From the Diary of a Sinister Egyptian Spinster

Date posted: May 29, 2008


Back in March 2008, Eman Hashim wrote a post [Ar] questioning why do Muslim Egyptian women need a "wakeel" – a man who has to sign her off to her husband. Let me give you a bit more insight here: unlike western cultures where the father gives away the bride as a jest of his approval and blessing, in Islam the marriage is "flawed" if the father, or the uncle if the father is deceased, has to speak on the bride's behalf through out all the paperwork and marriage procedures. Many sheikhs frown upon the thought of a girl – especially one who has never been married before and who is supposedly a virgin – marrying herself away. In her not-so-conventional post, Eman wonders:

"Why does a woman in Egypt need to assign a man to give her away? Why do women have to go from one man's to another man's custody? I want to face my future husband as we exchange vows … I need to look into his eyes and listen to him … I want him to listen to me promise to care for him like a good Muslim wife … why do I need anyone on my behalf?

In May 2008, another daring post hit another deeply rooted tradition:

"I want to – God willing – move out … yes I want to leave my parents and live on my own … alone."

Eman lists the contradictory – mainly opposing and discouraging responses – from people saying:

"What do you mean? Why leave your mom? How could a girl live alone? How could a girl live without a man? One day you will regret leaving your family; you would want to turn back time to spend just one day with them. Yeah .. this is what we learnt from the West! Why don't you become independent in your room? What about suitors and potential husbands?"

Of course, most people failed to understand Eman's logic about maturity, independence, and leaving the nest. On May 24, 2008 Eman wrote about a bundle of female ailments in Egypt:

"Do you remember the issues of assigning a man to marry you away? Do you remember the living independently issue? Ok .. have you heard of a woman's right to have the power of divorcing herself? Her right to end her marriage in court by giving her husband back anything he gave her and waiving her right for alimony? Does anyone know that there is a law that allows the woman to get a divorce and retain all her financial rights in case her husband gets a second wife? There is also another law that allows the wife to travel without getting the consent of he husband. Do you recall women demanding for their right to key and effective positions as ministers, judges, and other key positions in the state?"

Eman wished to live to see the day when women understood those rights, used them, and made the rest of their rights a reality.

"Of course such demands and the likes infuriate many men and women; those who see them against the nature of women or the nature of the relationship between men and women. Others denied them on the account of religion and healthy family ties. They all say that those are not the real issues of women in Egypt but when you ask them to phrase "the real issues", they tell you that a woman's challenging role lies in raising a generation of good Muslim boys and girls – as though it does not need a free mature mind and spirit to fulfill that role."

Eman calls their bluff :

"They object only because of the strength and determination behind my words. The thought of a woman who has a choice and who knows it drives them crazy …. what really matters to me as a person and what I will defend ferociously is "my belief in the right to choose" and the ability to "examine your choices". I do not care whether you give yourself away, move out, divorce a miserable man, stay in a miserable marriage, travel against your husband's will, stay at home, or get a life … as long as you thought about your options and made your choice … I besiege you … think and choose what you truly want … you do not owe anyone anything."

Eman then quoted some of proverbs and legacy of quotes and sayings to support how unfair our mothers and our society has been to us:

"Do not open the girls' eyes" – This is a saying the denotes preserving a girl's innocence as if knowledge and experience will corrupt her! "Men and women were made for one another … you are a sinister spinster" – Meaning get married to any man as long as he could provide for you or else you will bear the stigma of being a spinster. "All men are kids" – This particular line is the ideal hanger for any mistake or offense. "You will not change them" – Referring to men as though your only option is accepting your fate as an Egyptian girl in a backward society. "Divorce is not an option" – Says who? "Court divorce is for those women … you know who!" – Bad girls! "Better a man's shadow than that of a wall." – Just grab any man! "Those are just a few examples of how girls are mentally oppressed and denied their basic right to choose," concluded Eman.

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