“Life without love is like a tree without blossoms or fruit” (Khalil Gibran)
Women in the Arab world are usually rushed into arranged marriage, forbidden to love and be loved; or soaked in the culture of prince charming who will rescue the princess and live with her happily ever after, only to wake up from their dream one day and realize that this prototype story written by men – most famously, the Grimm brothers – is only a myth.
In both cases, women are raised since childhood to be fruitless trees. They internalize the myths, tales, customs and norms they are taught. Eternally infantilized, they are sold merchandise to the best suitor, second-class citizens who are perceived needing the help of men to get through their problems and overcome obstacles, and if they are helped, the ‘natural’ reaction would be to marry the ‘savior’.
How can there be love without freedom, mutual responsibility, equality and partnership within a relationship? How can there be love when the myth of female helplessness is continuously promulgated and women are compliant mating partners, docile bodies who become the agents of their own ‘normalization’ to the extent that they are subjected to, and invested in, the categories propagated by other societies’ members – men, religious institutions, State?
How can there be love when women are silenced when they begin to demand the right to name themselves, and to act as subjects rather than objects of history? When their bodies are judged inferior with reference to ideals based on men’s physical capacities? When men are traditionally taught to be capable of transcending the level of the biological through the use of their rational faculties, and women are defined entirely in terms of their physical capacities for reproduction and motherhood? When the female body is subjected to disciplinary practices such as extreme dieting and plastic surgery that generate skills and competencies depending on the maintenance of a stereotypical form of feminine identity?
There is no love unless human trafficking is criminalized, gender relational dynamics are balanced, and myths are exposed for the fraud they are, despite the likelihood that there may be some kernel of truth to them. There is no love unless what is postulated as self-evident is deconstructed, the familiar is dissipated, and efforts are deployed to recognize, decipher and problematize the ways in which the self is produced.
There is no love unless liberation from domination is seen as a first step to guarantee freedom, and the second step would be to establish new patterns of behavior, mentalities and cultural forms that work to empower the vulnerable and manage human diversity in an inclusive respectful framework.
I had my own ‘There is no Prince Charming’ moment and bubble popped a while ago and I realized, then, that I was the only one who could or would take care of myself, that I had to try to be self-sufficient at all levels (mentally, physically, financially), to become a partner both on micro (family) and macro (society) levels. A partner in love, capable of giving and receiving, protecting and being protected from life’s trials, away from ludicrous expectations about the characteristics my significant other – and I – should embody.
There are no beasts which turn into princes, knights with shining armors sweeping you off your feet, flawless princesses… Nor there should be ‘any man is better than no man’, ‘kiss a frog and it will turn into a prince’, and ‘looking for happily ever after’. Two partners in love go through ups and downs, union and separation, trust and deceit, and learn, despite obstacles, to have realistic expectations of one another and of their relationship.
Looking for love ladies? There are no magic pills or concoctions that will attract the right person to you. However, start being the person you want and can be, for yourself. Take off your Cinderella’s clothes and Snow White passivity. Embrace your weaknesses, vulnerabilities and insecurities. Learn the inevitability of disappointment, while nurturing self-confidence, self-worth and independence.
Whether you choose to be in a relationship or not, to stay or leave, renew or change, try to uncover the wonder within yourselves… Love yourselves first!