Tag Archives: Breaking the stereotypes

Starting at the right place

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Starting at the right place

A lot of times I ask myself how can we really change people’s mentality about stereotypes and prejudices through the power of conversation and whether that really works? I have been a blogger for four years now and most if not all of the interaction with my readers has been online. Unfortunately I have realized that this has programmed my mind to think that taking a stand and expressing my views would be much more useful in the virtual world. Let me assure you I was wrong.

In a recent gathering, one of my friends announced that he and his wife were expecting a baby girl. Of course I could not hide my enthusiasm and excitement being a mother of a two year old daughter myself and immediately began to share motherhood tips and advice. The mother smiled as the father joked about how he was “disappointed” when he found out they were having a girl and how there was still hope that in the last minute his baby would magically be transformed into a boy.

Now I know what you are thinking, how could someone in the 21st century think like this, well the truth is this was not the first time I had heard something like that. In Saudi Arabia the mentality of the “baby boy” being superior to a ” baby girl” is so entrenched in the society that when my sister’s doctor found out that her first baby was a girl she announced the news with a low pitched voice and a dose of sad eyes fearing that the news would anger my sister’s husband, when my sister’s second baby was a boy, the doctor could not be happier and was not hesitant to express her relief and joy.

The story of my friend and the doctor are not strange stories in our society, if anything they are sometimes the norm but I am not writing this for the sake of criticism but for the sake of taking a close look at myself and how I reacted to my friends story and the lesson this incident taught me.

Unfortunately I did not condemn my friends behavior nor did I stand up and argue that what he was saying was unacceptable. I must admit that I struggled with myself whether I should say something or not.  ” This is normal, he’s just joking and I’m sure he won’t think this way when she is born…”  are some of the things I kept telling myself hoping that they would be true in order to dismiss the inner guilt and the inner voice that was telling me that this is not Ok. The inner voice that was telling me that I should speak up and not allow this kind of conversation to even take place, even if it was a joke. But I silenced that inner voice and the guilt played its part all the way back home.

I kept asking myself why I didn’t say something, why was it so hard to just stand up and disagree and why was it so easy for me to “take a stand” online but not in real life situations? In one way or another and whether I liked it or not, by not saying anything I was saying that I was ok with what my friend was joking about and I learned that the hard way. I also learned that promoting change, voicing our opinions and expressing our beliefs is much easier thought than said.  To stand up to a group of your friends or colleagues and say that you disagree is not an easy thing to do but if we really want things to change then we have to start at the right place; with the people who are disappointed that they are having a girl instead of a boy, the people that believe that a hijab wearing woman can’t be Britain’s next great baker, people who judge and make assumptions. This is where we need to start , we also have to expand the conversation, whether it be through blogging, awareness videos, campaigns you name it. Some might argue that changing someone’s mentality is rather difficult but I’d rather give it a shot than just stand there and watch the future of our girls and their worth being threatened before they are even born and I hope you will do the same.

Esraa

How do we break the stereotypes?

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The question of how we can break stereotypes has always been on my mind, even before I started this blog I asked myself this question and I have come to realize that doing so requires a lot of energy, patience and time. 

Blogging has been one way for me to express myself and what I believe in but I honestly do  not feel that it is enough. In my journey to change things around me I have made two mistakes which I believe most of us make. When someone would question my beliefs or my choices in life in a tone that I would find a bit provocative I would immediately get in the “fight” mode. Rather than listening to their opinion I would try my best to prove my opinion and why I was right and they were wrong and in return the conversation would turn into a debate where both parties gained nothing. Every time this would happen I would promise myself that the next time would be different, that I would try my best to be in a “listening mode” only to fall in the same mistake again. The second mistake I have been making is that I made my own assumptions about what people thought about me or veiled women in general and I never really had the courage to ask them what they really  believed.

I was recently interviewed in a TV morning talk show to talk about 7ijabi and I was forced to listen to what the “other” had to say, I was forced to be in the “listening mode” rather than the”fight mode” and I had the chance to listen to what others had to say.

For the first time I realized that to break stereotypes we must put ourselves in uncomfortable situations of confrontation were we actually listen to what the other is saying, where we have to engage in dialogue which believe me is much harder said than done.

That TV interview made me realize that to break the stereotypes that surround us we must interact rather than react and that we should initiate the conversation rather than wait for someone else to come and stand up for us. By taking initiatives ourselves we will become  one step closer to truly accepting and respecting one another’s differences and similarities and only then can we claim that we live in a civilized society.