There are only two things I MUST to do in this life: I must stay black. I must die. Everything else is optional.

One of the ways those who benefit from religious oppression are able to nurture and sustain oppressive social structures (like male supremacy/patriarchy) is by convincing the oppressed that their suffering is both natural and ultimately good for them. Some go so far as to say that extreme sacrifice is the only means to self purification and divine favor. This fosters a kind of arrogance on the part of the oppressed. They can look to those in their group who are living happier, more fulfilling lives as living in delusion. Those who “patiently persevere” can see themselves as closer to ultimate Truth and Reality. They suffer as Jesus (peace be upon him) suffered, or as the wives of Muhammad (pbuhahf) suffered, as Hussain (pbuh) suffered. They are the chosen, the holy. They are appeased by a promise that after death, when ultimate justice prevails,  their suffering will be rectified.  If their deceptive piety has really corrupted their hearts, they take pleasure in the idea that those who are happy now will one day roast in hell while they sip holy margaritas in a garden of bliss. You’ll be a martyr!

Women are told that the patient– or better, joyful– endurance of suffering is virtue and as your mental health deteriorates, your body crumbles and joy is sucked from your existence, the resulting depression and/or emotional numbness is hailed as the achievement of inner peace and “satisfaction” with the divine decree. Women who resist that a just and loving God would actually want them to suffer poverty, ignorance, violence, and injustice are bad women. Women who wake up and realize that religion doesn’t need patriarchy, are slutty, baby-killing feminists who want to destroy the natural order that God has set in place, or lesbians driven by their man-hating lust toward the arms of other women. Sometimes, they get to be sweet ladies who’ve been duped by media and hurt by men who do patriarchy wrong.

Of course, male supremacy/patriarchy doesn’t need religion. These ideas can be reinforced without once mentioning God. I’ve seen the above picture floating around on Facebook. Too many smart, competent women endorse this tomfoolery as  if it’s some sort of  secret lady-wisdom, passed down from one successful generation to another. Of course, there is no promise that you’ll actually gain anything from following this advice; it’s an order. Being a woman means you must think like a man, act like a lady, look like a girl and work like a horse. If you use your lady brain, refuse to be soft-spoken and demure, actually get a wrinkle or stretch mark and put your feet up and have a piece of cake, well then you’re not a woman. You’re a loud-mouthed, wrinkly, stretch marked, cake eating, feminist who wants to destroy the natural order that God has set in place. And you’re fat– because, cake.

I don’t claim to be an expert in anything beyond my own experiences, but I know this: women will never achieve the dignity and self-determination we crave until we divest from martyrdom and invest in liberation.

It is not hard to be a woman because you must “think like a man.” It is hard to be a woman because you’ve been socialized to believe that you are physically, religiously, emotionally and intellectually inferior to a man. Your brain is so inferior that you must “think like a man” in order to succeed in this world. It’s hard to be a woman because acting like a “lady” means shutting up when you’re supposed to be speaking out. It means crossing your legs when you want to open them, lest someone see the outline of a thigh in pants, or glimpse the dark space between your legs and force those same legs open when “Oh God, no” the only thing in the world you want at that moment is for him to get his hands off of you so that you can keep them closed. It’s hard to be a woman because you’re supposed to have large, firm, round breasts that no one ever gets to see because that would make you a slut, but don’t cover them up because that makes you a prude. It’s hard to be a woman because you’re supposed to look like you spend 2+ hours a day up in the gym just workin’ in your fitness, only to come home and indulge in a daily facial to keep your skin, smooth and glowy.  You need to dress like Naomi Campbell, cook like Paula Deen and keep an immaculate home while raising well-mannered, high achievers and bringing in a large salary. Oh, and make sure your husband is ALWAYS sexually satisfied.

It’s hard to be a woman because, patriarchy. PATRIARCHY is your problem. The system that places an incessant stream of contradicting demands on your mind, body and soul is what makes it hard to be a woman. Want it to stop being so hard to be a woman? Stop romanticizing your own oppression. Flip a bird do the system, and to the best of your ability, live on your own terms. Then join hands with other women and men (because patriarchy hurts men too) to create a world where we can all live with dignity, as God intended.

Ilahi ameen.