Thursday, June 12, 2008

Honor Thy Sister!

Hymenoplasty is the restoration of a woman’s hymen. A hymen is the thin vaginal membrane that normally breaks during the first act of intercourse. Hymenoplasty and hymen are the subjects of a newsarticle that appeared in the International Herald Tribune headlined with non other than “For Muslim women in Europe, a medical road back to virginity”.

As I was reading this article I kept on getting increasingly uncomfortable with the subject matter and the way in which it is exposed. Why label Moslem women? Why not expose the matter as a tradition inflicting conservative societies regardless of religion and nationality? Moreover, it bothered me because it touched on a topic that has occupied us under the pretext of attaching notions of honor to it. An honor I am still grappling with the true definition of it. A form of honor that has produced nothing but a monopoly to a retarded pattern of thinking. A pattern that has served at nothing but to reinforce a stifling culture that is more concerned with women’s tissues than with issues that really make a difference.

After reading the article, my immediate reaction was to resent the fact that this topic is now exposed for the whole world to read. I hated how this topic is targeting and stigmatizing Moslem women. I abhorred what is obviously yet another form of Moslem bashing. I was disgusted by the fact that our double standards in dealing with everything has now been drilled down to this minute level. The resentment that started with anger at the reporting of this story was soon redirected towards the reasons why we even have this dirty laundry exposed in the first place.

Why is the hymen so important? And how does a hymen break? Doesn’t it always take two to Tango? If one Tangoer has a hymen and can be punished for breaking it, then how about the other Tangoer, the breaker? How come he gets to have the choice to “dishonor” his partner and then in the same breath turn against her and call foul.

A closer look at the "breaker" would also suggest that he probably has sisters who are losing their virginity to the same type of hypocrite who might also have sisters who are as well being treated by yet another coward with the same disdain, hypocrisy and denial. And the circle of deceit keeps on getting bigger and more incestuous.

The whole hymen issue is only reinforcing the web of lies that we find our young people entangled in. Whether we like it or not, young people are humans who have feelings and who would and could act on these feelings in ways that are romantic and sometimes physically intimate. Denying this fact of life will only perpetuate an implicit endorsement of dishonesty and deception. Virginity be it for men or for women is a matter of choice. Denying this right to choose is as futile as our attempt to believe that our honor hangs on whether a hymen is in tact or not. If it were that simple, we should then always remember that hymnoplasty is there to restore what we so dearly cling to as our cherished honor.


kinzi said...

Hi Tallouza.

First, about the dirty laundry idea. It seems to me, that if the owners of the laundry don't take care of it themselves, neighbors begin to smell it and make a stink. For excample, if the Catholic Church had owned the priest abuse scandal instead of covering for decades, their would've been a very very different outcome.

From an outsiders point of view, it seems the whole honor thing is inextricably linked to Islam.That is the perception, even tho I know three Christian girls who were threatened with death by their family for reasons of honor. When I asked them why culture & traditional practice seemed to trump the commandment "Do not kill", one brother said "We have to have the same rules as the Muslims in order to survive as a faith here, even if it contradicts our own rules." I'll never forget that statement.

kinzi said...

sorry for all the types :P

Tallouza said...

Hello Kinzi...The whole subject is sad. I guess this is part of the can of worms you and I discussed a while ago:-) Sorry to hear about little Kinzi's broken arm :-(

Tololy said...

The trouble with the people who write these kinds of articles is that they are outsiders and they think like outsiders in the sense that they see the Arab world or the Arab/Muslim people are "deviations" from the Western "norm." This is precisely why nobody likes them here, and nobody listens to them. Their arguments presented from an alien point of view only fuel hostility from the Arab/Muslim world towards the West and vice versa.

I read another article about the same issue in another "liberal" online source. I forget the name now. The issue is the same: these barbaric hypocrites force their women to restore their hymens to save their lives. Very well, I am not for hypocrisy, but I am not for the projection of one society's woes unto another. I mean by this that it just so happens that what Arab and Muslim women do with their bodies, or not do with their bodies, is the hot topic of the hour, while the plethora of societal problems in the "civilized" West are not, inconsequential sex being one of them. These outsiders like to make us think they're discussing this for our own good, the truth is that they are not.

Let it be clear that I am against so-called honor crimes and the honor concept in and of itself, and I agree with the last passage you wrote by the way. What I don't agree with is what Kinzi said about hymens being a Muslim issue. The concept of honor is an Arab concept primarily before Islam came along, and Christian Arabs used to believe in it before there were even Muslim Arabs. I also disagree with what Kinzi said about dirty laundry being the business of neighbors, well unless these neighbors had some interests in changing their neighbors' cultures or beliefs, to preach their own of course.

That said, change must come from within, not from without. The mere idea of imported change brings to mind cultural imperialism, which is a state we are currently in.

Tallouza said...

Hi Tololy,

Welcome to Tallouza!

Funny I was reading your post about honor yesterday and it reminded me of what I had written about the subject. Having your comment now is just freaky ☺ BTW,I really enjoy your blog, your wit, your straightforwardness, and your honesty.

The “deviation” from the Western norm, as well as setting the West as a benchmark for what is to be deemed “normal” or “acceptable” are the very proofs of your last point: ‘”cultural imperialism” is alive and kicking. It is the “white man’s burden” manifested in more forms than we can fathom.

Stories such as the one reported only serve at deliberately fostering retarded stereotypes of our people in particular and our region in general.

Having said that, and in a society and culture where both men and women are far from being emancipated, where and how do we start to address the rights of one group vs. another? How do we select which priorities to tackle first? And where does the hypocrisy of honor lie on this scale of priorities?

I better stop here, because I really have plenty to say about this subject. Maybe I should continue in a separate new post.