Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Are we still living in the stone age?

This is merely a bunch of questions thrown together. I haven’t written a post about this because for once I don’t know the answers to these questions. I would love to get a male’s perspective on the below questions. How does your mind operate? Do you think about such stuff or does it come “naturally.” And to the single women who are independent, what do you think the problem is?

Do men love to feel needed? Is this primitive instinct of being the protector and provider still within each man today?

I watched something recently and it got me thinking about this. The characteristics of single women are pretty much the same. Hardworking, strong career, financially stable... I have a strong academic background, an awesome job, I know how to use a drill, and pretty sure I could change a tyre as well. Do these traits of my stance as strong woman frigthen men? Do they feel that I am not in dire need of protection, that I'm not a damsel in distress?

Does their constant need to be a hero who rides in with his Ferrari and designer clothes and saves this maiden who's locked away in a room keep them away from women who don't need saving?

Are women who are independent come across as intimidating? I love doing things on my own. From having coffee to cutting my hair, I haven't an issue with doing these things alone. I'm happy that way as well. Do they watch me and think that I don't need someone? Does my independence push them away?

Many may say that a woman should not be too independent and that a man loves feeling needed. But where does one draw the line? Do I pretend to be someone that does not know what a drill bit is? Someone who needs a man to help her change the light bulb? Do I sacrifice all that I have learnt as a strong woman so I can satisfy some mans ego that makes him believe that he is a saviour? How does one do it?

Does a woman simply wait for a man who understands her and appreciates her qualities to come along? What happens if you end up waiting too long and your life is passing you by? I often wonder if this is a cultural problem. Are these fears more common amongst Indian men? Who are so used to their wives and mothers staying home while they kept the household together? If that is the case then this is a deeper issue which should be fixed at the core!

How does a woman compromise her independence in a way that she doesn’t risk losing herself in the process? Should she even do it in the first place?


  1. I find myself battling to solve this conundrum too. I always thought men would admire strong women who could do things for themselves. Turns out we're too intimidating. I don't get it. Sure, I've travelled alone, set up a new life by myself abroad, & can pretty much fend for myself, but how does that make me intimidating?
    I don't want to wear the pants, but neither do I want to be told want to do, & made to feel I can't do anything by myself.

    As for too career minded, heck what is that meant to mean? So we should just have mediocre jobs & not strive for excellence? We shouldn't harbour ambition?!

    And then there's my parents who instilled a sense of accomplishment in my siblings and I, who taught my 3 sisters and I not to rely solely on a man, who encourage us to reach our full potential, who don't feel that as girls our ambitions and dreams should be curtailed.

    My close friends are in the same boat, and so we support each other. But recently I've realised we've created our own bubble. I've been blind, I thought more guys were open-minded, but it turns out most can't handle an independent woman.

    The definition of 'independent woman' varies though.

    Yes guys, answer Suhaifa's questions. I'm curious to hear the replies.

    And what really gets my goat is guys who think that because a woman has a career & is independent she won't be a good mother or won't know how to take care of a home (which should in any case be a shared responsibility)

    Bottom line is both men & women need each other & need to feel needed in different ways. But it's not absolute, there are degrees to which we need each other.

    A man who feels manly & needed simply because the woman relies on him is lacking something within.

    A related post


  2. I think it may just be worth mentioning that this phenomenon is probably limited to a certain male demographic.

    White men tend to LOVE women who are independent, strong in their own right, and who don't "need" them. In my experience it's the more traditional Afrikaans boys who like the helpless damsel in distress. The modern man really prefers a woman who does her own banking and isn't scared to pop the hood of her car.

    At risk of going off on my usual rant, I'll just say that it is certainly my impression that Muslim men feel intimidated by strong women. There is a certain entitlement that Muslim men are born feeling. And their manhood should never be challenged, God forbid.

    I'd say shop elsewhere, ladies.

  3. I speak only for myself - not other males. ANd please forgive the length of this reply - because it got me thinking and I've put down those thoughts here.

    I agree that my sense of self-worth should not hinge on being 'needed' by my wife. Idealistically, I'd say that the only way to measure one's worth is to look at how you stand with regard to your Creator - because pleasing Allah is what's most important. (Of course, with that comes the cascading effects of being good to others, etc - which gives you good standing with them. But my point is that the one relationship which should be the absolute priority is the one you have with Allah. Everything else comes 2nd.)

    Now, reading this post, I got the distinct impression that you (the author) are obviously very strong and independent - like many of the young women today are.

    Islamically - there's nothing wrong with that, as long as the personality does not overstep the boundaries of the deen. I mean, at the time of the Prophet (pbuh) - weren't the women of Medina also strong and fiesty (as compared to their Meccan counterparts); and didn't the Prophet (pbuh) praise them for that strength?

    So, it's a good thing - or it CAN be a good thing - no doubt.

    But i get the sense a lot of your thoughts stem from the cultural community you come from - which is the Indian community.

    And, as a member of that community myself, I know that there is a very strong male dominance - regardless of which religion you adhere to. I think it's pretty much a sub-continent thing. We inherit that culture and way of thinking from those roots - which is why it's probably a striking characteristic of Indian people (i.e. people of Indian descent) regardless of where in the world they live.

    And many times, culture pollutes our understanding of Islam - which is why we have so many issues around gender and Islam - particularly among the Indian community in SA.

    For me, as an Indian male, I say that I do prefer the traditional gender roles.
    But I believe, that my view is not because of the cultural community I come from - and neither is it because of my own family background. My mother is a very strong, very independent woman - and I've never experienced her to be the type to just be the typical submissive Indian woman that doesn't question the husband and just allows him to be king of the castle.

    My view, I think, is shaped by Islam - and the understanding that those traditional roles are actually part of human 'fitra' - the natural inclinations and ways that Allah created us.

    Men were made to be a certain way; and women to be a certain way.

  4. That's not to say that one can't dip into the realm of the other on occassion. But when one tries to be like the other - in the sense that they act like they've got something to prove in order to be 'equal' - then I think that's just erroneous, because it goes against the natural order.

    Really now - a lot of today's feminist ideology is centered on the thought that women must be the SAME as men. Do the same jobs, earn the same money. Be the same.

    Do you think it's natural for a woman to be a fire fighter? Or a construction worker?

    Forget the modern concept of 'gender equality'. Just answer from the logical and instinctive perspective. Are those jobs that you think a woman was made for?

    Conversely, with the same perspective: you think it's natural for a man to stay at home and clean the house, decorate the house, take care of the children, etc?

    I'm not saying that the woman's role is confined to the home - and that a man must not lift a finger to help at home or with the kids. But I'm saying that, historically and naturally, those are realms which are more natural to the female gender.

    Modernity has twisted things tremdendously - to the point that many people believe that gender "equality" means that males and females must be the SAME.

    That's the big confusion. Equality does not mean SAMEness.

    I don't have this idea that I should be the hero that rides in and saves the woman. But at the same time, I know that it is my duty to protect my wife - and women. Not because it's a macho thing to do - but because Allah created men as the physically stronger gender; whose role it is to be protective of the other gender.

    That doesn't mean women are weak, incompetent beings that *need* men to save them. It doesn't undermine them at all. It just means, in my understanding, that it's the male's duty to look after the female.

    Islamically, you can go into the long discourse of how women are elevated in the eyes of the Shariah; and how honoured they are. I don't need to go into all that - you probably already know it.

  5. The problem, though, is that our culture has polluted our understanding and practice of Islam. And THAT's why so many people have this misconception that Islam oppresses women.

    But in reality - it's not Islam that does that (because Islam is perfect). It's PEOPLE - Muslim people - who have confused things and don't do things the way they should.

    So, at the risk of being challenged, I blame a lot of this on the Indian culture. (I'm not dissing the entire Indian culture - I'm just saying this element - that of male dominance and frequent mistreatment of women - is a big problem of the culture.)

    From my perspective: traditional roles are the fitra - it's the way we were made; and it's what's natural.

    Now, within trying to practice that fitra - both male and female need to observe the proper boundaries, and treat each other with justice and kindness; and not abuse their position (which probably happens more on the part of men).

    My wife and I quickly settled into those roles in our marriage (e.g. I do finances and she oversees the house) - but it wasn't a case of deliberately choosing it to be that way. It just kind of happened naturally - as per the fitra, I believe.

    So to conclude: independence and being strong can be a good thing - but not when taken to the extreme. I wouldn't want a woman who acts like a man; nor would I want one who thinks that she doesn't need a man at all and it's totally natural for her to do everything herself. Whether or not that's 'intimidating' - I don't know. But I do know it's unnatural - to me - for a woman to think she should take on the roles of a man.

    Male and female complement each other - and that's the way it should be.

    "Is this primitive instinct of being the protector and provider still within each man today?"

    Again - it's fitra. It's natural. That instinct is the way we (men) were made - so of course that's the instinct we have. ANd there's nothing wrong with that - as long as we conduct ourselves properly.

    Modernity would have you believe that that's an archaic, ancient way of thinking that needs to be abandoned.

    But Islamically, we know that it's part of fitra - it's the natural order of things.

    So, that's my view. Stick to the fitra - and do it within the bounds of Islam. Don't overstep those bounds.

  6. You make some very valid points. There are a few I would like to speak about

    1. "feminist ideology" - I agree the western feminist ideologies centre around the notion that men and women are equal whereby women can do whatever men do; the same jobs etc.

    I myself being a feminist have approached the topic from the Islamic perspective. The Muslim feminist argues that men and women are equal to each other in their spirituality. This has been clearly stated in the Quran. And what can be more important that ones spirituality and devotion to your creator? Definitely not your wealth or your job. The Muslim feminist is trying to reclaim the spirituality denied to Muslim women by men and not by Islam.

    2. Women can not be fire fighters - once again this boils down to what society has deemed acceptable and what isn't. Society has this notion that certain jobs are broken up into male and female. If a woman should be in charge of the kitchen only then why are some of the greatest chefs in the world male?

    The motor industry is considered a male sphere. Yet my mother owns and runs a used car dealership on her own. Yes she has male salesmen but from purchasing the cars to networking with other dealer principles, she does this on her own. Being the only female dealer principle in the Western Cape - my mother has proved to me, through the constant success of her businesses, that a woman can step into these roles.

    I believe it all boils down to what you are good at. If a man is good in the kitchen and an excellent child minder then good for him! If a woman is an excellent mechanic and great with tools then even better for her!

    Society has placed certain expectations and roles upon men and women not anything else.

    Khadija (RA) was one of the most successful business women of her time. Women used to fight alongside men in the battles in Early Islamic history. Some of the greatest scholars of Islam are women.

    Owning a business, being a soldier and being a religious scholar are professions that society has classed as "male only." Yet Islamic history has proven to us that women are just as capable to occupy these roles.

  7. I'm gonna rock the boat here because I'm both Anti-Culture and Anti-Feminism. I've blogged about this before.

    My definition of feminism is the freedom to make my own choices… like whether I’d like to work or not… and to be able to think for myself and have my own opinions and beliefs on various issues and subjects… without having a man dictate what I should say, feel, think or believe. But that’s it right there. That’s where my definition of feminism ends.

    As my Anthropologist sister once said "The problem is that people use the term 'feminism' without realizing what the true definition is. Granted, that you get different types of feminists. From the ones who just want equality to the ones who basically blame men for all their problems. The problem that I have with the extreme ideology is that it does exactly what it accuses men of doing. They assume that women have no say and no power in society, which is not the case. Many women, in different societies and cultures have power. They are not really ‘the weaker sex’.
    The other thing is we define what is powerless through western standards, trying to live an Islamic life. It does not work! As a woman I want to know that I can worship in a mosque, debate and add to Islamic intellectual knowledge, and be respected for this. For me this is ultimate equality."

    This excerpt also explains it well: "What we so often forget is that God has honored the woman by giving her value in relation to God— not in relation to men. But as Western feminism erases God from the scene, there is no standard left—except men. As a result, the Western feminist is forced to find her value in relation to a man. And in so doing, she has accepted a faulty assumption. She has accepted that man is the standard, and thus a woman can never be a full human being until she becomes just like a man.
    When a man cut his hair short, she wanted to cut her hair short. When a man joined the army, she wanted to join the army. She wanted these things for no other reason than because the “standard” had it." from www.suhaibwebb.com/islam-studies/a-womans-reflection-on-leading-prayer/"

  8. That said I strongly believe that Men and Women were created equally BUT were designed for different ROLES. And these roles are to be determined between couples because everyones needs and requirements are different. I see nothing wrong with a woman heading her own business or being a CEO to a large corporation, but I still believe that her man should be the head of the house, the *main* breadwinner, and see to his family's financial needs.

    Let us not forget that men are the Hunters. Thats what they were created for, so many of them feel a certain responsibility as such (to varying degrees amongst cultures). A very wise woman once told me "let the man *think* he's needed, even though you know you're perfectly capable of whatever it is that needs to be done. But why would you want to do it yourself when you can get someone else to do it for you? Don't take on responsibilities that are not necessary for you to take. Men are fragile creatures, like Crustaceans they're strong outside, but complete mush on the inside. They need their roles defined so that they feel that they're needed, wanted, that they're important, have a purpose and function. When a woman takes too much control or power, the boundaries and the definition of his role is questioned and compromised and casts doubt on the very essence of his being. So as the woman, you should make him *think* and *feel* like the head of the house, even though you know that you're the neck that turns that head."

    To us "Modern" Muslims, our fight is with "East vs West". We define ourselves through Western concepts and try to fit those ideals into an Islamic context and it's a fallacy on SO MANY levels, I cannot even begin to explain. Islam gave women rights long before any Western Institution. Unfortunately, our versions of Islam have been corrupted by Culture - specifically the Desi culture and furthermore, our definitions of who we are or who we're supposed to be has been influenced or corrupted by the "culture" (or lack thereof) of the West.

    I grew up like Mezzaterra, very independent and emotionally strong and I come from a whole line of women that were independent, feisty and going against the norm, doing things for themselves, but I've come to believe that both men and women have their places in society... and each has their responsibilities (like for eg. I believe a Mother should be instrumental in the children's upbringing but thats not to say that the father should be absent, it should be a 60/40).

    The SA Muslim scene differs greatly compared to other's in various foreign countries and here I have to agree with Zuhayra about looking elsewhere because most SA Indian men do not possess the intellect and understanding that our friend Dreamlife has been blessed with.

  9. I also want to point out that the need to be needed and wanted exist in men all around the world in various cultures and religions. A few months ago there was a lengthy debate surrounding Sex & The City 2 and it's depiction of Eastern and Western women on http://muslimahmediawatch.org/2010/06/sex-and-the-city-2-orientalist-boogaloo/

    I thought the movie was mediocre and it was like watching a biased documentary BUT there was a part of the movie that resonated, where Carrie tells the ladies (through implication and in not so many words) that just because Western men aren’t vocal or don’t complain about their independant women, it doesn’t mean that they are any different from Eastern men, because if they had it their way, Western men would prefer their women in the kitchen too (just like Big secretly wanted Carrie to be in the kitchen and not have to eat out/ order out every night). Men are men, the proverbial hunters, and most want the same things, regardless of race, culture or religion.

  10. I think women today, myself included, do not understand the difference between being hard and being strong.

    @Dreamlife, excellent argument skills. Wish more men could learn it!

  11. First of all Id like to say that I dont think there is going to be a blanket statement one fits all type of solution. Also some comments above like.... " A man who feels manly & needed simply because the woman relies on him is lacking something within... " is just simply silly and without basis.

    First of all, all creatures have been evolving since theyve been on this earth. The system of stress and our response to danger shows this. If we in our ancient times found a lion, out body releases hormones, tensing our muscles preparing ourselves for fighting or fleeing. In todays terms, this could be anything, from a knife threat, to a bully, to fights with the boss.

    Historically, and again through evolution, gender roles have naturally developed. Men are better equipped to handle jobs such as hunting, building, fighting, protecting. This had little to do with intelligence, but more to do with strength and power. Testosterone, higher in males will ensure that he becomes physically stronger, is more aggressive, more risk taking, which will help him in these endevours.

    Naturally the converse for women. Women would have to fill some roles, naturally more physically easier, or ones which require less physical strength, and ones which again they are better designed to. Eg nurturing, caring, cleaning, picking,etc.

    Over time, with the natural occurence of adaptation, it makes sense that the more each gender did their roles, the more better they got it, the more their nervouss systems would adapt.

    Psychologically this would happen also. A women would see men as someone who could protect them from danger, lions, bears, warrios, threats,etc, someone who would find them food, and take care of them. To reciprocate they would provide children and tend to them.

    Again naturally over time this would develop and strenghten the 'psychological needs' of both genders.

    It makes sense even today why girls prefer the 'bad boy'. The bad boy shows characteristics which perhaps unconsciously reflect those qualities above mentioned which they seek, or rather his apparent propensity to have them.

    So men have inherently in them certain psychological needs. As would a woman. This would be dependent on many things, including genes, family life, societal norms, education,etc.

    Its interesting because if you want to call these psychological needs patterns, then certain events can effectively 'break ' the patterns. A girl with parents where the mom was always running back to an abusive husband, might affect the girl so much so that she refuses to want to need a man for anything. Yes she can then be independent, but is this a decision made on rational choice, but rather of one based on unconscious forces?

    Id like to flip the coin and look at this way. Each women will have a certain view on how their man should be, again based on what ive mentioned above. Same for a guy. How do girls feel if their guy doesnt meet the standard?

    What if their guy goes through wicked mood swings, gets emotional alot, cries all the time. What if he decides, look hell look after the kids and the house, she can be the sole provider? What if he tells her he wants to cook and clean, and not bring in an income?

    Im sure that most women would at some time feel reservation about a situation like htis. Because their comes a time in every persons life, when they like to made to feel like a woman or man. This again would take into account media portrayals, community and societal norms, religion, family life, education etc.

    Would a man picture coming in from work, after a long day, seeing a beautiful women, his kids running at him, a nice warm meal all waiting for him? Its been built into his brain through evolution, if not then society, if not then the media. The more prevalent it is, the more hed expect it.

  12. And yes as much as a women would like to be independant, does she not feel some massive conncection with some part of her when she gets treated like a lady? when a guy brings her flowers, opens a door for her, hugs her?

    As societies are evolving these old patterns are being challenged, primarily as an effect of mothers entering the work place. But it will take a long time to wipe our years of evolution and cultural and societal norms.

    I must also add that while I personally have no issue with women working, whether because they have to, or because they want to, we must be very careful in what we think is good for the child.

    A working mother might place a child say at 4 or 5 at her moms place, or a day care, or school. While according to her and her spouse, the child is old and well adjusted enough to handle this. The problem is that at those tender ages, the childrens cognitive functions are not developed very well, they understand things better in emotions. Any event, small even where he required a mom or dad to be around could be detrimental to his well being later on in his life if they werent. I know we cant be with our kids all the time, but I dont think its a case of being supermom and independent if that means a less healthy child. Now some ladies would say yes why doesnt dad stat at home. As ive said men have through centuries developed their traits, and yes a few exceptions slip through, but a large part of his identity on all levels is there through his role as a provider.

    Interestingly that thing about the firefighters, the easist showing of the difference in abilities would be the olympics. or sports. the males times will be faster. they can push more weight. swim faster, jump higher. Now for something like firefighting, lets say there are 5 guys in a building. A man due to his speed,strength,fitness might get them all down in say 10 minutes. The women perphaps 15. this extra 5 minutes might cause the one man to die. maybe its an extreme situation, but it could be extrapolated to almost any situation requireing physical endurance. mining, building, farming. for similar roles, the male would if perfectly healthy on most occasions work longer,faster.

    Its interesting that scholars who have made jurisprudence and passed laws, about everything under the sun, and are deemed to be brilliant by men and female, are apparently lacking when it comes to issues dealing with gender. Im not going to comment on my own view, but it makes little sense on one hand to exalt their ability in somethings, but other things which dont currently suit us, then its a bit limited? If we used such logic how would we know if we are not self serving? And then I could argue that the rest of their ideas are also messed.

  13. I find it interesting that there were only male prophets as far as I know. The majority of saints again as far as I know in terms of literature would be males, unless the females were all undercover lol. The leaders in islam cannot as I understand it or rather what jurists say really be a caliph or run the place.I also would like to know what females think of the idea that muslim females cannot deny their husbands sex. No matter how it gets answered, questions like this will always alarm women who grew up with more freedom of choice in their lives eg women in this country. I dont know how female muslims would justify or explain such situations.

    As for that idea of fitra explained above, im just taking a guess, but id rather look at it as saying all people are born into a natural state of heaven. their psyhic forces are perfectly balanced.

    I dont think indian muslim males are the problem. Certain societies, whether through religion, (when I say that it means the interpretation thereof), or culture, have repressed women for centuries. Unfortunately mern from the middle middle east, muslim countries. India, Pakistan, bangladesh, many african countries all fall under this banner.

    It will be difficult to undo mindsets overnight. Whats funny is that apparent corrupt nations such as America and England, which most would want to believe is being led by satan, or some conspiracy group, has done more for and in allowing women to gain more rights. All people as well have more rights generally in these countries and other western countries, and they have better avenues and more freedom to fight for theirs than other countries.

    And yet supposed muslim countries, with great scholars quoting the hadiths, reading the quraan, following great opinions, this isnt the case?

    Sorry to say I find it funny that people following 'the truth are so well off'