IT was dinner time and there I was sitting with a bunch of friends.
During the course of the dinner, we stumbled upon the topic of marriage, women’s day, western worldviews, religion, and an interesting Facebook post. The following is a recollection of the conversation. Names have been changed for privacy purposes.
“Dyana Sofya sure is pretty. She looks good in that ‘Wake Up To A Good Cause’ photo,” said Freddy.
“I agree, but somehow I think I’d feel uncomfortable if it were my wife in that picture,” said Aman.
“Why?” asked Freddy.
“I guess I feel that it gives off a sexual vibe, one that I wouldn’t want my wife to give off to others,” said Aman.
“You cant even see her elbows! She’s more covered up than most of our local female celebrities!” Mira retorted.
“I wouldn’t mind if my wife posed in a magazine like that. I think its empowering,” added Freddy.
“Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s empowering too. I’d just feel uncomfortable. Maybe it’s a personal quirk of mine. Okay, for argument’s sake, lets say your wife was in a bikini, would you feel the same way?” asked Aman.
“I probably wouldn’t be totally okay with that,” said Freddy.
“So, you’ll draw the line somewhere too – here being the amount of skin shown. Isn’t that contradictory? You can’t have your pie and eat it too,” Aman responded.
“I do not agree that it’s contradictory. It’s about extents. And I think we can all agree that decency matters,” Freddy argued.
“You just have a shorter line, Aman,” Mira snapped.
“Aha! That’s proves my point. I mean, no, I do not have a shorter line, but yes, it’s subjective. We all agree that a line can be drawn. So, what makes your line any more valid than mine?” asked Aman.
“Calm down boys. You both have a point,” said Najwa, who had been quiet up to that point. She continues, “I remember reading a Facebook post written by a wife. She said that she gave up wearing yoga pants because she realised that it was attracting the gazes of other men, and that she didn’t want her husband to have to deal with it”.
“But why should it be the woman’s problem? Teach those other men not to stare!” said Mira.
“I agree. Men should be educated. But I feel there’s a balance to be struck. The man has as much a responsibility to look away and respect the woman as much as the woman has a responsibility to dress modestly, I suppose,” Najwa replied.
“When a Companion stared at a woman with lustful eyes, the Prophet Muhammad, may peace be upon him, neither told the woman to change her dress nor admonished her. Rather, he made his Companion turn away and lower his gaze. I believe therefore that educating my fellow man is more important,” said Freddy with conviction.
“You’re right, but don’t forget that women were encouraged not wear body hugging or shape-revealing clothes,” said Aman.
“That’s unfair. Why is it then acceptable for men to flaunt themselves?” Mira asked.
“That’s not absolute either. Even for men, there are limits too to what they can expose,” said Aman.
“Unfortunate as it may be, men seemed hardwired when it comes to these things. A friend of mine once said that he’d most likely approve a random, but pretty girl, as a friend on Facebook. Conversely, a female friend said that it’s unlikely if it were a guy with six packs in his profile pic. She’d need to know him first. I’ve asked a few people and the majority tended to answer this way,” Freddy remarked.
“Okay, religious aspects aside, I agree that educating ones sons are important and that we must strike a balance. That said, beyond the issue of individual rights and liberties, I believe that the woman who stopped wearing yoga pants did something nice – it was an act of respect. His comfort was her comfort,” said Najwa. “I’d probably do that for my husband too”.
“That’s sweet and all, but if that’s how we think, that women owe this duty to their men, we might as well be Saudi Arabia. The moment we give in, who decides where to draw the line?” Mira asked.
“Hey, the inverse is highly possible too – if we don’t care at all, what’s to stop the other extreme? Borat-style mankinis all around us, for instance. That’s a scary thought. And there could be more tangible repercussions in respect of reproductive health and sexual habits. But that’s a conversation for another day I suppose,” Aman said.
“Hold on. I’m looking at it from a marriage perspective – give and take. Ideally, there’s enough understanding in the marriage that the husband doesn’t go all Taliban on his wife, and at the same time, that the wife doesn’t go all Kim K on her husband… not that Kanye West would mind. But you get my point,” Najwa responded.
“I agree. I suppose they both have to work at it,” said Aman, giving a loving gaze to Mira.
“Alright, time to call it a night”, said Freddy while checking the time on his watch.> The views expressed are entirely the writer’s own.
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