Hysterical Woman Phenomena

Hysterical Woman Phenomena

Written by Stephanie Siam

man goes to the doctor complaining of stomach pains; gets Rx. Woman goes to the doctor with same problem; gets straight jacket
man goes to the doctor complaining of stomach pains; gets Rx. Woman goes to the doctor with same problem; gets straight jacket. graphic by Nicole Elmasry.

Let’s get ready to rummmmble!!!!!!

The late 19th century (probably before and most certainly until some point after) saw a Western cultural predominance of labeling people according to disorders. If you’ve ever taken a look at literature or societal psychology from this time period, you’re sure to be acquainted with ideas such as leeching or frontal lobotomies.

Of course, if you spent more than 3 seconds looking at the recipients of such pleasant treatments, you’ll notice they often have one thing in common: the “fairer” sex.

Ah, yes. Throughout history, women have continuously been dealt the bad reputation of being unpredictable and emotional. Therefore, we tend to be considered weaker and prone to act irrationally based on our feelings at any given time.

Unfortunately, though the West has (mostly) progressed past this deluded mindset, other nations are still far behind understanding how a woman’s body works for – or against – her.

Not only that, but when it comes to women’s rights and inclusion, many societies base their ideologies on misappropriated ayat (verses) from the Qur’an and/or ahadith in order to subjugate, dismiss and maintain the patriarchal status quo on the (irrational and idiotic) basis that:

Women are easily confused and should not be given full responsibility or choice due to their precarious emotional states.

Go with me now to the year 2012. . . . .

We are still in Saudi Arabia, but it is nearing the end of my contract. We will be moving soon, and as the end grew ever nearer, I realize I am happy to go. Our time has been pleasant, but it is finished.

My husband’s niece has gotten engaged, so we make a weekend-trip to Kuwait for her engagement party. Now, I’m no extrovert, and I hate parties – but, it is for family, so I have to go to show support.

On the way to the border, we stop and eat lunch at a Hungry Bunny (fast food burgers) with bathrooms so clean I would eat off the floors. We hit the road, and I grab a cup of ice to go (because I have pica, and I crave ice).

Once in Kuwait, we get settled in the hotel (apartment) with my sister-in-law, and then we head to my other sister-in-law’s (mother-of-the-bride) for dinner. I don’t feel too well, so I don’t eat much. I think I am just tired from traveling. It was a long week at work, and there are lots of people in the house. I nibble.

Change scenes. We’re at the mall. Everybody’s happy and laughing. I can barely walk. Once again, I attribute it to being tired, plus I have major back issues, so I thought, “Eh, figures.” I sit and watch them walk around, having a grand time. I’m labeled as unsociable.

It’s the night of the party. I get all dolled up, and I even do my hair (it was just for women at the beginning). Get to the party. Start to get a migraine. I’m thinking, “Great….perfect timing.” By the middle of the party, I have to leave and go sit in the car. I’m dizzy, my head is throbbing and I’m pouring sweat.

The next day, we go to the movies. I’m still feeling queasy, but I warrior through. Afterward, all the family wants to go out to do something (I can’t even remember, I was so sick). I said I couldn’t, and I asked my hubby to take me back to the hotel. I barely got back to the room before I was choking and throwing up. He said, “I feel sorry for you, but I’m happy because now I can tell them there’s really something wrong!” (It sounds insensitive, but I understood what he meant.)

We finally get back to Saudi, and I start feeling better. I thought it was just a stomach bug. Then, Laila gets sick. And mine returns.

So, we head to the doctor. While Hubby takes Laila downstairs to the pediatrician, I wait to be seen by the doctor upstairs.

Now, you must understand this: I have a laundry list of medical issues that puts me at the doctor quite often. I have several chronic conditions that require treatment and stabilization — and they have been. At one point in the past, however, I had some chest pain. I knew there was nothing seriously wrong, but when you present with chest pain, they do the heart tests and make you see the heart doctor for a follow-up.

While I’m waiting to see the doctor, the heart doctor is sitting nearby talking to a nurse. . .about me. They’re speaking in Arabic, but he keeps motioning toward me. She keeps looking. Then the nurse of the doctor I’m waiting to see comes by and joins in the conversation. They continue talking about me. The gist: I’m there all the time. . .or, I’m a hypochondriac.

When it’s finally my turn, I go in to see the doctor (whom I’ve seen before). I run down my list of symptoms: sweating, fever, nausea, diarrhea, pain, etc.

Again, please note: The nurse did not take my temperature, and even though my blood pressure was high, it wasn’t seen as important.

The doctor asks about my husband. Yes, that’s right. My husband should be there to verify my problem.

“He’s downstairs with my daughter,” I say.

“Oh, is your daughter sick?” he asks.

“Yes. She’s got like the same thing, but not as bad.”

It’s like a light bulb goes off in his gray-haired head. “Are you worried about your daughter?”

I’m confused. “No, I’m not worried about her. I mean, of course I’m concerned for her health, but I know she’ll be okay. . .”

“I think you’re a little anxious. You’re probably upset because your daughter is sick.”

“No, that’s not what’s wrong. . .” To prove his point, I start tearing up.

“I’m going to give you a shot of _________” (I don’t remember the name, but it was an anti-anxiety medicine….Xanax, maybe?)

“I don’t need a shot. . .”

He sends me out of the office to wait for the nurse.

In the meantime, my husband comes up to check on me. He finds me crying.

“What’s wrong?” he asks.

“He won’t listen. I told him what’s wrong, and he thinks I’m just worried about Laila.”

“What?” He goes inside and speaks with the doctor. “Honey, come inside. . .”

I go back inside the office, and the doctor breaks down and checks my temp (imagine the concept!). It’s very high. Suddenly, he realizes I am sick, and he hands out a list of various medicines to collect from the pharmacy downstairs.

Royally pissed, we go to get them and leave for home.

That night, I can’t sleep, and I end up in the bathroom for hours. Anything that goes in comes out five minutes later. I can’t eat, and all liquid makes me nauseous.

We go to the emergency room, where the resident runs a bunch of blood tests.

“I have an idea of what’s wrong,” he says, standing beside my bed. “But I’m waiting for the tests to confirm it. I’ve ordered a Widal test.”

“What’s that?” I ask, completely out of energy.

“It tests for typhoid fever.” He leaves the room.

“Oh, my God!” I’m terrified. I don’t know exactly what typhoid fever is, but I’ve heard of it. And I know it doesn’t sound pretty.

The doctor comes back and confirms the test is positive. I have to be admitted. And I can’t have any human contact except for those whom I’ve already been around.

What is typhoid fever? It’s untreated salmonella poisoning which, if left untreated, can result in death. It takes months to recover from completely, and it took me nearly ten days in hospital to reach a level of being able to be around people again.

I had a “Do NOT Enter Without PROTECTIVE GEAR” sign on my hospital door!!!!

That’s right. I came *this close* to death, and I was labeled “emotionally unbalanced”. . . a hysterical woman.

I had my husband go down to the doctor’s office who had written me off with a diagnosis of hysterics.

His response? “Oh, really?” No apology. No realization of what could have happened. Just an, “Oops.”

Alhumdulillah rab-il al-ameen! Thank you, God, for your unending protection! It was a long road, and I recovered.

And I’d like to say this was a one-off. I’d like to blame it on Saudi Arabia.

Unfortunately, I can’t.

The moral of this story?

When women are quickly labeled as emotional and, thus, not even able to appropriately gauge whether their OWN BODIES are acting erratically, it can be more than just a simple “oops” that results. To allow the diagnosis of hysteria to persist as a cultural norm only risks further maltreatment for women in those locations. To be frank, it puts them at a clear risk for death.

This is why careful study and interpretation of religious doctrine is necessary and why biased and flippant prose that condescendingly discounts a gender is dangerous. When such verses are misappropriated to serve a specific purpose, they propagate the stereotype that women carry too much emotional baggage to think clearly.

Of course, by saying that women are the “weaker” sex and inclined to hysterics, what’s really being said is that men are the opposite. That they’re not prone to emotions because they’re “stronger”. That their judgment is solid and unwavering. That they think with their heads, and not with anything else (like their HEARTS). That they’re not easily swayed by gossip and don’t make rash decisions.

Yet, in this story (as well as many, many others), we can see this isn’t always the case. At times, we are all led by emotions instead of logic and clarity. This doesn’t make us “weaker” or “stronger” than the other. It makes us human. And, as humans, we must respect each other to create a stronger, united ummah (brotherhood) and present a positive image of Islam to the world.

But unfortunately for me, it didn’t end in Saudi Arabia.

So, join me next time, when we travel to Oman, and I continue the story of The Hysterical Woman Phenomena.

Oh, and PS. . .wondering what caused the salmonella? I suppose those bathroom floors weren’t as clean as they looked. Never eat ice from a border-town fast food restaurant.

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Shops at the Intersection of Hijab and Happening

Shops at the Intersection of Hijab and Happening

Written by Theresa Corbin
shopping

In my new year post, I mentioned something about being on what seemed like and eternal quest to find a long, denim skirt (that wasn’t super schoolmarm-y). Well I have great news for those of you who are in the same boat as I. I found an awesome site that sells a wide variety of denim skirts … Read on to find out 😉

And I thought to myself. Self!? If you- someone of astounding creativity and resourcefulness (you may insert eye roll here)- are having this problem, what other fabulously stylish, Muslim-American women (Be careful not to roll your eyes too much. They may get stuck.) are also having a hard time finding the clothing that suits their original/American aesthetic and their religious/modesty requirements?

Probably a lot. Over a period of almost 13 years of being a modest Muslimah, I have scowered the earth and the internet looking for covering clothing that also suits my own brand of style. It is a never ending journey. I have even taught myself to piece together sewing patterns to design and sew my own outfits, which is fun and challenging, but I know not everyone has the time, patience, or know-how to do the same.

So, I have compiled a list of the brick and mortar and internet shops (some tailored for Muslims, some not) that sell stuff that can suit the modest, modern Muslimah’s fashion diet.

1. Target

Who knew that one big box store could have so many suitable, stylish scarves? (Other big box shops that sell scarves and more flow-y clothing fall short on variety and quality).

Your first stop in Target is going to be the accessory section. You know, by the purses. They carry a wide array of scarves (at proper hijab proportions) from solid black, if that is your thing, to day-glow pink and everything in between.

While you may not find all of your outfitting needs here, they do offer a wide variety of layering options for the Modest Muslimah. They carry long sleeve shirts, blazers, maxi skirts and maxi dresses that can be paired with their comfy jean jackets, and all is offered at reasonable prices. (Target, you can make my advertising check out to Theresa Corbin at 1983 I Don’t Advertise for Big Box Stores for Free BLVD.)

2. theskirtoutlet.com

This site solved my denim skirt dilemma. But they don’t only have the cutest, long denim skirts. They also have khaki skirts, knits skirts, fancy skirts, casual skirts, maternity skirts, girl’s skirts, and whose its and whats its galore!
And the fact that their brick and mortar shop is located in Eureka, IL is just the ironic cherry on top.

3. eastessence.com

East Essence caters to the Muslimah, so you know you are getting something that won’t be see-through or super clingy. Many moons ago I ordered a gorgeous embroidered abaya from these folks. While it took a long time to ship (2 weeks), the price was so low it would have been insane to pass up ($14).  I expected the quality to be subpar at that price, but it exceeded all expectations.  

The company has a wide variety of offerings for its customers. From the abaya/jilbab crowd to the skirts and tops ladies, everyone will be satisfied with the price and product quality at East Essence.

4. zulily.com

zulily is a daily deal site that offers amazing discounts on fantastic boutique quality apparel and household products. At first glance you may think it is just for kids, but it is so much more. You might have to dig for hijabi approved apparel. But I have personally found gorgeous scarves, pizazzy palazzo pants, multitudes of maxi skirts, brilliant blazers and all from boutiques and name brands at a fraction of the retail cost.

And, no, I am not just saying this because they give you $20 if you refer a friend. I really love this site! Even if you don’t buy something at zulily for yourself, you will probably find something for the home or the kids.

Happy shopping and hijabing!

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I Bear Witness: How I Came to Islam, Part 1

I Bear Witness: How I Came to Islam, Part 1

Written by Theresa Corbin

Of all the choices in life, why would a young woman living in one of the most affluent countries in the world chose Islam? Is she crazy?

Well, it is complicated.

me-1

And, yes, I am little crazy.

But Islam was not the cause or a symptom, but the therapy. Besides, we are all crazy. I find that those who don’t own their crazy are indeed the craziest.

No, there was no “miracle” or near death experience that prompted the decision. There was no man promising me love, riches, and life-long happiness if I would just convert. There wasn’t even a parting of the Gulf of Mexico.

My conversion came about through years of thinking, arguing, denying, defying, and searching. I would be foolish to think that my life experiences and my disposition did not lend themselves to my eventual decision. But for this post, I will leave them out. You are welcome.

It all began by trying to solve the Jesus problem:

Many, many decades ago, I was born to a virgin … just joking, I was born to a highly educated, agnostic, Vietnam vet with a drinking problem and a deeply religious, sarcastic, but patient, Catholic woman.

dearest, sarcastic mom with her groovy hairstyle
my dearest, sarcastic mom with her groovy hairstyle

Oh, the tales I could about being raised in a house with a violent drunk and a tenacious martyr. It was as though heaven and hell waged war nightly in my home which made me very tired. I am still tired. Seriously, I need a nap.

The parents fought over many things. One topic of contention was what type of education their six children would receive. They came to a compromise. For grammar school, we (the childrens) would be afforded a Catholic education so that we may learn the mass and all the sacraments, etc. (mom’s choice). Then, for high school, we (the aforementioned childrens) would learn the ways of the world in public school (dad’s choice).

In Catholic school, I identified with those people who doubted Noah. This scared the crap out of my seven year-old-self. I made a deeply sincere request to The Creator at this point. I asked God that if He should send any more prophets that He would guide me to believe in them. This will be important later on.

In public school, I encountered people from many walks of life. No Muslims that I knew of, however. All this exposure made me question what made my way of life, culture, and religion so correct and proper?

As I was travelling down this line of questioning, I eventually came to the Jesus question.

I distinctly remember when I first wondered about Jesus’ (Peace be upon him) true nature. I was about 15 years old and I was kneeling in a pew after mass. And all of the sudden the thought popped in my mind. What if Jesus is not God? What if it is a lie? What if my life is based on a lie?- doubt, something I would learn to embrace.

The answer came in the form of manipulation i.e. if you don’t believe, you will go to hell for eternity, etc. Just believe: don’t worry your purdy, little head with thinking too much. Hilarious!

This was like telling a wood pecker not to peck at wood or a beaver not to build a damn dam. I am neurotic. All I do is think. No matter how useless the thought, I think/worry, and worry/think, and think/worry some more for good measure. 

College came, and with it more space to question. Having been manipulated into silencing my intellect, it was difficult for me to give up my indoctrination. However, my college roommate and I discussed many existential topics and religion made the roster often.

She being Baptist and I Catholic, it all began with the innocent comparison of the two sects of Christianity. Then, it dangerously evolved into a debate of such things like why had the Bible been changed so many times? Why are there so many versions? Etc.

We’d opened Pandora’s box and all the repressed questions came pouring out: Did innovators in Christianity base their belief in Jesus on the original Bible or a Greek translated, 18th edition? And if it was many editions and translations later, what was editorialized and/or lost in translation? What had been added or taken out? You know, the typical 18 year-old-girl, sleep-over topics of discussion interspersed with pillow fights.

My dear roommate, who also never let me nap–brought to my attention that something like four hundred years after Jesus lived, Christian leaders decided that Jesus Christ was both human and divine.

the roommate agreement

We naturally wondered how could people come to the decision about Jesus four hundred years after his death. From Prophet to God in an evolving religion.

This eventually evolved into the great debate 1999: was Christianity mixed with Greco-Roman beliefs because of the time and place of its advent? Was Jesus (Peace be upon him) being sacrificed for ‘all of our sins’ just an extension of the belief in pagan sacrifice?

Another suspiciously Greco-Roman belief that was on the debate roster for that year: Jesus and God as son and father: Zeus and Hercules, anyone?

My roommate was more advanced in her thinking than I. She would often ask me, as I feared giving up my belief in Jesus despite the facts, “Is the search for knowledge so dangerous? Can it hurt to really search for the truth? Can it hurt to use our own intellect to find out what is fact and what is fiction?”

And my rebellious nature replied, “No, I would rather err on the side of thinking too much.” Why do I have the ability to think, if I shouldn’t use it on such a fundamental aspect of life? All signs led me to believe that Jesus was not God, there was no trinity, and yes, my life had been based on a lie.

This was the beginning of my journey. 

To be continued here 

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