In the Shadows of Men: Divorce


I often wonder if, with divorce, there is salvation from tyranny, like liberation from occupation. Why divorce when the result is need, humiliation, exhaustion, and destruction? How is it liberation when poverty, tyranny, and depression are the result?

Perhaps divorce is equal to marriage in its despotism and injustice. The criteria in our lives have changed. Clear measurements are no longer used. But courage may make the difference. It makes it possible to snatch life from the depths of oppression, tyranny, and suppression. This courage in expressing oneself, the prominent writer Nawal El Saadawi confirms, is the first step towards liberating the mind from the superstitions and myths passed on in the name of science, literature, or virtue. We have inherited much ignorance in the name of knowledge, many fabrications in the name of science, many lies in the name of literature, much vice in the name of virtue, and much low thinking in the name of higher thought.

Divorce is much the same. What it means in application is different from what it means in language. In Arabic, for instance, it means release, like discharging a bullet from a gun. When a gun is triggered, it is usually done so out of determination. But we can never guarantee where the bullet may go, no matter how we try to determine its destination. There is something that cannot be guaranteed. Someone may cross its path before it reaches its target.

With divorce there is undoubtedly liberation, but divorce in our society closes itself off from the woman, makes her leave her husband’s house and live behind locked walls surrounded by fences, far removed from society. The husband is the warden until the woman goes off on her own, only to find herself imprisoned within a whole new system. If she were lucky, her patron would be her father, and if she were less lucky, any passerby could become her patron.

Divorce is like leaving prison with an eternal scar. No matter how you present the word or try to make it beautiful or explain its causes, no matter if you present your story logically, providing all of its context and contours, it still falls harshly on all ears—even my own. How many times have I said the word loudly? How many times I have been hushed, as if the word divorce carries only shame?

I dared to challenge this belief. Divorce is a right when living together becomes too difficult. Like an addict in rehab, I used to scream at my own face and yell into my own ears: “I am divorced!” The moment this statement came out of my mouth, my stomach dropped. That same empty scream is the depth of fear. Fear. That protective fence I surrounded myself with in order not to confront the world. As much as I felt strong with my children, they were also my weakness. Each time this confrontation arose, I would yell at myself: “In the end, you don’t live in this society alone. You are entrusted with these children. It is not fair to exclude them and remove them from society.” My divorce didn’t necessarily mean the divorce of my children. But there was no middle ground. There is a continuous, unavoidable confrontation. This is what distinguishes divorce. It cannot be stopped. You cannot hide. You have no options but confrontation. Otherwise, why divorce?

It is not a coincidence that I have never encouraged a woman to seek a divorce. But I don’t deny that I may encourage men to do so. Maybe this is because I believe men don’t have the strength to ask for divorce, even though they have the upper hand in society. No matter how affected the man is by a divorce, the woman usually suffers greater damages and consequences. The system protects the man and holds him in comforting arms. If the man is divorced, women rush to him—seekers, matchmakers, and many others join the line waiting to make him a husband again. The man is always perceived as “capable” by society. His divorce allows for many other opportunities. Women stand up for him. No matter if he has children, or if he was obsessed, or a freak. It doesn’t matter if he is ugly or disgusting. The man is only disgraced by a flaw in his manhood, and manhood is masculinity, and through masculinity, societies are made.

And woe to you, woman, if the divorce was your choice. Our society wants you defeated and broken so it can have mercy on you. Temporarily. “Oh, poor thing. She was divorced. … Oh, poor thing. He hit her. … Oh, poor thing. He betrayed her. … Oh, poor thing. He brought home another wife. … But she is patient and honorable.” Within moments, those chains of support become circles of gossip. Don’t worry, she didn’t threaten the makeup of society and its rough fabric. She didn’t know how to deal with him. Men have many weakness, and women are keen. That woman who allowed her man to slip out with another woman, or that woman who was beaten or assaulted, must have been delinquent in one way or another.

Society wants you oppressed.

Woe to you, if you initiated the divorce. After the social and cultural examination of your behavior, and after warding off suspicions of your betrayal, society stands in front of you like a solid cement structure supported by a wall made up of the women closest to you. Then the systematic attack begins, like cannons, showing no mercy or clemency. How dare you? And the moment the aggression ends, the perceived reality changes: “He divorced her.” He is always the one who divorces. Even if she dumped him onto the streets. He is always the one who divorces, even if she caught him committing adultery. He is always the one who divorces, even if the court forced them to split due to irreconcilable differences and his obvious flaws and defects.

You are divorced.

Endure the consequences of the crime of making such a decision. You wanted to get rid of the sly fox who conned you. Here you go… come and live amongst the hyenas.


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