The majority of Arab women share an insight on the men in our lives, specially our fathers, brothers and husbands. The deep carvings in our heritage have labelled men as superior to women in almost every aspect of our lives, even though we have proven the opposite time and again. At home, the men we live with are usually bossy and sloppy; like when they don’t pick up after themselves or wake you up in the middle of the night to make them a snack. At work, men usually get paid more than women for similar jobs or at the same level of hierarchy. Even on the street; women are labelled as terrible drivers while men are characterized as the Schumachers of Arab streets, regardless of how either actually drives.
Some of us are blessed with families that do not categorize what we are based on our genders, but most of us aren’t that lucky. A perfect example is the curfew set on girls versus the curfew set on boys within a household. The difference is usually hours, if not days, apart. If a girl is 5 minutes late on her curfew, it’s the end of her world, but if a boy spends the night out with only 5 minutes notice, that’s ok. After all, he’s a boy. I’m not saying that setting curfew is a bad thing; it’s just set for all the wrong reasons. A girl’s curfew is set because it’s shameful for her to be anywhere else but home after 10 o’clock at night and a boy stops having curfew at the age of 15, if not earlier. Why? I wish I knew… And this ‘trend’ is evident on almost every other facet of our upbringing as well.
What baffles me at this point is not the actual differentiation as much as the way we deal with it. Because we are brought up to believe that we are inferior to the men in our lives and see our mothers; our idols, being treated the same way, we give in to the idea that this is how things should be and we learn to muffle our cries and swallow our anger. Why aren’t we fighting for our rights to being treated as humans and not ‘women’, knowing that the word ‘women’ here is the one that is meant as an insult with hidden interpretations of weakness and inferiority? What baffles me even more than not fighting for our rights is the way we refuse to change the present and the future, even though it is within our power to do so.
We spend our lives complaining that men are selfish bastards, and then we raise our own sons to be carbon copies of the very men we detest. Why on earth do we do that? Is it our ‘comfort zone’ or are we merely incapable of raising them differently because we don’t know what ‘different’ is? Are we afraid that if we raise them differently, they will be cast out by society? That they will branded as ‘gay’ or ‘too feminine’ or ‘too in touch with their feelings’?
Why is it not ‘manly’ to pick up after yourself or cook a meal or babysit your own child? Why are all these duties considered to be feminine? Why is it the end of the world when a woman asks her husband to look after their child for a few hours while she takes a nap or runs an errand?
In the process of bringing up tomorrow’s fathers, why are we settling for the crap we had to live with?
Perhaps it is too late now for many of us to demand a change with our fathers and brothers, but we are still capable of making a change in the futures of our daughters. They don’t have to be as miserable as we are and they certainly don’t have to fight as hard as we did and still do everyday…