This one is for the ladies

by Aqeela Naqvi

who feel crippled at the soul from fighting the dark fight
to fit in and feel right, to keep this porcelain doll all right
from being thrown around, sized up, measured down
every crack and blemish, and a gavel on a desk sounds
every fairy tale and love song duly sentencing you
to nights spent in front of a mirror while looking into
empty eyes, lids weighed down by endless crying
(slather some black on), lips left silently trying
for the need to be needed (a little red will do)
left with smiles that have slowly become strangers to you
 
colored in and around and between the lines
crushing crayon into the page until you can’t find
the glimmer of black, once bold staring back,
a challenge of a figure now washed out and slack
so overcompensated as you walk out the door
it’s hard to define where you stop or begin anymore
 
here’s the secret: you’re not crippled, this is nothing new
just Stockholm syndrome, loving those who’ve captured you
heart and mind, body and soul, constantly defining you
outlining and revising, pricing, selling, buying you
you learn calculus but still all you seem to calculate
is hip size and waist size, some golden ratio to date
your worth, neatly devised to keep you under the whip
“The whip?” You say, “Impossible!” to the theatrics, let’s skip:
 
“Any man you can name has the same rights as me!”
and with this statement you lock the cage indefinitely
unwilling to engage the idea, so away from it you shy
that it’s not your brain he’s thinking of when you walk by
that a look can undo any amendment they’ve ratified
you can vote for president, but beauty’s not for you to decide
did you exchange the Nineteenth for some backwards Thirteen?
because this seems to me nothing less than mental slavery
 
so what if there are no metal chains to keep you still?
the tightness of your skirt testifies to their will
to keep you from advancing beyond the curve of that toned leg
to a place where you could stand tall, make, lay, in your own bed
this painted face you have embraced as “true beauty”
when it’s washed off you wonder who this stranger could be
you get the high paying job and the equally high heel with it
an indication of the wavering stance to which you’ve submitted
 
prestige coming with the price tag that when your sister is near
the blood rushes from those red soled shoes and into your ears
so that instead of extending a hand to help and pull her up,
you find yourself wading in words, throwing verbal upper-cuts
a fighter driven so mad in this perfect image competition
that you’re willing to give up one of your own: clear your vision!
 
ads proclaiming Flawless Beauty and 10 Ways to Make Him See
are nothing more than an acceptance of the triviality
to be judged by someone else’s desire (that cruel mortician)
to be cut and sliced and pieced through your own submission
you spend years thinking of yourself as superwoman
but you find that your cape? another’s hands it’s in
holding you back, keeping you from reaching the skies:
the heights for which your greatness was prophesied
 
because when you were nothing but an idea in the womb
there was already a standard set for loving and protecting you
when fathers were ashamed a girl couldn’t carry their name
there came a light to the darkness who loudly proclaimed
“The gentleness of this face, the delicate curve of this smile;
dearer to me than life itself is this little girl, my only child”
and when his enemies taunted him of lineage night and day
saying “Your name will disappear, the Message will decay”
there came a promise ringing from the skies loud and true:
Muhammad! Kawthar (abundance) is what we have given you
Pray to your Lord and sacrifice, here lies time’s truth in honesty
Your enemy will surely be the one left without posterity
so while the jeerers and their names disappeared in the sand
the Noble Lineage of his daughter Fatima til today does stand
 
over a thousand years ago, respect for you was sanctified
no, even further back: the creation of the first woman’s eyes
so I ask you my dears, when we’ve been given this role
I wonder why it is we allow ourselves to be controlled?
no man or woman on this earth will ever be able to love you
with the same raw truth and intensity of the One who made you
who commanded to cover your beauty only to save you
 
now, if you cover your body and wear the Hijab, I applaud you
but don’t be quick to judge the women who don’t around you
just because she doesn’t cover her head doesn’t make her less
because in reality, what Hijab means, is to live always blessed
with the knowledge that a woman is dignified as a queen
not like the queens of the west, but like the queens of the Deen
women the likes of Khadija, Fatima, Maryam, Aasiyah
or Zaynab, Narjis, Umme Kulsoom, role models for all
that showed modesty is first and foremost in actions, my dear
don’t have pride in physical Hijab when what you do is unclear
 
your gaze and touch are not for men who are just anyone
an honor reserved for father, brother, nephew, uncle, son
your son: the child of the man you one day decide to marry
not the one looking for a summer fling, but instead for eternity
who falls in love with your words and not the lips that say them,
falls in love with the Love you give to yourself before any him,
who meets you at the castle door instead of some side tower spree
because he knows he cannot rescue the woman who’s already free
 
“But wait,” they say, “Her beauty’s her own—it’s for her to flaunt!
She’s oppressed unless she can show it to whoever she wants!”
I suggest you take another look at this emancipating theory
and you’ll find that it’s little more than an insinuating decree
they tell you, “Don’t you know you’re free to wear what you want?”
but as soon as you want to cover up, they tell you, “You’re wrong!”
the truth is that your choices in clothing are only free
when they reveal portions of your skin that they want to see
they call this independence and praise you endlessly,
but believe me, this great ‘appreciation’ comes with the fee
 
“You’re holding women responsible for greedy looks of men!
Men should control where they look; you don’t reprimand them!”
to the haters in the building, here’s some 24:30 versified news:
the command for modesty’s for men too, so spare me your views
man is bound by divine law to lower his gaze when she walks by
to respect her enough to honor her, and not rape with his eyes
to cherish her sanctity as he would that of his own daughter
to be a gentleman of the true word, not the kind that falters
to respect that without the womb there would be no man
to thank the woman who behind every success stands
to know that woe to the man who fails to salute woman
 
yes, modesty is genderless: men and women, cherish this
find beauty first from within and you will inevitably find bliss
respecting your body is the only way you’ll respect another’s
independence doesn’t increase with the skin you uncover
true independence is when you don’t envy the cover of Vogue
when you can be happy with yourself, even when you’re alone
 
when instead of staring in the mirror, you learn to really see you
when the style of soul is more important than style of shoe
when you are comfortable with the elegance of your mind
more than any bodily feature that they want for you to define
when you know that if your definition’s only another’s desire
history will remain history—herstory will never reach higher
 
so rise, my sisters, rise, this one is for you
 
this one is for the lonely, grieving, astray, and abused
this one is for the wanderer, for the street corner soul
this one is for the one who’s running low on hope
this one is for the one who knows even if she’s lost view
there’s only One who can ever find and save you
 
this one is for the lovers, this one is for the fighters
this one is for the poets, the speakers, and the writers
this one is for the teachers, this one is for the leaders
this one is for the one who knows how a man should treat her
this one is for the one who’ll never let the world defeat her
this one is for the ladies

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