In the Shadows of Men: Masculinity in Femininity


Masculinity lies in femininity, and from it emerges the state of schizophrenia we live in as part of a patriarchal society. It’s a schizophrenia that starts with the mother, who breeds and gives birth, attaching that newborn to her breast and feeding him, filling him with love, until soon she weans him and strengthens him with harshness and despotism. That despotism comes from an existing male—a father or a brother or a husband. She immerses the newborn in a tenderness that is soon taken from him. Love, in his dictionary, turns from warmth to hardness, and generosity becomes a source of exhaustion due to the effort he must put forth in order to get it. His emotions become calculated and measured. To express them would reveal his weakness and cause him shame. Manliness becomes the source of his decisions, his entire existence. Roughness is manly, and softness is feminine. Femininity is a blemish, even though the female is his mother. Manliness is strength, and femininity is weakness, even though the female gave birth to him. And those labor pains still shake his being, her pains that started along a journey where death and life walk parallel lines. She sees death staring her in the face, threatening her existence, but she is compensated with a new existence, where she sits at the center. Only, she soon realizes that the true center is the newborn creature. But the two become intertwined. You find this complicated puzzle more pronounced with male children than with female children. Raising a female is healthier and easier. Tenderness towards the female is easy to give without limitation, until she grows up and her feminine shape begins to emerge, and the journey of obliteration begins. We throw the dolls into her hands before she busies herself with herself and her body. And we claim that it is instinct that guided her to become the bride doll. In her early childhood, she begins talking to the doll until it becomes her sole amusement. The doll becomes her future child, and later she wakes up with the realization that she wants a father for her future child. Meanwhile, the boy is released to the streets of the neighborhood and the enormous universe, for he is the man of the future. He needs to search and discover. He needs to watch other men, to become like his father. Become a future supporter. Be the source of your security after the departure of your father.

And while she waits for his arrival, she amuses herself and keeps busy by raising her “child,” the bride doll. She makes dresses and sweets and cleans the house and imitates her mother’s behaviors, follows her, and sees herself in her mother, not out of love or fascination, but because this is the rule. She gets closer to her mother, who wants her to be a woman, a young wife to be. The mother prepares her daughter for motherhood, which will become part of her daughter’s inheritance. Motherhood becomes engraved in the daughter’s mind in accordance with what she has grown accustomed to holding in her hands.

And we all screamed with pleasure, our laughter filling our skies. How instinctive motherhood is.

We choose carefully what happens to our children as they grow up, before we set them loose to live their own lives freely. We tie them with the strings of motherhood and responsibility, and we tell them to leave, to be independent. Yet we pull them back to us the moment they seem far away, even if it’s only for an instant.

The boy walks out to become a man. He is not flawed as a man, unless he has an empty pocket or a lack of carnal knowledge. Disgracing femininity is a credit to a man. But if a man is raped, that is a disgrace he cannot recover from. A man can disgrace whomever and however, as long as his masculinity is intact.

Though she grows up with a doll in her arms, the roles she chooses later will change. Her dream is to become a bride. She dreams and plans and adorns herself and learns to dance and sing and twist and flirt to attract a man, amid a life filled with slogans that include the words “blemish,” “beware,” and “self-protect.” Become your mother or grandmother or aunt or neighbor so that you will have good luck as “a good housewife.” With you lies the hope of a marriage better and happier than theirs.

He comes, from his immense leisure, to choose. We ask him to love, and he loves. We ask him to be responsible, and he becomes responsible. We ask him to be manly, and he does so.

But she, over there, waits on a chair in the backyard, wearing shyness on her face like a veil. She walks timidly with the hope that her steps will catch his attention. He becomes her universe and her future, her religion and her destiny. We tell her, “Be yourself… but don’t forget virtue, obedience, and timidity. Adorn yourself for him and protect yourself. Be daring in the bedroom, but don’t forget virtue when you walk out.”

And then the bride stands in front of her groom, knowing nothing about marriage except what she learns from his manliness, which is instinctive, just like her hidden motherhood. At that moment, all the dreams and thrones in the sky fall apart.

The groom looks at his tremendous, spacious self, and he sees a newborn man. She looks at her little self, which is contained in the uterus of her awaiting motherhood, and she sees the possibility of a newborn she hasn’t given birth to yet.

He begins distancing himself from her. After all, he is the origin of all things. He is the man. Her mother comes to visit the next day, and his mother carries with her songs of celebration and words of praise.

The desperate, dreamy bride stands there, not understanding. Was this the dream I’ve had ever since my hands first touched the toy dolls? She glances in her daughter’s eyes, perhaps remembering her own old, hidden disappointments. “Congratulations,” the bride’s mother says. His mother throws the zaghrouta—a celebration from her mouth—perhaps bringing back memories of victories over her own mother-in-law in relation to her previous newborn. She becomes a new mother, motherhood is her instinct… and he is the man.

Motherhood is an instinct; manhood is a state of existence.

He is the man you were ordered by God to kneel before, after God Himself. You have rights. Do not worry. You are safeguarded, and your rights are reserved. Maintain yourself in your home with virtue. He is responsible for expenses and everything you need in order to live honorably. You were educated? Great. You want to work? Why not. Everyone works today. You have advanced degrees, and your social and cultural status is better than his? It doesn’t matter. All respect to you. But he is the man.

If he is more educated, then you are lucky. If he is rich and prosperous, then you are doubly lucky. And if you diverge from the conventional lifestyle of your mother and your aunt and your grandmother, don’t worry. We are in the age of cultural openness and exposure. He wouldn’t accept her if her status were any lower. Competence in marriage nowadays is an obligation of the woman, not the man. All those old laws are no longer valid. Do not worry, you are the daughter of today. You will work to support him, and he will reinforce you. He will be your support as you go to work early each morning, accompanying him, and come home to cook and sweep and help the children with their homework and prepare whatever he wants to eat when he comes back from the coffee shop, tired after a long day of work.

Work, study, learn, train, bring one child after another into the world, clean, cook, wash, iron, train to dance—dancing is one of the stabilizers in a marriage. Always be ready to meet him. Be his prostitute at night. Sizzle when he turns his eyes on you. Don’t give him a chance to look around, except to gaze at you. Be energetic. A man doesn’t like a dull, lazy, tired woman.

Don’t tire yourself. Finish all of your duties and adorn yourself for him. Rest and wait for him. No matter how advanced we’ve become, the expectations within a marriage remain the same.

Follow him. He is your support and your protector.

He is your shadow.


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