Author Yasmin Mogahed captivated the crowd Jan. 26 at a KBK Relief Foundation event in Dearborn Heights, urging the all-female attendees to focus on inner beauty and faith.
As the keynote speaker, Mogahed, the author of the inspirational self-help books "Reclaim Your Heart" and "Love and Happiness," spoke about women empowering themselves by choosing inner over outward beauty, and allowing modesty to be a personal choice. She also reminded women that they do not need a man to make their life complete, and emphasized the peace that accompanies a faith-filled life.
Mogahed said she wanted to talk about not only about the empowerment of women, but the source of empowerment, being confident and mentally strong, by making one's own choices and standing up for one's rights.
"When we talk about this question of empowerment, throughout time, and throughout cultures, there have been a lot of different types of answers of where empowerment comes from for a woman," she said. "There are different theories about how to empower women."
Mogahed said the media depicts men and women differently, and said in sports, men are posed in a manner that reflects their abilities, whereas female athletes are depicted in a manner which reflects their physical appearance, not their ability in their sport.
"Women were judged by their looks, regardless of their talent, by the media," she said. "Even to the extent that when you have someone like a female CEO of a Fortune 500 company on the cover of a magazine, she is still being sexualized."
Mogahed said with the advent of social media, men are being judged more based on their looks, as well, and current research shows that girls and women are becoming more dissatisfied and insecure with how they look, which has been accompanied by a rise in low self-esteem, eating disorders, depression and anxiety.
"They are finding a link between how much a person interacts on social media and these types of emotions," Mogahed said. "The reason is it is focused on appearances - it is all about how you look, and about comparisons."
She said the more women are bombarded by "Photoshopped images," the more insecure they feel about themselves, and image is assigned more importance than it deserves. "It becomes a hyper-focus to the extent that it becomes an obsession," she said. "We are being told as women that our value is linked to how we look."
She said other theories of female empowerment maintain that women will attain equality by competing with men and proving that they can be better. Mogahed said the problem with this viewpoint is that it sets men as the standard. "This is a very subtle point," Mogahed said. "Why is it that I want to be like men? Who said that men are the standard?" From a spiritual perspective, Mogahed said the value of a woman should not be based on the way she looks, but on her relationship with her creator.
"The value of a woman isn't based on her hair, isn't based on her looks, so when she covers it, she is actually making a very powerful statement," Mogahed said. "She is saying: 'My value isn't based on this. You don't need to see it.'" She emphasizes that women should not be slaves to men or what society says is beauty, but devoted instead to God.
Mogahed said some people worship money, power or status, and are willing to go to great length for them. "There is nothing wrong with being fashionable, there is nothing wrong with wanting to look nice," she said. "But the question is, who are we hearing and obeying?" Mogahed said when a woman dresses modestly, she is sending a statement that she will not allow herself to become a commodity.
"When people look at a woman in a hajib and say, 'she's oppressed,' or 'someone made her wear that,' it's ironic, because it is the complete opposite," Mogahed said. "She chose to wear that because she is dressing for God, and not you." Mogahed said many people place too much value on materialism and what other people think. She said being obsessed with appearance, the opinions of others, or even competing with men are chains which keep women bound. "These are things that actually keep us from liberating ourselves," she said.
When women allow anything other than their creator to define their value or worth, they have entered into a destructive form of slavery, Mogahed said. "The thing which defines my self-worth, my success and my failure, is what controls me, and it becomes my master," she said.
Mogahed said Western feminism accepts men's achievements as the standard, which she said is faulty logic. She said by trying to emulate men, female attributes become inferior. An example would be when a man accuses a woman of being "too sensitive." She said even being a full-time mother has been considered degradation.
"In the battle between stoic rationality, considered masculine, and selfless compassion, considered feminine, rationality reigned supreme," she said. "Your worth as a human being is measured on a higher scale. Your purpose in life, despite what the fashion magazines say, is something more sublime than just looking good for men."
She said unlike the childhood stories; women do not need a prince to save them. "No prince can complete you and no knights can save you," Mogahed said. "Your prince is only a human being. God may send him to be your companion, but not your savior."
She encouraged women to let the world know that their bodies are not for public consumption and that they will never be reduced to an object. "You are a soul, a mind, a servant of God, so your beauty is defined by that soul, that heart, that moral character," Mogahed said. "We don't need to become just like men to be honored, and we don't need to wait for our prince to save or complete us."
The writer is a journalist of Press & Guide
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