I was so excited when I first saw this month’s issue is going to be about Class & Power. I had an instant thought of how I wanted my piece to be. I wanted to paint a story with rainbow colors and tell you about Laila –the queen of Sahara, and how she fought for women and gave them all their rights, decent jobs and more.
But that was more of a story I created in my head which I played a thousand times! And it was hard, it was hard to put down the words together and have it told the way I wanted, neglecting all the other realistic stories -considering the stories I’ve been hearing lately.
For days I got stuck with words, and the only idea that dominated all voices in my head was that women are in fact treated as second class citizens in most places, companies or even among families and societies.
One of the things I remembered which managed to erase the idea of Queen Laila is what they call honor killing, I’ve been doing a lot of reading on this lately, and the stories are so heart breaking, scary, and more words stumbling in line in my mind trying to describe the way these stories made me feel.
Society forces women to be home early, and in some cases –if you are not so lucky, a woman can’t go out unless there is a man from the family going out with her to “protect” her.
I mean I’m not against the idea, I understand why girls would need to be protected when a lot of men out there just waiting on girls to be out alone so they can grab their chance. But that’s only because we are used to the idea that girls are powerless and they can’t be independent, they can’t be decision makers and they can’t defend themselves against those men who see women as weak creatures- a concept started long ago.
OR women can’t go out alone because they can’t be trusted, since a woman can bring shame to the family if she commits the smallest sin. A woman is an “honor” symbol, in terms of honor and shame not in terms of special respect.
And don’t get me wrong here please, not all families are the same, and this is not under the name of a certain religion -which people tend to use to cover their sick traditions. What I’m about to say now has nothing to do with anything but how traditions and men over the years have been controlling women; the way they should dress, talk, laugh and simply the way they should live their lives.
I’m switching gears now to a more serious tone, but again this has NOTHING to do with religion, as you all know here in the Middle East we have Muslims, Christians, Jews, Atheists and probably more. They all live through the same stories, women share these agonies all the same. The stories which I’m about to shed some light on.
It’s the society that gave him the right to judge her according to how she acts and how she is dressed.
Does SHE hang out with a lot of boys? Is SHE dating? Is SHE sleeping with anyone?
Now here is the dilemma, the “him” she is befriending, dating, seeing or sleeping with will often be the cool lucky man, and as for her, she is the slut. She is the one bringing shame to the family. Disgrace! A woman is so weak that she needs to be overly protected, she can’t be out on her own, she doesn’t have a priority in getting education, she doesn’t get to have an opinion, she doesn’t get to get a lot of things, and yet, one mistake from her can ruin an entire family and its reputation! Who decides that? Who made up these rules? It is the first class citizens in the house, men.
She gets killed in the name of honor – a term misused by the society referring to killing women who bring shame, not women who die for their country or for a good cause. The rest get to live in peace, no damage caused, no sorrow, and no tears to be shed. Like she never existed, the sin she had committed was forgotten too, and was only erased by her death, and if you are wondering what happens to him, well, let’s just say he is VIP, so he gets a free pass back to the society, because men are wiser, stronger and have a say in everything.
He is given the right to have it all without being called names, judged or looked down at. He is given the right to kill her to wash away the disgrace, as if in her death they will live in purity! As if this “sin” she committed she has done it alone. And even if so, like in drinking or staying out late. Let it, let her be the decision maker for how she wants her life to be, let her be herself. I’m sure she is capable of making decisions just as any other man in the society if not even better! Let her have a voice, don’t kill it. Don’t kill her.
When will we free these places from this darkness they live in? A little girl is forced to get married as she is nothing but a voiceless heavy burden on the family, or she’s just being sold under the name of marriage.
Only he has the right to go out late, judge, kill, get a higher salary and be promoted at work (because most men don’t like to be bossed by women at “work”, it makes them look weak!). Only he is allowed to let her go out.
Only he has the right to rape, get away with it -undamaged and unpunished, and yet to get happily married.
Only he is allowed to choose who to get married to, when to get married, or even not to be married at all without being called “a man of flaws” that’s why he is not married, or without having fingers pointing at him calling him a spinster – a term created by society or men I really don’t know, just to set an expiry date on women.
Because it’s only (him) that sets the rules.
Published in BROAD Feminist and Social Justice Magazine / Chicago – April 2013