by Reham M. Omar
“The Arab world’s most populous nation has reached a critical ethnographic juncture: the stigma of spinsterhood (women who are unmarried beyond the “usual” age of marrying) is haunting the country’s female population. Reham Omar investigates what marriage in Egypt really means.
A suffering economy, identity crisis, and general instability are all factors leading up to the declining marriage rate in Egypt, which is understandable in light of the current situation. Yet the key issue here is what a lot of young Egyptian women refer to as a “rigid national mentality which fails to adapt accordingly,” “an archaic notion that defines a woman’s value by her husband’s status,” and “transforming her into a commodity for the highest bidder.”
The basis behind this is simple and not as malevolent as western critics perceive; while western culture attribute success and failure to the individual and individual alone, eastern culture considers family to be the pillar of one’s success, generally creating a tightly knit blood-bond and support structure. Each system has its pros and cons, but while codependence is highly favorable in the Middle East, it does in fact reject if not oppress any sign of diversion from this system, yielding myriads of unfavorable consequences.
“…an archaic notion that defines a woman’s value by her husband’s status”
The standard sequence of events for a typical Egyptian female’s life, is to pursue an auspicious college degree (to improve her chances of finding a proper suitor, and assist her future children with their studies), possibly add to her assets by acquiring a mediocre job for a year or two (under the pretext of killing time and elevating her practical wisdom), and eventually fulfill her lifelong purpose of securing a husband. She is ultimately regarded as a supporter or sidekick, and while most women will gladly accept this role, the ones who suffer are those who can’t find a “star.”
They’ll start feeling pressure from three distinctive sources (parents-peers-society), urging them to “do something about it.” Any attempt to develop themselves on the professional or personal scale will at large be considered futile – if not smothered by patriarchy, a bleak economic situation, and lack of resources – unless it serves the “Stepford wife model”, whether it be transforming her identity, settling for an incompatible match, or in some cases be driven towards more extreme measures.”
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