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Egyptians latest prenuptial agreements: You can't work outside the house

Egyptians latest prenuptial agreements: You can't work outside the house

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Opinion Women’s Rights Personal Freedoms

Thursday 2 March 202305:40 pm
إقرأ باللغة العربية:

تخيّلي... كان شرط "العريس" الأساسي ألا أعمل!


– “Didn’t his sister send you a friend request on Facebook?”

– “Yes”

– “That's why he backed out from coming here.”


This was part of a conversation I had with my mother about her friend's son, whom she had told me about several times, saying he wanted to come and propose to me. After some time, my mother stopped mentioning him in our conversations or pressing me to meet him.

Her sudden change in behavior made me ask her about it, and the above-mentioned conversation took place between us. What I found out from my mother astounded me. When this man saw my Facebook page through his sister’s account – who had sent me a friend request and I accepted – and saw that I am an independent young woman who lives alone, works, and expresses herself freely at every level, he completely backed out of proposing to me, and I wondered to myself: What was he – an educated young engineer – waiting for the girl he wanted to marry, to be?

Why did the men who proposed to me and my sister stipulate that we cannot work?

Sometime later, two men who were completely different from one another proposed to me and my sister, and before they came to our house and got to know us, their main condition was that we must not work. Not work! Me, who had already been working for 5 years, just one month after my graduation; and my sister, a graduate of the Faculty of Physiotherapy, who kept studying for six years so that she could get her degree, and become a physical therapist.

I was never able to understand this level of entitlement: for a man to show up and, before even meeting me, he decides to dictate his terms from the get-go, and if I agree to them, he can then take the next step and come to ‘inspect’ me..?

I was never able to understand this level and amount of entitlement: for a man to show up and, before even meeting me, he decides to dictate his terms from the get-go, and if I agree to them, he can then take the next step and come to ‘inspect’ me, even though he may not like me when he sees me, and I may not be attracted to him and the whole thing will end, and we wouldn’t even need to set terms and conditions on one another.

Each of the two men had his own reason for not wanting his wife to work. The one who wanted to propose to me refused to let me work, justifying it with, "I don't need her working, as my salary will be enough for us." His words reached me and my mother through my mother's friend who was acting as a mediator between us. He had made this statement before knowing what the nature of my work was in the first place, and before I knew what his work, that would "be enough for us”, was. He just summed up the importance of a person having a job in its material gains only.

As for the man who proposed to my sister, his reason was different. He doesn’t like the idea of his wife working and interacting with men in the work environment. For him, the proper place for a woman is in the house, and even though he’s still starting out in life and his salary is very low, he believes that his wife shouldn’t go out to work and them living with a little money is better than her working and interacting with men, and earning money that will help them in their future lives. Likewise, he also saw that it was not right for his mother and sisters to open the windows of the house, and his mother was bragging about this fact in front of us, claiming she has a young man with good morals and faith, who commands and forbids the women of the house, a man they fear at home.

Their real reasons

It seems from afar that both young men have their reasons for refusing to let their wives work, but in reality the reason that made the two reject the idea of me and my sister working is one and the same. After finding out a few details about the man who proposed to me, I knew his reason was so that I wouldn’t have my own money that would give me the freedom to act of my own accord and leave him if I so desired. I wouldn’t be forced to submit or seek his consent on every single thing.

This situation reminds me of a friend of mine who worked from home for five years without her husband's knowledge because he refused to let her work for the same reason. She used to say, "He controls everything I need and the house needs. He doesn't give me a single (Egyptian) pound in my hand."

The young man who proposed to my sister was a graduate of the School of Arts, and my sister is a graduate of the School of Medicine, which is seen as the most superior in Egypt. That is why he felt that she was academically superior to him, and that this would allow her to build a strong personality independent from him, so he decided from the outset to demand that she give up her secure job.

And if someone wonders why he or his mother decided to propose to a young lady who makes him feel so inferior, and that he could just propose to someone with an average education, in reality, after talking to his mother, the conclusion that came to our minds as an answer to this question, was that by taking a "doctor" they see suitable as a wife for him, imposing his will and authority on her, and making her leave her work for him, he’d be able to cancel out her personality, and with this, the first and final say in the house will always be his.

"I'm married in order to stay a man in my house", as if a man doesn't become a man unless he can impose his control over someone, and since we all live oppressed in this country, a man can only impose his control as a man on those who are weaker than him: women

Some men fear a girl with a strong personality

Once, when I was out with some male and female friends, there was a young man who joined us because knew some of our friends, and when he found out that my best friend and I were still single, he said, "I knew it", because throughout the evening, we kept arguing against the backwards ideas about how the life of a man with a woman should be, even though my friend and I felt that he clearly liked her alot. But as my friend says, for ladies like us, men like them but never choose to live with them.

Everything I said about these people reminds me of the comedic sentence that was said by one of the actors of the Egyptian comedy film “Amir El Behar” (Prince of the Seas). When one of them went to propose to the protagonist's sister, he kept saying: "I am married in order to stay a man in my house", as if a man does not become a man unless he can impose his control over someone, and since we all live oppressed in this country, a man can only impose his control as a man on those who are weaker than him, and since the woman is always assigned to play this role, what does it mean for a man to be with a girl with a strong personality? The answer: It means tearing down the equation.

All that concerns me now are a few questions about my future life. Do I have to be a girl other than the one I am in order to find a man? Is imposing control and the domination of women the only proof of masculinity? If I remain the way I am with this personality, which I do not see as repulsive at all, will one of these men and I not be able to continue on our path together?

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