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The Modern Arab Woman

17 March 2011 2 Comments

Nawal Beauvoir

Nawal is a Middle Eastern professional woman who currently resides in the USA. She has adopted Nawal Beauvoir as her pen name, in honor of Nawal Saadawi and Simone de Beauvoir, because she prefers to remain anonymous when commenting on women’s issues.

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I recently moved to the United States from the Middle East.

I have always enjoyed interacting with people from different cultures and exploring other cultures. However, since my move to the United States, I have been surrounding myself with Arab women and tremendously enjoying their company. Obviously, it’s easier to mingle with people who come from the same background and share a similar path. But I thought to myself: There must be another reason for this predilection…

It appears to me that Arab women who have left their home countries to live abroad are very interesting individuals. What makes them so interesting is the struggle in their lives.

Arab women of my generation—we’re in our 20s and early 30s—are struggling to change the expectations that society has of us. They are expectations which to a great extent replicate the lifestyles of our mothers. It may seem archaic to many but women in our societies are still expected not to have a life or a personality of their own.

When an Arab woman chooses a path that is not conventional, she has to overcome a number of hurdles. The biggest hurdle—and one that an Arab man does not have to face—is on the psychological front. She has to liberate herself from the ideas that she was brought up with—the notion that a woman shouldn’t leave her parent’s home except to move into a husband’s home, the expectation that a woman needs constant male protection (which she will not have if she lives alone), and, most importantly, the fear of what people may say about her. A woman has to resist pressure from her family to conform. She has to struggle on the mental front first of all until she can reach a stage where she feels confident with her decisions.

When an Arab woman decides to leave her family’s home and establish a life abroad, the social pressure becomes even more palpable. Family and relatives pressure her parents; the criticism that they may be subjected to weighs heavily on them. They try to pressure their daughter to give up her plans and dreams. That is what we’re all expected to do: obey the rules, do the accepted thing, be conventional, measure up to societal standards and expectations, conform to the lifestyle that is imposed on us by family and society.

Despite all of this pressure, the “strong-headed” woman (which is what she would be called at this stage, if not called “stubborn”) leaves home and starts a new life abroad. The pressure often continues, as parents hope they can force or convince her to return. The psychological pressure is tremendous. Some women survive the pressure and pursue the path they chose for themselves, while others give up and give in. I admire those who persist but I also empathize with those who return home discouraged and perhaps disappointed.

All of the above is what makes an Arab woman so interesting. As she struggles to establish and prove herself, she grows as a human being. She develops a personality that is rich with experience, wisdom, knowledge, and empathy. The complex and sophisticated intellect and psyche of such a woman is fascinating; and this is why I surround myself with Arab women.

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2 Comments to “The Modern Arab Woman”
  1. patricia smith says:

    As she struggles to establish and prove herself, she grows as a human being. She develops a personality that is rich with experience, wisdom, knowledge, and empathy.

    Dear Nawal, I love this sentence above that you wrote. It’s been so true in my experience in meeting with women around the world.

    patricia

  2. Hasan Alaeddin says:

    Dear Nawal:
    I really will be very happy to meet a middle eastern women here in California to be my future wife.

    Thanks,
    Hasan

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