Friday, June 8, 2012

American Gender, Part IV

As salaam alaikum,

I think I started this series after reflecting about the quote from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that I posted a bit ago in my journal. I'm so used to interpreting quotes that say "man" as "humankind," and so used to, as a woman who is not a wife and mother, positioning myself in what may be regarded as a man's place because I don't have those two very important responsibilities...that it sounded daunting to me. There are quite a few truths to be stood for today...why wasn't I standing for them? I rationalized that, by choosing to go into medicine in spite of the fact that the system is very broken, going into primary care as many threaten that it may be a thing of the past for physicians, I am standing for one of those truths, although in a very passive way.

Should I take a more active stance, stand out in the street, yell, scream and demand justice? Should I not fear for my career, my safety? Should I not fear indefinite detainment with no trial?

Or was King's message only for men, really?

As a woman at 27 who prefers to keep herself safe, to secure her career, rather than put my career and freedom on the line to speak for these truths in the face of tyranny, corruption and greed in this country and indeed the global I dead at 27? Or does my gender not carry with it the same obligation?

Despite being a woman whose primary aspiration for so long has been marriage and child-rearing, I must say...the idea that I am exempt certain obligations because I am a woman, and especially those ideas within Islam, have been, admittedly, hard to palate. Don't get me wrong, I completely understand it, and it makes logical sense. Say I were a mother right now. No, absolutely not will I take to the streets without fear of my fate while leaving children behind. And to require that of mothers would be illogical and immoral on several levels, but at base it would be harmful for the sake of society. I totally understand that.

But what about me? I am unmarried (and not for lack of trying, haha!) and I have no children. Is the exemption from obligation just for the sake of that essential societal role that we play in production and maintenance of the next generation? Or, to be blunt, is it the fact that I have a fertile womb that determines my exemption, regardless of whether or not I am a mother?

I'm not trying to be flip. I'm trying to understand something that bothers relative complacence. Complacence in the face of what? Injustices that we all should be taking to the street for, but most of us don't...most of us, unfortunately, out of ignorance. Because we're kept dumb by reality television, and the various media that should inform us misinforms us. If we knew all that was going on, we'd be taking to the street..., does my gender dictate that I should protect myself? For the sake of myself, my childbearing potential, the future of the human race? Is that really what it's all about? That it takes less than the sperm on the head of a pin to fertilize a bunch of women (I forget the stat, haha) but with a paucity of wombs, what is the race to do?

I don't know.

After so long of not limiting my career aspirations because of my gender, while tailoring them because of my desire to raise children in a similar way that some of my male counterparts have tailored their seems so weird to consider myself exempt from such an important social responsibility, just because.

I don't think it's just because, of course. There is eternal wisdom hidden beneath tradition and cultural influence that governs how most of our societies determine gender roles. A lot of us look for it, and in trying so hard to see it, to see God's face, I think we err on the sides of extremes and fail to realize the flexibility there actually is in the roles that we adopt for our specific family's, community's and society's needs.

So, in the post-apocalypic society that I created in the story for my friend, the character A was just one of several other women who aspired to join their nations' militias to battle for prominence in the land. She was seen as no more or less woman for the choice she made in fighting over remaining home with children, protecting them as the nations battled in close proximity to the settlements. Her activism was clear. C took on another type of activism, opting for peaceful abstention from the battles, taking societies of mainly women and some children away from the warring nations, salvaging parts of the old world in hopes of creating something sustainable, and fiercely defending themselves from being violated by the men of the nations.

In the story, A and C's suitor end up close battle partners, and C gives her suitor up for lost. Not that A and the suitor have a romantic relationship, but A takes a place with the suitor that C cannot, the love of battle, and she knows that she would never feel as if she were sufficiently relating to the man without being able to share with him this element that is very important to him. The suitor gets so caught up with his new battle partner, his nation's new secret weapon, that he doesn't even notice that C's dropped him, as her society moves on. And A, while thankful to her childhood friend, barely has time for a goodbye as she realize her dream. C takes her society on to safer, higher grounds.

And she's seen as no more or no less of a woman than her childhood friend.

My friend, who was A, is now the only female orthopedic surgery resident in her class at her program. She got her masters in engineering, so she's used to being in a male-majority field. The little warrior that she is, she had some setbacks, fretted over her shortcomings, but was able to match at a great program in the end and is on her way to become an orthopedic surgeon. It works out. She's a former jock. She fits right into the stereotype.

After a fairly smooth academic course, majoring in biology and Spanish in college, I am on my way with my public health degree in tow to become a family physician. I look forward to delivering babies, attending to pregnant and new mothers, promoting women's health and providing competent care to people and families of all ages who need it the most.

I think our roles in the story were pretty accurate of who we would grow up to be.

And these were expressions of my American gender.

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