Houchie Mamas

I was just asking American Bedu for her opinion on what she sees as changes, if any, in the USA now that she has been back in the States for a few weeks visit after an abscence. My reason for asking her was two fold- but one in particular is  I have noticed the way most discussions in personal choices- independence, freedom of movement, and such between Muslims and Non-Muslims quickly gravitates towards skimpy clothes in America… I mean it snowed in a few states just a couple of days ago- and its April! Parkas, long thick pants, sweaters, and boots would probably be the main garb in those areas right now- not the latest of the swimsuit edition!

But why is that…why quick reference or the equating of personal freedoms and being or not a good muslim go with the clothes that binds you?

In the past decade or so the term “houchie mama” has been used, at least in NY, to mean a girl whose dress and behaviour is low class trash…Some men like it; a lot of them don’t- that the term exists means many more are uncomfortable with this behaviour than what most outside the US would assume. And by behaviour it can range from being outright flirt to cursing and speaking loudly in public places  giving TMI (too much information) on personal business to all and sundry within earshot…

Runway models are not the epitome of fashion- they are the creations of showmanship fashionistas for the moment/season- and most women don’t actually wear what’s on those run ways- not to mention US men and women are at the least 25% heavier than the heaviest of these models. When you look at magazines, Elle, Vogue, etc… you know which groups are being targeted…the younger set with the body that would likely match the models…but lately on newstands magazines like “More” (for women over forty), O (Oprah) seem to say that we have dividing lines by age groups- finally I can buy a woman’s magazine geared to where I am in my life…meaning over forty; career solid; older children; and not trying to fit into the new size 10 or zero…and with other interests in mind other than how to grab the man of your dreams; and more about career choices, life changes and such.

But it remains that in cases like the Middle East we are all “Houchie Mamas” on this side of the world. It may be that the argument is used as a deflection from questions that can’t be answered by those who use the argument… So a nice Muslim girl, solid parents, hard working, school oriented, career oriented but doesn’t wear hijab is automatically by some hoisted into the houchie category…all her other accomplishments pale in comparison to her lack of a headscarf… Or the same type of girl who does wear hijab but likes to dress it up nicely, also gets plastered on that same bill board.

Yes it would seem as though a subliminal message is going around and around so that we can keep lines of communication closed on things that truly matter.

I witnessed something the other day on the train with my youngest daughter who does not wear hijab; but whose clothes style is a bit on the grunge style- loose cargo pants (she skateboards, roller blades, plays hand ball, etc), graphic tee-shirts and the ever present sweat jacket- depending on the season it can be as light as a wind breaker or as heavy as a parka…waist length hair up in a pony tail that loops into the ever present baseball cap (bill forward or backwards depending on her mood)…well we are at the train station platform…it was a warm day and sunny- and I am in a Shalwar Khameez with khussas and hijab (nicely color coordinated with matching purse and bangles; what can I say I like to look my age but nicely thank you very much!) and along come another pair of Muslim women with their children… One is black abaya, black hijab, sweat pants peeking from under abaya, and sneakers with sunglasses; the other in loose american style clothes and hijab; both accompanied by I would say  two eight-year olds….They Salaam, we Salaam back- one child asks my daughter for her name; my daughter answers “sorry baby but I don’t give my name out to strangers, taught not to talk to strangers” – my daughter is very standoffish with people- she has a personal space meter of about ten kilometers on the personal scale.

The little girl turns to her mother and promptly says- “see mommy girls who don’t wear hijab are not nice girls!”

My daughter just looked at me and gave me one of those high eyebrow looks that spoke volumes….

The mother of the child doesn’t say a thing, I look at her square in the eyes; but I get no response…so we take the train as it is just arriving…

We sit at opposite sides of the train compartment, and I open up a magazine I have with me; my daughter tunes into her iPod- after a while the women across from us having their conversation comes across to us through the train noise -I again hear the child interrupting something the mother is saying with- “I hate so and so- she’s not a nice person…”

And that kinda shocked me- see for someone who is in hijab this talk of hate at the tender age of about eight is strong words (the child was wearing hijab)…she got it from somewhere- mommy dearest since she would turn to her to validate her statements… so what is this covered woman teaching her children? And what are others, like me perceiving of what Muslims “should be or not” and what they teach their kids… I was uncomfortable the whole ride downtown; because I felt that child’s innocence had been thrown out with the bathwater- and replaced with a militancy not necessary for such a tender heart and soul.

That the mother’s silence or acquience validated her statements only seemed to validate my perception even more…it could well be the mother was ignoring her…but that kind of chatter is the type you don’t ignore and address ASAP- but that’s me being the – “don’t talk to strangers, don’t point, don’t you dare make a disparaging comment in front of people, etc- ” mom…

 I know how my daughter is- most men who have tried to get stupid with her have either landed on their butts (she pushed one guy in the train who thought he could get away with touching her because the train was crowded) or a verbal whipping to another who thought to pick-pocket her phone- calling the cops as she yells at the guy to stick his hand where the sun don’t shine! Tough kid I know; but men don’t play with her- she has that cold look that makes the Himalayas a Bali resort if a man even dares strike up a conversation with her…she travels alone a lot of the times to and from school and she needs to be street smart. In NY being friendly, or thought to be “a friendly young thing” is a dangerous endeavor.

So who is the Houchie now? The one who is not in hijab or the one in hijab that talks like a houchie?

Another of those thoughts thrown out there; because honestly it is starting to bother…


8 Responses to “Houchie Mamas”

  1. April 20, 2009 at 3:21 pm

    The one in hijab that talks like a houchie! 😀

    I have banned my children from using the word “hate”. It is a very strong emotion wrapped in a very small word.

    • 2 INAL
      April 20, 2009 at 3:56 pm

      I have always banned that word in my house- we may dislike something- but never do we hate anything…
      But I must say it was an uncomfortable ride for sure…

    • 3 INAL
      April 20, 2009 at 11:51 pm

      Also Suroor, I think the word “hate” gives the child permission to be less kind to others- it tells them that things have to be one way and if they don’t like them the hate comes in to play…Ya Rabb can’t tell you how many times back home in Yemen I would tell my younger in-laws that they were causing more harm to their soul with the use the of the word than mere silence…

      My youngest nephew got a mouthwash of strong soap, I was told the other day because the first thing he said to something his father pointed out to him was that he hated that—well I guess the lectures have taken hold some how! Al Hamdulillah

  2. April 20, 2009 at 3:44 pm

    Inal, the pingbacks are spam. AKISMET didn’t detect them. You might want to delete them and block the IP.

  3. 6 Chiara
    April 20, 2009 at 9:40 pm

    I am always surprised when the parents’ behaviour is as bad or worse than the child’s. I agree that simply ignoring something doesn’t necessarily have the desired effect of stopping the behaviour. Sometimes the behaviour just escalates, or it simply doesn’t stop.

    I realized this when waiting in line at a pharmacy and observing a 3-year-old girl with her hands in her underpants and her skirt lifted. Mom said nothing, and girl kept doing it while twirling a bit for effect, and squeeze her “butt cheeks”. I remarked on this later to another psychiatrist, and he pointed out the mother was probably trying to stop the behaviour by ignoring it, rather than being complicit as I thought. Well in that case the strategy wasn’t working, and the child should have been removed from public view, and told to behave or they would be going home, no treat, whatever suitable punishment.

    In your example, the mother should have corrected the child in public without humiliating her, and explained in private.

    • 7 INAL
      April 20, 2009 at 10:15 pm

      So True Chiara…There are various ways to control one’s children’s behavior- the before we leave the house sermon; the I will remove you immediately if you don’t stop this; the this is not the best time to do this; the list goes on…and ignoring it only makes this worse…it reminds me of another mom- Muslim- who was proud that her daughter was going to “advise” her friend how she hated her and her ways; and how sinful she was…mind you both children were about ten and I was sickened by this…what kind of person would that child grow up to be…and I know Muslims are to advise each other- but when it comes to bad behavior such as this I wonder where all the advising goes…you know how much we have head of bratty Arabic kids…and it only makes me wonder and shudder at the same time…

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