I’m back! I found an article a few days ago that I felt compelled to write about. Warning: I’m writing this in a state of frenzy as I’ve got about a million disconnected (and connected) thoughts going through my head. So, if I digress…forgive and forget. K? Cool.
So, the LA Times has an article out on the single (and happy!) woman in Egypt. How appropriate. The article is essentially about the burgeoning population of single, career women in Cairo, and their waning desires to get married all young and stuff and start having babies (not that there is anything wrong with that). The article addresses the social pressures (which are present in the States as well, but I think, not as prevalent) of getting married at a young age and foregoing a career in exchange for a stable, dependent husband. As if the two are mutually exclusive.
The whole idea of beauty and intelligence being two mutually exclusive attributes really bothers me. It actually really annoys the hell out of me. I had the unfortunate experience of dating a huge misogynist not too long ago, and he pretty much fit right into Parker’s quote. The reasons he broke up with me? There were a few…let me break them down…(yes, they are that good):
1) I never cooked him dinner. Ever. Whoops. Homeboy wanted me to make him sandwiches and bring them to class for him as well. I’m a bad girlfriend.
2) I “studied more than he did, worked out more than he did, went out more than he did, drank more than he did.” Dating a frat boy probably wasn’t the best idea on my part.
3) when we walked down the street, and I was talking politics or feminism or…anything serious, even for a second…it made him “feel like he was walking down the street with a 45 year old woman” (what?!?)
4) he was afraid “I would correct him in front of his friends at the weekly kegger or frat party”
Right. Right. So…homeboy kept on asserting, the entire length of our relationship, that he loved the fact that I was smart and funny and also…”a hottie to boot!” (wow, what a compliment) but that…in social situations, I was never to “one up” him. On anything. Ever. Even if he accidentally mis-used a word. Or made a total ass out of himself. Which he did. Often. Without trying to figure out my deranged mental state while dating this character…the point is…that I always felt like I had to hide my motivation, my intelligence. I had to hide the fact that I was opinionated and…that I was *gasp* a feminist! No! If he only knew I was guest-blogging for a feminist blog RIGHT NOW…I think he might pop a blood vessel.
I’m in no hurry to get married, and while I’m definitely open to the idea of marriage, I don’t feel as inclined towards meeting the man of my dreams and popping out lots of babies. My older sister, on the other hand, is the complete opposite. She’s a 27 year old, Harvard and Johns Hopkins educated pediatrician, and has definitely cried to me on the phone about her plight as the “old maid” who just wants her boyfriend to propose. She’s 27. We’re different, if you couldn’t tell. My parents have pretty much caught on (they are smart!!) that I’m not necessarily jumping up and down about the thought of getting married and I am constantly sending hints to my mother (via emails) trying to telling her that feminism, human rights, women’s rights, all of it…well, it’s not just a hobby.
I’m not always a huge fan of Maureen Dowd, but her article (complimenting her book Are Men Necessary) really hit home for me.
At a party for the Broadway opening of “Sweet Smell of Success,” a top New York producer gave me a lecture on the price of female success that was anything but sweet. He confessed that he had wanted to ask me out on a date when he was between marriages but nixed the idea because my job as a Times columnist made me too intimidating. Men, he explained, prefer women who seem malleable and awed. He predicted that I would never find a mate because if there’s one thing men fear, it’s a woman who uses her critical faculties. Will she be critical of absolutely everything, even his manhood?
He had hit on a primal fear of single successful women: that the aroma of male power is an aphrodisiac for women, but the perfume of female power is a turnoff for men. It took women a few decades to realize that everything they were doing to advance themselves in the boardroom could be sabotaging their chances in the bedroom, that evolution was lagging behind equality.
I discussed the article with my mother, who is a successful career woman herself, and her response was…are you ready for this…”act dumb, but be smart.” Really? Really!?!?
My parents have also taken a special interest in my relationship status of late. I’m 21, and as soon as I turned 20 (…yikes, I’m also an old spinster!), my dear old dad decided it was a good time to start mentioning marriage in literally every conversation I had with him. “Fauzia, you have to get married. I don’t want to hear this talk of ‘I’ll never get married.’ You need to start thinking about it now. And you can’t just marry anyone. The man has to be well-educated, from a good family, preferably raised in ‘the West’ or at least educated here. See, Fauzia, finding a husband is like buying a house. You can’t just buy the first nice one you see. You have to shop around a bit. And you can’t just judge someone on appearance. They have to be able to support you as well.”
Um. Ok, Dad. Finding a husband is like buying a house. Right. Well, shit, at least it’s not like picking out fruit at the grocery store. A house is a much bigger investment, I’m glad we managed to make the right comparison.
I digress. A lot. I swear my stupid little personal anecdotes are actually connected to this article
The LATimes quotes several different “career” women. Some of whom I find rather condescending, some who I agree with.
“The men I meet are educated, yes that’s true, but some Egyptian men don’t like ‘girls’ to talk about politics and culture, or to argue with them about ideas. But I have my own personality. I don’t need someone else forming my mind.”
Hmmm. That sounds familiar.
And the condescending quote of the day:
Cairo has become so open. We’re more exposed to the West and the influence of satellite TV. We are like the village girl who gets brought to the city, that’s what our country has become. But the men want the veiled girl. She makes him feel safe.
The village girl who gets brought to the city?…hmmm. I can pick out several really, really wrong things about that statement.
What I’m trying to connect between my annoying experiences and this article is that the “single and not so restless” woman in Cairo is becoming a common thing. Wow. A woman who is intelligent and motivated and beautiful actually making the decision to not get married, or just not right this second. Mind boggling. I understand that the point of the article was to expose a not-so-common-before trend that has become popular and almost, *almost* normalized in Egyptian culture. I just always find it rather annoying that the phenomenon…yes phenomenon…of the career-oriented woman, as opposed to the marriage-minded mother is so crazy. There are some of us who are looking forward to getting married and having beautiful children, and there are some of us who aren’t necessarily crying our eyes out because we’re 35 and unwed.
There are marital pressures from every culture (not just Middle Eastern or Muslim) on women. I have plenty of “American” (whatever that means) friends whose parents are constantly pestering them about marriage and boyfriends. So, I’m not trying to portray the pressures of marriage as solely an “Eastern” thing. It’s not. But the pressures of an arranged marriage or marriage in general seem to have progressed slower.
Marriage, to me, is about finding the right fit. That other half of my heart that knows me well and loves me, for all my flaws and my strengths.
Breakfasts at Sheikh’s house skip from talk of available men to cousins just married to dowries to hints that expectations could be lowered, perhaps even obliterated.
The worst part? My parents have essentially said the same thing to me. “No one is perfect, Fauzia, you can’t always have everything, looks, intelligence, money” (as if those are the three things, and the ONLY three things I’m looking for in man). No. I probably won’t end up with all the those little boxes checked off under “ideal qualities in my mate” but…I’m not going to lower my expectations because my family thinks I’m becoming a spinster jaded old hag. No. I won’t. And I’m glad that Cairene women aren’t either.
Read the article. It’s pretty decent, and an interesting concept.
…all in all…I’m frustrated with the whole idea of marriage as our society dictates it. Finding someone to spend the rest of your life with is hard enough, I don’t need my community making me feel like an outcast because I wasn’t the first one at the finish line. Thanks, though.
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