I wonder what life would be like if you’re used to a separation of the sexes, if you don’t really socialize with members of the opposite sex unless they are close family, which is quite normal in the Arabic world. I wonder how you would perceive men (when you’re a woman). What makes them different from your brother, father or uncle? I am asking myself this question because of my dear friend Jameela with whom I will be travelling during our Eid el-Kabir holiday, insha allah. Jameela is a young, modern, pious muslima, and a very kind and gregarious person. She is a dark fairy who grew up in the Lowlands like yours faithfully. She interacts with the other sex like any other young woman from the Lowlands but when it comes to holidaying she prefers to be in all female company. Jameela might not be the ideal example of someone who grew up in segregation but she made me think of what it must be like to be mainly interacting with your own sex unless the opposite sex are members of your immediate family. A considerable amount of Egyptian women have been schooled in all-girls schools –if they have been schooled at all- until they’re lucky enough to go to university. In public transport there are special carriages for women and it’s rather unlikely to have friends from the opposite sex. Are boys and men more alien to you in that case? Would you trust them in the same way as you would trust women? Would you be more scared of men or maybe you would feel superior. Research has shown that girls do better and achieve more when they are educated in an all-female environment. Does that mean that being amongst sisters is better for you personal development? I am a feminist fairy and all in favour of improving women’s role in society but I am not in favour of segregation of the sexes. In order to improve life for both sexes women and men need to work together. The achievement of all great goals has been a team effort. If men and women are fundamentally different in nature is an entirely different discussion but I do belief the sexes can learn from each other and make each other better people. I prefer to focus on what people have in common rather than what makes them different. I also believe that in many parts of the Arab world one is in favour of a segregation of the sexes for the – in my opinion- wrong reasons. One is afraid of sexual tension and exchanges which are considered haram (forbidden) before marriage and to avoid this girls and boys are being kept away from each other. But by doing this sexual tension between the sexes is enhanced hence the predatory attitude many Arab men have towards women and the need for women-only carriages on public transport.
Now I haven’t been very pleasant on Arab men in my recent posts and no, not all Arab men are like that. There are Arab men who are decent, intelligent, respectful and have female friends. These men though are a very tiny minority.