, ugly or comely because that is not why the institution of polygamy or marriage is in place it is in place for the protection of the Deen and the community of Muslims. That quality of equal opportunity is hardly one that is ever debated when it comes to polygamy the primary objection that I normally hear are the affairs turned halaal or whatnot.

The difference between marriage and relationships though should be pretty clear and manageable. Arguments and disagreements should be resolved equitably and if not there are the three options.

Thank you I appreciate you listening to my ramblings or at least skimming them.


2 comments:

  1. Interesting post. I'm a domestic violence policy reformer, and I'm a woman. Please, yes, confront this teacher on the "facts" she offers. Has she told you that 25% of all marriages have abuse? That of those half are mutual? And of the rest, that 70% of the time it is the female abusing the male? All true. Has she told you that 60-80% of domestic violence allegations are found to be unnecessary or false? True. Did she tell you that in some states "bothering" a person is considered domestic violence? That calling a woman fat is domestic violence? All true. Did she tell you that false accusations are rarely if ever prosecuted? http://www.mediaradar.org

    teri
    http://sharedparentingworks.org
    http://www.teristoddard.org
    http://www.jugsforjustice.org

    ReplyDelete
  2. Muslims are not allowed to call their wives fat. The Prophet disliked of anyone calling anyone by pejorative names=let alone your wife.

    ReplyDelete