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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emotions, Humanistic Psychology, Saudi Arabia, Socialization, Special Needs

Expression of Love from a Special Child

heart

The innocent and intuition of the young in being able to understand and respond to the needs of their fellow humans has always amazed me.  The young have not yet had their acts of compassion, kindness, and empathy socialized out of their repertoire of how to be human.  They see, they feel, they react, they express.  It is only the world around them that with time teaches them to develop restraint, to numb, to detach, and to become blind to those around them.   Learning to control and restrain our interactions is often described in terms of our emotional development, a process of maturation, cognitive development, or learning to become adults.  I question if we have developed an effective world in socializing out this innate human aspect of a child…the ability to feel and react to another a human being.

I found myself this evening precariously sitting on a small shelf at the check –outs of Hyper Panda Supermarket waiting for the last and longest prayer of the day to end in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.  Saudi Arabia is an Islamic country, in which all stores close during the five prayer times of the day.  It is not uncommon for me to often find myself unsuccessfully trying to organize my shopping expeditions timed in such a way to “miss the prayers”, which I typically fail miserably at timing appropriately.

As I sat on my make-shift chair, trying to focus my attention away from the fact that my back and feet were aching from walking through the grocery store, that had only been exasperated by the fact that I am 43 years old and 7 months pregnant.  I silently cursed myself for not opting for my hated tennis shoes, instead of trying still to maintain some sense of femininity by wearing my black ballet flats that apparently are devoid of any arch support.  That train of thought led me to thinking of my beautiful high heels at home, that just 7 months ago without little thought I would slip on for my outings without giving a second thought.  Somehow, this train of thought led me down the path of questioning my very existence and what I was going to do with myself personally, professionally, and thinking how pathetic I must be sitting in a grocery store lacking any direction or purpose.

My three children kept interrupting my own internal stream of thoughts related to my personal mid-life crisis, which has only been exasperated by pregnancy hormones that had manifested into a full-blown pity party dancing in my head.  “Mommy, can I get a new Pez dispenser?  Mommy, I want gum!  Mommy, Jasmine is getting two candy…it is not fair”.  I found myself saying “No”, “No”, “No”, and finally reverting to “Whatever”.  My last response sent me into initiating an internal dialogue of berating myself on my parenting abilities.  I pulled out my phone in my attempts to drown out their whining, engage in a mindless game of Candy Crush, and escape reality.

Crouching on the little shelf, that was more suitable for a small child than a 43-year-old pregnant woman, I found a small smiling boy running towards me that I thought must be directed towards all the colorful packages of candy that I partially had blocked.  I panicked and thought to myself “How am I going to gracefully stand up from my crouched sitting position, in which I am elevated less than 6 inches above the ground?”

Just as I began my struggle in my fumbling attempts at maintaining some level of grace while standing to let the child reach the candy which I had blocked, I felt his little arms go around my neck and wet little kisses being planted on my cheeks.  The little boy , of about three or four years old, and who was speaking to me excitedly continued to chatter and hug me, while his mother tried to pull him back.  When I looked closely at his little face, I realized that he was a child with special needs, most likely a child that had mosaic Down syndrome.  He continued to hug me and jabbered away in broken Arabic that I struggled to understand, not only because of my own poor Arabic skills, but also because of the effects of his disability.  I looked into his eyes and told him “Shukrin habibi”, which in English roughly translates into “Thank you dear one”.  He grabbed my face and then planted a big kiss on my forehead, which is a sign of respect and love in the Arabic culture.

His mother looked embarrassed and smiled while telling me “Malash” which translated into English is a way of expressing sorry.  I looked at her and in my broken Arabic told her “No need to say sorry, he has a beautiful white heart.”  As she led him away to take their turn in another checkout lane in the growing sea of inpatient customers waiting for the prayer to end, I smiled and the boy and I both waved to each other.  I felt a genuine smile spread across my face, and no not the fake smile that I have meticulously perfected in my years of socialization.  This authentic smile was a spontaneous reaction of being the receiver of an expression of human caring that was not planned, not manipulated, and had no ulterior motive.

My own little girls walked over to me and asked me “Mommy who was that little boy?  Why did he hug you and kiss you?”

Still smiling, I told them “I don’t know, maybe he knew mommy just needed a hug.”

Lulu, my 11-year old, and the most introspective and observant of my 4 daughters, quietly replied with a gentle smile “Maybe so mommy, he picked you of all of the people here.”

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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

abaya half face
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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Betrayal, Feminism, Personal Growth, Relationships, Saudi Arabia, Women

Living in the Shadows of the Cloak of Darkness

shadows
I have been living in the shadows, the shadows of sorrow, pain, and broken trust that have kept me out from my own inner light. You helped me create those shadows, by blocking the light with your words, you actions, and the images of betrayal that left me in darkness. You cloaked me in black to cover my inner light, expecting me to thrive out of the spotlight, while I slowly withered away into a state of the breathing dead.

Objects of reality only create shadows, and you do not represent reality, or an object that is solid and real, but a hollow figure that is nothing more than an illusion of deception. Just as I moved into the flimsy shadows by my own free will, I am stepping out of the shadows and casting away the cloak of black, back into my light to take my place among the living, escaping the shadows of doubt. I will leave you to your own drama, with all of your fellow actors to play on your stage in your shadows of deception. Shadows possess no depth, dimension, or color, but are superficial images cast on walls perhaps to spark one’s imagination of creating stories and tales. Shadows cannot exist without light, and no longer will I allow you to steal my light for your shadowy manipulations, but I am reclaiming my light to see my world as it is.

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Bias, Cross Cultural, education, Judgement, Personal Growth, prejudice, Psychology, Saudi Arabia, Stereotypes

The Biggest Lie: I Don’t Have Any Biases

my reality
How many times have you heard someone say “I don’t have any biases against any people!”? Whenever I hear people comment that they are free of biases, prejudice, or stereotypes in their daily living, I always question how authentic or honest they are being with others, and perhaps even themselves? As human beings, we engage in a process of “cognitive shortcuts” in which we tend to classify our environment and other humans into categories. Stereotyping is a categorical process that the human species consciously and unconsciously engages in that serves as a mechanism of trying to arrange our world in an orderly fashion where people are identified as belonging to groups based on race, gender, nationality, religion, ideology, social economic class, etc. We develop a set of characteristics associated with these groups are seen as being representative to the individuals that compose these groups (Crisp & Turner, 2010; Fiske, 2010; Feldman, 2009; Stangor, 2009; Wright & Taylor, 2007).

Traditionally, stereotypes have been associated as a phenomenon that leads to bias, prejudice, discrimination, and marginalization of people (Crisp & Turner, 2010; Feldman, 2009). Hence, researchers, academians, social scientists, and others have examined ways to reduce or eliminate stereotypes. Although stereotyping can lead to erroneous beliefs about a group of people, and individuals, the schematic processing does help individuals navigate their social worlds. The stereotypes we hold have been socialized through others around us, as well our vicarious experiences we have encountered through living. For example, living in Saudi Arabia, I found out through my own experiences of living, that men with long beards and short thobes (the traditional white dress of Arab men in the Gulf region) would typically not feel comfortable to interact with me because I am female. The first time I offered my hand to shake with an individual that had these traits, I was told “I do not shake hands with females”, I found myself blushing with embarrassment. Other experiences and comments I heard from others , as well as the media led me to develop a negative stereotype whenever I saw a Middle Eastern man with a long beard, and short thobe.

These stereotypes can often help us, but there is also a darker side that may lead us to making erroneous conclusions and decisions as well. My lesson in this happened one time on a return flight from Europe to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. I was sitting in first class with my husband and across the aisle was another man dressed in designer labeled clothes from head to toes. I viewed him as progressive, open-minded, and most likely well educated. Another man who had a long-beard, a short thobe, and was wearing the traditional ship-ships (traditional Arab sandals worn by men in the Gulf) boarded the plane with his family. I automatically assumed this man was conservative and represented repression to me. During the flight, the two men were exchanging heated words in Arabic. Based on my stereotypes, and my limited comprehension of Arabic, I faulted the man with the long beard. Later as I discussed the events with my husband, I was astonished to find out that the well-dressed man across the aisle from us was upset that the man with the long beard had been allowed to put his carry-on in the first class cabin, even though he was ticketed for economy seating. In reality, the individual who had been the oppressor in this situation had been the man who was well dressed and using an individual’s ticketing status as a social construct in which to marginalize another human being. I found myself feeling uncomfortable with my own recognition that I had jumped to conclusions of the situation based on the superficial appearances of the two men.

Instead of eliminating stereotypical processes, we need to focus on developing a better understanding of how stereotypical thinking can lead to situations where negative outcomes, such as prejudice, discrimination, and marginalization can occur (Aronson & McGline, 2009; Crisp & Turner, 2010; Fiske, 2010). More specifically, we need to acknowledge some of our own stereotypical thinking and biases that exist as part of the process of being human with our need to categorize and classify the people around us. By making these personal acknowledgements to ourselves, it gives us the understanding and reasoning to question at times our own actions, assumptions, and behaviors that can at times serve to bias our views of others.

References
Aronson, J. & McGline, M. (2009). Ch. 8: Stereotype and social identity threat. In Nelson, T. (Ed.) Handbook of prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination. New York, NY: Psychology Press.

Crisp, R. J., & Turner, R. N. (2010). Chapter 7: Prejudice. In Essential social psychology (2nd ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Sage.

Fisk, S. (2010). Social beings: Core motives in social psychology (2nd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Feldman, R. (2009). Essentials of understanding psychology (8th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw Hill.

Stangor, C. (2009). Ch. 1: The study of stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination within social psychology: A quick history of theory and research. In Nelson, T. (Ed.) Handbook of prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination. New York, NY: Psychology Press.

Wright, S. & Taylor, D. (2007). Chapter 16: The social psychology of cultural diversity: Social stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination. In Hogg, M. A., & Cooper, J. M. (Eds.). (2007). The Sage handbook of social psychology (concise student ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Sage

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parenting, Personal Growth, Psychology, Relationships, Saudi Arabia

Perspective: The Gift vs. the Sacrifice of Children

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We have all been in situations in which we talk about the “sacrifices” we make in life.  We often hear parents speak of the sacrifices they make for the sake of their children.  Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary (2014) defines sacrifice as “the act of giving up something that you want to keep especially in order to get or do something else or to help someone”.  Whenever we speak of sacrifices made for someone, especially our children, we are inducting that child into a world of feeling guilty for their own existence (Ausubel, 1955).  When I hear parents say “Look at the sacrifices I made for you” to their children, I always cringe at the  feelings of shame and guilt the child is having imposed on them for the event of being born, which was an action brought about by the parents, and not the innocent child.   

An individual recently commented to me on their perceptions of the many “sacrifices” I had made to stay with my children.  I sat and thought about their comments for a moment, and as I thought about it, I realized I had not made personal sacrifices for my children.  I am not going to lie and admit that there have not been times when I have had the thoughts that I sacrificed my life goals for my children.  I put off pursuing a PhD for 10 years because of the age of my children.  I have moved away from my family and friends of my childhood to be with my children and husband in Saudi Arabia.  One could see these as sacrifices, but in fact, not choosing to stay with my children would be a personal sacrifice for me.  Children are gifts, although I will be the first to admit that during the toddler temper tantrums, the mood swings of pre-adolescence, and the rebelliousness of the teenage years, it is hard sometimes to keep this point of view in perspective. 

Children come into the world by the choices their parents make.  If a parent believes that they have made “sacrifices” to have children, perhaps they should reconsider the purpose of having children.  The concept of “responsibility” becomes a crucial component of this concept of “sacrifices” and “guilt” versus our “values” and “responsibilities”.  If an individual sees the sacrifice of raising children with emotional support, love, caring, and teaching them responsibility as a sacrifice, perhaps their values as well as concept of parenting needs to be re-evaluated.   

As I sat and carefully pondered this person’s perception of my sacrifice, it came to me I had made no personal sacrifices, except for the time I sent my 15 year old daughter back to the United States from Saudi Arabia to finish her education.  That was a sacrifice, because I had to let someone l loved dearly leave me, versus keeping her in a country that was not her own.  I choose to stay with my three younger children, and have her go back to the United States:  This was a personal sacrifice; I had to give up someone that I wanted with me on a daily basis, and chose my three younger children in Saudi Arabia.  Who has really sacrificed are my children because of the past choices I have made.  I looked at the person who said this comment to me and told them “Staying with my children is not a sacrifice, because my children are my gifts”.    

 

References

Ausubel, D. P. (1955). Relationships between shame and guilt in the socializing process. Psychological review, 62(5), 378.

Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary.  (2014).  Sacrifice.  Retrieved from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sacrifice

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