Tea Time

The Myth of Female Choice

Last week, it was announced on social media that Dancehall artist Lisa Mercedes, converted to Islam. And, like always, there came a barrage of comments from people, all trying to dictate how Mercedes should go about her life now that she is a Muslim.

Christians were in the comments saying things along the lines of “Jesus is the only way”, but let anyone say that to a Christian, and all hell would break loose (no pun intended).

Others came into the comments section claiming that Islam advocates slavery. While God- if you believe in him -is flawless, religion is a product of man and therefore has flaws because humans can only interpret the word of God within their own frame of reference. That doesn’t mean that Islam advocated slavery – no religion does- but the way humans have used The Word through the centuries may make it appear that way. But that has no bearing on whether people should openly criticise another faith. It’s the cornerstone of the lives of thousands, and that has to be recognised whether you agree with it or not. Let us also remember that it was Christianity that has been used to keep black Africans enslaved for the last 400 years.

Christianity is a beautiful religion, but if someone has chosen to depart from it and pursue a different path, that needs to be respected, in the same way, that a Christian would expect people to acknowledge and respect them for their conversion, or baptism.

And even Muslims, the very people who are supposed to be embracing Lisa Mercedes, jumped on the hate bandwagon. And while Mercedes did say that she received a lot of love from Muslims in her DMs, which is how it should be, in the comments, there were calls for her to take down pictures of herself on her Instagram, and many essentially told her that it is impossible for her to be Muslim because she’s a dancehall artist.

In the meantime, there are many Muslims out there- and I’m sure a lot of them were in the comments- who are not doing what is widely accepted to be right. So who are they to come into the comments of another Muslim and tell her that she’s not good enough when she’s only just converted. Give her a break – most of us were born into the faith, raised in it for decades, and we’re still not doing what we’re supposed to be doing.

And it’s hard to ignore the fact that this would not be the response if Mercedes was a man. Muslim men walk around, in the public eye, doing whatever they want, whenever they want. Many of our favourites in the music industry, particularly in British Rap, all drink, smoke, see girls, make music and all while openly admitting that they’re Muslims, and there’s never a great outcry -if any- for that. This is because the public recognises them and their right to make their own decisions, and be themselves, and we need to acknowledge women’s right to their own choices in the same way. And this is just one example from a long list of things that men can get away with and women can’t. Things like multiple sexual partners, self-confidence, religious lenience and ambition- are just a few traits that, when seen in men either get explained away or praised, but in women are pointed out, and the women are demonised for them, from one angle or another.

And this is a common theme when it comes to women. What we choose to wear, what we choose to say, and how we choose to act, are all up for scrutiny. When it comes to women, the rules of autonomy do not apply, and the element of ‘choice’, gets called into question regularly. The media tells us that we are all free to do as we please, but criticises all women for doing whatever they want, whenever they want. Of course, we don’t admit to that these days. It’s 2020, we claim to be open-minded, liberated and inclusive, but the reality is that our society still struggles with the concept of a woman making her own choices based entirely on what she wants

If Mercedes chooses not to take down her old pictures, or if she chooses not to stop making music – and honestly I don’t think that she should – then people need to leave her alone and allow her to do what she needs to do, for herself. Not a single one of us is perfect. We all want to preach what’s the right decision and what’s the wrong one, but none of us is practising what we preach on our keyboards. None of us would like our decisions questioned- so why are we questioning the decisions of others?

Being a true feminist means being able to orchestrate the events of your own existence, and standing with women means allowing women to make those choices without expecting them to justify themselves to anyone, let alone strangers. Lisa Mercedes doesn’t have to do anything she doesn’t want to do, and it’s not for a stranger behind a keyboard to try and tell her how to think or how to act. Only he without sin may cast the first stone, and I don’t think anyone, let alone anyone on social media, fits that description. We all want to be free to do as we please, so we need to stop expecting other people to do what we think is right, and stop feeling the need to voice our opinions on the actions of others, that are enacted by themselves, for themselves.

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