Maryam’s Blue Panties Rattle the Arab World

Thursday 27 January 202212:17 pm
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عندما أربك كيلوت "مريم" العالم العربي

I never knew why our mothers, female relatives, and female neighbors forbid us from hanging our underwear out in the open, and why we scout for a secure, strategic spot to hang our “panties” hidden from all curious eyes.

For years I've been trying to ask myself, why should we do this? And when we buy underwear, why do we have to be careful that no one sees us buying them? I have even wondered time and again whether the women who hang their underwear out on their balconies have heard of the answer that I’d never known?

I’ve finally managed to find the answer.

Our underwear could easily become the talk of neighborhood, or cause some violation against modesty, or who knows, perhaps there’s so much repression that crowds of passersby may go into a complete frenzy, just like “Maryam’s” (played by actress Mona Zaki) underwear did in the Netflix movie hit “Ashab Wala A'az” (Perfect Strangers).

Between the gang rape scene in the tv series “Al-Tawoos (The Peacock)”, played by actress Sahar Al-Sayegh, and Mona Zaki’s underwear scene in the movie “Ashab Wala A'az”, the Arab world is trapped in deep male-dominated thinking. The day the gang rape scene caused a stir in the Arab world, the uproar did not stem from feelings of tragic sympathy. Instead, this scene became one of the most viewed on search sites at the time, reaching millions of views during the month of Ramadan, and the public opinion demanded that authorities stop showing this series, because it offends the values ​​of Egyptian society and threatens the construct of the Egyptian family. While this show had only exposed the filth that women and girls suffer from in Egyptian society, the “Fairmont girl” gang rape case by the Egyptian Public Prosecution did not attract controversy the way Mona Zaki’s underwear scene shook Arab society. Thus the underwear of an Arab woman aroused society’s jealousy and sense of honor, amidst “honor crimes”, the lashing of women, and child marriages.

This is the society of “Si Al Sayed” (song referring to male dominance and an Egyptian movie character who has complete control over his spouse). A society that is afraid of our bras and panties and shakes before Sulaf Fawakherji’s kiss on “Chicago Street” that expresses desires for love and sex… These are the “taboos” that Arab women must acknowledge and express.

Arab society does not shame the Arab songs that we hear carrying content full of male dominance, verbal harassment, and abuse towards every woman. Despite all this, we hear them being repeated by Arab mouths out loud in the open, until they turn into a “trend”, sweeping social networking sites and getting high views across the Arab world. The songs of “Si Al Sayed” and “Joumhoureyet Alby (The Republic Of My Heart)” do not provoke and stir up Arab society, because such decadent songs reinforce the will and hormones of patriarchal authority, consolidate the power of Arab men to demean and abuse women, and justify violence against them, and these are all subsequently placed within concepts of ‘flirtation’ and ‘protection’ to serve our patriarchal societies.

“Si Al Sayed” and “Joumhoureyet Alby” do not provoke Arab society, because such decadent songs reinforce the power of patriarchal authority and Arab men to demean and abuse women - all camouflaged as ‘flirting’ and ‘protection’ to serve our patriarchal societies

Likewise, the values ​​of the Arab family are not threatened by the hand of Adel Imam on Yousra’s thigh and chest as he molests her on a bus ride. He is viewed as a “leader” in our societies which are crowded with such leaders. Harassment against women and girls in Arab films is usually placed within concepts and frameworks of intimacy, teasing, and flirtation, and that we as women must happily submit to male desire, gladly welcome it with laughter, and accept the filth of harassment that is happening in the streets of our Arab cities on the basis that it’s flirtation and a form of flattery of our bodies. If it is classified as a crime, society would dictate that the main perpetrator would be “the way we dress” that stirred up the suppressed hormones in men.

The values ​​of the Arab family are not threatened by the hand of Adel Imam on Yousra’s thigh and chest as he molests her on a bus ride. He is viewed as a “leader” in our societies which are crowded with such leaders

I remember that I was in the sixth grade when the “Howwa Dah” trend spread in our Lebanese streets. Influenced by the Egyptian movie “Omar & Salma”, a number of young men began to imitate Tamer Hosni (Omar), seeing him as a ‘sophisticated and modern’ young man. On that day, one of the young men in our school was on the receiving end of a hard slap from me because he tried that move and bothered me. It took a while for me to understand that the movie “Omar & Salma” that made many of us laugh, was just a call to spread sexual harassment against women and girls. Although our generation was brought up on “Howwa Dah”, the Arab world was not embarrassed or ashamed in the face of such a criminal offense.

Our societies’ quest to stereotype the image of women in Arab films is nothing but an attack on women’s character, feelings, and desires. If we go back in Egyptian cinema, we see that many actresses excelled in expressing their physical desires — stars such as Yousra, Nabila Obeid, and Hend Sabry — and they had not only taken off their underwear, like actress Mona Zaki did (just to reassure the viewers provoked by this scene).

Anyway... I think that the movie “Ashab Wala A'az” succeeded in causing a great stir because of the underwear of “Maryam” (Mona Zaki), instead of any of the other important topics that were touched upon in the film, all thanks to those who felt that women’s modesty had been somehow violated.

It is shameful and unfortunate that we live in a patriarchal society that entraps women, a society that is sexually aroused by rape and harassment, imposing its authority and male dominance over us girls

It is certainly true that breaking the stereotype image of the Arab woman in films will provoke a sweeping attack, especially in countries that are now under the influence of the (Muslim) Brotherhood, but no one has the right to insult any actress or call for banning of a film under the pretext of values and traditions. It is both shameful and unfortunate that we are under a patriarchal society that entraps women and girls, a society that is sexually aroused by rape and harassment, and flaunts the idea of imposing its authority and male dominance over us. It gets off on the love scenes of the West, but collapses in fear at the sight of the underwear of its women, for fear that the boundary lines of its strength and authority will be violated, and that its male-dominated patriarchal system will collapse.

*The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Raseef22

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