Child death, Culture, death, emotions, grief, parenting, Personal Growth, Relationships, Saudi Arabia, Women

The Club I Never Wanted to Join

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There are those clubs in life that we join with enthusiasm, that is within our control and decision, that we decide to engage because it coincides with our interests, our hobbies, passions, joys, and identity.  Although life’s path indoctrinates us into other clubs or groups that we never sought membership for, but we received a lifetime membership that usually involves emotional fees instead of monetary fees.  Almost one  year ago, I received one of those unsolicited lifetime memberships to the Mother of Dead Children when I delivered my full term 38 week old stillborn son, Mr. Baby (aka Mohammad Hatem Mominah).   A membership card I have tried to burn, to throw away, and return to sender, but the damn gold status membership card keeps finding its way back into my hand of cards.  This unsolicited club membership likes me to invest my emotions, my cognitive energy, my time, my sleep, my lack of sleep, and at times, my sanity.   While the members of this club experience some of the same initiations, each club member also gets specialized individualized treatment dependent on their own story, their personal characteristics of the card member, but most of us get to pay the yearly premium of guilt, blame, and sadness.

There are no rules and regulations of expected behavior of carrying this card from the membership itself, but people that have not gained membership to this club have developed stereotypes of how you should “be” and what is acceptable to say to you or not say to you.  I have perfected the art of listening, and composing a smile, or at least a blank expression, but I also have a ticker tape that silently runs through my mind, that if ever was exposed, could unleash a nasty sarcastic spew of my inner coping.  As a member of this club, I have gathered support and understanding from other gold card carrying members, but those outside that club, that have never experienced what it means to lose a child, will offer their own advice of how you can be a gold star performing card carrying member.  While every parent that has lost a child has a different way of coping, my own inner dialogue, which I long ago nicknamed as my “ticker tape” has at times ran rampant in my mind in response to messages  to what others have said to me in the past year.

  1. You should be grateful that you have other children.  Yes I am selfish and ungrateful…. (guilt) What is wrong with me?
  2. You need to get over it and move on.   I am weak and sorry I have those days that I secretly wish that I could have crawled into the grave with my child….(guilt) What is wrong with me?
  3. God never gives you more than you can handle.  Really?  Ummmm….because I am about one second away of letting you see on display what falling apart looks like.….(guilt)What  is wrong with me?
  4. Far worse things have happened to other people, you  should be grateful.  Yes far worse things have happened….I did not gain membership to compare my experience with tragedies of the rest of the world.  Yeah I get that far more horrible things have happened in the world, but thank you  for your insight and wisdom, but it still doesn’t change how I feel….(guilt) What is wrong with me?
  5. Say “Thanks God” or “Al Humdallah”. I have never been one to do or say things unless I really feel that way, and  maybe I am an ungrateful,  selfish person, because I am not grateful for carrying a child for 9.5 months to hand that child over to be buried in the desert’s sand.  I am not grateful to get this unsolicited membership card……Sorry if this upsets your world view, and doesn’t coincide with your perceptions….I will not say something that I do not mean, because I do not view this as a will of God…this was because of medical human error,  my own screwed up body, my own inability to deal with stress, and because I was too physically and mentally exhausted to stand up to the voices that said a C-section could wait for a couple more days,  even though I knew it couldn’t.   I am not in the mood to make you feel better…because I feel like shit.   If it makes you feel better, please say it, but do not say it to me, and do not expect me to say it.  Special note to medical professionals….please shut up and do not even have the audacity to mention this to me…. (guilt) What  is wrong with me?
  6. At least you are still alive and here.  Really?  That could be questionable on a moment by moment basis…..(guilt) What is wrong with me?
  7. Maybe it was for the best, maybe there was something wrong with him. A doctor examined him, there was nothing wrong with him visibly, although I would not allow the hospital to dissect his little body.  Even if there was something wrong with him.  I just wanted the chance to look into his eyes…even for just a little bit.  I wanted that baby,  even if there had been issues…. (guilt) What is wrong with me?
  8. You are not the only person to lose a child.  I know that, and do you think that I don’t’ realize already that I am not handling this with grace …Do you really think that if I could I wouldn’t stand up  and be this fortress of strength? (guilt)  What is wrong with me?
  9. At least you never had the chance to get emotionally attached…it is better that he died before you had the chance to know him. Please fuck off because I did know him.  I carried him for 38 weeks… you have no idea…… (guilt) What is wrong with me?
  10. You gave yourself black eyes/ bad luck because you were so happy to have the baby.  Your statements are more of a reflection of your black  heart and how you view others as well as how you view yourself… Please…could you just please shoot me and get your freaking torture over with.  I was happy to be expecting a child…and you stand before me and say that it is my fault that I made other’s jealous……really….this is just too much….while you may think it, and that is your right….really shut the fuck up.  Trust me….I have enough guilt for not standing up to doctors, changing physicians, or dealing with stress effectively…I don’t need your negative energy to add to my black world right now.  Bad things happen in life, and death is one of the inevitable truths of our existence.   (guilt) What is wrong with me?

The only real benefit that I believe I have gained from my membership, is the right to say “Please consider what you say to someone that has lost their child”.  I know the intentions are there to try to comfort the person, but each person deals with loss and grief in their own way.  I apologize in advance to anyone that I have offended by my honesty and language, that is not my intention, but to provide an insight into the grief of one mother on a year long journey of coming to terms with the death of her child.   Entering the private thoughts of another is one way to understand a situation and have some empathy.  I am sure that in the past that I have unintentionally made statement in regards to someone’s life events that were not helpful.  This experience has taught me that sometimes words unspoken are best.  No one can tell a the person what they should feel, or how they should behave when faced with death.   Sometimes the well intentioned comments only add to feelings of guilt, sadness, selfishness, and unfairness experienced by those grieving.  What you can do…sit quietly, listen, and understand that person will never be the same in some ways.  Yes they will learn to smile again, they will learn how to live again, they will learn to breathe….but it is in their time, and in their way.  Grief is a path that each person travels differently and it is not a path that can be magically fixed.

Happy Birthday Mr. Baby.  You earned  your angel wings  before you ever had to  breathe  in the experiences of the harsh realities of life on earth. One of my favorite messages sent was “The angel opened the book of life, and  said “This one is too perfect for this world…and closed the book”.  For this, I can honestly  say “Alhumdallah” or “Thank God”.  Until we meet again my little baby.

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Aggression, Culture, death, Fear, Judgement, Terrorism, Violence, Worldview Differences

Good vs. Evil in War, Violence, and Terrorism: An Ambiguous Perception from the Fishbowl

Humans do not come into the world with a predetermined fixed worldview, but instead their worldview is shaped by their personal experiences, culture, natural environment, and social environment, which constructs their perception of the world (Burr, 2004).  While perhaps many believe that the construction of what constitutes “good vs. evil” is universal, in reality the construction of good versus evil is created through the interaction of the individual with their social environment, cultural indoctrination, as well as individual experiences through time.  In many ways, we are like fish trapped in a fishbowl that have a limited view of what we see, often encapsulated by glass barriers that expose us to a narrow current of the vast resources of water.  In addition, the inner environment of our fishbowl  affects our formation of the world from the amount of space we are allowed freely to explore our own internal world and environment, to the availability of nutrients, clean water,  oxygen, and our  fellow fish determines our level of aggressiveness and perceptions of the world.

As the world continues to struggle with acts of aggression, war, and violence on a collective group scale, the world also continues to struggle how to define legitimate aggression in defending  our own collective group vs. terrorism (Bongar, 2007; & Nacos, 2012).   Acts of aggression and violence in the human species has plagued our entire existence, with the perceptions of who is “good” or “evil” a subjective reality that is often colored by the glass of our own fishbowl existence.   One human’s view of an act of aggression or violence carried out defending a group’s worldview is pious and good, but is viewed by another collective group as pure evil.  This view of “good vs. evil” of the collective group is dependent upon the group’s values, beliefs, and collective group interests regarding resources, safety, and security for themselves and their allies.  Just as many fish species travel together in “schools of fish”, we as human often organize ourselves into little swimming schools that are often determined by social groups as religion, nationality, ethnicity, race, or other ideologies.  We have created a world of competing “schools of fish”, where survival of the fittest is propagated in terms of an “us” vs. “them” paradigm.

Globalization in the last century has created a new type of environment, in which as a species we have failed to master creating waters that  support diversity in terms of acceptance of different worldviews .  Until the last century, humans had limited cultural contact, but with the advent of more efficient and mass modes of transportation, as well as advanced technology such as the internet, our small-contained fishbowls have turned into gigantic aquariums.  We have now been dumped into this giant aquarium where different cultures, societal beliefs, values, and religions have been immersed together,  while trying to establish a food chain of who “eats” who.   While the big fish are trying to establish their power hierarchy, it is often the “shrimps” or innocent civilians, trying to carve out existences that become consumed in the whole process.   Consumed in either fear of others in the world, or consumed as they become the civilian casualties of others jockeying for their own supremacy.

Often in the media and in social conversations, acts of terrorism are often considered to be carried out by “crazed lunatics” that are perpetrated by evil villains (Norris, Kern, & Just, 2003).  Personally, it is often easier to provide explanations in which mental pathology provides some type of explanation for behavior that seeks to annihilate, hurt, or kill another human being.  Focusing on the pathology of the individual is an easy way to rid the collective responsibility of social conditions that foster an environment where acts of violence are fostered.  Research examining individuals who have carried out acts of terrorism suggests that in reality the majority of these individuals do not meet the criteria that has been suggested to indicate psychopathology or a history of being evil in other facets of their lives (Borum, 2004; Cottee & Hayward, 2011; & Kruglanski, & Fishman, 2009).  Research has suggested the life experiences, social influence, cultural influence, and historical context where shame and humiliation have been major themes serve as a catalyst for a “good” individual to go down a path of carrying out acts of evil (Borum, 2004; Waller, 2005; & Zimbardo, 2004).  In understanding the evolution of a path functioning as a “good” person to an “evil” person, the individual’s experiences, societal, and cultural factors must be all examined not in isolation, but as a cumulative experiences, that facilitates a path of violence (Kruglanski & Fishman, 2009).

One explanation of how individuals are influenced from a societal level is Hofstede’s (1984) concept of collective versus individual societies has often been used as a classification system to explain cultural worldviews and the social norms, values, and expected behaviors.  Individualist cultures are described in terms of valuing self-independence, concerns for the individual and their immediate family, as well as having loose social structures in the community.  In contrast, a collectivist society values social connectedness, extended family and communal relations, and an emphasis on the group needs versus the individual needs.  Although nations and cultures have typically been classified as more individualist or collective in nature.  Oyserman, Coon, & Kennelmeier (2002) have proposed that both elements and cultural values run concurrently in a society, but depending on the situation, one cultural orientation may be more prominent, as well as there are individual differences among individuals.  Collective identities of belonging to a group can be fostered in a group by the creation of an external threat.    Kruglanski & Fishman (2006) asserted that collective societies are more likely to use terrorist acts as a form of aggression to initiate social changes that in their perceptions benefit the group.   Both terrorist groups, and recognized governments have monopolized on the collective identities of the masses, rallying individuals using fear to engage in acts of violence, that under normal circumstances these individuals would not most likely engage in.

Just as individual factors alone cannot account for the creation of terrorist, societal and cultural factors cannot fully account for an individual going “good” to “evil”.  If the environment alone accounted for acts of evil, large groups of people would engage in terrorism, and dissenting voices condemning acts of  terrorism, both from within and outside a group of people, would not occur.  Just as different cultural and social factors may spawn an environment that is conducive to the creation of terrorist, individual experiences, individual differences in cognition, perception, and levels of tolerance exist within individuals providing both vulnerabilities and protective factors of who goes down the slippery slope of engaging in terrorism.  The concepts of “good” and “evil” are ambiguous constructs, which are influenced by both societal, cultural, and individual lenses.  Who is the feared shark and those different lenses of subjectivity shape who is perceived as the  shark hunter.

References

Bongar, B. (2007).  The psychology of terrorism:  Defining the need and describing the goals. .  In B.  Bongar, L.  Brown, L Beutler, J. Breckendridge, & P.  Zimbardo (Eds.)  Psychology of terrorism.  New York, NY:  Oxford Press.

Borum, R. (2004). Psychology of terrorism. Tampa, FL: University of South Florida.

Burr, V. (2004). Constructivism. In M. Lewis-Beck, A. Bryman, & T. Liao (Eds.), Encyclopedia of social science research methods. (pp. 186-187). Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications, Inc. doi: 10.4135/9781412950589.n165

Cottee, S., & Hayward, K. (2011). Terrorist (e)motives: The existential attractions of terrorism.  Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 34(12), 963–986.   Retrieved from the Walden Library databases.

Hofstede, G. (1984). The cultural relativity of the quality of life concept. The Academy Of Management Review, 9(3), 389-398. doi:10.2307/258280

Kruglanski, A. W., & Fishman, S. (2006). The psychology of terrorism:“Syndrome” versus “tool” perspectives. Terrorism and Political Violence, 18(2), 193-215.

Kruglanski, A. W, & Fishman, S. (2009).  Psychological factors in terrorism and counterterrorism: Individual, group, and organizational levels of analysis.  Social Issues and Policy Review, 3(1), 1–44.

Matsumoto, D.  & Juang, L.  (2008). Culture and psychology (4th ed.).  Belmont, CA:  Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Nacos, B.  (2012).  Terrorism and counterrorsim (4th ed.).  New York, NY:  Pearson Education.

Norris, P., Kern, M., & Just, M. R. (Eds.). (2003). Framing terrorism: The news media, the government, and the public. New York, NY:  Routledge.

Oyserman, D., Coon, H. M., & Kemmelmeier, M. (2002). Rethinking individualism and collectivism: Evaluation of theoretical assumptions and meta-analyses. Psychological Bulletin, 128(1), 3-72. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.128.1.3

Waller J. E. (2005).  Becoming evil: The making of terrorists. International Journal of Contemporary Sociology, 42(2), 167–188. Retrieved from https://www.whitworth.edu/Administration/InstitutionalAdvancement/UniversityCommunications/WhitworthToday/2007_Spring/PDF/BecomingEvil.pdf

Zimbardo, P. G. (2004). A situationist perspective on the psychology of evil: Understanding how good people are transformed into perpetrators. In A. G. Miller (Ed.), The social psychology of good and evil: Understanding our capacity for kindness and cruelty (pp. 21–50). New York, NY: Guilford.

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Culture, Feminism, organizational psychology, Psychology, Saudi Arabia, Saudi women driving, Women

Saudi Women Working from Home: A Productive Strategy for a Cultural Problem

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Women in Saudi Arabia are just beginning to emerge in the workforce.  The role of women in the workforce in Saudi Arabia has been mostly limited to either careers in education or the medical profession.  Cultural factors such as gender segregation, transportation issues, and social perceptions of women working have been some of the major influences of keeping Saudi women out of fully joining the work force in full ranks, although the number of Saudi women in the Kingdom graduating with college degrees outnumbers their male counterparts.  The Ministry of Labor (2010) reported that more than 80% of female Saudi college graduates with at least a bachelor’s degree are unemployed in the Kingdom.  This number represents a significant amount of unused talent that is currently underutilized in the society.

For those unfamiliar with Saudi Arabia, the question may be asked “What is keeping women from joining the workforce?”  There is not one specific reason, but instead of culmination of different social factors that have led to the limited employment of  Saudi females in the Kingdom.  Saudi Arabia’s government rule is based on a sect of Islam called Wahhabism, a more strict interpretation of Islam, which has been interpreted in the Kingdom in the form of  gender segregation of males and females unless they are related to each other, or married.  This has forced organizations that hire females and males both to develop work environments in which males and females are segregated and have limited contact.  From a financial standpoint, one can understand the reticent behaviors of some organizations to hire women into an organization because of the special accommodations that must be given to the work environment to accommodate women in full force.

Another issue that has hampered the efforts of women to enter the workforce in full force surrounds the issue of women not being allowed to drive vehicles within the Kingdom.  A woman must rely on a male family member, a private driver, or some type of private taxi service to ensure being able to arrive at her place of employment.  Currently Saudi Arabia does not have a public transportation system, which would allows women to move freely in the cities.  While this not may not pose a problem for women from the upper socio-economic classes of Saudi, who can afford a private driver, as well as the expense of having her own car, those with limited financial resources may find it difficult to afford having a personal private driver.  In addition, even for the women who can afford the luxury of having a private driver (and this is speaking from my own experiences) there is nothing more frustrating than recruiting a driver from another country, paying the fees to have them brought to Saudi Arabia, only to have them disappear in the middle of the night to seek other employment.

The current changing economic and social factors in the Kingdom require that women be able to pursue employment.  As the growing young population of Saudi Arabia has exploded, the practice of the majority of the citizens being supported by their families, or through government “gifts” is no longer practical.  In addition, the divorce rate among Saudis has been estimated around 60%, one of the highest divorce rates in the world (Le Renard, 2013).  A possible strategy for certain job classes of women would be allowing them to work from home.   Most of the organizations within Saudi Arabia manage people that is similar to the time period of the industrial movement within the United States, where quantity produced( Greenberg, 2011), it considered superior over quality, although many of the organizations are trying to create knowledge based environment.  Digital and internet services within  Saudi Arabia has the highest rate of homes and usage of internet services of any other Arab country (Simism, 2011), making the practice of some women being able to work from home a transition that in terms of technological infrastructure, not difficult.   As positions across the world continue to transcend into a more service, instead of production oriented type of work, a phone, computer, internet service, and a place to work in the home have facilitated the process of allowing employees to transfer their workplace from office space to home space (Turcotte, 2010).

Phillips, Phillips, & Robinson (2013) showed in their case of performance of individuals working at home that it increased productivity, decreased stress for employees because of removing the stress of the commute to work, as well as reduced traffic congestion by allowing employees to work remotely.  In addition, organizations can benefit from this practice by reducing operating costs by reducing the space needed for office space, as well as increased employee performance, engagement, and reduced turnover.  This would be especially promising in terms of Saudi Arabia because of the reports of low employee performance and engagement, as well as high rates of turnover with Saudi employees (Sadi & Al-Buraey, 2009).

This is an underutilized option to employing women within the Kingdom, but setting up the management and training of people working at home would be critical in implementing practices with organizations within the Kingdom.  This option would open up careers, as well as organizations that have generally not been open to women because of the social stigma, or the reluctance of some organizations to hire women because of the issues regarding gender segregation.  In addition, this would allow women to circumnavigate the transportation issue that continues to be a hurdle for many women, through either financial strains, or the on-going problem of losing a private driver and being unable to get to their place of employment.

 

References

Alharbi, (2010). Minister of Labor: 80% of unemployment graduates women and mechanisms to

Address obstacles to women’s work within 8 weeks. Alwatan. Retrieved from

http://www.alwatan.com.sa/Local/News_Detail.aspx?ArticleID=31220&CategoryID=5

Greenberg, J.  (2011).  Behavior in organizations (10th ed.).  Upper Saddle River, NJ:  Prentice Hall.

Le Renard, A. (2013). Young urban saudi women’s transgressions of official rules and the production of a new social group. Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies, 9(3), 108-135.

Phillips, J., Phillips, P., & Robinson, R. (2013). A case study of ROI in organizational performance of working at home. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 25(4), 111-131.

Sadi, M.  & Al-Buraey.  (2009). A framework for the implemental process:  The case of Saudiization.  International Management Review, 5(1), 70-84.  Retrieved from http://www.usimr.org/IMR-1-2009/v5n109-art6.pdf

Simsim, M. T. (2011). Internet usage and user preferences in Saudi Arabia. Journal of King Saud University-Engineering Sciences, 23(2), 101-107.

Turcotte, M. (2010). Working at home: An update. Canadian Social Trends, (91), 3-11.

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Betrayal, Culture, Feminism, Islam, Misyar, Relationships, Saudi Arabia, Women

Misyar Marriage: The Prostitution and Betrayal of the Female Gender

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For those living outside of the Arab world, the concept of “misyar marriage” is a foreign concept, although the equivalency of misyar in the Western world is that of having an extra-marital affair. A relationship that is often based on meeting the sexual needs and conquest of men, and perhaps women, with no strings attached as far as responsibility on the part of the male. Misyar marriage is a secret marriage contract entered in by a woman and a man, in which they engage in sexual relations, in which the man has no responsibility to provide financial support, no responsibility of any children that may be born out of the sexual unions, as well as there is typically a “time span” in which this secret marriage is valid for. The women that engage in these marriages, may temporarily benefit in terms of materialistic gifts, vacations, love nests that are temporarily erected to carry out the acts of sexual relations, as well as meeting their own sexual desires. Perhaps these women also may have secret aspirations that the misyar marriage will transform into a traditional marriage through time. These types of marriages are not registered with any type of government agency or authority, and they occur in secret, often away from the knowledge of legitimate wives, family members, or recognizing the temporary union to the public. The Islamic religion strictly forbids sexual relations outside the boundaries of marriage, hence the human creation of the misyar marriage, which allows people to fornicate, perhaps only once or numerous times, while avoiding the worldly consequences or responsibilities of engaging in sexual relations.

In these situations, it would be easy to buy into the worldview of the evil temptress whore, that uses her sexual energy to lure away the family man into lurid sexual activities, but to be completely honest, the only individuals that benefit at the end of day from these situations, are those that advocate the social acceptance of misyar, and the men that engage in the secret “affairs”. I am going to call it an affair, and not refer to it as a marriage for the rest of this piece, because calling it a “marriage” degrades the sanctity of what marriage stands for in terms of respect, honesty, and authentic pure intentions. In addition, in terms of the Islamic principles of honesty, truth, and compassion, this practice is devoid of any of the aforementioned virtues. Misyar is built on the intentions of secrecy, deception, and in all reality, a lie. A lie not only to the legitimate wives and children of the men that choose to engage in this practice, but also to the women that agree to enter into the practice, as well as the risk of children being born out of these unions that have no legal and social rights of having two parents with the benefits of being recognized as a child of both parents. The women that are affected by this practice either by choice or by being legally married to a male that practices this way of life are victims. The children born out of these sexualized temporary unions, as well as the children of legitimate marriages in which their father engages in these practice are victims, forever being scarred by the father’s lust, selfishness, and disrespect of the female gender.

Most men and women enter into a legal traditional marriage, with the expectation that love, trust, honesty, respect, and honor will be the pervading values of the union. It is often viewed as a lifetime commitment in which the two people merge their lives in their efforts to form a family, grow together through the different developmental life stages, as well as often have offspring to continue their own legacies into the future. While indeed Islam does have practices that provide routes for men engaging in polygamy, in which they are permitted to have up to four wives, in reality even Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) did not advocate the practice of polygamy by the conditions in which were set by the act of taking more than one wife. One of the conditions is the man must treat the wives equally in terms of his affection, and material provisions and gifts. Perhaps a man can give equality by the material possessions and gifts that are given, but the equality in terms of affection is almost humanly impossible. In other words, it is permitted, but do not do it because even Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) could not equate his affections equally among wives. In addition, the first wife must agree to the husband taking another wife and if she does not, she is permitted to divorce the husband.

This case scenario illustrates traditional marriages, but the practice of misyar does not even inform the wife of her husband engaging with sexual relations with another woman. The practice of misyar is not only a form of deception and lies to the legally sanctified traditional wife of a man practicing this form of deception, but it also puts the wife’s very health and life in jeopardy. Many countries require testing prior to traditional legal marriage of both the man and woman undergoing testing for the presence of sexually transmitted diseases (STD). Two of these STD diseases such as AIDS or hepatitis most often are fatal to those who are infected in the long-term. In addition, other sexually transmitted diseases such as chlamydia can cause infertility, or genital warts, which increases a woman’s risk of developing cervical cancers, and least of all the embarrassment and humiliation of being diagnosed with the social stigma of an STD. The practice of misyar, because it does not require the marriage to be legally registered and is engaged in deceptively, does not entail the male or female to engage in testing of STDs. This is a lethal way to spread the transmission of STD’s not only between the two people that are engaging in the deceitful practice of misyar, but also to the innocent unsuspecting wife who believes she is in a mutually sexually exclusive relationship with her husband. In all honesty, neither the men, nor the women who engage in the misyar marriage are virgins who have abstained from sexual relations in the past, and are most likely to have the highest risk of carrying an STD. In fact, some of the women who engage in misyar relationships have a history of engaging in “secret sexual liaisons”, or misyar, one after another, to finance their style of living. For those of you from Western cultures who may be reading this article, we do have slang terms for these women such as “sluts”, “prostitutes”, or “whores” in all honesty.

The traditional legal wife is also an innocent victim in terms of dealing with the emotional and financial drains of her husband engaging in this type of deceitful relationship. As the husband sneaks off to engage in his sexual liaisons with the “secret woman”, this robs not only the wife, but also any children of time and support in the family household that should be available from the husband/father. In addition, the husband is spending the financial resources and future inheritance of the children as he engages in arranging vacations, apartments, as well as gifts to be given to the “other woman”. Perhaps the most painful of all of this experience, is to the wife that finds out about the “secret relationship” and the emotional of feeling betrayed, belittled, and the feelings of inadequacy of worthlessness that accompanies many individuals that have experienced their partner engaging in an affair. Infidelity and the long-lasting scars can cut to the very soul and perception of one’s self as they question why their spouse has engaged in this type of relationship, that is if the wife ever discovers her husband’s extra sexual activities. It not only damages a woman’s perceptions of herself, but can also affect her ability in other roles in life, such as a mother, friend, or employee as she tries to work through the negative emotions that are often associated with this type of betrayal.

Although the women who engage in misyar are often portrayed as evil women with the intentions of gaining financial means, or the plots to secure a future legitimate legal marriage, they are also victimized through this practice. These women are typically never acknowledged as a legal wife, nor do they reap the benefits of inheritance from their sexual liaisons, or the security of a legal marriage. They are often used as a temporary escape from the reality of family life, in which men are able to fulfill their sexual desires outside the traditional boundaries of a public marriage with no future obligations to the woman. In addition, the social stigma involved to the woman that engages in such a type of relationship is often that she is “damaged goods”, either because of divorce, social status, nationality, social economic status (SES) that has been relegated to the role of servicing the sexual needs of a male without the benefits of a legitimate marriage. While some advocate the misyar also is a benefit to these women, examining this practice in regards to these women, they are marginalized, used for sexual pleasure, and are not viewed as worthy enough to legitimize their presence publicly. Their motivation to engage in this type of arrangements may be done in part for momentary financial gains, but I am sure that some of them have the secret hopes that the relationship will develop into a long-term lasting eventual legal marriage, which typically does not happen. The hope of the man acknowledging this “secret women” in the future is bleak, because he has engaged in this type of relationship out of his own sexual lust, but most often will not risk the social condemnation, his legal wife, children, or reputation to have a long-term committed relationship. While he may eagerly profess his love to this woman, you have to question whether he truly has authentic love for anyone to engage in this type of relationship to manipulate and risk his legal wife and children, as well as the “secret woman”. He engaged in a misyar relationship through using deceit and lies, and rest assured this is a character of the individual that carries through in other relationships, including the misyar relationship.

The concept of misyar is built on the concept of “secrecy”. Often when we speak of secrecy, someone is being deceived, lied to, and betrayed. While the women, who engage in these types of relationships with men are often portrayed as the temptress set out to destroy the sanctity of marriage, in reality, the real transgressors in these types of arrangements are the men that are not only betraying their legitimate legal wife and children through their egotistical actions to satisfy their sexual urges, they also are manipulating and using the very women that they engage with in these secret sexual liaisons behind the closed doors of deception and secrecy. The difference is one woman has chosen to engage in the practice, while the legitimate wife is often kept in the dark of the fraudulent behavior of her husband. The women in these types of arrangements may be marginalized by some type of socially constructed grouping in which they have been categorized either by life experiences, or by birth, but they too are humans with aspirations, dreams, and needs. Those that advocate and practice this type of secretive behaviors are the lone transgressors and oppressors of women and children, as well as illustrating the treachery and sham of dishonesty that humans can choose to engage in by their animalistic sexual urges that rob them of values, virtues, and honesty in relationships. The practice of misyar is not a practice of Islam, because Islam advocates truth, honesty, humbleness, and respect. The practice of misyar is a creation of patriarchal men, who happen to be associated with the faith of Islam, but have bent the rules to satisfy their own selfish carnal needs, and have disregarded the female gender as human beings worthy of respect. For those who have limited understanding of the Islamic faith, this is not Islam, but is a construction of a practice by humans that seeks to circumnavigate the rules of Islam to quench sexual desires, while avoiding responsibility, honesty, and respect for the female gender.

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Culture, Personal Growth, Psychology, Saudi Arabia, spirituality

The Call

Historical building in Jeddah's Ballad.

Historical building in Jeddah’s Ballad.

I sit amidst the plants of my rooftop garden, only a short distance from the coastal seashore of the ancient Islamic port of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. I catch myself searching for resolution, searching for peace, searching for answers of how I have come to my current life circumstances. My body has struggled to produce enough vitamin D for the last 6 years and the doctor had directed me to sit in the open sun for at least thirty minutes a day with my face, legs, and arms fully exposed to help jumpstart my body, in addition to the Vitamin D drops and injections. The afternoon sun is shining on my face as I try to soak up the precious rays to help my body produce the necessary vitamins to help me try to sustain myself in the desert. I feel the sweat trickle down the back of my leg as the desert winds blow against my body providing a momentary relief from the humidity that the city is famous for. My momentary concerns are interrupted from a call from my driver Iggy who reports to me “Madame the water levels are low in the water tank, I will tell you when the water comes.” Another concern to add to my mind that is already overwhelmed of what tomorrow will bring. My mind is lost in its own internal sea, flooded by emotions, and stress related to both real and imagined concerns.

As my mind continues to tread in the fears of what tomorrow can bring, I remember that in less than two months I will be turning 43 years old. I begin to question where the years have flown and has the energy I have committed to different people and beliefs been worth where I now find myself. As I feel the first tear begin to edge its way down the side of my face, a chorus of voices echoes across the city, singing out in different tones with clarity, pureness, and absolution. Although the tones and pitches of the voices are different, the words are the same Arabic words that have been called out for more than 1200 years, five times daily, reminding not only me, but the generations before me that there is a Creator, who has carved out a path for all of us. As I sit in the light, and listen to the Islamic call for prayer float across the city, I think about all those before me who have heard that same call in a moment of darkness find a moment of peace in knowing that there are some aspects of life that we may not understand at the moment, but there are lessons to be learned along the journey the Creator has given us. Our mission is to try to make meaning from the experience of living and somehow pass on that lesson to those who come after us through our connections.

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Culture, fashion, Hijab, Psychology, Saudi Arabia, West

Stripping Down the Culture of Clothes: We Are All Guilty

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Our culture, belief system, and social pressure around us play an enormous role in how we decide to present ourselves to the world, not only in the way we behave, but also how we dress ourselves.  Our sense of fashion is often dictated by not only our preferences, the latest designs, but also by the social norms of the groups we live.  These forces not only influence the color, fabrics, styles, but also ever more importantly dictates the rules of which parts of our bodies should be covered, or not covered, in particular social settings.

Living in Saudi Arabia, I have learned that people are quick to judge other based on not only what they wear, but also how much they choose to wear in covering their bodies.  As someone who was brought up in the West, I was not accustomed to the rules of fashion for females living in Saudi Arabia.  The black abaya (the long black cloak) and the tarha (the head scarf)  have caused me distress at times in trying to learn to navigate stairs, carry a child, and in the meantime keep the scarf secured covering my hair.  In addition, many women within the country also wear the face cover, called the niqab, which varies from having a small opening to show only their eyes, and some completely cover their face.  During my first years in the Kingdom, I wore the mostly black abayas (with some color on the trim to express my own unique individuality) and the head scarf, but in recent years, I have forsaken the black in preference of colored abayas, as well as I have taken to wearing different colored scarves tied over my head as turbans.  I do not cover my face and refuse ever to do so.  Moreover, yes, I have to admit, as soon as I am out of Saudi airspace leaving the Kingdom, the abaya comes off, which underneath, I am dressed in my Western style clothes. 

It would be an easy “cheap shot” to start criticizing and engaging in what I like to call “Saudi bashing”, but this is not my purpose.  Cultural conformity in regards to dress is a phenomenon that not only occurs within the Kingdom, but is a worldwide phenomenon.  The first vivid memory I have  related to the social taboos of what should or should not be covered, occurred when I was 15 years old growing up in a small town in Northeastern Oklahoma in the United States.  I was in 10th grade in high school and my parents and I were attended the ceremony in which I was being inducted into the National Honor Society , which is an honors group for students who have maintained a high GPA.  My father happened to be in town for this particular ceremony, which was a rarity since much of the time he was out of town with his job.  My father is bald and has been a “chrome dome” (a nickname my sister and I gave him) since his early 20’s.  My father always wore some type of hate, from ball caps, cowboy hats, to his “crocodile Dundee” style hats, and rarely bares his baldhead except when he is sleeping.

I remember the ceremony starting with all the pomp and circumstance that are typically associated with these type of ceremonies, when Mrs.  @@@ screams across the cafetorium (combination school cafeteria and auditorium), in a shrill voice “Take of your hat!”.  Mrs.  @@@ was one of those teachers that every school has.  The type of teacher that was a “stickler” for the rules, although her level of enforcement depended on who your parents were, and whether or not you were considered one of her “favored” students.  She screamed across the room again and actually stopped the ceremony as she pointed her fat pudgy finger directly towards my father in the audience.  I watched in horror as my father’s face turn bright red with embarrassment.  My father is not only a man who always wears his hats, but my father is also an introvert who prefers not to have the limelight directed towards him.  I had always disliked Mrs. @@@, but from that day forward, I loathed her.

While it is customary, or part of the culture, not to wear hats in school, my father was not a child coming in for the school day.  He was a parent watching his child being inducted into an honor society.  While yes, perhaps he was breaking with tradition, his choice of attire aided him in covering his baldhead, which made him more comfortable.  I really do not believe my father’s hat was going to in anyway detract from the ceremony, nor was it going to erode the quality of education that supposedly occurred in the school facility.  Her response to the situation not only embarrassed a parent, but also embarrassed a geeky, insecure, sophomore high school girl, who did not need to have her father called out during a school ceremony  to add further to her feelings of being inadequate.  This was a personal isolated incident where the “cultural rules” of what is to be covered, or uncovered became an “issue” that took precedence over the purpose of why we were there.

In the past couple of years, numerous stories have circulated in the international press related to movements forbidding women wearing the headscarf,  hijab, or  tarha in the Western world.  In addition, across European countries, debates and laws have been passed banning Muslim women wearing the niqab, or face cover.  I will honestly admit, I do not enjoy wearing the headscarf when I am inside the Kingdom, although the turbans I often find as a great way to hide those “bad hair days” I frequently have.  When I am outside on the streets though, I typically do wear something to cover my hair, just to save myself the hassle of potentially being harassed by the Hai’aa, which is the religious police in Saudi Arabia.  With that said, the West has always prided itself in the ideals of freedom and individuality.  I expect in Saudi Arabia possibly to have trouble by not conforming to the local “cultural rules of dress”, but for the West to take a stance forbidding women to wear an article that is part of their identity is a violation of the beloved principle of individuality.  Just as my father felt uncomfortable showing the world his baldhead, for the women who choose to cover their hair or face by choice, forbidding them to wear their hijab or niqab is like asking them to parade around naked.  These are situations where others use their own cultural rules to instill discomfort in others.

I have never personally been a conformist, which has not always made me the most popular person in some circles.  Although I find it quite a waste that humans engage in so much wasted energy trying to regulate what should or should not be covered in different social situations across the globe.  How you dress does not define your real character.  I have met some of the kindest giving people that choose to cover their head, as well as I have met some of the kindest people that choose not to cover their head.  I have met some people that are the devil is disguise with their head covered, and I have met people that are the devil in disguise with their head uncovered.  The point is, your dress does not define your compassion, kindness, or character.  It is not so different in how we judge people by the label of the designer they wear either.  I have met some of the kindest people in Prada, as well as the devil in Prada.  It seems ridiculous when you think of the real crisis we have in terms of environmental issues, wars, poverty, and genocides.  These Issues are just a few that have the potential to drastically negatively shape and change all of our lives,  as well as the generations to come.  Perhaps it is time we start judging people by their actions, and less on what they have, or do not have on their bodies. 

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