Wednesday, October 31

Egyptian Women Are Never Wives.. Only Mothers

A couple of day ago I received a comment on my post "Desperate Housewives" asking me for advice on a very common problems which all wives face nowadays: the pampered husband, who was spoiled by his mother beyond repair, and who wouldn't give a hand with the housework or the kids even when his wife is about to drop dead of fatigue.

Before I go any further, here's the message I received:

"so what do you do when you are not like that but your husband demands it and expects it? he will not help, he will not pick up, he will complain about you not doing everything after all, he makes the money.... why arent you doing your job, when he is clearly doing his and bringing home the bacon??? what do you do if he will not watch the kids for 1 second?? you can either chase the kids all over the place, or you can ignore them like he does, while one puts his fingers in the electric socket, and the other tries to test how sharp the scissors are when he pokes them into his open eyes! and accidents have happened before, so you know he will realy not look at them , and they will get hurt!!! so do you keep on doing what you have to do? do you leave him??? is it worth leaving him?? what if he is nice and loving and supportive, but just useless around the house and with the kids?? what do you do when you are overwhelmed and feel like there is no way out?? do you destroy your family go home and sit next to your parents if you dont work? do you destroy your family and live alone with the exact same responsibilities and less money if you do work? how do you change an egyptian husband? how do you throw all the garbage he learned from his mother out the window, and help him learn to be an equal partner?? do you let your kids get hurt because he is careless? do you live in filth because he doesnt pick up after himself? do you go hungry because no one will help in the kitchen? what are you supposed to do?? Do you just put up with him, and work realy hard night and day to go to work, clean the house,make dinner, feed the kids, pay the bills, do the laundry, while he sits on the couch and watches TV, or goes out to hang with a friend, or invite a friend over to watch a soccer match?? what's a girl to do??? i know i will teach my sons to be supportive husbands... but what about me?? fighting doesnt work, yelling and screaming dont work, asking nicely doesnt work!how do you cure years of wrong upbringing without wrecking your life in the process??"

If this sounds familiar to you.. or if you know of someone who's facing the same problem.. or if you have fears about meeting the same fate.. then listen up.. that's something you also should know.

First of all you should never give up on yourself. If you do, then don't expect any better from anyone else. If you believe that you are not getting the treatment you deserve, don't swallow the disappointment in silence and just decide to give in. You must clearly define the line the seperates sacrifice from being taken advantage of. When you allow youself to be drained off by a selfish partner, you are not doing anybody any good, and I've explained that in the previously mentioned post. The burden will keep on piling up until it breaks your spine and your spirit as well. Your marriage will roll down hill so swiftly, that after years from now, you won't be able to figure out a meaning for your life. All the joys will lose their sweetness, cause bitterness has a much stronger taste that covers up anything else. So, don't give up trying to fix your family life. Several failed attempts are not the end of the world.

If you honestly believe that your kids are not safe with their father, then I'm sorry to tell you that you ain't safe either. A man who will harm his kids just because he can't take good care of them, or because he prefers to lie in his laziness, is not someone that you can feel safe with. He is clearly insane. But you say that he is kind and loving. If you trust that, then the kids will just be fine with him.

Now, here's the trick. Men like your husband will do their best to lower the expectations of their wives about what they can do around the house. Give them a simple thing to do and they will make a mess. Tell them to take care to the kids and they will make you regret it. They want to send the message "you cannot depend on me honey. I'll screw things up for you. I'm not good at those things. You are the expert. This family will be much better and safer if you take care of everything youself."

It is true that Egyptian mothers spoil their kids, especially the boys. Most men live with their parents until they get married. And as I said before, they marry another mother instead of a life partner. So, if you fit in this new role, he will be so comfortable and go on with his life in the same way without ever reaching maturity. His mother spoiled the kid and the young man, but you are spoiling the husband and the father. So, by allowing him to sit on the couch switching channels while you are head to toes into housework and taking care of the kids, you are committing a bigger crime. This man will never experience what it is to be a husband or a father. He will never mature, thanks to you. Now, don't get mad when you are rushing to get those kids ready for school while he comes up to you with a button in his hand saying, "this button came off while I was wearing my shirt. I need it done quickly. I can't think of something else to wear." He is another one of the kids. You need to dress him up for work too! He holds the button desperately in his hand, needing you to work your motherly magic to get it back into its place. He has no idea about how you perform this amazing art of sewing. And he certainly doesn't want to know anything about the process. He prefers to view it as a mysterious trick that only you, mama, can perform.

You will be amazed when you learn that this same man can take very good care of himself. If he happened to live alone, even for a short period, ask him about how he managed his life then. He cooked, cleaned, did the laundry, paid the bills, ... and everything just went fine. Or.. He can tell you about his memories back in college when he and a group of male friends spent the summer together. They all worked in harmony to keep the place they rented clean. They prepared delicious snacks. They went to buy grocery. They had to wash their clothes manually, cause they couldn't afford to get a place with a washing machine. And to drive you crazy, he will laugh and say how much they enjoyed doing these thing. He wishes those old days would be back.

So, what has happened? Heaven sent him a second mother. You. He must make use of that. But wait.. it's not because he is evil. He simply can't get himself to do women's work when there is a woman in the house. Men make fun of husbands who help their wives with the housework. They tell jokes about men who love cooking (although cooking is an art). They consider male hairdressers, fashion designers, make-up artists, (in short any man who is in a business serving women) to be gays! That's the whole male-culture. They consider those who do women's work as not masculine, that is to say, they are less-men. How can a manly man wear a kitchen apron and stand in the kitchen peeling onions? The media had also played a role in stressing this false belief. Basic survival skills like preparing your food, cleaning your place, washing your clothes, are considered by men to be low jobs. Something for maids and women. This was the classic belief in times when women were thought to have lower IQs than men. But it continued to survive even after this was proven to be totally false, and even in the 21st century. This male-culture has to keep reproducing the same false ideas in order to keep male advantages secure. So, your husband can't make fun of someone and then go back home to do exactly what the victim of his redicule was doing.

Does that mean that there is nothing to be done to fix that? Of course not. There are two ways to solve this problem:

1. Forcing him to help, which you already tried with no avail. Some men will only feel forced to do things when their wives are not around. Like if you had to travel, for example.

2. Bringing him up. He is still a dependent child, and the only way to fix his mother's mistake is to continue the process where she abandoned it. It becomes your duty to lead him into real manhood and maturity. Talk to him and educate him (of course without making him feel that he is immature). Most wives think that husbands already know how they feel, and so they don't talk about it to avoid being pitiful. Yet, he truely has no exact idea about the pain and the frustration that you are suffering from. He isn't totally innocent, but he is not the grown up man that you thought him to be before marriage. Talk to him about the dream you had of the perfect family, and how you imagined your relationship to be like. Tell him that you fear that you are drifting away from that beautiful image, but that you are not willing to give it up. You (both) want and you deserve a perfect family. The happiness of this family depends on you both. Tell him about how you feel when you watch him being idle while you are exhausted and stressed with overwork. Ask him to put himself in your shoes. Ask him about how he would feel and what he would think. Ask him to predict how this will affect your relationship as time goes by. Is it bringing you any closer? Is it making him any happier? Would he really be happy if for the sake of enjoying his full spare time now, he is risking the future of his marriage? Does this hour in front of TV deserve having a silent marriage for a lifetime.. where each one of you dwells in his own world? Be sure to tell him that you know what men think about housework, that you understand the psychological barrier that is preventing him from helping you. Let him say that his love to you and his family is stronger than any false conceptions that might prevent you from reaching happiness and intimacy. Let him suggest a list of things that he thinks he can do around the house. Ask him if it is too difficut for him to collect the laundry, seperate the light and dark colors, put each group in the machine with soap and press a button. Make it sound easy and fun.. Just as if you are teaching a kid. If he screws up once, be patient. Gently tell him what was wrong and make sure you encourage him to try again. Praise everything he does, but without exaggeration. Encourage him to spend some quality time with the kids, not just watch over them. Kids who have early memories which involve both parents are always happier and smarter.

Marriage is a lifelong investment. If you never receive any profits, you will go bankrupt at any moment. Let your investment grow by seeking profit for all members of the family.. you included.

Wednesday, October 24

Guilty of Feminism

When exactly did feminism become a dirty word?

Ever since I started blogging angry guys used to shoot the word feminist at me as if it was an insult! Hell, what? So, I am a feminist.. Why does it make you mad? And why the heck do you suppose that calling me a feminist would hurt me in any way? In fact, I am happy to be called a feminist. I wish I was a real feminist (being a women rights activist). Being labelled a feminist is a big honor. Would you be pissed off if people pointed at you in the street and said "Hey, this is someone who believes in human rights"? I suppose not. So, what makes those men assume that calling me a feminist would be counted as a negative remark?

In my attempt tp search for an answer, I remembered a very old incident. My colleagues had arranged an outing (including family members and friends) and it was really huge, we occupied half the restaurant where we met. One of my colleagues had been recently engaged and her fiance came along with her. The guy was so full of himself. He would fit perfectly in the category I previously described in "Your Guide to Dating an Egyptian Man" as Mr. Know-it-all.
Casual talk started until bit by bit they developed into discussions. Of course this guy couldn't miss the chance of having such a big audience, and he was determined to be the star. He started commenting on every single thing being said. I just kept observing him and was feeling satisfied that I was entertained for free (as the food served was not good enough for my taste). After about an hour, the stage became totally his. Many of those who were talking gave up because they didn't want to get embarrassed. He just kept saying "You are wrong" to anyone who disagrees with his opinions about anything.
Usually when the situation sinks into this boring phase I focus on making a polite exit. I was calculating what I had ordered to get ready to leave, when I heard this annoying guy talking about the deteriorating morality in our today's society. According to his genius analysis, the reason was that nowadays mothers go to work and are not spending enough time with their children. At that point I didn't bother saying anything, cause I thought others will take care of that. Just get me out of here for God's sake. To my amazement, nobody did. I found myself saying "You are wrong". He gave me this look of "and who the hell would you be?" but I just looked him in the eye and told him about all the social, political and economical factors behind declining morality. All those who were silent were now cheering. I could see that his ears were about to smoke, and instead of trying to convince me of his point of view, he just gave me a suspicious look and said "Are you a feminist?"

Me (laughing my head off): I believe in feminism, yes.
Him(looking puzzled): So, that makes you a feminist.
Me: Not necessarily. Not all of those who believe in feminism are feminists, but certainly all feminists believe in feminism.
Him(seriously staring): What's this? Philosophy?
Me (sensing the growing tension): Well, philosophy does involve logical thinking, but no, I did not intend to sound philosophical.
Him(cunning smile): You are a feminist. Don't deny it.

I will never forget the way he said it. It was as if he discovered a communist at the time of Sadat. I didn't really bother then. He seemed ignorant enough and I hate wasting my time on those people. But I remembered this now after I received all of "you are a feminist" comments. Well, I carry the label with all dignity. I am not ashamed of the sticker you tagged on me. And let me from now on be "Fantasia the Feminist". What a lovely name! Thanks for the title guys.

Wednesday, October 17

Only in India

Unlike the funny forwards which you get in your inbox every now and then, displaying awkward photos from India. This one is so serious. Officially, India now has its All-Female Political Party!Yeah, I read it in the news this morning and was as surprised as you are. Finally, a political party whose members are only women. You can read all about it here and here.

The new political party is called "United Women Front"(UWF), and its leaders advocate equal rights for women in a country which has the second highest population in the world, 50% of which are females. They aim to provide a "clean" (word used by the UWF president) alternative to Indian male-dominated political parties. "Unlike other parties, we will not buy freebies and alcohol for voters," says United Women Front president Suman Krishan Kant.

I wish them best luck in their mission. However, thinking about going down that road freaks me out. We certainly need to have more female political power in Egypt. Members of the UMF complain that women in the Indian parliament are only 8.8% According to this, we should really be ashamed of our 2.9%. But the thing remains that allowing different groups to adopt seperate political agendas is not the best way to fix problems. It's a huge mistake. If women can have their own political party, then we can't deprive the Muslim Brotherhood from having their own, for instance. We will be creating fractures according to gender, race (Nubians and Beduins will rush to that too), and religion. The spirit and essence of equality would be lost forever. We'll be creating a new and more complex web of hierarchies.

It's not only about the number of women participating in political decision making, it is most importantly a question of effeciency. If women are merely used inside the parliament and ministries as decoration, then more decoration will just add more shame. Because those women who would be supposedly "in power" would draw a negative example of female ability for action. So, yes, I dream of the day when women would occupy 50% of the parliament seats, a true percentage that would then reflect their active participation in all aspects of life. But I wouldn't like it to be through a political conflict.

There should be more active women organization. Their work should be felt. They should reach out for all women, all ages, all standards. We don't need any more decoration. We don't need any more sweet talk about the status of women and how they are honored. We don't need Mothers' Day when workplaces don't offer a daycare service for the children of their female employees. We don't need the roses in Valentine, when we are throne with spears from men staring at us and harassing us in the streets. We want to be respected as we deserve to be. Political parties can't buy us that.

Wednesday, October 3

I'm Coming Out

I'm coming out
I want the world to know
Got to let it show
There's a new me coming out
And I just had to live
And I wanna give
I'm completely positive
I think this time around
I just wanna do it
Like you never knew it
Ooh, I'll make it through
The time has come for me
To break out of the shell
I have to shout
That I am coming out
I'm coming out
I want the world to know
Got to let it show
I've got to show the world
All that I wanna be
And all my abillities
'Cause there's so much more to me
Somehow, I have to make them
Just understandI got it well in hand
And, oh, how I've planned
I'm spreadin' love
There is no need to fear
And I just feel so good
Everytime I hear:
I'm coming out
I want the world to know
Got to let it show

So many songs recently.. I know you noticed that I keep refering to my favorite songs a lot. But this one is my favorite of all time. I've been saying to myself that I'm coming out (of my shell), since I was nearly 12 or something. If you're interested in finding out more details about this phase of my life, you can check out my older post "Why I love my period".

I'm still singing the same song to myself until now. Every time a break a piece of my shell, I find more light and my heart throbs. I feel like I'm catching a brand new breath as I explore the endless world of possibilities ahead of me. Looking at the world through a window is so different from looking at it through a door. Imagine what taking a cruise in a car would do! Imagine riding a plane! Imagine having a satellite view. That's how I discovered my world, step by step. And with each step I would scream in excitement that "I'm coming out".

Now, as I'll be hitting 30 very soon, I like to view things backwards. Flashbacks are wonderful, not only in movies, but also in reviewing your life.. your own history. Today, I am counting all the milestones I've passed through the journey. I am also asking myself, "What if I didn't do any effort to come out of this shell?" What if I stayed there to enjoy the security of its walls and the cosiness of its tiny space?" "What if my eyes got used to its dim lights and silence?"
Answering those questions is not as easy as putting the word "not" before all my life achievements. It also involves searching for who I am now, and who I might have been. My own identity would have been completely ultered for sure. There would be a totally other person that would be a perfect stranger to me. Identity is not what they list on your ID card. It is much more complicated than that. I wish knowing one's self was that easy! Would have saved me a lifetime of trying to figure out who I am and what I truly want. Yet, as much as the discovery was exhausting, as much as it was enjoyable and amazing. What made it sour though, was the numerous obstacles that others put in your way to prevent you from reaching the truth.

Never before was I aware of the huge role that FEAR plays in our lives as I do now. I can claim that fear is the primary factor which controls people, societies, countries, and even history itself. People fear truth to a horrifying degree. They fear change, because it faces them with a new reality that they are not ready to accept. They fear accepting new realities because they are not sure whether they will fit. They fear losing control over their offspring, prefering to make them images of themselves. They fear that if their children had their own path, that they would be different. People fear difference. They see different people as enemies, and they fear their enemies. People fear the unknown (with all what it means). They are enemies of what they don't know. They fear to explore it. And they also fear knowing that they don't know.

So confusing, huh? I told you it's not an easy task. I was someone who was lucky enough not to have such fears. Maybe because I was young when I started playing with the unknown, children are not good at calculating risks. And I consider myself blessed that I broke out of this horrible fear. Today, I wish to reach out for everyone and grab them out of their fears. Remember when you first laid foot inside the sea? You were one the beach, your parenting were holding your hands, your feet barely touched the waters, yet you got scared. You got scared cause you didn't know where you were stepping. It felt different. It felt moist, not as solid as the ground. Fear took over you, before you could allow youself a chance to discover what the sea is all about. It prevented you from stepping inside. It paralyzed your brain. It caused you to run back to the safe ground that you are used to. But if you had given in to your fears, you would have never discovered the joy of swimming.

Some people think that if you never swim, you might feel safe. Swimming too far can get you into the risk of drowning after all, right? But if you stay completely out of water, there is no such risk. I'm sorry to tell you that you are wrong. You are more at risk than anyone else. For if you happen to accidently fall, you will never be able to save yourself. You can even drown in shallow waters.

That's exactly how things work in life. If you give in to fears they will destroy you one way or another. You will be deprived of the joy of discovering new possibilities, as well as risking your life if you happen to face a situation that you are not ready for. People make all wrong choices out of very good wills. People are afraid of knowing themselves. They don't search for it, and decide to adopt what others tell them about themselves. They learn what the school wants them to learn and avoid other knowledge. They enter the colleges which others value to be the best, without caring to know what they really want to study. They get married because they reached the age when everybody else gets married, without understanding what marriage is about. They marry the ones who have the qualties that others praise in a husband/wife, without really knowing the persons they are marrying. They get babies because this is the next step, without thinking about the future of those children. They bring up their children in the same way that they were brought up, without daring to face the failure of this system. The cycle goes on and on. Nobody cares to come out of it. Nobody dares to discover what's out there. What they can be missing. What they are risking.

But I'm coming out. I want the world to know. Got to let it show.
"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