I’m guessing a lot of you out there were raised in a Muslim and/or Arab household like myself. Perhaps you were raised in a strict Catholic family. Or orthodox Jewish, maybe. Maybe a lot of you are ‘first generation,’ as well. In my house and community, there has always been such a huge emphasis put on marriage for young women — as if your life doesn’t start until you get married. As if you aren’t really a fully fledged adult until you have that ring on your finger. We all know the ideal ‘halal’ scenario for this – meet a nice young Muslim man or someone approaches your family in an indirect way, “I know someone who has a cousin who’s looking to get married.” Subsequently, they come meet your family; after their family comes to meet your family, you get engaged, you get married – pop out some little ones – and live happily ever after. I know that this issue isn’t specific to just Arab or Muslim women, but I have to confess, this is an issue that makes me hate my culture (or cultural-heritage), and this is one of my biggest bones to pick. I believe being raised like this has screwed me up a little, as it seems to make a lady feel like her self-worth is predominantly determined by whether or not she is married and can bear children — and that’s no way to be a strong, independent woman in today’s society.
So, we have a culture that puts a huge emphasis on getting married, but it doesn’t exactly enable you to gain the skills to choose someone who will be the right match for you because dating is stupidly, massively frowned upon. Essentially you are raised segregated from men, outside of maybe being allowed to have some platonic male friends in school. However, you were most likely not discussing the other sex, not really knowing how to deal with the opposite sex, nor being able to even date, therefore, leaving you clueless about what to look for in a partner when the time comes – other than your obvious “don’t go for an asshole.” I believe this is the reason that, within my social circle of family friends, I know a lot of girls who have married the first guy that came along and subsequently ended up divorced a year later. I don’t understand how we are supposed be able to pick a life partner and go into a healthy and sustaining relationship when we’re basically going in blind; we have absolutely zero experience on how to be in a relationship, and consequently, we don’t have anything to measure a prospective husband against. I don’t buy measuring whether or not a guy is a ‘good Muslim’ based on whether or not he prays 5 times a day. I refuse to believe a person’s faith [alone] necessarily ensures they are a decent person, let alone a decent partner.
Unfortunately, sex is a topic that is taboo and not discussed outside of, “don’t do it.” So, you go from a lifetime of being so petrified of sex or anything that could potentially lead to some kind of sexual intimacy to, “Hey, now you’re married and you can do it as much as you want.” It becomes your “duty as a wife” to have sex with this guy you don’t really know and because sex wasn’t ever discussed, you have no idea what to expect or what to actually do. Additionally, there’s a tad bit of pressure because this guy has been told “don’t do it” his whole life, and now you’re the one who he gets to release all of his pent up sexual tension on. That is, assuming that he waited until he got married to have sex, which he probably did not. Tell me that’s not setting girls up for some kind of emotional trauma, somehow?
Now, a Muslim woman has every right to get divorced, as they damn well should. It is her God-given right should she happen to marry someone unsuitable. Ideally, the couple gets divorced, go along their merry ways and get remarried with no issues. However, we know this is utter bullshit because there is such a stigma held against divorced women (not the men, they’re fine, they just go back to being a bachelor) in Arab communities. Because she is no longer a virgin, she is now impure; she’s damaged goods. Who wants to marry someone’s sloppy seconds? It’s a woman’s right to be able to divorce someone who say, ends up being an abusive douche or plain and simple – just doesn’t make her happy. Remember, she wasn’t allowed to date, so how was she supposed to be able to tell if the guy was the right match for her? Yet, this right is somehow held against her. Again, tell me how that’s not setting a lady up for some more emotional damage?
I truly do not see how this way of raising women is sustainable or realistic in today’s society. I understand that it may have worked for our mothers and grandmothers, but they are of a different generation, and they most likely grew up in a different, maybe Middle Eastern, country. But I didn’t. I was born and raised in the U.K., and things are different here. We should have been told that you don’t need a husband to be ‘complete,’ we should have been taught,to be self-sustaining and independent rather than essentially swapping our fathers for our husbands as our providers and carers. We can take care of ourselves! I’m not by any means anti-marriage, but I do think that young women need to be prepared for whatever comes their way, and being raised to be dependent on a man (or anyone) to define you or ‘complete’ you is not healthy.
I’m sick of young women being put through all of this crap to keep up appearances within our communities. I’m sick of young women being put through all of this bullshit because of some old school way of thinking, because let’s face it, it’s the women getting screwed over when things go south in a marriage. Arab Muslim men can date, no one bats an eye. Arab Muslim men can get divorced, no one gives a flying monkey. All the ‘equality of the sexes’ that we preach about, which is the very foundation in our religion, well – it’s about damn time it was practiced, too.