August 29, 2014
On the surface, it appears as though females living in the UAE, more specifically, females living in Al Ruwais, Abu Dhabi, UAE are revered by society at large. However, one only has to run afoul of any number of seemingly innocuous people in society and a female can quickly go from revered to despised and sometimes, worse.
Having only lived in certain areas of the Middle East, I can only give you, dear Readers, a very narrow perspective. Additionally, it is my perspective, no one else.
First, more than one local explained to me why females cover themselves, almost completely, when in public and sometimes even in the privacy of their own home. And yes, it has its’ roots in modesty. Although I think it putrid to ask a female to cover up so that the males in society won’t be tempted sexually, that is not for me to say. Most little girls I came across, ages 5 to about 11, couldn’t wait to grow up and wear the abaya and the shayla. These were symbols of becoming a woman. They want to emulate their mothers, just as most little girls around the world want to.
Here was the falsehood I continued to run into: even covered from head to toe, modesty was seldom present. While it is true that wearing non-revealing clothing thwarts some unwanted glances, designer shoes, brightly colored nails, both fingers and toes, and make-up that includes professionally done eyeliner does not. In fact, it was the accessories that always attracted my attention. My conclusion: females will attract males; males will be attracted to females regardless of the laws.
Next, having sons as young as 8, 9, and 10 having more freedom than their mothers must be a bitter pill to swallow. Enough said on that subject.
Another observation was that females were rarely ever free to be themselves, even in their own homes. Homes where I lived were constructed with doors ready to cut off access to any and all rooms of the house. For example, a kitchen would have a door that could be shut so that no one could peer in. I used to think that females were able to shed their abayas and shaylas once they were in the privacy of their own homes. However, I was wrong. If a man, other than the husband, son or close relative was inside the home, females still had to keep covered and keep all access doors closed. To me, this seems the antithesis of respect.
Finally, to a say that this culture is patrimonial is to discredit the puppet masters – the mothers. Mothers arrange and re-arrange and pull the strings of their offspring’s’ future like so much child’s play that it breaks my heart. It is my belief that mothers play such an integral part in their children’s future because sadly, they had very little say in their own. Their own mothers had power over every aspect of their lives so now it seems, as though they seek to even the score, so to speak. Daughters have little recourse save begging and/or disobeying and dishonor, either of which is a travesty. And sons have even less options. It is the Oedipal Complex to the 10th power. The only feminine wiles at work are from mother to son. Women have no control over their husbands, so their power rests in the control of their sons. And whoa to the son who dares to contradict his mother, for he is surely going to hell.
I write merely my observations, dear Readers, and if that loses me the respect and/or friendship of those I still seek to communicate with, well, so be it. I fell in love with the people, the place, the culture, and the customs. That will not change. I only wish they had fallen in love with me. Peace, ~v.