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Drafting a New Story: Women's Rights in the Middle East

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By Maggie Abu Khadra

Originally published by Sawt al-Niswa, November 16, 2010

Abu Khadra, a guest contributer to the Lebanese feminist webspace Sawt al Niswa, has written this eloquent piece on the tribulations of a single girl’s life in Beirut.



Whether I am single or not: People always tend to meddle. I do say “people.” The term is vague. So are the borders.

Where does society draw the margin between the private and the public sphere?

It is unacceptable to enter someone’s house and rummage around. Yet, isn’t it deplorable when you pry into my privacy?

Would I be chaste had I pretended to fit into what is morally acceptable? I could have been promiscuous. I could have been the loose, wanton foreigner. Would that have made me a saint had I been acting in secret?

I did find myself the topic of discussion. I have no doubt. Did I care? No.

Their venomous words were vainly detrimental.

My faith-in-myself shut them up once and all.

I conquered the cynic and the criticism.

I don’t want to pretend I was “untouched.” I am not!!!

I am proud of who I am – whether or not my acts are appropriate, I be the judge.

Not you, my neighbor.

Nor you, old lady peering high and mighty.

Yes, the guy you see is my boyfriend.

That guy holding my hand is the same guy.

Oh yes, he hugged me on the street.

“Has she no shame?” I could hear them thinking.

Indeed, you saw right, he kissed me on the mouth and drove off.

He kissed me and came up. Those times, I looked happy, not arrogant, nor defying.

I was simply happy and I held my head up high.

I was happy because I was free. Free to love.

Free to live purely.

I did not put on a show to please.

I did not live a sham. My privacy was unsullied.

In their eyes and esteem, the tarnished became untainted.



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