In 2015 I published an article about gym-intimidation (Gymtimidation) and for those of you who find gyms intimidating I recommend reading (or re-reading) the post (click on the highlighted title). But today I wanted to discuss this issue a bit further as I find it to be one of the top stumbling blocks for women in particular who are committed to getting in shape now that the new year is upon us, yet cannot overcome their nervous reluctance towards joining a gym.
If you feel self-conscious in gym attire, awkward because you have no clue how to use the machines, and/or embarrassed by your lack of strength or stamina – you are far from alone! But as I stated in the previous post, whether it’s a girls-only gym or a “we’re all in this fat together” gym like Planet Fitness those feelings still surface and hold you back.
The real issue is your perception of your body vs. your desire to change it. If your motivation is strong enough, and you are willing to direct and maintain your focus on to that singular goal of slow and steady changes, you can drive those self-sabotaging thoughts from your brain.
To keep your focus on track and productive, start by accepting the shape you’re in today – not just your external shape — but your strength, stamina and coordination. Next pick two body parts to focus on, ideally your strongest or easiest to change (i.e., thighs or arms). Then wear clothes that you feel comfortable in, both for the comfort of exercising and sweating, and that you do not feel awkward visually in (i.e., t-shirt and shorts). Lastly, commit to three times a week, 30-minutes of slow but challenging resistance training of those chosen muscles (arms or legs), and slow but challenging cardio (walking at an incline, riding the stationary bike).
Once you see some changes to your body, you will find your motivation renewed to keep pushing towards your goals. Now there are two “no-no’s” I wish to impart to you, that will keep you from self-doubt and discouragement:
1. Do NOT compare yourself or your body to anyone else! Everyone, and I mean everyone, has different variables that come into play, and no two bodies (and brains) are alike. Focus only on your upward growth and improvement and be patient and loving with your body.
2. Do NOT focus on your mid-section (stomach). For those of you fighting to reduce body fat, especially from your tummy, this will be the last area to lose the fat – especially on women! Continue pushing yourself weekly, and follow my other posts where I discuss how to avoid plateauing, etc. and making certain that you’re eating enough. It took time for that fat to store up, and it takes time, hard work, and patience to lose it.
Lastly I cannot stress enough that if that gym-intimidation still has a grip on you, consider purchasing at least 3 training sessions with a trainer whom you a good connection with (don’t let the gym just assign you one), and then allow them to ease you into understanding the equipment and how to push your body.
As always, I’m here to offer advice and/or a customized training program should you desire it. (workouts247.com) Now go work out and be proud that you’re making a positive change!
As the year winds down and the holidays rear their busy, caloric, stressful heads I want to take a moment to remind you to be accepting and compassionate – OF YOURSELF! Clearly all of us should be accepting and compassionate of others, but I find that so many people can give love and compassion to others but NOT to themselves. Therefore, this time of year that type of person is even tougher on themselves which leads to more stress and less enjoyment of what should be a wonderful time of year. Is that you?
The most typical topics that we you might beat yourself up about are:
- I didn’t reach my goals
- I didn’t get in shape
- I’m still at the same dead-end job or relationship
- I have to buy so many gifts and have no money
So listen what I am yelling at you right now: STOP IT!
If you didn’t reach your goals because you didn’t try, okay, so now you must see that inactivity and/or indecisiveness clearly doesn’t work. So find stronger motivation and perhaps an easier goal to reach (i.e., the first step towards the total end goal) and come January, get off your ass and start moving towards that goal!
If you didn’t get in shape because you didn’t stick with healthier nutrition and an exercise regiment, again, nothing will change until you do. But you are human and not alone in this – so stop beating yourself up about it. Just follow this blog, join a gym, find a trainer, or whatever it is that will MOVE you (pun intended) toward your fitness goals in the new year.
If your job still sucks the life out of you, and/or a relationship has run itself into the ground with no hope of revival, then decide if you’d rather be exactly where you are NOW one year from now, or somewhere else. If you can’t bear the thought of still being STUCK this time next year, then again, get off your ass and do something about it. There’s ALWAYS a choice that can be made and implemented.
Lastly, as for the dreaded cost and stress of holiday shopping – I know for a fact that most of us would really rather spend quality time with our friends just sitting around being together, drinking wine, playing cards, watching a movie, having a meal, etc. Same goes for fun or funny homemade or gag gifts that break no one’s bank. A token present or little joke gift to remind someone that they’ve got a friend who cares is really the best gift of all. No one wants a gift when the giver has stressed themselves out over it or incurred debt. The only person who truly demands a certain amount of money spent or certain high quality of gift is usually YOU, the giver. Otherwise, they’re not a person you should be hanging with anyway.
So do what you can to be happy and not bah-humbug this holiday season, and get your ducks in a row to hit the ground running come January. Remember, you’ve got me in your corner – I’m always happy to help keep you motivated!
Raising a young girl I feel a huge responsibility to educate her on what it means to be a woman, and most importantly to have confidence and good self-esteem about her body and her femininity. What I find to be the most confusing aspect of woman-hood to 90% of girls and women that I meet these days, is the misunderstanding of sex vs. love. Making things all the more convoluted is the rampant and massive porn and sex industry sending mixed messages to both genders about what it is to be a woman.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not getting on any prudish soapbox here. I have no issue with porn or strip clubs, as long as the women involved are first and foremost women, not girls, and secondly that they are participating with their own free will.
My issue is that girls AND boys are being fed blatantly wrong images about love, sex, bodies, nudity, and how a woman wants to be treated and should be treated. The old cliché that men want a refined, soft-spoken woman in the kitchen, and a whore in the bedroom still exists for many a young man.
Merchandise like “Bratz” dolls (see picture above) and suggestive clothing is marketed to girls as young as 8 and establishes early-on the misdirection that sexiness can only be achieved by wearing revealing clothes, stripper high-heels, and posing with your lips pursed-poutly. Furthermore, men and the media spoon feeds our little girls the misnomer that sexiness (which is actually often sluttiness) is necessary for you to be attractive enough to get a man.
I am a first generation product of the women’s sexual revolution and I appreciate the strides we have made as women to be able to have birth control that we control, that we can have sex out of wedlock without shame, and even speak up about our sexual needs and likes. BUT, I had to learn the hard way the difference between sex and love, lust and caring, as did many of my peers. I feel now it is imperative that we compound the strides made by women of the 60’s and 70’s and start speaking much more frankly with our daughters and sons.
We must explain to them the differences and nuances between love and sex. We must advise them when and how it’s okay to have sex vs. “making love.” We must teach our daughters to understand that their bodies have an affect and power over boys that neither gender can understand in the teen years, and that said power must be respected and not wielded blindly, stupidly, or just because boyfriend or peer pressure tells them that it’s okay become sexually active. We must also teach the boys that no really does mean no, even if you’re half way into the act, and that one should NEVER take advantage of a girl who is mentally impaired by drugs or alcohol.
Lastly, we have to explain to all young children and teens that women who chose to parade around with their breasts or bums revealed are not the examples we should strive for. There is a time and place for women to be dressed in lingerie (or not dressed at all), and walking around in public is not it. (Again I’m not trying to pick on strips clubs or their patrons.) Young adults need to understand that surgically enhanced breasts and stiletto heels can send the message “I’m ready to be your sex-toy” and if you choose to dress that way, then you have to expect that you’ll be treated as nothing but a sexual object. Most importantly we must emphasize that being desired sexually is okay under the right conditions, but that those conditions are very specific and when the lines are blurred so is the treatment of women and thus their self-esteem is eroded.
I know today’s blog is intense and not necessarily fitness focused, but I am passionate about all areas of life being in balance and I have so many friends and clients that are grown women and men who are still confused about sex and love, so today this is what spewed out of my brain. Think about it. Share your thoughts with me – and then get your self to the gym for a little brain-clearing exercise!
Since I was a young girl I’ve been aware of the serious nature of girls competing against each other for just about everything from friends to grades to boys. It gets worse and uglier as we grow into women. I see it at the gym, the mall, restaurants – women sizing up the competition. You can see it in their expressions, a defensive once-over seeking some flaw or registering uncalled-for disapproval.
I’ve mentioned this before, living in Las Vegas I regularly see nighttime parades of girls, each more scantily clad than the next, perched in ridiculously high heels, all glaring at the gaggle next to theirs to see if there is anyone they can put down to make themselves feel better. Belittle the competition and they’re no longer a threat, right? Yet despite girls’ intentions, the message men take away from this contest of looks is that you’re offering your bodies and not your brains or hearts, and thus they don’t really care which girl they get.
The question is why are we so quick to condemn or ridicule? The answer is competition. We compete to be prettier, smarter, slimmer, or funnier. But the true concern really comes down our fear that someone is “better than me.” Girls are constantly worried that another girl will get more attention, steal a mate, or even get a better mate. We regularly match your own worth against the next girl – which only serves to chronically undermine one’s self-esteem. Our value should not be tied into how we match up with the next girl, or whether a boy finds us attractive.
It’s sad that we are driven to such levels of insecurity that we view our fellow “sisters” as potential threats to our happiness. I suspect this is also a part of the reason that women are still undervalued and underpaid in the workforce. It’s bad enough that we have to compete with men for jobs, but when women consistently treat each other with distrust and resentment in a work environment, it’s easy for employers to offer us less money knowing that we’ll accept it just to get ahead of the next woman.
I know I’ve done my share of mocking another or feeling envious of another girl’s achievements or looks, but I’ve worked hard in this second half of my adult life to remind myself that the grass is NEVER greener on the other side, and that we all have strengths and weaknesses, gifts and limitations, and the only person I should compete with is myself – to constantly grow and improve.
So I suggest that all women take stock of their attributes and stop beating yourselves up about your detriments. If there’s a negative aspect of yourself that you can actually change, DO IT and move on. Otherwise, be proud of who you are what you’ve achieved and never stop trying to be more. Consider the woman next to you your equal and always be there for each other. Stop competing, start caring about each other and that karma will reward us all.
If we can teach our daughters through this example, we just might have a generation of women that work together to boost each other up, improve the world at large, and show men that we are the superior gender! (Wink.)
I overheard two nine year old girls talking the other day at a friend’s home. One tall, one short, neither thin, neither overweight – but clearly built very differently. The taller one was urging the shorter one to get on the scale to see what she weighed. Finally, reluctantly, she obliged and weighed in four pounds heavier than the taller girl. The taller girl then responded “ooh, maybe we should run around more at recess.”
What does this tell me? It tells me that the tall girl has probably been overhearing her mother lament about being over-weight. It tells me that at by third grade, she’s already assumed most adults’ belief that what the scale reads, defines how you are seen. It also shows me how much our kids are listening to everyone’s obsession with weight.
It’s not just the girls mind you, I’ve caught many a group of elementary school boys quickly (albeit amongst themselves) dismissing a girl based upon her weight, having learned early on that thinner is more attractive. All it takes is one tossed away comment by a Dad watching a model-eating-burger commercial like “now that’s hot” to take root his son’s head. (Don’t get me started on the irony of those silly commercials!)
If you’ve read my blog for any length of time you know that I do not own a scale, and berate my clients who use one to gauge their fitness. You should also know that I am trying to raise awareness with the world at large, as well as in my own home, that body fat vs. scale weight vs. internal health are three different things and should not be lumped together.
Clearly, being a personal trainer, there’s a lot of discussion in our home about nutrition, body fat, body acceptance, etc. My daughter is built on the short and stocky side, yet she is strong and healthy, and not fat. But put her next to her taller and leaner friends, sure she seems “thicker” – a perception that to the ignorant child/adult could be referred to as fat.
I work diligently to maintain her healthy self-esteem so that she will not suffer in middle-school, high- school and beyond. Young girls’ and boys’ feelings of inadequacy because society has deemed them inferior if they’re not built like models, starts in the home whether you’re aware of it or not.
My hope today for those of you who read this (and hopefully you’ll pass it on to reach more) is that everyone who worries about their “weight” should stop verbalizing their issues in front of their children. Husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, boyfriends, girlfriends – we all need to realize that one little innocuous sentence (“I can’t lose the last ten pounds, I hate the way I look”) can plant a very destructive seed in a little person’s brain.
So think about what you say around your kids, and what they might internalize about themselves from it. Engage in open discussions about health, nutrition, the differences in body types, and most importantly, that ultimately we must not judge books by their coverers – beauty is more than skin deep – and any other words of positive reaffirmation to remind them that life is about being a good person – not being perfect.
Today I’m standing tall on my soapbox to vent about a negative trend where women are concerned – that trend being to fudge numbers and letters relating to our size and the clothes that we wear.
My frustration recently reached a new peak when I went to Victoria Secret to purchase a gift for a bride-to-be. I scoured the racks and shelves for some lovely little lace-diddy in her size, I found none. I inquired as to where all the 34A’s were, and was gleefully informed by an annoying overly-enthusiastic yet robotic sales girl that they no longer make lingerie sets in 34A, the smallest offering would be 32B. I immediately pounced back with “why is Victoria Secret discriminating against us A’s?” (Note, they still offer bras in A cup sizes, just not lingerie.)
Her reply was to look me up and down and state with misplaced joy “well first of all, clearly you’re a 32C…” at which point my how stupid are you laugh cut her off and I corrected her with my proper size (like the bride, a 34A). She then asked when was the last time I was measured, and also added that even if I was a 34A, I could just as easily wear a 32B. I informed her that if you wrapped a tape measure around my ribs under my breasts it measures 34 inches, and therefore a 32 would not fit. She shot back that the larger cup size would take up the slack. Evidently this is now a widely accepted sales approach to bras. The question I have is WHY? What’s wrong with being an A cup?
After a few more irritating back-and-forths with this mannequin I departed in a huff. On my way home I stewed over the fact that sizes have been rapidly getting smaller in clothes while clearly bra sizes are increasing. There appears to be a desire among designers and clothing manufacturers (and evidently the shopping public as well) to create the illusion that you’re smaller than you are (i.e., fitting into a size 6 dress when you’re really a 10). Simultaneously you can now wear a C cup bra when you’re really an A or B.
A few months ago I went into a White House Black Market store and tried on a little black dress. I have worn a size 4 ever since I my 20’s. Their size 4 dress was too large. I tried a 2, also too large. Then a 0 still swam in the breast area, but was tad tight in the hips. When the sales lady suggested a 00, I almost screamed aloud “who the F*** is a size 00?!”
I remember in the 80’s I wore a size 7 jeans because they fit me. Now a 7 swims on me and it’s not because I lost any weight. Quite the opposite, especially since I am a trainer and have gained a lot of muscle weight and size. But clearly whomever’s making these jeans has changed their “recipe” so that women can feel “better” about their sizes.
I also remember that back then (when I was a rocker chick), all my band mates and male buddies described their perfect woman as being tiny waisted with very big breasts. With that still being the idea of sexy, it’s no wonder that breast implants are the norm while starving yourself of carbs. Thus, I understand that as a business Victoria’s Secret is undoubtedly looking at sales and seeing a reduction in movement of their A Cup inventories, I still wonder which executive had the gall to suggest that a 32B would be sufficient replacement for a 34A (and same goes for 36A has to wear a 34B)? Sorry young ladies who are the ultra-rare 32A – you’ll just have to shop elsewhere.
In summation of my tirade I leave you with this: just like I tell my clients that scale weight is not indicative of their fitness or body fat levels, the size of dresses or bras that you wear do not make YOU. Wearing a bra that is smaller in inches but bigger in cup size is simply playing with numbers to play with your head. Do you really feel that much better about yourself by changing to a B cup? Better to change your perspective and be happy with where you are or make healthy changes to your body from within (nutrition and exercise).
Today my diatribe will seem to be off the subject of fitness, but in reality has everything to do with being healthy of mind and body. I have come to my wit’s end with society’s preoccupation with talent-less, substance-less, worthless icons of super-wealthy plastic women. In case you didn’t get it by that description, I’m referring to the Kardashians.
Every day when I stop in the gym locker room prior to or after my workout, I am assaulted by two televisions permanently glued to (and loudly playing) the E Channel. The E Channel (formerly Entertainment TV) has decided, assumably because of viewer demand, that 75% of their programming should be the show Keeping up with the Kardashians.
For the 5 minutes that I utilize my locker I am subjected to Kim crying because some designer can’t make her million dollar wedding dress, or Kanye decided to fly her to Paris before she was ready, or one of her sisters lamenting about how tiring it is to go to another $100,000 night where she has to stand around at a club in Las Vegas pretending to have a good time.
These women who never seem to work out (or at least never sweat), have chefs preparing their calorie-counted food, almost always appear in flawless airbrushed make-up, and live in mansions with assistants and drivers actually believe that their trivial woes are something we can relate to and should sympathize with.
The Madam (as in head of the brothel) who leads this circus is their mother Kris who just this year has launched her two youngest daughters (ages 16 and 18) into the same career as their older sisters. By the way, in case you didn’t know these “careers” are really nothing but a few modeling gigs, event appearances, and of course, showing all aspects of their plasticized non-intimate lives on television. I will say that Kris is quite the marketing genius as she has turned 5 vapid self-centered females into a million dollar enterprise, but somehow that just isn’t enough to garner her my full respect when she’s peddling such hollow fluff.
So why am I bitching about this you may ask? It’s because my mission as a fitness professional is to help people – most importantly women – to accept their flaws, surmount obstacles and limitations, and love their bodies and lives. The Kardashians are in direct conflict with my mission. Their show tells girls that shallow is ok, that fashion and fantasy have more value than hard work. I sincerely doubt that any Kardashian daughter can balance a check book, live on a budget, and multitask the care of children, with the chores of maintaining a house, car, job, and their own personal fitness and emotional fulfillment.
They call it reality TV but it is the furthest thing from reality. As long as viewers enjoy the mind numbing line up of Kardashians, Lohans, and Sex In The City reruns Entertainment TV, MTV, and VHI will never change and girls will continue to be exposed to these unrealistic depictions of life as a woman in America. So if you want to show your daughters examples of television women worth emulating there’s lots to pick from, but unfortunately you’ll have to go way back. Try reruns of Mary Tyler Moore Show, One Day At A Time and Julia if you really want to see women of substance and value.
Being in the fitness industry I understand people being proud of their transformations from fat to fit, and wanting to document their body’s changes. I also accept that our society is geared towards admiring (and lusting after) bodies of hot young women. So self-posed body photos on Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook shouldn’t be a big deal to me. However, lately the current trend of “selfies” has risen to a level that I find annoying, irritating, and destructive to the overall self-esteem (or lack thereof) of girls and women. I want to ask these self-photographers what are you selling? Usually shot in their bedrooms, bathrooms, or the gym, these shots are cloyingly posed and suggest that the poser is desperately seeking adoration.
For those of you not familiar with the term selfie (noting that it was not in the dictionary five years ago), a selfie is a photograph you have taken of yourself with a cell phone (usually in a mirror to get a full body shot). The internet is littered with them. Pose after pose of scantily clad women displaying their tight young abs, butts, thighs, and almost always with pouty lips and a swayed back for extra sexy emphasis. (I am, of course, not referring to selfies taken with friends where you hold the camera with one arm while everyone crowds around. Those are fun and harmless.)
I am in the business of helping people have healthier bodies and lives, and I always try to keep my approach and advice positive, motivational, and sensible. So every day when I post my ideally helpful pictures and words of wisdom on my social network sites, I am saddened to see so many vapid selfies. I really think these girls do not really get what it is they’re saying to the world, or more importantly, how they seem to be selling themselves (selling themselves short for sure).
At the gym locker room the other day, I caught a stereo typically breast-enhanced, muscle-bound, swollen-lipped woman snapping a selfie in the mirror posing in the exact way describe above. Later I saw her kneeling over the flat bench, angling her phone awkwardly to catch a shot of her butt. I know I live in Las Vegas so I should expect this, but I’ve reached my tolerance limit. (The photo below is NOT her.)
Then last weekend I was at Mandalay Bay Hotel and saw girl after girl parading around dressed so provocatively that they could barely walk. Dresses were cut to the crotch and their heels were 6″ spikes or higher. I saw them lining up individually and posing for solo-selfies, one hand on hip, lips pursed. Then they gathered in a clutch, uploaded their pics to the internet, and told each other how great they looked.
Now I know the way I dressed in the 70’s must have seemed like I was walking around naked compared to my Mother and her generation, so I suppose my perception is now likewise tainted by being in my 50’s and being a mother of a young girl (see a sample of my high school fashion sense below). But at least back then not only were our clothes way less revealing than now, but once the night was over, the proof of any misguided choices was not documented for the rest of the world to see and comment on.
The barrage of selfies on the internet (thanks in part to the empty shells like Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian) can only erode the current and future generation of young girls’ perspectives on their bodies. Sex still sells more than health. As long as this holds true, having the perfect sexy body will be more important than having courage, inner strength, compassion, and strong self-esteem.
Once again I feel I must reiterate that the average women in her 20’s or early 30’s has the ability through proper nutrition and diligent physical fitness to be rock hard, flat stomached and “perfect” (society’s label, not mine). The rest of us have to not only work really hard and stay committed to our nutrition and exercise, but in truth must accept that we are beautiful and perfect no matter our flaws. Life is just too short to try and look 20 all the time.
So the next time you want to document the hard work you’ve put in to change your body, ask someone else to take the picture, pose realistically and then think before you share it with the world. Remember what you’re saying to others when you post that picture. Ideally you’re saying you’ve worked hard and are proud of the results. I’m sure that girl at my gym was trying to say that, but unfortunately her selfie was more about what she was selling!
Recently I had a discussion with several friends who, like me, have a daughter(s). I asked what one lesson do you feel is the most important to impart to your daughter? The answers all varied slightly (to use their voice, to stand up to bullies, to have good regard for their bodies) – but when broken down to their root core all the answers ended up being what my answer is: strong self-esteem.
As you may know if you’ve read my book Joan of Arc Is Dead, or been a client of mine for any time, I am on a personal mission to rid the world of modern-day martyrs. “Super women” who take on too much to their own physical and emotional detriment – women who do not speak up regarding their needs and wants. Worse yet is a prevalence in society to place value in looking (or acting) like Kim Kardashian or Pam Anderson while offering no substance.
Little girls are taught very early on to dress or pose sexy to gain acceptance (have you seen the Bratz dolls?!). This is often even before they understand the word, and more importantly, the ramifications of “sexy.” I overheard a young mother with her five-year old daughter in a salon one day reading People Magazine and discussing which women were sexy. The other day I saw a 10-year old girl dressed in very short shorts, high wedge heels and her shirt tied to reveal her belly button. SHE WAS 10!!!!
There is still a huge double standard in this world that while a man can go wild in Vegas and be considered cool, a drunk bikini clad girl at spring break is a desired conquest while simultaneously being considered loose and not the kind of girl you bring home to mom.
So how do our young daughters make sense of all these mixed messages? The still coveted ideal that men want a prim and proper lady running their home while being a whore in the bedroom is in itself a ridiculous concept to strive for.
Therefore, my goal is to inculcate my daughter with the ideals that she is a beautiful soul first and foremost – and on equal par to any man. She has a brain and a heart that must be used for her own self-advancement while still being compassionate and giving. Her body needs to be healthy inside and out, and confidence about her shape comes from knowing that she offers so much more underneath her skin (and that no BODY is perfect).
I hope to instill in her a value of her body as a whole – one that keeps her from choosing to flaunt her sexuality, especially before she’s old enough to understand what that means! I am teaching her to use her voice, not as a tattletale, but as a tool when a choice is being thrust upon her that does not jive with her moral code, comfort level, or simply an obvious injustice. As she grows, I hope to help her understand the power, beauty, and double-edge sword of female sexuality.
Lastly, I tell her she should never do something she really doesn’t want to do just to make me or her Dad (or a boyfriend) happy. Too often little girls learn early on to please their parents for the wrong reasons at the wrong times. Then once an adult this habit continues and the relationship between parents and children suffer, especially if she doesn’t feel she can say no to them, thereby imposing boundaries once she is married and has children.
As a Mother I feel that the goal of guiding my daughter into being a strong women who can still be vulnerable, with a healthy balance of selfishness and selflessness is an ongoing project, but one worth staying focused on. The same goes for mothers of young boys. They too need to be taught the fine line between strong self-esteem while still being able to be emotionally in tune and open.
Ultimately, we all need to have healthy boundaries and keep ourselves balanced!
My mother, Dr. Laina Farhat-Holzman is a Ph.D. and noted authority on Middle East Studies, World Religions, and Womens’ Affairs. She is a published author and journalist. This week, her article really struck a chord in me that women throughout the world can allow their own self-worth to be of such little value that they would make the choices cited in Laina’s article. As a proponent of women’s health and fitness (which as you know if you follow my work, includes self-esteem and non-martyring) I felt the need to post her article here for all my followers to read, in hopes that maybe one woman would WAKE UP and start making more intelligent choices!
Why Some Women Love Violence. (Published in the Pajaronian Register, November 23, 2013)
By: Laina Farhat-Holzman
There is an old joke (a John Wayne movie?) that tells of why women put up with violent husbands. “How else can I know he loves me?”
In the developed world, wife beating is no longer considered a sign of love; it is bullying, intimidating, and criminal, which means the batterer can go to prison. But in the modern world, where violence against women is no longer tolerated, it is a mystery why some modern women choose to convert to Islam where wife beating is common. Some not only convert, but also become violent jihadis themselves.
Women comprise 75% of the 5,000 converts to Islam in England, according to the Christian Science Monitor. Most of these converts do so after falling in love with a Muslim man. For most of them, their only association with violence is from their husbands or in-laws, but for some, the excitement and mindlessness of true belief leads to jihadi violence. Female jihadis, hidden in their hijab cloaks, can be very dangerous indeed. Two such carried out suicide bombings in Russia in October and there have been others before them.
Not only love, but mental laziness can contribute to a young woman rejecting the uncertainties and choices availed to modern women. It is much easier to select a life style in which one is not required to think, but only to obey hard and clear rules. Some say that they love wearing hijab so that they are not just sex objects; of course, the very notion of such cover is to prevent other men from seeing one’s own private sex object.
The list of violent female converts is growing. Most recently noted is Samantha Lewthwaite, an Irish girl widowed of another terrorist convert; she is implicated in the recent Nairobi attack on a shopping mall. She was seen commanding gunners murdering shoppers at the mall. The first American to die fighting with the Syrian rebels this year was Michigan-born Lynn Mansfield. In 2005, Belgian convert Muriel Degauque blew herself up outside of Baghdad.
For “insulting Islam,” Colleen La Rose (Jihad Jane) and Jamie Paulin-Ramirez attempted to murder Danish cartoonist Lars Vilks for his “insulting” drawings of the Prophet Mohammad. Canadian Amanda Korody and her partner John Stewart Nuttail (converts) tried to make an explosive device in a failed attack on the British Columbian legislature last July. (See Abigail R. Esman, IPT News, October 17, 2013.)
Modern Muslim families range all the way from secular and no different from mainstream families in the West, to traditional and violent. The rash of honor killings show how violent such family life can be, including violence by mothers. Wife abuse, on the other hand, is so common that nobody thinks much about it in immigrant communities. This is just the way it is. But what about those who have no say in their choice of husband?
Recently in Yemen, a very little girl was handed over in marriage to a grown man and her wedding night rape caused her to bleed to death. Although this story is being disputed by local officials, whether true or not, 10 million young girls this year alone will be married to grown men (UNICEF). Traumatic genital injuries and fistulas are common in pre-puberty sex, according to the Hamlin Fistula clinics in Africa. Justification for such outrageous marriages come directly from the model of the Prophet Mohammad, who was married to a six-year-old girl and waited patiently until she was nine to consummate. This is not a good model.
In Muslim countries such as Yemen, clerics declare that opposition to child marriage makes one an apostate from Islam. The same declaration has come from Nigerian Muslims. When Australian Muslim immigrants declare that Islamic child marriages must be “respected” and forced marriage and spousal abuse understood as cultural, some naïve multiculturalists agree that culture must trump.
The one good thing coming from all this horror is that even in the traditional world, things that were once taken for granted are now publicized, and the glare of publicity is embarrassing to Islamists. Women tempted to convert: let the buyer beware.
Dr. Laina Farhat-Holzman is a historian, lecturer, and author of How Do You Know That? You may contact her www.globalthink.net