Yes I am tough

July 31, 2010 at 12:54 pm (Diary, Everyday life situations, gender discrimination, Just a thought ..., women, work)

You should be more like a lady he said. You became a little .. how should I say this .. a little rough and too bold for a woman.

Am I less feminine really? Maybe it is true. I see it too. I started putting less makeup and only buying comfortable cloths.  I didn’t do my hair for ages. I can see some violence in my speech and behaviour. It is like I am fighting with the whole world all the time. I shout at anyone who flirts or harasses me. I am ready to hit anyone who approaches me. I almost hit my friend once thinking she was a stranger who wanted to grab my bag.  I am always on alert for any danger; physical or emotional. I am always ready to defend myself from any kind of attack; physical or verbal. I became too honest in what I say that it might hurt others some time.  But why would you blame me because I am only the modern woman of today.

How do you expect me to wear nice dresses and high heels with hair and makeup done when I don’t have time to cook a proper meal for myself? How do you expect me to be gentle and kind when I have to work from morning till night everyday and squeeze myself  between people in buses and trains like a sardine, someone pushing me here and another shoving me there? How do you expect me to be a lady like when I have to deal with nasty people all the time? It is a fight everyday and I am fighting every day. I am tired and I feel a part of me has gone. People around me are taking a bite of me every day and I have to keep on going with whatever I have left. How do you expect me to be lady like when I cannot afford the luxury of staying at home and doing nothing but pampering myself? I am sorry baby but I don’t even have the option of waiting for you at home and welcoming you back with a passionate kiss.

I don’t want to hustle like this every day, but I can’t afford not to. Because men are not men these days. I have to do it all myself and I know I can never depend on a father, a brother or a husband. Maybe men were ‘gawamoon’ but not today baby, not today. Maybe it made sense that men inherit more than women but it doesn’t make sense today baby it doesn’t.

I have to do it all by myself and even better than you so that you don’t point the finger and tell me ‘emotional’. I pay for my rent, my food, my cloths, my tickets, my makeup, my shampoo, my lattes and even the water I drink. After all of this, how would you expect that I won’t become a little bit masculine? How do you expect me to give you all the care and attention you need when I am lacking so much? There isn’t any tenderness left in me. You drained it all out, the world has drained it all out.

I am stronger than you and a hundred man like you. I work twice as hard as you, and then I come back home to take care of the kids, I cook and clean and even wash your cloths. And you really expect me to put on something nice at the end of the day and squeeze the last bit of energy and emotions I have left to give you few seconds of pleasure? oh and not only you ask me to put something nice on, but you actually ask me to buy it. You actually want me to spend the little money I have left to buy something for you to enjoy!

And what do I get back from all of this? All I hear is you comparing me with other more feminine women, how I should take more care of you and give you more time and attention, how I have my priorities wrong, how I became cold. Who is the selfish one here? Who is the cold one here? who is the man here? who is loosing the respect here? I am a human, but I am a super human.

So yes I am tough, I am strong and I will keep fighting. For my education, for my freedom for respect. so just be quiet!

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Thesis on Qatari Women and Globalization … help please

March 16, 2010 at 1:16 pm (1, education, gender discrimination, Qatari culture, Society, women)

A friend of mine is currently writing a thesis about women in Qatar and how globalization/penetration of English into Qatari society has been a dominant force that’s changed their traditional roles and may even cause a total culture shift as they adopt this language wholly. She is  also interested how women are utilizing English to really bridge the gap between east and west. It’s so great hearing first accounts of women and how they defend their traditions and culture despite being told by Western missionaries that they need to “liberate” themselves from their “oppressive” lifestyles.

She is focusing on the women at the university level, as these are the women who have spent their elementary and high school years learning English and are now applying it to the real world. They’re the future mothers, so likely, their kids will speak English from the start.  There is a cultural shift,  not only are Qatari women highly educated and eloquent in English, but even their interests tend to be lenient towards western trends (Movies, shopping (brand names especially, western music, etc).

What she wants to know from you is the following:

Do you think Arabic is incompatible with Qatari women today? The language itself is sexist in nature (e.g. all words pertaining to women almost directly stem from her association with males, like bint refers to a young virgin, imra2a refers to a married woman, 3anis is a woman who is unmarried and passed the desirable age of marriage, even when a woman is married, her husband refers to her as the “2ahil” or “um al 3yall” when speaking to others about her, as though the most desirable/appropriate status for a woman is as a wife/mother.)

How does a woman break free of that when using Arabic? Is it even possible? Do you think this is one reason why young, professional, educated women are speaking English more?

* Please remember that this is an Academic topic and not an attack on Arabic culture or language or women. If you disagree with the thesis, please give a comprehensive explanation and evidence.

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I hate you for ruining my first visit to Mecca!

October 18, 2009 at 5:10 pm (Diary, gender discrimination, Mecca, religious police, saudi, women)

I was so excited to go to Mecca. It was going to be my very first time to see the Ka’ba. Well, I went once when I was six years old, but that does not count. My family was going to do Omra and we all started preparing weeks before departing Doha. My mother, sisters and I all made custom made Abayas for the trip. They were EXTRA wide, and we even bought that sticky band that is worn underneath the Sheila to ensure that our hair does not show even if the Sheila accidently falls. So I guess what I am trying to say is that we all looked super decent and properly covered. My mother memorizes the whole Quran and she knows a lot about Islam, so she was mentoring us during the whole trip and giving us advice on how to seek every second of this spiritual experience. My dad was very excited and was asking me to take pictures so that we remember this trip as our first family trip to Mecca.

We arrived safely to Jeddah airport and took a taxi to our hotel in Mecca. I still remember the taxi’s driver’s name, it was written on this huge white board behind the seat. I thought that was weird and so I took a picture of it. I also took pictures of many weird signs I saw during the trip which I might add later.

I couldn’t see the Ka’ba from the hotel window. We all hurried up to catch the afternoon prayer. As I was entering the Haram, my heart was pounding and my eyes were looking straight ahead waiting for its first encounter with the Ka’ba. I felt a rush of blood in my body the moment I saw it. How great, how peaceful. Finally, I am here. As my eyes were fixed on the Ka’ba, I kept praying in my heart and asking god to accept this Omra.

Anyways, the story I want to tell you actually begins with the first prayer inside the Haram. It was the afternoon prayer and while we were trying to find a nice spot to pray a man, who apparently was one of the religious police, shouted at us “THIS KIND OF CLOTHING IS FORBIDDON, ITS HARAAAM, HARAAAM, THIS WILL TAKE YOU TO HELL SISTERS”. Of course, everyone within teen feet of our radius heard that and stared at us. I was very confused, why this man was shouting at My mother said “Just ignore him”, I asked her “what is wrong with our cloths?”, she said “oh they just mean that we should wear the abaya on our head and not shoulders”, I asked again “Why?”. She said “Because they believe that this defines the body’s shape, and this is forbidden”. I did not know if I should laugh or be mad, but I was really bothered by the way he spoke to us. Plus, I decided to get rid of all negative feelings and concentrate on this spiritual experience. But that was impossible!

What happened was that in each prayer, one of those bearded men would shout at us. If not them, the religious police women would do. I did not understand why they were doing that. Is really my cloths so !!!! I do not even know which word to use. How can an extra large black abaya is not covering, or proper enough for them. How do they look at it? Do they think that my shoulder line will actually seduce someone? Or that it seems sexy and appealing? The thing is, I was wearing Sheila that falls over my shoulders, so what was their problem. Or is that they just like to shout at women? At one point, a very scary looking man, his beard was so long that it reaches his navel, and his clothes were too short that the almost reached his knees was speed walking after me shouting “THE PROPHET HAS PROHIBITED THIS UNPROPER CLOTHING”. I was walking really fast that I almost started running trying to get away from him. These kinds of things happened with each prayer, five time a day for three days. How can I concentrate on this spiritual experience while those scary looking men are pointing fingers and shouting that we will go to hell! Who are they to say that! On top of that, while we were doing 6awaf, circling around the Ka’ba, one of those men was hitting his stick on the flour and shouting “cover your face, cover your face”. I thought, that is it! Everyone knows that covering the face while doing tawaf is forbidden! Seriously, those people has gone too far forbidding things that are allowed in Islam. One of the ladies was already wearing niqab, a face veil, and the man shouted, cover your niqab! The woman just snapped at him and started shouting! Maybe we, women just ought to kill ourselves!

Do they really think they are doing good when they are embarrassing people and ruining their spiritual experience like that? I tried so hard to shut them out, but once I control my anger one of them start shouting again and the femenatzi monster in me just struggles to come out.

What we have noticed is that these shouting are only for khaliji women, Arabian gulf women, who are dressed in black. If I was wearing a colofull abaya, they would assume that I am Egyptian or Lebanese and leave me alone. When I asked my mother, she said that they know about this issue since they were young. I was really surprised. I also remember mentioning this story to one of my friends in Doha and she agreed with my mom : “my older sister knows about this, so every time she goes there she wears a green abaya and no one bothers her at all. I went once with her and saw the difference in treatment myself because I was wearing a black abaya and she was wearing a green one”. This made me conclude that this shouting is about their own backward traditions and has nothing to do with religion.

What hypocrisy! They pretend to by holy and religious and know everything about god. And then you find them all standing in front of the women entrances; the religious police and the regular ones, all gathering there. Staring so bad at women. They think we cannot notice that from our sunglasses, but I can see you scanning me. Damn it I can see you scanning me, I can almost see what goes on in your head! Damn it, respect that long beard, and respect this holy place! And then, if I try to escape their looks and go through the public entrance they start shouting again.

Even my dad and brother were not left a lone. My dad is a heavy smoker, so he was looking for some cigarettes. When he asked in one of the shops, the shop keeper shouted “KAFER (ATHIEST) , GET OUT OF HERE”. My dad was shocked and did not understand what happened, he went to another shop and the same thing happened. He then saw a man smoking down the street and asked him about what was going on. The man said that cigarettes are not allowed near the Haram and he must go to the suburbs to buy one. Couldn’t the shop keepers simply explain that to my dad instead of shouting at him and accusing him of being an atheist? Why this exaggeration?

My brother on the other hand found one of his friends there. They decided to go shopping for souvenirs together. In the market they were both talking on the phone which apparently was a very suspicious behaviour to the religious police. One of the bearded men approached them and said “Brother, I will have to ask you to leave the market right away because it is a family place”. My brother said “but I am here with my family, plus this is a public place you cant ask me to leave, I am doing some shopping”. The man replied “ I don’t see any shopping bags with you, and you are talking on the phone and flirting with women, fear god brother”. My brother just snapped, he said “listen, if I want to flirt I wont do it in this place. Do you think I have no manners that I would do such thing only few steps away from the house of god. And I am not leaving”. The man became nervous and said “I will have to call the police”. My brother said “ok call them”. A police man was already waiting behind the bearded man, he approached my brother and said that he must obey and leave. My brother just ignored them and went to another shop.

And to give the perfect ending to this story, I must tell you about the last incident. My little brother and I wanted to get some souvenirs before departure. So we went to the market which was only few meters away from the Haram. The moment we entered my brother and I felt very uncomfortable. Shopkeepers were staring in a way that made me feel naked. We both decided to go back to the hotel and not buy anything. On the way back (the hotel, the haram and the market are all few steps away from each other) an old man stopped his car next to us, rolled down his window and sticked his head out, he had white hair and white beard, so I thought he was 70 years old or something. He said “hey little boy, shall I give you a ride”. I looked at him and saw him licking his lips and biting them, then rolling his eyes between me and my little brother. My mouth and eyes were wide open form the shock! He repeated his words and said “Hey, let me give you a ride, come on, get in the care”. My brother, not realizing what was going on said “no thank you, we live right here”. I grabbed my brother’s hands and started walking really fast to the hotel. The man was still licking and biting his lips. I don’t know if he was perverting over me or my brother.

I was really put off by people there. I almost cried for not being able to pray in front of Ka’ba because of those extremists who prevented that. I hated that I was struggling inside me to keep my anger instead of focusing on prayers. They distracted me and ruined my first Omra. Other than that, Mecca was so beautiful. I enjoyed visiting the historical places that were mentioned in the Quran. But I felt so bad for those who were living in poverty. I could not believe that there are people living in such conditions in an Oil Producing state. They were living in small houses on the mountains that were in real bad condition. The roads were a disaster and even kinds clothes were torn and worn out. I guess, the most important thing I learnt was to wear a green abaya to be left alone. I hope to go there again soon.

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لو كنت رجلاً … If I were a man

September 10, 2009 at 10:50 am (gender discrimination, poetryreading, Prose Poems, Society, women)

لو كنت رجلاً

 

لو كنت رجلاً, لسمح لي المجتمع أن أقع في الحب لأن ذلك في نظر المجتمع سيكون رائعاً

لو كنت رجلا, لسمح لي المجتمع أن أتزوج أي فتاه, من أي عرق و أي ديانة

لو كنت رجلاَ, لسمح لي المجتمع أن أتحكم بزوجتي, بلبسها, بخروجها, حتى بأحلامها و أفكارها   

لو كنت رجلاً و طلقت زوجتي, لأشفق علي المجتمع و ذهب يركض يبحث لي عن زوجة أخرى لأن سعادتي مهمة

لو كنت رجلاً, لسمح لي المجتمع أن ارتدي ما أريد, وقتما أريد

لو كنت رجلاً,لما احتجت لإذن لأخرج و أسافر و أدرس و أعمل و أتنفس  

لو كنت رجلاً, لسمح لي المجتمع بالاستمتاع بقدر ما أشاء من النساء, قبل الزواج و بعده

لو كنت رجلاً يفعل الفحشاء, لبحث مجتمعي لي عن أعذار لارتكب مزيداً منها

لو كنت رجلاً سيء السمعة, لقال مجتمعي, شاب طائش, يتزوج غداً و يهتدي

لو كنت رجلاً, لكان راتبي أكثر فقط لأنني رجل

لو كنت رجلاً, و أكملت دراستي في الخارج, ففي عين مجتمعي أنا عبقري

لو كنت رجلاً, و أخطأت في العمل, لألقى مجتمعي الخطأ على الظروف

لو كنت رجلاً, لكنت مثالياً في عين مجتمعي

و لا يعيبني, سوى حجم محفظتي

 

و لكنني امرأة

 

ولكنني امرأة  يجب أن اختفي و راء الأغطية و إلا كنت بائعة هوى

و لكنني امرأة يعتقد مجتمعي أنني مخلوق بلا قلب فممنوع عليه الحب

و لكنني امرأة مرتبط شرفي لا بأخلاقي, و لكن بغشائي

و لكنني امرأة, شيء من ممتلكات أبي, ثم أخي ثم زوجي

و لكنني امرأة, و يجب أن أضحي بتاريخي, بأحلامي لأنها ليست من حقي, بل من حق من يمتلك جسدي

و لكنني امرأة و إذا تم اغتصابي أو اغتصاب حقي, فإنه بسبب فتنتي و غبائي

و لكنني امرأة و يجب أن اعمل ضعف الرجل, كي أكون كفأ

و لكنني امرأه و لو أخطأت في العمل, فذلك لأنني بكل بساطة امرأة  

ولكنني امرأة و لو درست بالخارج لاتهمت بكوني متفتحة و غير صالحة للزواج

و لكنني امرأة و على مجتمعي فإني عبئ

و لكنني امرأة و على مجتمعي فإني خطأ يجب أن يصحح

و لكنني امرأة و يجب أن تراقب أفعالي, في حين أرتكب فضيحة أكبر من فضيحة وجودي

 

If I were a man

 

If I were a man, I can fall in love and society would think its adorable

If I were a man, I can marry any girl from any race or religion

If I were a man, society wont question me if I controlled my wife’s life, thoughts and dreams

If I were a man and divorced my wife, society would pity me and rush to find me a new one to make me happy.

If I were a man, I can wear whatever I want whenever I want

If I were a man, I don’t need to have a permission to travel, to go out, to study to work or to breath

If I were a man, I can go out with as many women as I want, before and after marriage

If I were a man and I sinned, society would find excuses for my sins, and so I can sin even more

If I were a man with bad reputation, my society would say “young and foolish, he will grow up and get married tomorrow, let him have fun”

If I were a man, I will have a bigger salary, just for being a man

If I were a man who studied abroad, in my society I will be a genius

If I were a man and made a mistake at work, society will blame it on the circumstances

If I were a man, I am perfect in the eye of my society

Nothing would be wrong with me

Except the size of my wallet

 

But I am a woman

I am a woman and I must hide behind covers or I will be …

I am a woman, and my society believes I am a heartless creature that is forbidden to love

I am a woman and my honor is not related to my morals but to my membrane 

I am a woman, and I am an object of property, to my father, to my brother then to my husband

I am a woman and I must sacrifice my history, my dreams, because they are not my rights, but they are the rights of who ever owns my body

I am a woman, and if I or my rights are raped, it is because of my seductive beauty and stupidity

I am a woman and I must work twice as hard to prove myself

I am a woman and if I erred at work it is because I am simply a woman

I am a woman and if I studied abroad I will be too exposed and not suitable for marriage

I am a woman and on my society I am a burden

I am a woman and for my society I am a mistake that should be corrected

I am a woman and I should be watched in case I commit a bigger scandal, a bigger mistake than my own existence.

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White girl or brown girl, which one you like for your son?

August 27, 2009 at 12:46 am (arranged marriage, Diary, Everyday life situations, gender discrimination, Human Rights, Qatari culture, Society, women)

Few months ago an incident happened that made me think of a lot of things. Things that I have repressed because every time they come back to surface they make me boil. Few months ago my mom told me that there is a family who is interested in me and my sister and want to ask one of us her hand in marriage for their son.

–         Last year when you went to the desert camp with your sister, there was a woman who saw both of you and asked about you.

–         Were you speaking to aunty Dalal?

–         Yes

–         Are you serious? I do not want anything from her side

–         No she has nothing to do with this

–         And they saw us at the desert camp! (I said that in a sarcastic tone)

–         They don’t live in that area at all they were just visiting your grandmother. Don’t worry they are modern people

–         Ok

–         Yes they saw you and you sister and they said that they want either the white one or brown one for their son!

–         Seriously! What are we sheep, white one or brown one!

–         They do not know your names so that’s how they described you.

–         I wont take anyone who didn’t study abroad

–         He is studying in London now

–         Now? What is he? A kid or someone who failed?

–         I do not know, he might be taking a course because he works in RasGaz.

–         I do not know whatever

–         Ok we will ask about him and see

–         Yeah whatever

I tried to be easy on my mom because I know how important this issue is for her. Few weeks have gone by and I thought that they forgot about it. But, my mom called me once when I was going out shopping with my friend Aysha, ironically, shopping for her wedding!

–         Those people called her and want to visit us this weekend.

–         They want to come check on the merchandise?

–         No, they said they want to visit, what am I supposed to tell them no

–         Ok

–         So I want to know if your going to be free this weekend

–         No I am always busy. I already have plans

–         All days

–         Maybe Saturday night. But mom, this is so weird I feel like a sheep or an object being auctioned. And I am not going unless my sister will be there

–         Yes of course that is why I wanted to check with both of you

I tried to be as normal as possible with her. It was so obvious that she was excited and happy, I didn’t want to take this moment away from her. Later she texted me saying that they will come on Sunday. I texted back saying that I have a French lesson so I am going to be late. I was picturing different scenarios in my head, I was thinking too much until I got a headache. I had to let it out, I needed to speak with someone. So I shared my thoughts with my friend Aysha who was shopping with me.

–         Aysha, I feel like I am going crazy here. I cant bare the thought that I might end up with someone I don’t know.

–         Now you know how I felt before getting engaged to someone I didn’t want.

–         Don’t you love your husband

–         I do, we get a long very well. But it is still hard

–         I feel like I am going to cry.

and I really felt like that, because by looking at Aysha I felt like I was looking at myself in the future. Then we both were quiet, each one of us was gone to another world with her thoughts. Aysha probably remembering the past, and I picturing the future. I was her past and she might be my future. Then we changed the mood and laughed about it.

–         I really think this way of getting married is weird, I feel disgusted by it. I really do feel like a sheep you know

–         Why do you think its weird, it is normal here this is the way it has always been.

–         I know, but the fact that they came to pick either me or my sister is disrespectful. As if we have nothing to do but to wait for their son’s choice. Anyways, I am sure they wont like me. I do not even             have to try hard, I can just be myself hahaha

–         Hahahaha yeah you can do that.

–         But you know what bothers me the most.

–         What?

–         We have to go through so many things just because we are girls. Life is very unfair for us simply because of our gender. And what I really do not understand is that women accept this injustice,                 embrace it as part of their belief and pass it on to their children. Why would they do this to themselves? Why don’t they break the cycle?

–         But when your parents say no to something is because they are under pressure from the society.

–         I know and I understand that, I am not questioning my parents, I am questioning the pressure itself, the society.

–         But you did study abroad and you can go out

–         Yes, but it came after tremendous effort! I had to fight, I got those things after being emotionally and psychologically exhausted. Why? Everything is just given to boys!

–         You know parents would say that boys can take care of themselves

–         You know just like I do that this is not true, we took better care of ourselves than boys ever did. The only difference is that they have more muscles. This is what it is  all about, physical power

–         Yes, and because they have this advantage they can take care of themselves. That does not change the fact that everything is given for guys without even asking.

–         I have been mad about that since yesterday, LOL I just wanted to share my thoughts with you.

Then I called my sister, we laughed about the issue and exchanged our thoughts. We totally agree with each other. Then she told me the story of her friends Manal. Manal is a computer engineer like my sister. Her dream was to work in QP. After graduation she got engaged and was very happy about it. My sister expected to see her in QP but months has passed and Manal didn’t show up. Then she met her once at the Ritz Carlton. Manal told her that the reason she didn’t show up is because her husband doesn’t want her to work in QP with men. She is an engineer for God’s sake! What does he expect! My sister was surprised that she agreed to his demands. Now she is staying at home doing nothing. She even applied to the central bank and he refused even though the office she was going to work in was female only except for their boss. I thought “he is sick”. No one thinks like that unless they were really mentally sick and dirty, doesn’t he trust his wife?  and why does he treat her like a property? Then my sister shocked me when she said “he is keeping her hanging while he is studying abroad having all the fund and freedom, he wants her to wait until  he finishes to decide in her matter”. What a pathetic thing to say; to decide on her matter!

As if she is not mentally capable of deciding on her life. No one is protesting about this non-sense, not even the girl. My sister told her “you signed a contract with QP, they have paid for your studies for 5 years, you cant just leave like that”. Manal said “my husband said he will deal with them”. My sister said “when they take you to court, its your name and your matter not his”.Manal told her later on that she is actually heart broken for being controlled and treated that way, and not happy with him, she doesn’t know what to do. And this is their engagement period, they didn’t actually live together yet!

The day came and the guy’s sister and mother came to our house. I don’t know anything about his except that he works in Ras Gaz! My sister and I sat next to each other. We were quiet the whole time. Luckily my auntie and grandmother were there to keep them entertained. The older sister asked my sister “so, where do you work”. My sister said “QP”, the lady looked like she chocked on her tea. She asked me then “where do you work?”. I told her, and she was happy that it was not a mixed gender place. Then she asked “oh really, this is good. How long have you been working there?”. I said “I started right after graduation from UK so about 2 years”. She said “aha”. And that was it. Apparently they didn’t want  girls who are “too exposed”.

My sister and I were very upset when they left. We told our parents that we don’t want to be put in such situation again where someone come to pick either me or her. They should have decided already on that before they come. At least those people did not ask that we must wear niqab, leave work and stop driving cars like others have before we even agree to marry one of their sons !!!

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