“Just A Woman”
September 10, 2012
By Hajar EDDARIF
“One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman“
– Simone de Beauvoir
Ahmed, a 45-year old Moroccan man, the father of Salim, (4 years old), also became the father of Farid a few weeks ago. Ahmed the businessman expressed his joy and his relief too, partly because his wife is recovering from her baby blues, but more importantly because he doesn’t have any daughters.
“I’m so relieved and thankful because I have two boys. Girls are a source of permanent shame and dishonor,” states Ahmed proudly.
Is the time machine finally working and we’re back to Jahiliya (the period before Islam) where people were so ashamed of having daughters that they used to bury them alive once they were born? Or is the mentality of Arab men – more than 15 centuries old – so deeply rooted that people are unable to look at and treat females differently?
Since her first cry a baby girl is unfairly treated: some people don’t even celebrate her coming to the world. Throughout her life, a girl is subject to numerous kinds of ill-treatment. In some places she is deprived of her right to education. In more urban areas she is sexually harassed. However, cultural and psychological conditioning is the most cruel form of all abuse. Most of the time, this is not given as much attention as the verbal ill treatment. However, it is our cultural background and day-to-day experience which determines our perception of the world and our attitudes as well.
Society perceives women as less of a man or the man’s ‘Other’. Expressions such as sogan l3ayalat -women’s driving – are employed to describe the non-control of the car and non-mastering of the driving code. A talkative man is often referred to as Mriwa, – a little woman – since they believe that women partake in pointless talk and meaningless gossip. Another expression delineates the difference between “a man’s word” and “a woman’s word”: a man’s word is regarded as trustworthy and reliable, while a woman’s word is just the opposite. Accordingly, expressions like bent darhum’ – daughter of their house or a girl of good upbringing - are used to describe girls but there are no similar expressions used to describe boys. The concept mra f’unqu’ – a woman in his possession – is accepted, but ra3el f’unqha – a man in her possession - is not.
It is also degrading to minimize a woman’s function to the kitchen. An illustration of this is the expression: “he has got a good kitchen” meaning that he has got a good wife. The ironic part of the story is that in their daily conversations, women unconsciously themselves use expressions like these. This introduces the notion of repetition: studies have shown that a particular idea becomes believable and common when it is perpetually repeated and this gives birth to all stereotypes.
I believe that the will to change the situation and status of women needs more than reflection. It needs a whole process of erasing the pre-defined stereotypes that have been rooted in our cultural mindset, and another process of re-establishing a new set of ideologies and beliefs needs to be defined, since it is society and culture that determines the making of a woman.