Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Untouchable Kuwaiti

Nobody can deny the fabulous double standard we have here in Kuwait between males and females. However, I have noticed that divorced women are scrutinized and judged by society in a more extreme manner than other unmarried females who live socially normal lives.

Even when the word divorce is mentioned it is always directed toward the woman in a grave and pitiful tone i.e. "She got divorced" or "Oh the poor thing, she's divorced now." It is as if a divorced Kuwaiti woman is a living and tragic dead end. Where is the man in this scenario? Well, regardless of who was the nuisance, philanderer, or crazed nut in the marriage and why it was annulled, the man usually has a higher probability of getting married to another woman – probably another virgin waiting excitedly - while the now divorced wife sits around with a passport that identifies her as so-and-so's ex-wife. Now, there are many divorced women who do remarry, but the chances are slim, mostly because the female population in Kuwait outnumbers the males'. Marriage is a risk, a gamble, or as my sister quotes on a daily basis, "Qisma oo ni9eeb." But if a divorced woman carries a modest family name or is not very pretty, she has less of a chance to remarry someone worth her genuine goodness.

What kills me even more is when newlyweds rush into the baby scene before they have really known each other. Having children jumbled in the equation is the saddest thing since the effects of divorce are almost always more devastating on the child/children than they are on the actual couple.

Another infuriating element is that divorced women's outings are eyed down by society who is aware of their marital past. For instance, if people see a divorced woman accompanied by any man/men, one is sure to think of her possible bed hopping and not consider the fact that the men might be colleagues from work or school. The same is true when a divorced woman travels alone or with friends. "Oh did you hear that Ms. X went to Europe alone? I wonder!"

What I find utterly disgusting is that countless people discuss the intricate details of the marriage, especially abrupt ones. I am specifically referring to how many ask if a woman is a virgin or not. When they find out that she is, they put their hands on their heart and let out a relieved sigh, "Thank God, she still has hope!" Yet when they know she is not one anymore, their faces sink, "Ah, she is not pure anymore."

I asked a friend of mine from Kuwait once if he would marry a divorced woman. His initial reaction was, "No. I want my wife to share all her firsts with me like the first honeymoon, house and so on." But then I said, "What if she actually is an amazing woman who was married to an abusive guy? It was her fate but how is that her problem? Why should she not have as much of a chance as the next girl to marry someone good and decent and find happiness in her life?"

There are many things I abhor about Kuwaiti society and how issues are twisted to leave more tongues wagging and mouths chattering. This kind of primitive thinking and take on divorced women is one of them. Unfortunately, divorced women in other countries share the same absurd value: they usually get the shitty end of the stick when they are propelled into the tabooed land of the D-word.

Ornette Coleman - Lonely Woman
Bob Dylan - Just Like a Woman
Wolfmother - Woman
Ben Folds - Get Your Hands Off of My Woman (Ft. Corn Mo)
Artful Dodger - Woman Trouble
Phish - Boogie On Reggae Woman
Eric Bachmann - Carrboro Woman

at 12:09 PM


  1. Blogger Intlxpatr posted at 4:50 PM  
    IF a woman has her own money, being divorced and having children could be OK, couldn't it? It could mean living free from some guy who wasn't a good husband. (There could be worse things than being un-married.) is it better to be 40 an unmarried and childless, or 40 and divorced with a child?

    I'm not Kuwaiti, so I am willing to bet you know what you are talking about, and I wouldn't dream of arguing. but I am also curious - do you know anyone who is living her life well, in spite of the gossip and busybodies, and is also divorced?
  2. Blogger L'encre la Rouge posted at 6:41 PM  
    WOW , well where shall i begin, with the issue of being virgin but actually not, or with the fact that having a divorced couple is always the womens fault even if the guy was hmmmm -i don't seem to find a good word to explain how bad men can be-.

    So now, a divorced women can't breath, thats true, but wait i am having second thoughts, in this country we have a believe that "il smecha il khaysa etkhayes kil il semach" so what about our girls personality? why men always fear they won't affect their women or be her first is a must?
    Because my Dear Erzulie you have to admit that we have plenty and many women who compare everything with anything, their husband with their friends husband, to a level that many men are suffering from being compared to their wifes ex-boyfriend and/or ex.husband.

    So what i believe is, us, we women brought this to our selves. Which makes me believe a Kuwaiti girl "desperate one" would be so stupid to do such a thing just to make her man do more for her.

    Of course what i said is just one case out of million, but to me, these days, this is the majority of the stories i've been hearing and seeing...

    Divorce by all means its ugly, in all religions and the women is the first to be justified because due to history a women would always carry on the bad and shutt her mouth. This is the womens background, and we can change it by changing our selves and be more realistic and smart (wiser).

    I don't believe there are any virgins anymore these days, media kills it.

    Thank you for this post, it should be posted in a national news paper in Arabic, try sending it to dala3 al mofti or someone, it is really worth being red by all the people who can read and talk about it in this country. We need such entries.

  3. Blogger Swair. posted at 7:35 PM  
    i know this girl... she was engaged (milcha) and then after 5 months of crap: the guy not trusting her, not respecting her or her family or her friends, and a specific member of his family spreading disgusting rumors about her and her honor (virginity, hygiene, and anything that may make a girl "pure" in people's eyes), the girl asked for a divorce. Alot of people have stopped asking her to come to weddings, birthday parties and women's gatherings as if she was the plague. As if her prescense alone might curse the "unmarried" girls in the room into never getting married or ruining their "Qisma & Ni9eeb"..
    It's a whole new type of racism and it disgusts me.
  4. Blogger EniGma posted at 8:51 PM  
    Not only is a girl not supposed to be divorced, she's supposed to be totally pure and should not have went out with guy or kissed, etc. Because the guy ely shayel 3aiba, yaby yel3ab weykharbi6 ma3a banat el nas bas el bent ely yetzawajha lazem etkoon yideeda 6al3a min el wekala.
    There's another question that pisses me off, when these stupid old ladies ask "khathahaa?" about newleyweds i.e. did they have sex?! legaaaaffaa!
  5. Blogger Temetwir posted at 12:45 AM  
    you keep saying and mentioning 'society', as a whole entity or a singular reference; when really it's all in the women's half of the court that things play out the way you make them seem to in this post.
    prove me wrong.

    how do i know/suppose that is the case?
    because women (as in the case of your fine self) are the ones who always bring this up, and i can only imagine that the overwhelming majority of the quotes/examples you have used in this post are those of women.
    prove me wrong.

    and as for the example of the gentlemen friend you quoted, i ask you, who the fuck ever said that any guy on the street 'deserves' to be married in the first place, in that any guy asked a question relevant to a certain degree to the issue of marriage is taken to be a sufficient source for information that, at best, can only be described to be an opinion on THE most subjective issue of all time
    i.e. it varies so much from one case to another, that these cases can't be treated or categoried into being one 'deal'

    dakhly bel 7isba the 'influence', let us say, the "opinions" women on the suitor's family side will have on the decision of marriage .. and we complete a full circle that this is an issue most assuredly is more in the heads of women among themselves than it is in reality
  6. Blogger 3abeer posted at 3:57 AM  
    Married, divorced or even single.. a woman in Kuwait is being judged not only by men but by women too!!
    I think men are more flexible and lenient for that matter.

    Can't stand the hypocrisy anymore and I can't stand how narrow minded Kuwaities can be

    LOVE your post.
  7. Blogger Erzulie posted at 2:55 PM  
    intlxpatr: Yes, being married to someone bad is worse than being divorced. My point is that a divorced woman has less of a chance to be married again than the divorced man here in Kuwait. As for your question, I know a few divorced women who are living their life, but very few are living it well.

    l'encre la rouge: The reasons for divorce are quite equal in my opinion i.e. infidelity, personal differences between the partners, possible drug usage, etc. I don't think people are quick to jump to blame the woman in this scenario.
    Comparing two different individuals, whether one attempts to change a person to become like someone he/she admires, is a bad thing altogether. However, that is something that can be fixed i.e. confronting that person and saying "I am not like him/her nor will I ever be and so accept me as I am" is the best way to go. Maybe some people are more incessant than others in the way they compare their partners with others and wish them to be more like them, but I personally never heard of a marriage breaking up because of that specific issue.
    Contrary to popular opinion, I do not think that Kuwaiti women are conniving and spiteful wretches. I think that they are smart, wise and most of all, they have the ability to persevere.
    I did not understand your point about media killing virginity. How does media fit into the equation of being a virgin or not?
    Thanks for your comment :)

    Swair: Wow. That is disgusting. It just annoys me that men are let off the hook more easily than women are. I do hate to generalize because in some cases the husbands turn into true animals (that's a light word to use in some cases) and their spouses are sort of "Okayed" and given a pitiful yet hopeful nod by the awaiting observers.

    enigma: I laughed at the "wekala" bit :P Kuwait's version of the Meat Market. Well, you're right, el walad esheel 3aiba and that has always been the case. I know some people who date and their parents are Okay with it; however, always keep in mind that mahma kan, e7na 3aysheen ib mojtama3 mo7afeth. 7atan law il ahal rathyeen 3ala bint'hom ti6la3 (i.e. dating) lazim il wa7id i7i6 ib bala il mojtama3 eli 3ayesh fee. Basically, not behaving and living like a hedonist lana il Kwait broo7ha kobor chaf eedich, fa 7atan law 6al3a ma3a your colleagues from work, people are bound to talk fa takhayelay etha 6al3a ma3a wa7id broo7ich (a very "lay7ooshik" situation). It's as if a girl is saying "Yallah, 6al3ooni oo 7ishaw feeni." That has been the tradition here and I believe that one should live life freely bes shino, lazim il wa7id ekhali ib bala ena il Kwait dawla conservative and if one is living here, that tradition has to be respected.

    temetwir: Yes, I may be including more women in the category of "society" but that's mostly because women are the quoted sources i.e. if I would sit and drink tea in a men's diwaniya and bring this issue up, I don't think the views would differ so much.
    As for the guy I mentioned, I cut the conversation short (the one that is featured in the post itself). My friend finally concluded that it all depends i.e. if he DID actually meet a great woman who was divorced and he did like her as a person, he would think twice about his initial dislike of marrying a divorced woman.
    I think that both genders affect the way a divorced woman is seen. You repeatedly mentioned that women are the ones who concentrate on the virginity factor but I also think that men's ego would prefer a virgin and not a divorced woman. Also, marrying a good hearted and divorced woman requires balls. I think that if a man quickly dismisses a possible spouse based on her marital history (when the woman might actually be an amazing girl) he doesn't deserve her. But if he accepts the fact that she's divorced and not a virgin (and he knows why she was divorced i.e. that she wasn't the nut case) and actually wants to know her better...well, we don't have many men like that, in my opinion.

    3abeer: And I loved how short your comment was :P Well, maybe the women do the "asking around" more often than men, mostly because many woman are Reuters sidekicks in terms of "Who's Who" and "Who's Done What" in Kuwait. But I also think that men should carry on some responsibility and get the facts themselves instead of relying on female relatives and even friends i.e. a lot of information is misconstrued and that's just too bad.
  8. Blogger Fallen Angel posted at 7:42 PM  
    Interesting Read.

    But I hope you just didn't realize all of that now...this retard thing has been in our society for ages.
  9. Blogger Fallen Angel posted at 7:43 PM  
    Interesting Read.

    But I hope you just didn't realize all of that now...this retard thing has been in our society for ages.
  10. Blogger Fallen Angel posted at 7:44 PM  
    Interesting Read.

    But I hope you just didn't realize all of that now...this retard thing has been in our society for ages.
  11. Blogger Fallen Angel posted at 7:44 PM  
    Interesting Read.

    But I hope you just didn't realize all of that now...this retard thing has been in our society for ages.
  12. Blogger error posted at 1:41 AM  
    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
  13. Blogger Erzulie posted at 4:03 AM  
    Fallen: Yeah it has been, but ever since I came back I've been hearing about it more often...

    And to the guy whose comment was deleted: I7terim nafsik.
  14. Blogger error posted at 2:23 PM  
    I'm sorry i didnt mean to insult you!!
  15. Blogger Erzulie posted at 12:06 AM  
    error: You kind of insulted yourself.
  16. Blogger error posted at 1:51 PM  
    You’re not open for criticism; I clearly think you’re sexist given your assumptions toward women.

    And if you do not want to accept the fact, it’s up to you.
  17. Blogger Erzulie posted at 2:36 PM  
    Error: I am open to criticism only if it's constructive and void of unnecessary foul language directed towards me or anyone else for that matter, especially when we are discussing a serious and pertinent topic. You could have said what you wanted to say in a more civilized manner.
    As I've stated before, these little tidbits are what I gathered from my own exposure to the topic i.e. sitting with women and friends and overhearing what is being discussed. This is not an official and researched statistic. Yes, it is a bit biased but even you cannot deny the fact that – regardless of who was at fault in the marriage – divorced women are not given as much slack as men in our society and in other cultures as well.
  18. Blogger Ms.Baker posted at 6:43 PM  
    Well to tell the truth, I have to say that although your perception is indeed accurate, there have been a lot of changes to Kuwaiti society recently. What I have seen myself and what I have been told by those typically and traditionally Kuwaiti around me, a divorcee (woman) can easily remarry as long as she does not have children, and as long as there was no scandal attached.

    There are a lot of girls who are being tossed around and divorced quickly for silly reasons. Kuwait society is starting to catch on to this and is realizing that in so many cases, the girl was "mathlooma". I personally know of a very religious girl from a good family who was married to a man who simply decided he didnt want her after all (after a year of marriage) and she quickly and happily remarried after the divorce. I also kow of another divorcee whose husband just didnt want her anymore (thats all, he wanted someone else, not her) and she is getting lots of proposals from men of good family and background - both previously married and singles - some even 8 years younger!

    Hang around some more Erzulie, you are going to see what I mean :) There are just too many stories nowadays of daughters from very decent Kuwaiti families who have been toyed with or used and then divorced. Girls who have been badly mistreated. No family - no matter what their social background - has been immune, and there is more social acceptance of a divorcee nowadays than you might think. I have also heard the following straight from the mouths of some very "upper crusty" Kuwaiti guys: that they consider a woman who has been divorced with no kids akin to a girl who had a boyfriend and a bad breakup these days, and had no problems with marrying a girl who was divorced, especially if there was no kids. Heck, I know of some couples where the husband was never married and he married the divorced girl who DID have kids and is raising them as his own. And all of these people belong to what is considered Kuwaiti "upper crust" heritage families too...

    Honestly, there are very very few families whose children have not experienced some tragedy. People should be very careful in their judgements of others if they have children they want to see married. It is rare to find happy and stable Kuwaiti modern marriages these days, and one never knows what will happen to one's own kids, there are no guarantees. So while I would nderstand the hesitation to marry one's son or daughter to someone who has been previously married, it is important to know the story and give the benefit of the doubt to the person in question. Judge not lest ye be judged.

    P.S. Do you know how many poor girls have been married to guys who married them for their family name or their money, or as "beards" to hide their homosexuality? Or he beat the crap out of them (yes, even among high class families this happens a lot). OR was on drugs and no one knew??? And then the girl was divorced from him? I mean, really! And people want to judge a divorced woman???

    Ms. Baker, apologising for any typos because she is in a hurry and is ranting too ;)
  19. Blogger kila ma6goog posted at 7:33 PM  
    :) i understand


    la t3a9eb
  20. Blogger Anton Pannekoek posted at 8:11 PM  
    You only betrayed women as victims in your analysis of this problem. You do not think that men too suffer during divorce?! And you think that men always the one to blame! Please give me a break. This is an over simplification of a huge problem. Try not to be bias in your approach to the problem…
  21. Blogger Ms.Baker posted at 9:42 PM  
    P.P.S. In fairness, I must also belatedly add to my rant that I know of many stories where the wife was the reason for the divorce and put the man through abject hell. The reality is that in Kuwait right now, il-naas yaneen oo ga3deen...it's across the board madness in general these days...like telenovelas on crack :( :(

    Ms.B, who is really glad you brought up this highly controversial and socially significant topic for discussion :)
  22. Blogger 1001 Nights posted at 10:08 AM  
    Small correction, women DO NOT outnumber men in Kuwait, or at least not significantly. I wrote a post about that once but can't find it now.

    What surprises me is not the idea that divorced women don't get remarried but rather how an exhusband who is known to be a wife beater/drunk/cheat can get remarried. THAT I just dont get. Ygi6oon banat'hum ga66 3ala ilrayil?
  23. Blogger Erzulie posted at 3:54 PM  
    Ms. baker: I agree; I think the "no scandal" attached goes for both men and women i.e. if he/she was publicly cheating on his/her spouse, their chances of getting remarried to a good person after the initial divorce decreases, sometimes all the way down to zero. I think the children bit is a little harder - emotionally and mentally, on the child as well as the legal guardian - because there is a lot of sacrifice to be made on the part of whoever is caring for the child i.e. most probably the woman. Being divorced and having a child (or more) makes it much harder to remarry because one's first priority is his/her child's/children's well-being.
    Regarding the two situations you mentioned, well, they do happen and are happening and WILL happen but again these are specific examples where both spouses' traits and character are put face to face and the better person will probably win during the second time around i.e. if he/she were not at fault while their partner was, they will have a chance to remarry someone worth their virtue. Also, I know of a few couples who are from good families and who themselves ARE good individuals but alas, "qisma oo ni9eeb," they just didn't mesh well and were soon divorced.
    About your third paragraph ("Hang around..."), yes of course I do agree! I personally know of a few divorced people who are sought after because they really are good people and what they went through was merely fate and so their separation wasn't really in their hands/couldn't control it.
    And again yes, I agree with knowing what went about in one's previous marriage because you don't want to "tathlimeen" the divorced person (NB: Do you know a word in English that exactly fits the meaning "tholm"? I use victimize but it doesn't really do the job...anyone?)
    I loved your PS. Well, of course sh!t happens and especially in our society, no one knows what goes on behind closed doors because ours are welded shut. No matter how dandy and happy the couple look in public, you never really know what goes on between them in private. I heard about the "gay/cover-up" marriage. Sometimes, a woman knows that her soon-to-be husband is gay but is all right with it for the name and/or money. Also, there are some gay men and lesbians who do in fact get hitched (to save face) and then have an amicable agreement to live their own lives sans sexual attachment (which is kind of a given). And of course, there are times where a woman "discovers" that her husband is gay (or vice versa). I think that's a much more hairier situation (esp. if there are children involved) than the "I know you're gay/let's get settled" scenario or the "double gay" duo marriage.
    What else? Apart from me liking how you end your comments (Ms.Baker, runs off... :P~) I still think that women, in general, are judged more than men are in our society. When a man does something wrong, he is the one to blame and he carries his shame. But when a woman makes an error, not only is SHE judged, but her entire immediate family is judged as well i.e. "She is a bad person. She must come from a bad home. Therefore, her parents are bad people and they did not do their job of raising her right because they themselves are immoral." (I'm having a deja vu of my damned Logic class after writing that last sentence...anyway, who's next?)

    kila ma6goog: Wanna trade names? Chena ana eli kela ma6googa! I should write another post about my feet again, something neutral, something that won't cause a lot of commotion other than belly laughs...

    anton: Read my comments that I wrote in response to the others and you will understand my stance better. And OF COURSE divorced men are scarred by having to go through a divorce, especially the ones who were wronged by their spouse.

    ms.baker: I also know of women who were (and some still are) unappreciative, undeserving and downright B-words to their now ex-husbands and are disgustingly neglectful of their child/children. It's a two way street.

    1001: Regarding the correction, that's good to hear! :P I remember hearing it was 1:3 but maybe that was an old/inaccurate statistic.
    And the drunk/cheater/beater bit...yeah I know, it IS sad. Maybe sometimes the DCB's (drunk, cheater, beater) family/friends claim that he has changed (some do) bes it9adgeen 6ab3 il insan ma yit'3ayar; it can be modified but the person's true character is solid as a rock. Then again, you never know.
    And also, some girls' only ambition in life is to get married and have kids. Men are viewed as a security blanket; they act as some sort of base or stabilizer. Oo bes...*stretches* tawnee makla '3ada...I'm going to have tea. Ta3abatooni! :P~~ Hehe...mmkay....
  24. Blogger The Krispy Dixie posted at 9:36 AM  
    I think the fact that people have commented so passionately speaks volumes about how pertinent and serious this topic really is.

    There is obviously a double standard in this regard and anyone who says otherwise is just plain dillusional. Divorced men have no problem remarrying, whereas divorced women (especially if, like you said, they are modest looking and don't have a *cha ching*-y family name..) have a harder time of it. Is it fair? obviously not. Is it the reality? unfortunately, it is. And it is due to the virginity issue.

    A woman who's been divorced, but has retained her virginity has a much easier time remarrying...

    The virginity issue also comes into question when you talk about a divorced woman taking trips alone. The thinking goes along the lines of ..
    "IF she's not a virgin anymore then nothing is stopping her from having casual sex.."

    The thinking is obviously wrong and obviously hypocritical, but again, it is the reality we work with.

    Ultimately, your sister is right. marriage is a gamble or "qisma o ni9eeb" There's no other way to describe it. All you can do is try to be as careful as possible. Take as much time as you can between the engagement and the milcha. Take as much time between the milcha and the wedding and even more time between that and children.

    Good things come to those who wait and patience is more than just a virtue, its a life saver.
  25. Blogger Erzulie posted at 3:30 PM  
    krispy: Well said :))
  26. Blogger 1001 Nights posted at 9:26 AM  
    I looked up the post I told you about with information on population split. Based on a 2005 mid-year census the total population according the report was 963,571. Of that figure there are: 492,346 Females and 471,225 Males. So we have about 51% women and 49% men. I don’t know how it initially got spread that we have a lot more (three times?!!) women than men in Kuwait, it’s no where near truth.
  27. Blogger Erzulie posted at 10:20 AM  
    1001: Aha...

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