How The Middle Eastern Culture Can Be Toxic

By: Rhonda Nemri

Now I know some people will take this to offense, and say “how could you say this?” Or that I am not prideful of my culture. If that’s your first instinct about this, then you’ve already proven my title. However, there are many ways in the Arab culture that people depend on because it is “safe”, and a better excuse for getting away with their hostile behavior. I will explain what “culture” does to people, and how it affects our society; mainly the Arab community. The list will predominately focus on the Arab/Middle Eastern Culture, but can relate to the general idea of culture.

1. Culture is established by a group of people’s norms, and their own perceptions of life, and something that usually sticks with them for a lifetime.
2. Culture brings people together, and creates traditions that can be passed on to generations.
3. Culture allows you to identify with a group/race.
4. Culture is something good, but when taken too far, it can actually create toxicity among family, friends, co-workers, etc.
5. Saying “this is how it is supposed to be” is based off of what someone created to be the norm. Therefore basing everything you do in your life a norm that you only live by because someone else told you this is how it is supposed to be.
6. Culture makes people become hostile towards those who do not fully abide or engage in cultural norms.
7. Culture puts a timeframe for when to be married, when to have children, and requirements on whom you should be with/shouldn’t be with.
8. Culture creates an identity crisis. Arab/Middle Eastern culture versus other cultures can cause one to conflict between being authentic versus being what someone else wants.
9. Culture creates a sense of fear for living authentically. The constant thought that people are monitoring your behavior, and being worried of what other people think of you.
10. Culture makes people believe that because specific norms have been around for so long, that they are correct or acceptable.
11. Culture has created strict tendencies and traditions that have been the cause for separating family units, or has hindered the quality of life.
12. Culture has repeatedly made women to be the lesser equal. Invoking certain lifestyles, do this and don’t do that, limiting career opportunities, etc. As well as creating standards for men to be and act a certain way to appear masculine.
13. Culture for Middle Easterners has been a reciprocated understanding between several religious faiths. (Examples: Christians/Catholics and Muslims). Thus prohibiting many ideas, and new values from different men and women.
14. Culture does not allow mistakes, because your reputation is a representation of your family, and is always accounted for. If you make mistakes, then the people in your family also live through repercussions. People then bad mouth, or speak badly about each other.
15. Culture makes religious people focus more on cultural values, than religious values. This can be detrimental for those who try to live through their religion as Godly-like beings.
16. Lastly, Culture would be something great if people allowed each other to live freely, and not have to live for other people.

Final thoughts:

If we would see the negativity of our culture and become more positive we would be happy individuals. Stop paying attention to other people, and grow as an individual. Making someone suffer because of what you think is right, does not make you right. It’s bad enough we have to live to see the Middle East falling apart because of control, power, and greed. So why do this to the people who you call your family, friend, acquaintance, or someone you vaguely know. Give each other a chance to live life, and a chance to know them before you let culture dictate your every move in your life. Culture is important to have, but not to make you hostile towards humans.

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‘Hello My Name Is Bride’: An Analysis of Weddings, Gender Roles, and Marriage

By: Rhonda Nemri

In our society today, we focus on the many things that seem important to us. One main thing that most people see as a natural process during life is marriage. Even though the marriage process is different now than ever before, we still have some historical background as to why we do the things we do, and how significant or insignificant it is when getting ready to become a married couple. As a young woman who has grown up in a Middle Eastern culture, marriage is one of (or supposed to be) the most important aspects of a woman’s life.

With the many reality televisions shows, books, and magazines, wedding planning has become a significant role for some women who plan on being married. During a graduate course that I took a couple of years back, I was involved in a research project that tailored around reality television shows such as Bridalplasty on E Network and David Tutera’s My Fair Wedding. These shows represented the many reasons why weddings have become so popular. My Fair Wedding focused on changing women’s own wedding plans into

My Fair Wedding With David Tutera

David Tutera’s vision, because her ideas were impractical to begin with, and not up to the expectations of what a perfect wedding should look like. Those women who have applied to become a part of this reality television show have agreed to let go any plans they initially had, and give up any right to say what color schemes to have, wedding themes, bridal gowns, reception hall, and bridesmaid dresses. All of this is done in order to capture a perfect wedding through the lens of a man, who seems to be popular in his career path, and one who knows more about style, and the perfect wedding. Bridalplasty focused more on altering women’s body or face so that she becomes the perfect bride. Women on a weekly basis in this show competed for a closer opportunity to get the whole package of getting plastic surgery done on her body and face before the wedding. Although this show doesn’t exist anymore because of the damage it was doing to the E network, these are the common things we see women doing when wanting to fit into their “perfect dress”, and have the princess-like fairytale wedding. After completing the rhetorical analysis and research for

Allyson’s Wish List on Bridalplasty

these shows, I have not stopped examining and looking into the wedding process and how it has changed our social lives and societal roles when it comes to weddings and marriage. In this discussion I will focus on the historical background of marriage and weddings, and how society views women and men when it comes to marriage through my feminist lens.

Historical Background of Weddings

Understanding the historical wedding traditions is something one must consider giving the fact we still practice the same views and traditional values from centuries ago. According to Simone de Beauvoir, “Modern marriage can be understood only in the light of a past that it tends to perpetuate in part” (De Beauvoir 426). Here are some things that we commonly do for weddings (These are things that I pulled from my research with my good friend/colleague Lisa Glancy (She does analysis’ on Women’s Rhetoric, and General Rhetorical Analysis’):

  •  1. During Ancient weddings couples that were to be married was not important event. Men would visit different villages to capture a woman to marry. “Wives were desired for sexual release, procreation, and household labor.” (Here Comes the Bride: History of the American Wedding). Women were often exchanged for cash or livestock for thousands of years.
  • 2. Early weddings in America were often private affairs within the families. They were held at home either at the bride’s house or the grooms (Here Comes the Bride: History of the American Wedding).
  • 3. By the 1820s and 1830s upper class weddings began to evolve and became recognizably the modern American wedding. These weddings had dinner, cake, receptions, and a toast to the bride and groom (Here Comes the Bride: History of the American Wedding).
  • 4. The phrase “Let’s Tie the Knot” or Let’s Get Hitched” is western slang about ‘hitchin’ up yer gal like a horse (The History of Wedding Traditions).  This term hitching was a process used for tying up horses.
  • 5. Bouquets and Flower Girls were symbolic meanings for the couple’s future life. Originally brides would carry wreathes and bouquets that were made up of herbs (Brideandgroom.com). Garlic was used to cast devil spirits, sage was used to bring wisdom, and dill meant that the bride was to become lusty (Brideandgroom.com). Flower Girls held sheaves of wheat that represented “growth, fertility, and renewal” (Here Comes the Bride: History of the American Wedding).
  • 6. Giving away the Bride symbolically means that the father gives her away to represent that she is no longer belonging (property) to her father. Also representing the price the groom will have to pay before taking away their daughter (Here Comes the Bride: History of the American Wedding).
  • 7. Shoes tied on the back bumper this symbolizes authority and possession because the brides shoes is taken away from her when led to the wedding place, and given to the groom by her father. This transfer means that her husband is now in possession of her and could not run away (Here Comes the Bride: History of the American Wedding).
  • 8. Veils represent virginity, innocence, and modesty. Also in Middle Eastern and Asian countries women were to wear veils so that their groom does not see them.
  • 9. Wedding dresses in biblical times were the color blue which represented purity not white. White wedding dresses became popular in the middle ages by Anne of Brittany in 1499 (Here Comes the Bride: History of the American Wedding).
  • 10. Wedding rings in medieval times had the brides three fingers bound to represent the father, the son, and Holy Spirit. (Here Comes the Bride: History of the American Wedding). Wedding rings came from the idea that women were wrapped around in chains and ropes, to ensure her spirits do not leave her (Here Comes the Bride: History of the American Wedding).
  • 11. Bridal Showers rooted back in Holland. If the father did not approve of her husband-to-be, he would not give her a dowry. Therefore her friends will then shower her with gift to replace her father’s dowry. The bride will then be able to still marry the man of her choice.

Marriage through My Feminist Lens

For a while now, the thought of marriage has been roaming through my head. It isn’t the fact that I am not married yet; it is the fact that women have taken marriage to a different level. I shouldn’t just state that only women are like this, it is all genders, cultural backgrounds, and different generations. Looking at the historical backgrounds of each traditional aspect, as a society today, we have definitely taken those traditions and have expanded on things that are not really necessary, or valuable to us. I am not one who is opposed to marriage, because I want to be married someday, however as I fully get exposed to the marriage process, I have come to the realization that a lot of these traditions are non-sense, and take away from the actual reasoning of marriage.

When looking at the traditions such as giving away the daughter from one man to the other, this is quite present in our society today. We can notice that we hardly ever see the mother playing as one of the major roles in giving her daughter away. Some have stated that they have involved their mothers in the wedding planning, but we can also state that the father is ultimately the one that gives his daughter’s hand away. It is also a symbolism that the father (patriarchy) will pass off his daughter to the next patriarchy in her life (her husband). According to Simone De Beauvoir, “what bourgeois optimism has to offer to the engaged girl is certainly not love; the bright ideal held up to her is that of happiness, which means the ideal of quiet equilibrium in a life of immanence and repetition” (De Beauvoir 447). In The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir described marriage as an “obscene bourgeois institution” (Wolf). Women inessential and man is essential. Women are the other whereas man is the absolute. “All love requires the duality of a subject and an object” (De Beauvoir 629). A woman is seen as just the other in the relationship. The subject of her life is her man, her husband, and her soul mate.

Men and women are placed as the subject/object when they form a union. It is not commonly based on love, however based on the economic decisions that the couple makes. People get married because this is society’s expectations. Often times women will escape their father and mothers household to become free, yet she is not really free once married. She will take on the roles of wife and mother, by cooking and cleaning, and taking care of her children and husband. “Marriages, then, are not generally founded upon love…the husband is, so to speak, never more than a substitute for the beloved man, not that man himself” (De Beauvoir 434). Even though some men don’t view themselves as domineering or taking control of the marriage, the socially constructed norms of how a marriage should be is that the man is always the “man of the house”, and the women negates herself for her man so that he can feel whole (hence women stay home cook, clean, and raise the children). I can see a lot of people being open-minded about marriage these days, but I feel that what happens before the marriage is what intrigues me as well.

Since women are commonly seen as the other, she is also seen this way before she is even married. For instance, Something’s I have noticed lately in my culture is that a young lady/woman is always looked at as a future bride.  In the Middle Eastern culture even when she is not with a man or not even getting married she is still referred to as a bride. In Arabic this is known as Ahroose (Ah-roose). She is constantly referred to as the bride because in the eyes of the Arab society she will one day be the wife of a man. Also generally speaking, women when engaged are always referred to as the bride. If you notice in some television shows such as Say Yes to the Dress, she is always referred to as the bride and not her name. In my culture even after she has gotten married, she is still referred to as the “bride”. She holds the most prestigious role, and that means she is now married and responsible to take on her life, and to finally be recognized as a woman. The bride must always be beautiful, perfect body shape, perfect dress, perfect make-up, and perfect hair. All of this is lovely; however, the grooms’ roles are very much different. Even though some grooms are included in the wedding planning, he is still just seen as a man/groom and not ridiculed for how he looks on the day of the wedding by the guests. The fact that grooms are rarely involved in any of the production (frequently only appearing in the ceremony and reception after all arrangements have been made); it would be easy to paint them as subjects, who anticipate the coming of their objects of desire. Women have the capability to exceed any oppressive situation that they are in, but they reject this choice – either because they believe there is no other way out, or because they are content with adhering to traditional societal expectations.

Another aspect of marriage I want to focus on is the idea of women changing their surname. Even though it is a never-ending cycle of using a man’s surname, women are often joyous and exhilarated to take their husband’s surname. Since women often take their fathers surname, it is quite evident that using a man’s last name is something that we cannot rid. However, the idea that society sees when changing the surname is to make the marriage official, and connected to the man much more. Some women choose to hyphenate their names using their last names and their husband’s last names, but legally, she is always expected to have her husband’s name, never the other way around. For example, we may often hear (example name), “I would now like to introduce you to Mr. and Mrs. Nicholas Johnson. You hardly ever hear a woman’s name included when presenting both couples, because it is now the man who represents her. From my perspective, I believe keeping a last name is more of an identity that you choose to maintain in your life because as a person you have established your life with that name. Whether good or bad experiences occurring, that last name has gone with us throughout our lives. Ideally I would like to keep my last name, however both parties must be willing to compromise and see the reasons why a woman would want to keep her name. Nonetheless, the changing of the surname is a significant process in the marriage to conclude the bonding stage of the couples.

Seeing it that there are many different cultures who have different traditions for their ceremonies, I will talk about the American/Arab culture who mainly derive around Christian-like traditions. The ceremony being a huge part of the wedding, it is also apparent that the father walks his daughter down the aisle. However, the ceremony is usually concluded with a phrase “I will now pronounce you man and wife”. In this situation some ceremonies have changed a bit and state “man and woman”, or “husband and wife”, however the statement “man and wife” very much occurs during the conclusion’s of the ceremony. Women are still seen as the wife, because that is ultimately her role, while the man is just a man, who will always be a man and nothing else. He is a husband; however he is only referred to that label when it is convenient. He is the provider, man of his house, the one who works, while he expects his wife to be at home and take care of house duties and cooking. I know the controversy behind all of this is that not all men are like this. I agree, they aren’t, but in my perspective the majority is. I have analyzed a lot of things lately and have just heard women say that it is our “job” to be in the house and have kids. I don’t necessarily see it as a job, I see it as a natural human obligation to take care of their home, not because of our gender but because it is our priority, and not an expectation. I believe when it comes to marriage or any relationship, a man shouldn’t expect his wife/ woman to do house chores; this is something that must be 50/50 between the two.

“The tragedy of marriage is not that it fails to assure woman the promised happiness-there is no such thing as assurance in regards to happiness-but that it mutilates her; it dooms her to repetition and routine” (De Beauvoir 478). “As long as the man retains economic responsibility for the couple, this is only an illusion. It is he who decides where they will

Sarcasm

live, according to the demands of his work; she follows him from city to country or vice versa, to distant possessions, to foreign countries; their standard of living is set according to his income; the daily, weekly, annual rhythms are set by his occupation; associations and friendships most often dependent on his profession” (480).  The women must basically give up her identity and alter it to her husband’s identity. It is she who must change not the man, because ultimately he is the” ruler of his kingdom”.

Conclusions

Weddings are occurring in every possible culture, it is the bonding of two people who will remain together and hopefully forever. A society begins new traditional values of weddings and marriage, and the old ones still very much occur in our lives. As a we can see women have these roles that they must go by, and same for men. I believe that because women are so used to these roles, they believe that these traditions are the true meaning of happiness and love. Women will always dream of that day when she wears the dress, and becomes the center of attention. Nonetheless, women should also focus on not being labeled always as bride, because the label bride becomes an identity that she must fulfill, when she shouldn’t. The wedding planning, colors, dresses, make-up is an inevitable process for wedding planning, and is something I am sure I will come across when I get married, however, women shouldn’t just focus on fulfilling the brides image, and what societies expectations of her should be. We should be involved in becoming subjects, and connect with our mate on a deeper level, and not just focus on the petty things like colors, food, music, etc. These are important to consider for a lovely day, but shouldn’t be the reasons why we lose our minds just to become a perfect bride. When we try to be the perfect bride, we lose sight of who we are because we then become too focused on changing our appearance for others, and not for ourselves. Shows like Say Yes to the Dress, are shows that market and sell what a bride should have, and how she should look. The more we watch these shows, the more we begin to want something we can’t have, or want something that is only fitting for others.

Surely the wedding industry will continue to make their money, however if one chooses to create the perfect wedding, choose it to be your idea of what perfect is, and not what some else’s idea of perfect is. Finally, in a marriage it should not just focus on duties, and expectations of each other. Women should not always be associated with roles such as wife, or housewife. Indeed, these are things that a women becomes when she is married, however, let us not focus on the fact that she is a servant to her husband. A man shouldn’t expect his wife to be the one to do everything for him just because he makes the money and provide, he should allow his wife to be herself, and explore all possible opportunities that she may have. Opportunities such as educations, working, traveling, etc., and not just feel that when she gets married her aspirations and wants in life diminishes for the sake of her marriage. Let’s not focus on just the man having a job to support, and focus on both being able to be successful, and supporting each other. This is something that has been roaming through my mind, and has been something I have always wanted to bring up. Not only does this occur in the Middle Eastern cultures, it occurs in a lot of other cultures. I have been watching young women (even older) talk about these things that bothers them about marriage and their potential future. Struggling with their thoughts of whether to not go forward with their education or to stop their education for marriage. I have also seen women who focus so much on becoming perfect and not accepting herself, only because she has societal expectations to fulfill. It is hard for one to remove their mindset from something they are so used to. But the more we start changing our mindset on things that may or will better us, the more we have a healthy and positive traditions that we pass on for the future. Working together, and helping others see that their life is valuable, is something that is much-needed.

References

Bride and Groom. Retrieved from http://brideandgroom.com/

De Beauvoir, Simone. The Second Sex. Vintage Books: New York, 1989 .

Here Comes the Bride: History of the American Wedding. 2007. 5 April 2011
<www.randomhistory.com/1-50.009wedding.html>.

The History of Wedding Traditions. 2006. 20 March 2011 <www.brideandgroom.com>wedding-
articles/wedding-traditions-2.asp>.