Thursday, August 25, 2005

Cheap

Why is it that some Arab men who come from more conservative cultures behave so badly when they find themselves in a more Liberal society?Is it because they come from a culture that puts the burden of moral behavior on women alone & tells men they cannot control themselves?

The concept of a man being cheap is an unusual one. It's not an accusation that men are often asked to defend themselves against. But I have never respected men who gave me the feeling that I - as a woman - am the only one who is setting limits in the relationship - that they would let it go anywhere if I don't stop it. And that they are like that with all women. I always feel such men have no personal or moral standards of their own and are infact dirt-cheap.

The husband of a friend of mine who she caught cheating a while back told her that he hadn't pursued the other woman or gone out looking to cheat - that the woman pursued him. And my friend believes that is true. So is that an excuse?Is a man so helpless against his own physical urges that as his partner I have to accept that he just can't say no?That he'll be faithful only as long as no other woman wants him?

Actually it's not just physical urges that some men seem to be unable to say no to. It's the ego-boost they get when a woman makes them feel wanted. They are so vulnerable to that kind of flattery that it can make them forget their obligations to their partner, to themselves & to their religion.

Is this a product of the way our culture over-emphasizes a woman's obligation to suppress her own sexuality?That men don't think they have to control themselves & actually expect the woman to do it for them & always blame her if control is lost?

It's the woman who has to cover up so they don't get any thoughts. It's the woman who has to refuse when they ask for things they know are wrong. Have lost count of the number of times I had this conversation with a male friend or relative. He would say well why didn't she refuse & I would say well why did you ask?Didn't you know it was wrong?But they seem to think it was all her fault even though it was their idea & they kept asking again & again!The minute she says yes he feels he can do whatever he wants without any guilt because now it's all her fault.

Am not disputing that a woman should keep her sexuality out of the public sphere. That is my personal belief - even though I don't accept the concept of hijab or AlZay AlShar3i because I really believe that the definition of what is decent differs with time & place. You can't make it a uniform. There was never a time when all Muslim women wore the same thing. If you look at folkloric fashions throughout the Muslim world you'll find that while most of them are fairly conservative, not all of them include a headcover. And even the ones who do use the headcover as an ornament - showing part of or a lot of their hair through it.It's hard for me to believe that for 1400 or 1500 years Muslim women were interpreting Islam wrong until we came along in the 1970's & suddenly saw something they had all missed.

My mother told me once a long time ago that decency in clothing is not about what other people will think or feel - it's about how your clothes make you feel. Vaguely I think in the back of my mind that is the standard I follow. Some clothes make me especially aware of being a woman, they have an effect on my mood, they make me more flirtatious, more reckless. These are the things I know are not meant for the public sphere. It's my own thoughts & my own feelings that I feel guilty or responsible for - not someone else's.

But yes I believe the Prophet did say that every religion has a defining feature & the defining feature of Islam was modesty. So it is part of our identity to be modest. Which is fine as far as I'm concerned. But this is a long way from becoming obssessed with the sexuality of a woman while men do what they want.

I think it's sad also the way this has caused so many women to internalize the guilt. Once heard one woman saying that if a man sees one woman & is sexually excited by her & goes of & sleeps with another woman it's the first woman's fault for exciting him. So the woman gets the sin comitted by 2 people she didn't know without her knowledge!What nonsense!

8 Comments:

Blogger roora said...

Hi Loulou ,
Great post
The idea that men behave well in their own culture and behave so badely in a liberal society is been widely observed but I believe that RELIGON is the only thing that controls men and makes them behave.

They always say when women don't behave well , then it is a great taboo even if she repented , but if men did exactly the same , they say Rabena hadah. Although Quran is treating the punishment of the sins in the same way for both genders.

Fortunately I am , I have seem in my life some guys who set their own limits even if the one infront of them does not because they are some how religous.

if the women are not wearing conservative clothes, this will make it harder for men , but yet God ordered us (men and women) to lower our gaze, so it is not an excuse then.

I actually disagree with you regarding the hijab idea , as far as I understood that you are not convinced because " what is decent differs with time & place. "

So the same goes here for us women as you said for men , Does it mean if women move from a conservative society to a more liberal sciety then we can wear whatever we want as long as it is acceptable by society and seems to be descent? Same goes here for women really Loulou.

What i can say about being descent or acceptable is that the society should somehow feel familiar with, but complying at the end with the Zy elshar3ee. For example , men in egypt cant go on and wear Scotish skirts just because it is not 7aram ,
So this is how I may see we should consider the society difference.

8/25/2005 03:00:00 PM  
Blogger Mohamed said...

Yeah, modesty and 7aya'a. That's the key.

But women get an ego-boost too when other women are after their man.

8/25/2005 06:52:00 PM  
Blogger zoss said...

" Why is it that some Arab men who come from more conservative cultures behave so badly when they find themselves in a more Liberal society?Is it because they come from a culture that puts the burden of moral behavior on women alone & tells men they cannot control themselves?"

I understand your post is specifically concerned with Arab men, but I believe this issue transcends this particular boundary; I think it subsists in most male-dominated cultures.

The major problem lies, I think, in the view (erroneous, as it may be) that women have more stake in these relationships than men; that they stand to lose more. This causes the question to shift from being a moral one, to one which can only be described as a cost-benefit-analysis.

The idea, then, is to steer the debate back to recognize that it is, in fact, a moral decision. Once this point is driven home, I think your concerns would be greatly served.

(The hope is, that anyone with half a brain, some tact, and/or a decent sense of fairness, would not deny that, in general, men and women have equal moral responsibility.)



"So is that an excuse?Is a man so helpless against his own physical urges that as his partner I have to accept that he just can't say no?"

No! Absolutely, categorically, not! However, that being said, don't underestimate the power of Testosterone.

I'm reminded of a Robin Williams joke, which goes like, "God has given [man] a brain and a penis, but only enough blood to run one of them at a time" :)

8/26/2005 09:27:00 AM  
Blogger LouLou said...

Mohamed,

"But women get an ego-boost too when other women are after their man."

Not really sure what you meant by that in this context.

8/26/2005 11:35:00 AM  
Blogger LouLou said...

Zoss,

"I'm reminded of a Robin Williams joke, which goes like, "God has given [man] a brain and a penis, but only enough blood to run one of them at a time" :)"


How true:)

8/26/2005 11:48:00 AM  
Blogger LouLou said...

roora,

"Does it mean if women move from a conservative society to a more liberal sciety then we can wear whatever we want as long as it is acceptable by society and seems to be descent? "

No. What I meant is while it is clear to me that we as Muslims were ordered to be modest it is not clear to me that being modest means a specific uniform.

In my hometown in Morroco traditionally both men & women wear a long, loose jalibiya that covers the whole body & has a hood in the back which is sometimes raised to cover the head but most of the time just falling back. The only difference between men & women is that men tend to wear plain colors mostly white or off-white & women's tend to be more colorful, with embroidery & richer material etc...

Always thought it looks really nice & dignified. It's modest & conservative enough. And it's more or less the same for men & women so no double standards.

Now Morroco is not some remote corner of the Muslim world where you can say well maybe Islam didn't reach them properly. These people have been Muslim since the 7th or 8th century. Some of the Prophet's Sahaba lived there. Some of his family also lived there.

AlQayrawan in Tunisia very nearby used to be a center for Islamic learning. And yet most Tunisian women also never covered their hair completely.

And it was Muslims from this part of the world who founded the Moorish civilization in Spain.

Now inspite of all this some people come & tell us that for the last 1400 years we have all been reading the Qura'an & Sunna wrong & our local costume is wrong because it doesn't always cover the woman's hair. I find that hard to accept.I think a more likely explanation is that our ancestors read the same Qura'an we read & the same Sunna & their scholars decided there can be more than one right interpretation & that their local costume didn't really contradict Islam or it would have changed don't you think?If it didn't change in the last 1400 years I see no reason to change it now as if we just discovered Islam & we know better than all our ancestors.

The same phenomenon must have happened in other parts of the Muslim world where you find different traditional styles that don't necessarily conform 100% to the modern idea of AlZay AlShar3i. Like in India & Pakistan for example.

Diversity is good you know. The Qura'an said "ina khalaqnakum shu3ooban waqabae'l lita3arafu". And the Prophet said fi alikhtilaf ra7ma. Don't think Islam came to make 2 billion people in 57 different countries all dress exactly the same way. That sounds a little fascist & not very Islamic in my opinion.

But that's just my opinion.

8/26/2005 11:52:00 AM  
Blogger LouLou said...

Zoss,

Do you think that the reason men are more vulnerable to being pursued than women is that it happens to them less often - especially in conservative societies where women rarely make the first move?

Women expect to be pursued & so it's not so overwhelming for us that we stop thinking.

Can't believe it's just hormones. Women have hormones too. There must be more to it than that.

8/26/2005 11:57:00 AM  
Blogger roora said...

Loulou,

"Diversity is good you know. The Qura'an said "ina khalaqnakum shu3ooban waqabae'l lita3arafu". And the Prophet said fi alikhtilaf ra7ma. Don't think Islam came to make 2 billion people in 57 different countries all dress exactly the same way. That sounds a little fascist & not very Islamic in my opinion."

Yes tab3an for sure , elekhtelaf ra7ma for muslims , that there are different opinions about different things , but frankly I don't think there are different opinions regarding the veil. Most of the scientists as far as I know , said that it is Fard. Wear it in the way it apeals to you as long as it is complying with its conditions , for example some of my aquaintances live in the States, they wear high coal T- shirt and something like a hood
Every one wears what is accepptable by his culture but at the end complying with what the veil is.
Same goes for men , they dont have to wear jalabya in Egypt , like in Saudi Arabia or a different style than Morroco, this is not a problem I see.

8/26/2005 01:36:00 PM  

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