Prince Charming and the “M” word


— By: Alexandra Kinias —

In Disney’s fairytales the handsome Prince fall in love with lumber jack’s daughter he meets in the forest. And after the Prince asks for her hand in marriage, they ride together into the sunset on his white horse. The birds chirp, the butterflies dance to the romantic song at the end of the movie, and the royal couple lives happily ever after. The fairytale romance leaves us with misty eyes and a happy heart filled with hope that our prince charming lives a few castles away.

We love happy endings even though they alter the perception of reality in young girls’ minds. And unlike fairytales, princes in real life fall out of love. Left with low self-esteem while battling pangs of rejection, the broken heart ex-princesses wonder what happened to the promises of the eternal love they heard on their rides into the sunsets.

Since it takes two to tango, men constitute half of the equation in any relationship. Rarely the innocent party, yet it’s unrealistic to throw the entire blame on their shoulders. Women share the responsibility for the failure of the relationship. In many cases, they misinterpret men’s behaviors and become victims of their own misconceptions. They cling to failed relationships to avoid or postpone confrontations that lead to the painful, yet, inevitable truth.

Most women fall in love with the intention to get married. Other than the obvious reasons to settle down and start a family; fear of loneliness, financial support or gain, or a change of status also plays a role in the decision making. In societies that glorify marriage, where girls grow up to believe that it is women’s ultimate dream, and where unmarried middle aged women are looked down on, staying single is not a choice. In these societies, women marry because of social, peer and family pressure.


On the other hand, men seek relationships for different reasons. Both curious and confused, men on one hand want to learn more about the women they meet, but on the other, they have no idea what they want out of the relationship. An interest to know you better doesn’t automatically translate that your date is ready to commit. No one knows for sure what goes on in men’s minds. Most men avoid commitment for as long as they can get by with it. Who knows? They could be waiting for scientists to discover life in another galaxy to plan the honeymoon. The point is that it doesn’t matter because in the world we live in women are on the receiving end of the engagement ring. And because of that women invest more time and emotions into relationships.  And as their expectations are higher than men’s, they are more affected by the dynamics, outcomes and disappointments of the relationships.

In pursue for an engagement ring, women ignore the flaws in their partners in hope to win their hearts. But winning their heart is not always enough reason for men to propose. And if pressured to do so, while not yet emotionally or mentally ready to settle down, men’s reaction often backfires and they withdraw. It’s important for women to pay close attention to changes in men’s behavioral patterns. If a man is busy to call or answer your call, breaks promises, plays games, becomes discreet or simply unavailable, it is time to re-evaluate the relationship and not to defend or justify his behavior.  No one is busy, but it is a matter of priority. Men find time for whatever is important to them. But because love is addictive, women ignore the neon signs flashing in front of their eyes urging them to run away. Some waste years clinging to emotionally unfulfilling relationships in anticipation that the men will change. Unfortunately, they won’t.

The failure of Princess Diana’s marriage, the modern day fairytale, proved to the world that fairytales Princesses neither live in the real world nor fall in love with real men. But that doesn’t mean that princes no longer exist. They are out there living in the real world. They get caught in traffic; they have bad days at the office and agonize when their football team loses.

Once women realize that princes are humans and they don’t live in fairytales, it’s important to approach the relationship with more realistic expectations. And most important, they should not lower their standards.

If you want to meet a prince, then you better behave like a princess.

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Divorce in Egypt may actually be a healthy sign


Photo copied from the Internet

— By: Alexandra Kinias — The concern by many over the soaring divorce rates between young couples in Egypt may be argued by others as a healthy phenomenon. Shocking as it sounds to some, but these rates suggest that young couples are rebelling against the obsolete rules and regulations that had once governed and shaped the fate of their parents and grandparents, and forced women to stay in dysfunctional marriages against their wishes. And with the increasing rate of divorce, marriage counselling, a novelty to the society, is thriving.  Marriage counseling is also a positive indication that marital problems that were once concealed and contained behind closed doors and endured in silence, mainly by women, are no longer accepted, nor viewed as shameful taboos, as once believed to be.

Seeking professional counseling as opposed to older family member’s intervention, to help young couples solve their problems, shows the rejection of these couples to the old rules, terms, conditions and band aid solutions.  Also marriage counselors act independently with no bias solutions that mostly put the blame, responsibility and the burden to salvage the marriage on the shoulders of women.

Many blame the young couples’ irresponsibility in dealing with life’s issues for the failure of  their marriages, quite an unfair accusation. Dysfunctional marriages existed since the beginning of times, but until recently women suffered in silence, unable to terminate their misery, and many still don’t for various reasons. Because of the belief that divorce may harm the kids, mothers choose to stay in abusive marriages, unaware of how the toxic atmosphere of an unhappy marriage negatively impacts their kids’ emotional balance.

Before the new divorce laws that granted women the right to divorce and keep the house, if the kids are underage, non working women with no source of income stayed married for financial reasons and in fear to end up homeless. And with the loose alimony and child support laws, not all families were ready for the extra expenses of a divorced daughter and grandkids. The irony, however, was that even women who could afford a divorce, still couldn’t get one. It was a right granted only to men.  And while some women couldn’t get a divorce, others divorced against their wishes.

Society stigmatized and alienated divorced women. Viewed by many as loose and unrespectable women, friends avoided them to protect their husbands and their own marriages. Parents restricted their freedoms to guard their tarnished reputation, in the eyes of the society.  The endless battles in courts over the alimonies, child support and custody dragged for years and costed fortunes. Divorced women were nothing but trouble, and families were happy to hand them over to another man to resume their responsibilities.

In today’s world, relations changed. Laws changed. Women work and are financially independent.  The reasons that their mothers and grandmothers stayed in dysfunctional marriages no longer apply to them. And with the social change, they can decide when to terminate a failed  marriage. And with no guilt or shame, they walk with their heads high, for they are setting new rules for how society perceives divorced women.

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Egyptian Women Fight for their Rights


By: Alexandra Kinias — I watched the movie Iron Jawed Angels. As an immigrant who had not grown up into  American culture,  I always admired how women of this great nation were enjoying their rights. However, this movie was an eye opening to the events of what really happened.  There was no shred of doubt in my mind that women did in fact demand their rights to everything they are enjoying today.  But I never imagined that these rights were achieved after a fierce and long battle. I wasn’t aware of the struggles that women had to go through to get their right to vote.

Women arrested and jailed on false accusations, harassed and abused, and thrown into solitary confinement, were things you heard happening elsewhere. Who would have believed that this happened in America? The movie didn’t just evoke a lot of feelings regarding women’s issues, but it also sparked the idea of what I am going to post in my blog, especially that blog started to discuss the serious issues that I addressed in my fiction novel “Black Tulips” which address the social hardships that Egyptian women encounter due to living in a male dominant society.

The Egyptian government statistics show that more than 50% of low class women are the sole breadwinners for their families. These women roam the streets every day looking for jobs. They are widows, divorcees, abandoned by their husbands or working to support an unemployed one. And while trying to make a living, they are subjected to a lot of physical and emotional abuse.

Girls dropping  out of school to support their families is a curse facing the future of women. Females turning to prostitution as a source of income is not widely spread, but it is not uncommon either, and so are teenage pregnancies.  Domestic violence against women, sexual harassment and girls being sold into marriages are among some of the examples of the hardships that face women.  As a result of that the rate of hymenorophy (restoring the virginity) operations that girls have to go through to protect their honor and thus their lives is increasing.

The Feminist Movement in Egypt that started at the beginning of the twentieth century was somehow silenced. In 1919, women, while still under the veil, marched in demonstrations along men to protest against the British occupation. In 1923 the Egyptian Feminist Movement was founded by Hoda Sharawi. On her return from an international feminist meeting in Rome , and while still on the steam boat, Sharawi and her peers removed their veils and dumped them in the sea.

Women’s political and educational rights soared, but family rights have always been stagnant. Divorce was only decided by the man, and harsh divorce and custody laws always favored men. Egyptian family laws were derived from Shariaa, the religious law, which doesn’t give much room to refute. I don’t believe that holly laws discriminate between genders; all laws were derived by men for men.

Over the past few decades,  women were brainwashed into believing that they have achieved all their rights, and stopped fighting for them, and as a result, their situation regressed greatly. But with the political changes over the last four years, women came to believe their importance as an active political partner and decision maker. They are waking up  to realize that their rights won’t simply drop on them from the sky, but that they have to fight hard for it to catch up with what they have missed. With this spark of hope, there’s a cautious sense of optimism that the future might be in fact changing to their favor.


Filed under Women in Egypt, Women Rights in Egypt

Removing the Veil Is Not As Easy As You Think

— By Alexandra Kinias —-


Photo copied from the Internet

Salma was getting ready for her wedding day. The date was set. Invitations were sent. Wedding planner hired and cake ordered. Her designer dress glittered in the fitting rooms and the romantic honeymoon destination was the perfect spot to bring this fairytale to life. Salma’s joy was replaced with disappointment when her fiancé objected to her wish to remove the veil on their wedding night. And while she wanted to have her wedding photos taken with her veil off, he rejected the idea of starting their life together committing a sin, by disobeying God and having men see her hair. Salma was torn between her desire to take the veil off and the fear that he might leave her if she did so.

What Salma went  through is not an isolated incident. There is a noticeable growing number of Egyptian women who are discarding the veil, and there are many others who wish to do so, but are unable to because of domestic and social pressures.

When Egyptian journalist Cherif Choubachy called for a rally to discard the veil, he was fiercely attacked by Islamic scholars. Short of an inquisition, Choubachy’s call was fought with aggression, sarcasm and personal and professional slandering. Naturally, his call for the rally died within days. The argument against this campaign was that veil is not enforced on women, but freely practiced and thus he has no business to advocate for removing it. Veil is not enforced by law in Egypt, but claiming that women freely choose to wear it is a false assumption recognized by observers of the changes that took place within the Egyptian society in the last several decades.

The global campaign to cover the heads of Muslim women has successfully been orchestrated by magnifying veil as the core of Islam. And by boiling down the entire faith to women’s head cover, the fruitful results of political Islam, with veil as its symbol, is seen across the Middle East and in western capitals worldwide. With the fall of the Muslim Brotherhood’s rule in Egypt, the removal of the veil was the normal reaction by many women whom have worn it in the first place not for religious purposes but rather due to social pressures. And while some are going smoothly through the transition, many others like Salma are facing resistance from their spouses to remove it.

The intense campaigns, over the years, that have been drilling in women’s minds that neglecting the veil is sacrilegious, refute the statement that women freely choose to wear it. And while many were left feeling guilty for disobeying God, hordes of women veiled to escape His wrath. Thus the free choice is in fact a choice made out of fear not conviction. Simultaneously, it was also drilled in women’s minds that obeying their husbands is equivalent to obeying God.

Men were also made to believe that virtuous women are the conservative ones with veil, and that covering their women’s heads is a manifestation of their manhood. And while women were convinced that obeying their husbands is equivalent to obeying God, men were also convinced that as guardians to their women, they are responsible in front of God if their women are not veiled. As a result, men pressure their women to wear the veil or as in Samla’s case, make sure it is kept on. It has also been drilled in men’s minds that women’s bodies are their possessions that should be protected from predators’ eyes. Who doesn’t remember the posters that compared unveiled women with uncovered candy that attracts flies?


Or worse, who can forget  the Australian Muslim cleric who blamed immodestly dressed women who don’t wear the veil for being preyed on by men and likened them to abandoned “meat” that attracts voracious animals?

Because of the psychological manipulation by Islamic scholars to control both men and women, veil became a condition for men seeking a wife. It ultimately became a ticket for many women to guarantee a spouse. A substantial number of women wear the veil to secure a husband or as requested by their suitors, but eventually find themselves in a dilemma when they realize that by wearing it, they have surrendered their right to remove it. To avoid confrontation, many reluctantly keep it on with the hope that they could convince their husbands to remove it someday.

And to close the loop in case husbands allowed their wives to remove the veil, religious scholars wasted no time in spreading fear among women that God’s wrath with those who remove it is even greater than with those who never wore it.

Veil has expanded from being a personal matter between women and God to become a social issue that involves many spectators; religious scholars, family members and friends who are either pro or against removing it.

Salma never removed the veil on her wedding night, but as a compromise, the couple hired a female photographer to take pictures of her before the wedding without the veil. These photos would only be shown to her female friends and family members. Salma knows that keeping the veil merely to please her husband defeats its religious purpose, but for someone who never committed to it for its religious value, she helplessly has no choice but to keep it on. She can’t risk the consequences of removing it.

* Bride’s name has been changed for privacy …


Filed under marriage in EGypt, Veil, Women in Egypt

Man vs. Sunblock . Why many women choose to live in the shadow of men?


By: Alexandra Kinias

With so much emphasis on marriage, growing up as a girl in Egypt can be very stressful. As the quote ‘Living in a man’s shadow is better than living in a wall’s shadow’ is drilled into their minds from an early age, girls grow up with the understanding that their ultimate goal is to get married, raise kids and have a family. And sadly enough most girls are bred to become eventually incubators and have more kids to sustain the population growth – I fail to see it any other way.

In a society where their role as baby makers is a top career, women hardly escape their fate. It is most unfortunate that that’s what they sometimes thrive for. For a lot of them, marriage is viewed as a way of breaking away from their family’s chains and becomes a symbol of a social respect.

When marriage becomes a destination, naturally the image of an unmarried woman is not very cheerful. And if anyone, God forbids, joins their ranks, it becomes an emotional and strenuous experience for both the girl and her family. Women in her extended family, friends and neighbors would click their tongues and purse their lips for the unlucky girl who had missed the marriage train. She would also be showered with pitiful looks for the terminal disease she suffers from; Spinsterhood – an ailment only a man could cure.

The pressure women are subjected to might lead them to marry an incompatible suitor who comes knocking on their door to save them from their doomed fate. And of course the older the women get the more compromises are made. The remedy offered by the suitor might sometimes means the woman would accept to be a second wife. It is not such a grave situation to salvage themselves from the social stigma that comes from being an old maid in a society that still discriminates against unmarried women. Anything could be sacrificed for a change in social status. Some of these marriages make it while others fail and the spinster label is switched to a divorcee which is not a welcomed status either, but one that is more acceptable.

Being viewed as a house wrecker who might impose a potential threat to her married peers, an unmarried woman is often expelled from the circle of her friends. The same goes for divorced women. And for both of these women the attempts to live alone come with hardships because in a society that is focused on matrimony, it is beyond comprehension that being single is a voluntary choice.

When girls reach the age of marriage, family’s nagging starts. The timing varies: in cities, it usually happens after college while in small towns and villages it takes place much earlier.

In their pursuit for a husband, girls often master the arts of manipulation and deception in fear of losing their trophy to be. Actually, they are not to be blamed. When they grow up in a society where they learn that living in the shadow of a man is better than living in the shadow of a wall, what else could they think off?

Following the footsteps of their ancestors in the quest of finding a husband can be to very mentally and emotionally exhausting process. If the woman fails, she feels that she is incompatible, loses her self confidence and is left with self pity that might lead to depression. And those who succeed will replace one shadow with the other – Yes the quote clearly stated that women are destined to stay in the shade, no matter what. And with these two options at my disposal, I would rather bake in the sun.

To read more

Spinsters By choice.

Egyptian spinsters fight against stereotype and discrimination

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Filed under marriage in EGypt, spinsters in Egypt, Women in Egypt, Women's rights in Egypt

Who Will Throw the First Stone at Zeina?


— By: Alexandra Kinias —

After two and a half years fighting in courts, Zeina vs Ahmed Ezz’s paternity saga finally ended with a victorious milestone for Egyptian women. The verdict would allow the actress to issue birth certificates for her twins in spite of actor Ahmed Ezz’s, the presumptive father, denial of his paternity. Furthermore, in an unprecedented ruling that would also benefit thousands of women who are fighting similar cases, the judge shifted the responsibility to the presumptive fathers to contest their paternity. So for Zeina’s case, and until proven otherwise by Ezz, the twins will carry his name. This verdict came as a slap in the face of the actor who wouldn’t comply with a previous court order to undergo a DNA test. Had he taken the test, this feud would have been concluded months earlier.

It is quite reprehensible how a father would refuse to issue a birth certificate for his offspring and vindictively fight against it, knowing fully of the consequences. A child without a birth certificate would not only be stigmatized for life as illegitimate, a shameful label in an unforgiving conservative society, but without it, this child can’t be enrolled in schools either.

To avoid social humiliation as her pregnancy advanced and Ezz was nowhere to be reached, Zeina fled to America to give birth to the twins. On their American birth certificates, Ezz was added as the father. The paternity battle started upon her return to Egypt. It is crucial to prove the status of the twins on Egyptian documents.

Zeina’s fame brought attention to her case and helped resolving it. But there are thousands of other underprivileged women who can’t afford hiring lawyers for such cases that can drag on for years in courts. Granting the mothers the right to issue birth certificates for their children, without consent of the presumptive fathers, was a huge victory for these women. Also the judge’s decision to shift the pressure of refuting the paternity to men was a smart move to bring closure to such cases.

Children born out of wedlock should not pay for the sins of their parents. Deprived from their identity, they will be forever haunted by the ghosts of their upbringing. The lucky ones are those whom their mothers terminated their lives before it had started, to save them the anguish and torment of abandonment in an orphanage or in the street. It is heart wrenching to read horrific stories of infants found in dumpsters stabbed to death or with their limbs eaten by stray animals. A high percentage of abandoned children become homeless. Left in the streets, it is tragic to see them competing with stray dogs and cats for scraps of food salvaged from the garbage, or for a spot to spend the night. You find them sleeping under parked cars, in construction sites or on a sidewalk with nothing to cover their frail bodies on cold nights but a piece of cardboard. They become invisible to the masses that carry on with their daily lives as if these helpless children are just stray animals they cross path with.

The shocking news of such discoveries briefly awakens the guilt feelings of people who would shift the blame entirely on the mothers, forgetting that they are also victims of an ultraconservative and heartless society. But other than condemning the mothers, not much action is taken to save these kids. As the hands are chained by the laws that govern and the minds are cluttered with cultural taboos, these helpless children will go on with their predestined lives that are doomed with shame and misery.

It is outrageous to discover that the voices of those who are fighting against the rights of these unfortunate children are coming from the comfort of expensive homes and mansions. Zeina was an unexpected surprise as she fought back relentlessly a battle that every mother with courage should fight. Ezz and his lawyers are appealing the court’s decision on the basis that no Orfi marriage contract is available, and thus slander the mother, discredit her claim and refute the paternity. The truth, however, will inevitably prevail. So why Ezz wouldn’t save us all the drama that he seems to play better in real life than in movies and take a DNA test? If he is confident of his stance, he would prove her wrong, close this chapter in his life and move on. If not, then he should stand up like a man and take responsibility for his action.

Women with courage and a cause are pivotal in changing outcomes, and Zeina proved to acquire both. Admire her courage and stance or despise her, her action will pave the road for more helpless women to follow her path. And those who are being critical of her, one can’t help but remind them that, “If any of you have never sinned, then go ahead and throw the first stone at her!”


Filed under Editorial, Women Rights in Egypt

My Deep Condolences For Your Daughter’s Wedding

By: Alexandra Kinias

Caption: A Child Bride In Afghanistan.  By:  Stephanie Sinclair,winner of UNICEF photo of the year 2007

While most eight years old girls go to bed dreaming of doll houses, ballet classes, crayons and scrapbooks, princesses in sequence dresses and tiaras, nightmares keep others awake in fear that the sunlight of the new day will rob them of their childhood; in one of the most heinous crimes that are still committed to humanity: Underage Marriages.  Unfortunately in regions where it is practiced,  communities keep a blind eye on these illegal marriages, which in reality legalize pedophilia, prostitution, rape and human trafficking.

Children forced into marriages is not a new phenomenon and neither is it an exclusive practice to one religion, culture or region. Though child weddings are illegal (almost) everywhere, none the less they are spread throughout the globe in most of the Sub-Saharan African countries, from North Africa to South Asia, from the Indian Subcontinent to the Middle East and across the ocean to North America.

This practice that is still embedded in a lot of cultures was a politically motivated practice thousands of years ago to secure ties between regions and tribes andresolve family feuds, but there is no excuse for it to be practiced today other than selfishness, greed and ignorance. Today Child Marriages are sparked by poverty, ignited by sexually sick societies and protected by religious scholars and tribal leaders. And in such regions where social customs and traditions are still powerful, law is never enforced to stop these marriages that steal away these unfortunate girls’ childhoods and leave them as human wreckage. No one is spared and no one is rescued to describe this horrific experience.

Poverty is the main reason that young girls are forced into marriage. They are regarded as financial burden. Their only use is to be traded off like a commodity than stay in the family and expect to be fed. With the money the family receives, it is able to sustain its living until another daughter is sold. The older the girl gets, her price decreases and thus marrying the daughters before puberty is more profitable.

In April 2008, the ten years old Yemeni girl Nujood Ali became famous when she obtained a divorce and her book became a bestseller. Her story flashed headlines worldwide and prompted calls to raise the legal marriage age in Yemen to 18 years old. Unlike India and Egypt where the laws restricting underage marriage are often ignored, countries like Yemen and Saudi Arabia have no minimum age for marriage.

Nujood’s was also sold into marriage because of her family’s poverty. After she ran away and wrote her book, her brothers criticized her for shaming the family, but after her book started generating income, the shame was forgotten and she is treated like a queen, by the same brothers.

Girls as young as eight years old are snatched from the safety of their family home and forced to quit schools. In many cases their groom’s house is located in other villages and they are uprooted from their community and live in isolation. Once they are married, they become a domestic aid to their in-laws where they spend their days cooking and cleaning, often subjected to abuse and violence. Those who don’t expire because of sexual intercourse at this young age are traumatized by the experience. If they refuse, they are raped by their husbands.  As they reach puberty and before their bodies are fully developed, they would go through a cycle of repeated pregnancies, as contraceptives are uncommon in their communities. Early pregnancies and child birth are the main cause of fatalities of young mothers and their babies in underdeveloped countries. The babies who make it into the world are malnourished and underdeveloped. By the age of twenty, most of these girls have severe feminine problems that often lead to hysterectomies, and their bodies eventually give up. Unable to fulfill their martial obligations, their husbands simply discard them like old rags and seek new wives, and the cycle starts over again.

These abandoned girls who are forced into marriages are victims of illiteracy, slavery, sexual abuse and domestic violence.  They are left alone to face the perils of their disgusting cultures. Yet with all the social damage they experience, on their shoulders lay the burden of upbringing the future generation of children who were breast fed their misery, agony and exploitation.

Child brides are yet another aspect of how degrading women are looked upon in certain societies where they are viewed only as sex objects and breeding machines. It is not a coincidence that such illegal marriages thrive in societies with low respect for women. These societies that are still struggling to survive  are unaware that they will never advance while their women are deprived from their rights and their daughters’ rights are being violated.

Someone has to be held accountable for these stolen lives. The road to combating this crime is long and paved with thousands of years’ old traditions that will not be easily eradicated. But we can no longer sit in the bleachers and watch in silence as more virgins are sacrificed and their innocent blood is spilled on the matrimonial alter.

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