Male Supremacy – Is this what I signed up for?

Today I need to rant so that’s what you’re going to get. Before I begin ranting, I just want to make one thing clear: I love my husband and do not regret marrying him in the least. However, the fact remains: he is the product of the Middle East, Middle Eastern values and practices and his family’s upbringing.

So, today a friend came to Kuwait from Ar Riqqa, his home town in Syria – a male friend. He wanted to give him lunch in the Arab way. I guess because I don’t cook in the Arab way, he asked his mother to make the meal. He roused me out of bed at noon and drove me over to her place, then went and picked up the man. See, I wasn’t supposed to be in the same vehicle as the man, even. I was still tired, so his mother sent me to sleep in her bed. I woke up two hours later to the smell of some lovely Arabic food she had cooked. I went and sat in the kitchen and played with his sister’s baby and drank coffee. My husband arrived shortly afterwards with the man. They sat in the living room. I, and all females, were relegated to the kitchen or the bedroom.

His mother began scooping up the food. I was really hungry by then, so I salivated as I watched an enormous platter of rice being mounded up with beautiful fried chicken, then a big bowl of steak in tomato sauce, an enormous bowl of mutton in spiced leban and a large plate of warak enab (stuffed grape leaves). All generous portions were whisked into the living room by his mother and sister who put on their hijabs to go in.

I sat in the kitchen and fumed. My husband breezed in to help, saw my thunderous face and laughed and dropped a quick kiss on my forehead.

“Please honey, please don’t be mad.”

You’d think by now I’d know that it was pointless and actually rude to object. I did, but I still had those feelings that surged in me from my youth and anti-misogynistic past.

“You get all the good food and we get the left-overs,” I muttered through my teeth.

Eating Syrian style.

Eating Syrian style.

His mother and two sisters saw my face and hurried to place food in front of me. They laughed, too, and I couldn’t help but smile. Didn’t I love them? Didn’t I choose to be part of this family? It wasn’t my job to change them. This was the way of the Middle East. No point in starting a crusade to change things. But it still rankled, being relegated to the back rooms eating in segregation while the men feasted in comfort in the living room on four or five times the food we had. It burned me that his mother and sister had to put on hijab to enter The Presence and humbly place their offerings of food before The Man.

I had the last word on the way home, though.

“When we are living in Canada, that will never happen!”

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6 responses to “Male Supremacy – Is this what I signed up for?

  1. If it makes yo feel better some homes have 2 living rooms so the women doesn’t have to sit in the kitchen, it would also be different maybe if it was the women who had a visitor.
    My friend who also is an arab have 2 living rooms, and her father have to sit in there alone every time there are woman visitors (which there is often since they are 5 women and 1 man living in the house)

    • Thanks for your comment.
      I have been in homes that have two sitting rooms like that. I guess I didn’t make the real point of my discontent clear: it wasn’t only that we were relegated to another room, it was also that we were not allowed to sit together. In my western mind, when you’re married his friends are my friends and my friends are his friends – there’s no segregation. By now (we’ve been married for 2 1/2 years) I know this won’t happen here – though I have had friends over many times and he has sat with them, no problem, they’re western ladies – with the traditional people (most of HIS friends).

  2. oh, yeah well it’s a different culture 🙂 I’m also westerner but converted to islam, and i actually love that it is separated, i love that it is all girls i think it is so cozy.

    • I love this man, I love this family! I would not hurt them for the world.
      ….and yes, it is a different culture and it’s not my job to say it’s wrong and I’m right!

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