Masculinity in the Arab World is a dominant phenomenon that is falsely overrated by society. We tend to associate power with masculinity, unnecessarily strengthening and privileging males at the expense of females. Power today no longer comes in the shape of a hardcore masculine machine that requires considerable physical effort; it has emerged as a software application driven by innovation and technology in which physical masculine power is superfluous.
Beyond its gender definition, masculinity is an Arab cultural phenomenon created and advocated for by Arab males in order to acquire substantial privileges. For centuries, Arab males have been working on optimizing their natural masculinity, leaving our female spouses to submit to the role of inferior gender in our society. Moreover, females eventually tend to adhere to this cultural trait and to raise their children with the same understanding.
Many feminists are willing to comply with the concept of masculine superiority as long as it includes an element of decency in dealing with women. However, our living reality shows that when females over-empower their male partners and are forced into the role of clear followers, the situation can easily and unconsciously evolve into one that involves harsh male attitudes and distressed females. The role of family caretaker that many Arab women find comfortable may eventually turn into a heavy burden that places them squarely in the position of blind followers.
Many Arab females tend to rely on their male spouses, believing that their respective male partners are better able to handle most of our life challenges. However, the only element of truth in this proposition is that we males have designed our work dynamics to accommodate us better than they do our female partners. This situation could be easily altered and made more suitable to both genders by offering women a decent method to commute, work and socialize – without being exposed to any male pressure or abuse.
Many successful Arab marriages are built upon a clear division of family responsibilities; husbands are responsible for meeting their families’ financial needs and wives are the caretakers of homes and children. However, dividing marriage responsibilities means that we are not capitalizing on both partners’ utmost competences, either in bringing up children or in securing earnings. In fact, alternating between female and male duties will certainly give children a better childhood as well as offer the family more financial security.
In my country Egypt, women who work outside of the home have to live with the natural challenges of their work, along with confronting many indecent attitudes at the workplace and, eventually, be fully responsible for running their households and raising their children. In many poor neighborhoods, the men tend to rely on their wives’ incomes, spending their days and nights at coffee shops! Nonetheless, the men in these neighborhoods still enjoy a clear superior status over their female spouses – who value their “masculine” protection against wide exposure to male harassment.
The Lord created Adam and Eve who shared equal life responsibilities; what has happened since then is the evolution of diversified cultures that have empowered the male over the female gender due to the need for physical power that was required centuries ago. Whereas nowadays we refuse to recognize the obvious possibility of alternating “male” and “female” duties i.e. career women and husbands who take care of the house and children (children only need to be fully cared for by their mothers during early childhood).
The over-empowerment of men and the undermining of women’s role in our society is a clear defect that negatively affects both genders and hinders social progress. Many females around the world have fought for their rights, not only by advocating, but also and more prominently by proving themselves in various work places, demonstrating that they can work at the same jobs as men and even do it better. Men will not give up their cultural superiority voluntarily; Arab women must gently challenge them in order to live fruitful and meaningful lives.