Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Divorce, Egyptian Style: Divorcee Radio Breaks Stereotypes

“When security disappears in married life, and serenity is not accessible, then it is time to do the thing most despised by Allah.” With these words, Mahasen Saber opens her blog, I want a divorce , and then later her online radio station, Divorce Radio.


Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Tide is Turning for Opinions on Abortion in Egypt

Egyptian society has been fighting over abortion for over 10 years. Abortion is still illegal in the country, but there have been many moves to legalize abortion pregnancies that are the result of rape. So after all this fighting, why is there still no result? More

Friday, December 04, 2009

Beauty and the Media Beast: the 2009 Miss Arab World Pageant

Let’s cut to the point: no matter how hard anyone tries to make it deep and philosophical, the word “beauty pageant” will always refer to looks. As variable and relative the definition of “beautiful” might be for a lot of people, some of those who work as beauticians and fashion experts put standards upon which beauty depends. This is applied in all kinds of beauty pageants, including the 2009 Miss Arab World pageant, a new pageant that is causing lots of controversy.

Read More

Monday, November 16, 2009

Is Women’s Empowerment as Simple as Drawing a Line? Thoughts on the Khede Kasra Campaign

Back in early 2008, the Hariri Foundation’s Women Empowerment Program wanted to start a national campaign addressing Lebanese society—all its classes, religions, and cultural backgrounds—with one goal: that the idea of “women’s rights” is not a prestigious cliché, but a value and a part in our daily life. So they hired Leo Burnett to do that in a low-cost way that stays away from religious issues.
Read More

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Fake Hymens for Sale

Last month, Soad Abdel Rassoul from Radio Netherlands published an Arabic translation for a Chinese advertisement targeting Middle East countries. The product? Artificial Virginity Hymen.

The majority of comments on this product have been from men. Interestingly, the only woman to speak out on this issue so far is Abdel Rassoul. Read More

Thursday, September 24, 2009

When a woman says, “My guardian knows what’s best for me,” what should we do?

Earlier this month, blogger Eman Al Nafjan posted her feelings about a new campaign in Saudi Arabia. The campaign, which began last month, is called “My guardian knows what’s best for me” and aims to gather one million signatures in support of the kingdom’s status quo in regard to women’s guardianship laws. According to Al Nafjan, two Saudi princesses who support this campaign have started their own websites devoted to the issue.You can find both websites herehere (both are in Arabic). Read More

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Enough … When it’s too good to be true, it’s not that good or it’s not true!

I’ll cut it short; the story of a woman being abused by her husband doesn’t have a nationality, timing or religion. It’s the same mind games, the same challenges, the same enemies, and mostly, the same way to conquer.

I just want to start by how they met, because it’s really important. Most of the times when I talk to a woman who was once abused by her husband, she keeps on saying “He all of a sudden changed” or “Something must have gotten into him”.
They refuse to admit that they neglected the signs, they wanted to believe they deserve a fairytale, or they never put the possibility into consideration.

This guy in the movie was a typical abuser; calm, steady, persistent and NEVER takes no for an answer.

I don’t want to go a lot through how obvious he was because it will make no one any use. Let’s assume that something really has gotten into him. It happened! The first slap! What would you do?

In the movie, he was caught cheating and when his wife “Slim” – played beautifully by Jennifer Lopez – confronted him and actually had “A SAY” about it, he didn’t like it and he slapped her.

And here comes the most important quote from the movie when he told her:\

“I make the money, so I set the rules!”

That’s right. When you can’t pay for your own bread ladies, don’t expect to pick it up from the supermarket. He’ll pick it up for you and you’ll say “Thank you”, and eat it … gladly!!

But “Slim” didn’t like the rules and she decided to fight. So she went through it all, this battle that is really the same everywhere.

First of all she considered the option of asking police for help, then because she was a “lady” and because she had a daughter, she refused that option;

“He’s the father of my child. I’m not going to put him in jail!”

Then she actually find no other option, so she went there, to find out that all what the police can do – if she agreed to go there with the marks over her body – is to make the bad husband sign a paper that he promises not to do that anymore, otherwise, bad things will happen to him, unless of course he has money … nothing can touch him!
OK! No police, now plan B, she decided to RUN!

The rest of the events in the movie are irrelevant and at some points depended on some Hollywood-style solutions, especially when that secret father popped out of nowhere with all the money she might need.

It all really sums up to this … RUN! Take your kids and just go away!

You will probably have no money, you will probably have no roof, and you may not have the support of your family – especially if you’re from the Middle East”, but you’ll have this power that you don’t know where it’s coming from, that power that will push you to continue.

In that movie, her push was when she saw her daughter scared of her father. The idea of her daughter being in danger was enough for her. I think this can be a very good push for so many of us!

I’m not coming of Disney Land, I know it’s hard. Especially when you can’t feed your children like they were used to, when you can’t afford their original schools, or when the time comes that you don’t have any lead and you just can’t take it anymore.
But let me tell you something,

The taste of first bite you pay for from your own money after you said “No” is just the best taste you will ever have!

Living and knowing that you are fighting for yourself and your children will make it all much easier.

The key in that movie was the fact that she said “No”.

She never thought of what people will say about her, she thought of not being “the woman whose husband beats her up!”

She wasn’t worried about the fact that her daughter might be affected in the future because her parents were divorced; she was worried her daughter might actually watch her mother being beaten up!

She made the choice that by far saved the life of her daughter, saved her from growing up thinking “It’s ok to be beaten up as long as you have a man in your house!” or “It’s that big to be beaten up, it doesn’t mean anything, a man can do anything he wants as long as he pays the bills and puts food on the table” or “Better being beaten up by a man who lives under the same roof as you do, than by living alone with no man!”
She saved her daughter’s life! Can our women one day think the same and take the same choice?

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Monalisa Smile … She’s smiling, but is she happy?

In the 2003 movie, Monalisa Smile, different stories for different women and how their lives and choices were being affected by both traditions and taboos were presented in a very sensitive movie that went back to 1953 to start the events that took almost a year.
What really strikes me the most is the stories, those women who are everywhere now in our Arab societies.

First one, Connie, the girl who somehow reached the conclusion of being ugly and with minimal chances of getting married, which is, of course, the whole purpose of her life! That girl who chokes into tears when anyone talks about how slim her chances are to be asked for a date, or to be “wanted” by a man, and her usual reply is;

Connie Baker: [hurt] someone, somewhere, someday might be interested. Just in case, I'll be prepared.
[Connie leaves, fighting back tears]

I guess you easily remember at least a dozen of her in your life. And I don’t know when, how or what should be done to help her… I really don’t!
That girl who got the slap of her life when she was told by the "single teacher" that she reminded her of herself... Ouch! What a future! Single? Alone? Afterwords the girl also choked into grieving tears!
But naturally since she is a “good” girl, she gets her happy ending when she doesn’t let the chance go to have the “good” guy who once told her –bragging about himself-;
Charlie Stewart: My parents say my future is right on the horizon.
Wow! I’m impressed!

Second girl is Giselle, the rebellious, daring girl who came from a broken home “first divorce in the block” feeling all small, cheap and insecure that she allowed being hurt more than once with every possible way. She is the smart girl who you keep on wondering why she is acting that “slutty” when she can rule her world and be one of her own! Such girls make me want to grab their heads and shake it till they get up of this Greek tragedy they are living and wake up to see that we all are in pain and we all have our past that’s hunting us. Only those who are strong enough can actually step away from all that and get themselves what they can have … which is just ANYTHING THEY WANT!

Then we go to Princess Betty, the girl who just has everything. The looks, the family name, the money, the big school, and of course the husband! That girl who is just so sad feeling that all her life is being taken away from her the moment she was born. She is supposed to get married, get a house with the kitchen machine and washing one, get babies and just get photographed with the Hoover in one hand and the her book in the other!
She’s the perfect women. The one everyone looks up to, not noticing her bleeding soul that shades her eyes with all this pain, her shaking voice that is struggling to come out through all these tears that were buried deep and anger that was fed everyday when she just sees any sign of life reminding her that she is dying alive!
She’s the one who knows everyday her husband is cheating on her, but is supposed to let it go since he comes back at night putting food on the table and sleeps next to her. Faking a tremulous smile when she greets her guests as any “happy lady” would do, accepting to live a false play as long as she has the leading role!
The only pleasure such girl can get is by living the image of “the one everyone is jealous of”… “They would die to be me, but they just can’t!”
Luckily for Betty –unlike most of her likes here – she sets herself free and breaks every single wall that was between her and life, in a marvelous scene she asks her mother the fundamental question that I don’t think we even ask it to ourselves here;
[About the Mona Lisa]
Betty Warren: [ironically] look at this, mother. She's smiling. Is she happy?
Mrs. Warren: The important thing is not to tell anyone.
Betty Warren: She looks happy, so what does it matter? Not everything is as it seems, Mom!

How many parents refused that their daughters return to their homes telling them “a good wife waits for her husband for how long it takes”, “ don’t wash your dirty laundry in public”, “you will make your hair and dress nicely waiting for your husband no matter what”?
In the movie, Betty set herself free. Do you think our Betties can dare think the same?

Joan, the worst kind ever! The one who actually has every possible opportunity in life and then “chooses” to throw all that away for a man and a home! Believing in the freedom of choice obligates most of us to at least respect such a choice. But I don’t think I can have this in my heart.

The only thing that has to be mentioned here is how objective the movie was when this particular character was presented without any judgment.

What makes me personally a bit against that, is the fact that the examples that we have here are not doing that cause of an aware choice rather than a previously set programming. This is what they are expected to do and this is how they are going to be.
Quite an objective way to look into things that I appreciate the film for!
I am practically living with those. Graduates from medical schools who after taking the “title” choose to leave all that, cause they suddenly discovered that a woman’s ultimate role is the man and the house! Those who fight for imaginary jobs where they only can enjoy the image of someone with brains using all these brains in exploring new ways to escape any real challenge when they can “have it all”, the title, the job – or so it seems-, the man, the house and the kids. In their sick minds, they have it all. They don’t care if everything they have is a flat image with no depth.
They don’t care if because of them, men everywhere have a strong valid argument when they want to prove that educating women is a “poor investment”.
They don’t care if they are the weapon by which men have won a lot of battles regarding increasing women seats anywhere, giving women the right to get this job or that, or at least giving women a fair equal chance in being promoted!

Who do they think they are fooling but themselves? It’s pathetic when humans live a lie so good that they start to not only believe it, but be unable to see that people actually don’t buy it, in fact they can see it very well but they enjoy laughing at them!

I can never forget these words from one of the teachers when she was “educating” them about true life;
Nancy Abbey: You may be here for an easy A. But the grade that really matters is the one that he gives you, not me!

I wanted to applaud when their single teacher was asked why she wasn’t married and she just replied;
Katherine Ann Watson: I am not married because I am not!

And I was laughing when the students were discussing the fact of having a grown up single teacher in their school;
Betty Warren: No man wanted her!
Giselle Levy: She’s not dead, Betty.
Betty Warren: She’s at least 30.
Connie Baker: I guess she doesn’t want any children!
At that moment, I thought I left the movie and started hearing my own friends talking!!

Such an amazing movie that went deep inside women souls searching for reasons why those complete, wonderful and capable creatures are voluntarily lowering their own expectations from life when they literally have everything to open new worlds to the world we live in.
Monalisa smile, showed hope that I wondered if we can have here. Being negative is not my favorable color, so I’ll just ask, do you see any hope?

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Iron Jawed Angels... A hundred years is all what we need!

No, I’m not a movie critic or anything of this sort. I just love movie business. I am fond of this amazing magical world and I have the dreams of each and every Egyptian woman in my heart and the vision of powerful independent ladies who are fighting for their free spirits and liberated minds.

With this heart and with these eyes I watch the movie, and with this spirit I write about it!
Iron Jawed Angels... A hundred years is all what we need!

Four times, I watched that movie four times! And I know I’ll watch it again. Not because of the amazing work that was done, not for how powerful, honest, interesting and inspiring it is, but because it amazes me. 

To put you in the picture, this movie is about the fight American women had to go through for 8 whole years starting from 1912 to have the right to vote. And you can easily recognize the kind of replies those women had to deal with during their debates;

“The female mind is inferior to the male mind need not to be assumed “
“There’s something about it essentially different and that this difference is of a kind and degree that makes votes for women would constitute a political danger ought to be plain to everybody”
“I don’t wish to see the day comes when the women in my state shall trail their skirts in the muck and mire of partisan politics”

Sounds familiar? Very! I know … specially that last one, kind of reminds me of how some men consider themselves “cursed” if ruled, judged or asked by a woman!
The only thing that I can’t get over is the fact that this movie is almost hundred years ago!! They had this kind of debates hundred years ago.
Do you need more proofs?
1- Those women were called freaks, psychopaths, and rude.
2- One of the senators mentioned the fact that “ we don’t need women voting in South Carolina, we know how to take care of our women”
3- When the married woman joined, her husband closed her account, took her children and asked her how she would afford an attorney to defend her rights!
4- One single woman mentioned the fact that she is tired of being alone, all men were idiots, or terrified of her!!!

5- The worse fight than fighting men for them was fighting another women, who hated how powerful and independent they are and who felt weak and helpless in front of them.
6- Men in America also thought they would be cursed if ruled, charged or even if they shared decision making with women!!!

I know!! It sounds freakishly familiar that one might doubt they are actually expressing what we here in the Arab countries are facing.

One phrase really touches me every time I hear it was said by the lead character to the “married lady” who didn’t want to embarrass her husband – and who became a very important member afterwards – when she said;
“Women like you are worse than anti-suffragists; you perpetuate the lie everyday at breakfast”

My god! How many times have you met a woman who voluntarily declares her stupidity and ignorance just to get a man’s attention and approval?
How many women have you talked to and they just faked inferiority to nourish a no-body guy just to get a proposal?
How many places have you gone to where women refuse to get business done with other women cause “we are not as smart as men”?
I know that a lot of my fellow doctors never went to a female doctor nor they ever intend to because “male doctors are cleverer”
I know that women don’t like to go to electronic stores and deal with saleswomen cause “we just don’t understand technology!”
I know my friends who resist any piece of information related to their laptops cause “guys just get these kinds of things not us”

But what I don’t know is why! In the end, those women gathered, and with the help of strong men who don’t need to exert power over women to prove their manhood, and under a constitutional umbrella, those women were able to get their right to vote. Those women were jailed, beaten and starved till they got their right. 

Do you think we can do that one day? Don’t tell me we can vote, because we don’t.
When the girl is brought up that she has to be the good girl who follows her father, till she gets really lucky and follows her husband to get another woman to the world who leads the same life, we don’t have the right to vote.

When women still chose to stay at home earning nothing and being completely supported and fed by men, we don’t have the choice.

When women leave their universities, careers and whole futures just to be someone’s wife because this is her holy destiny, we don’t have any future!

But unlike what you may think, I am optimistic, I believe that someday we will be able to break those walls, that women will be that scared of being rejected by intimidated men, that women will not be ruled by what other want her to be, that women will not be scared to lead their lives, make their own choices, be ready for the consequences and live the beauty of a free life!

Even if they were called the “Iron Jawed Angels”

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Between belonging, loyalty and being a good friend

We all have our friends who can be one way or another “different” than us. And the worst fetal disease that can infect a friendship is being trapped between being loyal to what you are and being loyal to your friends.

For some reasons, people still think having a friend with different beliefs – and I don’t necessarily mean religions- is itself betrayal to one’s own beliefs. Cause it’s puzzling to them how they get along so perfectly with people who think whatever that they don’t.

“It’s either they are right or I’m not a good believer who doesn’t stand on a solid ground”. This is how they perceive it.

First of all, you’ll never be on this “solid” ground. And you shouldn’t by the way! Yes, you shouldn’t

It’s the day by day evolving question from the people you respect and trust that is the best chance for you to interact with yourself! This is the perfect chance for ourselves to “question” our ideologies, passions and even beliefs. If time doesn’t add up to the own impression to your life, then one is not growing up! Part of maturity is the ability to grasp differences and being able to define, label and interact with them without losing you own self.

“It’s by knowing what I am not that I really know what I am”

Stating what you are for yourself is not by any means considered deceiving your “different” friend as well. Being close friends by definition means that you both are already aware of those differences.

You are not supposed to highlight them

You are not expected to disgrace them

You will may be put into a discussion every now and then, and you will naturally say what you really think without being scared of jeopardizing this friendship. This friend chooses to accept you as you are just as you are expected to do.

Now with the silly questions:

Does it make me a bad Muslim to have a gay friend? Alcoholic? Atheist?

I believe he might actually go to hell, but again who knows! Am I a bad friend?

The reason why I’m writing this is that ever since the Ghaza crisis has started and I feel a lot of friendships here on face book are in real danger. People are so provoked by what everyone say. The way I see it, each one of us has his own scenario and agenda. I can agree with one here but I may disagree there. And cause of the nature of the problem, things usually get so tense.

So please everybody. In Ghaza or another, I can see where you’re different than me and I’m OK with it, and I hope you do the same with me too. We don’t have to call each others names, we don’t have to confront each other with our judgments for ourselves, I think we all already are aware of them.

I here remember Alanis Morissette in her lovely song “I was hoping”;

And I said "do you believe we are fundamentally judgmental? Fundamentally evil?"

And you said "yes"

Yes! No matter how hard we try, we still somehow slip into that road of judgment. But as long as we drive safely and focus on enjoying our trip together, I think we all can save our friendships..And ourselves.