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The Egyptian series “I Want to Get Married”, televised during Ramadan, portrayed a simplistic Arab vision of the problem of spinsterhood, without any regard for the economic, cultural and educational issues that contemporary Arab women are dealing with. According to the series, Arab girls are no longer driven to get married purely in compliance with the famous Arab proverb that “a husband is better than nothing.” Woman’s employment, education, and independence have made women’s attitude towards marriage and married life today more rational than it was previously. We should not be so naïve as to believe foolish rumours, such as that of the girls’ school janitor who married three teachers before completing this with his fourth wife, the principal, or the rumour that female doctors [due to the length of education] all need to be “saved from spinsterhood.” Rumours such as this are nothing more than the hallucinations of men who dream of marrying four wives.

The people who are most concerned with this issue of spinsterhood in the Arab world are men, who want to “kill two birds with one stone” [i.e. solve the problem of spinsterhood by marrying four wives]. Men are strongly putting forward the concept of polygamy as a solution to spinsterhood, to the extent that some youths launched a Facebook campaign in which they advocated polygamy and marrying four wives [as provided by Islamic Shariaa law]. This campaign was launched at the same time that many Arab youths suffer from unemployment and there is an alarmingly high rate of divorce. It is also difficult to say that those who have managed to avoid divorce are “living happily ever after” and unfortunately many married couples live in misery.

The famous scholar Dr. Salman al-Awdah. has called for the term “spinster” to be dropped – which describes a woman who is no longer considered ‘young’ and who has little prospect of every marrying – due to the negative connotations of the word. This is a realistic call, and one that takes into consideration the variable factors that women have to deal with today, for every woman has her own special circumstances that could cause her to postpone marriage of her own volition. This would therefore allow her to reject the looks of pity she receives [for not being married] by those intruding on her life.

I remember an incident when the U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer picked a quarrel with former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Barbara could not find a way to rile Condoleezza, except by reminding her of her spinsterhood [when she said that Condoleezza would not pay a “personal price” for the war in Iraq]. Condoleezza Rice could do nothing but smile, amazed that there are still those in the developed world that view being an unmarried woman in the manner as Barbra Boxer.

In brief, leave women alone, for they know how to take care of their own affairs.

Muhammad Diyab

Muhammad Diyab

Muhammad Diyab is a well-known Saudi writer and journalist.

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