I find many outcries in the Middle East a little difficult to classify and difficult to respond to. I mean, what are we actually trying to say? What do we want? Who are the bad guys? And what do we want to do about it? I think that before I give an opinion, I should first put a few things into better perspective, in the hope that some readers may understand my point of view a little better.
So for example, when a woman from Morocco or another Middle Eastern country appeals to our understanding of justice, perhaps in an anecdote showcasing how bad and difficult she and her fellow women’s lives are, due to the dominating male population, then with all frankness, I have no idea what she is trying to say.
Does she want someone to make another movie about it? I would not mind, even though their success rates outside of ticket sales and positive critiques are nonexistent. Notice too that these movies always have a strange open ending, where the protagonist’s universal speech about hope, justice and right vs. wrong fades out to inspirational music….
Or is she saying that she is surrounded by untouchable laws, imposed by a decayed empire, that are for no logical reason still enforced by those formerly conquered? And that this has and is still creating arbitrary beneficiaries, who, of course, will not stop perpetuating this backwardness, even if it means creating asphyxiating conditions by putting everybody else into an inescapable prison of crisscross rules? The type of prison, where the weakest (women) gets beaten up.
She can, of course, only mean the latter. But the fact that many women here do not explicitly say so, is creating too much room for unrealistic compromises and wrong proposals on how to counter the issue.
The success of women’s rights movements in the US and Europe was possible, in part, because for those countries, there was no higher premise than their national constitutions. At least not the kind of premise that has an almost kinky relationship with its culture; therefore, conflicting with any meaningful change. While I think it is very brave to speak out, ignoring this out of fear or any other reason, and proposing to address problems in a similar way as they did is as problematic as trying to build a bigger house inside a smaller house.
My expressions are largely filled with anger, rather than obligingness, but no one can deny a spot of truth in my hyperboles, especially so nowadays. I do not mean that women’s rights movements (or any other movement based on western schools of thought) are useless here; far from it.
What I do mean, however, is that freedom can only be achieved by a suitable trade-off. Continuously mentioning gender biases and pointing at the next best bully, while not actively addressing the untouchable thing that would give a bully the power to make women feel this way, is madness. This approach was primarily developed by and for (and is exclusive to) ecosystems whose laws dominate every guideline within the beliefs practiced by the population, and have been successful because of it. Granted, many movements’ and activists’ ultimate goals suggest a similar separation, so give credit where credit is due. But for all others: The directions we follow and the choices we make should be based on their merits, not on a knee-jerk reaction dressed up as principles. It would be better for all of us.
When we show strangers a certain amount of respect, because we do not know them, why is it that we cannot give the same level of respect for everyone and anything regardless of who they are and whether or not we like it? If ever, then “respect” to a lot of us here means, “not engaging in anything remotely sexual,” which is unhealthy in terms of normal social relations, and is probably the reason why we are so unaware of each other’s miseries.
It is not about respecting women because they are female, it is about not disrespecting them because they are female. Everyone has crawled out of a woman. Sexism toward women is real and a real issue. We have a huge social imbalance, with women being constantly deprived, unfairly treated, and given the feeling that they must feel guilty for who they are. In the eyes of the law we are equal, but because national law is openly or secretly considered second, we are not equal, which is deceptive and dishonest. Men are the victims of murders and violent crimes more often than women, but this does not make their suffering any less of a nightmare.
Many of the problems men and women are facing are the consequence of groundless tolerance. Groundless tolerance is the consequence of our negligence and apathy. Knowingly and over our own principles, the majority of us aware of it decide to go along, to get along. By not speaking up, we are indirectly supporting this self-destructive ideology, which leaves vulnerable and innocent men and women in dire suffering, depression, or grievous circumstances. At this point, we are just as bad as any oppressor, if we do not actively shame one another for this suicidal thought process of tolerating each other’s enslavement and torture. It is not about race, gender or any a specific religious doctrine. It is about right and wrong, about not tolerating any form of exploitation and about being against any apparatus that allows the censoring of well-deserved opposition by design.
I would like to let my female Middle Eastern companions know that most of us men are not psychologically predisposed to make your lives a living hell. We are in a similarly bad condition and could actually use your help.
Dear women, do not give up the ship. Some things are worth the struggle. And it does not matter whether you are a housewife from Saudi Arabia, a young mother from Yemen, a sysadmin from Sudan, an artist from Israel, an entrepreneur from Palestine, Tunisia, or Oman, a student from Jordan, an accountant from Egypt, a belly dancer from Iraq or Lebanon, a refugee from Syria, or a princess from the UAE, Qatar, or Kuwait. Remember that beautiful dress with flowers on it? We would like to see you wearing it one day, and tell you how beautiful you look. Because you are, and it is an outrage that you are told otherwise. Someone needs to declare this once and for all. And there is no reason why this someone should not be you. You owe it to yourself. And while you are at it, please also tell us to stop setting the world on fire. Unite, be vigilant, and pick proper weapons. I could think of two right now…