It's the 8th of March, which marks another annual women's day worldwide. Coming from a family of mostly women, we usually celebrate on this day. We celebrate our sisterhood, our femininity and our togetherness as women under one roof, and under one family. I will be doing some minor celebration later today, just by drinking chai karak with my sisters - and trust me this sounds marvelous amidst of a strict healthy diet I am undergoing at this moment of time! it would be a perfect cheat.
As much as I love to celebrate my femininity, womanhood and amazing women around me, I still find a part of myself rather hypocritical, because I choose to celebrate womanhood even though I feel like my being a woman is often oppressed due to my ethnicity and religious background. Yes, I am a muslim-born Arab woman from Oman, living in Oman, who is - like many other women in the region - feeling oppressed for being a woman.
In this day - women's day - let me introduce you to how it really feels like to live as an Omani woman in Oman (from my own perspective, because ... as you should know: I cannot explain any feeling from somebody else's perspective). Everything I am about to write is from my own personal experiences. Feel free to attack and judge as you wish.
I was born in a family filled with women. My mother, and two elder sisters, joined few years later by my younger sister who is now 14. Our home is what you can certainly call a hormonal madness. But I still liked it; I love my sisters, and I like to say that I also love my parents. They are not what you would label as traditional or stereotypical Arab parents, and I thank god for that. I grew up being told that I was part of the 'you go girl' generation. I always believed that my being a female has nothing to do with how I live my life, with my dreams, or how I approach them. I believed that up until recently, when I hit the 21 year old age mark and returned to live at home once again after three years of living independently in Europe.
I began noticing that suddenly I had new rules to follow, because I am now over 20 years of age. I had to be modest - whatever that word really means. I had to act a certain why, otherwise my family's name is at stake. I was often attacked and named 'selfish' for not wanting to live up to society's expectations. This came from people close to me. Women who are close to me accused me of carelessness, just because I chose to show my face on this blog.
For the first time in my life: I had a mind of my own. Not my parents. Not my teachers. Not anybody else's, but mine. I read books, I traveled across the world, and I came to notice the many things I missed out on life just because the society I came from did not consider it okay for a woman to do such things. It was the small things at first which caught my attention:
- I had to double, triple and whatever how many times think about posting a selfie on my public Instagram. A decision I would not even think about if I was a male Omani. Why? because a woman's face must not be shared online, it would only bring shame to your family. Oh, and "people talk". Funny how people seem to have tongues to talk in my part of the world only when it comes to a female body or face
- I have to cover my head and any sign of my naturally-curved female body so that I do not seduce men. Their thirsty dirty gaze is my problem to deal with
- Marriage at my age, and how it is expected of me to have 'finding a husband' as the ultimate goal during my twenties
- My worthiness of marriage is based on my tribal name
- Society's expectations for me to be a 'clean virgin' just like a white page
Hold on, I am aware many would likely jump to the following conclusion: "here we go again, another Arab woman who became westernized and is now attacking her heritage, acting like an annoying feminist", soon after I stated that I lived in Europe for a while. You can assume that, I couldn't care less ... if it really takes me being labelled a 'westernized' Arab woman to voice my opinion over this issue of oppression, then go ahead and call me what you want.
I may sound angry, and I am. I am filled with rage. Not because people here seem to find a way to oppress women, mostly by attacking them with religion. The thing about attacking somebody with religion here in Oman, you leave them speechless. You leave them feeling weak, almost guilty. But I am angry at myself for not thinking with my own mind all these last few years, for following the crowd, for allowing people to tell me how I must be dressed, how I must think, and how I should live my life ... just because I am a woman.
I am not here to pull a feminist act, because actually I never considered myself a feminist. I just hope to lead a life with freedom, despite me being a woman. I should be able to be free regardless my location on this globe. I want to feel at home for a change, when I am in Oman. I want to be accepted for having my own thoughts and dreams. I want my sexuality embraced, and I want my voice to not be considered sinful. Oppression prohibits creativity. I know I have a high potential of being creative, and to feel a lack of freedom coming from those close to me, and starting from my own country, is saddening.
The little things I mentioned in this blog post are not even that vital, I didn't want to touch up on the religion debate too much, or the catcalling that happens when I am out on the street, or the discrimination I have to go through for being a woman even in public space.Why? because for once and for all: I don't think I should be protesting this anymore, not at this age.
Here is what I am thinking this women's day:
For a long period of time I felt life is unfair. It didn't come to me as a surprise, but I was angered by it. I was envious of women my age who don't have to think of things I have to think about just because I was born into a Muslim Arab family in Oman. I want to be a free-spirited woman, just like I always believed I was.
If you are a woman reading this: be the best version you can be of yourself. Be free, and be happy. If you are a man reading this: be good to yourself. Be a good husband, father, brother, friend. Don't let your masculinity show in the most wrong places. Be a man, and let her be the woman she wants to be.
Happy Women's Day