Friday, September 5, 2008

Portrait #50: The Arab Girl of the 21st Century

This is from some notes I jotted down earlier this year after finishing my internship with UNIFEM, where I worked specifically on women's rights and empowerment. But, realistically, I learned a lot more from relationships than I did from interning in a UN office...

- Isn't it my right to want to be protected? Maybe I am giving up some of the freedoms for which my parents fought so much, to be assured of safety. It's scary to think of jumping out of the nest into the unknown that lies beyond the cage.

- I'm looking for friendship, where will I find it if not through family? And if not family, then what, School? Mutual friends? Work? Church? Oh yeah, I quit school years ago, only have a few friends, try to keep my head low and stay out of trouble at work, and I don't go to church! Maybe my sisters will be my friends, and maybe my parents will find me a man.

- It's a compliment to look Lebanese, it's an offense to be Lebanese. Lebanese have the best sense of fashion around, but they have too much freedom! It's about wanting to be a good girl, bint, with a good reputation and marriage material, but yet to have fun, to not lose out on life. Can I have friends who are guys without paying the price?

- Stepping out into the world without family is dangerous. Anything might happen. No protection... It would mean I'm willing for anything to happen.

- I know I have my rights but but I just can't pay the price. A girl can choose her husband, but she can only enjoy her family's help, which is very essential, if they are a part of the choice. A girl can work but she must be willing to give up her reputation. A girl can live alone, but she must be prepared for the assumption that she's therefore a bad girl. A wife does not have to take abuse, but she has to be prepared to be frowned down on by her friends and family if she reports her husband. Not just women, a man can do deviate from what his family expects, but then who would he marry? How would he deal with the social torture and ostracism?

- This world is a lonely place...

- It's a myth that I could be forced to marry someone against my will. Well, I'm not really forced, but if I don't I may lose my family's sponsorship. When I don't the fact is I won't be as happy. I know I won't be happy for having made my own choice. Maybe someday my children might enjoy the freedom to choose more, but not me. But there's a simple contentment that comes with submission, isn't it best to take what's guaranteed than to fight for more?

- Of course there are ways of getting back, of asserting oneself. But who really likes those people? It's the ones that don't insist that are most lovable.

1 comment:

sojourner said...

These are choices I did not have to make. I made my own choices on my life's course 38 years ago. I have many regrets and have had much joy. If I had submitted to my mother's wishes how would life be now? Maybe more fulfilling, maybe more harsh. As I ponder the words, "there's a simple contentment that comes with submission", I wonder how my life would be different if I had followed simply the requests of my mother. I will never know because I had the right to choose.

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