The thing about women

Note: This post is more in an essay-style; the style with which I’m most comfortable.

I met a woman yesterday I had never met before. She had come to collect her child and we chatted  for less than an hour over a cup of tea. She is Arab and very sweet. Initially we talked about children and their school but once I brought her tea, the conversation became more about her life. She seemed constantly tired and even complained that her legs hurt all the time. She talked non-stop about how she is pressurized by family and society to have more children when she can’t even raise the two she has already. She complained about her mother-in-law more than once, even mimicked her. Throughout that conversation I had very little to add except for an occasional nod and “oh, really? That’s bad.” And then she said something that caught my attention. She mentioned briefly that her mother never encouraged her to enjoy every moment of her childhood and allowed her to act grown-up prematurely. That time was lost. She was married off at fifteen and so although our children are of the same age and she looks older than me, she is actually quite a few years younger than me.  There was a faint sadness in her voice when she said that. That sadness could only be detected by another woman.

That is the thing about women – we may love our men, but when it comes to understanding the pain of a woman, our men almost always fail us. From period cramps or a hurt ego to a divorce or miscarriage, it is a woman who understands the pain of another woman even if she has never had period cramps herself or never went through the agony of miscarriage. Yet a man who obviously can’t go through either kind of pain still fails to show the kind of sympathy required in those delicate moments. Is it as simple as women having higher emotional intelligence? Is this why in I am Sam, Sam’s lawyer is a woman and all the people who testify on his side are women?

So I kept thinking about it after she left and realised that while her and I shared nothing in common and if we are to meet again there would be more awkward silences and nods, it is not shopping together or talking or even sharing recipes that bring women together; women bond immediately through sharing pain. It is that moment when one woman detects misery from the subtle drop in the tone of voice or the sinking of the eyes of another woman, that a link is created and women who fail to either detect or ignore the anger or hurt of another woman lack a very common gift. They are thus often called ‘cold’ and even ‘cruel.’

This is why I think Islamic feminism is necessary and was inevitable. I had asked once why you all want to belong to a group when most of you live in liberal countries that give women many rights, often even equal rights to men, and you all commented that even if you don’t have to go through the pain yourself you wish to stand up for the rights of women who are less fortunate than you. Women are empathic creatures; I think that is why feminists stand up for the rights of gays and those women and men who are oppressed. Yet this is a gift that is rarely mentioned in many patriarchal scriptures. We hear about men’s strength and courage and intelligence and bravery and their ability to maintain the classic stiff upper-lip, but what about women’s superior emotional intelligence? Perhaps that is why many people don’t like feminists …  because while women have higher EQ, we also know how and when to filter it and channel it. Feminists while bonding strongly with other women, can chastise men firmly – something the latter are still not used to. And while most men don’t want to be told how to treat their women, they also don’t want outside sympathy/empathy for their women from other women because women gain strength from unity.  

I wanted to share these thoughts with you – women and men who read this blog; wanted to thank you for caring whenever you have cared for others; and wanted to let you know that I appreciate you for appreciating others – women and men, straight and gay, Muslim and non-Muslim.

If you have any comments/thoughts/opinions, please share. I would particularly like to know why you think Islamic Feminism as a movement and an organization of Muslim women is important for the unity and well-being of Muslim women in the 21st Century.


35 thoughts on “The thing about women

  1. Sana says:

    United we stand divided we fall
    Sad that the woman was hurt, indirectly though , ‘lost’ her childhood because of her mother( a woman) and also hurt by mother in law ( yet another woman).
    Women do feel the vibes more than men do.( I guess that’s the male conspiracy, to make them stand against each other.)
    Beautiful post:)

    • Metis says:

      That is a good observation. I thought about that too especially when I was thinking about the film I am Sam, even in it he is *betrayed* by a woman – the officer who removes the child from him is a woman. So yes, like I have said some times before as well women are women’s worst enemies.

  2. Sara says:

    “Is it as simple as women having higher emotional intelligence?”

    I don’t believe women have a higher emotional intelligence. There are women who are sympathetic to other people and there are women who aren’t, just like there are men who are sympathetic to others and men who are not. I’m always wary about essentializing certain attributes as male or female. But then again, I often feel like women are more empathetic because they give birth. But even then, men have children too – it’s a bit offensive to them to say that they don’t feel as deeply about their kids as the mothers do.

    • Metis says:

      Sara, if I were to choose one of my parents, I would choose my dad. Indeed there are many women who lack any form of empathy and I have seen many really good fathers, brothers, husbands and lovers. I have also seen really cruel women, but somehow I feel like they appear cruel to us exactly because we expect better from women naturally. And it is not just humans, most animals have females showing greater love and feeling. That has caused some psychologists to claim that EQ is not *real* intelligence. But there are more psychologists who not only argue that it is real intelligence, they also claim based on results of their tests that women ‘generally’ do have higher EQ and even those women who appear ‘cold’ may have a higher EQ than a man but they lack the wisdom to use it. I think the situation Wafa describes below can be an example of this – that Saudi women have the EQ, maybe even higher EQ than Saudi men, but they can’t channel it and don’t know how to tap on it.

    • Zuhura says:

      I agree with Sara. Or, if women do have more emotional intelligence, I believe it’s because we are raised that way. We can choose to raise boys to be more emotionally intelligent, though it may be difficult we’re not the only influence on them.

      • Metis says:

        Yes, boys should be taught. It is happening ins schools already. My pre-schooler is shown pictures with emotions in school and asked what the person is feeling and then asked what he thinks should be his reaction. He had began biting his older siblings and now they know to say ‘ouch!’ in a hurt tone and pout and he quickly kisses them, gives a big hug and says “I’m sowwiw”. So, I think it is being done even at national level here and I’m thrilled.

      • Becky says:

        It has been shown that women have a higher emotional intelligence than men, though a lot of it is to do with the way we are socialized. For example, there are about 4 boys/men for every 1 girl/woman with Asperger’s Syndrome (very high-functioning autism) the reason for this, psychologists believe, is due to the way women are socialized (one of the indicators of Asperger’s syndrome is low emotional intelligence).

        • Metis says:

          This is so weird, Becky. In my initial comment I had said the same thing and then deleted it. A woman I know teaches kids with gifts and she has a female student with Asperger’s syndrome and she said she has to teach her empathy by using the same materials she uses to teach boys without Asperger’s syndrome. Basically she said that girls are born with the innate ability to empathise more and while both boys and girls may have to be taught to increase their EQ, girls are better at it.

          • Becky says:

            That’s really interesting! I definitely think this is true. My dad had Asperger’s Syndrome, and I’m bordering on it (but my emotional intelligence is too high). And I have been told that if I’d been born a guy, I probably would’ve had Asperger’s.

  3. susanne430 says:

    “women bond immediately through sharing pain”

    Very true. It’s also how I bonded with my Syrian friend as he finally had a chance to continue grieving about his beloved father who was taken from him only six days after he turned 21. I encouraged him to share about his loss and we cried together (still do sometimes) and now he considers me a second mom and adores me so much. I think all people want someone to connect with on this level, but man-to-man conversations often don’t work this way. I’m sure there are exceptions, but women feel safer probing when they see someone near tears and encouraging them with hugs and kind words so they feel more like sharing their burdens.

    • susanne430 says:

      “It is that moment when one woman detects misery from the subtle drop in the tone of voice or the sinking of the eyes of another woman,”

      Do you think women are better at reading nonverbal cues? Or maybe they feel safer probing when they detect something is wrong? Perhaps most men detect something, but *so not to embarrass another man* they won’t dare acknowledge that they detected a tear or a shaky voice. Maybe it’s not because they don’t care about the person’s hurt, but they feel they might embarrass the guy by admitting they saw the other’s “weakness” (as if tears are a weakness.)

      Of course I am writing all this from how I observe things in the US. Other countries and even another’s experience within the States may be totally different.

      As far as Scriptures go, one of the best that is praising women is from Proverbs 31. King Lemuel is quoted as writing this and it’s truly wonderful that he admired all these things about women.

      10 A wife of noble character who can find?
      She is worth far more than rubies.
      11 Her husband has full confidence in her
      and lacks nothing of value.
      12 She brings him good, not harm,
      all the days of her life.
      13 She selects wool and flax
      and works with eager hands.
      14 She is like the merchant ships,
      bringing her food from afar.
      15 She gets up while it is still night;
      she provides food for her family
      and portions for her female servants.
      16 She considers a field and buys it;
      out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
      17 She sets about her work vigorously;
      her arms are strong for her tasks.
      18 She sees that her trading is profitable,
      and her lamp does not go out at night.
      19 In her hand she holds the distaff
      and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
      20 She opens her arms to the poor
      and extends her hands to the needy.
      21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
      for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
      22 She makes coverings for her bed;
      she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
      23 Her husband is respected at the city gate,
      where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
      24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
      and supplies the merchants with sashes.
      25 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
      she can laugh at the days to come.
      26 She speaks with wisdom,
      and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
      27 She watches over the affairs of her household
      and does not eat the bread of idleness.
      28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
      her husband also, and he praises her:
      29 “Many women do noble things,
      but you surpass them all.”
      30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
      but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
      31 Honor her for all that her hands have done,
      and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

      • Metis says:

        Susie, I’m glad you quoted Proverbs. It came to mind and also the passage from the Guru Granath. There is also a similar passage in Manu Smitri but I don’t have the reference on hand. But they don’t talk about the women’s ability to show empathy and love. Also, I feel (although I really like it) that the Proverbs 31 stereotypes women and puts them into a tight gender box – it uses reverse psychology to make a woman obedient, sweet, honourable, and hard working. I would be very uncomfortable if I was told I would be like “rubies” if I woke up before dawn to weave, stitch, milk the cows, cook and clean and still remain cheerful and sane enough to “speak with wisdom” 😀

        “Do you think women are better at reading nonverbal cues?” – I think some women are and some men are better than some women, but women are far better, IMHO. I think once men *know* that something is wrong they are very good at showing love, care and concern, but they have often to be told that something is wrong!

        • susanne430 says:

          “Also, I feel (although I really like it) that the Proverbs 31 stereotypes women and puts them into a tight gender box –”

          Well, I’m sure back when this was written the people were not enlightened to what all women could do and this describes the women’s roles of the day. Do you think a King would put his wife/mother in a position at the city gates as if women were involved in politics! 🙂

          I find it heartening that she is buying with her own money and investing and working hard to make her investment profitable. (No talk there of the man doing it all for her or her having to rely on men to support her or buy the field for her or even permission given for her to buy the field!) Then she helps the poor (I consider this some sort of sympathy if not empathy) while at the same time making sure her family is not neglected. I see why Lemuel described her valuable far above rubies. At least he didn’t say she’s a ruby let’s hide her away to protect her! Nope, her works bring her praise even at the city gates! None of this “my wife doesn’t exist to you so don’t bother asking about her.” (This ignoring of people annoys me.)

          Maybe Lemuel is hyperbolic in stating all that women are able to do, but at least he doesn’t reduce his wife/mother to nothing more than a woman staying at home to satisfy her husband with good sex and breed.

          I think a lot of 21st century women can relate to having to work outside the home PLUS come home and do a lot of the cooking, cleaning and caring for children all the while offering wise advice and laughter.

          I always hated mother’s day services at church not because I am not a mother, but because the Proverbs 31 Lady was often spoken of and praised…and she is quite a woman to live up to. When I read all that I wonder if she is Super Woman!

          No pastor ever pointed out the traditional gender roles and said we needed to cook and clean and stay at home and raise babies, thankfully.

          Just thought I’d offer a different perspective since yours falls along gender stereotypes. I guess this is proof that two people can read the same thing and different aspects stand out to them. 🙂

    • Metis says:

      Susie, that may be true – women probe more when they sense something – and often shamelessly 😀

      Women are also more physical in terms of hugging and kissing the person who needs support. I have noticed that at least in children even boys need that physical touch to be consoled.

  4. wafa' says:

    what i am about to say may not be accepted by a lot of women but allow me to say that i don’t have that huge experience with men outside the family circle and they are not cool at all-cool is a nice word huh, lol- but on the other hand i have always with and around women, mostly Saudi one and i don’t know if they are any difference than the rest of the women- but let me say that most of them are ‘what you celled ( cold’ and even ‘cruel) , i don’t know why? maybe it’s because we are hugely oppressed women and we lack that sparkle that make you feel other’s pain cuz you have it already or miss the sparkle because you are too much involved in your pain!!! dunno.
    I am not praising myself here, but everyone thinks that “the way i sympathize “with others is too much and a kind of weakness to me, am i ? probably.
    I don’t mean to pain all Saudi women as “bitches” << excuse the language, but i don't know.

    And i once read -after 9/11- that women were more supporter of the war than men, the article was about how women are more unforgivable like men.The article stuck with me cuz it is indeed how i see it around me !!!

    • Metis says:

      I totally accept what you have said here 🙂

      Thank you so much for your comment Wafa, and more importantly for your bravery. I read a study once that said that generally while women will not lack EQ, they often don’t know how to use it – what to do in situations that require empathy. And the study did say that this situation is often cultural – some cultures celebrate higher EQs and encourage empathy/sympathy and show of emotion and love and some cultures don’t. Even within Khaleeji cultures I think there are women (like in Oman, for example) who may show more empathy than Saudi women. This doesn’t mean that Saudi women don’t have high EQ, it just means they don’t know how to use it.

      You bring up good points – Saudi oppression of women may have played a role in crippling women from using their sense of empathy. But what do you think makes you so different? I don’t even have to guess it, I know that you are positively *different*. I have told you that many times. You are my only Saudi friend, one Saudi woman I can totally trust. It doesn’t mean there aren’t more like you, it is just that you have a rare quality. What do you think is that quality? What makes Wafa, Wafa?

      • wafa' says:

        thanks a lot for your beautiful words about me dear 🙂
        and honestly i don’t know why i am the way i am. Maybe i am smarter or have higher EQ or just knows how to use it <<< i am starting to become very humble i can tell, lol.

        Honestly-again- i don't know. But i do believe that deep down i do love myself a LOT and wants to be better me and that can not happen without me being good,just and equal to everyone around me.
        Maybe cuz i was always an outsider and i know what it feels, even now when i look at a student and see how they are away from everyone, i keep thinking about their future, will they hate people because they think they never loved them or will they love them because they understand the human sufferings more?

        society and family keep tells you around here that you are better, cuz you are a Saudi , a Muslim and Arab, society makes you hate everything that's different even if they didn't say it directly, society keeps showing you that you are from a God's descended. How can you escape this trap? how can you feel for someone who is worse than you? . You either be this strong person who care less about people and keep fighting or you simply don't care and still fighting not because you are strong but because you don't feel any attachment to this surrounding around you. I fall in the second category.

        I know of great ladies here, so passionate, so loving and so caring but they can not sympathize. They don't know how.

        I see how poor women come to school sometimes to sell stuff , very small things and going from room to room with no one even looking and when they do decided to help ,it's because they want to have a reward from Allah for the money they gave . You know, i do want to have a reward from Allah too but i want to help these women have enough money to put food on the table and buy small things to their kids !! i don't think i am better than this woman and seriously i hate to be the road for someone to heaven or hell. I want them to find their own ways. And who says i am better. I am working too to put food on the table and pay the rent .
        Did you get it, they are great and wanted to help but not for the sake of others, it's for their own sake, to be rewarded not to help.
        Lately, i ask a group of them to help monthly with some money to give it to someone in need and they have been bringing the money on time, but no one ever ask who is the money for this month? or is there anyway i can help?, you got the picture? it's just a way to get reward from Allah and it doesn't matter who is the receiver. They wont care if i was stealing them, they wont care as long as their intentions is the reward.
        The same way our whole country used to fund for terrorist organization without even knowing cuz we are being told about the greatest reward for helping our brothers and sisters in Islam !! help them with what? doesn't matter.

        I am talking a lot and i don't know if i am making any sense !!
        I don't know if i am different, maybe because i don't care. or maybe because i know i am just a small person on Earth and if i am not good at any thing, then i could be good to someone.
        I did use this itch inside me, it hurts how i live but if it can make me a better person then i won't mind anything i suffer. There are millions of people who suffer worse than me.

        • Metis says:

          No, you are making a lot of sense. I completely agree. Would you say that strict interpretation of literal Islam has robbed people to feel naturally? Surely that is not Islam as it should be, but Islam as some people want it to be. Islam teaches empathy. I think the Prophet was a deeply emotional and sensitive man. He felt for people and as he had Allah to remind him when he failed to *see* (I am thinking about the incident of the blind man who was scolded by the Prophet and later Allah reprimanded him for what he had done) he was well aware how people were feeling around him. But that is no more the case in Saudi Arabia (generally). Do you think it is because of Wahabism?

          • wafa' says:

            Is it Wahabism? honestly i don’t know. What i know is that we are taught that we have the best and the rightest branch -if i can use this word- of Islam. so to get to these women you can not go through religion or their kind of Islam cuz they are memorizing it with its twist and turns.
            I know for sure that you can not feel naturally around here because there are lots of restrictions that feels good in the eye of those calling themselves protector of Islam and those conservative by nature. We are probably the country with its whole population being conservative.
            Do you think the nature of the country affect its people? if so then we are domed.
            But let me tell you that the oppression we are in is affecting us badly, political oppression, emotional oppression- if there is such thing- , sexual oppression, religion oppression and social oppression.
            I feel sorry for the women of my country, not because i am better but because i know how great it’s to love others unconditionally and to be empathetic rather than just be sympathetic mostly for themselves.

  5. Coolred38 says:

    Having been raised in an abusive house..and then married to an abusive man…I have come to the realization that abusive men tend to control their women through prohibiting them from having relationships with other women for the most part. Personally speaking, my mother could only have friends at her work or on the phone etc, none that ever came to our house or her going to theirs. My father kept her very close to home, isolated her. She could never develop deep relationships for the most part before we were moving on to another place.

    My husband kept me very isolated for our 20 years of marriage. I would make friends, have them for awhile and start to develop a deeper relationship with them (in which we would moan about our problems of course…united in misery I guess) and then suddenly he would cut me off from them. Using some excuse or another about why they weren’t good enough for me…or that he was protecting me from “bad” influences.

    When I met my soon to be best friend, our relationship quickly grew deep and empowering. She gave me strength and self esteem just by her constant encouraging words and support. My husband saw this right away and quickly t ried to squash it as he had done all the others. I might have allowed him too because I was use to it and figured it was inevitable but we both did not see the awesomeness that is my best friend. She stuck by me, faced my husband, told him I was no longer alone and had someone who cared about me (including her family) and that he couldn’t just throw her away like all the others. She was there for the long haul.

    She was magnificent and he was suddenly faced with a wife that argued back, that stood her ground, that refused to give in to keep the peace, that demanded recognition as a fully fledged human being with thoughts and opinions. Something I had a hard time understanding previously due to my personality and circumstances.

    I was divorced 10 months later after desparately trying to get a divorce for many years. I credit a lot of it to my best friend that gave me support, friendship and an ear to listen…something I so terribly needed.

    Sorry for the long ramble but I want to emphasize that a lot of women in abusive situations tend to bond with others in the same situation…so they all just lean on each other but still get stuck in the inertia of “I can’t help myself”…what we need is someone that will shake us up and encourage us to shake off the enertia and take charge of ourselves and our lives.

    I would guess few abused women have that sort of person in their lives.

    I realize this post wasn’t exactly about abused women but since you said we tend to share pain as a bonding tool…this came to mind.

    • Metis says:

      You inspired this post, Coolred. I know what you mean and when I say I *know*, I really do. I haven’t gone through the abuse, pain and miscarriage you have gone through, but I understand. I have never met you in person, but I still know. And all of us here, we are here because we are united in some form or the other (even the men who read this blog and comment). We know what it means to feel.

      Thank you so much for your comment. You are a very brave and very special woman.

      “Sorry for the long ramble but I want to emphasize that a lot of women in abusive situations tend to bond with others in the same situation…so they all just lean on each other but still get stuck in the inertia of “I can’t help myself”…what we need is someone that will shake us up and encourage us to shake off the enertia and take charge of ourselves and our lives.”

      That is good advice for anyone who wants to help an abused woman. We often feel like we shouldn’t intrude or break a marriage, but I guess we need to shake off the inertia that is holding down a woman.

    • unsettledsoul says:


      “so they all just lean on each other but still get stuck in the inertia of “I can’t help myself”…what we need is someone that will shake us up and encourage us to shake off the enertia and take charge of ourselves and our lives. ”

      Yes, this is what I get pounded into my brain in all of my social work classes. Sympathy keeps women where they are at, empathy and asking what they will do next challenges them to change their circumstances.

      As a friend I try hard not to sympathize with others. Pity parties only drown us in more of the same. Yet empathy matched with questions is a catalyst for change.

      Thank God for your friend, I am so thankful you had her in your life.

  6. Serenity says:

    Yep! And yet, as Sana pointed out, it’s often women themselves oppressing and harming other women. In many cultures, it’s not the father-in-law who insults you when you get a daughter; it’s the mother-in-law and the sisters-in-law. It’s often not the father who’ll stop you from going to school; it’s the mother who’ll lament your going to school daily, almost making you feel guilty about being educated by constantly remarking, “I don’t understand what you think you’ll get with education. You’re going to get married and have kids and stay at home, so what’s the point? And why are you so much into women’s rights? No one’s going to give them to you, so why bother, why disappoint yourself?”

    Many eastern women would agree with this. But then again, it might not be because our mothers or other women don’t want us to be educated or happy; it’s most likely because some of them went through what we’re going through — an education, an epiphany about our humanity, the passion we have for humanity and for freeing ourselves from the chains of oppression — but most of the ones who did go through this failed in their attempts, or weren’t ever able to make any attempts, to fix the things wrong in their lives. I think they realize that in the long run, it’s not up to just one individual, one mother or woman or daughter, to fight; she has to be supported by at least a few others to bring about some positive change. Perhaps our mothers and other women who think we’re wasting our time with education don’t want us to feel the same pain of disappointments that they felt, as indicated by the quote/statement above.

    But that doesn’t explain why many mothers-in-law in certain cultures, who were themselves mistreated by their own mothers-in-law, are so cruel to their daughters-in-law. Like, seriously? You don’t remember what it felt like? Or is it just because you feel like now it’s your turn, your turn to take revenge — on a a most likely innocent person?

    As Coolred said, abusive men tend to prevent their wives/daughters/others from developing networks or having a support group or being connected to other women — most obviously, or at least most likely, because they know that for many, many women, just *talking* about their pain helps them, just complaining and venting relaxes them. And this is one way to detect an abusive relationship, I’d think. If your partner doesn’t support your being with your friends, frowns when you mention any of your friends or that you met a friend today or earlier, then something’s not right and the two need to talk about it.

    • Metis says:

      Wonderful things there, Serenity. Yea, MILs often want empathy but refuse to show it themselves. That is so strange, isn’t it?! Filtered and selective empathy.

      Thanks for the comment.

  7. Lat says:

    This is a touching post.Pressure to have more babies when her health is being affected,shows how ‘caring’ her family is.I still don’t get the issue with having more children when the world is overloaded as it is,unless the country concern has a serious problem with a low fertility rate,like my nation.But the Gulf is a different story altogether.Your unknown friend should think about her health more because her two kids need her around for the most part of their lives.I hope she makes a wise decision.

    The comments above as your post are equally moving and true.There’s no doubt that women in general have a higher EQ than men.It’s in our genes.

    But authority has a way of making this trait shift like Serenity above pointed out with MIL’s and SIL’s.Since they have gone thru’ the ways of their own MIL’s treatment,the other woman,DIL, has to go thru’ it as well.What makes her more special not to endure what almost all women go thru’ anyway.The fact that society doesn’t condemn much the actions of the authority figure of the MIL,makes it acceptable on the whole.It’s like they want the other woman to experience the pain they’ve gone thru’ as well.Now that they’ve got the chance,why not do it? Why isn’t empathy or sympathy play here? Why aren’t women thinking well of other women too so that they can have the goodness and peace that they themselves didn’t enjoy? Of course for women it’s no problem wanting these goodness for their own daughters but not for another.But for a man he’s valued at his own home and his wife’s home.That’s so unfair!

    I guess like what you said,”..women have higher EQ, we also know how and when to filter it and channel it. ” Muslim women should be then taught how to do this to bring greater goodness to other Muslim women and even to non-Muslim women as well.This education will one day will help to break the cycle of women hurting their own gender for a start.It also can mean a lack of self-esteem and confidence as they find ways to fit into groups that will accept them and thus make them prominent and influential.

    • Metis says:

      Lat, traditional Muslims want more children as an Islamic duty. It is increasing of the ummah. And in the Gulf this is one important reason. But clearly many women can’t handle the stress of having so many children. Any Khaleeji with two or three kids is a RARE family. The average family has between 6 and 9 children.

      I loved your last paragraph. I think every Muslim woman should be taught that. Traditionally I see this teaching missing from Islamic discussions. It is perhaps because people were so poor in early Islam that they couldn’t afford to live in big houses in joint-families. Or perhaps it was because polygamy was so common. The Prophet’s wives didn’t have to live with a MIL; his daughters didn’t either. But today more Muslim than non-Muslim women have to live with their MILs and that specific training that showing love and empathy to your DIL/MIL is completely missing. In cultures like Islamic culture where the emphasis is always on personal rewards for actions, including good behaviour towards DILs would have done wonders.

  8. Lat says:

    “But today more Muslim than non-Muslim women have to live with their MILs…” Nah! 🙂

    Many,in fact most,Hindu women are encouraged to stay with MIL’s because that’s part of the best behaviour of a DIL! The Chinese have embraced more modern values no doubt and therefore much less conservative but still there are some who still live with their DIL’s.If they live together with emphathy/sympathy then is good.But the majority only do so because of their own social demands of needing one another and don’t go beyond a level that of letting your loved ones go,if you truly love them.When someone is in pain or in trouble,then you’re there for them as well.Of course there’re people like that and most of them I know happen to be women.

  9. unsettledsoul says:

    Hey ladies,

    I don’t think it is so much that men have less emotional IQ, it is that they have been conditioned through gender norms to neglect that part of them. In therapy catered to abusive men, much of their anger stems from an inability to express emotions, an inability to understand what they are feeling, and it translates into anger, even if the underlying feeling is sadness or frustration or fear or insecurity. Much of this inability to express emotion is attributed to gender conditioning. Let’s face it, males across the world are raised from day one not to show their emotion, unless they are “masculine” emotions like anger, possessiveness and aggression. Sadness, empathy and kindness are attributed to women, not men.

    I think the consequences of gender roles harm men later in their lives. Their gender norms make it very hard for them when they are elderly because they are not supposed to show pain, or fear, or ask to be helped, or to feel vulnerable. Elderly men are the toughest population for caretakers to help. Mostly because they are too prideful to ask for help and end up suffering in silence. Anyways, just food for thought. Men suffer from gender norms also.

    From a scientific perspective, they say women are biologically more able to feel empathy because we bear children, which needs a lot of empathy and compassion and understanding if we are to survive motherhood.

    I think significant trauma stunts emotional IQ also, such as with historically oppressed populations, refugees and those who have survived war. Definitely PTSD can stunt emotional IQ, as can feelings of powerlessness. Many times victims become abusers, which could be said of large populations of people, not just individuals. Maybe this can help explain Wafa’s experiences with women?

    Anyways, I agree with Sara that it is not that women have higher emotional IQ than men, it is that we are allowed to think and feel in those ways. My hubs and I were just talking about this tonight, actually. I just met a woman 2 weeks ago and we have clicked very quickly. We have shared so much of our lives with each other, and are always complimenting each other and are very intimate as far as hugging, touching each other when we are talking in order to show we care, etc… And my husband is blown away by this. He is like “you are closer with her in 2 weeks than I would be with a guy friend in 2 years.” And I told him that is why I love being a woman. Because I am allowed to show all my feelings, to be intimate with people, to cry, to show weakness and vulnerability, and to show people how much I care about them. Men are very limited in their emotional capabilities, before going into the realm of the unacceptable norms. It is not that they can’t empathize or that internally they don’t, but that they must be very good at hiding it. I think if you don’t use something or try to hide something long enough, eventually you may lose that ability, and I think this is the case for “”some”” men.

    I also think this is why ::some:: gay men are more “feminine” than women. Because once one is gay those gender norms fly out the door, and I think when we look at gay men and lesbians we are looking at what it is like to not have those gender norms. “”some”” Gay men have extremely high emotional IQ, which is why “”some”” straight men are intimidated by them, no? It is because they do not have that norm that makes some people uncomfortable with gay people, no?

    I think emotional IQ is completely caught up in societal, traditional gender norms.

  10. unsettledsoul says:

    Also, it is not that women are not logical, in general, but we are not conditioned to be logical.

    Let’s face it, men are conditioned to find comfort in logic because that is their accepted norm, women are conditioned to find comfort in emotion. Therefore a woman having a high emotional IQ makes sense.

    This is why labeling a man logical = smart, but call a woman logical and some may see = cold.

    An emotional man= sissy, pussy, weak, feminine; emotional woman= expected, normal

    The sexism comes into play when these gender norms aim to de-legitimize women. For example, we value logic because it is traditionally attributed to men. We are seeing people question emotional IQ because it is attributed to women, therefore suspect. We lose either way because when we are logical we are cold and asexual, when we are emotional we are seen as out of control, and also stupid. But that is another topic and I am going off track… lol

  11. Metis says:

    Thanks Sarah! Really enjoyed your comment.

    So it seems that is isn’t as easy as saying that women are more empathetic. And from Wafa’s and Lat’s comments we know that they aren’t always more empathetic indeed. Culture plays a role in it, like you said Sarah.

    So how would Muslim feminists describe themselves? Do you think you are feminists because you are more empathetic? How will Islam works for Muslim women if more and more nurturing and more empathetic women get together to make other women aware of their rights?

    • unsettledsoul says:

      I think we are feminists because we are either a.) educated or b.) have been through something in our own lives that made us open our eyes. Or we have both. but I can only speak for myself.

      I didn’t become a feminist until I went through my own experience, before that I was all caught up in being proud that I was “like a man,” as in, I rejected stereotypically female things because I saw them as “shallow,” and I embraced stereotypically male things because they were “smarter.”

      I also was never more unhappy, hmmmm, I wonder why.

      When I started college and learned about women’s issues, and then got married and realized what gender roles are and represent, I became a feminist. I always thought I was special and would not be subjected to sexism because I was strong and “more like a guy.” I never saw myself as a woman who would serve her husband. When I married and my husband asked me when I was going to start fulfilling my marital roles, I was shocked into reality and taken out of my spoiled world of delusion. lol

      Feminism gave me a voice and linked me with other women who were going through the same shock syndrome I was going through. It also educated me enough to pass that education on to my husband also, so he too could embrace what equality in a marriage means, instead of what he was raised to believe it means.

      Do I think we are feminists because we are more empathetic? I don’t know the answer to that. I know my husband became a feminist because he saw what his sisters are going through with their husbands and what the society they live in is pressuring them to do and be. My husband’s sister is 24, and she is very independent and just got a sales job where she will be traveling the country. She is not interested in marriage, and we are not interested in it for her either because we want her to learn to take care of herself. But the society she lives in tells her she can not be a single woman living alone, that she is getting old and needs to find a man, and that she should not be traveling across the country speaking with “strangers” as a job. The woman is 24 and she is being treated as though she is incapable and incompetent. This is how my husband began to become a feminist. He is now a great mentor to his sisters.

      So yes, maybe a lack of empathy has something to do with it, but feminism is a natural reaction to injustice. If one lives in an unjust society, and yet rejects feminism, maybe it is because they have been fed a stereotype and believe the lies.

      I think a woman rejecting feminism is akin to a Black person rejecting Martin Luther King Jr’s dream, and not supporting the civil rights movement! Why would we reject supporting our own human rights?!

      I honestly think it will take men. When a woman speaks we can easily reject it, but when a male feminist speaks then women who are not feminist, begin to think about it. If a woman is not a feminist, most likely she will value what a male feminist is telling her, over a female. Yes, this is my bias, but it is what I see. I do not have much patience for women who do not help other women. For us to help all women, men need to get involved.

      • Metis says:

        What a fantastic post! I loved it Sarah. There is so much food for thought in this comment. Great ideas too. I will chew on it a bit more before picking your brain some more. Thanks!

  12. mariam says:

    very interesting post.
    story of this woman about having kids remembered me issues that I am very interested to hear about them from you in this blog.
    I want to ask you to talk about adoption, IVF and surrogacy.honestly before reading personal blogs of muslim women I didnot know that adoption is legal in only two Islamic country, Tunisia and Iran and I didnot know that surrogacy is seen as zina in Saudi Arabia( you cant imagine my face when I read that surrogacy is practiced only and only in Iran).I heard this from a educted Saudi woman,who was under pressure to have a child but her womb couldnot bear a baby.she even was thinking about is sooo upsetting.
    I am sooooooo sorry for being completely off topic,but I have never heard about this issue from any one,I want that you ,be first person.thank you.

    I dont know why we women are more concerned about each other than men,the only thing I know is that every thing is in favore of men :laws,society,culture and even dont need to be defended,they are already defended,we women should defend each other because we are not already defended.
    sorry for my weak english and using too much” defend” 🙂 🙂

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