On The Alleged Flaw That Is My Independence

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On a recent flight out to San Francisco, I comfortably nestled into my emergency row window seat that I had swapped for my beloved aisle seat just so that my fellow passenger could sit across the aisle from his wife.  As the flight took off, we struck up a conversation and he told me about how he and his wife have been traveling the world ever since they both retired.  Next on their docket is a tour of South Asia, and I jumped at the chance to encourage him to visit India.

We discussed my trips to India, and I happily told him all about my solo research trips.  I even told him about how I one day hope to see even more than the handful of cities in India that I’ve been fortunate enough to visit thus far.  After this brief conversation, he capped off our travel talk with this gem: “Well, you sure are gonna have a hard time finding a mate.”

Given how completely out of place this comment seemed, I assumed he was kidding and congenially replied with “oh yeah, sure is tough these days, you should talk to my mom!”  But apparently my attempt to laugh off a joke caught him off-guard, and he was quick to explain further:

“No, no, I’m not kidding – you’re so independent, and you seem like you know what you want in life, so it’s gonna be real hard for you to find a life partner who is okay with all that.”  

Suddenly, I felt like I had been slapped in the face.  Annoyed, and frankly, hurt, by this man’s snap judgment, I found my headphones and used my iTunes collection to avoid any further conversation with this man for the remainder of our 5+ hour flight to the West Coast.

But if I could, I would return to the scene of the crime and speak up for myself – because what he did, and what society does on a daily basis, is not even remotely tolerable.

Acceptable segways at the end of our conversation about India could have included any number of the following questions:
“So what kind of research did you do in India?”
“Which part of India is your family from?”
“What’s the favorite place you’ve visited in India so far?”
“When do you think you’ll get to go to India next?”
“Don’t you hate that we only get cheap pretzels on these long flights?!”
I could go on.  But instead of asking me about my research work in India, instead of asking me about my tourist experiences in India, instead of asking me about my heritage, and instead of making further acceptable small talk, my fellow passenger decided to jump to some seemingly logical conclusion about my future personal life.Why does a woman’s independence become an immediate strike against her “marriageability?”  When was the last time a man was challenged for his career ambition because of the need to maintain “work-life balance?”  Why are women who know what they want from life viewed as poor spouse material?Those who want to rationalize and justify societal gender roles can try to answer these questions with any number repulsive responses.  But the truth of the matter is that independent women with unique voices, far-reaching dreams, courageous goals, and powerful desires should be sought after.  Not avoided like the plague.  Maybe one day when we all learn how to embrace these truths instead of fighting them, a conversation about a woman’s independence will involve fewer raised eyebrows and more supportive voices.

Farah Khan is a medicine resident at Emory University. After graduating from college in Boston, Farah returned to her hometown in Alabama for medical school where she was reunited with the mix of Southern hospitality and South Asian flair that had shaped her childhood. Follow her on Twitter or read some of her thoughts on her blog.

This post originally appeared at Farah’s blog. Read more from Farah Khan, such as her recent “Reflections of Being A ‘Good’ Girl.” 


43 Comments on “On The Alleged Flaw That Is My Independence”

  1. Reblogged this on A New Hope and commented:
    Good points raised and the sheer gall of society…..

  2. Fatima says:

    MashAllah Farah, great piece. It really resonated with me. I’ve been told by some relatives that I should “focus more on getting married,” whenever I express my desire to pursue further education or travel…Women should not have to chose between a career and a good spouse…A good spouse will support your ambitions. Keep doing your thing, girl!

  3. Alan Howard says:

    Thank you for this Farah. I am a guy, but there is little I love better than traveling to a foreign country outside of my comfort zone and getting “lost” on my own solo jaunts. And to reinforce your point I am routinely told how “brave” or “cool” that is. The fact that you are judged through a lens of “danger” or “headstrong” and judgement is passed on future marriageability is sad. Brush it off and move on, you are on the right path.

    • farah287 says:

      Appreciate your comments, Alan! I love how you juxtaposed the different adjectives used to describe men vs. women on such adventures. We can always hope that time will change society’s double standards!

  4. LilBabyTiger says:

    Salam Farah, I’m annoyed for you. As a woman, I feel like my decisions, regardless of who they impact, are subject to some sort of bizarre approval process. Every item of clothing, every gulp of food, every breathe of air, I wonder what will my parents think? My friends? Fellow Muslims? My colleagues? Will what I wear, how I talk, what I share ignite a series of chain reactions with dire consequences unbeknownst to myself? I felt your anger at this one interaction- a random guy who felt it was important to inform you of your “marriage-ability”. As if he knew anything at all about you or your life. Having had so very many of those moments myself, the one thing I always walk away with is this: it is not my role in life to judge others, and other people’s judgements of me do not reflect on my realities.

    • farah287 says:

      So glad to hear from somebody who understand *exactly* the type of anger and frustration I felt in this situation. Totally agree with you that other people’s judgments don’t reflect our realities, but it’s unfortunate just how quickly others are willing to pass judgement.

  5. Ali says:

    What I have found in speaking with many, many Muslim women is the older they get, the more set in their ways they become. Many of the women I’ve spoken with have a me-first attitude and less of a team-first. That’s not really healthy for a potential relationship. It has become a checklist/grocery list of items a man must have in order to pass her criteria and

    Say what you will, but it’s a by-product of our parents determined upbringing for their daughters to be self-standing, self-sufficient and independent.
    Our parents wanted their daughters (rightfully so) to be able to stand on their own two feet in the case of death or divorce. This has caused many Muslim women to focus on schooling and careers during their early to late 20’s and not enough time on figuring out what they want in a relationship with themselves, life, family, partners and God.

    It really is a product of too many external pressures, American culture, Islamic culture, South Asian/Bollywood culture, Hollywood romance culture, College culture, etc.

    Again focus on the we, and less on the me.

    • Dina A says:

      Has it occurred to you maybe because of your “interesting” views you never really managed to convince a woman that you are good enough to let herself to allow you onto her “team”. Of course its all about her… you cant work on a team if you cannot stand your team members and women should be encouraged to have a “list”. It means she knows what kind of partner she wants on her team rather than be miserable trying to make a non-existant relationship work

      • farah287 says:

        I couldn’t have said this better myself! “You can’t work on a team if you cannot stand your team members” – the most frustrating part is that women are always expected to be the ones who are willing to compromise when it comes to picking their team mate.

    • farah287 says:

      Your comment seems to be a bit self-contradictory – if you believe that parents “rightfully so” want their daughters to be able to stand on their own two feet, then what’s wrong with women focusing on schooling and careers initially?

      I think all women strive to find the “we” that you’re alluding to, but every woman is entitled to determine whether she will even be compatible in such a future “team” – this requires an initial individual focus that can later become a team-first approach if mutual compatibility exists.

  6. This is so true. Women who know what they want are avoided like the plague. I like to think that its cause men so often feel threatened by the woman’s convictions. Family and society should teach us to be proud of these beliefs. Unfortunately, they tell us to be ashamed of it.

    • farah287 says:

      Exactly, the fault lies with men and women in society who encourage women to be less sure of their convictions so as to be more “acceptable.”

  7. Mira Khattab says:

    Assalamu Alaikum Farah
    While there is nothing wrong with being secure,independent,career women it does make it hard to sustain relationship and marriage while in constant competition and never ending race for who will ” win” in a marriage.
    It might not be fair but reality is what you offer most man might not want,and its their choice who they wish for a life mate.You are not willing to compromise and it seems your” know it all attitude” and ” it’s my way or the highway” will not get you far.
    Take a step back,soften up a bit,you don’t have to give up all of your dreams but modify some to accommodate life’s partner.After all its give and take.Use not only your extensive knowledge
    But also your HIKMA ( wisdom) . You will get more with honey than vinegar.
    It might be wise to review rights and responsibilities in Islamic marriage from a relevant Islamic source.

    • farah287 says:

      How unfortunate, Mira, that you have passed on me the very same incorrect judgment that was passed to me by my fellow passenger. To assume that my independence means that I am “not willing to compromise” and that I have a “know it all attitude” is the crux of the issue at hand. Being willing to work towards a marriage with a compatible partner and a woman’s independence should not be mutually exclusive entities.

      • Mira Khattab says:

        Dear Farah
        Assalamu Aleikum
        I did not pass a judgement,just my opinion.Not everybody that does not agree with you is automatically wrong.You might have amazing writing skills,knowledge and degrees to prove it,but dear Farah you lack experience and wisdom.
        How is your approach working for you so far regarding finding a suitable mate? You are still single? Could it be( dont have a tantrum now)… That just maybe you need to change your opinions and approach?
        Take a deep breath,nobody is perfect ..not even you…there is always room for change and improvement.
        Open up your heart and soul and follow Allah swa guidance in who is the right mate regarding marriage,than strive in what Allah swa guides you to and the rest will take care of itself.

    • Dina A says:

      Dear Mira,
      In my journey of becoming a proudly muslim, secure, independent, career woman all I have learned is:

      1. there is no competition with ANYBODY, there is no “winning” in life, and its unfortunate that you think like that, we are all fighting a tough battle and all anyone needs is kindness and support in their journey (too bad i cant get it from my muslim community but Allah is sufficient elhamdulilah)
      2. the only “race” I’m in is the one to please Allah
      3. I do not know it all, all that I *know* is that I know nothing at all
      4. I dont like Highways, I prefer side roads and the scenic route… much more interesting (literally and figuratively!)
      5. Part of the reason I am a successfully secure, independent, career woman is because I did learn when to take a step back and soften up a bit.

      THat being said, elhamdulilah, I have been blessed enough to know what I want in a partner and I will not accept anything less.

      So I don’t know what, if any, women you hang out with but let me assure you that you have a terribly skewed opinion, no sorry cultural osmosis, of independent women you have but like you said you will get more with honey than vinegar, its called empathy you should try it one day.

      • Mira Khattab says:

        Dear Farah
        Assalamu Alaikum
        Here we go again…
        If you are looking for support and kindness that includes giving you my honest opinion,advice and constructive criticism,not only blind agreement to all you write.
        Don’t be so sensitive that you have a need to crush whoever disagrees with you ,rather than embrace and ponder over their opinion.
        You might find this a surprise but universe does not run according to your principals alone,which brings us to # 2,which is that Allah swa runs the universe and all that is in it including us.Research what Guidance Islam gives re. Status of a women in marriage and her rights and responsibilities and try to be that women in word AND DEED.Its the quickest way to find a husband and to please Allah swa.
        You might not believe this but I wish you the best life,not according to you ,but to our deen which is so much better than anything you can ever wish for.
        What you need in my opinion right now is not empathy( which would be so much easier to give you) but a good dose of reality.

  8. Salman Khan says:

    This is typical of a woman to take a reality check of a suggestion from an experienced gentleman as a slap on the face. Did not expect a bright graduate of MIT to misspell ‘segue’ and to be uber-sensitive to enlightened counsel. Even if she disagreed with him, which is not surprising for a free bird, she should still have the wisdom to be congenial and take it upon herself to truly introspect, to understand what men want in women. And why should a man be challenged for career ambition? Women love men who are strong leaders, powerful, successful, wealthy, ambitious, know-what-they-are-doing, passionate about something and hence men gladly play that breadwinning role. Men on the other hand love homemakers who love and cherish their husbands and rear educated future MIT engineers and Harvard doctors. The roles demarcated for men and women in Islam is almost universal across cultures – yes, even today that is the case. To deny and huff and puff on the reality is simply puerile. The author further asks a series of question that tells me she does not understand men at all. For instance her asking “Why are women who know what they want from life viewed as poor spouse material?” is not only misunderstanding how men select spouses but also is a veiled insult at extremely bright and competent homemakers who DO know what they want from life i.e. raising the next generation of superb sons and modest daughters. The article comes off as a tantrum and that is unbecoming of an MIT graduate. Frankly the day this author becomes more homely and kitchen oriented she will find happiness and 10 proposals at her door (especially because Muslim men do want a woman with MIT genes to be passed on to the offspring). Do not fight against your instincts, do not fight against societal order. Embrace your role and you will be loved and cherished and you will homeschool your sons to become future Einsteins, Feynmans, and Ramanujans.

    • farah287 says:

      I did take it upon myself to be congenial with this man and further think on what society demands of women – hence this post. I apologize for misspelling “segue,” I appreciate that new bit of knowledge. While we’re on the issue of semantics, the word “homely” as you’ve used it does not mean more domesticated. But that’s besides the point.

      Interpreting my piece as a “tantrum” prevents you from getting much out of it at all. Perhaps if you had read it with a less antagonistic lens then we could have had more a meaningful and productive follow-up conversation.

      • Dina A says:

        OMG Farah! you misspelled “segue”!!! I guess those non-genuine MIT genes are only good enough to raise the next Marie Curie, Khadija, Rosalind Franklin or Grace Hopper.

        I deeply commend the grace with which you are replying to these comments!

      • Salman Khan says:

        That ‘homely’ is not domesticated is known. You have used the American English meaning (as opposed to true English i.e. British English) of homely and have thus failed to understand the simplicity intimated in a desirable female spouse. You will find sympathizers on this very liberal site but make no mistake that if you keep on this rigid mindset you will look back years hence and regret why you did not live up to the Islamic ideals of role demarcation which as I mentioned spans almost every culture today. Your biological clock is ticking. You can leverage your MIT genes and have hundreds of men knocking on your door if only you adjust to society rather than expect society to adjust to you. There is nothing wrong with a woman being bright, intelligent, inquisitive or even patenting inventions and coming up with clever ways to solve society’s ailments but she ought to do so under the auspices and protection of a marriage where her primary role is homemaking. Even your mother will agree with that. Don’t fight the tide. Embrace happiness and extricate yourself from bitterness. Your looking down on homemakers is nothing but misbegotten hubris taught and embraced by a handful of female literati. You consider homemaking as beneath you. In fact it is above what you currently do, in virtue and value, to society. A woman who rears the next generation of brilliant minds is the best woman. You articulate yourself well, your physiognomy is not off-putting. You’ve got a brain that is above average. All that is needed is a slight paradigm shift and you will be married off right away to the delight of your own heart and that of your mother.

      • ZHJ says:

        My goodness, Farah. I’m sure you don’t need to be told this, but some of these comments are just plain wrong.

        If this poster is indeed the same person who posted about “bullish women who choose career over marriage or delay marriage for a career on purpose or are under the delusion that any woman who has a career can also manage a household properly which is her first responsibility and duty” in the “How I met my son’s mother”, none his comments towards you are surprising at the least. Some people have a set mindset and do not see past it, no matter what proof is in front of them. MIT genes??? Really??? Our dear poster should know that there is no such thing; there’s a huge difference between hard work and intelligence. Women don’t just love men who are wealthy and ambitious; they love men who are responsible and respect them.

        “You have used the American English meaning (as opposed to true English i.e. British English).”

        This was both inaccurate and unnecessary. Brazilian Portuguese is not inferior to Portuguese spoken in Portugal, Spanish spoken in Spain is not superior than that spoken in Latin America, and Canadian French is less “true” in comparison to French spoken in France. Oh, and If we are talking about Islam, what gives anyone the right to claim that their dialect is more true or superior to another, when in Islam, we are taught that individuals cannot claim superiority based on color or language?

        “Your looking down on homemakers is nothing but misbegotten hubris taught and embraced by a handful of female literati.”

        Since when did the author look down on anyone? She just said that people were quick to make judgments on her ability to be married after hearing about her ambitions and experiences but would never do the same to a man. She never said one word about homemaking being beneath her.This is the problem; people unfairly pass judgment on the character and abilities of educated women without getting to know them. Even so, her primarily role in this world, as a Muslim,is to please Allah (SWT) and to do good. If she can achieve her ambitions and have a happy married life (it’s possible), why shouldn’t she aim for both?

        Farah, you sound like an amazing human being. Your patience in responding to some of these comments is admirable. Those who are criticizing you should learn a thing or two from you. My aunt was a career woman who raised three successful and well-mannered children. She had a great, supportive husband, and because of her career ambitions, she was able to support them even after he passed away. There will always be people intimidated by your abilities, and this fear and intimidation will come across as criticism framed incorrectly (and in a choice manner) in the context of religion but don’t let that bring you down.

      • farah287 says:

        Dina A and ZHJ – thank you both for your supportive words! I wish there was some way I could directly reply to each of you, but I think we’ve reached some sort of limit on the blog’s comment-nesting feature haha.

    • AdamK says:

      What a delight it must be to hide in anonymity while castigating a fellow Muslim as unbecoming an MIT graduate and throwing a tantrum, especially given your tantrum on how the writer does not understand men (how do you spell hypocrite again…). The writer had both the courage and writing ability to present her ideas in a concise, yet articulate manner and you delight in hiding behind an invisible name given that your writing abilities are obviously not articulate enough to be published anywhere but in the comments section. Loveinshallah is supposed to be an open and honest discussion forum that fosters debate without vitriol spewed for expressing an opinion (“your biological clock is ticking” – in no discourse involving Islamic ideals should this phrase ever be uttered; you’ve lost any and all legitimacy). You’ve obviously missed this point and since you’ve opened the door, I’ll walk right through it.

      Given your high regard of MIT, it is clear your institution of choice during your primitive years was nowhere near its standards, but alas your institution has taught you how to spell ‘segue’! HR managers must be flocking to your CV to hire such an eloquent word speller … oh wait that is so puerile … I digress.

      As a man, I find your response disturbing. Who are you to say she does not understand men at all? The writer obviously does not understand you but I think it’s safe to say that most intelligent, “Einsteins, Feynmans, and Ramanujans”-producing women will not understand you either, especially given that they did not attend eloquent-word-speller-university.

      I love my wife for one reason above all else. She is everything that I am not. I’m disorganized, she’s organized. I’m quiet and introspective, she’s unreserved and social. I plan, she’s spontaneous. I’m detailed, she’s big picture. I love to clean, she loves to cook. I married her because she would be the perfect partner (who also happens to be quite independent), not because she would make a good homemaker. If my wife chose to be a homemaker, so be it and I would stand by her with pride. If my wife chose to pursue her career passion, so be it and I would stand by her with pride. And regardless of HER choice, the BOTH of us will raise our sons AND daughters to become future Einsteins and Curies. Next time you decide to spew your opinions, please do so with more tact and understanding, if for no one else than any future daughter/granddaughter/etc who may come across your toxic prose …

    • This, my friends, is what we call a troll =)

      And the writing style is awfully familiar… it’s got that hint of rancid spice that I am unfortunately all too acquainted with.

  9. LilBabyTiger says:

    Salam Salman, I offer you this, as a fellow “liberal sympathizer”. This is not your space, and it will never be. There are plenty of sites for (wo)men who share your narrow perspective on the world- might I recommend Mens’ Rights Advocates groups?

    Nowhere in the article does the author articulate any hatred towards homemakers, or being an at-home mom, or being a wife. If that is all you have picked up, you need some new glasses or a reading comprehension course. This was not about the author whining on independence; this article was an intelligent analysis of gender equity. I know that your Islam has some very strict demarcations of gender roles, but my Islam does not. Hadith teaches us that the Prophet was domestic and loving towards all his children, especially his daughters. This is radical because it occurred in an era of female infanticide; the Prophet never shied from displaying his “feminine” or softer side. Farah questions the dynamics of societal expectations, while you are merely condescending. This question is increasingly relevant in a world where most serial killers and school shooters are male; how does our expectations of men and women harm their mental health in a patriarchal society?

    As for your laughable assertion that your meaning of the word “homely” is “true” English, it goes to show how lost you are in today’s world. The “Queen’s English” is sadly irrelevant. And again, by pinpointing small errors, you show us all your true, insecure, pathetic self.

    But then again, it must bother you that Farah has a degree from a notable university, is an excellent writer, and is gorgeous to boot, while you have….a very lonely existence in a dying world.

    • Salman Khan says:

      Regarding the author looking down on homemaking, read between the lines: “Why are women who know what they want from life viewed as poor spouse material?” <— this is an implication of homemakers being those who do not know what they want from life. We can go back and forth and play 'eel' all day long but you know in your heart of hearts that she harbors a certain hubris against homemakers. As far as the "gorgeous" comment, I will agree that she has a gorgeous brain (but that's as far as I'd take that) and by a slight paradigm shift she can be happily married within two weeks. Salman Khan will even dance at her wedding, how about that? The rest of you scruffy ladies go read the Seerah properly and embrace your feminine side instead of being tiger moms. The author sought consolation and condolences and this little nook on the world wide web is the only place she'll get it. In the real world, her vision of 'equality' has been tried and discarded across all cultures. Just as women don't make good construction workers, firemen, snipers, etc, men do not make good secretaries, nurses, primary school teachers. Those roles are dominated by one gender or the other. Similarly is the case of homemaking. Women fit that role beautifully and men fit the role of breadwinning perfectly. Even the salmon only fights the tide in dire circumstances.

      • ZHJ says:

        That’s not “reading between the lines.” That is putting words into her mouth, or in her piece, in this case. “Women who know what they want” are women who express their ambitions and goals in life. This could be a homemaker too. The only problem is that individuals like you keep going on about how they are mutually exclusive, which they are not. There are plenty of women who have careers and manage their homes and children. Many are fortunate to have the support of their spouses while others do not.

        “Men do not make good secretaries, nurses, primary school teachers.”

        Really? Just because these professions might be dominated by one gender doesn’t mean the other can’t be good at it. I have seen plenty of great male nurses, secretaries, and primary school teachers where I live.

        “The rest of you scruffy ladies go read the Seerah properly and embrace your feminine side instead of being tiger moms”

        Wasn’t Khadijah (RA) a (gasp) businesswoman and wasn’t Muhammad (SAW) her employee? Was Muhammad (SAW) deterred from marrying a woman with her own business because he thought her “scruffy” or”bullish”?

        You claim the author is throwing a tantrum, but you are the one giving her supporters unflattering labels. Calling the supporters of this article “scruffy ladies” or all career women “bullish”, as was done in the comments for “How I met my son’s mother” is no better.

        “The author sought consolation and condolences and this little nook on the world wide web is the only place she’ll get it.”

        The author is an accomplished medical resident at a prestigious institution, is clearly well-read, well-mannered, and a beautiful person in and out. I highly doubt she needs anyone’s condolences or consolation. She wrote this article to talk about the existence of an annoying double standard.

        “Women fit that role beautifully and men fit the role of breadwinning perfectly.”

        Actually, women can fit both those roles perfectly. Ask any divorced, separated, widowed, or abandoned woman with children or family to take care of. I have seen more women than men solely raise and work to provide for their families. And in this day in age when living and expenses or so high, I think most men appreciate having another income in the family.

      • LilBabyTiger says:

        Maybe we need less men to become snipers and more of them to become nurses. Maybe that would result in less needless violence. Maybe the NSA or Homeland Security will find your words on this site incriminating, Salman Khan, and deport you to some hole in Guantanamo, where you can encounter the truly awful ramifications of patriarchy and colonization.

    • farah287 says:

      Your comments are always so uplifting and supportive. Just as you said, I had no intention of trying to belittle homemakers – my own mom was a stay-at-home-mom! Thank you so much for your kindness and for being such an awesome voice of reason.

  10. I truly enjoyed your post – and I have to say that the “flaw” of independence isn’t limited to women who go out and study at university, have amazing careers, and travel the world freely… alas, even stay at home moms who marry young, have children immediately, and yet – *gasp*shock*horror* still nurture and seek to actualize their hopes and dreams ambitions!!!… alas, even we are considered to be flawed, damaged goods.

    And should we dare use our voices to speak out for what we believe in, to look critically at the world around us, to educate ourselves and others about the injustices that exist… then even the menfolk around us suffer the consequences thereof. After all, how dare they not control “their” women appropriately?! How dare they ‘allow’ us to spread such radical, damaging ideas! How dare they allow “their” women to have any kind of say whatsoever?!

  11. Khal Nas says:

    As an unmarried Muslim woman in her late 20s, I applaud this article. I am always perplexed by comments assuming that a woman’s independence prevents her from becoming a caring wife and mother. The two are not mutually exclusive and I fail to understand why that is so often assumed to be the case. Both men AND women who are dedicated, driven and passionate about their careers and other causes in life have the potential to become excellent spouses and parents who can pass on those same qualities to their children. The Ummah needs MORE successful people of both genders to serve as role models for Muslims and non-Muslims in many different fields, certainly not less. More working Muslim women is not a bad thing and poses no threat to the sacredness of marriage. It only poses a threat to patriarchal belief systems that believe women must do ALL the sacrificing in a relationship.

    Long-lasting relationships and healthy families require TWO caring partners who both make sacrifices for each other and respect each others’ decisions in life. This is not some ‘leftist’ libel (to quote a previous commentator). It is the truth. Both parties must sacrifice at times. But society tends to unfairly place the burden of that responsibility on women. And that is simply what the author was alluding to.

    Of course, every individual has the right to his or her preferences in a marriage partner – but it appears that most of the comments by people suggesting women need to be less ‘independent’ in order to attract husbands or have healthy marriages are based on a very superficial, ‘Bollywood’ inspired (to use the words of a previous commentator) understanding of what marriage is. This is not in any way an attack on the opinions of those who hold these views. But I would argue that it has little to do with Islam and more with a need for control and maintenance of the status quo. And I’d invite you to try to suggest otherwise.

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with a woman choosing to give up her career/independence for a marriage. Nobody is arguing that. Many do and it is wonderful and inspiring, just as a woman who diverts many years to focusing on education/career/interests. Both can make excellent partners and neither one should be shamed for her choices.

    And as for the suggestion by a previous commentator that ‘toning’ down the independence will bring in a long line of potential suitors is sheer…hogwash. Let me tell you, I come from a very culturally conservative family that doesn’t look too favourably upon girls becoming ‘too’ independent. Sure, education and career is a great thing as long as it doesn’t interfere with marriage. I was raised in this environment and played by these rules and lived a very constrained and sheltered life, much to my regret. I am now in my late 20s. No long line of suitors. Not even a small line. There are many factors at play when it comes to the marriage situation within the Islamic community and to blame everything on a woman’s choices in life does nobody any favours.

    Excellent article, again.

  12. a786 says:

    Hi Farah, thank you for the honesty in this piece. I feel like I’ve had the same experience, especially the kind of abrupt judgement you describe. Ironically, when I was younger I was told I was too fearful. Now I’m told I’m too independent. You can’t win.

  13. The comments here are not representative of Muslim men. There are many who prefer interesting women to those who have no character, and many who prefer women with careers to those who plan to be exclusively home-makers. Farah, the man who made that comment on the plane was correct with one amendment – It will be hard for you to find an idiotic mate. So it seems like you have yourself a good screening mechanism!

  14. LilBabyTiger says:

    Thank you for your kind words, Farah! I’m so happy that you have so many supporters on this site. Should you ever decide to get married, please invite Salman Khan, who has promised to party at your wedding like it’s 1349!

    • Salman Khan says:

      Hey LilBabyTiger, the parties in 1349 were better. More organic food, modest women who did women things and knew their place, and men who acted like men! I’m not here to wish the author ill. She is a woman of the era and she is open minded. She has tried the independent Elaine Benes type of existence and got no suitors. What harm is there to try and experiment with the docile homemaker type to win a wealthy healthy groom? She says even her mother was a homemaker so she should try it out. Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it should be the motto of us ivy leaguers. To the author: you will get married within the next 18 months if you just make a slight adjustment. No harm in trying. The moderators on this forum have expressed a strong inclination to publish all viewpoints so there you have it from the conservative sector.

      • Grlwondering says:

        How would you suggest acting as to not be considered too independent? Shall I highlight my paratha making skills?

      • LilBabyTiger says:

        Ahhh the good ol’ days of 1349. When war and disease were rampant, the “organic” food you speak so highly of was often unhygenic, and people had no rights. When diptheria and malaria and cholera killed millions. No wonder you wax so lyrical of those times, you prosiac vampire, those feudalistic days must have been the highlight of your existence. Please shuffle back into your coffin, since I sense that a new dawn for humankind, based on kindness and equity, is slowly rising.

  15. Wow, some of these responses have left me disgusted – but not surprised. Farah, I loved your piece! I also agree with many of your supporters but, in particular, with Ashfaq Khalfa: the only type of mate we will struggle to find is most likely the kind of mate we don’t want in the first place!

  16. hqas says:

    Hello Farah! love your piece, amazing and uncanny as I felt this was exactly my air-travel unraveled in your words. I’m of South Asian heritage, but I must tell you that this disgusting attitude exists across the globe.. be it there, Europe, USA etc etc.
    I do not excuse that men or larger male population that are infected with this sickness but frankly speaking its women who taught them this, their mothers, sisters etc so we women must take a good look at our selves too.
    This inanity that “a woman is too independent” actually I translate as oh,boy you giving me the creeps because I’m so damn insecure and was brought up to be a sissy! Sadly, many young women have to not only deal with such men but also stay married for their lives!