Women’s gatherings have changed and have often become virtual. Morning gatherings in which women share their lives, problems and worries about their children, complain about their husbands and gossip have been relocated from living rooms into Facebook groups.
Married women have the chance to meet friends with whom they have a lot in common whereas mothers tend to create a spontaneous form of solidarity and friendship due to the many details they share. Discussions become even easier when the group members are married or working women who have children of the same age range.
Egyptian pages: a bit of everything
In Egypt, the Facebook page “Mums for the first time” has over 400 thousand female followers that include doctors, women’s right activists, stay-at-home wives, postgraduates, teachers, fashionistas and fashion designers.
Concerning her participation in such groups, doctor Alaa Fouda says to Raseef22: “When I first gave birth to my daughter, I had a lot of questions about how to take care of her. So I joined a group of Egyptian mothers where I found answers to every question related to newborn care. I felt reassured among a group of women and new moms, for they had made me feel less lonely and less like a failure.”
There are groups that include many more women like the Egyptian Facebook page “Single Engaged Married” that has over 500,000 followers. What is special about this page is that it allows participants to ask for advice and share their experiences in love and relationships. However, tuning into these groups reveals another side of their members. Alaa adds: “This group’s main concern is women’s problems through secret interventions. I used to think that some engagement and marriage traditions are no longer practiced, but I have discovered that women that were raised in conservative families have kept their old customs.”
Jordanian women’s pages… Schools, recipes and marital issues
Women used to talk about the problems they would face to their small circles. Therefore, the given opinions about the problem would not exceed the number of one hand’s fingers, and most of them would be given from people with the same mentality and be aimed towards similar goals. In Jordan, the Facebook group “Momsters” has over 125,000 members who discuss their worries and problems daily with high interaction overcoming the restrictions that society imposes on some topics that are considered taboo. Since the group is for women only and we all face similar problems, why don’t we share them?
We can’t say that women are 100% genuine in these groups, being behind a screen allows them to express themselves much freely, away from social and professional concerns and male presence that for sure affects their opinions
Syrian translator Layla Wassaf who lives in Jordan says to Raseef22: “If you look inside “Momsters”, you will see that the group has turned into a sorority or into semi-secret female unions where matters such as late marriage, adultery, schools, nurseries, consultations, jobs, recipes and beauty are discussed.”
We can’t say that women are 100% genuine in these groups, being behind a screen allows them to express themselves much freely, away from social and professional concerns and male presence that for sure affects their opinions.
Under the worldwide harsh circumstances that women are enduring and the lack of support that Arab women are getting specially, Facebook groups have solved the crisis of loneliness, for they have recovered old intimate female sessions, after they had become much more popular and useful. In fact, taboos are old fashion that female members have outgrown: no matter should not be discussed, especially that discussing topics such as sex and religion has become easier with the group option that makes it possible to ask questions anonymously.
Layla adds: “In some aspects, virtual groups have substituted neighbors’ discussions on front doors and the family’s women and friends parties. They have given us the chance to talk about delicate topics that aren’t usually discussed before men. My presence, me who comes from a traditional conservative family, in such private female groups resembles the morning gatherings of ladies in one of Damask houses.”
Palestinian’s pages: medical consultations more than anything
Medical consultations are very common in women’s Facebook group, for the participation of doctors and pharmacists kind of provides the needed medical consultation support in non-urgent cases.
In Palestine, the Facebook group “Mamapedia” has over 39 thousand followers who constantly ask medical questions and get answered by the medical team and women who have had the same experiences. Kinar Dandis says to Raseef22: “Some women consult the group’s doctors and get answers that might help them solve their problems. However, these diagnosis and experiences help in minor cases, but urgent health problems require an actual diagnosis that cannot be done through Facebook. Everything in real life differs from what is online.”
Years ago, I joined some female groups on Facebook and I noticed the intimacy and the honesty –though it is relative- of the female society because complaints are usually said to close people. As women, we have had similar experiences and are more open-minded than men so we acknowledge our weaknesses and problems. Therefore, we find it easier to vent on what bothers us.
I cannot imagine a man’s reaction if he ever joins one of these pages and finds thousands of women giving his wife advices about her problem with him. Will he be scared?
I cannot imagine a man’s reaction if he ever joins one of these pages and finds thousands of women giving his wife advices about her problem with him. Will he be scared? Will he get mad? Will he have the audacity to debate with thousand women biased against him?
The concept of trusting others has regressed with the development of social media platforms in last few years. However, these women have actually regained the trust in one another: it is so normal that the publisher of a post is a hijabi woman but uploads a picture of hers with no veil as a way of sharing her current status with no fear that the picture might be circulated. In fact, the lists of the groups’ rules have played an important role in providing a safe and comfortable environment to help participants talk.
These groups have contributed in breaking the stereotypes that society has designed for women and their feelings. There is no more need to hide the feeling of sadness caused by motherhood or the disappointment felt after a love story has ended. Female members have revealed that each husband has his own way of treating his wife in order to avoid problems, the fact that makes these groups laboratories where existential problems are solved.
Each of us knows where to go and from whom to seek advice, once a true problem is faced. We, as women, know that if you want to mess with someone’s head you have to make him choose, but we also need a wide and safe space where we talk, laugh, and recognizing our championships, defeats and experiences, a space we have chosen to be for “women only.”
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