Things that changed my vision of life as a child by Rima, Tunisia

I remember when I was a child; a friend of mine came to my house full of delight and excitement. She told me that her mother is waiting for a new baby. I congratulated her but remarked that she was 9 years old and she is plenty older and that she wouldn’t be able to play with her new sibling. At that time she replied to me with impressive self-confidence “That’s not the point, I have already my sister and my friends to play with. The most important is that he is a boy! A boy that can inherit the name of our family! A boy that will ensure the continuity of our family! Something that neither I nor my sister can ensure.” Despite my young age, I was really shocked by her words clearly it was unacceptable and not fair to prefer a baby boy over a baby girl just because the children would get the last name of the father. And if so, why can’t a woman give her last name to her children – is it because she has got the honor to carry the baby inside her for 9 months so that the father could have the honor to give his last name to their children? No that is still not fair. These kinds of questions were a major paradox throughout my entire childhood…

I consider myself really lucky to be receiving an equal education and treatment as compared to my brother. My parents don’t prefer him because he’s neither a boy nor me because I’m a girl. Indeed, I was often observing in my entourage many alarming manifestation of sex segregation between brothers and sisters. This could be seen in the less banal detail like when the mother gives the son the biggest piece of meat during meals, and gives the daughter whatever has been left. Also, in my neighborhood when I was a child, I remember that there were so many large families with 7 or 8 daughters and a constantly pregnant mother that is hoping to give a birth to a boy. It’s like a sort of a dark urn full of red and white balls, and you win only when you take out a white one. So, you keep trying and throwing away red ones until you get your precious white one. But in this case there are not balls, they are lives! It would be upsetting for a girl to know that when she came to life she wasn’t able to make her parents happy enough because she doesn’t have that damned pendulum between her little legs! This was really upsetting. And what about a father that leaves his wife because she’s not able to give birth for a boy, as if she conceived him alone. Did those miserable fathers know that the sex of the baby is defined depending on the male gamete and not the female one? And poor wives too, because they mostly feel guilty and useless because they couldn’t give a birth to a family carrier: a male. Even if a wife succeeded to overcome the curse of giving birth of only girls, it still is problematic for a girl to be surrounded by brothers. I remember when I was young our neighbors were a large family of six sons and one daughter. The girl was beaten from her early age by her 6 brothers with the total complicity of her mother and father, because after all they are men, and some believe men know better than women.

Also I can’t forget to tell about how much more freedom boys have than girls; they can go out wherever and whenever they want, they can make mistakes and they have the right to fail, they can yell and overreact, they have more pocket money, they can wear whatever they want…

But why? Why all these privileges for boys? What has Eve done wrong to damn all her fellow creatures? And what has Adam done to overtake Eve? So many questions and paradoxes have intrigued my childhood mind and made me grow up to help define who I’m now and what I’m fighting for.

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