The Bar Is In Fucking Hell – We Need to Stop Applauding Men for Behaving Like Decent Human Beings

By: Zeina El Bakry

For as long as I can remember, I have always heard about various movements, campaigns or reforms against the oppression of women happening from the Western Hemisphere and always anticipated the long awaited Middle East feminist revolution. Inevitably, the time has come and all over the Middle East there have been countless groups of women mustering up the bravery to speak up against the injustice they face; from the gender pay gap to sexual harassment. This revolution has been forthcoming for a while now and has recently been fueled with the new arrival of stories of derogatory and traumatic experiences women have been sharing all over social media. 

Although the stories being shared are completely disturbing and agonizing to hear, it has resulted in a maelstrom of exposure, support and questioning. From women feeling encouraged to share their experiences to questions about why our society often antagonizes, shames or discredits those who speak out about sexual assault, toxic masculinity and hyper masculinity. Using the recent viral case of the Fairmont gangrape as an example, exhibits how a gruesome assault of a girl (that was recorded and distributed among friends) remained unheard of for six years as a result of social conditioning and ‘brotriarchy’. 

Unfortunately, the nature of our society and the underlying misogyny (that is heavily prevalent in so many countries), enabled those rapists to spend years free of any charge. Meanwhile, the victim had to go home and physically remove the names of her rapists off of her body and suffer in silence as she tries to reclaim any sense of regularity and sanity in her life.That girl deserved so much better and though we can’t change the past, our reactions can reorient the consequences as well as protect and console the next person who is assaulted. With this case going viral, there has been an undeniable uproar from feminists, not only in Egypt but the entirety of the Middle East. The story has been shared all over social media and laws have been amended, but we can’t just stop there. No one should endure the trauma the victim experienced that night. 

We must evolve as a society and continue to speak out and rewire the misogyny and patriarchy that is deeply ingrained in our systems. We need to stop dehumanizing and questioning women who speak up. We need to stop rape apologists from victim blaming. We need to stop placing stereotypes and social constructions on women. We need to stop glorifying men for doing the bare minimum. We need to normalize conversations about rape and harassment. We need to normalize men being respectful and decent human beings. It saddens me to know that almost every female I know has been harassed, mistreated or stereotyped at some point in her life if not assaulted, abused, or raped. Let’s be real, men, the bar is in fucking hell at this point.

Women are finally reclaiming their voices and taking control of their own narratives, we’ve reached the ultimatum by dealing with a society that is designed to solely protect and support men. It’s time to finally raise the bar. To do this we need to start by abolishing the patriarchy which has perpetuated oppressive and demeaning gender roles, the political and economic inferiority of women, harassment and sexual assault. In addition to dismantling a system that has enabled years of injustice, women need to re-evaluate their expectations and self-worth to truly understand that they do deserve more. Too often I witness women lowering their standards because they are under the impression that a man is honorable when in comparison to the other men they’ve heard about in troubling stories. I constantly hear women pride themselves in saying that their men did the bare minimum of things, when in reality we women do those things all the time without it being magnified or praised. I’ve always wondered to myself, why is the bar really that low? Why do we commend men for regular human acts? 

It’s 2020 yet so many women (including myself) unintentionally idealize men for doing simple actions, which is why we need to reconsider and higher our standards (and the metaphorical bar), men should not receive more recognition for doing the same acts a woman does. I’ve gathered a few examples that exhibit some incredibly archaic notions that are used to applaud men, so if you’ve found yourself guilty of glorifying or swooning over any of them, take it as a sign to start re-evaluating your perception; because these are things that women do all the damn time!!! 

Last week I was out with my friend and her mother, when I asked about the whereabouts of her 4 year-old son, I was answered with a lengthy speech commending ‘the father of the year’ for ‘babysitting tonight’. Normally, I would applaud a man for babysitting, of course only if he’s taking care of someone else’s baby; like a cousin, niece/nephew or a family friend. However, if it is his own child he’s taking care of, then he is not babysitting. He is parenting, something he signed up for when he decided to have a child with someone. Moms stay home and take care of their kids every single day, if they don’t get glorified for it every night then neither should a man. There’s this bizarre stereotype in the Arab world, that insinuates that it’s a woman’s solitary duty to raise and care for the kids (even when she’s a working woman) yet honors fathers when they ‘babysit’ once. I have always found this problematic, as parents should both be parenting and sharing the household responsibilities. It’s been proven that having two parents in a child’s life is vital as they both play very discrete and essential roles in a child’s psychological and emotional development. Fathers need to be more actively involved with their children, from staying home and taking care of them to regularly taking them out; whether it’s to teach them to ride a bike or go to a park or a mall. So let’s normalize more men taking care of their kids, not only are they taking a heavy load off of the mother who has been parenting alone but they will also bring unique contributions to parenting that cannot be replicated by anyone else. 

When we think of ways to fix gender inequality, our immediate response is to amend the workplace, yet equality for women is often seen falling behind even in their own homes. It is evident that even at home women face gender expectations in housework, from both their families and strangers. Perhaps, this is why so many mothers often go beyond with excessive effort when cleaning their homes upon hearing that someone is coming to visit. Research shows that people tend to hold mothers more accountable for any mess and will often negatively judge them to a much higher standard than they would with a man’s space. This clearly illustrates that women experience the burden of cleanliness more intensely than men, even when women are working it is still a widespread belief that women should take on the majority of domestic responsibilities. These harsh social standards placed on women need to be withdrawn, cleanliness and doing chores is not associated with one specific gender, men need to start participating more with these basic human duties. 

A frequent statement used to compliment men is ‘wow he did the dishes’ or ‘he’s so helpful, he made his bed’, however, when saying this women unknowingly contribute to the toxic conventional gender paradigms we all hate so much. Instead of giving men a pat on the back for doing what they are supposed to, be direct and genuine about how you really needed the extra help and shouldn’t be taking on all household tasks on your own. Communication is key, it is probable that men do not even know that there is an issue or that you’re struggling on your own, so having direct and honest discussions help resolve this matter. I regularly hear so many women complain that their husbands and sons never help out with the chores, but then they just giving up and do it themselves, this needs to stop; these issues cannot be disregarded any longer and men need to know that it’s their job to take accountability for their mess and clean up. 

Finally, the last statement I’m gonna use as an example for women commending men is basically any statement that begins with ‘he lets me…’ for instance; ‘he lets me work, he doesn’t mind that I’m making my own money’ or ‘he lets me wear what I want’ or ‘he lets me go out with my friends, even if there are males’. Women often forget that they do not have to settle for someone who dictates their lives, we are not belongings or property, we get to determine our own sartorial choices, whether we want to work or if we want to go out with our friends. Taking your partner’s feelings and opinions into consideration is completely different to feeling pressured and obliged into taking their permission, so if you’re mistaking the two you really need to start to higher your standards. Men should not be receiving applause for acknowledging the fact that a woman’s personal life choices are personal, so stop commending men for ‘letting’ you do the things you want. 

Unfortunately, I can think of at least several other circumstances where men are being boosted and glorified for the simplest of things, whereas women are deemed just doing the things ‘they’re supposed to’. In general, women are easily impressed because we’re almost always set up for disappointment, this ultimately leads us to giving men ego-boosting compliments on the most average and habitual things. Even from a very young age, girls are taught to lower their standards because ‘boys will be boys’ and the ‘perfect guy’ does not exist, which is why we usually just lower the bar and settle to find happiness with men who seem to be reasonably okay people. Meanwhile, it almost seems like men experience the exact opposite of this and get to prance around searching for nothing less than the precise idealization of the dream girl they want. 

It’s not easy to abolish endless decades of inequality, toxic social constructions and low standards, the oppression of women is also intensified by the conjunction of patriarchy and capitalism. However, between all the recent events and incidents we have witnessed, one thing’s for certain, the women of the Middle East will no longer tolerate or reform to the oppression they have suffered with for so long. Instead, we will continue to call out misogyny, emphasize accountability, urge those who are misinformed to educate themselves, hold the media accountable and constantly challenge and question the stereotypes inflicted on us.

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