Monday, September 24

In Response to Your Comments

Some of my dear friends (namely the alien and yasmine) took my previous post to mean that the fight for women rights is a pure female thing and insisted that men can also play a role in this movement, that of supporters. I thus found it necessary to clarify my position on this issue, which I hope would also act to define the shape of the female movement I had in mind while writing "A Woman with a Dream".

The formation of a human rights movement can never turn into an exclusive club for the oppressed victims to yell and scream. This will be a comic and pathetic act. Only the hopelessly powerless and mentally paralyzed will resort to such a thing. I myself do not like this approach, which unfortunatelyt some of those who call themselves feminists have adopted (whether in their writings or their lectures). That's why you will find me here always trying to inspire and motivate rather than curse and lament. I try as much as possible not to be personal, to make it clear that I'm addressing my whole sex, while not forgetting to pass on a message to men as well. We can't commit the same mistake (that men did) of disregarding half the world's population, when discussing our issues. So, we have to involve them, even if they don't want to get involved. But how?

Well, the way I see it, men will hurl to our help once we have a solid movement, but never before that. Those who sympathize with our cause now are still very few, and most of them don't practice what they preach at home. We do need the support of others. Yet, those others are our oppressors, we should never forget that. We must work on changing their inferior view of women, first, to be able to get their support after that.

Although I agree that there are women who stand against women when it comes to female liberation, I also know that they don't do it out of the same motives of men. They are too dominated by male authority and beliefs. So, we can't put both victims and oppressors in one basket and say we should all make the change together. I believe this is so misleading. What I suggest is a movement intiated by women that works on multiple levels:

1. Raising awareness among females and empowering them for change.

2. Forcing society to change its negative image and oppressive rules against women.

3. Challenging the partriarchal status quo by providing a human alternative based on equality and mutual respect.

4. Working on the political level retrieve women rights in the legal system (changing laws) and in ascending to high positions in their countries.

Each level involves many details for action which I won't be able to discuss here; maybe another post. Once we lay down the foundation to this movement, men will offer their help to be able to find a place in this new order. Because those who will insist to stand against such a growing movement will naturally become in danger of marginalization and isolation. Just like what happened with the emancipation of slaves. There were those who were not convinced by the concept and stood totally against it, until they found themselves alone in a changing world, so they were forced to change.

I'm not saying that male support in general doesn't come out of good intentions. I'm just saying that in order to gain serious support from them, we have to act serious about our cause first. We have to find our own voices before we ask others to join us. That is if we want actual change, and we're not after listening to beautiful slogans of which nothing comes true. I myself am tired of all the good talk around. I want to see action. And for an action to take place, victims must stand up on their feet and say NO MORE. That's the bottom line.

Wednesday, September 19

A Woman with a Dream

When Martin Luther King stood there, giving his public speech in 1963, saying his famous "I have a dream...", he certainly had no idea that his dream will come true. He had no idea that his speech will be a historic one, or that it will later be ranked the top American speech of the 20th century. He was only being sincere and dedicated to his cause. He spoke his mind and heart, giving the American people a peek on his dream: that one day both blacks and whites will exist harmoniously as equals.

That was a black man, whose dream exceeded himself to include all people of his race. He did not hide his dream in shame. He did not say that everything is OK as long as he himself is not negatively affected by the racial discimination practiced in his country. No, he made it his mission to fight for the rights of the vulnerable and to stand up in the face of the powerful. He knew that nothing will change as long as he and others are silent. He believed in the power of reason and justice. He understood the value of words and how taboos can be broken by talking about them. He stood there, solid and firm, expressing a beautiful dream, where black and white kids can play together, without feelings of hatred or superior/inferior relationships to destroy their innocence.

Just like it took a black man to fight for the rights of the blacks, it takes a woman to fight for the rights of women. It takes a woman with a dream; a dream of a better future, where men and women would coexist harmoniously as equals in society. It takes a woman with a mission and determination to bring down all the false taboos and misconceptions about her sex. It takes a woman whose dream extends beyond herself and her present wishes. It takes a woman who believes that she's not an inferior and that she deserves to be treated with respect. It takes a woman who believes that she was created equal, and that she holds the same brain that men hold. It takes a woman who's not afraid of imaginary ghosts haunting her life. It takes a woman who believes in herself and her abilities. It takes a woman who is strong enough to face the winds of opposition and ridicule. It takes a woman who won't give up the fight for justice and humanity. It takes a woman who will stand up and face the world with her dream.

Don't say that most girls are happy with the way things are. You know better. Your level of awareness is a gift, a precious gift that only a few get to possess. And with this gift comes a responsibility. Your awareness enabled you to understand why those vulnerable girls are silent, why they act satisfied, and why they even sometimes stand against their own rights. They are victims of a massive brainwash, just like black men were once made to believe that they were born black to be marked as salves, and that it was their inescapable destiny.

Patriarchs used the same mechanism used by Great Britain when they invaded African countries and made its inhabitants become their salves. The British colonialism was clever enough to convince those slaves that they were born slaves. They made them believe that it is a bless that they now found masters who can take care of them, because slaves can’t think for themselves. They even turned their colonialism into a crusade of some kind, where the mission was to bring civilization to these savage lands. The idea of “The White Man’s Burden” was so popular and found its believers among the colonists themselves. The “burden” was that of educating and civilizing the black barbarians. It turned intro a sacred mission, just like that of the Arab men, who want to protect women from themselves. So now we have ”the Arab Man’s Burden.”
Women are the only ones who can fight their battle. Just like blacks were liberated by the blacks, women will be liberated by women. Therefore I'll continue to say, "I have a dream."

Monday, September 10

Too Much Love Will Kill You

What a classic! A lovely song by Queen, that I always hear buzzing at the back of my head every time I totally lose myself in doing something I love. I'm a workaholic and unlike people who find it as something to be proud of, I try to cure it. I wanna have a social life. I wanna hang out more with my friends. I wanna go shopping and enjoy the tiny joys of life. I wanna have vacations. I wanna go on long walks. I wanna read more novels. I want many things, but I always keep them second to work.

Enough wishful thinking.. The reason why I chose this song to be my topic is that I see lots of young girls who would go as far as destroying their lives in the name of love. I'm not against love. I'm not even against crazy love, deadly romantic love.. you name it. But what I'm against is a false understanding of love; the destructive love that turns your whole life up-side-down, just to chase an illusion.

Let me be clearer. Of course most of us have gone through this experience of what's-so-called "first love", when you're a teenager and you just fall off your feet for someone who is your total opposite for no reason. Sounds familiar? You invest months and may be years in this "relationship" only to discover that it was nonsense. Just a training for your new emotional skills. Something to get you started for a life of dating. You were just exploring what it's like to be in a relationship, that's all. This person whom you used to see as an angel lacking two wings, you now discovered that he's only a below-average fellow, one you can never be attracted to now by any means. It is so strange that what seemed to you as the most genuine feeling of all, has turned to be so fake. Even your suffering from a broken heart now seems ridiculous, something to laugh at rather than to be sorry for.

Yet, you can read in newspapers about teenage girls who eloped with their boyfriends, or others who would get married via a piece of paper or a secret exchange of vows. They are girls who got trapped into this false experience and can not see anything further. Usually they are the ones who have oppressive parents, who can't even handle the thought that their little girl is attracted to a guy in her dreams. That's why, their repressed feelings along with their lack of guidance and the sudden emotional burst they experience at this age result in a poisonous combination that intoxicates their brains, making them take such drastic decisions. There's no need to get into further details about what happens next. We all know.

However, teenage girls are not the only ones who get trapped in such a way.. Often we see mature women who are not so mature when it comes to issues of the heart: Women who date guys that are way beneath them; Women who would do foolish things for love; Women who would know that the guy is a player but insist to go on with the relation; Women who are willing to go as far as losing their personality for the person they love; Women who are willing to give up everything in return for nothing; Women who take full responsibility of their partners (along with the financial responsibilities in many cases) just for love; Women who date married men; Women who get veiled out of love (I'm seeing a lot nowadays), Women who quit their jobs to please their partners; Women who allow themselves to be taken advantage of... an endless list.

I've always wondered why? Whenever I see one of those beautiful and well-educated girls who go suddenly blind and date someone who has Mr. Wrong written all over him, I always ask why? I heard a lot of stories about from women trying to explain what they think was the reason (mostly when the thing ends), but I was never convinced. Most of them would just throw the common "love is blind" at you, as if it explains itself. Many keep saying how attached to the person they were that they couldn't break free. Many say they were totally deceived, that the guy was an excellent actor. Others say they've already invested too much in the relationship that they were reluctant to quit. (Those are somewhat honest with themselves.) And you can often hear something as naïve as "I thought he loved me. He said he loved me. Why would I suspect that he lies?"

I'm so good at reading eyes by the way? Haven't I ever told you so? Well, just for the record, I'm damn good at it.

What I saw in all those female eyes was lack of self-confidence. That was it, nothing else. They can keep listing all the fake reasons in the world. But they don't do the effort of digging deep inside them to know where the problem lies. That's why you often see them repeating their mistakes, as if they learned absolutely nothing from their previous experiences. They always do it with the thought that "this person is different," and then when the same scenario repeats itself, you find the girl say, "It seems I always attract the wrong guys." They can't admit it to themselves that they do have a problem. Yes, in spite of all their excellent qualities, they are allowing themselves to be fooled.. of course not in a direct sense, but by living in denial.

Most of us were raised in such a way which left us insecure. If we really care to find a cure, I believe we shouldn't deny it. The up-bringing along with the treatment we receive from society has left a gap inside our souls. We tend to react to that by proving that we have a lot to offer, even if it is for the wrong person, seeking to fill this gap. We get too weak when someone shows interest in us, especially if he has some superficial qualities that would mark him as attractive: like being handsome, being rich, being successful, having a sense of humor… etc. The social image that they keep chasing us with all the time is that to be complete is to have a man by your side. We took it to mean that to be loved by a man is the most important thing in life, while in fact it's not. Most of us would then exaggerate in their efforts to keep this man. To most girls, a man who loves them (or claims to love them) is good enough. Therefore, a girl doesn't look any further. She doesn't care to put him to the test. She doesn't take time to analyze his actions or words. He is the best man as long as he showed interest in her. That's why she would put all her doubts to sleep. She will only concentrate on making him her own, wearing his ring.

Girls, if you think your luck alone is guilty of making you always fall for the wrong man, please think again. If you think that love is blind, and that the only way for showing love is losing your love of yourself, you are totally misled. Love, like any partnership, is give and take. If it's one-sided, one giver and one taker, it means failure. Admire your good qualities and don't ever settle for anything less than what you truly deserve. It's your own life, don't waste it. Too much love may kill you.

To all of you who can relate to this post, I dedicate those parts of the song:

I feel like no-one ever told the truth to me
About growing up and what a struggle it would be
In my tangled state of mind
I've been looking back to find
Where I went wrong
Too much love will kill you
If you can't make up your mind
Torn between the loverAnd the love you leave behind
You're headed for disaster
'cos you never read the signs
Too much love will kill you
Every time

Too much love will kill you
Just as sure as none at all
It'll drain the power that's in you
Make you plead and scream and crawl
And the pain will make you crazy
You're the victim of your crime
Too much love will kill you
Every time

Too much love will kill you
It'll make your life a lie
Yes, too much love will kill you
And you won't understand why
You'd give your life, you'd sell your soul
But here it comes again
Too much love will kill you
In the end...

Monday, September 3

Desperate Housewives

Have you ever imagined yourself, after tying yourself up to your desk to study for long, endless hours to get a high score in thanawya ama; after all those sleepless nights when your nervous system is about to crash in order to pass your exams every years; after you finally secure a place in a decent college; after you spend the years struggling through the heat and the traffic to get to your class on time; after you put up with all the cruel professors and fight long battles with the fat textbooks; after you finally hold your university degree in your hand; have you ever imagined yourself to become a housewife?

Don't say something like, "Oh, no way. I'm not crazy to do that. I want to have a career and anyone who decides to marry me has to understand that." Because most of the women who ended up at home didn't have it as their childhood dream. And please don't say, "Well, I deserve some rest after this suffering." Because you weren't being tortured, you were being educated. And if you don't value your education, it means you learned nothing. I beg you don't say, "Why not? If my husband is rich and we can live comfortably on his salary. Why do I need a job?" Because people don't only work for money. It is society's right to benefit from your abilities, besides it being a basic psychological need for acquiring self-worth.

A question that has been recently asked a lot is: Where are all the female honor students? Where have all the female top scorers of thanawya ama gone? The fact that the majority of A+ students over the several past years were females, made many people wonder about the fate of those "geniuses". All those top students whose photographs were published in all newspapers, who were featured in TV shows, who filled the world with hopes and dreams for the future, have then disappeared.

A survey done recently by an independent newspaper has shown that 80% of those girls are now housewives, while the others are working routine jobs, that are devoid of any mental challenges and don't require any special talents, just cause their jobs' hours are suitable for them as "working mothers" (whatever that means). That's where the brilliant girls end up in this country. In a third world country that needs every possible mind to save it from the ditch it has sunk into. In a country where half the population is illiterate. In a country that is fighting for development to escape the jaws of poverty. In a country that doesn't manufacture any heavy material, or medicine, or high tech equipments. In a country that is being attacked by diseases. In a country that is falling into the darkness of religious extremism and ignorance.

Those girls are of two types, in my opinion. 1- They are quitters. They simply don't respect the knowledge they gained or the talent they possess. They don't care about the future of their country. They don't want to play any role in changing their society. They are not smart. They are girls with no character or aims, who happened to score high grades to please their family and to brag about it. Our country wastes its money in educating those quitters and giving them the best opportunities just so that after graduation they will stick out their tongues and say "Game over, we're done. We're staying home cause we found the perfect grooms who liked our high scores and think we are intelligent." 2- They are hypnotized. They were deceived by society and by their husbands to believe that their roles as wives and mothers are enough. They heard it over and over again, that a good mother serves society by taking care of the new generations. Yeah, looool.. The new generations indeed. Doesn't matter if those new generations find no decent education. Doesn't matter if those new generations suffer from poverty and diseases. Doesn't matter if those new generations have no jobs. Doesn't matter if they feel ashamed of their origins to be born in a weak country. Doesn't matter if they find it impossible to achieve any dreams. Doesn't matter at all. What is important is to have the new generations. Let them be whatever they want to be after that. Let them beg in the streets. Let them do drugs. Let them flee the country or sink in a ship trying to get to Europe. Let them commit suicide cause they got hopeless. Let them turn into terrorists to help Bin Laden. Let them hang out aimlessly in the streets to pass the time. Let them harass the girls in public transportation cause they have no hope of marrying one day. Let them have their turn in giving birth to a new more miserable generation. That's life, heh?

Either quitters or hypnotized, those girls, now women, turn into desperate housewives. They spent their whole lives trying to please their parents and then their husbands. Most of them are unaware of not having any life of their own. They are the ones who eat the burnt cookies; they always come last. They didn't learn to value themselves, or their minds, that's why they can't value positive social roles. They live in the tiny shell of their families, without caring to see what's beyond. They do as they are told, the obedient kittens in the house. They end up living like single moms, cause their husbands will never think about giving a hand with the home or with the kids. What's she doing sitting all day at home? It's her job. Let her handle everything, and if anything went wrong, it's only her to blame. She's there for the kids 24/7, so the kids should have the highest grades at school, they should be disciplined and quiet when dad's at home. If they ever misbehave, it's her fault. The father then becomes a bank. He's out there making money for the dependents at home. Being the bank, means that he has the right to have everything exactly the way he likes, he doesn't care how, it's not his job. He only finances the process, and he has absolutely no interests to learn about details. He doesn't care how many damn hours you spent in the kitchen to prepare his meal, he just cares that it doesn't taste good enough for him. It has to be perfect. You are there to make it perfect. He paid for all the grocery to eat a perfect meal. Damn you. You ruined it. And so those desperate housewives would grow exhausted and bitter. Their bitterness becomes reflected in everything, even if they do their best to satisfy everybody. Cause they forgot to satisfy the main person: themselves. As years pass, they become fat, ill-dressed, shallow, nervous, unable to feel happiness, unable to appreciate life, unable to communicate with their children, unable to please their husbands, unable to have sex, unable to practice a hobby or have serious interests. They get lost in the tiny details of daily life and their only quality time is watching TV. The weekend becomes a nightmare, cause the man is there to criticize all day and nag about everything. An outing at the club turns into her being a watch guard for the kids. She goes out for their sake, she doesn't have any fun. The summer vacation is even worse, she worries about packing, cleaning the chalet, taking kids toys and sandwiches to the beach, watching them play in the water with their dad (What? do you want her to wear a swimsuit to join them? Are you crazy? Let her just watch or read a tabloid magazine) , having them bathed after that, preparing a meal for the hungry swimmers, preparing snacks for the evening, washing the swimsuits and towels, and so on and so forth. She doesn't enjoy a single minute during this time. She is there to make their time enjoyable. She is there so that they can have pure fun, while she is sucked up in all those details that are consuming her life.

Look around you, you'll find those desperate housewives everywhere. They are the typical image of Egyptian women. They get all the criticism in spite of sacrificing everything for those they love. Your sister can be one of them, if you don't pay attention to her turning into a quitter or a hypnotized. Your mother can be one of them, and you blame her for everything, from being nosy to not having your favorite shirt clean on time. Your wife can be one of them, if you selfishly seek to make her another image of your mother. (Most men don't know the difference between the role of a mother and that of a wife, thus they are so naïve while starting their own families. They want a second mother to be dependant on, not a partner to share their lives with.) Your daughter can become one of them as well, if you are setting the wrong example for her and sacrificing what she can become for the sake of how society wants her to become.

Changing the picture is in our hands. Instead of packing our reality with all those desperate housewives, let's offer them something different. Let's teach the girls to love themselves and to realise their true potential. Let's build their self-esteem and encourage them to pursue their own goals. Let's teach them how to be useful citizens and to take part in developing their country. Let's talk to all the females we know about the value of work and how it secures a better future for them as individuals and as family members. Let's not tolerate a quitter among us and make her always feel that she's escaping her responsibilities. Let's not leave a hypnotized to dwell in her imagined world, but inspire her to lead a complete life. It all starts with you, right now.

A Must Read

THE FEMININE MISTAKE: Are We Giving Up Too Much?
By Leslie Bennetts

“The Feminine Mistake” is an energetic call to mothers to stay in the work force and earn their own living — or suffer the consequences. It's been featured in the New York Times Bestsellers' list.
Bennetts rallies numbers and logical reasons to her cause:
1. Half of all marriages end in divorce, and while a man’s standard of living actually rises after divorce, a woman’s falls.
2. The average age of widowhood is 55. Women live longer than men, yet typically have far less money for retirement.
3. Even a brief timeout reduces a mom’s earning power.
4. Child-care concerns fade as quickly as children grow up, but lost career momentum is gone forever.
As Bennetts asks, “If your husband divorces you or drops dead, was it really such a great idea to stay home if you can’t afford to buy groceries to feed your kids?”
This ambitious book sets out to replace choice feminism (the revisionist view that says as long as women are happy with their decisions about balancing work and motherhood, it doesn’t matter what those decisions are) with the ethos that giving up paid work is not just another legitimate option among many, but a serious error. Bennetts hopes to sidestep the emotion that has dominated the debate and persuade women to change this self-destructive behavior.

I certainly hope to see a book like this on the Egyptian Market. We truly need to help women resist the societal pressure which drives them to quit their jobs.
"When I dare to be powerful - to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid" - Audre Lorde