The Tale of the “Arab Feminist Hypocrisy”

One of the main criticisms of feminism across time is that it is not inclusive. In fact, it has been criticized of representing middle-classed white women and neglecting women of other races and classes. Similarly, Arab feminists have been criticized for placing the emphasis of the feminist movement in the Arab world on Arab women. The last few decades have seen a huge rise in the feminist consciousness of women in the Arab world. The Arab feminist movement managed to represent the women that are Arab by ethnicity, but failed to encompass those living in Arab societies.

British- Palestinian journalist Diana Al Ghoul recently published an article on Middle East Monitor in which she highlighted the hypocrisy presented by some Arab feminists. She argued that while feminism should be inclusive, it seems that feminism in the Arab world displaces non-Arab women, therefore helping in their exploitation and hindering the Arab women’s liberation project. The aforementioned exploited non-Arab women are usually those with the least power such as foreign domestic workers.

A large number of women and girls around the world leave their households and migrate to countries they have never been to, or sometimes, never heard of, in order to make a living. Forced by economic circumstances, they leave their lives behind to integrate in new cultures and life settings in search for a better life. Those women and girls usually perform tasks such as cooking, cleaning, and caring for children and the elderly among other daily tasks. In essence, they are hired to help with daily household chores. This group of people is categorized as foreign domestic workers, or the most common term used in the Gulf, maids.

Taking the Gulf as a primary example, maids live with their employers. As such, there seems to be a lack of understanding when it comes to their working hours. Maids work for long periods of time reaching 100 hours per week, and are rarely given a day off. That alone is considered as exploitation of helpless women as they are overworked. Being away from their homeland and surrounding, maids subordinate to such cruel working conditions, as they do not have the resources or power to protest.

Neglecting the rights of maids became normalized to the extent where that they are treated as objects. An example of that is the way modern day social media users are presenting their maids. Some women are actually posted pictures of maids online asking followers to pick one for them. Another case is where friends are boosting online on how they got maids as gifts for one another. On the other hand, some manpower agencies are conducting competitions in which the winner gets a free maid delivered to one’s household! Unfortunately, the ill treatment does not stop there where an element of colorism come into play as the darker the skin of the maid is, the cheaper her price gets. Interestingly, those cases presented above almost always don’t believe that they did anything wrong. They get shocked by backlash received from the public and accuse them of exaggerating. This showcases that classism and racism became internalized where actual human beings are stripped from their humanity and are viewed as commodity.

Regardless of the context, when women ask for equal rights, they should be inclusive. Renowned social activist Bell Hooks stated that, women can only band together in the fight against sexism and create a sense of powerful global sisterhood by confronting the ways women through class and race exploit other women. While the efforts of Arab feminist movement should be celebrated, one cannot claim that it is perfect. Foreign women in Arab societies should not be viewed as the other, but as women who also need to have their rights acknowledged. Thus, when Arab women are fighting for liberation from oppression, they should liberate their maids from the oppression Arab women enforce.

Advertisements

Living with Mental Disorders

Often times, when someone is exceptionally upset, they would refer to their emotion as “depressed”. Similarly, when someone is very skinny or moody, they would sometimes get labeled as “anorexic” or “bipolar”. But what people don’t realize is how harmful those labels are, especially when you use them around or about someone who suffers from those mental disorders. One may argue that such words aren’t used to harm anyone, as they are simply adjectives that describe a current situation. However, those words are far more than that.

The issue with people who have never experienced mental disorders is that they take matters lightly. They simply do not understand the pain, struggle, and conflict that arise from such issues. I happen to be very vocal about mental disorders because they impact my life gravely.

From the minute I wake up, to the minute I sleep, they are all that occupy my mind. I spend my time wondering if anyone around me noticed anything, and whether or not I was able to hide it well. I have days where it is too hard to go to sleep, and others where it is too hard to get out of bed. For me, it is an everyday struggle, and seeing it ridiculed in such a manner is heartbreaking.

I began writing this piece as a reflection of how 2016 went for me, and I noticed that the theme of mental disorders was dominant. I had a very rough year painted with doubts, anger, and endless questions. I did not know how to go about living life as a “normal person” and that soon began to cause my demise.

I was going through several issues. I was diagnosed with things I don’t feel comfortable talking about yet. All I can say is that they are eating problems that soon caused mental problems, and eventually began to affect my body.

Before my diagnosis, I began acting like a person who simply was not me. I have had issues for a while, but never did they impact me to this level. I was in so much physical and mental pain that I did not know how to react. I became an angry person who only fought others and victimized herself. In my mind, the world was conspiring against me and I was going to suffer until life ends. I was constantly exhausted and dizzy. I would physically be in class, but mentally, I was not there. I was always drifting off to the unknown, sometimes crying in my desk but soon wiping it off before anyone noticed anything. I was confused. I did not understand what was happening to me.

I was tired of being called dramatic and having people question my behavior. It exhausted me how no one bothered to be kind. When someone is not being society’s version of normal, they should be shunned. People just don’t bother to dig beneath the surface to see if someone needed help. You have to conform or else you are considered a drama queen who is too much to handle. Therefore, you can’t help but act accordingly.

After getting diagnosed, life became too much for me. I started distancing myself and lashing out on people who came near me. I wanted to be alone. I was not able to study, attend class, read or write. I was deprived from the things I loved the most. I began losing focus and what made me myself.

I had to make so many sacrifices because I needed to focus on my own wellbeing. I was forced to drop my second major because I was overwhelming myself. I was asked to drop the semester but I didn’t, something I regret every single day. I was making everyone around me uncomfortable. I decided to push everyone away because I did not want to be selfish. Just because happiness and peace of mind were farfetched to me, that did not mean that others around me should not get it. I wanted to stop hurting and upsetting the ones I cared for which is why I turned against them all. I wanted to give them a reason to hate me so that they let go of me and become happy.

I took so many stupid mechanisms to cope. But now, I am ready to move on. I grew so much in the span of a year and that growth should be exuded in something positive. Mental disorders are silent killers that happen to be the loudest beings in your head. You try to bury them, but they always manage to resurface if neglected.

I am a work in progress, and I do hope that I can go back to the person I was. Living with a mental disorder is hard. Living with a mental disorder in the Arab region is even harder. You are never taken seriously and always get accused for being dramatic. Labels hurt, especially when you’re trying so hard to escape them.

I urge you to think twice before using labels or ridiculing anyone’s pain. No one should undergo humiliation, and no one should go through this alone. If you happen to struggle with similar issues, do not hesitate to contact me. You are a strong valuable human being and you deserve to be happy. Trust me, despite the relapses and bad days, you can still live with mental disorders happily.

Evolution – or Downfall – of Emirati Drama

Every Ramadan, our TV sets get flooded with new TV shows. I usually disregard all attempts to advertise for shows because I genuinely feel like Khaleeji television series are all one and the same. They all share similar plots of betrayal, marriage, divorce, secret relationships, and most importantly, owning companies and fighting over the money left over by a dead father.

 

This year however, I decided to give the shows a try hoping that in 2016, Khaleeji shows have stepped their game up. Sadly, after watching some shows for nearly a month, I have come to the conclusion that there is barely any improvement.

 

I am definitely not trying to shoot down the television productions in our region. However, it is upsetting to have to sit back and watch the world evolve in production while we remain at the same level. Even though a lot of shows share the same issues I am going to discuss below, I chose to tackle one specific show. The reason behind that is because everyone had very high expectations for the show, but it mostly disappointed in areas other than the plot.

 

The Emirati show “Treason” based on the novel “Ritaj” by Dr. Hamad Al Hammadi has been the talk of the month. It carries the beautiful message of being loyal to one’s country and how treason is the most despicable thing a human could do. It explains the whole process of how the Muslim Brotherhood tried to shake up national security and create a wrongful revolution. It highlights the stories of individuals who absorbed all the opportunities, services, and rights the UAE has to offer, only to state that they are denied their rights, when they clearly aren’t.

 

The plot is very controversial and enlightening, something Khaleeji drama needed after all the senseless tragic love stories we had to endure year after year. The plot is one of the most important elements of any show, and in that, the writer of the book and show did an excellent job.

 

However, in regards to the actual dialogue and acting, it felt like the show was ridiculing the minds of the viewers. For starters, shows are supposed to portray real lives, especially those that are based on true stories. The dialogue in its entirety was extremely unbelievable. People just do not talk like that. Most of the conversations are full of metaphors and phrases people would never use to interact with one another. The intense drama between characters in their dialogue was getting uncomfortable to watch, as there was nothing natural in them.

 

Secondly, the casting was absolutely horrible. I do not deny that the show had many amazing actors, but it was lacking in a sense that many of the actors were over expressive. The excessive hand and eyebrow movement were painful to watch. Several actors simply failed in conveying a proper performance, making it seem as if an extra was hired to play an important character.

 

Thirdly, the production didn’t live up to expectations. This show was labeled as the “evolution of Emirati drama”, but sadly, the production was its downfall. There were several inconsistences throughout the show, especially with the accents of the actors.

 

The actors were playing Emirati characters, but unfortunately, there were more non-Emirati actors than there were Emiratis. I am not saying that non-Emirati actors shouldn’t be cast; all I am saying is that we should support national talents. The show missed out on many great Emirati actors, especially the likes of Marwan Abdullah Saleh.

 

Nonetheless, the actors were not Emiratis; therefore, they had to make viewers believe that they were. Unfortunately, the majority of the actors failed at that. Their accents did not resemble the Emirati one at all. The fact that they come from different nationalities is not an excuse. Good actors manage to play something that they are not, something that many actors of this show did not do.

 

Lastly, the filmography was very unprofessional. It is very understandable that the Emirati drama is still climbing up the ladder of professional production, so I am not going to compare this piece of work to Hollywood, but to some place closer. Even though many Kuwaiti shows are lacking in refreshing plots, their filmography is very beautiful. A stable camera, beautiful visuals and most importantly, proper sound.

 

The show definitely wasted a lot of its potential as it could have been better that it was. I have the utmost respect for all the efforts to improve the Emirati drama, but I believe it is time to take bigger steps in order to catch up with those around us. I cannot speak for the older generation, but I know that our youth has amazing actors and directors. It is time to start making use of them instead of making the same production errors year after year.

 

As His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid said, “We are a nation that does not accept anything that is not number one”, therefore, it is time to live up to his words. We have achieved greatness outside the realm of the entertainment industry. As such, I believe it’s time to step our game up, for in no time, we could be competing against Hollywood.

Harper Lee; My Hero

Due to my choice of career, people have always assumed that I started reading at a young age. Sadly, that is far from true. I have always been ashamed to admit this, but I only started reading when I was twelve years old.

At that point in my life, I made it my goal to explore different genres to find a favorite book. I grabbed a bunch of books from the bookstore and started reading all the books I purchased.

I read two books, and though they were pretty decent, not one of them captivated me. The third book I grabbed however, soon became the best book I have ever read in my entire life.

That book was called To Kill A Mockingbird by American author Harper Lee (1960). It mainly revolves around how harshly Atticus, a widowed father, was treated after he defended an African American man in court, who was falsely accused of rape. The book represented the causes and effects of racism while discussing courage and tolerance. This novel created a strong impact on me as it has helped me grasp the injustice African Americans had to undergo.

What struck me about the book is the way African Americans were treated at that given time due to something as silly as their skin tone. Being a twelve year old in a family that knows no prejudice, I was completely shocked. People of all races were equal to me, and it was appalling to realize that not everybody had that understanding.

Though I never experienced or witnessed any prejudgments and prejudice, this book taught me how to avoid them. The text made it clear that not only does prejudice cloud judgments, but it also makes people mistreat others due to superficial matters such as skin color. It was prevalent throughout the book that white superiority dominated interracial interactions.

After reading that book, I comprehended the concept of injustice. Harper Lee made me an aware individual. She helped me realize the imperfections of this world. If it weren’t for that book, I wouldn’t be the woman I am today. I don’t think I would be this passionate about making the world a better place, if it wasn’t for her.

As I grew up, I based my life on the actions of Atticus. I made sure to do what is morally right, even if the general public didn’t accept it. I thought I learned all I can from this marvelous person, until 2015 came along.

In that year, Harper Lee published another novel called Go Set A Watchman. Even though it serves as a continuation to To Kill A Mockingbird, it was actually written in 1950, a long time before the manuscript of To Kill A Mockingbird was developed.

This book soon became a valuable addition to my life, as it showed an interesting contrast in the morals of Atticus. The novel followed the widowed father’s daughter as a grown up. It discussed her visit to him, and the incidents she faced in that visit. What spoke to me the most was the fact that Atticus, a once ethical man who did not judge people based on their skin, is shown in a different light.

In To Kill A Mockingbird, Atticus represented an African American man in a legal case in an era of discrimination despite the backlash he faced. However, in Go Set A Watchman, he attended a Ku Klux Klan meeting that supported segregation, and developed a hatred for African Americans.

Despite the fact that he was an advocate for social justice in his youth, Atticus has gone downhill as an older man. He exclaimed to his daughter, “Do you want N*****s by the carload in our schools and churches and theatres? Do you want them in our world?”. Atticus clearly underwent an extreme change in character. Through this book, I realized that even though people may be social justice warriors, they could develop hatred towards the people they once fought so vigorously for.

Harper managed to teach me timeless lessons I would have never learned in school. She shaped up my life and taught me how to be selfless. Deep down, I know that whatever impact I leave on this planet will be because of her. And for that, I will owe her indefinitely. I am heartbroken that I will never get to meet her, but I am thankful that she left such a huge mark on someone she never knew existed.

Advice/Have You?

In literature class, we were asked to write our own version of Girl by Jamaica Kincad (http://cristianaziraldo.altervista.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Girl-Jamaica-Kincaid.pdf) following the same structure of the literary piece. I chose to write my contribution from my dad’s perspective. I decided to post it as a tribute to the greatest man I’ve ever known. So daddy, this one is for you:

Wake up for school on Sunday and attend till Thursday, don’t skip classes, don’t slack off, prioritize your education. Set goals and ambitions for yourself, and strive to achieve them. Make sure you work hard enough to build your own name and acquire your own income. Don’t turn into that dependent woman I know you won’t turn into. Don’t let anyone tell you your gender is a barrier, you are capable. Stay calm, don’t allow anyone who demeans your dreams based on your gender get the best of you, rise above them. Be respectful of others, especially those whose disrespect you. Be kind to others, but not to the extent of weakness. Don’t turn into that vulnerable woman I know you won’t turn into. Get your academic and career work done as soon as you can. Always be on time, and have a sense of time management. Never give people the opportunity of getting a bad impression of you. Don’t turn into that careless woman I know you won’t turn into. For I will not be a man unless I have raised a strong woman. Did you take notes in class? Did you take one step closer to achieving your dreams? Did you show respect to others, even to those who don’t deserve it? I see you nodding, so you mean to say that I have raised an empowered woman?

5 More Years

This summer, I accidentally got tickets to climb the Eiffel Tower instead of going up using the elevator. As the queue was too long, I decided not to get new tickets and attempt to climb my way to the top.

My trip was extremely exhausting. I never thought I was going to make it, but the little voice in head pleaded, asking me to push through. I obeyed, and had to make a lot of stops to catch my breath and have a sip of water. It took a little bit above an hour to get to the top. There, I looked at Paris and huffed, “This is it?”

I sighed and thought this was a waste of energy and time, but something within me looked at the view once more and proudly said, “This is it.”

**

I have always had body image issues. For as long as I remember, I have felt uncomfortable in my own skin. My issues had created much anger, frustration, and hurt, and as such, I tried to reach out for a helping hand.

Sadly, that didn’t do me any good, as people just didn’t get it and thought I was being a dramatic teenager seeking attention. Thus, I desperately tried to find someone who related to my worries and didn’t think I was overreacting.

I had to widen the region I was searching in. Therefore, I resorted to figures from Hollywood because people from my own town wouldn’t open up about such topics (at least not anyone I’m aware of).

Still, I couldn’t feel better about myself because Hollywood and Sharjah don’t really have many similarities. And let’s be realistic, the behavioural differences between Hollywood stars and me are extreme. I am not going to be able to resort to commonly used regimes in their region to numb my pain.

So, I spent years on end trying to change how I looked. I felt like I was complaining while sitting on a throne of laziness. Consequently, I tried starving myself and exercising till I no longer felt my arms or legs. I thought that doing so would help me love myself, but it wasn’t that easy.

I soon came to the conclusion that my insecurities perpetuated externality. There were several internal conflicts I had to break through first. However, I was a mere child who was afraid to confront my inner demons, so I found different ways to distract myself.

I got so absorbed in studying, reading, writing, and participating in extra curricular activities to feel better about my existence in the pool of people I saw everyday. I pretended that I was fine with being surrounded by people who didn’t share my interests, and looked nothing like me. Yes, diversity helps one grow, but it broke my heart that I couldn’t even fit in with my own best friends.

I did not know why no one understood my struggle. Heck, I didn’t get why I was the only one experiencing such a traumatic experience. I hated every inch of my body, and felt like that wasn’t normal. It soon started to affect my health and the way I was thinking.

My judgment was clouded by my confusion to the extent where I pushed away everyone I knew. I wanted to be alone to understand myself, and that didn’t even work. But then it hit me, it’s all mental. I wanted to look good inside out, and wanted to be happy. The only way I could achieve that is by confronting my inner demons.

It’s very scary to tackle the dark side of you, but doing just that is enough to create a brand new you. Everyone is going through some sort of trauma, but people refuse to identify it to the public.

What frustrated me the most in this ordeal was that people never spoke or comforted. They either accused you of being dramatic, or hurt you by other means. They never told me it was going to be okay, when that was the only thing I wanted to hear.

As a writer, I appreciate the value of words. I comprehend the comfort a few words stitched together could bring. But perhaps the people I tried to open up to wanted to conceal their own inner demons, so I won’t hold anything negative towards them in my heart.

At this point in my life, I know that everyone has an internal struggle with their identity and looks; they just know how to hide it well. I mean, I sure tried doing that myself.

I have had a tough journey trying to love myself and to be completely frank; it’s an everyday process. I wouldn’t have snapped out of it if I didn’t take measures in my own hand and straightened up those inferior demons.

I am still trying to fall in love with myself, but I know that I love myself today more than I used to two years ago. As such, I decided to open up about a topic that is usually swept under the rug in our region. It is normal to hate yourself, but know that it more than possible to convert that hatred into love.

My main motivation behind this post is letting girls and boys know that it does get better. You will eventually learn to love yourself when you convince yourself that you are worthy, and trust me, you are.

Going back to my Paris anecdote, climbing the Eiffel Tower symbolizes my experience in my body and mind. I have gone up and down, running out of breath in the process, just to reach the epitome of self-satisfaction.

And as I stand on the top, with nothing but self-love, I can happily say that I have won the challenge and reached a point I never thought I could make.

I am not going to sugarcoat it, the process is never going to end and it is going to be the most difficult thing you will ever have to do in your life. But, rest assured, you have my word, you will get by the same way I did**

**Dear readers, if any of you feels this way, just know you’re worth it and you deserve every bit of happiness this world could offer. Know that you are not alone, and have someone to talk to whenever you feel the urge to. Email or tweet me (personally or anonymously) anytime you wish, and it will definitely be our little secret.

Number

I am more than a number,

My self-love is not measured in kilograms

I am more than a number,

My maturity is not determined by my age

I am more than a number,

My grades do not decide my intelligence

I am more than a number,

My beauty shall not be rated

I am a living-breathing organism,

Prone to change

I am a human being,

Exposed to mental and physical growth

I refuse to live in limitation,

Fearing being labeled by yet another digit

So from zero to infinity,

Your numbering rights are revoked

10

9

8

7

6

5

4

3

2

1

0

Stop!

I am not a number.