By: Yara Shoukri
(Based on true stories of the women I love)
I went to my mother complaining one day about our school’s dress code. I complained about how one of my friends got sent home because the teacher could see part of her bra strap. I was furious. I was ranting in frustration to my mom. I think she was trying to soothe me, but what she said only made my blood boil harder. “I know it’s hard, baby,” she told me in her sweet voice, “but you have to remember that other women have it worse.” That was it. It was the last straw. I was aggrieved. However, I didn’t blame my mother. It was the mindset set she was forced to swallow. She told me about the time when my grandmother was only a teenager. She told me how, in the old times, if women even showed their arms, they would be disgraced; how the majority of women were not allowed out of the house on their own, let alone get a job. My grandmother married when she was 19. She told me she was a rare case. Most women married before they graduated from high school. Her sister married when she was 16. Under the control of their husbands, these women were deprived of their right to fulfill their hobbies or voice their opinions.
A few days later, I addressed the issue with my grandmother. She simply shrugged. “It was the ordinary,” she smiled a heartbreaking smile, “It was the was the way we lived, and the way we were raised.” For the first time, I saw the scars behind her wavering eyes. She told me she was lucky her husband didn’t beat her like her sisters’ husbands used to. “Have you ever tried telling your father or something?” I asked in frustration. She released a pain filled laugh. “My father believed that a man had the right to discipline his wife.” I felt like she believed that, too. “But I was privileged,” she continued, watching the distressed look on my face, “You know, dear, other women women have it worse.” This was the second time I heard that phrase. My grandmother thought she had to explain. She told me about Latifah, our housekeeper, and how she was forced to marry a child to a man three times her age. Even though she was a child, she was forced to have children. How many? As many as her husband wanted. She learned as a little girl that is was her job to please and obey her husband. Her husband would beat her for the tiniest mistakes. He cheated on her countless times and she could do nothing but keep her mouth shut. Like all misogynistic pigs, her husband desperately wanted a boy. After giving birth to three girls, he kicked her out of the house, leaving her with no money, a lifetime of disgrace and shame, and three children to take care of. My grandmother was just lucky she didn’t have to live that life.
I talked to Latifah the other day. We usually have these random discussions about life in general. Indirectly, I brought up her past, wanting to know her opinion. What did she say? She told me she was fortunate that her life wasn’t like the lives of women in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Her mother used to tell her that. She used to tell her that she’s lucky her husband doesn’t throw acid on her when she angers him; that she’s lucky she isn’t murdered and raped in the street like the women in other countries. She’s lucky that her husband simply divorced her and didn’t force her to get abortions until she got him a boy like her friend’s husband did to her friend.
Scrolling through my Tumblr, I saw that wicked phrase again. “Other women have it worse.” I froze. It was an article discussing how the women in Africa have it worse than the women in Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan. It talked about how the women in Africa are being sold as sex slaves from a young age. How a girl’s father can sell her to an old man just to pay off a debt. A doctor invented weapons that women should put inside their vaginas to protect them from the almost daily rape. Women are taught how to live after being raped in their schools. Women are being locked in their houses, beaten, denied education, and killed. But guess what? Other women have it worse.
(Do not dismiss a woman’s problem at work, just because women in other countries do not even have the right to work. If we don’t start by solving the small problems, we will never solve the big ones.)