Sunday, August 9, 2009

Heeding Gender Roles in the East and West

Posted By on Sun, Aug 9, 2009 at 11:33 AM

Can You Heed? , by Luma Jasim


One of the worst feelings in life is that feeling when no one can hear or consider your existence or your voice and perspective.

This is one of the main problems for most of women in the Middle East including in my country, Iraq.

Many women appear to look for a similar style of living. Most women seem to obey this system and go through life without even questioning why it should be this way? Then, if there is any woman who has the chance to ask herself this question or to quiz others on their life choices, that will put a big question mark over her from society, as if there’s something wrong with her! However she may be the only one who is thinking in the right way or trying to take the first step to freedom by asking questions and having objections about things. She owns the desire to create her own way in this life.

Then we can see the woman studying, but still doing home stuff like cooking and cleaning, which are her main responsibilities in society’s view. It cannot be a man’s job because that will bring shame to him in this society!

After school there might be college. Sometimes education will stop there, because with or without schooling, she will have only one target, which is marriage. Actually, this is the exact time when she will start to lose more of her freedom, yet she is still hoping to have it because that’s how it should be always … She will start a new period of loosing the right of decide her own way in life, because she’s married now and she has to follow her husband’s conditions for the way that they will live—that is, how he want to live.

So she quits her job and forgets about her degree or she sometimes she will take care of his parents’ needs or even his siblings!

I have talked with some of these women and asked them about how they feel about the fact that they have to leave all that they built for years and follow society’s or men’s desires.

I found three answers to my question:

The first answer is that they feel so badly about this because it is not what they were looking to be, but they do not have the power or the courage to express their desires by saying what they believe in and what they really want.

The second answer coming from these women is trying to find an excuse for why they have to be like this, to make their status more reasonable in their own minds. They don’t want to admit the truth because it’s the only way to make it easier for them to get by.

The third answer is that this is the only normal way to live as women. She doesn’t have any objection and she does not even see there’s a problem. Because she believes that this is her nature: to be the creature who will take care of the family and the man.

This kind of woman will forget about her existence and become a machine who is used to taking the same orders again and again. And this group of women can be one of the biggest problems in any society because they live without any ambition or individual desires.

In this type of society women have to be behind the men always. I saw a lot of women who erased their existence, forgot about their hopes and desires and sacrificed all their rights to their husband or family. The man is the king, the leader, and the one who garners support from the society.

So I cannot say these women are free in any way.

Now I am looking and observing gender roles here in the West and it is so interesting for me. I can see that with all this freedom and with all the chances for freedom that women have here, they still are not free!

Because she can say what she thinks, a woman can choose how to live, and with whom she lives, she can work any job. Yet she still looks for the man and still waits to get his support.

So here is my question: why can she not see herself and what she holds in her hand to build her own personality. Why does she not focus more on her career?

There’s something missing between the two sides of both these worlds. I wish that we would recognize the bad and the good in gender roles on in the West and the East, so we may be able to figure out how to become more independent and win a rich soul. To earn real freedom.

[Editor's Note: This post has been republished from an earlier version after editing.]

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