Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Coffee Mug and the Tea Cup

An addendum to the previous ‘pillar’ before moving on to the next one. A more nonsensical rant than usual.

Last week’s post got me thinking about what it is about Arab males and females that sets them apart from the generic battle of the sexes. It seems the location of the battlefield in this case could be changing the rules of the game.

I'm not really a feminist in the sense that I do not agree that men and women should be totally and utterly equal in every and any way, shape or form, but that we are equally capable. This clip from the musical Annie Get Your Gun better explains my position on the matter.

We are different beings, created differently - anatomically, physiologically, mentally, emotionally - it is unnatural to be equals. I like to compare it to a coffee mug and a tea cup; no reason to discriminate between the two although they are shaped and formed differently. They seemingly do the same job and are both fully capable of doing so, but one is better at holding coffee and the other completes the tea experience, in the end they are both vessels in which we pour hot liquids, or even cold liquids. Hell, they both can contain anything possibly containable. I believe that men and women may complement one another, but it should be considered blasphemous to consider them equals. They are both fully capable of doing whatever it is the other does at the same or even higher level of proficiency. But in the end, a man should hold the door open for a woman, not the other way around. A woman is the one who carries a baby inside her for 9 months (hands down that is enough to prove women are superior to men, but I digress), something impossible for a man to even comprehend. So how can we simply ignore that men and women are in fact not equal? This is not to say one is better or more capable than the other. As the Egyptian religious leader and activist Moez Masoud put it: Men and women are not equal, they are mutually superior.

Arab men are such strange creatures to me. They are one big walking contradiction. They are the physical embodiment of the phrase ‘do as I say, not as I do’. The Arab ego I found is unique in comparison to the average male ego; they believe with every fibre of their being that they really and truly are ‘the shit’. Needless to say our culture is one which lends itself to male dominance; more is expected of the Arab man in any case. The entire household falls on his shoulders. He is expected to be driven, focused, stern, and in control. Society expects him to treat all women with respect as if we are all his sisters (a bit idealistic, I know, but you’ll be surprised how deeply instilled that notion is, so much so that sometimes they don’t even know they have it in them). I strongly believe that if chivalry is dead elsewhere, it probably came to the Middle East to die. Chivalry still exists here, I wouldn’t say it was alive and well but I see it from time to time. A lot is expected of the Arab man, and he knows it. There are those who crack under this pressure and take their failure to fully meet this expectation out on everyone around them. There are those who partially meet that expectation within reason by allowing themselves to let go a little. And then there are those who don’t meet this expectation by miles and, frankly, don’t give a damn. Let me be clear and say that the expectation to become the quintessential Arab man is impossible to reach; it was possible once upon a time but that breed is extinct, but only because times have changed and such roles have been re-defined.

Likewise, a lot is expected of the Arab woman. The difference being men seem to be sticking to the traditional role set out for them whereas a lot of women nowadays are doing all they can to break free of that pre-historic, pre-defined role. And that just leaves men massively confused. Men have been wired to take charge, but the modern woman will take orders from no one. However, some women of today seem to be taking it a step too far, giving birth to a special kind of insolence. Can you blame them, though? Middle Eastern women till today struggle to assert their position in the world, and they strive to do so. Fed up with being in the background, the modern Arab woman stops at nothing to prove to the world she is here and she means business, and she doesn’t take lightly to anyone or anything that stands in her way. I have never met women as driven as Arab women, and I wish the Arab world would acknowledge and even exploit that more. They come in extremes though; either extremely driven or extremely....not.

Just when the man reaches the point in his life where he wants to slow down, the woman jets off! To her, life begins now. Having to hold off on a lot for the sake of appearances (as to not jeopardize her chances of marriage), once married she feels she has done what she had to do and now has to answer to no one! 

Oh contraire, don’t forget the poor schmuck otherwise known as your husband!

This is where I find a split in Arab men. Some take it lying down and just don’t stand in her way – whether he actually supports her or just to shut her up – and accept the fact that they got screwed in this deal. Others won’t have it, they turn into this controlling monster they never knew existed and make Miss Independent (now Mrs.) regret ever using marriage as an ‘escape’ for the sake of freedom and independence. How could you possibly expect independence from a marriage when you are entering it with another person? This isn’t a marriage anymore, it’s a power play where nobody wins.

In the Middle East, to some life is what happens while you’re waiting to be married, but you’re too busy waiting to do any living. To others, life is what happens before you get married, after that you’re on death row! I can’t help but feel that societal expectations and/or restraints on both genders just aren’t doing anyone any favors. All it does is further complicate an already complicated situation. 


  1. The Arabs that have it the best though (from what Ive seen) are the ones that treat marriage like a relationship (like its supposed to be treated) and not a template where there are things that they ''have'' to do. That way they dont have to wait to start living or stop living. The modern Arab woman who knows balance and recognizes responsibility and the modern Arab man who knows love and respect.
    Please write more!! I realllyyyy enjoyed it!!
    Much <3 from a Syrian in Dubai! :))

    1. With encouragement like that how can I not write more!

      Your words are only too true, every last one! Wish everyone saw it the way you did :)