Beyond Labels

The below is my article about Women published in Kouhl online magazine. Click here to read the original posting.  Feel free to share and empower other women.

The Way I See It:    No more labels for Women, enough!

Love & Light

Noha

BEYOND LABELS 

What’s your label?   Are you single, married, divorced or widowed?  Are you childless, overweight, ugly, beautiful, tall or short?  Are you easy to get, open- minded, conservative, veiled, unveiled, wealthy or poor?  Throughout our lives, we as women are labelled, pigeon-holed and corralled.  Why does it happen and what should we do about it?

This constant classification of women is a means of controlling our lives, limiting our potential and banishing us to secondary roles.  It may not be pre-meditated, but the casual manner in which society labels women reveals a great deal about its regard for females.  What is even more devastating is that most of these labels relate to our relationship with men and that we are labelled far more frequently than men.

My intention in this article is to discuss some of these labels and to challenge the perception that a woman’s worthiness is primarily derived from males and her association with them.  This perception is unhealthy and it erodes a woman’s self-esteem, her sense of individuality and completeness.

People make assumptions about us based upon our age, our physical appearance or whether we are single mothers or childless.  Unfortunately, Egyptian culture is not very kind to women.  It blatantly promotes the idea that a woman’s worth stems from her association with men.  In Egypt, we are immediately labelled by our marital status and the image we project.

I will choose a few labels to discuss in detail.  Are you labelled “single?”  This is the moment when you are transformed from a human being into a big question mark.  “Why aren`t you married?” you are asked suspiciously. “You look good.  You are educated and you have a pleasant personality.”  In essence, you are being asked, “What’s wrong with you?”

You may feel obliged to defend yourself because no matter how intelligent your answers are or how well you highlight your accomplishments, these are of little significance to the person questioning you.  You may have a decent job and financial independence but your achievements are overshadowed by your marital status.  Your interrogators will invariably end the conversation with the hope that you will get married, as if nothing else mattered.

Are you a divorcee?  This label transforms you into a “conversation piece” and everyone is curious about what went wrong and why you couldn’t handle it.  Divorced women are cajoled into relating their often painful personal stories in order to justify their divorce.  They must be redeemed so that they can maintain their worthiness or their option to remarry.  Not only are they trying to heal from a divorce, but they are sometimes forced to explain

318665_508060169224811_714559790_n

what went wrong when they may be trying to figure it out themselves!

Are you classified by physical appearance?  Labels such as “ugly” and “fat” are used to remind us that our core worth is defined by a specific definition of beauty, a definition conceived and promoted by society and the media.  To deviate from that definition is to find ourselves devalued, our accomplishments and concerns of little recognition.

Then, of course, there is the age factor.  Successful women over 35 seem to come with an expiry date.  They are identified as “the good friend,” “confidante” or ‘the other woman.”  Although they provide a comfort zone, they are not necessarily “the partner” or “the wife.”

When we allow others to define our worth, we lose our own perspective and a part of ourselves. Sadly, we become subjected to perceptions of ourselves that are not necessarily our own but of family, friends and community.  We are left to follow an artificial script which requires us to meet others’ expectations of whom we should be.  The results can be painful, leading us to lose our sense of individuality, worthiness and freedom.  Thus, our aspirations become limited and controlled.

We women need to be reminded how strong and influential we really are.  We are the movers and shakers.  We are the artists of our society.  We are the workers, the thinkers, the lawyers, the athletes and the politicians.  We are doctors, scientists, teachers and journalists as well as wives, sisters, daughters and mothers.  We contribute.  We get things done and we do them well!

So what is the path to a better future for Egyptian women and all women?  How can we avoid the distraction of being labelled?  The answer is to stop thinking about an “opposite” sex and to appreciate what individuals have to offer when they are perceived as full-fledged human beings.  This means looking beyond labels and viewing ourselves in a different light.  It means moving past conventional expectations by empowering ourselves politically, economically and socially.

Women need to be politically active and aware.  We need to run for public office and vote.  We ought to participate in decisions that affect our social and economic standing.  We ought to involve ourselves in education and public policy.  We should stand together and spread the message that we can make a difference.  We should reach out to women in the hinterland, to those outside of the major cities.  The way to do this is through increased literacy, general education and gainful employment.  This is the key to independence for these women and it leads to increased awareness of their rights.

There is power in numbers and we have the numbers.  In May 2012, Egypt’s Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics reported that Egypt’s population had reached 82 million.  49.3 per cent of that population is female and, according to UN Women, 23 million of those females were eligible to vote in last spring’s election.  So, yes, we make up half the population.  All we require is a sense of solidarity, a stronger and more unified approach.  This is the message of empowerment that I am keen to impart in my fellow women, particularly those in the Middle East.  It’s time to extricate ourselves from labels.

Written by: Noha Hassan

Edited by: Joanne Madden

Noha Hassan – A freelance writer and poet, creating in French, English as well as Arabic. Publishing her work in Egyptian newspapers as well as her blog (nohahassan.com). A devoted advocate of women’s rights and is particularly concerned about the welfare of women in the Middle East, focusing on empowerment of women through Pen, Poetry and Photography.

Photo Credit:  Samer Kamel Photography – Mashrou3 Hagar

Advertisements

People Can Leave But Their Shadows Remain

Shadow - Photo Credit Noha Hassan

Shadow – Photo Credit Noha Hassan

When people really matter;

When they really mean something to us;

When we really loved and still love them, differently but we still do;

When we really really want them to be happy, good and blessed;

When they are not in our lives anymore for a reason or another, right or wrong;

We never forget them; we simply get use to their absence.

And we always catch their shadows in a jock, a smile, a meal, a hug, a tear coming back in our face screaming: did you forget me?

We get distracted for a second…we run after the shadow, screaming back…No, Never! where are you? how have you been?…did you forget me?

Then we come back to our reality with unanswered question reminding us it was just a shadow.

The Way I See It:

To All the shadows in our lives, not being in each other lives will never mean you are forgotten. It simply mean we are meeting in other dimensions. “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” Rumi

Love & Light

Noha

Day of Shame – To Middle Eastern Men: A7a! From Your Beaten, Naked, Virginity Tested & Soon Raped Women With The Blue Bra!

Egyptian army soldiers beat a female protester during clashes at Tahrir Square in Cairo

Egyptian army soldiers beat a female protester during clashes at Tahrir Square in Cairo

Samira Ibrahim the only female protester (out of 7) who continued testifying that SCAF conducted Virginity test on her
Samira Ibrahim the only female protester (out of 7) who continued testifying that SCAF conducted Virginity test on her

PS: a7a is an Arabic word used to express frustration or anger.  It is considered to be a Vulgar word, so apologies for my vulgarity, frustration and anger in case you are offended in anyway.

As a female who grew up and lived most of her life in the Middle East they programmed our minds with labels and beliefs such as:

  • We should be protected
  • We should be covered head to toe / dressed respectfully
  • How religion treats, protects and respect women
  • You should keep your virginity till you get married as it shows that we were a respectable conservative religious female – keeping the family “honor” intact!
  • Women are here to build families and raise kids (it is Ok if she works too due to the economic situation, so she works, raises kids and be a wife ..!)
  • The way we deal with our body is associated with respect/disrespect, honor/dishonor, humiliation/abuse, reputation and define who we are (not that I agree on any of the above!)
So it was all about protecting this sacred thing called “woman body” and how it is associated with “honor” in our head and society core ethic and belief – we all remember how a fight can easily starts in the street because a man said something inappropriate to a female while walking with her “male” figure – be it a brother, father or husband-
So now I am really frustrated, angry and surprise, why? Because first: virginity tests were conducted on female protestors and nothing happened to punish  the ones who did it or even an apology and  now we see the Egyptian army (which for me they are MEN raised like me in the same society – fed like me the same beliefs ) go even more barbaric by: (click the link to see video)
  • Beating a defenseless and unarmed WOMAN
  • Beating with their fists and boots a defenseless and unarmed WOMAN on the head and chest
  • Pulling the Abaya and showing the chest and midriff of defenseless and unarmed WOMAN
  • Exposing her not only to physical brutality but for sexual brutality and humiliation
  • And finally screwing up with all her belief system about what it is to be a WOMAN

They are punishing her for coming out demanding a better present and future for herself and her kids, for screaming for freedom, democracy, health, education and a better quality of life,  FOR HAVING A VOICE AND THE COURAGE TO SPEAK. In future they will rape us in the street witnessed by everybody!

Pulling off the Abaya might have come unintentionally and just during the beating scene but this cannot be forgiven, the blue bra was captured on photos and videos and the moment will stay DOCUMENTED forever!  I saw they tried to cover her at some point but the humiliation, hurt, brutality, barbaric, abusive and insulting treatment for a woman; were already done the moment they decided NOT to arrest her as a decent  human being and BEAT her as a …I don’t know as what actually?

To all Middle Eastern men and authorities who insist on pushing women to hate their sexuality by using it as a tool for humiliation, punishment and abuse: all I have to say is A7a and this is for sure a day of shame to all of us.
  • I don’t want to hear anything about women and how we should dress; you undressed us in the street
  • I don’t want to hear anything about women freedom in ME, when we tried; you tested our virginity
  • I don’t want to hear anything about religion respecting women, you beat us on the head, and you used your fists and boots. God respects us …YOU don’t!
  • I don’t want to hear anything about covering our bodies; you pulled our clothes in the street showed us naked with our blue bras

Unless we know how to treat another human being, unless we practice what we preach, unless we respect each other’s’ opinion and differences;  please do not blame Middle Eastern women if we all went naked like Alia Al Mahdi not on our blogs but live in front of your eyes in daylight and it will be IN TAHRIR.

Shame on all of you! If you think that all women protesting are whores and prostitutes  deserving to be exposed and beaten …so be it …it will be written in history that prostitutes and odalisques freed their countries.

A Middle Eastern woman with a blue bra.
Love & Light
Noha

This Feeling Of “Missing” – How To Get Over It?

My Friend said to me earlier: Ya Noha all is good with me, I just miss being with him sometimes even though I know that being apart was the best scenario..and I can’t stop hoping that I am missed too sometimes. She made me think ……do we really forget? Can we really stop remembering a person we loved one day? For anyone who thinks he/she is sick, pathetic, living in the past, still unable to get them out of their system or maybe think they are weak or obsessed – actually you are not …it is natural for anyone to miss the “moments” when he/she was happy. As strong and sincere your feelings were; as strong as you were for sure happy and for certain these waves of “missing” will keep hitting you as strong as you were deeply in love “sometimes”. Let them hit you, remember, wish the person love and peace let go …don’t stop and keep moving …! It’s a train of thoughts …look at it…admire its beauty…but don’t jump in it …it is OK to miss the person we loved   ” sometimes”…!

 
من يوم بعدك . . . وانا قلبي  مكسور وحزين
محتار… مش عارف الدنيا… وخداني لفين
صعبان علي قلبي فراقك
طب هعمل ايه؟؟؟
جوايا حنين علشانك
ازاي اداريه؟
طمني عليك قول فين الاقيك
مشتاق لعنيك
وبموت من شوقي ليك
 Translation:
Since you left, my heart is broken and sad
I am confused, I don’t know where life is taking me
My heart is sad from our separation
But what Can I d0?
How can I hide this longing? Tell me where to find you
I miss your eyes and this missing is killing me
Mohamed FouadPopular Egyptian Singer – Tamenini 3aleek song (Tell me how are you doing)
**********************
 
The Way I See It: Maybe one day you will end up here, for curiosity or maybe you will be dealing with a “missing” moment like me. Whatever the reasons will be let me tell you: All is good with me, going better then I even imagine, not having you around is better then I though it will be (I never imagine it actually so I guess it is very good where I am now). Life is amazing  and has been so good to me since I am so good to her.
 
It’s just these moments when I don’t feel like speaking with anyone, not standing people around, want everything to stop, all lights to turn off, everything to stand still with nothing left to see. Then I want to drag you in my darkness and squeeze myself between your arms telling you how much I miss you sometimes, and how I get so lost not knowing what to do with this feeling…it gets me off guard every time..! then feel you pressing my arms saying “don’t be scared; everything will be all right”.  PS: I am not scared, I just want to hear it.
 
PPS: Got so used to my own energy, my own strength, my own voice and would love to trade a moment to feel yours again, even though I know how negative, dark, destructive it was!. But what the heck …the process of falling with you/ into you had always been associated with ecstacy and excitement. It’s an orgasm that shakes the deepest point of your soul, this depth that you yourself didn’t know you had……so you shake and shake from head to toes clinging to the feeling till you drop dead on a cloud of satisfaction, exhaustion, weariness, tiredness, fatigue, yet every cell of your body and soul is alive as it had never  been… It’s just these moments that I miss sometimes and from time to time…being sober, clean and healthy from the drug doesn’t mean you don’t miss the effects sometimes!…other then that I am really doing great …and how are you doing Ya baby?

Love & Light

Noha

Love Scene: The Big Bang, Was It A Mistake?

Photo credit - Getty Images

Photo credit - Getty Images

She sat in this famous old Irish bar, it was crowded, so loud with this game on TV, around her everyone is cheering …..but she was not really there….

She ordered her first drink….this one goes …to the old days when you went Gaga over her…. to her preterm baby dreams.. dead and buried deep in her heart…

She ordered her second one…..this one goes to the pain, she chose to bare for “someone” hoping “someday” to show up on her door…she changed doors, sucked in all kind of pain and pride…but they never came…

Without asking she got her third drink…..this one goes to the experience…to learning…to her love …to attachment ….detachment…addiction… affection… connection…to the unexplained bond…then to the loss … self-discoverysoul searchingblocks and beliefs….holding on…letting go…hold again.. release… push…pull…to the holly circle of lost love….she raised her glass this goes to the journey…..

Cheers….cheers… yayayay….ahhhhh…yessss….people cheering around her echoing what’s in her mind…..

“This one on the house” she heard. And here it goes, her fourth drink…..why it’s not cold enough? why it’s not bitter anymore……..

She started to feel light, floating on a bed of nothingness…sluggishness enjoying an eternal nullity…….many screen shots appearing and disappearing from her mind…she can’t get hold of any …they show themselves then run away from her…….all void at the end with a            BIG BANG of Light….…Where is everybody………………… !?

*********** The End *************

The Way I See It:  In my opinion the hardest part is not losing you, or changing many doors and you never knew. Not even loving you unconditionally waiting for your heart and mind to make peace and come back home. No…, the hardest part was discovering that you never really understood me, that you kept till the end seeing the story only with your eyes, even now! That’s the hardest thing of all when you see the person you love with all your heart, unwilling to be YOU for a minute blaming you for being lovingly there for them….so it’s when your love turn to be your fault and when “being there” is labeled to be just “stubbornness”! How painful is that! You tend to be left with one question: was it a mistake?

But I will never consider LOVE to be a mistake …ever! Love is the highest feeling a person can feel, it’s what make us alive, and we should always be alive, every moment and every day. No one should ever blame himself for loving someone, if they were not able to receive this love and love you back even more, this is their own lesson to learn…many people live and die and they never knew how really to love or what it is to be loved truly, deeply and unconditionally. I will always love with all my heart and so should you. And if anyone told you “Love is Weakness” answer them back: You need courage to really Love a person, to be there for them and return back their love. It takes courage to be weak!

Love & Light

Noha

%d bloggers like this: